On Being A Big Brother

The kids came home from a primary (church) activity today, which was breakfast with their new teachers, and Lincoln said, “I’m hungry.”

“Didn’t you eat pancakes at the activity?”

“Well, I only ate one. I ran out of time.”

(pancakes are his very favorite food and he can easily eat three or four)

“Hmmm…did you end up at the end of the line or did you talk to your friends and not make it back for more?”

“No. I got my pancake and sat by Anna and then I had to cut her pancake for her and it took me awhile because it kept slipping around on the plate. Then I had to cut mine, and by the time I was done I had to hurry and eat it because it was almost over.”

He shrugged and walked away.

Instant tears for me. This was exactly what I needed to boost my spirit today. It has been a very long week full of frustrations and kids fighting. I have been in tears or near tears more times than I want to admit, but these tears were good tears.

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Next time I hear them fighting I am going to imagine Lincoln leaning over to cut his little sister’s pancake while his pancake sat untouched on his plate. I am going to imagine how hungry he must have been because it was 10:30am and he had not had a thing to eat yet. And I am going to remember how he mentioned it nonchalantly and how he didn’t boast about his good deed or complain or whine about how it made him run out of time so he couldn’t get more food. How he didn’t even get that he had done something nice.

It just was what it was. He knew she needed help so he helped.

Gosh, I love that kid.

An Unfortunate Run In At The Dollar Store

A stranger yelled, “SHUT UP!” in my baby’s face tonight.

We were at a very crowded dollar store and I was checking out. Kai was sitting in the cart and getting restless so Luca walked him up to the front of the store to wait with him. He was fussing a bit, but it was a fake bored cry, not screaming or sobbing and it wasn’t even very loud.

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I dropped some cards out of my wallet and as I bent to pick them up I hear a very loud and angry voice yell, “SHUT UP!”. I look up and see a woman with her face inches from Kai’s stunned little face. I didn’t get a good look at her, but I remember that she looked angry and her face was red.

The front section of the store went silent and I heard several gasps. Three of those gasps were my other young kids that were standing near Kai at the time.

My adrenaline kicked in and the woman was already walking out the door as I yelled, “Excuse me!! That is MY baby you are talking to!” I could feel my face get hot and my heart started pounding in my ears. I was mad.

“Then make him stop” she yelled over her shoulder as she walked out the door.

“He is TWO years old!” I screamed at her as the door shut behind her.

I am not a screamer. I hate confrontation. I hate fighting. I hate drama, and I especially hate to be a part of drama.

Kai was surprisingly un-phased by the whole incident. He did get quiet, but he didn’t get scared or sad or upset.

My other kids did.

“Mom! Did you hear that lady tell Kai to shut up!?”

“Mom, that lady was mean! Why did she yell at Kai?!”

“I am glad you yelled at that mean lady mom!”

“Is Kai okay? I don’t like that mean person!”

They had worried looks in their eyes. I don’t know if it stunned them more to see a stranger yell at their baby brother or to see their mom yell back.

The checkout lady in the next aisle looked over to me and quietly said, “I think she wasn’t all there” as she pointed to her head.

It hit me pretty suddenly that she was exactly right and I calmed down rather quickly. In fact, I was shocked at how easily I got over it and I actually felt rather stupid for yelling back and not taking a minute to assess the situation.

The woman clearly had some mental health issues. It didn’t give her the right to yell at a two year old, but if I had taken a moment to think or if I could go back I would do things a little differently.

I wish I had thought to run over to her and gently tell her that I didn’t appreciate her talking to my child that way and ask her to apologize to him. He knows what “I’m sorry” means.

I could feel everyone looking at me as I quickly gathered up my bags and my kids and hurried them out the door to the van. They were excited and loud and telling me I should call Brett right away, call the police, or go find her and beat her up. I buckled them all in the car and we shut the doors (and locked them) and we had a little talk about how people are different and some people, even adults, have a hard time knowing just how to act around other people and sometimes say and do things because they are uncomfortable or nervous. I don’t know that they really got it, but they calmed down a bit.

The kids were all anxious for Brett to get home tonight and as soon as he walked in the door they fought about who got to tell him about it.

What did I learn from this unsettling experience?

-My kids love each other and will stick up for each other when needed.

-Don’t mess with my kids. I may not like confrontation, but…just don’t mess with my kids.

-Sometimes if we wait a second before reacting we might gain enough new information to handle things better. I would have.

-Someone yelling in a baby’s face can silence a store crowded with holiday shoppers. Good. It should be shocking.

-I get over things a lot faster than I used to.

-I know now that if anyone lays a hand on one of my children I will not be afraid to beat the living daylights out of them. For a second I thought she might and I was ready to charge.

-Kai is one fearless little guy.

Along For The Ride

I felt a tug on my leg as I paced back and forth between the fridge and the sink while preparing dinner tonight. I looked down and saw my newly turned two year old son Kai grinning up at me. He hopped on my foot and I laughed as he clung to my leg and rode around the kitchen with me while I finished up.

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I loved the feel of his weight as I dragged him around. The older kids were doing homework and they stopped to watch and laugh.

I had to pause for a minute and think about how things are different with my fourth child. I remember being annoyed and impatient when my other children were this age and clung to my leg while I tried to cook dinner, or do laundry, or vacuum. Now I realize that it won’t last long.

Tonight I let him cling to me hoping that tomorrow he will want to do it again.

Lesson Fail

Our home teacher, a visitor from our church, prepared a nice lesson for us about paying tithing and the blessings it can bring. He shared some personal experiences and encouraged our kids to pay their tithing and told them they would receive blessings and have a good feeling if they did.

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Lincoln had a funny look on his face and I leaned over and asked him what he was thinking.

“Mom, I don’t want to pay my tithing and have blessings. I have that feeling sometimes when I go to the bathroom and I don’t want it anymore!”

Next week’s family home evening lesson: What are blessings?

Learning Together

Me: Lincoln, you seem really impatient tonight.

Lincoln: I realized that when I was whining so much.

Lincoln recognized tonight that he was being impatient and whiney, yet he continued to do it and I continued to react and be angry. When he had finally settled down enough to come over and give me an apologetic hug we talked about it and he understood why I had been upset. I apologized to him for my anger and realized that my behavior had been just as poor as his.

I am so glad that my children are so forgiving and we can learn together.

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Books I Am Adding to My Christmas List

I mentioned the book “Nicholas” in my last post. The kids and I have loved reading it together so I thought I would share a little more about it.

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I went to this site to look at their cool colored pencil canisters and came across the Nicholas books. Of course, I had to check one out at the library first to see if it would be worth the $19.95 (or $13.57 on Amazon) price tag. I think this is a set of books that would definitely be worth having in our home library. These books, which were originally written in French, are laugh-out-loud hilarious. They have old school binding and textured hard covers, and the small illustrations throughout are simple and comical. (I say “these books” having only read the first, but I have high hopes that I will like the others as much.)

They are about a young boy, Nicholas, and his friends and their adventures (or misadventures) as they attend an all boys’ school in France. They give their teacher a hard time, although usually unintentionally. They fight a lot, and they make up a lot. They are constantly trying, and failing, to stay out of trouble.

In the book you meet:

Nicholas — of course.

Eddie — who is known for his punches.

Geoffrey — whose dad is rich and buys him anything he wants.

Cuthbert — is teachers pet and wears glasses so the other boys can’t hit him.

Alec — who is fat because he is always eating (this book is not politically correct).

…and many other fun characters.

As I was reading about the author Rene Goscinny I was surprised to see that he wrote the Asterix comics that I loved (and had forgotten about) when I was a kid.

The first chapter begins with the boys being arranged by their teacher and a photographer in preparation for their class picture. Paragraph four was the first of many that made me bust up laughing:

The photographer decided we ought to be in three rows: one row sitting on the ground, the second row standing up with our teacher sitting on a chair in the middle, and the third row standing on the wooden boxes behind them. That photographer really had some fabulous ideas.

So simple, but it makes me laugh every time I go back and reread it.

In another favorite chapter of mine they are trying to set up a soccer game with eighteen friends. Part of it reads:

“I was still fighting Geoffrey, and I’d torn his nice red, white, and blue shirt, and he was saying, “Yah, yah, yah! Doesn’t matter! My dad will buy me lots more!” and he was kicking my shins. Rufus was chasing Cuthbert, who was shouting, “I’ve got glasses! I’ve got glasses!” Jeremy wasn’t doing anything to anyone, he was looking for his coin, but he still couldn’t find it. Eddie, who’d been waiting patiently in his own goal, got fed up and started punching the noses closest to him, which happened to belong to his own side. We were all shouting and running around and we were having a really fabulous time!”

I can’t wait to read the second book with my kids!

Loving Her Enough

It was not an easy parenting night for me tonight. The day went well, the kids were happy, things were fine until I heard Lincoln screaming in pain.

“Luca pinched me” he hollered.

I saw a flash as Luca darted up the stairs and down the hall to hide in her room.

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Luca is an amazing little girl. She has never been in trouble at school. She is always reverent and engaged in primary. From what I have seen she is kind to her friends. She is easy to take on errands with me because she stays close and obeys. If I leave a treat laying on the kitchen counter I can count on her to eat it only if she has asked and been given permission.

So why has it been three years of working on getting her to stop taking her frustration out on her siblings by pinching and scratching, and it feels like we have made no progress?

We have grounded her from play dates, electronics, sent her to her room for the evening, taken away birthday parties. We still have incidents at least a twice a week.

So tonight we took away her bi-monthly church activity that she looks forward to more than anything else. She gets together with a group of eight to twelve year old girls and they spend an hour and a half making crafts, learning new skills, and chatting and giggling. They took the summer off and tonight was the second activity since they started up again and she has been talking about it since…well, the last activity that was two weeks ago.

I told myself we would never punish by taking away a church activity, but we have tried everything else and we decided it was the thing that would make the biggest impact right now.

I went in her room to let her know what we had decided and I could hear her sobbing under her bed. I didn’t know her dad had already chatted with her and told her she wouldn’t be going.

I didn’t scold her. She didn’t need it. I could hear the disappointment in every sobbing hiccup.

I told her that dinner would be ready in a few minutes and it would be her favorite. Chicken, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. If anything would make her feel better…

As I went back to the kitchen to put the food on the table I found myself wiping my own tears away. These are the times I hate being a parent.

The rest of the family started eating and she finally slid into her seat as we were about finished. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were tear stained.

We didn’t talk about it again. By the time she was done eating her dinner she was smiling and making jokes with the rest of us.

We ended up having a good night. The three big kids surrounded me in my bed while I read to them and we laughed and laughed at the funny shenanigans of Nicholas. By the time I kissed her goodnight she didn’t seem to hold anything against me. I love that about children.

I pray she will remember tonight the next time she gets angry. I want her to stop and think about her actions before she reacts.

But mostly, I don’t want to be the reason she ends up sobbing under her bed.

But I will. Over and over and over again I will. If that is what it takes to teach her an important life lesson.

I love her that much.

While Cutting Her Hair

I cut my daughter’s hair tonight. I was scared to do it, but Luca told me she wanted it short and I decided I better jump at the opportunity because I have hoped she would want to try a shorter haircut, but I knew she had been growing it out for awhile.

I was really nervous to cut her hair. I have trimmed it a couple of times before, but I have never really changed the style.

I don’t make very even ponytails and I have tried and failed to French braid her hair more times than I can count. I really wasn’t the best choice for the job, but she told me she wanted me to be the one to do it so I did.

We dragged a chair to the bathroom and for an hour, maybe more, and I cut, sweated and tried to keep myself from picking up the phone to make an emergency phone call to my friend who is trained and licensed to cut hair.

We talked about school starting and how excited she is to be in the same class as several of her friends.

We talked about her fun day with some friends at the Museum of Flight.

Kai got into the bathroom closet and opened and handed Luca a tampon.

“What’s a tampon and what do you do with it anyways?” she asked.

(deep breath) It was time.

So we had the talk and it went rather well. She didn’t blush or get embarrassed and she had plenty of questions to ask.

This led to questions about whether I thought she would have smaller or larger breasts than mine when she was older.

“I just hope they are big enough to feed my babies”, she sighed.

I very maturely slipped into the other room for a minute so she wouldn’t see me laughing.

She was so patient with me as I had her turn her head one way and then the other. Then I would tell her to put her chin on her chest. Again! She held still and only wiggled when she had to brush the itchy hair off of her arms and neck.

We laughed about how we went to get school shoes for the kids today and after measuring their feet discovered that her and her five year old sister now wear the same size.

“She is going to have bigger feet than me by the end of the year!” she exclaimed.

“Well, you will get to see what it is like to wear HER hand me downs for a change!” I answered.

Her hair turned out fine despite my worries. I could have set up an appointment for her and got it done better, quicker, and for a reasonable price, but I am glad she wanted me to cut it.

She seemed older and more mature to me tonight as we chatted and giggled while I worked on her hair. I became aware that undeterred by my desire to keep her a little girl, she is growing up whether I like it or not.

“Mooooom!” Anna called out to me from her bed after Luca showed her the shorter style. “Luca wants to get her ears pierced now!”

(moment of anxiety)

One step at at time.

My Funny Lincoln

Lincoln is a thinker and often he will get sudden uncontrollable giggles over something he has just thought of or figured out.

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A couple of days ago I was serving lunch and Lincoln started giggling so hard he nearly fell out of his chair.

“What is so funny?!” I asked him.

“Well…when I was in kindergarten we had a practice lunch to get ready for first grade…but I didn’t even really need to practice, I eat lunch all the time!!!”

I haven’t been able to stop laughing since.