Monday, January 25, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Tools of the Trade

During December, I was madly pushing fabric through the sewing machine for Christmas pjs, there I was, a bundle of stress and expectations, while listening to the Martha show on my computer. On the show, there was a Q&A with Martha, and someone asked her what she was going to do for Christmas. Her answer: "I am going to a spa. I am not cooking anything or doing anything more than yoga and long walks." My next thought was "Now that sounds like a great Christmas!" Right then and there I resolved to designate January as nothing month. We have been going so fast for so long, I wanted to give us a break. A resolution for no schedules, no rigid rules, just easy-going living and be one of those soap-opera-and-bon-bon kind of moms, minus the soap operas and bon bons. Ok, maybe a few bon bons. The boys would love it, right? Imagine, a free-flow life at the Lloyd's house!

How did my ingenious plan play out, you ask? Well, Nathan started waking up a lot at night. Like every 45 minutes. Not only did Peter have a rotation of whiney/overly hyperactive/too-rough behavior at home, I started to get reports from preschool that he was falling on top of his little classmates and tipping them over domino style. The house that I allowed to become more messy than usual (as this was my bohemian moment after all) was driving me crazy, since I was tripping or stubbing something every other step (You should have seen my fourth toe on my left foot--bright purple for a few days from an encounter with the bouncy chair), and, after letting my meal planning regiment go, we started eating really weird food. Nevertheless, my plan failed so totally, utterly, completely that I knew there had to be some changes and, gulp, I had to be the one to make them.

So, the new sheriff came to town (meaning me with a new resolve). We introduced Nathan to his new home in the other bedroom, complete with a nice, spacious crib, where he gets to sleep all night! Alone! I know there is a large "We don't let our kids cry" constituency out there, heck, there's probably a facebook group by now, but I'm just saying that one hour of crying for one night and a few peeps here and there is waaaay better than 24 months of the rocking/nursing/ walking-the-halls nonsense. Ok, you can hate me now. But for us, life is immensely better at night. And since Nathan has an extraordinary super-power sensor that sounds his inner alarm whenever there is another human lifeform in the room, we moved Pete into our room temporarily. You hear that, Pete? He is all about this ongoing slumber party, but I'm not too excited that my already short morning commute down the hall has been entirely eliminated. Pete told my mom the other day "Sometimes I watch my mama and dada while they are sleeping." If it wasn't you, Peter, that might totally creep me out. Anyway, what I'm getting at here is that I'm working on some changes to smooth out the wrinkles that have come in mothering these two guys and I'd like to document them here for motivation's sake and to get some feedback and good ideas from all you great moms out there.

So, here are a few mothering tools I've implemented in hopes to turn things around:

Peter's very own special super duper alarm clock. To thwart of Pete's developing habit of waking before the sun, we gave him this alarm clock. Best five dollars I've ever spent. We tell him firmly every night before bed, "Daytime begins when the eight is at the front!" I don't care if he is actually awake, but I am not involved before eight. Every morning at eight o'clock sharp, I hear "THE EIGHT IS AT THE FRONT." Peter has been pretty good about this, though. Sometimes while he waits, he'll just be lying in bed on his back, one leg crossed at the knee on top of the other, reading a huge Richard Scarry book. Doesn't that seem so relaxing?

This blurry picture I took while holding a wiggly baby makes it hard to make out what this is, but I put a shelf hanger in Peter's closet and made labels on each shelf, one for every day of the week.

One of the most painful parts of our day is changing Peter from his pajamas into playclothes. Peter becomes so excruciatingly distracted and we both hate it. So, the new plan is that every Sunday evening before bed, Peter helps me put his outfits in the shelves, one for every day. Each morning, Peter can pick his outfit out all by himself and (hopefully someday) dress himself. There are little drawings on each label, Sunday has a sun, Wednesday has a vegetable garden,Thursday has rain clouds, so Peter can know which shelf to go to by the picture, even though he can't read yet. The pictures also create a springboard for some imaginative conversation while we get Peter dressed (Mama, you be the tomato and I'll be the carrot and Nathan can be the lettuce). After two weeks, this little project has been a success!

I love this little nightlight we got for Peter. The amount of light is just right--light enough to comfort him, but dim enough to let us sleep while he's in our room, and his brother when he moves back into his room (really soon!). It charges during the day and then glows throughout the night without any cords, which will be great for late-night potty visits when Pete finally gets the hang of using the toilet at night. It's better than a flashlight, since the whole thing glows, which makes it easy to find and has a soft illumination rather than a bright, blinding spotlight. The best feature is that it is not hot to the touch. Pete actually curls up with the light in his bed! It's pretty sweet, actually.

Ok! There's my first step in my new and improved mothering! No matter how much I fail at this mothering gig, at least I keep at it, right? Now, mothers of the world, tell me: what are your tools of the trade? I am all ears!


Jill said...

You are so inspiring. Seriously. I think I get all of my good mothering ideas from you. For example, we've had "Classical Cats" (an into to children's classical music) on repeat in our house for the past week. It is really nice. I love all of your ideas. And I can totally support the crying jig. You just gotta do it. I've thought about coming up with some sort of responsibility chart to help Kate get her room cleaned, teeth brushed, etc. But haven't yet. Maybe when she starts school. I love your clothes idea. We got through about 5 outfits a day for some reason. The girl is never satisfied. Keep up the good work momma. Us other moms need you out there inspiring us. We need to catch up soon. Miss you!

p.s. Before Kate's party when I was telling her about it, her first question was "Mom, Is Peter going to be there!?" He surely hasn't been forgotten!

Kari said...

These are awesome examples. Thanks a million for sharing! I think I will start referencing your blog when I need help and creative ideas. You sure do have some great ones.

Something Ruth and I do during the day is set aside a time for reading books and doing puzzles (she LOVES them) and then a couple times a week we have art hours. If we have a crazy day its so easy to finish the day and realize you did none of the above which is always sad. During morning snack time we read as long as she'll let me. If we're running errands in the morning than we'll read after dinner. Puzzle time is always right after nap. Art days are about 3, sometimes 4 days a week. Ruth is not too into right now so we try. We have done finger painting, coloring, and playdough.

Anyway, thanks for asking because its always nice to realize you have some sort of consistency, however inconsistent it is! Haha, silly Kari not making sense again!

Oh, and I LOVED your music suggestions the other day. I've downloaded like 5 of those records from that site. Thanks!

Becca said...

Ah, girls, I miss you! Jill, I am in the planning stages for a bulletin board, too. I'm excited to see how yours turns out. Kari, I like the art hour. Very cool.

Eva said...

We have a sticker sheet, since Orion was getting a bit defiant where he used to love helping. I wrote a few things on there, like "help empty the dishwasher" and "put toys in basket" and a general "be a good helper." There are days of the week, but we just put a sticker wherever, when we need extra motivation. Sometimes I'll surprise him and say "you deserve a sticker for that!" and that has really helped.

The other thing is the kitchen timer. I say, "we'll have a potty break when the timer goes off" (especially when he's busy or engrossed, he'll forget he needs to go) and that transfers the taskmaster from me to it. He doesn't put up a struggle at all with the timer (as opposed to just me). It also works with transitions, such as "we have to put our shoes on and go in the car when the timer goes off in 5 minutes" and I also give him a "5, 2, 1 minute" warnings.

Thanks for your suggestions!

Marlo said...

Wow, you are such good and nice moms. I make my kids sleep in total darkness, refuse to help Noelle get dressed unless absolutely necessary, and I even make her bring me my shoes and carry in groceries when she says she can't. I am seriously no fun. i want to come play at your houses, they sound way more fun.

Lori said...

The do-nothing lifestyle sounds fun until you try it. We met with disaster that way too. Much better to be an well-fed, organized sheriff than a bohemian with bruised toes! Good luck getting both kids to sleep in their own space!

Jenny said...

Your post was so real and honest--just what I need! So much for so-called zen life. You have some great ideas. We are anxious and excited about #2 also. From the sounds of you guys, it is crazy but very rewarding also. We'll keep you up to date with how it is going once she comes!