Part II – “Not As Much Success”

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Yes, I’ve been super busy in my little world – so much that I’ve spent the first part of this week just catching up on reading my friends’ blogs.  I’m always thankful that many of you haven’t posted in several weeks like me!

What have I been up to?  We have been up to our eyeballs in paint, ceiling scraping, and general home improvements in an effort to sell our house soon. Anyone interested in a wonderful 3 bedroom , 1.5 bath house that is full of great memories? In one month’s time, we have completed some huge tasks as well as finished up about 5 or more projects that were 90% done, but still needed that last coat of paint, or a few more knobs put on, a little touch-up here or there. 

I’ve come away from this improvement adventure with two things:                                                                                                                                   1. Why do I wait so long to do these things? I procrastinate terribly thinking the projects will take forever, but the reality is that each project took so little time (well beside scraping ceiling and repainting livingroom, hall, and kitchen) that I should not have put them off for so long. I keep saying: I want this to develop a new mindset to just get things done.

   2. Why do I get 90% done and never seem to finish up? Of course, with 4 kids, life has to keep moving so the finish-up sometimes comes a while after the initial start, but now I hope to have adopted another mindset which is to finish one project fully BEFORE starting a new one. We’ll see if these new ways of thinking stick!

Okay, so on to Part II  – the “Not So Much Success” part of the story, well in a minute. This story has to do with my Brooklyn.  I thought since, I focused on Jocelin in the last post, I would do a post focusing on each child and give you a little insight into the sweet people who make up our family. So join me on a side-bar about my third-born. Keep reading, I’ll get to the story, I promise!

My little Brooklyn: she is the most unique combination of personalities. I’d need a book to explain just how complex she is, but I’ll try to give a hint of what she’s like.

I was smitten with her from the first time I saw her. Baby 3 was so fabulous for me; I didn’t have all the apprehensions that come with Baby 1, mainly, how in the world do I raise a child. Or the apprehensions that come with Baby 2: how do I raise another child, I hope they like each other, etc. So Baby 3 was pure enjoyment for me. I knew what to expect with late nights, nursing, sleeping, etc. Brooklyn’s first months were such a blessing to me; I drank her in. Looking back, I can see how the Lord was knitting my heart to hers then, because I was going to need it for her toddler years!!

To sum it up: Brooklyn is very strong-willed (it’s a mystery where that came from!). Most of the tricks to deal with toddlers and the developmental quirks that come at that age do not work with this gal. I knew this before she was even 1-year-old. For example, all my kids got to a point where they would fuss when I was changing their diaper and getting them dressed.  Thanks to my Mom’s elaborate tool-belt, I knew that singing always helps; you know, “One foot in and then the other,” … “This is the way we put on our clothes”… “It’s time to change a diapey” (to the tune of Veggie Tales, “Oh Where Is My Hairbrush,” a Bradley original!).

Well before most kids even know how to throw a fit, Brooklyn would start fussing on the changing table, I’d start singing and she would arch her back, stiffen that body and scream, scream, scream. The more I sang, the louder she got. It was like she was saying, “Listen lady, that distraction biz will not work on me. Too bad, so sad.” Honestly, I eventually began to sing, usually the first worship song I could think of (or just the name of Jesus), just to keep my sanity. I was no longer singing for her, instead it was just for me so the screaming wouldn’t get to me as bad!

If I give Brooklyn the choice of A or B (a great tool for helping a toddler with their need for independence) she will always choose C – even if she really wants B; she’ll choose C because she will not fall for any of my pansy-parenting tricks. She requires the Big-Guns Tool Belt!

Can I be honest here for a minute – just keepin’ it real – I literally didn’t like to be around Brooklyn for most of a year (or more). My Mom would have her for a few days and tell me how sweet, adorable, and fabulous she was.

This is the version Nana always sees!

Really, I couldn’t believe it; we had to be talking about two different people. Then two Christmas’s ago – I saw it. My family was with us for several days in my home and Brooklyn was an angel: super sweet and a total cutie pie. I could not believe my eyes. At that point, I thought that side of her personality was a myth. Now I realize I’m being funny about it now, but that’s really how I felt then.

This is more like the Brooklyn I was with!

That experience was so helpful to me. No, she didn’t stop exhibiting her will all over me, but I knew she wasn’t broken – that I hadn’t screwed her up, ruined her for life to be destined to tell everyone off, only have things her way, etc. (Note: all those who know me well can see the irony in the previous statement. Yes I do like things my way and I don’t mind expressing my mind, but hopefully I’ve learned a little tact and balance over the years!?)

I say all these things to encourage those of you with an uuber-strong-willed babe! If you don’t have a strong-willed child, you will probably be rolling your eyes and not believing that a mom would actually admit these things about her own child. If you have one of these challengers in your brood, you totally get what I’m saying. Take heart, they can be parented, they don’t stay like this forever, and they really will make great adults.

Now, just because Brooklyn is challenging, doesn’t mean she isn’t the greatest thing ever. The way I began to make it through was to count the blessings of her uniqueness:

So this little gal, who wants things her way or the highway, will, at random, do things like put herself down for nap. Literally, she will potty, get a book or two and her blankie, hop up on sister’s bed, read for a few minutes, and be asleep before I know it. Now this is not the norm, but on a Sunday afternoon when we are all vegged out on the couch, she’ll go back and do her own nap time. It is awesome.  None of my other kids ever did this.

She loves to clean – and is good at it. Usually anytime she asks to help, I’ll let her because she actually helps – you know instead of making even more mess to clean up. 

She has the softest skin in the whole wide world (that’s what I always say to her). I guess the way my genes combine with Bradley’s, we produced 3 out of 4 kids that have bumps on their arms, legs, and cheeks: the kind many people have on their upper arms that are harmless but make the skin feel bumpy. Well, Brooklyn is the exception to this inherited feature and her arms, cheeks and legs are like velvet! 

She has the cutest laugh where she breathes out and sucks in, giving her laugh a donkey-like flavor. I tell Bradley often that I hope she laughs this way all her life; it is awesome and always makes us laugh too!

She is beautiful. The Lord has gifted her with gorgeous eyes, the longest eyelashes, silky blonde hair, and a twinkly smile.  We will have to teach her to use her beauty for His glory and not her own, and get Bradley a very large bat for her teen years to keep her admires at bay!

She already has a great sense of style and can put together a cute outfit that matches.

She has some great words: Rabinoli (ravioli), Stawberry Cortcake, Santha, ABCDEFGHIKK, eleventeen

She answers to the following nick-names: Brook-a-look, Br-br, Brookn Danielle, Sister, and Sissy – per Emerson, Pip-em-Squeek-ems (she was our smallest baby at birth, so little and dainty, so I immediately called her a pip-squeek, Bradley has since adapted the name to its current status).

Okay, so now onto the story when my parenting missed the mark – you still with me?

Let me set this up … We had been really working with Emerson (the 18 month-old at the time) not to say, “Oh my gosh” because it is so close to “Oh my God”. I can remember that phrase as a child was one of the ultimate no-no’s for my Mom, the other being the word, “fart”- ick. My mom hated that word, and now I do too! So, we have passed these teachings along to our babes.

The other thing we work on, all the time, is to not tattle. Well a few months ago, Brooklyn ran to me while I was in the garage changing laundry and said, 

“Mom, Emerson said that word she’s not supposed to say.”

To which, I replied, “Brooklyn, it is not your job to tell on her. If she is not in danger, you don’t need to tell me.”

“But Mom, she’s not supposed to say that.”

“I know Brooklyn, I’ll correct her when I hear her say it, you don’t have to come tell me when she says it.  The thing you can do is to not repeat it.” Good job Shawn, excellent explanation: you told her what not to do and since she wants to be involved, you told her what she could do to help. Nice work.

So, as I head back into the house, laundry in tow, I see Brooklyn whispering in Emerson’s ear and get close enough to hear that she’s saying, “Emerson, say, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Now let’s take a moment here to acknowledge how absolutely clever this is. Her thought process might have been: Okay I’m not supposed to tell Mom when she says this word, Mom just told me that she will get onto Emerson only when Mom hears Emerson saying it, I love justice and don’t like for other people to get away with breaking the rules either, so, if I can get Emerson to say “those words” in front of Mom, then it will be a victory for everyone. Great idea, let’s put this into action.

Pretty brilliant if it weren’t so cunning.

Immediately, I firmly said, “Brooklyn!” That was enough for us to lock eyes and for her to actually realize what she just did. She was heart-broken, and crying instantly – all the way back to her bed for her own correction.

. . . Well, Shawn, looks like that wasn’t the parenting victory you thought it was, back to the drawing board. . .

Last thing: Brooklyn just got a hair cut and donated her hair to Locks-of-Love

Before

 

After

Kids and Christmas Decorations

Each year of my life, before I had children, I eagerly anticipated busting out the Christmas decorations. I was raised on it!

My Mom would seemingly (and maybe actually!) take every decoration in our home and replace it with something red and green and merry.  As a teenager, I just loved the onslaught. We would bring in like umpteen boxes, open them all up, crank on the Christmas music, and we would dance, be silly, and Christmas would explode all over our house. It was awesome and I loved it.

Now, as a mother, Christmas is still so sweet and full of my own family’s traditions and fun memories, but the decorating has slid into the category, along with activities that were so much fun as a child, like going to the swimming pool and taking vacations. The category of, as a grown-up, activities that are a lot of work.

What I have discovered about things like vacationing, swimming, and Christmas decorating is that these are the things where memories are made. I can’t remember all the day in/day out happenings of my childhood, but I can recall so many great memories of Christmases, vacations, and trips to the pool.

As a mom, I have to remind myself over and over that all the hard work is worth it. So over the past 8 years of Christmases with children, I have found some things that have helped in getting the decorations done while maintaining some level of sanity! I thought I would share them in hopes that they might bring you some relief to your decorating – or maybe just some smiles at my anal tendencies.

1. I learned this tip from the dear Suzy Lea, the woman who, with the exception of my mother, influenced me most as a mother and wife. She has 5 boys and a less than tidy husband and yet Suzy loves things beautifully decorated. So at Christmas time, she would have one tree for her – pretty and all coordinating. Cliff, her husband, and the boys would have another tree that was theirs to decorate as they saw fit. I saw it one year where all the beads and ornaments were sloppily placed all on one side of the tree. I thought it was so cute.

I quickly discovered I would need to do a kid tree also. I would get a bit stressed about not having all the ornaments evenly spread out, or having all the kids’ super cute (and non-coordinating) handmade ornaments dispersed with my sparkly red, green, and white ornaments.  So, we got a little tree for my kids ornaments.  As I hovered over them this year, while they may or may not have evenly spaced their ornaments, I kept reminding myself, “This is their tree. Let them do it how they want.”

2. Over the years I have also learned that I like to be in my own decorating zone when I am putting up the tree. I get overwhelmed when the kids want to help me decorate the pretty tree.

[side note here: I feel a bit embarrassed that I am admitting all these things to so many people, but I am certain that there are others out there who find all this “fun stuff” a bit stress-inducing. I realize it seems like I just need to take a chill-pill. But fight it as I may, this is how I’m built. My household is much happier if I work with me instead of against myself. I’m just keepin’ it real!]

So I make sure to put up the kid’s tree first so they can get all their ornaments out and do their decorating and memory making without me getting all frustrated.

3. I also recommend starting with the kids’ toys. They can be playing with all the “new” bounty while you escape to your decorating zone.

4. Another helpful hint: if you have Christmas toys for your kids, remember the whole purpose of the toys is to be played with.

We have a super-cute assortment of kid-friendly nativity scenes.

Fisher Price

Nesting Nativity

Playmobil

Precious Moments

I get caught up in placing them all so sweetly, with Precious Moment’s Mary holding baby Jesus and each Wise Man set-up by his matching camel, etc.

Then when one of my children tries to come play with it and I find myself blurting out, “Don’t touch that.” Oh wait – they are made to be played with. Good-job Shawn.

So each time I’m cleaning up the living room, I don’t spend 15 minutes arranging the nativity scenes just as they should be because they are just going to get messed-up, I mean played-with. I just place them all on the shelf they go on and leave it at that. That way, when the kids are playing with them and little pieces are going all over the place, I don’t struggle internally (as much)!

Another side note: it always helps me gain perspective to listen to Junior Asparagus’s song “Was He A Boy Like Me?” from Veggie Tales The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree. It’s about a boy playing with his nativity scene which makes him wonder if Jesus was a boy like him. Seriously I’m almost crying just typing it here!

Take a listen and grab a kleenex:

5. Something I have done over the last few years is to write myself notes for the year to follow. So on my calendar or in the Christmas boxes, I’ll have a note that says – “Start with the kids tree and toys first.” “Decorate the cookies before Christmas Eve, it was too much for you to do last year.” etc. I mean, if you’ve learned something that benefits you and your family, don’t make yourself relearn it again the next year.

6. Also, cut yourself some slack. I did not do much decorating in the years I either had a newborn, was sick at the beginning of a pregnancy, or just in maxed-out-status from caring for so many little people!

You do not have to have decorations to celebrate Christmas. If putting up a tree brings too much stress into your household, then it’s not worth it. Save the tree for next year – they are young, they won’t remember not having a tree on their first (or 2nd or 3rd) Christmases. By the time they are old enough to remember, you will have enough energy to do it – and many wonderful memories will be made.

I say often, I don’t want my kids Christmas memories to be of me getting stressed and raising my voice! Since that seems to be my tendency, I have to access some tools to make it a more pleasant experience for us all!

So I hope this helps some of you! We’d all benefit from any other tips you have discovered for kids and Christmas decorations, so please share! Happy Decorating.

Thank You Brooklyn

This category of “Keepin’ It Real” is intended to capture those parts of parenting that we aren’t necessarily proud of but show the actual reality of life at home with little ones.  I am certain many of the entries will qualify as “too much information,” including the following.  Read at your own risk!

My Sweet Brooklyn Danielle

My 3-year-old, Brooklyn-bear (as a friend calls her), will provide frequent material for this category. 

Two days ago, she called me into the bathroom and said, “Mom, look, a cross.”

“You see a cross? Where?” I said.

“My poo poo,” she said.

“Your, poo poo?”

“Yeah, look,” Brooklyn replied. 

Yep, there is was: a fecal resemblance of the cross.  

What do you say to that?  I guess God is honored that she is thinking of the cross?! I just had a sense that Jesus had to get a chuckle out of that.

For all those who find this offensive, my apologies, I’m just “keepin’ it real!”

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