Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar High

I read an article about how to trick your kids into not eating their Halloween candy. Most of the strategies ended with the parent sneakily throwing the candy into the garbage so their kids couldn't eat any more. The strategies are creative. One involved "feeding" the candy to the jack o' lantern and then throwing it away and telling your kid the pumpkin ate it. But I have a better idea. Just don't trick or treat if you don't want your kids to eat candy.

I know I spend a lot of money on good candy to hand out to trick or treaters and the idea that it is being thrown in the garbage is annoying as heck. I buy it because I want the kids to enjoy it. I also think it is a lesson of ingratitude to go house to house saying thank you and then trash it all as soon as you get home.

I can appreciate not wanting your kids to eat tons of candy, but still wanting them to experience the trick or treating fun. Just take them to a few houses and let them enjoy those few treats. Everyone wins!

We spent about an hour trick or treating this evening and we got a ton of candy. I told them they could eat however much they wanted. They ate five or six pieces each and aren't begging for any more. I can't handle begging well so I will just be letting them eat as much as they want and it will all be gone in a week.

Letting them control their own candy intake can teach them a variety of lessons. If they eat it all in a day, they will feel sick and won't have anymore candy. If they eat a few pieces a day, they can enjoy it for longer.

Or maybe they will just learn that candy is delicious and Halloween is awesome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Three Nights Sleep

Hooray! Princess B has slept through the night three times in a row. I wish I could say the same about myself. I know most moms go through these nights. The baby is finally sleeping, but you're not convinced that she is actually sleeping. Instead you wake up in a frantic sweat imagining that your baby most definitely has suffocated on the one sheet and blanket you allow in her crib. You jump out of bed and run to the other room to find a baby peacefully snoozing.

You get back in bed and are almost asleep when you startle yourself awake with the thought that maybe, just maybe, your mother's intuition was trying to tell you that there was something wrong with one of your older children and you mistook it as a warning sign about the baby. Maybe the older one has wandered out of the house because he has been sleepwalking or the two-year-old is having an asthma attack.

Now you get back out of bed and very quietly open their door and make sure they are both alive and well. Now back to bed. Wait, is your husband breathing. You better poke him a couple of times and make sure he hasn't had a heart attack in his sleep. Oh good. He's okay too.

So you start to drift back to sleep and then it occurs to you that maybe you should call your mother and check in on them too . . . . .

and that is why you are still tired even though the baby is officially sleeping through the night.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


We were looking for a place to go for dinner and dad asked Big Boy where he wanted to eat. A little information to help everyone understand how funny this story is. Dad's favorite food is Indian and when he asks the kids where they want to eat, he always tries to talk them into Indian.

Big Boy: I want mac and cheese. (he is referring to Noodles and Company)

Dad: Eh, I don't really feel like that. How about something different? Maybe Cantina 18 (a sit-down Mexican restaurant next door to the Noodles and Company)

Big Boy: I want mac and cheese!!

Dad: Okay if you can tell me the name of the restaurant with the mac and cheese we will go there.

(A minute of silence)

Big Boy: Indian.

Dad: (excitedly) You want to get Indian food!

Big Boy: No, the name of the restaurant is Indian.

Dad: You want to go to an Indian restaurant?

Big Boy: No, I want mac and cheese.

Dad: That's not the name of the restaurant.

Big Boy: The name of the restaurant is Indian because I just gave it that name and now it is called Indian. Let's go to Indian and have mac and cheese.

Can't argue with that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Case of the Hates

I've been expecting the "I hate you" for awhile from Big Boy. He's been using the word hate to describe many things lately.

"I hate carrots because they are orange and I hate orange."

"I hate learning to write my name."

"I hate washing my hands with soap."

"I hate going to bed and sleeping."

"I hate watching this cartoon."

And so on. Today we stopped at the playground near our house after going to the store. Usually we walk or ride our bikes to this park, but we were in our car this time. When we were done playing and it was time to go, Big Boy asked to go home and then ride his bike back to the playground.

"Tomorrow we will do that," I answered. That was the wrong answer.

A tantrum of epic four-year-old proportions ensued and ended with the declaration, "Mommy, if we don't ride my bike to the playground right now, I will hate you!"

And there it was. Hanging there in the air, the threat of hatred. I suppose the threat is better than outright hatred. Either way, I was happy that I didn't react to it. I just repeated what I had said, "We will ride our bikes to the park tomorrow." And I told him that it made me sad to hear him say he will hate me. I left it there and buckled him up to drive home.

By the time we arrived home (30 seconds later, we live right around the corner), he had changed his tune.

"Mommy, if we ride our bikes to the park right now, I will love you again." Hopefully, he will actually love me when we ride our bikes to the park. Tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Like all good strategies, the new ideas we are using with Big Boy are going to take some tinkering. I learned very quickly yesterday that taking away a privilege for misbehavior isn't going to work, because what happens when you have taken away everything. I knew that was a possibility, but I was hoping that he would freak out a bit the first time computer time was taken away and straighten up immediately, but he didn't care. Once he was down to zero computer time, I didn't have a leg to stand on and he knew it!

He had a long talk with dad last night about his innermost desires and turns out he just wants some money to buy the movie Home Alone. We sat down before bed and worked out an allowance plan and ways for him to earn extra money by doing various chores off the good things list we made yesterday. We also decided that computer/tv time starts out at zero and he can earn time by doing school prep stuff (writing, reading, worksheets, etc). He wrote all of his letters today and then we sat down and had a very enjoyable story time together. He was able to play 15 minutes on the computer and is now watching Super Why. That strategy seems to be working better for him.

As far as disciplining for misbehavior, I am going to stick with the verbal reminders. We have been counting down from 5 for a long time now and that still seems to be working for the most part. You really have to try all different kinds of things and mix it up quite a bit to find the strategies that work for your kid. Like I wrote yesterday, I want to see my kids (and myself) exhibit some better self control so we are going to keep working on that over the next few months.

As we muster our way through this parenting thing and get ready to start school next year, I know we are going to have to become more organized and more consistent with things. I am not worried about discipline at school because I know he will behave fine. I want to see our home life become more organized and predictable. Sounds boring, but I could really use a few doses of boring and I think some more predictability will help both the boys settle down a bit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I am trying something out that I am not in favor of all. I am using rewards to try and improve my four-year-old's behavior. I am facing many challenging issues with him right now. Mostly typical preschooler things; not listening, being too rough, wandering off, creating huge messes, and so on.

We sat down together and made some charts of good things to do and bad things to do. If he does the good things, he gets to earn computer/tv time. If he does the bad things on the list, he loses the computer/tv time. I am using small rocks in a jar. Each rock is worth 15 minutes of computer/tv time. He gets to start the day with four rocks.

The charts are simple and he came up with all the ideas himself. Good things include doing schoolwork, practicing writing, helping with dishes, reading, and sweeping the floor. Bad things include hitting, saying mean things, biting, and (this is my biggie) not listening.

Today was our first day and it has not gone well at all. He had lost all four rocks within an hour. I thought maybe I was being too harsh, but losing fifteen minutes of computer time for biting your brother's head seems reasonable to me. I know he is testing me out today and I really don't like the feeling of being in a battle of the wills with a preschooler, but I am ready for him to start learning some self control so the time we spend together can go back to being positive and happy.

I didn't want to start using the things he likes to do as a reward for good behavior, because it isn't my ideal style of parenting. It's not who I want to be. But at the same time, I would like to have the energy and willpower to do the fun things with my kids. I have two other children that I need to be playing with and teaching and I can't do that when my day is full of keeping the Big Boy in line.

We will see if any of it works or if it is all just pointless. I know that even if his behavior improves we will likely be changing strategies in a few months, but my main goal is to help him develop better self control and self regulation which are both things that I lack at times.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I haven't blogged in quite a few days and the above article is why. I keep wanting to sit down and write something about this tragedy, but simply can't find the words. I keep starting and stopping to delete everything because it simply doesn't seem adequate enough.

I have been following many comments in the news stories and on adoption message boards. People grieve in different ways and there has been an outpouring of grief from the Ethiopian adoption community, but at the same time there is an undercurrent that makes me uncomfortable. I have seen many, many comments from adoptive parents about how they are grieving for what happened, but they are very focused on the possible negative repercussions for adoptive parents. They are worried that adoptive parents of Ethiopian children will all get painted with a broad brush and universally condemned. This may happen, but I think this is missing the point. The adoption community should be focusing on how to stop this from happening again.

Parents adopting from Ethiopia are required to submit to a home study process. A social worker schedules visits with you and then writes a report to submit to the adoption agency explaining why you are qualified to adopt. I have never heard of anyone being turned down. The fact is you can say whatever you want to a social worker. You can coach your current children to say whatever you want them to say. A home study as it is done now is never going to weed out abusive parents. In fact, the main thing most parents worry about before their home study is making sure their house is spotless, but not too spotless. You don't want to look neurotic.

So what is the answer? How can adoption agencies ensure that children do not end up in abusive homes? I think a couple of unannounced visits from a social worker should be the norm and I think the children in the house should be expected to speak with the social worker unaccompanied by their parents. If parents are unwilling to allow their children to speak privately with the social worker, this should be a red flag. (This may already be the case. Big Boy wasn't talking when we went through the adoption process. The social worker sat on the floor and played with him for awhile.) I also think parents should submit names of people who can recommend them and rather than having them write a letter the social worker should contact them by phone or in person for an interview. But even if these simple measures were put in place, possible abusers could still end up being approved.

I think it is also critical that prospective adoptive parents are educated on the challenges and risks of older child adoption. We consider ourselves good parents, but we did not feel like we could handle or were prepared for the challenges of adopting an older child. Unfortunately, too many people take on this challenge without knowing, or maybe without accepting, that it may turn out to be a very difficult experience. It may be roses and sunshine or you may spend years questioning your decision as your life is forever altered by a young person who has many issues that you weren't prepared to handle appropriately. Education before you adopt and education after you adopt. There needs to be more support groups and more parenting classes to help parents with the unique challenges of adopting older children. 

I thought an adoptive parent on a message board hit on a fantastic idea. Older adoptees should have a phone number or emergency contact that speaks Amharic that they can call and check in with at least once a week. If the child misses a planned call, the social worker should be sent to check up on the family to make sure the child is okay. This won't help toddlers/babies, but it would be a measure that will help older kids who are forced into a new culture and new language have a support system if they need help. How do you call 911 if you have never heard of it and don't speak English? Who do you tell about abuse if you are isolated and don't have any friends? I am sure there are parents that would see this as an unnecessary and obtrusive measure, but I would be willing to participate in such a system if it saved one child.

Sadly, none of these things may have saved Hanna because her parents were followers of a depraved and sadistic child abuser. I don't know how to stop that except to educate people that the teachings of the Pearls are abhorrent. Yes, your children may obey you without question after you beat the living daylights out of them with plastic tubing, but is it worth it in the end? Are you prepared to see your grand babies getting beat with a plastic tube also? Are you prepared for your children to turn into adults who are too scared to think for themselves or speak out against injustice? Do you want your children growing up with fury in their hearts?

Please keep Hanna in your thoughts and if you can please donate some time or money to organizations working to end child abuse.