Monday, January 7, 2013

Expressionating with Good Mommy

    Now that Ian is in fourth grade, he's very concerned with doing his homework and making sure I sign his planner (insert Hallelujah Chorus). I will admit that I'm not the best mom when it comes to homework. When Tawni was little I hyper focused on it and made sure that every bit was done and done perfectly. This is probably the cause of her anxiety disorder today. When Beka came along I began to relax. With the arrival of Zackary the relaxation increased and we basically just focused on reading. When Ian joined the family my need for relaxation is what took over and any semblance of routine was eradicated and replaced with pajama pants, chocolate, and Prozac.

    Luckily for Ian, he has inspiring teachers who are unwilling to let me off the hook. If my little boy does not get his planner signed, he has to move his clip down—which is humiliating and devastating for him—and his teacher writes notes to me on his planner reminding me of my parental responsibilities—which is humiliating and devastating for me. So we've been doing homework. But just because Ian worries about getting it done does not mean that he does it happily. Au contraire! When I'm trying to be a good mommy, I give him a small treat—like an M&M—for each problem he finishes. I break up the homework so that we read, he plays for 15 minutes, we do math, he plays for 15 more minutes, and we finish with spelling. Being the good mommy doesn't last very long. I'm tired from my own homework, I'm tired from making Zack and Beka do their homework. I'm tired of the daily struggle while Ian does his homework. Soon the simple reward systems turn into bribery. And Ian can sense the shift. And he takes full advantage of it.

    "If I do my homework can I have a toy?"

    "If you do your homework nicely, without whining, for three days, you can have a toy."

    "Two days?"


    And he grins because he knows he's won that battle and the next time I'll give in faster. And after playing that game for a week or two, I'm done. Good mommy is in Hawaii, snorkeling with Yellow Tangs. Mediocre mommy is eating chocolate and drinking Dr. Pepper while hiding in the closet. So the only thing Ian is left with is bad mommy. Bad mommy is very tired. She doesn't shower, or wear clean socks. She doesn't make dinner. She yells at everyone and doesn't wash their clothes. She hides in her bedroom and types indecent blog entries that she can't post. But she does sign Ian's planner. Because even a bad mommy doesn't want her boy to get in trouble and move his clip down. Eventually good mommy returns from her vacation and the cycle starts all over again.

    Today was a good mommy day. Ian and I did some small negotiating after school while I assessed his mood and determined what he could and could not handle. I gave him the choice of reading first or math first. He chose reading. He picked a book and we went into my room, plopped on our tummies on my bed, and proceeded to read together. In this particular book, there were bank robbers and police officers. Ian wanted to read the parts of the bank robbers and I played the role of police officers. I noticed right away that Ian was using expression in his reading. The bank robbers were sarcastic and harsh, yelling at each other and evilly laughing as they escaped the cops. I watched Ian's face as he read, eyes squinting, mouth stumbling a bit around the words while trying to catch up with his brain. After a few pages he stopped reading and turned to look at me.

    "Can you tell that I'm using expres—that I'm ex—that I'm exrpessionating?" he finally managed.

    "I sure can. It's wonderful!" I praised.

    "I've been working on it with Ms. Webber," he said proudly.

    We finished our story and as agreed upon earlier, Ian went off to play with friends. We can finish the rest of his homework tonight. Because good mommy is here and she can handle it. I'm guessing that around the first of February she'll be in the Bahamas.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Family Unity in the Kitchen: What I Expected and What Actually Happened

    I received a KitchenAid Mixer for Christmas this year. Excited to try it out, I decided it would be nice to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I also remembered the gingerbread cookie dough in the extra fridge downstairs. I'd made it with the intent of spreading some holiday cheer to family and friends, but that was a week ago and my charitable feelings had since shrunken to only include the individuals within wooden spoon hitting distance. I brought the soon-to-expire dough up from the basement and set it on the counter to soften while I worked on the chocolate chip cookies. The sounds of the mixer quickly roused the sitting-dead from their television and video game stupors. As the masses swarmed into the kitchen I felt my bosom swell with motherly love and affection. I knew some family bonding was about to take place.

    My Expectation: Everyone taking a turn with the new mixer, patiently.

    What Actually Happened: As they got closer and I saw the demonic gleam in their eyes that only cookie dough can produce, I realized I didn't want them anywhere near my new mixer because in touching it, they would violate its purity with unclean hands and contaminate its machinery to the point of malfunction. So I created a protective bubble around my precious appliance and warned the mob to Back Off!

    My Expectation: I would be generous and allow one spoonful of dough to grace the tongues of my offspring and their sire.

    What Actually Happened: My children pressed around me until there was no room for me to move and I stood bent in half over my mixer. They then attempted to grab handfuls of dough—pushing, shoving, clawing—it was like zombies on a human.

    My Expectation: Surely my husband would behave better than his offspring.

    What Actually Happened: Shielding me from the horde, my husband pushed himself in front of me and spread his arms…subtlety reaching behind me into the mixing bowl. After that it was a free-for-all. I ended up with a scant 23 cookies.

    Attempting to salvage the bonding experience, I turned to the gingerbread dough. My kids knew better than to eat it because it wasn't fresh. I sprinkled the countertop with flour and began to roll out the dough. All was going well. I lovingly invited Ian to cut out some gingerbread babies with my miniature cookie cutter.

    My Expectation: My youngest and I would laugh together and create something cute and memorable.

    What Actually Happened: All of the gingerbread babies ended up headless and my son laughed evilly with each decapitation.

    My Expectation: My sweet Rebeka would take over and engage Ian in the proper way to cut out cookies.

    What Actually Happened: She took over. Like a drill sergeant. She yelled when Ian plopped his cookie cutter in the middle of the dough instead of utilizing the space around the edges first. She yelled when he guillotined. She yelled when he shook too much flour onto the counter. She yelled when he did everything right. She yelled… a lot.

    My Expectation: The gingerbread cookies would taste good.

    What Actually Happened: They were dry and thick with minimal sweetness. I found some post-holiday charity and took most of the cookies to my friend, Julie. Her kids will eat anything.