Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break Gone Wild

Yes, it's that time again in Kidletville. Time to stay up late, sleep in, and cause all kinds of mayhem! It's Spring Break and this time, it's two weeks long.

This year, the Kidlet's school switched to a balance calendar which basically shortens summer vacation and tacks that time onto other breaks throughout the year. Hence a two week long break.

Now, in Kidletville, it's not uncommon for the best laid plans to go awry, and this vacation was no exception. It started on the first official day of break. The day Kidlet #1 decided to get in a fight with the ice machine... and lost. Three hours later, with a broken finger, six stitches and a nail bed that was hanging on be a wisp of a thread, the trip to Great Wolf Lodge was scrapped. With no Plan B in place, we set out on a restful week of me playing Sheriff as well as Mayor, throwing around phrases like, "Don't punch your brother in the splint" and "If you had stopped running when I told you, you wouldn't have fallen and your finger wouldn't hurt" and my favorite, "Please put your splint back on before Mayor Mom loses her lunch." (In my defense, this is a pretty gnarly wound!)

I knew, if we didn't do something and fast, things were not going to end well for the entire population. That's when Dear Husband came up with a plan: we're going camping.

Now, it's March and unseasonably cold, so my first response was to grab my VETO stamp and say something eloquent like, "The heck you say." But once he sent me pics of the CABIN we would be staying in, I eased up. But here's the really interesting part. Since we were going to be in the woods surrounded by God's playground, I made a rule. NO ELECTRONICS. FOR ANYONE! (As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to reach out and grab them and choke them back down. had I, the iPhone/Facebook addict just said that?) Dear Husband, who can take or leave the technological world, quickly agreed.

We decided to break this news to the kids the night before we left. Lord help us if they didn't act like the end of humanity was upon us. It was especially tough for Kidlet #2 who has been a self-proclaimed techno-junkie since he was two. He claimed there was absolutely no way he was going to survive and that he was going to die of boredom. Still, the next afternoon, after we completed our performance at Art Enrichment Camp and collected all of our crafts you actually want to take home, we loaded up the car and set sail for McCormick State Park. Without any electronics for the road.

When we arrived, I wasn't sure what we had gotten ourselves into! I mean, I knew it was a three room cabin, but the bathroom was the same size as my closet, the kitchen sink was about the diameter of a piece of paper and when you pulled out the hide-a-bed, there was no room to walk to the bathroom if you were on the far side of the bed, which I was. In a word, it was tiny. In two words, it was super tiny. And it was all we needed.

Like so many families, we live life on the go and when we're home, we all tend to flee to our own spaces. Sure, we eat dinner together, but most of that conversation revolves around which vegetable Kidlet #1 will or won't eat this week or why Kidlet #2 is anti-chicken, unless they're McDonald's Chicken Nuggets. But in this tiny space, we had no choice but to be fully engaged. We spent the first night playing Go Fish and reading books as a family and laughing so hard at Kidlet #2 diabolical laugh he "Skipped" Dear Husband in Uno.

However, as we were getting ready for bed, I heard the words I had been dreading.

Kidlet #2: This place is cool, but you know what would be more relaxing?
Kidlet #1: What?
Kidlet #2: A TV.
Kidlet #1: Yeah.

I looked at Dear Husband and I'm pretty sure we were thinking the same thing: We could be in trouble.

But here's the weird thing about a techno-detox: The first day is the hardest. The next morning, Dear Husband rounded the Kidlets up and headed for Trail #1 while I whipped up a huge stack of pancakes. When they came back, the food disappeared and the chatter around the table was not about what Skylander they wanted or whose Pokemon had evolved the night before. It was about which trail they should take after breakfast. Kidlet #2, my techno-junkie, had been bitten by the nature bug most of all. He wanted to do five trails, in order, before we left. (For the record, they only made four.) And what was Kidlet #1 doing? Collecting walking sticks for the next hike. Gotta say, it made this Mayor pretty happy.

But it also made me think about my parenting. I realized that, unlike me, the Kidlets have an adventurous spirit. They, like Dear Husband, are natural explores and risk takers. As for me, not so much. Yet I have been charged with the responsibility to raise them not to be the kind of people I think they should be, but the kind of people they are meant to be. I would never want to curb their enthusiasm. So how do I rectify my personality to theirs?

It's not like I can change them, nor would I want to. And it's not like I can make myself into someone I'm not. But I can find compromise and balance with them. I am not an outdoorsy girl. I am a nature girl and yes, there is a difference! An outdoorsy girl likes to hike, bike, boat or climb through the outdoors. A nature girl is the mellow side of that coin. She likes to be surrounded by nature with a book in her hand and the sun beating down on her. Still, would it kill me to hike one of the trails with the residents of Kidletville?

I think, as a parent, that the Kidlets shape my life as much as I shape theirs. Just like I force them to chew with their mouths closed and say thank you, they force me to stop being afraid of adventure. All in all, I think it's a fair trade.

The end of the weekend came and went and the Kidlets are back in school. But for Fall Break, when we head to another park with cabins, I'll make sure to take my hiking boots and splash through the creek and traipse through the mud! Until then, if you're looking for adventure, swing by Kidletville next week when I update up on two new projects we're working on!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hello? Is anyone there? Kidletville, where have you gone?

Did you think the Kidletville government staff had been subject to fiscal budget cuts? Well, we have, but that's not why we've be MIA. But don't worry. We're coming back with a vengance. Look for new posts starting Monday. Until then, I must broker peace between Kidlet #1 and Kidlet #2.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year, New Rule

I should just fess up right now. There is, from time to time, a bit of yelling that occurs in Kidletville. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I am a yeller. And I hate it. I hate that my kids, who are both in school all day, are home with me, awake, for a grand total of 5 hours a day and I spend at least a combined total of an hour yelling about something. That’s not a productive use of our time. And it’s definitely not fun. Even worse, I’m setting an example for them that makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want them yelling at my grandkids like this.

If you are a yeller, too, you’re probably defending me right now, and for that, I thank you. But the truth is, there are other ways for me to get the kids to do the things that need doing. So after a lot of thinking, we’re starting with a mission statement. I wish I could take credit for this, but once again, I must bow down to the power of pinterest. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original link.

Anyway, what started out as someone’s house rules has evolved into our family mission statement. There are even Bible verses to go along with each rule. Here it is:

In our Family, We

1. Love God & love each other;
2. Listen & Obey the 1st Time;
3. Use kind words in a kind voice;
4. Are honest & loyal;
5. Have a servant’s heart;
6. Ask permission & forgiveness.

That’s it. Six simple statements that define who and what Kidletville can be.

That’s the first Pinterest Jewel I found. The second was a copy of “The Art of Enforceable Statements for School.”  As I was reading through the suggestions for turning your ineffective statements into “words of gold” that are laced with “love and logic”, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This just might be the way for me to diffuse the tension that arises in my house. And so I tried it. With legos.

Another think I should fess up to is that I hate LEGOS. Well, that’s not exactly true. I actually like to build with them. But I hate stepping on them. Which tends to happen. A lot.  So, on New Year’s Day, before we headed over to the In-Laws house for corn beef and cabbage, I went in to the kidlet’s crib and found all of their legos scattered around the room. I calmly walked back to the living room and informed them that we would be leaving as soon as the legos were picked up. Kidlet #1 reminded me we were supposed to be at Grandma’s by one. I told him we could be late. After a second of hesitation, he books it to his room with Kidlet #2 dragging his feet behind him. (Kidlet #2’s cleaning tactics are a whole other post.)

After about ten minutes, I walk in and see them playing. Now, this is where the concept of turning your words into gold kicked in. Normally, I would have seen this distraction as defiance or disrespect, even though I know in the ego-centric world, it’s a younger version of my own “shiny thing” syndrome. (Oh… another post topic… sweet… and I just did it again.)

Back to now… instead of yelling, I repeated what I told them originally. “We will leave when all the legos are in the lego head. Would you like me to set the timer to help remind you?”

At first, they looked at me like I was an alien. You could see they were trying to figure out if this was a new mom psychological tactic where no matter what they say, some kind of tongue lashing is about to be unleashed. Like wild dogs in the woods, they cautiously said yes to the timer. I brought it in, set it for 10 minutes and then left the rest up to them. Ten minutes later, without screaming and crying, we were getting bundled up, their task completed.

Now, I’m not a fool. Once quiet afternoon does not a change make, but it gave me hope that if I could retrain the way I speak, and ultimately teach them, then the whining and the fighting, and the “you broke my heart by yelling at me” (Yeah, Kidlet #1 has the guilt trip thing down) disasters might be avoidable.

And if this were to happen, well let’s just say, Kidletville will be a much more peaceful place to live and might help me win my re-election for Mayor… which is pretty much a lock… the natives can’t cook for themselves… yet.

What parenting changes do you plan on making in the coming year?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: The Year of Digging Deeper

For Christmas, Kidlet #1 got a science lab kit from my mom. There are several activities for him to choose from and today, he decided to be a paleontologist and dig for dinosaur bones. At first, the task was tedious. In his defense, it was a pretty big chunk of dirt and there weren’t any cracks for him to exploit. But he kept at it. And while the dust was flying, he uncovered the toes of what would become his T-Rex model.

This got me to thinking about the New Year and Resolutions. I stopped making them a few years ago. It seemed pointless. I bet half of us have given up by the end of the month… and that’s being generous. It’s probably more like the end of the week. Which is sad, if you think about it.

I mean, we start the year with hope that we’re going to be proactive and change our lives but we soon fall back into the same old habits we had on New Year’s Eve. Why? Because change is hard? Of course it is. Maybe it’s because we’re really not that committed to our resolution in the first place. Perhaps we’re just making them because that’s what you do on the January 1st. You make a grand proclamation and then take bets to see who the first person is to cave. It’s normally the person who swears they’re going to lose weight as they load up their plate with queso and chips. (Yep, that was me last year.)

But I believe, at the moment that resolution is made, the intent to alter the course your life is on is genuine. The problem is, like the block of clay that hid the dino bones from few, is that it’s hard to figure out where to start. In the beginning, it’s overwhelming. But as I watched Kidlet #1, who has never been accused of sitting in one place for too long, hack away at that brick, walking away when he needed to and then coming back to try some more, I realized that grand proposals are just that. They are moments where we dare to dream we will be mighty. It’s what happens when the rubber meets the road, or in this case, when the mallet meets the chisel, that determines are success. By the end of the night, the block was nothing more than rubble of varying sizes. And sitting proudly with his competed skeleton was Kidlet #1. Accomplishment written across his face and an excitement for dinosaurs the likes of which our house has never seen.

So in 2013, there will be no grand gestures or proclamations in Kidletville. We will not announce our resolutions, but rather survey our village and determine what really matters to our family. And, like that block of dirt, we will find a place to begin and start digging deeper until we unearth the bones we need to reshape who we are as a family and what we desire as individuals.

Now, before you think I’ve gotten all soft and mushy, rest assured, Kidletville may not always be a fun place to hang out. I foresee attempted coup de tates but the locals and more than one heated town council meeting regarding changes, but in the end, we will be better for it and I’m pretty sure they won’t vote me out. At least, not until Kidlet #1 can drive and Kidlet #2 can cook.