Monday, June 18, 2012


My boys have a bad case of it. The only cure? 15 minutes outside. Together. Apparently it's a recurring illness. We may need several treatments to permanently cure this disease.

House-itosis can lead to an even worse condition: Insanimomatosis.

So we're trying to keep the disease contained before it spreads.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

If Momma Ain't Happy...

You know the saying. "If Momma Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy." The problem? Sometimes there ain't no one but Momma makin' sure that Momma stays happy.

Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out just what it is that I need to stay happy. For me, it's NOT shopping. (Unless you give me a good, used bookstore!) It's not getting fancy and going out for a night on the town. (Although I do like to eat out with dh occasionally.) I like to be at home. I don't like to spend money. But I do try to do a few things to stay sane. Here's my list:

1. Exercise. Seriously, I'm a basket case without it. I try to jog almost everyday. When my kids are too small to be left alone, they go in the jogger, rain or shine. (If it's dumping rain, I don't go...mostly because I can't see with my glasses on!) Recently, they're big enough to ride bike alongside me. If someone is home who is big enough to babysit, I go alone. But I go, no matter what. (A slightly embarrassing side effect from daily exercise? I often stay in my jammies until I put my jogging clothes on. So I might greet you at the door at 11am with my pjs on because I'm still debating about when to jog.)

2. Rest time. As soon as my kids were too big to nap, they started "rest time." Frankly, I didn't care what they did, as long as they were in their rooms and I couldn't hear them. I introduce it by saying, "Would you rather take a nap, or have some quiet time on your bed with some books?" They think they're very big when they tell me they are big enough to rest. If they aren't big enough to be quiet during rest time, they still need to "nap." (Sometimes that means they "rest" with the light off.) Whatever. I just need an hour of quiet.

When my kids got bigger, on nice days I'd give them a choice between rest time and outside play. I prefer them to go outside to play because I think it's healthy. (And because it makes them more tired so they sleep well...and go to bed on time.) They don't know that. I always say, "Today you can choose between rest time and an hour outdoors. I don't care which." If I cared, they'd probably pick the one I didn't want. I keep my poker hand close. :) During outdoor time, I keep an eye (ear!) on them, but they know that if they interrupt my rest time, I'll probably choose to have them rest in their rooms. During rest time you stay in your room.

As they learn to be quiet during rest time, it gets more and more flexible. I've been known to let them play together as long as they stay in one part of the house and stay quiet. If they've been having a bad day, I separate them. On those days, they don't have much to do but lay on the bed and look at books. Either way, it doesn't affect me. I still get my hour.

3. Bedtime is around 7pm for anyone that I have to put to bed. My "kid" workday ends at 7. I go to bed fairly early myself. So if they're in bed around 7, I still have a couple hours to myself. (Or to dedicate to the big kids and husband.)

4. Work. I've always had some kind of little job. Not big. Just something. Sometimes for pay, sometimes not. But it was always something that gave me job satisfaction/something to think about that was not just about the kids. (Although I've almost always chosen jobs--usually writing jobs--that somehow connect to my kids' current developmental stages.) In order to do this, I usually give up my free time. Often early in the morning. In the last several months, I've worked almost daily from 5:45-6:45am. My little kids aren't supposed to get out of bed until 6:45am. They are up on the dot. Sometimes I also work during rest time. For me, this is brain stimulation. By the time I've worked hard for an hour, I'm only too happy to sit down and read to the kids about dust bunnies.

That's it for now. Rest time is over...   Off to make the kids ride their bikes while I jog...

So what makes YOU happy???

Monday, May 7, 2012

5:1 Magic Ratio

A child psychologist told me that for every 1 negative interaction a parent has with a child, there must be 10 positives. I don't know where she got her numbers, but here's a study worth considering...

In the book, How Full is Your Bucket? (great, fast read!), the author mentions John Gottman's pioneering research on marriage, suggesting
"there is a 'magic ratio' of 5 to 1 -- in terms of our balance of positive to negative interactions. Gottman found that marriages are significantly more likely to succeed when the couple's interactions are near that 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative. When the ratio approaches 1 to 1, marriages 'cascade to divorce.'

In a fascinating study, Gottman teamed up with two mathematicians to test this model. Starting in 1992, they recruited 700 couples who had just received their marriage licenses. For each couple, the researchers videotaped a 15-minute conversation between husband and wife and counted the number of positive and negative interactions. Then, based on the 5 to 1 ratio, they predicted whether each couple would stay together or divorce.

Ten years later, Gottman and his colleagues followed up with each couple to determine the accuracy of their original predictions. The results were stunning. They had predicted divorce with 94% accuracy -- based on scoring the couples' interactions for 15 minutes." [p. 55]

It's not easy to remember to emphasize the positive over the negative. It doesn't come natural to me. But when it comes to our kids, the magic ratio is crucial. I think of the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons. You just hear her in the background, "Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah." Nothing intelligible. I'd like to think we raise the odds of our kids hearing us if we use the magic ratio.

And it doesn't have to be "good job." In fact, it shouldn't be. The positives might be as simple as "I noticed that you used a lot of blue in your picture." Or, "I saw you pump yourself on the swing." It doesn't have to be much. Just something.

An easy way to remember? Put some 3x5" cards around the house with starting phrases:
  • I noticed how you...
  • I see that you...
  • You helped Mommy when you...
  • You must be proud of the way you...
  • I had fun doing _________ with you.
  • High-5 me! 
  • Tell me about your __________ (picture, walk, time with Daddy)
Just starting to think about magic ratios? I might challenge myself to say one, deliberate positive each hour. On the hour. ;) Maybe set the timer. I remember a period where I set the timer to give my kids a hug every 60 minutes because a specific child needed it. It felt a bit contrived, but it sure helped to keep me consistent.

And P.S.
I'll try to get better at doing this with the DOG. The 5:1 ratio. Not the hugs! :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Building the Foundation for the Future

I'm thinking about bringing this blog back to life for a special little audience. If I sound preachy, I don't mean to. I've just been thinking of you all a lot. Praying for you. And wanting the best for you and your special little people. Don't read on if you can't stand mush. Cause I might get really mushy.

In addition to my special audience, I also think it might be worthwhile to jot down some thoughts on parenting for some other special people in my children. Parenting has been one of the greatest joys in my life. I hope that if you decide to parent, it can be one of the greatest joys in your lives, too.

A couple days ago, my 16yo son was converting some old family videotapes to DVD. I watched him and his now 17yo sister at the ages of 18 months and 3. I felt this overwhelming flood of love. MY BABIES!

The time you have with your babies is so, so short. And everything that you do during this short time builds the foundation for the relationship you'll have with these PEOPLE* for the rest of your lives. (For isn't that what small children are? Just small people.)

To small children, parents are the most important thing in the world. Children see everything in terms of their parents. The world is safe or not safe. People are kind or not kind. They feel loved or they do not feel loved. I don't say this to put pressure on parents of young children but to recognize what a magnificent and special opportunity parents have. The relationship a parent has with a child at 1, or 3, or 5, BECOMES the relationship that the parent has with the child at 13, at 16, and at 21. Make the most of that valuable "foundation-building" time. It's short. So it's even more precious.

Hold onto your babies while they're still babies to hold onto. They won't be little for long.

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