Friday, March 29, 2013

What Not To Do When You Encounter A Tantrum

Modern life ensures that we encounter all types of people when we're out-and-about in public. And, much to the dismay of some, that will occasionally include children. Sometimes those children will be well-behaved. Sometimes those children will not. And sometimes those children will be in the middle of an all-out tantrum. It has come to my attention in the past few weeks that people feel an urgent need to DO something when they encounter a tantrum. And most of those people do things that are actually counterproductive. So I thought that I'd create a quick cheat-sheet to share with those well-intentioned people who aren't sure what to do.

Let's start with what NOT to do:
1. Do NOT come over to inform the mother that her child is being annoying. I guarantee that she already knows this. Especially don't do this if the mother is pregnant with an additional child. Your chances are good that you'll end up with a bloody nose. A large belly may make her move slower, but carrying small children will give her a strong left hook. Just back away.
2. Do NOT ask the mother to "Do Something" about the screaming. If there was a magic switch to make it stop, she would have used it already.
3. Do NOT inform the mother that the tantrumming child is "in the way". For pete's sake, just walk around.  Get over yourself.
4. Do NOT offer the tantrumming child a cookie. This is the equivalent of giving someone an additional cash prize for robbing the bank. It's totally the wrong response. And may even encourage future repetitions of the current behavior. And see #1 about getting a bloody nose.
5. Do NOT offer the tantrumming child a sticker. See #4. You're not being helpful. You're just antagonizing the mother.

Here's what you CAN do:
1. DO IGNORE IT! Chances are good that the child's doing it for attention, or just experimenting with boundaries. Providing a visible response may encourage the child to tantrum more often, just for fun. Please, don't torment the mother any further. Just keep walking.

Ok, so some people are incapable of ignoring the situation, and really must DO something. It's their personality type, and they just can't help it. Ok, fine. Here are some other options:

2. DO give the mom a smile. You can even say, "Hang in there!" If you have no other reason to stop, just keep going. It's an interaction that might make her feel less judged. Being the mother of a public tantrummer can be a cringe-inducing situation to make even the most stalwart of disciplinarians doubt herself.
3. DO commiserate, only if appropriate. "Oh, my oldest was such a screamer. Ugh, she knew how to push my buttons. She mostly grew out of it." This is appropriate to say, if true. It also might give the mother a chance to chat if she really wants to demonstrate to her child that she's ignoring the situation. It also draws attention to the big picture, that children do grow out of it. In the moment, it can be difficult to remember this.
4. MAYBE consider a light-hearted compliment, if you can make it humorous. "Whew, she's got some lungs. I see American Idol in her future. Can I treat you to a set of earplugs in the meantime?" The mother might need a moment of levity. Or even just something to hear that people aren't judging her for having a lack of control over her child. And maybe she really would love some earplugs.
5. MAYBE offer the mother candy or a sticker OUT OF VIEW of the child. "Would this at all be helpful?" Let the mom decide what her child gets. It's likely that her parenting and discipline philosophy is different from yours. As much as you might want to help, it's best to let her handle the situation HER way. Because it's HER child.

So if you have childless friends, consider sharing this list with them. And if you do have children, tell me, what's missing from this list?

Chocolate Regrets

This week has been a dramatic one in our household. The week started out with fun house guests, including our 1 year old goddaughter. We applied to send both girls to Catholic school next year. (That's another post for another day.) We learned that we're expecting a third GIRL! And then our other two girls gave us a sneak peak at what the teen years will be like. OH, the DRAMA!

Our first moment of teen-preview angst was on Monday, right before the gender-revealing ultrasound. The girls and I met BestestHusband for lunch, at a bagel shop between the ultrasound office and the office where he was scheduled to get a root canal. I agreed to let HeyMama and MeToo pick out bags of chips for lunch, as a special treat. HeyMama handed me hers so I could pay for them. MeToo refused. I tried reasoning with her. Before we eat chips, we have to pay for them. You picked them out, now we have to give them to the cashier. JUST LIKE ALWAYS. This usually isn't a problem at the grocery store. This day, it was. She pouted. I counted to three. She threw the chips down on the floor instead of giving them to me. So I declared the chips ALL DONE. Then the crying and screaming began. Now, keep in mind that this is all happening while I'm trying to order our soup, salad, and sandwich. The cashier was extremely patient and gracious about it. Other patrons? Well, it was a mixed bag. I interjected my conversation with the cashier with "When you're done screaming, I'll understand what you want." This is my standard tantrum routine. I don't negotiate with terrorists. When the screaming's done, then we'll talk. I continued to manage obtaining our lunch, and the screaming escalated. She loves to do this in public. I think she actually has a future on the stage. 

One elderly gentleman across the shop came over and offered to pick MeToo up. Ok, that scared her. She stopped flailing and clung to my legs, still screaming. 

The elderly gentleman in front of me was supportive of me sticking to my guns. "She's a strong one. You're stronger." 

But the frumpy middle-aged guy across the shop? He came over in the midst of the hubbub to inform me, "You know, your kid's really being annoying!" "Yes, I know." was my response. I tried to have a conversation with him. "What would you like me to do?" I asked. "Spank her? And have someone call Protective Services on me? Would you like to spank her? And have someone call Protective Services on you? What would you like me to do?" Not surprisingly, he didn't have much of an answer. He just stalked off, muttering something about "make her stop." 

The most productive of all interveners was the elderly gentleman trying to pick her up. It scared her enough to start asking me for "Up up up!" Ok, those were words. We could work from that. And we did. The tantrum wound down. The cashier was horrified about the middle-aged guy, and apologized profusely.  I'm thankful for the patience not to deck the frumpy guy. I'm sorry, but you just don't tell a pregnant woman dealing with a tantrum that her child's annoying. I guarantee you, she knows. He's lucky he doesn't have a bloody nose to show for it. It's proof that the patience was given by God, and not from me. He's also lucky I didn't point him out to BestestHusband when he arrived. I"m not sure what would have happened there...

Our next moment of teen-preview angst was yesterday evening. The girls' preschool teacher surprised the kids with an Easter Egg Hunt on the playground. The eggs were filled with chocolates. Dove chocolate eggs, to be exact. That teacher has good taste. On the way home, the girls talked very excitedly about their eggs and chocolates. I agreed to let them eat a few. I know they'd been waiting all day. I have a hard time waiting all day to eat chocolate. I can't expect my daughters to be able to do it. So after eating a few, MeToo asked for a video. I said yes. It allows me to prep dinner in peace. HeyMama asked if she could have more chocolate. I said she needed to save them for after dinner. She seemed ok with that. We do typically eat dessert AFTER dinner.

But a few minutes later, the fireworks went off. "I want more chocolate! I wish I'd never eaten those chocolates!" Chocolate regret had set in. She's a bit too young to understand the conundrum of "you can't have your cake and eat it too". Or maybe not. She cried. She screamed. "I wish I hadn't eaten them! I'll never eat chocolate again! I hope Easter never comes!" The regrets streamed out, veering towards the absurd. Now, I can sympathize with this to some extent. I love chocolate. In a truly unhealthy way. I love to eat it. I always want more. And sometimes I regret eating it. Mostly because I want to have more. And eating all of your chocolate means you don't have more to eat. I was sympathetic to her hysteria until she threw her bag of chocolates against the wall and behind the couch. That's when I sent her to timeout. Regret is one thing. Chocolate abuse is another. And it's inexcusable, if you ask me... She raged in her room for a while, screaming random things. "No more eggs! No more candy! I don't like paper! I'm going to rip down all of the art in my room." When she calmed down and was ready to talk, we discussed chocolate regrets. Because I do truly understand. And then she did rip down some of the artwork in her room. Which I also understand. When I get upset, that can be a good catalyst for cleaning and redecoration. 

Oh Heaven help us when the girls are teenagers. By my estimation, the teen years will directly co-incide with menopause for me. BestestHusband is screwed. I see a "mancave" in our future. And maybe a few Academy Awards in our girls'...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Day I Put On A Funny Hat And Look Like A Doofus

Let Holy Week begin! This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, began Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. At our church, that was the day we joined together with our preschool and hosted an Easter Egg Hunt that we invited the community to. So I celebrated the occasion, now known as "The Day I Put On A Funny Hat And Looked Like A Doofus". Attendees were encouraged to wear Easter Bonnets, so the girls and I wore the biggest flowery hats we could manage. And the girls wanted to wear their Easter finest, so we were really all decked out.

We started out inside the church. Pastor gave a short talk, and the children sang two songs they'd been practicing. Then I introduced the plan for the hunt. And then the Easter Bunny arrived. He led us down the street to the Comm Ave Mall, a large grassy area that's part of the Emerald Necklace. Our egg hiders scattered them out pretty well. We had areas designated for different ages so that the big kids didn't plow down the toddlers. It actually worked out pretty well. Everyone got tons of eggs, which they exchanged for tons of prizes, and then they gorged themselves on sugar.

It was pretty spectacular to see our church family step up and volunteer for the event, and things just kinda happened when they needed to. For the most part.

BestestHusband took some spectacular pictures of adorable children outside on a sunny day. But you know I don't like to post pictures of the girls (must allow for some plausible deniability someday)
and, I'd like to protect the future plausibility of my friends' children, as well. So instead, you're stuck with generic shots of kids outside. And me in a giant pink hat. Enjoy!

I'm giving instructions about the hunt. And making a kinda scary face.

Still talking. Now looking really scary.

Here I am yelling. Like the snow in the background? Good thing we didn't hide white eggs.

Now I'm yelling and pointing. Geez, could I manage to take one flattering picture? 

Lots of happy hunters finding eggs in the receding snow.

The bigger kids covered a lot of ground, and covered it quickly.

We'll ignore the topics of why I manage to look like such a doofus, and why on earth there's still snow on the ground the week before Easter. The Texan in me finds that to be horrifically wrong. But God apparently approved of our hunt, because He gave us 50 degree weather to hunt eggs in. I'll just focus on that part and give thanks.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pregnancy and Dog Food

Well, something exciting happened today. I went to the gym. It was only for 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, but hey! It was the first time I've been motivated to do this in months! Given my current tendency to crave creamy chocolately sweets 24/7, any time spent at the gym is a good amount of time.

It was on the elliptical machine catching up on cable TV that I rediscovered a problem I have during pregnancy - dog food. Actually, dog food commercials. Maybe it's the hormones. Maybe it's because I love my dogs. But when I'm pregnant, dog food commercials make me cry. Consistently. This is my third pregnancy, and the third time I'm crying about kibble.

Ok, it's not the kibble itself. The last times, it was about the shelter dogs. Shelter dogs that were waiting and waiting for loving homes. (sniff) Sweet doggie faces that just wanted someone to love them. (sniff sniff) Sweet innocent animals that reminded me of my Mandy and Cameron. (sniff sniff SOB gulp) If I just bought their dog food, they'd donate money to help give those dogs a home! (BOO HOO HOOOOO!) Dang, those commercials got me every time... I'd be there sobbing on the couch for no good reason.  I couldn't even DESCRIBE the commercial to someone without tearing up. It was pitiful, really...

But this one's a little different. Maybe because it's an Irish Wolfhound and I drool over insanely large dogs? Maybe because the dog's waiting so patiently at the window for his human to come home? (sniff) Maybe because the human's a woman in military fatigues that just came home after a really long absence and I know that the dog has been desperately missing her every day she's been gone? (sniff sniff GULP) And then they let the dog out the front door and he goes running up to her and jumps up on her and he's taller than she is and they hug and he licks her face like crazy and he lays down and she rubs his belly. (sob sob SOB!) And you can see the doggie joy in his face because he's so devoted to her and he's missed her so much and he's just SO HAPPY she's finally home! (excuse me while I go find a box of tissues...)

Ok, I'm back. BestestHusband thinks I'm a bit nuts to cry so much over silly dog food commercials. But I think the commercials are specially targeted towards pregnant dog owners. We are the ones more likely to buy the dog food in the average household. I think they've just fine-tuned their marketing message to manage to make us putty in their hands. It's working.

So if you see me crying in the gym, don't worry. I probably just saw this Iams commercial.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lottery Results Are In!

Well, after months of waiting and wondering, the lottery results are in!

I'm talking about the Boston Public Schools school assignment lottery, of course. You know, school assignment - that mysterious system where you register your child, rank a series of schools in your zone, get assigned a random number, and wait to find out where your child will attend school? 
Oh. You don't? 

That's probably because you live in a normal area where your child attends the school in your neighborhood instead of climbing on a bus to travel to a school 40 minutes away in morning traffic. I do not. I live in the city of Boston, where we do schools a bit differently. 

Boston has some fantastic schools. And Boston has some pretty bad schools. And where your child attends depends on your lottery assignment. And the zone that you live in. And your walk zone. And sibling preference. Oh, and whether or not you can afford to send your child to a private school to avoid being assigned to a bad school. This was all designed in the interest of fairness. And it is fair. Even our local politicians have no control over what schools their kids get in to. It's fair. Unless you have money to move to the expensive 'burbs or pay private tuition. So maybe it's not really fair. Just anxiety-inducing and annoying. Alright, this is a rant for another day... 

They're changing the system for next year, to reduce some of the insane bussing costs and general parent anxiety. In theory, they can put the bussing money they save into the "underperforming" schools. We're not quite sure how it will work, though. That, too, is a rant for another day...

So, drumroll please.......

HeyMama got a seat at the Trotter School! 
I think it was ranked number 15 out of 16 on our list. It's way across town, in an area we don't frequent often. Because of distance. Ok, and crime. I certainly wouldn't drive there at night. I haven't driven there yet, but I strongly suspect it will take around 40 minutes to drive there in morning rush hour traffic. But I should test it to know for sure.

The school is considered a "turnaround" school. In other words, it's been so bad in the past that the school was allowed to set extended hours and have the ability to more freely fire and hire staff to bring up the quality of the teachers. (We'll ignore the implications for our local teacher's union...) Additional resources and special rules were granted to the school because it was just so bad. And I understand that the changes have helped a lot. I've heard great things about the school. I'm sure HeyMama could learn a lot there. But when she starts school next year, she'll have a 3 week-old sibling. And I'll be a sleep-deprived milk-leaking zombie who will choose between driving across town at 8am or putting a 4 year old on a school bus for a 40 minute ride. Both options make me shudder. 

We're waitlisted for our top three choices, which are all in our walk zone (ie. less than a mile away):

  • Sumner Elementary:  #22
  • Mozart Elementary:  #41
  • Bates Elementary Special Needs Integrated Classroom:  #45

These numbers aren't great. Sure, there is a rare chance we could get into the Sumner, but I'm not holding my breath.

So, like any decent family with a bit of wiggle room in the budget, we'll start touring local private/parochial schools. The tuitions aren't that different from what we've been paying for preschool this past year, anyway. We're not talking about elite prep schools for our 4 year old, just an alternative to being bussed to the 'hood. It's all part of the "fair" education system in our city. Fairness is great until we talk about putting my sweet little 4 year old on a long bus ride with the big kids to a neighborhood with random gun violence. Then screw fairness. She's 4. Her father and I didn't complete a combined 15 years of higher education to send our little lamb out to the wolves. We'll eat more lentils and postpone retirement a few years to afford another option. This, too, is a rant for another day...

So congrats to all Bostonians who got their first choices, and our condolences to the others that didn't. We'll see you at the private school tours. And the open houses in the 'burbs...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

R.I.P. Sleeping Beauty

We all know the standard Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Especially those of us with little girls. I've never understood why the poor character needed 3 names. It seems like Aurora would be fine. Briar Rose is perfectly sweet. And Sleeping Beauty is perhaps best as a nickname, but could stand alone if needed. How did the poor girl not have an identity crisis?

I love how the fairy tales all have happy endings in the books. But you have to wonder what happened much later...

Well, I discovered the true ending to Sleeping Beauty.

She was mauled to death by a dog. Torn limb from limb, actually. It's surprising to think that a sweet-looking Sheltie could do such a horrific thing. But that's what I discovered when I came home from work today, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Poor disemboweled Sleeping Beauty.

The killing field.

Caught in the act.
Innocent looking? Maybe.
Innocent? Not even close!

Rest in peace, Aurora, I mean... Briar Rose. I mean... Sleeping Beauty. Rest in peace, whoever you truly are.

PS. Cinderella, Mandy says you're next. Watch yourself...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Prego Brain

I had originally planned on posting my first picture of my third child today. I thought I had an ultrasound scheduled for 12:40 this afternoon. It wasn't in my calendar. So I called the office to confirm before dragging 2 preschoolers in to see their new sibling. Good thing. The appointment is actually scheduled for two weeks from today. At 12:40.

The girls had a swim lesson scheduled for 9:30 to 10:00. At 9:23, I realized that we needed to get there. Right after I sat them down at the table for a snack. Oops. We were only 15 minutes late for a 30 minute appointment.

I have a wicked case of prego brain right now. I know there are worse problems to have in pregnancy. Within my church family right now, one member has been daily injecting herself with blood thinner to prevent a clot that would be fatal to her child. Another member was hospitalized and is now on bed rest to prevent a condition that would be fatal to herself and her child. I don't really have any problems to complain about.

But hey, I'm the woman who posted pictures of my carnivorous laundry piles. I whine sometimes. I'm willing to admit some imperfection to keep it real. I'm a total scatterbrain right now. I'll admit it. I'm blaming it on the pregnancy. But it might actually just be me. I'm not as green and queasy as I was for the first 15 weeks. Ok, that was definitely from the pregnancy. I'm still pretty lazy and lame. That's baseline for me. But I don't fall asleep on the couch at 7pm anymore. That was definitely the pregnancy.

So I'm willing to be a bigger flake than usual for a while. It's a small price to pay, and a minor problem to deal with. And hey, I'm willing to admit I'm not perfect. Especially when I have something convenient to blame it on!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Just a Few Inches

I will be the first to admit that I've made some mistakes in my professional career. While I don't have confirmation, I'm sure I've made my fair share of mis-diagnoses. So I can't really throw the first stone here. But I think the meteorologists might have been a bit off the mark today.

When I checked the weather yesterday and the day before, we were forecast to get 1-3 inches of snow, to be followed by some rain. Ah, a lovely spring storm. I was ok with the idea of a few inches of snow that would be washed away within a few hours. No worries, no need to reconsider plans. I didn't even give it a second thought until daycare talked about closing. HUH?!?!? Well, yesterday didn't seem so bad, the snow mostly melted, and we thought the storm would taper off this morning.

Morning dawned. From my bed I heard the sound of buses struggling up our street. Not plows, just struggling busses. That was not a good sign. Opening the curtains revealed about 6 inches of snow on our patio (a sheltered area), and steady blowing snow falling about an inch an hour. The storm was obviously NOT tapering off.

We were all taken by surprise. School wasn't cancelled, a snow emergency hadn't been called, it was technically business as normal. Except that it obviously wasn't. A full-blown snowstorm was raging and the road crews were caught off guard. The roads were a mess. The girls and I had a full day of fun planned, including going swimming at the Y, a big trip to the grocery store, shopping for a birthday party, and a playdate with a friend. Those plans were tossed out the window. We were staying in.

BestestHusband took the dogs for a walk, and I agreed to do the shoveling once the storm slowed a bit. So we spent the morning watching PBS, (ok, I napped a lot), waiting for the storm to slow. It didn't. I checked the forecast. It was supposed to get a bit warmer, and the snow would switch to rain. But not stop. What's worse than shoveling snow in a snowstorm? Shoveling snow in a rainstorm!

So after lunch, the girls and I bundled up and headed out. Now, I'm not a certified weather observer, but I'm sure we got more than 1-3 inches. The snowdrifts were over 2 feet deep, and the snow in the front yard was up to MeToo's waist. She got stuck. She was definitely in up to her waist.

The girls were great sports, playing in the backyard with the dogs while I cleared off the front porch, walk, and sidewalk. MeToo got cold and headed inside, and HeyMama came out front to help me. After 1.5 hours of shoveling, my body reminded me that my core muscles were being stretched out of shape by the newest member of our family and I might be done shoveling for a little while. So we went in.

We still need groceries. Oh well. I'm working tomorrow and our Sunday is busy, so I'm not sure when that will happen. I managed to buy a birthday gift from a local mom's Etsy shop. I'll pick it up off her porch later this evening. The girls are entertaining themselves in a warm bathtub while I wait for my chance to shower. It's good to be reminded that we're not always in control. There are forces in nature greater than we are, and we must occasionally defer to them. I'm just glad we don't live in this house. Yeah, that's the fridge bobbing in the waves. Here's a link of a meteorologist explaining why everyone got it so wrong. Well, trying to.

Here's a large azalea bush playing peek-a-boo.

I easily shoveled down through 12 inches to clear the front walk.

The snow in the side yard was level with our porch. That's usually an 18 inch dropoff.

Hey, there's only 6 inches! Wait, that's a covered and protected railing off our deck...

Our standard rose has almost disappeared, and our lilac tree is going, going, going....

There's easily 18 inches on top of the patio wall, and 2+ feet of snow on the patio.
Hope you're all warm and dry where you are!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lunchtime Heartbreak

I'm fortunate to work at a rare company that feeds their employees lunch. Yes, there is a cafeteria with a salad bar, sandwich fixings, and soup du jour. All free. The offerings vary by day, and are always pretty good. Oh, it's no gourmet establishment, but it fills my belly without me needing to pack a lunch. And it's healthy, too. Hanging over the table I typically sit at with coworkers is a large TV with talk shows, and occasionally, news. Today's news was the heartbreaking finale to a heartbreaking tale, and the lunchroom fell quiet as the conclusion unfolded.

As the story has been told in the media, a murder occurred nearly two years ago. Two attractive and popular high school seniors, a football player and a cheerleader, had a relationship end. And according to their mutual friends, it ended somewhat badly. As dramatic high school relationships often can. He reportedly took it harder than she did, to the point that his family was worried. Their friends were, too. But no one knew how hard he took it until she ended up dead. Her death was brutal, and the more the evidence was revealed, the more it pointed to him. And according to the jury today, it was beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The families were friendly, living in the same town. It's one of the cushy western suburbs, one that BestestHusband and I have on our if-we-win-the-lottery wish list. The families were educated, professional, middle-class, well-regarded members of the community. I find their story so tragic, so horrifying, because there's nothing separating them from our family but a few zip codes and about 14 years. (ok, and a lottery ticket...)

Imagine having your only child murdered by a young man would welcomed into your home, welcomed into your family. Imagine having your beloved child kill the beautiful daughter of your friends. 

There were no winners with today's verdict. The young man will spend his life in prison. The young woman's life ended 2 years ago. The justice system did its job, but there is no happy ending. Nothing will bring back the promise of two young lives about to go off to college. Nothing will bring back parents' hope for eventual grandchildren, the joy of sending off their fledglings out into the world with the anticipation of how they would have grown when they came back to the nest. 

The news report broadcast the remarks made by the victim's father. They were a touching, tragic, gut-wrenching appeal to have something good come from the situation. He framed his tragic tale in an unfortunately broader problem:  every day in America 3 women are killed by someone they were once in an intimate relationship with. Surely we must find a way to change this. Because domestic violence can strike our children, even in cushy middle-class communities, even within "good" families. There are no winners in today's trial. We're all losers.

I heard that the families embraced together at the end of the court proceedings today. I found that comforting, somehow. It seemed to demonstrate to me that there is some grace and forgiveness in this world. Because the killer's parents mourn the girl's death. I'm sure they want to un-do the tragic events of that day as much as the girl's parents do. And I suspect the victim's family knows that. Pray for them all tonight.