Tuesday, May 22nd

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Birthday Cupcake Ideology (Photo credit: alexis22578)

I have moved the computer to the kitchen. One light bulb is out, and the orange glow in our soon to be outlawed incandescent lights is disturbing my visual field. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. The floor still needs to be mopped. We have grocery bags that don’t have a great home, scattered among the chairs. Levi is in bed, whining for his squeezy bottle.

Tonight was one of those interesting parental evenings, where the child needs some semblance of attention and is manifesting that want in ways that are not comprehensible to the parent (me).

I picked the child up from school tonight, thankful for a low traffic night in this resurgence of rain and 60 degree weather. He was waiting, coat on, backpack on. As soon as I got to the door he was there with his teacher. A far cry from the night before where I could not find them. They ran an errand just as I arrived. Mind you, I was pushing the 6:00 clock pick up with my 5:58pm arrival. (I’ve been sick; I was trying to nap.) So, tonight, arriving twenty minutes earlier, they were ready for me in more ways than one.

The child was fairly pleasant. He removed his backpack immediately upon my arrival, claiming he now needed to get his snack. (I usually let him get it out after we get settled in the truck.) This was an amusing feat, regardless, for myself and his two teachers. I signed him out, and we resettled his backpack.

All was chipper.

We were low on a few grocery items that I don’t procure from my buying club (cheddar cheese, sour cream, yogurt, pasteurized milk, deli meats), so we ventured en route to the nearest grocery store.

The child continued with his chipper, playful, obedient mood. All this, to the pleasure of his mother (me).

We have an uneventful trip at the crowded grocery store, collect our items, and a new toy, and head out. The grocery store trip was accompanied by the 5-year-old being able to ride on the cart (in ways store staff don’t always approve) most of the trip. I was comfortable with this mode of transport as it 1) let me know where the 5-year-old is always and 2) kept him occupied in a pleasant way. All tactics aid to keeping the 5-year-old chipper, avoiding meltdowns, and allowing said child to remain obedient. All these things make mother pleased.

Once we are loaded into our car, backed out of the parking light, where full-trendy-grocery store parking dances commence (the car next to us pulls out, another pulls in, we pull out, another pulls in behind us, while dancing around drivers who quickly turned to pedestrians whilst navigating said parking lot and dance), and on the road — I tell the 5-year-old what’s for dinner. It goes something like this:

“So, when we get home, we’ll have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Okay?”

“Ooh, and I can have gold-fish crackers too!” replies the now excited 5-year-old.

“Yes! You can have gold-fish crackers with your grilled cheese sandwich.” I assure the 5-year-old, relieved that tonight, we can forego the nightly dinner argument.

Fast forward to being home, having groceries put away, the 5-year-old watching a Barney-Thomas the Train-Bob the Builder DVD on loan from the library, me grilling the sandwiches away. (Mine is more gourmet adorned with the deli meat and swiss cheese).

Note: Our microwave broke several weeks ago, beyond repair. We are down to a puny heel of bread. I brought two, very frozen loaves up from the deep freeze. They are now (3 hours later) thawed to a usable stage.

I let his small, grilled cheese sandwich cool, cut in half, on a plate while mine finishes. I mention to the 5-year-old that his grilled cheese sandwich is nearly done. I will even let him eat in the living room. (I don’t want arguments. I want easy dinner time which should transfer to easy bedtime.)

I hear no reply and mistake (yes, mistake) that for continued acceptance of before mentioned and vetted dinner menu. The gold-fish crackers have already been consumed.

The 5-year-old walks to the kitchen. The 5-year-old notes that these are indeed grilled cheese sandwiches.

“But, I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Grilled cheese is too dirty!”

Get it? Grilled cheese is toasted, crumbly bread, after it is grilled appropriately. It makes more crumbs than a fresh loaf of bread (one that is not available due to our no-microwave-fresh-from-the-freezer-state of bread).

I insisted that this indeed for dinner. After a 10-20 minute whine-fest in his room, the 5-year-old comes out. (The rule is that the living room and kitchen are more or less “happy zones”, any other inconsolable fit must be had in his room. He is allowed to return when he is in a better mood. We have found this to be a good tactic toward self-soothing.)

He says, “I can eat the grilled cheese sandwich in the living room, right?”

Ah, the life of a parent. It’s never-ending, unpredictable roller-coaster ride of developing minds.

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Double Smoked Bacon

A wood-burning pizza oven baking a pizza.
Look at this nice, controlled fire. I can handle this kind of fire. And, of any uncontrolled fire, I would prefer it to be in our modern oven. But, still scary. Image via Wikipedia

I am writing this at 8:00pm, January 30th, 2011.

“Man,” I thought, “That’s kind of a lot of smoke billowing out from under the teapot.”

The teapot is (nearly) always on the burner that also serves as our electrical stove‘s oven vent.

“That is a lot of smoke.” I am cooking bacon to go with our blueberry pancake dinner. It’s late. I read too long and chatted with my mom a little too long.

I open the oven door. Smoke billows out, but I don’t see anything. So, I close the oven door.

More smoke comes out from the vent. I remember it’s been a while since I last turned on the auto-clean.

I open both kitchen windows. I sort of giggle at our broken smoke alarm (still within, hopefully, it’s warranty period).

Then, I also reflect on last night’s meatloaf that seeped over the sides of the loaf pan. (Note to self, ix-nay the milk in that recipe.)

“Uh, Peter,” I call to my husband who is on the phone with his father. “Will you take a look at this?” I begin to sound panicked.

I open the oven door. Even more smoke billows out. I close it. Then, I see orange.

I shout at Levi to LEAVE the kitchen and go to the living room. Panic mode entering, more.

I open it for him, and now the entire bottom of the oven is caked in flames. I stand, agape, my jaw slack, in frightened awe.

“What do you do with a fire in the oven?” Peter asks his father. Peter repeats, “Smother it.”

I hear, close the oven door. “Right, no oxygen,” clicks my brain as the wheels begin to turn. I turn the oven off.

“Pour water on it,” suggests my husband.

“NO!” I shout!

“My dad says put a towel on it,” offers Peter.

I don’t respond, except by shaking my  head. I stand holding the door closed, as if the flames will leap from around. Suddenly thankful we have a modern stove. With insulation to accommodate the self-clean function. (You know, the function that allows the oven to reach (sometimes) upwards of 900 degrees, Fahrenheit.) Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember baking soda.

About a minute passes, the smoke from the vent decreases, there is no more orange gleaming. I wait. When the smoke continues to dwindle, I cautiously open the oven door – no flames.

But, oh, there is smoke. Everywhere, there is smoke. Mostly, of course, in the kitchen. So, I open more windows. I instruct Peter to open some, and help with the fans. I demand the doors remain open. That was a lot of smoke.

It’s now, about an hour later. The double-smoked bacon tastes pretty good. I wouldn’t recommend the cooking though: buy smoked bacon, heat oven to 425, ensure bottom is greasy, wait 7 minutes, let the fire do the work. No, I could definitely do with NOT repeating this adventure.

How to Put Out Kitchen Fires

When a fire starts in the kitchen, you need to act fast to keep the fire from getting out of control. But how you act depends on what kind of fire you have and where it is. Follow these instructions for putting out kitchen fires:

  • If you have a fire in the oven or the microwave, close the door or keep it closed, and turn off the oven. Don’t open the door! The lack of oxygen will suffocate the flames.
  • If your oven continues to smoke like a fire is still going on in there, call the fire department.
  • If you have a fire in a cooking pan, use an oven mitt to clap on the lid, then move the pan off the burner, and turn off the stove. The lack of oxygen will stop the flames in a pot.
  • If you can’t safely put the lid on a flaming pan or you don’t have a lid for the pan, use your fire extinguisher. Aim at the base of the fire — not the flames.
  • Never use water to put out grease fires! Water repels grease and can spread the fire by splattering the grease. Instead, try one of these methods:
    • If the fire is small, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the burner.
    • Throw lots of baking soda or salt on it. Never use flour, which can explode or make the fire worse.
    • Smother the fire with a wet towel or other large wet cloth.
    • Use a fire extinguisher.
  • Don’t swat at a fire with a towel, apron, or other clothing. You’re likely to fan the flames and spread the fire.
  • If the fire is spreading and you can’t control it, get everyone out of the house and call 911! Make sure everybody in your family knows how to get out of the house safely in case of a fire. Practice your fire escape route.

Read more: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-put-out-kitchen-fires.html#ixzz1CaGz5fPH

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Chicken Curry with Toasted Peanuts

Curried chicken and toasted peanuts
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I enjoy making too much rice. I really enjoy turning it into a Walnut-Cheddar loaf.

I don’t have anymore walnuts. It is proving more difficult to order than I think it should be. So, unsure of the peanut-lemon-onionnutritional yeastcheddar cheese combination – I brain stormed curry.

  • Heat pan.
  • Add a few tablespoons toasted sesame oil, heat oil.
  • Add 1/2 onion, chopped, and a few cloves of minced garlic.
  • When browned, add a tablespoon of a spicy curry powder.
  • After a minute or two, toss in 1/2 cup of unsalted peanuts, toast lightly.
  • Add (fresh or frozen) corn and peas (1/2 cup to 2 cups each).
  • Add 4 cups chopped (cooked) chicken (preferably from Taylor-Made Farms, previously roasted with lemon pepper and garlic).
  • Add leftover rice (minimum 2 cups).
  • Serve, and enjoy.
Exploring the Taylor-Made Farm field.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr
Looking at a baby chick at the Taylor-Made Farm.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr
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I’m in a Food Club

December Frontier
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

A what? I haven’t really blogged about it. It’s central to my life. It’s been important to me for several years. And, still I haven’t written about it. My family knows. My friends know. My new friends all know that I am in a food club.

So, what is a food club? A buying club, in its simplest form, is a group of people who buy wholesale, together. A food buying club is composed of people who buy food wholesale, together. A group, acting like a business (some formal, some informal) guaranteeing a supplier of a minimum order in order to get discounts. The labor is distributed, then, through the club. That is, the club’s members sort the orders, organize distribution, and collect and arrange payments.

A few years ago, I found myself in a completely different reality than I thought I would be: I was a wife and mother and could no longer afford to shop exclusively at farmers markets. I was priced out. The single lifestyle was suddenly replaced with diapers (cloth and disposable), onsies, insurance, and another person’s very different tastes. I was, like many moms I now know, just getting used to single life when I was surprised with change. I was getting my organic, local ideas figured out when I entered the world many already struggle with: how to balance those single dreams with family realities. In my case, it was “single, organic, local, sustainable” dreams with family ideals and budgets.

Portland Oregon from the east. By User:Fcb981
Image via Wikipedia

I am not unique in this query. The path I chose to find a solution might be a little different, but here in Portland, Oregon it is gaining traction (so much so, it’s now mocked, laughably, and boy I cannot wait to see it, in Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein‘s Portlandia).

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.
Image via Wikipedia

Portland is known for its food snobbery. It’s known for modifying everything when it comes to food. “I would like my triple espresso, non-fat, organic, fair-trade, dark-roasted, single-origin mocha please, served in ceramic or my own reusable mug.” Local, organic, vegan, fair trade, Certified, sourced, vetted, heirloom, non-GMO are all words of norm in this food world.

It’s mystifying and interesting and eyebrow raising, all at the same time.

I want access to whole foods. Probably, not too far off, but certainly not too far into, a Nourishing Traditions menu plan. I tend to think of things a little simply (in my mind). We’ve been eating a certain way for 10,000 years: bread, meat, fruit, vegetables, animal milk in cheese and yogurt (and more). We’ve grown seeds, cultivated seeds, saved seeds, and processed them fairly local until about 300 or so years ago when our lives changed quite dramatically with the Industrial Revolution. I am not a fan of vegan fair because from what I’ve seen it ventures too far into processed-food land, which is ultimately what I think I (we) should be moving away from (and into a more wholesome whole food way of living).

Chicken Leftovers
Chicken leftovers. Sure, I should have picked a prettier picture instead of the what yielded 7 cups of shredded chicken, but this was a meaty bird. 7lbs, 7 cups of leftovers = lots of leftover chicken fried rice = YUM. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, what does that mean? My husband and I try, every year to tend a garden. Every year we learn something, fail at something, and succeed at something. We are no where near being able to sustain ourselves from our own toils and labor in the land. So, we need to outsource. I would rather not outsource overseas. My sustainable studies have taught me in order to have a secure food shed I need to source my food locally. Anyone ever consider a 100-mile diet? Some folks in Vancouver, B.C. did – and they found it’s HARD. Compromises have already been made, banana anyone? But, how can we make these compromises friendlier to those who produce food and to those who consume it?

By knowing your farmer. By knowing your distributor. By ceasing to rely solely on the supermarket and taking your (my) dollars direct to the producer. I was interested in more organic spices, personal care, and grain. Bob’s Red Mill is in Milwaukie, Oregon, the next suburb over, in the same Metro region, within the same Urban Growth Boundary. I called and found out they work with un-incorporated groups. The catch? We had to meet the minimum: 500lbs. I can’t store that much grain. One 50 lb bag of flour will last 6-8 months, so I couldn’t do basically 3 years worth in my house! But, if I found some people who would buy with me…

And the seed is planted. In 2008, I knew I wanted to build a food buying club.

The urban growth boundary edge at Bull Mountai...
Image via Wikipedia
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My Grieving Process

Cristi Christmas.jpg
Cristi, aged 9, likely our first Christmas as a family in 1987. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

My cousin, and for sake of simplicity, we’ll include my cousin-in-law, who this directly affects, in that part, “My Cousin.” She lost her sister. Just 13 days ago. I’m able to keep light tabs on them through facebook. From what I can see, there is no reason for her sister’s death. A young 30-something female, wife and mother, who just up and died. No reason.

There was a reason Cristi died. My sister. She was shot. The reasons why she was shot to death are less clear to me.

My cousin, she posted a statement tonight on facebook, pleading to know that this grief gets better. Her sister’s death comes three and a half years after my sister’s death. About three years after I started writing about my sister’s death. My cousin’s post tonight makes me think about my grief process and how I’ve tried to make sense of the senseless.

My grief pattern has went something like this:

  1. Shock
  2. Anger
  3. A little fear
  4. Guilt
  5. Sadness
  6. Impromptu crying
  7. Inability to listen to music directly associated with my sister and/or her death
  8. Questioning
  9. Quiet
  10. Acceptance
  11. Moving on

Initially I was just in shock. The first day, the first week, the first few weeks. The first day was this overabundance of emotion and shock – flip flopping between, “What!? I can’t believe this is happening! How can this happen to our family?” to “I can’t believe she’s gone, how can she be gone?” So many tears were shed, I’m tearing up thinking about it.

We were at the airport, buying our bereavement-tickets directly from the United counter. We were able to get them for $400 a piece to fly out the next day. I was shaking so bad (later finding out I have Grave’s Disease, where one of the triggers is stress). Back and forth from borderline hyperventilation to sobs to quiet shock.

Suddenly, less than 24 hours later, we were with family. We flew into Lansing, where the in-laws picked us up and lent us a car. We had a dinner at Subway, and I could barely eat. Again, I was shaking. All I wanted was to be with my family.

And, then, we were at my brother’s house. Sadness, disbelief. Glad to see everyone, but under these circumstances? How cruel that domestic violence stole our sister/daughter/friend from this world and we have come together because of it?

We stayed in Michigan for 3 and a half weeks. We went to all the wakes, the funerals, the dinners together. We celebrated my brother’s upcoming wedding with bachelorette parties and beer by bonfires. We already had plans to head back in a little over a month. This trip was such an emotional roller-coaster, I still can’t wrap my head around it. Intense joy for seeing people, new people, new babies, old people, the same people. Celebrating new joys with upcoming weddings, new home purchases, just the joy of seeing each other. All of this under the banner of death. We were brought together prematurely because our sister was killed by someone we thought was an okay guy.

So, I think I felt a little fear. Ever hear that saying, “You never can really know anyone.” So, I started, again, looking at people with distrust and fear. Could they turn on me like Joe turned on Cristi by stealing her life away?

Wedding - 1
The last set of photos of my sister, Cristi. Taken at my wedding in December 2006. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Guilt – what could I have done? What could we have done to prevent this? Could I have made a better effort to talk to her? With time zones and business, likely not. I had just spoken to Cristi a month earlier, in June of 2007. We were just catching up. It’d been six months since we talked, the last time being my wedding. She told me she was going to be head coach of volleyball at Aquinas. She’d start in a month. I was excited for her, and especially for her to meet Levi.

She never did.

Always sadness, still, then, from the beginning intertwined. Sometimes it was a deeper darker sadness than others, but that overwhelming grief that leads to random, impromptu crying. When something reminded me or reminds me of her, and the tears come. I cannot listen to the Kenny Chesney song they overlayed on the video played at her funeral. I cannot listen to Rascall Flatts without feeling anger because that was the concert attended preceding her death. The concert attended where Joe got drunk, something he rarely did. The concert that somewhere lead to an argument that lead to him pulling out his mini gun collection, toying with it, teasing her, and drawing her into the bedroom where he shot her and himself.

Always questioning why such a bright, young, screwed up woman had to leave this world before she got to really work on herself. She did for others so much, when was her chance for others to do for her? Not at her funeral. Not a eulogy, but life. Living. 10 months before her 30th birthday. We are the oldest together of our five siblings, and now it’s me. The oldest, the only one born in 1978 left alive. I still don’t know how to answer the question of how many siblings I have. I settle with, I grew up with 5.

The grief is quieter now. Less prevalent in day-to-day life, but she’s always in the background. I’ve stopped dreaming about her, or rather she visits my dreams less and less. So, it’s a little easier to accept that she’s gone and make peace with the whole thing. Joe was screwed up, just like Cristi, and he in a poor manner enacted on his rage and control. They both could have used a lot more compassion, and individual responsibility. So, I move on with these lessons to teach Levi better boundaries and hope he can learn these lessons before something completely tragic happens.

My grief process is marked by the incident not just the loss. It has brought awareness to Domestic Violence issues. I don’t think I’d ever be able to volunteer at a shelter, but awareness of the importance of donating has because a new priority.

So, to my cousin, I have this to say: Yes, it gets better, but it never gets easy. We learn to live with the sadness life gives us, and hopefully to appreciate the joys more.

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Sharing is not Intuitive

MSU Old Botony
When I attended MSU, there was a "Butterfly Garden" behind this building. I had French in the building to the east. It was a 15-minute walk from my dorm, which I did twice a day, three times a week, generally by msyelf. I didn't even share walking! Image via Wikipedia

Levi, you have to share. LEVI, you have to share. Levi, please give a toy to the little girl. Levi, if you and Elliott cannot share, the toy is going to go away. You have to SHARE.

Sharing. Sometimes, a several times a day lesson. Sharing. Something that as adults we still struggle with. Sharing. Something we try to impart onto our children with barely a grasp of how to it when we’re grown.

This whole concept of sharing never ceases to amaze me, as a parent. I never thought much of it as a young adult except that we create rules to order sharing. For example, when I was a college freshman at Michigan State University, we had a roommate who created a bathroom schedule based on class schedules. She did this in the first day we were suite-mates. Little did she think of was when people skip classes, or in general life intervening to mess up this order. After about two weeks (maybe less time) the bathroom schedule was useless and we had to go back to knocking and asking questions (non-violent communication would have been helpful here!). We had trouble, as adults, sharing the bathroom. 5 women in one suite with varied classes, study styles, party styles, etc – and we couldn’t communicate our needs to use a schedule or not use one. We couldn’t share.

My husband and I own one gifted (that is free) television. We also own a few computers. One, I paid for several years ago. The other, the laptop, was paid for cheap then swapped for a better working model. We also purchased an eMac a few months ago, cheap, from Free Geek, a local non-profit that educates, reuses, resells, and rebuilds computers and their parts. Why do we have three computers in this house of three? Because we can’t share. My husband needs to look up his tools while I need to do food club stuff and check my email. We’ll even let Levi play with the computer, but he has a tendency to explore by deleting our settings, so it’s easier to not share and let him use this eMac.

We set an example, as adults, of separate toys, separate rooms for use, separate this and that. It’s no wonder, when we get our kids together, they too have a hard time sharing.

I think I get it now. Most parents will probably say, “Duh,” if they were to hear my realization – but sharing is not intuitive. We have to be taught, and continue to learn that lesson – to share. I used to believe we are innately good, and now I even question that. We are innately selfish, because we have to be. We have to cry when we’re hungry, tired, or need to be changed. We simply pass this pattern onto perceived needs, like playing with a particular toy. We have to learn to use our words through repetition and discipline. And, maybe, if we’re fortunate/lucky/disciplined, whatever, we’ll realize as adults that sharing isn’t so bad after-all.

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Time Out

Putting rabbit in time-out.
Sometimes Rabbit needs a time out to think about what he did wrong. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

A few people I know told me they tried them, but they didn’t work. After they told me how they used time outs, I didn’t hear where the consistency was in place. So, I would like to go through the steps we use as adopted from the aforementioned Ms. Jo Frost.

Your child commits his offense. Levi gets time outs for things like back talk, not doing what he’s told after he’s given three chances, not listening, throwing toys, attempting to hit, and a myriad of other reasons. Temper tantrums issue the aforementioned Go to your room!. But, how do we do time outs?

  1. A warning is issued. “If you throw your toy again, you will be put in time out.”
  2. After the offense is committed after the warning, we take him by the hand, and walk him to the time out spot. Do not yank. Do not pull. Lead him to the time out spot. Our spot is a kitchen stool then placed in the center of 1/2 of our kitchen.
  3. Get down at his level, tell him why he’s in time out. “You are in time out for throwing your toy. You will be in time out for 3 minutes.”
  4. Set the timer. SET THE TIMER. Time outs need real time, not imagined. Let your child get over the annoying beep, it’s there for a reason – to let everyone know time out is over. The timer is set one minute for each year of your kiddo. Levi is 3 and a half. His time outs are three minutes.
  5. When the timer goes off, promptly attend to your child. Here is where we diverge. We will either ask Levi why he was in time out or remind him. To practice understanding, I prefer to ask him first and if he can’t say why he was in time out, then I will remind him.
  6. Acknowledge the wrong behavior. No matter how we achieve the previous step, Levi has to acknowledge what he did wrong and recognize that he cannot do it again. “No throwing your toys.” Levi to repeat, “No throwing your toys.” If he cannot or won’t acknowledge the deed, he goes back in time out for three more minutes. He is thus warned.
  7. After he recognizes what was done wrong, he must apologize. Levi’s preschool teacher doesn’t like the forced apology, so to speak, because she finds they are mostly empty. I like him getting in the habit. He must make eye contact, and at least act like he means it. We have a kiddo with a fairly empathic temperament, so it’s usually clear that he means it.
  8. Hugs & kisses and all forgotten. After the apology is given, then you tell your child you love him and give him a big hug. The deed is forgotten, and as a parent, you do not bring it up again (unless it’s a reminder that you’ll get a time out for doing the deed again). But you don’t hold it over his head. You don’t bribe him for something he’s already been punished.
Supernanny, Jo Frost(R), at the Children's Mus...
Image via Wikipedia

We started using time outs when Levi was about 9 months old. We also started watching Supernanny before he turned 6 months. Breast feeding was a long, enduring process that meant Levi and I watched a lot of T.V. Supernanny became a family thing. Peter and I enjoyed it right away. It spoke to our boundary setting desires and was stern in a way that didn’t include harsher methods we grew up with. We found Supernanny to be incredibly tame by many standards. We appreciate her consistency for parents and children, alike. We differ from what she does on a few things, for example, we don’t see spanking as evil like many do today, when employed without anger. So many of my friends use the “He’ll grow out of it” reasoning for not setting certain boundaries for their children. And, yes, it’s more than two of you who’ve said that to me. Sure, it might be true, but seeing them so stressed is hard to watch. So, I’m writing this as an encouragement for more consistent boundaries for the whole family.

As a caveat, we also think Levi’s temperament has a lot to do with why some things work. We know we are blessed with a kid with a decent temperament, but from the start my husband and I have set boundaries, and we also know that helps. Try it. It works. Every household deserves sanity.

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When Not to Argue

Cover of "Supernanny"
Cover of Supernanny

My husband and I have intuitively not done it. That is argue about parenting styles in front of our son. His parents didn’t. And, my parents didn’t. That would explain the intuition, we were raised with it. We’ll argue politics, some religion, what to spend money on; but we won’t argue about what Levi can or can’t do in front of Levi.

We’ve been told Levi is pretty well behaved. I take solace in those remarks. Levi can throw his temper tantrums like the rest of them (see Go to your room), but in front of others he’s usually pretty good. We’re also known as the stricter parents of those whom we associate. It’s funny to think, growing up with what I deemed strict parents, and hating it, I now love being labeled such.

Have you seen a child whose parents don’t agree on parenting, though? Parents who discuss discipline in front of the child? What is the child usually like? How does the child usually behave? Children learn so quickly how to get what they want or think they need. Levi already asks Mommy or Daddy after one of them has said, “No,” about a thing to see if the other will change their mind. Even when we’re in the car together! All three of us! We  usually respond with, “What did Mommy/Daddy say?” Where Levi will often reply, “No.” And, then we’ll follow up with, “Well, then, I guess its a no.” Later, if we think the thing was okay or want to reevaluate, we’ll do it, but not in front of Levi.

Why? Because we’ve seen those kids who have parents that can’t see eye to eye on parenting. Their kids do manipulate the parents. They know how. They know how to pull at the heart strings of their parents who are trying to do good for their kiddo, but for some reason cannot see how their ambivalence is creating a brat.

I have never had patience for temper tantrums or bratty behavior. We all want to get our way, but we need to learn that there are other ways to express those wants/needs. Hitting, biting, punching, kicking, stomping, yelling, screaming, throwing, etc – those are all ways NOT to get your way.

I differ from my attachment parenting friends in that I do believe in certain forms of punishment – like time outs, sending kids to their room. And, yes, I do employ spanking in instances where immediate stopping is necessary, reserved for a case by case basis. My parenting is affected by my belief in God. Although I cannot define what our afterlife will look like, and really, I’m ambivalent about heaven/hell no matter what I’ve been taught or what my Catholic faith decries as right. But, I do believe that there are consequences for our actions on this earth that will be addressed at a later time. As such, I believe Levi needs to learn that their are consequences for his actions now.

If he throws a temper tantrum, my gut reaction is to not allow the thing he wanted. He needs to use his words to tell me what he wants so we can discuss this – training him, at an early age, to be a thoughtful, word using adult. If he were to hit or throw something at a friend while the friend was over, he would get a timeout. He would have to somewhat understand why he was put in timeout. And, he would have to apologize to his friend when the timeout is over. We use Ms. Jo Frost‘s method of timeouts, yes, as seen on Supernanny.

We know we are blessed with a good temperament kiddo. We know he’s more mellow than others his age. I don’t know what percentage of his temperament and our parenting affects daily behavior, but I know our style is some of it. We do count our blessings Levi more or less behaves in public. But, we also know it’s in part because we don’t argue in front of him.

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Go to Your Room

We are a blended family. That is, my mother remarried when I was 9 years old, and with that marriage we earned a father (yea, since my dad was MIA), a sister, and a brother. That means, our small family of 4 (mom, sister, brother, me) became a family of SEVEN! We had enough for a starting line up for a basketball team, plenty for 3 on 3, and the infield of a baseball game. It was amazing. Now,  I was a part of a large family, naturally, since that’s what the Maternal side is all about. My grandmother had 10 children, many of whom had more than 3 children themselves. Yes, I have more than 40 cousins on one side.

There are many neat things about having a big family. There are many neat things about getting a new, involved dad. But, then, when you’re growing up, there is the downside – the discipline factor.

I was a very angry kid. There were things that affected my childhood that I am still not over, to this day. Biological father leaving when I was five has left a scar that will never be fully healed, no matter the relationship I have with him now. As a child, it contributed a lot to my anger, loneliness, and frustrations that I felt. When I entered the  (pre)teen years, I became even more irritable. I would act out, lash out, be belligerent, and just plain rude – to my mother. So much so, that I dread Levi become a teen and all that teenage angst that comes with it. I suffered it. I’m sure my husband did, and I’m not looking for the “turn about is fair play”.

So, how do you deal with a belligerent teenager? I was grounded a fair amount, but one thing my step-father did has stuck with me to this day. When I would back talk to my mother, he would firmly grab my arm. He would instruct me that I do not talk to my mother like that. And, I was to go to my room until I cooled off.

When I was first sent to my room, I think I was there for hours. I don’t remember very clearly. What I do remember is getting bored. I remember learning, from this, to take a breath, step back, to clear my head. I’ve learned as an adult to better articulate my feelings. Those lessons were good to get me to calm down. I used to brag in high school that I would never hold a grudge – just give me 15 minutes and I’ll be over “it”, whatever it was for the time.

Now, I am a parent. Now, I have a child who I send to his room.

Levi was 18 months old. He started a temper tantrum. It was instinctual at that point. I simply said, “Go to your room until you calm down.” He didn’t. So, I walked him to his room. Sure, we’ve done time outs since he was 9 months old. Again, taking solace in Jo Frost‘s methods, and utilizing the one minute per age guideline. But, there are some things I don’t want in our kitchen (our time out space) – and that is hollering and caring on.

“Go to your room” was popular with my husband too. He has described every other place in our house, specifically the living room, the “Happy Zone.” The idea is, Levi is upset, cannot gain control of his emotions, he is sent to his room until he can gain control of his emotions, and then he is allowed to come out. Sometimes we shut the door, but not always. Sometimes he shuts it! He has his animals in there, so he can cuddle with his Rabbit if need be.

The first few times, he was in there close to a half hour. Our home is small, so we can hear everything that goes on, but we would and will check on him to ensure everything is okay. If he is really upset, I often check on him after the initial fit has calmed. Progressively, his time in the room has shortened. Usually, he comes out now and says, “I’m all better now.” We’ll talk about or try to talk about what was going on. I’m hoping Levi will tell me what prompted the fit.

The other day, I said, “Okay, time for bed.” He had been warned beginning 30 minutes prior. The last warning was the 5 minute warning. He was coloring on the floor with his new markers and coloring book. He started screaming when I said the 5 minute was up. So, as we sometimes do, I picked him up over my shoulder, like a sack of potatoes, and brought him to his room. I set him down, gave him a hug, and asked him what was going on. He said, “But! I still want to draw!!” Finally! Levi told me what was going on! I thanked him for telling me, and told him he could draw for 5 more minutes after we got him ready for bed. And he did. And bedtime was fine.

After 2 years of being sent to his room. Almost 3 years of time outs, Levi is now beginning to articulate how he feels. I know that’s what attachment parenting aims for – we have done it in a different way and yet have achieved the same or similar results. This too gives me solace that we are doing at least what’s right for our family.

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