Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bye-Bye Bedtime Battles

We have a rather small three bedroom house in which the girls have always shared a bedroom.  In the beginning we had their cribs right next to each other and the headboard and footboard were solid.  So they couldn't see or bother each other.  As soon as they were able to stand up, bedtime became a challenge.  Suddenly, we were hearing giggles and screams coming from their room and we would walk in to find the girls facing one another jumping up and down in their cribs having a fantastic time.  At this point, we moved the cribs across the room from each other.  Now at least they weren't able to throw their bears and blankets at each other.  By 22 months they were climbing out of their beds, so we had to convert the cribs to toddler beds.  This is when bedtime really got wild.  Keeping the girls in their beds and quiet was a battle every single night.  My husband and I were doing all the right things.  We had a bedtime routine that we implemented at the same time (8:00pm) each night.  And yet each night the girls didn't actually fall asleep until more than an hour after we tucked them in.  We tried the "Super Nanny" technique.  We tried sitting in their bedroom.  We tried yelling.  We tried taking prized stuffed animals.  We tried spanking.  Each night my husband and I went to bed feeling like lousy parents.  We thought about separating them.  We thought about giving them away (not seriously).  I scoured the web for advice or at least parents that could sympathize.  I couldn't find anything helpful.

Finally, after our girls were three, we found a solution that seems to work for everyone in our family.  We have a whiteboard that lives on our refrigerator.  There are two columns, one for Amelia and one for Julia.  If the girls go to sleep nicely for us at night, they get a star in their column in the morning.  Once they get 14 stars, they get a prize.  Last time they wanted a new rubber ducky for the bathtub.  We took them to Wal-Mart and they got to select the rubber ducky of their choice.  Glorious!  I spent $1 per duck and got two weeks worth of easy bedtimes.  Money well spent.

These days we all sleep like babies, minus the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How thick is your bubble?

I took a quiz yesterday.  It's supposed to tell you how insulated you are from main-stream American culture.  I scored a 61.  Apparently the higher the score the less insulated you are and the lower your score the more insulated you are.  It's a highly flawed quiz, but I appreciate the point of it.  My score is supposed to mean that I should fit into one of the following three groups:
1)  A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and movie going habits.                          

2)  A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits.
3)  A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.

What do these classes literally translate to in terms of household income?  The following table is from Wikipedia's Social Class of America article.

Academic Class Models
William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005
ClassTypical characteristics
Upper class (1%)Top-level executives, celebrities, heirs; income of $500,000+ common. Ivy league education common.
Upper middle class[1] (15%)Highly-educated (often with graduate degrees) professionals & managers with household incomes varying from the high 5-figure range to commonly above $100,000.
Lower middle class (32%)Semi-professionals and craftsmen with some work autonomy; household incomes commonly range from $35,000 to $75,000. Typically, some college education.
Working class (32%)Clerical, pink- and blue-collar workers with often low job security; common household incomes range from $16,000 to $30,000. High school education.
Lower class (ca. 14% - 20%)Those who occupy poorly-paid positions or rely on government transfers. Some high school education.

So what does my background actually look like?  My dad is an engineer and my mom was a preschool teacher, which put us in the upper-middle class.  Upon graduating from college in 2003, I joined the ranks of the working class where I stayed until I got married in 2006.  At that point, we were in the lower middle class.  Once I graduate and start working, we will once again be part of the upper-middle class.

What I find interesting about all this is that it would be very easy with my background for me to be a very insulated person, yet based on my score (which I would say is fairly accurate) I am very familiar with average American culture.  So how did I remain so grounded and how will I help my children remain grounded?

Some may attribute it to all the moving I've done in my life.  Others may say it's because my parent's raised me to believe that you have to work hard in life and handle your money responsibly.  While these two thing no doubt play a large role, I think the primary lesson I was taught in this life was the meaning of the world blessed.

When I was in 5th and 6th grade, my best friend's mom worked for the Salvation Army in small town Georgia.  We used to go put together sacks of groceries for the people that came by.  We served food in our church one night a week for people in our suburban town in Ohio and built houses for the Habitat for Humanity.  I ran my first Race for the Cure when I was in 9th grade.  My dad and I went, just before I was in 10th grade, to a Navajo reservation in Arizona where we tore down the remnants of their church that had been burnt to the ground by arson so they could rebuild.  Later in high school and once I graduated college, I spent Saturdays building wheelchair ramps for people in the Tulsa area.  In college I gave blood at every blood drive, volunteered at the Methodist food pantry, and built a home for a family in Juarez, MX.  I went to Houston where I met homeless people that had run from gangs in other states.  In Philadelphia I made and delivered food to people with AIDs, worked at afterschool centers where kids had lost family members and neighbors to gang violence, and hung out with the homeless in the evenings.  Do you know what most of those people that I met told me when I asked them how they are?  BLESSED.  Blessed.  Blessed.  These people with bigger troubles than I have ever faced in all of my combined life tell me they are blessed.  These people know what blessed really is, but what they don't know is that they are also a blessing.  Spending time with people like theis is probably the biggest reason I am who I am today.

And with every opportunity I see, I try to encourage my children to be kind to everyone they meet.  I try to let them know how lucky they are to have all the food they want and a comfortable home to sleep in and a whole closet full of clean clothes to choose from each day.  I know people who are not so lucky.  I know people who live in fear that they will be the next victim in the next drive by shooting.  I know people who only eat when they are at school.  I know people that have to run from the past, lest it catch up with them and kill them for leaving.  I know people who don't know if they will see tomorrow or where they will sleep tonight.  I know people who own nothing but the clothes on their back.  If these people can look me in the eyes and tell me they are blessed, who am I and who are my children to complain about anything?  We are blessed every day of our lives, but especially so when we encounter these people.

How do you keep things in perspective for your kids?  What is it in life that helps you remember how blessed you are?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Teaching Kids to be Secure

My kids have reached the age at which kids start being a little mean to one another.  They are pickier about who they play with on the playground and call each other silly names.  While it would be beautiful if the whole world followed the golden rule and everyone only used kind words and counted everyone as their friend on the playground, we all know that isn't reality.  So this morning I had a little talk with the girls that I hope they will remember.  We talked about who they are.  I asked them to describe themselves.  At first I got words like "a person" and "a girl".  But, then we started getting into more descriptive adjectives, like kind and smart and creative.  Then we talked about how no matter what other people say about them, it will never change who they are on the inside.  So we have two choices when people say unkind things about us.  We can either let them hurt us, or we can remember who we are and chose to ignore those unkind things.  I'm sure this is a conversation that will be repeated on many occassions.  Well worth it if I can raise kids who work hard to live up to positive adjectives and are able to easily dismiss the unkind ones that others will callously throw in their direction.

How are you teaching your kids to be secure?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Organizing Hair Dodads

Well I didn't get everything done on my to-do list on my two-week break, but I did get some of it done. 

1.  Revising my Capstone paper ended up taking the vast majority of my time.
2.  I didn't even touch surgery books.
3.  I did manage to find time for a fiction book - The Romanav Prophecy.  It was well-written and interesting.  But the first half was pretty slow and the end was fairly predictable.
4.  I organized the bulk of my bathroom!  My messy drawers, cabinets, and linen closet have been driving me crazy for a long time and now that we are selling our house it was more than just a nagging annoyance, but a bit of an embarrassment.  So I cleaned up the floor of the linen closet, organized the make-up drawer that my children destroyed, and organized the space under my sink.  So much better.  Wish I had taken before and after pics, but most of these projects were done in small bits of time between writing my paper.
5.  We saw Brave!  As we were watching it, I thought that some of the parts might be a little scary for the girls as there are some very intense scenes.  However, when we left the theatre they said they loved it and wanted to go immediately the the Disney store to buy Merida's dress.  No nightmares yet.  I have to say that as a mother I loved the themes of this movie - duty to family and creating your own destiny.
6.  I did pamper myself a bit.
7.  We took the girls swimming, but I didn't manage to get to the pool by myself.

Once I got my bathroom organized, I turned my attention to the girls bathroom.  They had all their hair dodads in one overflowing drawer that was a disaster.  After looking online for lots of inspiration and really thinking about what would work best for us, I finally found the perfect solution.  I bought this fancy little number from Wal-Mart.com for a mere $11.97 (site-to-store shipping is FREE).

Barretts, ponytail holders, and hairbrushes all organized by color.

Bows and headbands on the backside

Yes, two organizer things in one package!
This is the girls "nicer" jewelry

The back side houses sunglasses.
Look at all the room to grow!

I wish I could express to you how happy these things make me.  We can now get the toothpaste out of the drawer without everything else trying to jump out with it!