Sunday, July 6, 2014

An 8 Year Old Boy's Guide to Cleaning

Now that we have moved into a bigger home and are getting settled in, we have been trying to give the kids more responsibility.  They each have weekly chores to do, and while sometimes these are met with wailing and gnashing of teeth, the kids are getting more and more adjusted to the idea that they, too, must clean up after themselves.

Joshua is actually the least of these complainers, because Joshua likes order.  He likes things to be in place.  If he had his own room, it would be clean most of the time.  (It's his little brother who is the King of Chaos.)  He also genuinely likes his main chore, which is to clean the bathroom.  He's also been the one to take us up on our offer of some paying jobs.  We have a few gigs around the house that we have offered to the kids as a way to earn some extra spending money.  Joshua recently earned a door-hanging basketball goal for his efforts.  Hard worker, that one.

And yet...I cannot help but notice that an 8 year old boy's version of "clean" and his mother's version of clean seems to have some wide discrepancies.  Joshua will swear up and down that a room is clean, and he isn't lying - it really is clean in his eyes.  It's just really, really not in mine.

To that end, I have created the following list, An 8 Year Old Boy's Guide to Cleaning:

1. If you don't actually see the dirt, then it's not actually there.  Therefore the fastest way to clean a room is to take a sideways glance at it.  Out of sight, out of mind, not on floor.

2. The stuff that's been pushed to the edges of a room doesn't really count.  Only the expanse in the middle of the floor is important.

3. Touching dirt or other items with a broom or other such cleaning device counts as having cleaned it.  The actual removal of the dirt is unnecessary.  For further clarification, see rule #1.

4. If you sweep a room, you get to count it as swept and done as soon as you make that little dirt pile in the middle of the room.  Sweeping THAT up into a dustpan is just window dressing.

5. When swatting flies in the house during the summertime, it is perfectly acceptable - even admirable - to leave their little carcasses littered on the floor as evidence of your great victories.

6. When clearing the table, you don't actually have to clear EVERYTHING off the table.  Just most of it.  You know, to get the general idea.

7. Toothpaste on the bathroom mirror is a permanent fixture and not necessary to wipe off.

8. When you have cleaned the bathroom, you are done once you have doused everything in cleaner.  Drying the fixtures and putting away the cleaning supplies is superfluous. 

9. It makes absolute and total sense to sweep the floor and THEN wipe off the counters.  Don't let anyone try to talk some nonsense about those crumbs you knocked on the floor.  If you don't look down, they aren't really there.  (See rule #1 again)

And finally...

10. If at first you don't succeed...disappear into the backyard where Mom can't find you.  Chances are she will get tired of these "teachable moments" and just redo the job herself.

And yes...that has happened. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's Good to Have Goals

This one is much more light-hearted than the last one, I promise.

Anna has been very concerned lately with what she is going to do with her life.  For some reason, she is distressed that this isn't settled, although I have reassured her many times that she has plenty of time to figure this out - very few people have declared their major by the first grade.  (And some people, like her father, change their majors five times or more in college, so really it's all relative.)  But she persists in wanting to figure this out. 

For the past year or two, she has insisted she wants to be an animal doctor.  I actually can see her doing this one day as she is a total nature freak and loves every living creature she comes into contact with.  She is against smashing bugs in our house, she wants them rescued and taken outside.  She is also annoyed with me because I won't let her bring the roly-pollies in the house. 

However, she has been in a very "I wanna be like Mommy" mode lately.  She wants us to wear matching clothes, matching nail polish, and do everything the same.  Everything.  All of the things.  So it didn't really come as much of a surprise that she announced a few weeks ago that she didn't want to be an animal doctor anymore, she wanted to be a teacher.  Ok, cool Anna.  Whatever.  You're still six.  Dream big, but you've got plenty of time.

Then, about two weeks ago, she announced that she didn't know exactly what she wanted to do, but she had narrowed it down to three options: animal doctor, teacher, or McDonald's worker.  I told her that her father had once worked at McDonald's, and she responded, absolutely shocked: "REALLY?  WHY DID HE STOP?!"  (I am sure visions of free Happy Meals were dancing in her head.)  I told her that it didn't pay very much, and that deflated her McDonald's dream a little bit.  Then I told her that the workers didn't get to eat the food for free, that they still had to buy it.  That pretty much killed the McDonald's idea.

Today she announced that she WAS going to be an animal doctor, and when she lost that job (not quit, lost), she was going to be a teacher, and after that she was going to be a pizza maker and deliver pizza.

It's good to have goals, little one.  Dream on.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why We Can't Blame Jenny McCarthy

 In 2007, Jenny McCarthy went on Oprah and gave an interview in which she blamed vaccines for making her son autistic.  She wasn't the first person to make this connection - it began in the 1990s with a doctor named Andrew Wakefield who first starting publishing articles claiming a link between vaccines and the disease.  Despite the revelation that Dr. Wakefield had falsified his data and been paid off to make his claims, the rumors ran rampant, and the vaccination scare exploded, spurred on by Ms. McCarthy's campaign and others in the movement to stop or at least change vaccinations.  (An interesting timeline of events can be found here.)  Suddenly droves of mothers were questioning their doctors and refusing to have their children vaccinated, especially with the MMR vaccination. 

Up to this point, diseases like measles had all but been eliminated in the this country.  Chicken pox and mumps were well on their way to suffering the same fate as smallpox and polio.  However, suddenly everyone was panicked.  Mothers took to the blogworld to rant against professional medicine. You could not get on any social network site without being bombarded with angry posts about vaccinations.  As the panic spread, so did the diseases, and now we are facing an increase in these almost eradicated illnesses in numbers we have not seen in decades.  What's more, every study done anywhere is disproving any link between vaccinations and autism.  As quickly as the panic spread, the backlash against Jenny McCarthy and others in her crusade has become just as fierce.  You now cannot get on any social networking site without people trashing Ms. McCarthy as an ignorant blonde villain.  The same people who wanted to follow her anywhere two years ago are now using language to describe her that would get my children's mouths washed out with soap. 

I had my babies in 2006, 2007, and 2010.  (That sentence exhausts me just typing it.)  I therefore was having to make vaccination decisions right in the thick of all this mess.  At the time, the Mommy Media World was doing what it does best - trying to make me and every other mother out there feel guilty and inadequate as a mom in order to sell more magazines and get more hits on websites.  It felt like if I decided to vaccinate my children, I was physically opening their minds and pumping them full of autism myself. 

And then, as quickly as it all began, it ended.  And here we are.

So...why did it happen in the first place?  Why did we listen to Jenny McCarthy and others, and why do we vilify them now?

Because we ARE Jenny McCarthy.  We ARE moms trying to make the best decisions for our children.  And we ARE struggling with that monster that faces every parent of every race and creed: 

We are afraid. 

Parenting is scary.  It is tremendously frightening.  There is the ever constant fear, somewhere in the background of your mind, that Something Bad is going to happen to your child.  Disease.  Accident.  Fire.  Kidnapping. SIDS. Rape.  Murder. I am all too familiar with this fear.  The fear is ever present because, the truth is, there are no guarantees.  I don't know what's going to happen today, or even tomorrow.    My oldest was the same age as the kids who were killed at Sandy Hook.  That was a bad weekend for me.  When Hailey Owens was kidnapped right off her own street a few months back, I had to resist the urge to lock my daughter in her room until she was 25.  My youngest son has a friend his age who developed an infection in his leg and nearly died several times.  Parenting is a frightening venture.  Anything could happen to your child at any time - and sometimes does.

We deal with another fear as parents.  It's not just the fear that something will happen to your child.  It's the fear that something will happen and it will be your fault.  What if I could have prevented it?  What if I caused it?  What if some decision I make causes my child to die?  What if I choose to vaccinate my kid and he shows signs of autism?  What if I slide down the slide at the park with my toddler on my lap and she breaks her leg?  What if I spray sunscreen on my son and he inhales chemicals and stops breathing?  What if I give my kid peanut butter for the first time and she swells up and chokes?  WHAT IF I KILL MY OWN KID SOMEHOW?! 

The culture we live in feeds this.  As I said earlier, parenting magazines and websites are absolutely banking on this fear and guilt thing we have going on.  I quit reading parenting magazines sometime around my middle child's second birthday.  I was tired of reading them and walking away feeling like a bad parent.  The other day I picked up a magazine while waiting in the doctor's office.  10 minutes later, I had found five articles aimed at making me feel like everything I was doing was wrong, and I put the thing down.  Social media also feeds this frenzy.  We post articles supporting our own opinions.  We go on rants behind the safety of a screen name.  We are very, very vocal in a digital way about how we think parenting ought to go, often because we are so unsure of our own jobs as parents that we feel the need to make ourselves feel better by rallying others to our cause.  Parents these days are absolutely bombarded with stats, studies, warnings, recalls, opinion pieces, and "experts" that weigh in on everything from vaccinations to car seats to discipline methods.  We are challenged on a daily basis that we might not be doing things right - usually from someone who is trying to reassure themselves that what they are doing is ok.

And so here comes Jenny McCarthy with her fame and influence telling us all that vaccinations are hurting our children.  And we all start to panic and play the "what if?"  game.  We turn to the fear that comes with being a parent and we listen to someone who is also afraid.  Then comes the blogs and the studies and the rants and the social media explosion.  And then the dust settles and we all feel pretty silly...and take that shame out on another parent.  Nobody made anyone listen to Ms. McCarthy or anyone else.  Nobody makes us read the articles.  Nobody is pointing any guns or other weaponry at our heads and saying "don't vaccinate your kid OR ELSE."  We fell for it, same as Jenny McCarthy did.  We gave in to our fear and fell for it. 

And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

So where do we go from here?

One, we have to stop being afraid.  We have to stop living in fear for our children and ourselves.  I personally do not know how parents who do not have a faith in God get out of bed in the morning.  If I did not have that Place to take my fear and give it up on a daily - sometimes hourly - basis, I wouldn't be able to function.  We have to stop living in fear.  Take that fear to the cross every day and lay it down.  Christ died to take away that and a million other fears.  Take Him up on the offer.

The other thing we have to stop doing is vilifying each other as parents.  Whether it's someone famous like Jenny McCarthy or your next door neighbor who lets their kids drink pop, quit making villains out of parents.  You know what?  Overall, we're doing a good job.  So we need to quit hollering at each other in an attempt to make ourselves feel better and instead support one another.  If someone preaches something you don't agree with, just don't agree with them.  In peace.  The parenting community needs to stop tearing each other down and start holding each other up.  The world IS a scary place.  We need each other. 

As for Jenny McCarthy...I do not know her and probably never will.  But she's a mom trying to do what she thinks is best for her kid.  So let's cut her some slack and show some grace.  Tomorrow it could be me that turns out to be wrong about everything I know.  Or it could be you. 

So let's have some respect for that, shall we?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

No, Seriously, It's Not Your Fault

I have not updated this blog in months.  Life seems to have gotten in the way.  I keep wanting to, but then stuff happens, like house buying, and mothers in the ICU, and insane work issues, and husbands losing their jobs, and projectile vomiting.  But I need to get back to recording those precious moments in the life of my family that I don't want to forget. 

And I can't imagine a better moment with which to fire things back up.

To preface: I recently got my husband a puppy for his birthday.  A Gerbarian Shepsky, to be exact.  Half German Shepherd, half Siberian Husky, totally cute, and very, very much a puppy.  I am sure Mercy the puppy will make many an appearance on this blog in the years to come.  She's quite a character.  Today, for example, she got ahold of our phone charger and chewed it to smithereens.  Sean and I were discussing this mishap when the following conversation happened.

For the record...Matthew had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Mercy ate the charger.  He wasn't even home when it happened.

Sean: "Well, the dog chewed up our phone charger."
Me: "No, Matthew, it wasn't your fault, don't worry!"
Matthew: "Ok, fine.  I did it.  I'm sorry!"
Sean: "No, Matthew, it wasn't you.  You didn't do it."

Read back over that again.  He went from denying it altogether with indignation, to confessing and apologizing for something he didn't do, to indignantly declaring that, doggoneit, it was him!

When you're four years old and the youngest in the family, I guess you do what you have to do to take credit and gain notoriety and a place in the world where you can get it. 

Even if you didn't actually do it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Clever Girl

*Bonus points if you read the title in a British accent, a la Jurassic Park.

Anna, my little naturalist, loves to catch fireflies.  She would do it every night if we let her.  Unfortunately for her, fireflies only come out when it gets dark, which is past her bedtime.  This means it has to be a night when we are willing to let her go to bed late.  That doesn't happen often, so when it does, it is, in her word "THE BEST NIGHT EVER!!!"

Recently, I was out of town for a week, so Sean had the kids on his own.  Daddy is a sucker for his daughter's big blue eyes, so she managed to convince him to let her stay up late and chase fireflies.  Joshua was staying the night at a friend's house, so it was just Daddy, Anna and Matthew outside.

Matthew likes to chase fireflies, but he gets bored with it pretty fast.  After a while, he asked Sean if they could play hide n seek instead.

"Matthew," Anna said sternly, "we are CATCHING FIREFLIES, NOT playing hide n seek!"

Frustrated, Matthew pouted for a while, and then he tried asking again.  Anna considered her brother  for a moment and then decided to try a different tack.

"Matthew, I know what we can do!"  she said.  "We can play a game!"

"A GAME?"  Matthew asked eagerly, intrigued by the notion of a new game."

"YES," Anna said grinning, "a SEARCHING game."

"A SEARCHING game?!" Matthew asked excitedly.

"Yes.  It's a game where we search for things.  And I will pick the first thing we will search for.  First we will search for...FIREFLIES."

"YAY!!!!" exclaimed my naive little toddler, and off he ran with his sister to play the searching "game."

One way or another, Anna knows how to get what she wants!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Folks, I Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

About two weeks ago, Matthew had gotten into a bad habit of opening the silverware drawer, pulling out everything he could find, and strewing the utensils about the house.  Being my "do-the-crime-do-the-time" kid, no amount of discipline seemed to deter him from this new hobby.  What did stop him, however, was somehow managing to jam the drawer shut.  It has therefore been about two weeks since we were able to get into that drawer.  We have been using whatever utensils were in the drainer at the time, which has cut down on dishes, but is pretty darn annoying.

In a seemingly unrelated event, last night we all went to church for our small group time.  I run a bible study for our youth group girls, and they all decided they wanted to go to McDonald's for our study.  My husband had the keys to our van - which I needed in order to transport the girls - so I had to interrupt the men's small group to ask my husband for the keys.  Our pastor, upon realizing I would likely be stopping at our house on the way to the van (we live in the parsonage next door to the church), said "Oh, she's going home, give her the fork!"  At this point, Sean reached into his bag and pulled out one of our forks.  From our silverware collection.  From our house.  I didn't really have time to question his as to why he had a fork in his bag; I could only shake my head in disbelief at the craziness that goes on in my house.

I also did not have time to stop at the house and put the fork away.  I had five hungry teenage girls piling into my car.  So I did what seemed to be the most logical thing to do at the time: I stuck the fork in the mailbox on my way to the van.

Fast forward to tonight.  I was setting the table for dinner and came up short a fork.  Realizing the drawer was still jammed shut tight, I mulled about what to do, when suddenly the events of last night popped into my head.  I walked out the front door, reached into the mailbox, pulled out the fork, washed it, and finished setting the table.

I am quite certain these are the sorts of things that do NOT go on at other people's houses.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Space is AWESOME!

We got Joshua a telescope for his birthday this year.  His birthday was in March, and it was freezing cold outside, so we didn't really get it out much.  This week, however, is the week of the supermoon, so we decided it was an opportune time to get it out and figure out how it worked. 

Last night we managed to get it working, but tonight we couldn't find the moon anywhere.  Right as we were packing up the telescope, we saw it peeking out from over the tops of the trees, bright and glowing as promised.  We didn't want to go to all the trouble of getting all the pieces back out, and we couldn't see it well from our yard because of the trees, so I told Joshua to grab his shoes and we would take a walk. 

Hand in hand, I walked down the street with my 7-year old son, 9:30 at night, watching the sky and getting a good view of the astronomical phenomenon of the supermoon.  Once we found a good spot, we took a few pictures and looked at it through his binoculars, eliciting from him one of my favorite responses ever: "Space is AWESOME!"  We then walked back to the house, hand in hand, talking about space, and what he wanted to be when her grew up (a firefighter), his sister, school, his friend's telescope, and, well, little bits and pieces of everything. 

On the surface it didn't look like much.  The whole encounter took maybe 15 minutes.  But tonight was one of the most precious moments I have had as a mom.  I had the privilege of sharing in my son's joy as he discovered more about the world around him.  I got to talk to him as a person, not a little kid, as we talked about real things.  It wasn't a cutesy conversation with "funny things kids say."  It was a real moment of connecting with him as the person God created him to be - an explorer, an adventurer, curious, questioning, and eager to discover. 

It was also a reminder that Joshua is getting older - but it didn't make me sad.  Sometimes, if I look at old photos or flip through old blog entries, I miss Baby Joshua.  I miss that time when it was just him and me, and I took him everywhere.  I miss carrying him and cuddling with him and smelling his baby-scent.  But tonight, I didn't miss it.  Tonight I saw a glimpse into the boy he is becoming - and has, in fact, become.  Tonight I enjoyed Joshua as Joshua and soaked in the joy of a shared experience with him.  It was an experience we could both be excited about and understand together. 

I will never again go look at the moon or see the stars in the sky without feeling the excitement of a 7-year old boy enjoying a night of discovery and exploration...and remembering how wonderful it truly is to see my tiny baby become a full-grown boy. 

You know what?  Space is awesome.