Friday, October 22, 2010

Yelling "GOOD JOB"

I tell you the following in hopes that you will not judge me.  Rather, I'd love to hear your tips and secrets on how you manage.  I have to be honest about why I'm writing this post.  We have a lot going on in our household right now.  This, I'm able to coordinate and schedule, but one of the downsides is that I get snappy with my kids.    I came across a couple of other posts on blogs I follow that have related topics.

The first is how to stop yelling by Amy Wilson.  It chronicles a week that she tried to not yell at her kids.  At the end she identifies when/why she yells.  It made me think of when/why I yell.  I am often multitasking and tired.  Not giving my kids my whole attention puts us in the precarious position of yelling at any moment.  My kids are also very busy with their schedules.  This makes them tired and they tend to zone out and be unresponsive which makes me raise my voice to get their attention.  Why, when the phone rings do all of my children need my help and attention?  Why do they feel the need to show off when any visitor (adult or child) graces our doorstep?  Are they putting me in the position to yell, or is it me?

I realize from this blog post Unpacking praise by Chris White that my kids have been conditioned to not listen to me.  With the combination of raised voices to get their attention and praise for what they do, my kids don't hear me.  This makes me raise my voice more or even throw a "parent tantrum".  Neither of which is very helpful in modeling behavior of how I want my kids to behave.

#1 just asked me why I am on the computer or talking on the phone so much.  I guess I find it an escape. We've been smashed into funky living conditions for the last 4 months.  Normally a small house, we have even less space due to a much needed remodel.  I have nowhere to escape to, and probably use the computer as such.  It doesn't make it right.  Last year, I committed to myself that I would not go on the computer from when the kids got home from school to when they went to bed.  This was the right decision, but I fell off that train at some point.   I probably wasn't even on the train long enough to assess its benefits.  While I'm at it, I should go on an iPhone diet too.

I've already made #1 cry twice this week.  Yikes.  Even when I am not yelling, he hears me as yelling.  Saying, "I am not yelling" doesn't help.  It is probably in how I say whatever it is I'm saying.  Also, having 4 kids adds challenges.  To be heard, most of us talk over the others to get our point across.  The kids all want, need and deserve attention.  I'd love for it to be good attention that I give them.  They rely on each other a bit, but compete more than they support each other.

I've tried counting without emotion.  1-2-3.  Now I count backward from 5 to 1.  But, when I get to 1, what happens?  I yell consequences which are threats.  Oops, there's that emotion again.  I am pretty good with following through, but who's happy then?  No one.  Our communication should be more than consequences.  It should really be about connecting with each other and teaching through example.  I see how my kids treat each other and wonder if that is how they see me treat them?  I hope not.  Shouldn't emotion be involved?  Isn't that where compassion and empathy come from?  There are good emotions aren't there?

I am hoping it is not too late to recover from my mis-steps.  Now, if someone can just tell my hormones to stay out of the equation, we'd all be better off.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

my Volunteer state

For those of you interested in following my blogs, you can click the follow button.  It's off to the right down a bit.  That way you'll know when I have a new riveting post.  I personally don't "follow" blogs, but use Google Reader.  I'm treated to a snippet when updates happen.  Either way, it's easier than checking back and being disappointed that I've gotten lazy and haven't posted for a while.

Let me start this by saying that I have 11 hours a week with no children around me.  This is my time to do things for me.  Am I getting mani-pedis?  Shopping?  Lunching?  Most often, not.  I choose to volunteer in my kids' classes.  I say choose because it is a choice.  There are so many options at our school, like most I'm sure, to help.  There's the PTA (book fairs, harvest fests, hot lunch, and so on), art foundation, contributing money, helping in the class, garden, coordinating safe riding/walking to school, room parenting, picnics and so on.  There really is something for everyone.

My most favorite thing is to help in the class.  When #1 was in kindergarten, I helped in the library.  This was a great place to see the kids and their personalities.  It was also a nice place to start.  One reason was because they all carry around a card (placeholder) with their name on it.  Boy it was hard getting to know 20 new kids.  I also helped in the class at "centers" or "jobs".  This was diverse and also enabled me to see how the teacher operated.  It gave me cues on how to communicate with them and the kids and also a preview of the work they were focusing on.  Yes, I helped him with his homework, but now I knew the purpose of the work.

The next year I got to help in centers again.  It was an amazing experience as well.  It gave me such insight into the kids in the class and their dynamics.  It also helped me forge a relationship with the teacher.  I feel lucky because we have had this teacher 3 times.  This is 2 times I didn't have to start new relationships.  That is a big deal when there is the potential for having to learn 3 new teachers a year.  One other opportunity was driving on field trips.  Wow.  I can't even remember how many times I've been to the Lawrence Hall of Science.  It's made me get a membership there because of their amazing kid programs.  Slide Ranch was phenomenal and I then sent my kids to summer camp there for the next 2 years.  So, I've gotten to know my kids' teachers, know their peers and seek out enrichment programming for summers.  I've also gotten to see what level of skills the standards are held to and where we need to work more at home.  All this for 1-2 hours a week of my time.

2 years later I had 2 classes to volunteer in.  Yikes, how to split my time.  Luckily the teachers are so flexible.  I was lucky enough to get to help with writing assignments.  Boy, it really tells you a lot about a kid when you see what they write.  Amazing pieces of personality.  I love feeling connected to who my kids are in school with.  I am lucky enough to have #2 in the same class where I get to help with writing again this year.  This is what precipitated this post.  I can't imagine doing something else with my time.  I am blown away how fast time goes by.  It made me jump in for an extra "shift".

Each week is not perfect.  There are conflicts, kids who cry, subjects that are hard to learn.  One week I had to read from Charlotte's web.  Phew, I got to stop just before she died.    I would hate to cry in front of 20 third graders.  I don't get my kids in my group each week.  That is okay.  I get to see them a lot besides school.  They are actually worse in my presence (especially on field trips).  I think the other kids like snippets of other parents too.

I can honestly say that my worst year, out of 6, in my kids' public school was the year I was not allowed to help in their classes.  It was the worst year for my kids too.  I had no idea who the kids were, what they were learning and lacked clear communication with the teachers.  It made me understand what I wanted to contribute to my kids' futures and how I could make a difference.  In 5 years, I only missed 1 field trip for #1.  It does get more complicated as I have more kids in the system.

Sadly, as the kids get into the upper grades, their need for parent volunteers diminishes.  I really don't understand this since there are more kids in the classes.  We increased our class size from 3rd to 4th grade by almost 1/3.  How can almost 10 more kids to 1 teacher ratio not need help?  I took what I could get and got to grade cursive books at the end of the year for about a month.  (Girls really do have better writing than boys.)  It enabled me to stay committed to helping #2 and #3 in their classes as I had in the past for #1.

I think the kids have 3 field trips to the Lawrence Hall of Science this year.  How can I complain?  Every year is a bit different.  I've been to Angel Island, Muir Woods, The SF Symphony, Academy of Science and more!  People travel the world to goto these places and I'm doing it in my "free" time?  One thing I'd like to say if teachers read this, don't send 4, 5 or 6 boys in a carpool together on a field trip.  It's just asking for trouble.  Nothing a round of "quiet game" and a few quarters couldn't handle, but I'm just sayin'...

So, I will continue to give up my free time to get so much more in return.  Thank you to those who make it possible.  My kids, their teachers and my hubby.  He's had to pinch hit for my commitments and has kid watched for me so I could go on field trips.  It's pretty funny to hear his recap of beading in kindergarten and seeing him try to remember who the kids were.  It takes a village and thank goodness I'm part of a great one.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

L'chaim-to your health

With our first runny nose/cold upon us I thought I'd put a post up about what we do to stay healthy.  First off, note that it is the child who sucks her thumb that has the cold.  I have found that my kids who suck/ed their thumb get more colds than my other kids.  Even with this, I feel that my family has less colds/illnesses than average.

What do we do?  I believe that less processed and more whole grain is better.  We do not use anti-bacterial soaps.  We do (well, really the kids do) drink whole milk.  We shop first at the farmers' market for meat, fruits and vegetables and have our milk delivered from a local organic dairy.  We believe that food that has touched less hands and miles will be fresher and have less problems.  Our meat is grass fed and so are our milk and eggs.  This means that the vitamin D that is from the sun is in our milk, butter, meat and eggs.  With the vitamin D in food we eat, we get vitamin D.  Yes, all of this food costs more.

We eliminated processed cereal.  Even whole grain that has been extruded into the cute shapes.  My kids miss this, but haven't gone hungry.  We initially switched to bagels and granola cereal and then to warm rice cereal that can be cooked in 6 minutes.  My original thinking was that less processed was healthier.  It has turned out to be cheaper too.

We also supplement with cod liver oil and elderberry.  In the past, I put one teaspoon of Nordic Naturals cod liver oil in juice and had my kids drink that.  It was the only way they received juice.  I was not very consistent with this, but tried.  The elderberry came in liquid format of Sambucol.  My girls all took a teaspoon of that very easily.  Because it is elderberry and it has the word "berry" in it, my anti-fruit/vegetable son refused.

What we do now is have the kids vitamins on the table.  I buy the chewy cod liver oil vitamins at Costco (32mg DHA/4mg EPA), of which my picky son will eat (only yellow ones though).  I also have Nordic Naturals in capsule format (375mg DHA/246mg EPA).  This brand was recommend to me by an anthrosophophic doctor we were seeing.  When #4 was 6 months old, she was very underweight and behind in motor skill development.  We put cod liver oil in everything she ate.  She now doesn't even notice its flavor in food. It has a high level of nutrients compared to the other brands (as you can see comparing the 2 different ones above) and is pretty pure in how it is made.  We've also switched to capsule format in our elderberry and chewables.  Gaia is the brand of capsules with 800mg of sambucus and Solaray for the chewables with 400mg of sambucus.  Elderberry/sambucus can be taken 2 a day and then up to four times a day if a cold is coming or sets in.

I now leave the vitamins on the table and the kids all serve themselves.  This takes mommy remembering out of the equation.  I have taken the Nordic Naturals capsules and can taste them after.  Yuck, but don't tell my kids.  I found Metagenics EPA-DHA Extra Strength.  They are enteric coated and smell like vanilla.  They have 400mg of DHA and 600mg of EPA with no nasty after-taste.

This isn't free, but I'd pay a bit for healthy kids.  It keeps us out of the doctor's office and in school.  It keeps me from feeling guilty when I want to take them out of school for fun things.  I will also say that we choose to not have the flu shot in our family.  Other than when I was pregnant with #1, none of us have had the flu (knock on wood or whatever will keep that statement true).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How and choices

There is rarely a day that goes by that I am not asked how I do it all and seem so calm.  As I mentioned in the schedules post, the calmness isn't in my head.  I am a consummate planner.  This is what makes my execution seem not so stressed.  I plan and plan in my head.  Ask my kids, I even yell.  I wish I didn't, but I do.

Recently I joined a conversation.  Rather, when I walked up and the conversation stopped.  The ladies were speaking about how frazzled they are with 2 kids and all there is to do.  They felt that they couldn't complain with me near because I have FOUR kids.  I say, that that isn't fair.  Everyone has the right to their perspective.  I will not judge anyone based on how many or few kids they have and what they have scheduled.  Well, I'll try not to, so continue on in your conversation.  I want to know how others get it done too.  I also am always looking for ways to help and be helped.

Not until a new friend invited my whole family over for dinner did I realize that other than family and family-like friends, no one has us over.  People don't usually ask us for play-dates either.  I think people are afraid of what it would look like if we reciprocated.  Really I think people are afraid to ask us to help them because they think we are burdened with 4 kids.  Well, here's the deal.  One more kid, or four more for that matter, don't make that much of a difference.  It actually helps sometimes because the kids have choices on who they can play with.  I just keep the freezer stocked with popsicles and redirect when necessary.  So, ask away.  Also, ask us for help in carpooling or food or shopping or whatever you might think of.  It's really our pleasure and helps us feel connected to our friends when we can help, plus I'm going there anyways.

Maybe someone can take my kid to a practice and I can take yours to a birthday party.  There are so many ways to help and be helped.  Yes, "it takes a village".  There is no way I could do half of what I do if I didn't group together with like-parents.  I rely on safety in numbers to get 2 of my kids to practices 3 times a week.  I rely on carpooling to get my littlest one to her soccer.  I pay for preschool to take my child so I can help in my other kids' classes.  I rely on t.v. to entertain #4 when she is home and I have to get stuff done.  I rely on her good nature in being the "schlepp-baby" running errands with me.

I know families that have two working parents and kids in school.  I can't even imagine how that works.  I worked up until I had 3 kids.  None of them were in school yet and there were NO outside activities on the calendar.  How does homework get done?  What about dinner?  What time does everyone go to bed?  How do you get yourself together in the morning?  I get to drop the kids off and come home and eat or do what needs to get done.  When does the laundry happen?  This all seems tougher to accomplish if you are not home.  Yes, I'm home, and busy, but stuff gets done.

I know families that are being faced with childhood illnesses that I wish did not exist.  I know they are asked "how do you do it?"  "how do you be a parent and fight bureaucracy and stay fit for public consumption?"  The answer is that they just do.  What are their other options?  Not have hope?  Not go to doctor appointments?  NO.  Obviously that is ridiculous.  I am sure there are days and times that they want Calgon to take them away.  We all do, but they deserve it more than I do.  Does this stop me from living my life?  No.  Does it make me feel guilty?  No.  It makes me take perspective and remember to give extra love and hugs to my kids.  It makes me remember to love my choices that I have the opportunity to make.

Each one of us has a life that we have chosen or been given the opportunity to live and execute to the best of our ability.  At the end of the day, we all do what we need to do to get by.  What?  My child needs therapy and tutoring?  What?  It is going to cost $300 a week that I already don't have?  Well, guess what, we made it happen.  There are usually choices.  We may not like the choices, but they are there.  Do I want to clean my own house?  No, but I cut my cleaners back to every other week to help cover other expenses.  Some people I know don't even have cleaners.  "Gasp!" It's a luxury item they cannot afford at this time.  I also cut out things that were helping me keep my sanity such as massages and acupuncture and shopping.  Overall, my health may not benefit, but I am usually more stressed about money than stress itself.  Again, it's a choice.

So, yes, sometimes we do not have a choice.  But, there usually is a choice within that.  Make it a good one and do the best you can.  It's what I do.  Oh yeah.  Don't forget, I couldn't do it without help and help comes in all different colors, shapes and sizes.