Do you guys ever feel like you are totally dropping the parenting ball? I do, a lot, usually every day around 4:30 when both kids start completely melting into emotional messes.
I will admit I resort to raising my voice more often than I should... even spanking (and the crowd goes silent while someone throws rotten food at me) I refuse to raise entitled brats as brash as that sounds. I have spent my fair share around kids and teenagers the last few years and it is a sad scary thing to witness. I want my kids to have good manners, respect their elders for the sole fact that they are older than them, freely serve others, and understand that their actions big and small effect everyone around them.
I want them to make good choices because obedience makes them happy and they like feeling good about it and not out of fear of the consequences from poor choices. I can dream that they will clean their rooms because they it makes them feel peaceful and relaxed after not because they will be grounded or have their phone taken away if they don't.... a mom can dream right?
So we have started the Good Choice Jar. We had a little family meeting about it tonight- the plan is for me and hubs to keep a few in our pockets or near by throughout the day, if we see Ryan making "a good choice" like clearing his plate, helping Weston, playing nicely, getting his shoes on without a fight, or even flushing the toilet he gets a marble to put in the jar. I will be handing them out in abundance the first bit to get the momentum going, anything I see that is positive gets rewarded! There are 2 reward levels, half full and full. Ryan decided on what he wants for each and is stoked, he already earned 4 tonight.
I think it will also be good for ME as a mom to look for the good things during my day, and when things are really hard I can see the jar and think of all the awesome moments we had instead of dwelling on the bad. I pray it will change my view of parenting these littles. I know I will have to focus more on them to notice the good and I hope to give at least 10 marbles out tomorrow.
We have set some strict rules for ourselves as parents because we want the jar to be solely positive, remember making good choices because he WANTS too. No threatening "if you don't do this you won't get a marble..." or taking them away for bad behavior. Sure the bad stuff will still be punished with timeouts and losing other privileges like always but I want to shift the focus to rewarding GOOD behavior. Kids want attention regardless so let's give them way more attention for good than bad and hopefully if will shift overall behavior. Right....? Maybe....?
I posted on Instagram about it and people seemed pretty excited so I am using the #goodchoicejar if you decide to do it with your kids use it too! I can follow it on IG or twitter, it will be fun to watch. I will update with my progress as well.
One thing you must understand about our family is we take special blankets VERY seriously. My boys each have them and in case of fire one of us grabs the kids WITH their blankets and the other grabs the laptops.
Ryan first fell in love with his blanket around 6 months. I purchased a back up, and then a 3rd back up a few months later. He started calling it tag, which turned into taggy. Now, 3.5 years later taggy is a HE and his best friend next to Grandma. He has his "favorite" which he labeled as number 1 taggy and then the others are number 2 and 3, yes he knows the difference and will inspect them all before cuddling up.
The most important part of the blanket is the tag or label, without it there would be no point. He used to suck on it, now he just obsessively rubs it in between his fingers, on his feet, on his stomach, and in his ear. He also does this weird tongue sucking thing that mimics a nursing suck. He's done it as long as I can remember and will start it every time he sees his blanket, like an instinct. He can't sleep without it, he insists on dragging it all over the house and we finally said it can't come in the car with us anymore unless we will be gone for a LONG time. Twice, the tag has actually fallen off and you would have thought someone actually died in front of him. I have sewn them back on and went over it a few more times for good measure.
When Ryan was about a year old I bought another one KIND of like his tag, thinking he would take it as an acceptable replacement. Wow was I wrong. I held onto it, I actually used the fuzzy brown side for newborn photos way back in the day. When West was born I pulled it out of a baby box and had it near by but didn't really use it as he was swaddled or slept in our bed (and you aren't supposed to use blankets, right) When he was a little older I just like cuddling with it and him so it made more appearances I actually called it "Weston's taggy" one day and hubs looked at me like I was crazy. I think his words were "not THAT again" Eventually he became pretty fond of the blanket. When he was 7 months old I found him in his crib, with the taggy part, rubbing it on his feet just like Ryan does. And that was that.
Weston is obsessed with his blanket just as much as Ryan is his, he loops his fingers in the fold of the tag and rubs it on his face when he's tired. He gets really grumpy if I leave it in his bed after nap and must have it whenever he's sad. He is well aware that Ryan and him both have their own special blanket and he will always give Ryan's to him if he finds it. It's like they understand the sacredness of "the taggy" and it is respected in our house. You don't have to share it with anyone, don't you dare take your brothers away from him, and if your brother is sad find his taggy for him.
Do your kids have a special blanket, lovey, or animal they just have to have?
While we don't have nearly the amount of toys as other families, we still have far more than we need. My kids (Ryan in particular) are overwhelmed by it all and actually don't PLAY with any of it. The things we do have are organized into baskets or tubs and they just dump it all out, throw things at each other and then cry when they step on something hard. After that fun is done they whine at my feet that they are bored.
Ryan has even told me before that he is done with toys, they are for babies and Weston can just have them! I can't remember the last time he actually played with or did anything with the toys in our house.
He spends his day at my side, doing what I do. He helps me cook, do dishes, grocery shop, plays on the computer, or watches a movie. He loves "activity" type things like games, puzzles, crafts, play dough.. those are my saving grace!
I was at my wits end for sure. I was sick of the messes, the complaining, and wasting money trying to buy things I think they would like. I told friends and family not to get toys for any holidays! For Easter he got glow sticks, a book, and bubbles and it was perfect. For birthdays I am requesting books and craft supplies.
Anyway, back to the TOY issue. In a fit of rage (okay just a really frustrating day) I got a huge tub and packed away 80% of the toys and donated a ton of barely used toys and old books to our church nursery. I kept out a few "sets" of things, including the only thing that kind of gets played with- a small tub of kids meal toy type things.
So far they havent complained once, the house stays cleaner and when they open the toy cabinets they are not overwhelmed. I slowly started getting out one thing at a time from the packed away stash. Yesterday it was the kitchen and play food. Today it was the trains. You guys, they actually PLAYED with them, and for a while too! It was nuts. I was happily surprised by it. And the second they get bored and move on we clean it up together. I also noticed that Ryan can clean up MUCH easier. Even with it being organized before he had an impossible time cleaning up simply because it was just too much for him to take in. When nothing else is out, it was easy for him AND Weston to put all the trains in this one tub right here. And they did it happily.
I am happy with the choice we made to simplify our life a bit. Society makes it seem like we have to buy our kid's love, we have to have the latest toy revolving around whatever favorite tv show of the moment (we did it with power rangers, no judgement here) I also know that I get excited over new toys and want to buy it all for my kids. News flash- THEY DON'T NEED IT. Raise your hands if your kids play longer with an empty cardboard box than anything else! Yeah, us too. Just say it with me "no more toys."
Wow, never in my blogging life have I had a lull like the last... oh, 5 months or so. I just kept saying that I had writers block or didn't know what to write about, or even just checking in saying "we are still alive, here is a picture."
Hard truth is, there were things I couldn't really talk about, and I knew if I sat down at the keyboard that it would be a huge fight with myself to not just write my brains out. I wanted to scream from the roof tops what I was going through because somehow that helps. Maybe its that the weight of it isn't on my shoulders anymore and out there in the open, or its the validation I receive. No Lauren, you aren't crazy and yes your feelings matter... I don't know. So instead of writing about light hearted, happy things I just stopped all together.
And because I know you are wondering... it's marriage and its impossibly difficult.
But I messed up. I shouldn't have stopped. I should have kept writing. I was missing moments in my kids lives, I wasn't capturing their growth and their deepening bond for one another. While I was sitting over here in my corner licking my proverbial wounds they were out there living life and blossoming. I know that sounds weird- that I was missing moments. But let me tell you something about myself. When I blog regularly and keep my camera close I am a better person. It makes me live intentionally. Moments aren't staged so I can photograph and write about them, everything happens naturally... but I am forced to notice them. To stop and take in the scene and appreciate the little moments and the beauty that is this life.
"One of my favorite things about photography: that moment of "church" at my desk when I'm editing photos-- given the chance to stare at a moment for much longer than it actually lasted. Noticing things that might have been ignored. seeing the people and things I love with a different perspective. The art of picture-taking has truly made me a more observant, grateful, life-loving human. Amen."
- Kelle Hampton
So I was just living hour by hour, waiting for the next nap or bed time. I wasn't taking it in, I wasn't letting my kids mold me and change me. I was just stuck, frozen in my frustration and pain. I couldn't see past it. Before you get worried, I still took care of them. They were fed, bathed, cuddled, driven to activities, and played with. But I was an empty shell. My body went through the motions, my face smiled and my eyes lit up for them all while I was crying inside. It was exhausting keeping up with both sides. The inside and the out.I guess I am sitting here and nothing has noticeably changed but in my heart I am striving too.
In February and March I took maybe 5 photos combined with my big camera. I did use IG a lot but its not the same. I don't get fired up by the weight in my hands and the rolling of the shutter speed. This last week I photographed our day and while I am pretty rusty at photographing my own kids at home it was a healing experience. Like Kelle said, I had my church moment editing those photos.
My kids area beautiful, smart, full of love and life. They are incredible. I can easily tell when I am photographing them because I am in the moment, with purpose. I plan have more of these unbridled moments with them so be prepared for the photo overload that is coming your way.
And now for the things I have missed. Weston will be 16 months old in April. He is running, climbing, starting to sign back to us, and is obsessed with his brother/best friend. While he is still mild mannered most times he is showing us what youngest siblings are all about. He wants to be heard and have his feelings validated and if you don't.. if he thinks he is being pushed aside for any reason, boy will let you know. I find his overly dramatic tantrums laying face down on the floor sweet and welcome the excuse to validate his feelings and have a quick cuddle on the couch.
Ryan is a welcomed breath of fresh air. He is thriving in so many ways. He is back in school, he is learning to read, he is finally getting the fun of "imaginative play" and wants to be he-man/power ranger/spider man at all times. He has even changed his name to Antonio (the gold power ranger) He makes me laugh and is sensitive to my needs and suggests we cuddle and take a nap every now and then. He keeps me on my toes, reminding me that stupid and hate are not nice words and lets me know what I should use instead. He prays with intent. He realizes his role as a big brother- a teacher, a friend, an ally, a companion, and an example. He will soon be celebrating his fourth birthday and is requesting a night at the Olive Garden with his grandparents instead of a big party. We are fine by that.
They are best friends. I knew they would be. While they have stubborn spats they love each other deeply and flow together well. Their personalities balance wonderfully and they are better off together than apart. While Ryan looks forward to sleep overs at Grandma's house they are both very pleased when its over and they are together again. I can't imagine one with out the other. Even 2.5 years apart, they are a packaged pair.
If we are friends on facebook or you follow me on instagram (@lauren_alberts) then you've seen by now that I had a little hair cut....
To be honest I am freaking out. I knew I wanted it cut and I knew I wanted it short but the mirror shock has still not worn off. I can't see a reflection of myself without cringing a little. It's not the exact style I was hoping for and maybe that is the problem.. or maybe that I feel like a little elf boy. Either way, it's just hair and it will grow back. Hopefully it will be long, lush, and beautiful again someday.
I decided to cut it because it never grew back after Weston, I lose my hair twice- during my first trimester and then again after I deliver. It was all dead and falling out, it had to go!
In other news- Weston has Eczema! He started breaking out in a rash about 2 weeks ago and I took it in to get looked at. So now he is just a huge greasy blob of lotion and can't eat eggs every day for breakfast (makes it worse for him)
Ryan is obsessed with the Thrift Shop song- don't worry he's only heard the clean version.
I booked another wedding this summer with my photography business- happy dance, and I bought a new watch to celebrate.
And that's it- nothing else too exciting. We are boring these days, and boring is fine by me.
I have heard the term "mom brain" for a while, before I had my own kids, and before I had this dreaded symptom of becoming a parent myself.
I feel like I have no working brain cells anymore! I forget everything, if I don't make a note of it it will slip my mind- from play dates to picking up something from a friends house. I forget to bring extra diapers and wipes when we leave the house, I leave half the pile of library books at home. Its ridiculous!
I forget things I say to people thus making my friends think I have short term memory loss- yup you already told me that... 3 times... sorry. I think it's a combination of the lack of sleep for 4 years, the nagging for more mac and cheese and "no, not THAT power ranger episode" that have driven me into this mom brain fog.
I pray that someday, it will lift and I will resume life as a normal person. Does anyone else feel this way? Please tell me I am not the only one.
Just so you don't worry- they are fed, dressed, mostly happy, and cuddled every single day.
And if you are a photography client friend- I reserve a special section of working brain cells just for you. All of that works flawlessly. Have no fear.