Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mikey Lately

Okay, Kar. Time for a pep talk. We're going to try to remain positive with this post. Realistic, yes. Because that's how I roll. But with a positive twist. It will be tough, but I know you can do it. Readyyyyyy, BREAK!

Mikey. My squeaky wheel. My gender-confused little boy. The Screamer. The Puncher. The Hitter. That's the reality.

After he threw a toy at his cousin, causing his cousin's head to bleed, I was like, enough is enough. Are three-year-olds difficult? Yes. I've had two before him. But he is so exceedingly violent. So I took him in to the doctor and expressed my concerns.

The doc asked several questions, and after examining him physically as well, said, "Well, my official diagnosis is that you have an intense kid."

Uh, yeah. Understatement of the year.

The doc felt, and I concur, that Micah doesn't have autism. I taught austistic kids in school, and Micah's behavior wasn't striking a bell as far as that. The doctor gave us a referral for Mikey to go to a behavioral counselor and have some play-based counseling, along with some helps for me to know how to deal with him.

The doctor also said something that I thought was a really good idea. He said, "We always talk about 'time out.' With Micah, I would recommend some 'Time In.' He seems to be fighting for a place in his family. He's a middle child. Not the oldest, not the youngest. He's trying to assert himself to have a place, and when he does that, he tends to act out. Time In involves giving him a half hour per day of undivided attention. And you do an activity that he chooses. Let him call the shots for Time In."

So I've really been trying to do that for him. His ideas for Time In usually revolve around making cookies together (which is killing my diet), painting his fingernails and toenails, reading books, and putting makeup on him. He's an interesting fellow.

As far as counseling, our insurance covers 0% of any kind of counseling, and we just can't afford it right now, unfortunately. So Time Ins will have to do it for now. Maybe someday we'll have a good insurance policy that covers stuff like that.

Micah and Sadie continue to be BFF's, that is, Best Frenemies Forever. Every now and then, they'll play really well. But mainly, they fight. Hard core. Here they are, playing on the ottoman when I put it up so I could vacuum. They love when I vacuum. They treat the ottoman like a slide:

One night (when they were getting along for .2 seconds), they decided they wanted to sleep in the same bed. I was surprised at how long it lasted - maybe an hour or so:

Then Sadie fell asleep, which made Micah sad. He wanted to party with her. I took him into his own bed after that.

He continues to wear Dylan's jammy shirt as his "hair":

Yes, I let him wear it to church:

I fight so, so, so many battles with Micah. You know that saying, "Pick your battles"? I decided that other battles are worth fighting, say, "Don't punch people." Or, "Don't throw toys at people." I'm focusing on those battles right now. I don't have the energy to fight about every single thing. You should have seen him when I brought him into Primary a couple of weeks ago. All the kids turned and stared at him as he walked by. It was really funny.

Micah sometimes puts his hat on top of his hair. And then adds some of Sadie's other clothing items:

He really loves it when she's at school and he can have the run of her bedroom and all of her accessories:

Ben was scouting a place for our family to get pictures this last fall, and he found an area with all of these old stumps and tree trunks. He had Micah with him and had him pose in various places. The pictures turned out so cute, except for his dang cowlick:

Look at those gorgeous eyes of his:

And his skin is absolutely as soft as it looks. I've never felt softer skin than on my little Mikey. I like to smooch his cheeks.

I know he has a good heart. It's just hidden under a whole lot of insecurity. He truly does feel sorry when he hurts people. He just is....compelled.... to hurt people. He often feels threatened. Which makes me sad. And worried.

He loves to pray at night. Listening to his little prayers makes my heart swell with joy. And he is always, always, always game to cuddle with me. I love that he's a cuddler.

We'll get through this somehow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cheaper pumpkins and a picture thingey to boot.

So like I said, we got our Halloween pumpkins from the Scoresby Farms stand again this year. Best carving pumpkins ever.

We walked away with one enormous pumpkin, five large pumpkins, two pie pumpkins, and three loaves of pumpkin chocolate chip bread for $20. Not bad, dude. Not bad.

And they even had a picture-taking thingey for the kiddos to pose in.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Good Refresher

My mom got me a book called Parenting with Love and Logic about three years ago. She had heard really good things about it and figured I probably needed the help with Dylan.

Which I did. I still hadn't had him tested for ADHD and was in denial about it. It was like living with the Tazmanian Devil. For reals. I did a lot of spanking and screaming. And it did nothing for Dylan.

This book really was such a revelation. One of its basic tenets is that you don't need to have these big, emotional scream-fests when you're punishing your kid or trying to teach your kid. They broke the rules, and this is their consequence. Badda-bing, badda-boom. No need to get all charged up - that's counterproductive. No need to lecture - kids don't listen to lecturing. They're capable of knowing what they did wrong, and they need to learn how to not repeat the behavior again by themselves.

And it really has helped. For instance, my kids have always been terrible eaters. What I specifically remember Love and Logic teaching me is that, if the child doesn't eat his dinner, say, "That's your decision not to eat your dinner. But you can't have any snacks or drinks clear until breakfast tomorrow morning. If you'd rather go hungry all night instead of eating dinner with us, that's your choice." And then you stick with it.

I also mentally applauded when I read certain things, like, for instance, the idea of not being a "Helicopter Parent" - hovering around, swooping in to save the day when your kid forgets his homework, or if your kid gets a bad grade, marching in and demanding extra credit from the teacher to make up for what your kid just plain old didn't do. I wanted to drive back to where I had taught junior high, and throw this book into a few parent faces that I had dealt with who were major, major Helicopter Parents.

Nat called me soon after we got back from China and said, "Hey, they're having a Love and Logic class for free at the library for six weeks; let's sign up!" I readily agreed and went with her every week. We dragged our husbands along, and our parents very, very kindly watched our kids for us.

I felt like an old pro at Love and Logic, but there were a few things that stood out to me in class that I had forgotten from my reading. And they're worth noting:

1. Don't remind your child to do their chore/homework. If you remind him, you're telling him that you don't think him capable of remembering, and you're taking the responsibility on yourself instead of leaving it on his shoulders. I needed to hear this. I'm really bad at badgering/reminding my kids about stuff.

2. Don't be sarcastic. Another big problem for me. When your kid can't go to his friend's birthday party because he didn't finish his chores, and he's whining at you and mad at you and is trying to wear you down into letting him go, don't say, "Wow, that is soooooooooooooooo sad...." And don't say, "I told you that you couldn't go to the party until your chores were done!" You have to really pretend you're sad for them, but stick to your guns: "That is a huge bummer. I hate when I can't do fun things because I didn't get my chores done." When you empathize with them, then they are mad at the appropriate thing - themselves - instead of at YOU.

3. When your kid is in time out, and you release them from time out, don't tell them why they were in time out. It shows them that you don't think they're smart enough to figure it out. And don't lecture. Give them hugs and move on.

4. Don't give warnings. First infraction, and they're done. When your kids start bickering, instead of saying, "If you don't stop bickering, I'll....", just dismiss them. First time. "Feel free to work this out in your bedroom, guys. You're hurting my ears." The end. Don't try to figure out who started it, etc. In real life, you don't get five warnings. The first time you mess up, you get a consequence. And that's that. Love and Logic is all about teaching your kids about consequences so that they're prepared for the real world.

5. Model taking care of yourself. Show them that their negative decisions will affect them, but NOT you. Let them know that, if they get thrown in jail for bad decisions, you won't use the family money to bail them out. You love them, but "our family doesn't work that way."

6. If you keep "rescuing" kids when they're young, they'll expect it when they're older and their decisions carry heavier consequences.

7. Use enforceable statements. Instead of, "Don't talk to me in that tone of voice!" Say, "I'll be glad to listen when your voice is as soft as mine." Or, "I'll be happy to take you to the baseball game as soon as I feel like I'm being treated with respect."

It was a really great refresher course, and the teachers were so. cool. I kept finding myself wishing that they were my friends. :) Hahaha! It's a husband/wife teaching team, and the husband is a principal at a local junior high school. He had lots of good examples and stories to tell us - he uses Love and Logic at his school.

I should seriously just always take this course. Once a week, for the rest of my life. Because it's easy to fall back into old patterns. It was nice to go once a week and get fortified for the upcoming week and to get reminders of what you should and should not do. It was great. Thanks, Nat, for suggesting it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dylie Lately

Dylan and I are in a good place. It wasn't like that for many years, when he had ADHD and I was in denial about it. Now that he's on a good medication, things have been running pretty smoothly. And I really love spending time with him.

Well, I should say that, in MY opinion, he's on a good medication. His teacher doesn't agree. We recently changed medications because she said his wasn't working at all. I felt like it was, when I was with him on weekends and after school, but she didn't. So we changed to a long-acting medication, hoping that would help. Apparently, no. I'm still of the opinion that the medicine is working great, when I'm with him on weekends and after school. Yes, it wears off around 7 p.m., but that's normal. During the day, he's gold.

Not according to Ms. C. But I'm starting to wonder if anything is good enough for her... Like, if he's not perfectly still and quiet all day, there's something really wrong with him, in her opinion. I don't know.

When we run out of clean jammies for him to wear, he's fond of wearing my workout clothes, which drown him, of course. He's figured out a system where he can loop the waist band up and over his head so that the shorts stay on. With my scarf as an added little belt. Such ingenuity:

Yep, he got a mohawk again. Do I like it? No. But he adores it. So I let him have it. It's not hurting anything. Except for maybe my eyes. :)

Dyl is all about computer games and Wii games.

This picture was taken last fall, when he thought there was a wasp inside the house (there wasn't):

His friend, Jackson, comes over almost every day to play Wii with Dylie. They're Wii buddies.

Dylan is the only one of my kids with any kind of attachment to stuffed animals. Jackson gave him a little stuffed bird, and Dyl looooves it. He had the bird play Wii with he and Jackson one day. The bird was Player Number 4:

Dyl is a bit of a worry wart. It's intensified since his daddy's been gone. He's convinced that some bad guy out there is going to somehow get into our house and murder him. I know, it's pretty intense. One night, we were all in the living room, and Dylie wanted some water. But he was too scared to go into the kitchen and get some. I asked why on earth not. He said it was because someone was certainly looking in the kitchen window and was going to break in and kill him.

Most nights, he'll do his nightly assigned reading in his room, no prob:

But every now and then, he'll be too scared to be in his room alone. He says someone is going to break his window and kill him. Last night, he read in the dining room, on the other side of the wall from us, so that he could still feel us close by, but not be distracted by the TV.

This may be bad of me, but I told him a little white lie the other night when he was having a tough time going to sleep. I said, "You know, you have nothing to fear. Only people who are drug dealers get murdered. Are you a drug dealer??"

"NO! Of course not!"

"Well, then you have nothing to worry about! You won't get murdered!"

I know. Bad of me. But I was desperate, yo. I wanted to go to bed. And it really seemed to help him.

Last night, I was vacuuming and shorted our living room fuse or whatever you call it. I had to go outside and flip the breaker switch. Dylan was freaking out. "Mom, are you okay out there? Are you alone? Are you scared? What if someone murders you???"

Apparently, my kids don't deal well with change.

Dylan's imitation of Yoda:

And of Sleeping Beauty, when she has to wear her cloak when she finds out she's really a princess and has to return to the castle and is really sad:

He is so, so, so funny and sweet and cute. I love him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


"Turrrrrn and face the CHANNNNNGE! Ch-ch-ch-CHANGE-ES!"

I just like that song. Always have.

So. Before we left, we had the Nappy Neighbors on one side of us. We had the recently-divorced nice guy on the other side. Across the street, we had the Drug Dealer/Domestic Violence Couple. Also across the street, we had sweet Nephi (maker of nasty applesauce) and Dorothy (I think she might be a lesbo, but I'm not sure. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just some exposition for ya).

When we came back, many things had happened:

1) The biggest, and best, news is that the Drug Dealer got sent to jail (presumably for drug dealing, but you never know), and her husband, Mr. Domestic Violence, ALSO got sent to jail! He was arrested, like, two days before we moved to China, thanks in part to us. He was out on his front lawn, beating Drug Dealer up. Like, holding her with one arm and punching her right in the FACE. So we called the police, and they arrested him and took him away. Nephi told me later that he had also called the police.

Like a winner, Drug Dealer dropped charges against Mr. Domestic Violence. And they were back together again. So it wasn't the Domestic Violence charges that got him in the end. He was actually stealing car parts and hiding them in his garage! Hahaha! So, he got caught, and now he's in the slammer.

Another fun piece of info that Nephi gave me about these guys - when Domestic Violence came back, he told Nephi that the police actually TOLD him who called the cops on him. So he knew we had done it, and he knew that Nephi had done it. Which is REALLY neat. I thought one could trust cops not to divulge information like that??? Maybe not. What if he had, like, retaliated against us??? Nephi has told me several times (he tends to repeat himself sometimes) that he informed Domestic Violence that he carries a firearm in his house, and, from that time forward, Domestic Violence "killed [Nephi] with kindness." I guess Nephi scared Domestic Violence (according to him). Big, tough Neph.

AND, this is what kills me: Domestic Violence told Nephi that Drug Dealer told him that, after he returned from jail after Domestic Violence incident, Drug Dealer had an extra $100 on her person. Domestic Violence demanded where she had gotten the $100. She actually told him that WE, my hubby and I, GAVE it to her. Dude, I wouldn't give her $1, much less $100. She didn't want to tell her boyfriend where she had gotten this money. And, according to Nephi, he BELIEVED her!! What in his experience with her makes him think that anything she says to him is the TRUTH?? Hahaha!

Ben actually saw Drug Dealer at Burger King a few weeks ago. She was working in the drive through window. Ben said, "Aren't you, um...."

"In jail?" she said, helpfully.


"Oh, yeah," she said, cheerfully, "But they have us do this work release thing, so..."

Ben said he felt really scared and worried when he handed her his credit card to pay for his burger. Yikes. Bikes.

All their stuff was inside and around their house for about a month or so, and then I saw the owner of the house come and clean it all out and cart it away. And then he's been cleaning and fixing the house ever since. There must have been some extensive damage to the home. I saw lots of contractors and people coming over for the past few months. I just want to say, "Next time, if you want someone who actually takes care of your property, CHECK THEIR REFERENCES!!!" Jeez Louise. Nephi says this isn't the first time the owner has rented to horrible people. It makes me so mad. Thanks for making our lives a nightmare for a year, dude. Thanks a lot.

2) Nice divorcee next door - he lost his house. He couldn't pay child support plus his mortgage, etc. etc. So he's gone. And the house sits empty. I feel badly for him. It's his wife who left him. She wanted "more freedom," and last time we talked, he said she spent most of her time bar-hopping. He was so, so sad. He just wanted her back. And his kids back.

3) The Nappy Neighbor parents separated. Nephi told me that another neighbor told him that the hubby - let's call him Hank - actually had an affair and left the wife - let's call her Lana - for the "other woman." Sad, sad, sad. The kids have been pretty mopey. And I don't blame them. One of the many hard things about this situation is that they work for the same company. Awkward. I feel so badly for Lana. Today, I saw Hank come and get several pieces of furniture. He's been out of the house for at least four months, so I'm wondering if he just came to get more furniture than he already took with him for his new apartment, or if the wife and kids are losing the house because they can't afford it now, and he's helping them move? Who knows???

Here's my thing - I know Hank. I actually grew up with him; went to the same schools as him. And he's kind of...a dud. Really a boring guy. Not charming or funny or any of those things that you might imagine being attractive to a woman, you know?? He's not handsome. He has a really high voice and is pretty hefty. Maybe this is mean of me, but I'm like, "Who would want to have an affair with him??" I just don't get it. But I guess there's someone out there for everyone, right? I shouldn't be all judgey. Maybe he's really interesting when you get to know him?

So that's what's going on in our soap-operettic neighborhood. Such drama. What can I say? We leave, and the whole block goes to pot! Haha! Just kidding. At least we still have dear Nephi, who, by the way, sneakily shoveled my walk one evening:

The man is 84 years old and has prostate cancer, and here he is, shoveling my snow. What a babe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Punkin Patch

So yeah, I'm trying to catch up on blogging. Things have just been sooo crazy in the three months since we've been home, so I've been a blogging slacker. I'm trying to be better. These pics are clear back from October, dude. But I need to include them, because I've been slowly printing out my blog as our family photo album/my journal.

My friend, Megs, and I wanted to go to the pumpkin patch that's near my house. I had heard that they had some fun things for kiddos there, and they did. They had a little train ride around the patch - the kids loved it:
That's Megs's son Brynnan on the right:
At the little "train station" after their ride:
This was back when Micah let us do his hair cute:

Now he wears Dylan's green jammie shirt on his head, as his "hair":

Yep, he's back to doing that. I think it's because Ben is in China. Micah started doing it the very day Ben left last week. The poor kid. I don't think he deals well with change.

You may wonder what he's doing in that pic. He's using a piece from Sadie's Littlest Pet Shop collection - it's two carrots - to pretend he has one extra-long tooth.

Back to the punkin patch. Meggie's husband, Mark, in a contemplative mood:

And little Meggie:

They also had a hay bale maze for the kids. They loved that, too. I think they went through it about ten times or so, over and over and over:

Meggie's son, Jonas:

Unfortunately, the pumpkins at the patch were wayyyy too rich for our blood. We all decided to head over to the Scoresby Farm stand to buy 'em. They're just as cheap as Wal-Mart's pumpkins, but easier to carve. I find that Wal-Mart usually only has that kind of pumpkin with spaghetti innards - way too hard to carve.

So, um, basically, we just used the pumpkin patch for its free entertainment - sorry, Pumpkin Patch Guys.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Various Applesauce Adventures

While we were staying at my parents' house, Mom, Nat, and I made a whoooooole bunch of applesauce. My gramps had picked hundreds of apples from his friend's apple trees, so we got all Becky Home Eckey. We set ourselves up in the garage - it's a sticky mess to make applesauce, so we cut down on some of the mess by making it in the garage, where there is a hose we can spray the floor with.

Nat's kids love cranking the applesauce maker thingey:

Mom has an old camp stove that we use to boil the apples:

Nat and I were having so much fun. We kept singing that song from the Disney Johnny Appleseed cartoon, the one where they list all of the things you can make with apples:

"There's apple pickles
Oh so tasty
Apple tarts and apple pastry..."

Sometimes the apples would boil over, and one or two apples would fall on the garage floor and get all smooshed. We called it Apple Carnage. And then we added it to the song:

"There's Apple Carnage, nice and tasty,
Apple tarts and apple pastry..."

It was funny. I love hanging out with Nat. It felt so good to be together again.

Just some of the billions of jars of applesauce we made:

It took several hours, honestly. My dad came home at lunch and saw us slaving away, and then, when he came home after work, there we still were, cranking the applesauce thingey. He said, "I have a good idea. Why don't we just BUY applesauce at the store to put in food storage? Then it won't be so much work."

"But Dad," I said, "This applesauce is practically free!"

"I promise you that I will buy you all the applesauce you could ever want for your food storage. It won't cost you a cent. So that we can forego this awful mess next year."

Sounds good to me.

Speaking of applesauce, my dear 84-year-old across-the-street neighbor, Nephi, was getting his applesauceing on at the same time my family was. He brought some over. He comes up with interesting add-ins:

I think he had put, like, raisins and coconut in it, maybe? I just....couldn't bring myself to eat it. Call me a snob.

He also brought some over that he had made three years ago. He bragged that it still tasted as fresh as the day he made it:

Um, I doubt that. Very much. That just looks like a tub of poop. I didn't taste that stuff, either. Ya gotta be careful with the stuff Nephi brings over. He often brings over gallons of store-bought juice - pomegranate, cranberry, pineapple, etc. It's so sweet of him. But, um, usually, they have expired. We just graciously accept his gifts and don't tell him that most of them are inedible or undrinkable. He really means well. He's such a sweetheart.
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