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Adventures in Home Decorating, Part 2

I’m continuing my story from yesterday’s post about our family’s journey into redecorating the bedrooms.  Keep reading if you want to know whether or not my son has skulls on his walls and whether or not my daughter stuck with purple.

We started our project with the upstairs room, as it’s the largest but had the fewest pieces of furniture to move.  It only took a couple of days to paint, no wallpaper to scrape.  The thing that was most frustrating about the painting was all the crazy angles.  Because it’s up by the roof, there were lots of tight spaces and awkward spots where the walls and ceiling meet.  I made the mistake of painting in a tight spot in such a way that I backed into the freshly primed wall, thus priming the back of my pants.  I will be eternally grateful to my sister-in-law for putting up with me and helping me out with all the painting.

Moving the furniture upstairs was an ordeal.  We had to move a queen-size bed up the narrow, curved stairs.  Even with three of us, we barely made it, only to realize that the box spring wasn’t going to go up at all.  The bad news is that we had to get rid of the box spring, both because it wouldn’t fit and because we discovered that it was broken.  The good news is, we got a fantastic new bed frame that doesn’t need the separate spring and folds up.  We also gained several inches of space under the bed.  My husband ordered it on a Sunday night, it arrived Tuesday morning.

With that out of the way, it was time to get to the kids rooms. It only took a week to finish both rooms.  With a little help from some friends, who kindly loaned me their children to babysit, I had plenty of time to scrape wall border, wash walls, prime, and paint.

I’m sure you’ve been wondering, to the point of losing sleep, whether or not my son got his skulls.  When he first proposed it, we nixed the black.  It’s too hard to paint over.  We told him he could have midnight blue, and still do the skulls.  In the end, though, he decided on Smurf blue and an ocean theme.  Not that I have anything against skulls, but I have to admit, I was relieved.

Sarah changed her mind as well.  When confronted with all those lovely colors, she settled on the most vivid green she could find.  I was nervous at first, but the color actually looks wonderful on her walls.  She said she wanted it to look like a meadow.  I had given her my old bedspreads, the ones my mother made for me.  One is golden and furry, like a lion; the other has appliqued baby dragons.  She wanted the walls to be like grass for her jungle and fantasy animals.  Sadly, the paint peeled a bit in Sarah’s room because the previous owner had used an oil-based paint.  But we made do, touched up the walls a bit, and were good to go.

I’m relieved this project is over.  It’s nice to have the kids all moved in.  I would say that I’ll never do this again, but I don’t want to jinx myself.  After all, we still have the kitchen and the basement to do.

Finding Inspiration and Balance

So…um.  Yeah.  I’m not feeling inspired yet.

Which, actually, might be a good thing.  I spend a lot of time with random stuff floating around in my head.  The flotsam usually consists of story ideas, parts of stuff I’m working on, things that really piss me off, articles I’ve read, and blog topics.  There are days when I can hardly sort everything out, and days when I feel like I could write pages and pages.  Today, I feel a little tapped.

I think I can be forgiven, this once.  It’s been a long, weird week, and it’s not over yet.  I’m thankful for great friends hanging in there with me.  Not that I don’t love the cyberverse, but it’s nice to know that I can count on real, live humans when I need to.

Anyway, it’s not that I feel particularly down.  Just tired, drained, and in need of a rest beyond my eight hours.  I think that may be a good thing.  I’m not a person who takes time off.  Of course, there are a few people who think being home all day means I lie about eating bonbons and watching daytime television.  Believe me, if I could, that’s what I’d be doing tomorrow.  Well, the lying about and eating bonbons, anyhow.  Instead, I’ll be homeschooling my daughter, catching up on chores, and taking a trip to the local library to supplement the kids’ education.  Not that I don’t find all that wonderfully refreshing and invigorating, but it’s not exactly restful.

The good news is, the week is almost over.  The bad news is, the weekend is coming.  Normally that thought would put a spring in my step.  Instead, I have a sense of impending doom.  For whatever reason, this particular weekend is the busiest we’ve had so far since school started.  The planets aligned just right in order to cause every single person who wanted or needed something from us to want or need it this Saturday.  The upside is that we don’t have to cook dinner, as that will be provided courtesy of the Girl Scout fundraiser.

Which suddenly inspires me with a thought.  This busy weekend is about fifty percent “stuff we do for ourselves” and fifty percent “stuff we do for others.”  I can’t decide if I think this is a good balance.  Part of me says it is; part of me disagrees.  In any case, Finding that balance is one of the things I find most difficult.  I know that I have a hard time weeding things out of my life that constitute business for the sake of staying busy.  At the moment, I have at least three things on my plate that I need to categorize based on whether they are for me, for my family, or for the community, and then I need to decide which to say yes to.

More importantly, I need to decide which to say no to.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this tough process.  It’s so easy to fill every waking moment with places to go, things to do, and people to see.  When everyone clamors that they must be the top priority, it can be hard to sort it out.  Right now, I’ve decided that anything sorted into the “benefits the community” category (which includes most of my church-related activities) can stay and the kids can continue their extracurriculars.  But if it’s just because someone wants me to do something because they personally find it interesting or fun, then it’s out.  Other people’s hobbies are not mine.

I’m planning to find ways to sneak in some extra rest in the next couple of days, to prepare for Weekend of Insanity.  I’m also clearing my head so that I can go into it with a positive attitude.  We will survive the busyness, maybe even come out on top.  Then I’ll look ahead to what we can change so that we don’t create this kind of black hole of non-stop activity in the future.

Here’s to a healthy measure of balance.

Are we at this agian?

Not long ago, I had a phone call from another mom.  She wanted to give me some information and ask me a question.  When she called, she sounded tired and frustrated.  She said it hadn’t been a good day.  I was surprised to hear that, since I had just talked to her the day before and she said it was going to be a relatively easy day.  In the interest of being a good friend, I asked what had happened.  She snapped at me that it had just been a long day, and she didn’t “get to stay home.”  She was, of course, making a dig at the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom (which, in my opinion, is somewhat of a misnomer—I don’t spend a lot of time in my house).  The worst part is, she is benefiting from the fact that I stay home.  It was all I could do not to tell her to bite me.

There were several things that bothered me.  I do understand that this woman was under stress, but there was no reason to attack my lifestyle because she was having trouble coping.  Also, she has, on the surface, been very supportive of my choice to stay home and homeschool our kids.  When under strain, our real feelings can surface—and hers surely did.  I suppose I should have realized sooner that her “respect” for me was somewhat less than genuine, since that is exactly the same opinion she shared about stay-at-home mothers before I had children.  Her tune changed when she found out that was my plan, and I should have suspected she was merely being polite.

The larger issue I have, though, is this ongoing battle between working mothers and homemakers.  I admit, a big part of me would really like to tell all those judgmental working mothers to just shove it up their rears.*  I have had as much as I can take about how they would be “bored” if they were at home.  Why?  Because implicit in that is the idea that we who stay home don’t do anything and are either bored or boring.  You may think, when you make that off-hand comment, that you are expressing your own desire to nurture your career.  But to those of us who aren’t working, it really does make it sound as though we probably don’t have enough to keep us busy all day (trust me, not true).  I have endured a boatload of nonsense about how we at-home moms are always “judging” working mothers, followed by a long, dull speech about why they “have” to work.  While I understand that there are some families that really do need the income, I also know that sometimes we use anything to justify something we would have done anyway.   I have stomached more than my share of listening to women sound off on why their lives are so much more fulfilling, satisfying, and meaningful than mine.  I have grown weary of being asked when I am going to pack my younger child off to school so I can go work and be a productive member of society.  And yes, I have gotten absolutely all of those comments, without ever once telling those women off or extolling the virtues of staying home.  I absolutely do not want to hear anything about how “judged” you feel when you are simultaneously taking verbal pot-shots at my life.

Guess what?  Those comments hurt.  A lot.  They are designed to make women feel inferior.  Many of us already struggle with self-worth.  And let’s face it, in a time and place where men still get paid significantly more for the same jobs, and where our voices often don’t count as they should, do we really need this kind of garbage from each other?  I know that our mothers and grandmothers worked hard to make things better for us.  I don’t think they meant for us to tear others down in order to lift ourselves up.  Feel good about the choices you make, don’t try to cover up your own feelings of inadequacy by shredding someone else’s choices.

I am not going to sit here and tell anyone what she should or should not do with her life, her family, or her career.  That is not up to me.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both styles of motherhood.  What I do want is for everyone to just plain shut up about it.  Stop telling me why you think I am worth less because of the path I took.  I don’t do that to you, so please try to return the favor.  When I want your opinion on what I ought to do with my life or my kids, I’ll let you know; I trust you’ll do the same.  Let’s stop beating up on each other over which path of motherhood we’ve taken and simply enjoy the journey.

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Potty Training or Potty Learning?

I’ve got potty training on the brain these days.  This is in part because I’ve been able to do the “No More Diapers” dance in my own house.  My daughter’s been fully potty trained for about 3 weeks now.  Many of my friends, both in cyberspace and in real life, have kids who are potty training.

Which brings me to the title of my post.  I really prefer the term “potty learning.”  I took it from an excellent book by William and Martha Sears called You Can Go to the Potty.  The book is aimed at children, but there are excellent tips for parents.  As I mentioned, I prefer “potty learning” to “potty training.”  Our children are not pets who need to be housebroken.  They are young people who need to learn how to do things.

I know there are people who will be horrified to learn that my son was nearly 4 when he learned and my daughter is 3 and a half (that half is very important to her).  Nowadays, I see so many parents anxious to get their under 2′s to use the toilet.  If you can do it easily, then more power to you.  But I very sincerely doubt that most kids that age are ready.

With both of my kids, it took less than 2 days for them to be able to consistently use the toilet during the day.  (My son still isn’tdry at night, but this is very common, especially in boys.  But that is a post for another time).  I didn’t have to bribe my kids with toys, candy, stickers, money(!), or other prizes for going to the bathroom.  We haven’t had weeks or months of working on it, only to have them regress.  In fact, I didn’t “train” them at all–they figured it out all by themselves, for the most part.

When I mentioned this to the pediatrician, he was pleased that we had chosen this gentle method.  He said that children should not be coerced or pressured and that most children are not ready before age 3 or 3 and a half.  This was the same thing my daughter’s occupational therapist had said.  And in my own experience, the parents who have had the most success have waited until their children are a bit older.

Like with other things, I prefer the low-stress method of parenting.  I also chose not to “sleep train” either of my children.  I found listening to them cry stressful, so I used other methods of getting them to sleep.  I don’t know whether the now sleep better than their peers, but I do know that bedtime has always been pleasant and calm in our house.  (I should write about this sometime, too.)

In the end, my recommendation for parents is that if potty learning is not going well, your child seems uninterested, you constantly find yourself offering rewards, your child seems to do well and then regresses, or you and your child are frustrated, then back off for a time.  Give it awhile, then revisit.  It doesn’t have to make you crazy.

Signs of Life

My son has a new hobby.  He likes to make signs.  For absolutely everything.  It started one night after dinner.  He was in the bathroom and my daughter kept trying to go in with him.  This was bothering him, especially when she ignored his repeated requests for privacy.  When he came out, he decided that we needed a sign for the bathroom:

(The extra drawing is my daughter’s artwork.)

Next thing I knew, he was making signs and hanging them up all over the house.  We have the “ghosts” in the kitchen doorway, the “cool tool” sign in the kitchen, the “in” and “out” signs by the front door and on the porch.

Speaking of ghosts, apparently we have a “nice” haunted house.  My son made a new sign for the bathroom:

As a result of the original “PRIVIT” sign in the bathroom, my daughter became quite distressed.  She wanted to be able to join her brother in the bathroom.  Being the sensitive boy that he is, he didn’t like seeing her so upset.  So he decided to remove the original sign.  I suppose he figured it might not be enough just to take the sign down.  After all, he hadn’t informed his sister of the change in the rules.  So he produced yet another sign:

There is peace in the land at last.

They Grow Up So Fast

Well, it’s official:  My 5-year-old is no longer a little boy.  We went to visit my husband at work this afternoon, after he was done teaching for the day.  His student teacher was also there, surfing YouTube.  He found a pretty cool video and was showing it to my son.  He wanted to see it again, but we had to leave.  I told him we could find it again at home.  We did, and he enjoyed watching it.  I went to the kitchen to get some chores done.  When I checked in with my son, he was doing his own surfing–finding all sorts of neat videos to watch.  Of course, I immediately had mom radar going, to make sure he wasn’t stumbling on something inappropriate.  But he was able to find all kinds of kid stuff, from Hot Wheels cars to Thomas the Tank Engine to marble chutes.

When did my baby get to be old enough to surf the web on his own?!

I think I need a nap.

Being a parent is tiring.  I think the tasks of parenting are a lot like having a dam in your living room.  The dam has holes in it and you have to stop them up with your fingers.  The problem is, there are 11 holes.  So you have to keep switching fingers and hope that you stopped the flow long enough that you can stop a different one for awhile without flooding your carpet.

The latest one for us seems to be having the 3-year-old give up naps.  When our now 5-year-old stopped napping, it was easy.  One day he just didn’t take a nap; now he only sleeps if he is extremely tired or he’s sick.  But our daughter wasn’t really ready to give them up.  She has had a long loveaffair with naps.  Lots of kids resist when you tell them it’s time for sleep; not our girl.  She would practically run to the bedroom and leap into bed, pulling her special blanket up to her chin.  She would always be out in less than 5 minutes, leaving me to spend some quality time with her brother.  Unfortunately, we reached a point where she was not able to get to sleep at night.  It would be 9pm and she’d be asking for another movie…or snack…or story…or a trip to the zoo.  We realized Something Had to Be Done.  That Something was eliminating afternoon naps.

Once she stopped sleeping during the day, our daughter became fairly easy to settle down at night.  Unfortunately, this magical fairlyland of Easy Bedtime has its price.  Our sweet little girl gets to bed time and she turns into Queen of the Grumps.  She is cranky, stubborn, irritable, fussy, and generally unpleasant.  Tonight, we had the great War of the Pajamas.  Stage 1: Yell a little about how Mom picked the wrong pair.  Stage 2: Insist on picking another pair, but refuse to enter the bedroom alone.  Stage 3: Take 15 minutes deciding whether to wear trucks, kitties, or rocket ships.  Stage 4: Refuse help getting undressed and into pajamas, then cry because it’s too hard.  Stage 5: Finally accept help, but complain that the pajamas are too tight, too hot, itchy, or just “don’t feel right.”

In fairness, I should mention that she has some sensory integration issues.  So probably her pajamas didn’t feel right.  However, the problems are mostly just magnified by her exhaustion.  At any rate, we did resolve the problem and she was off to dreamland in just a few minutes.

I’m sure that as she grows, all of this will sort itself out.  Inthe meantime, though, I sure could use a nap myself.