Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Conversation in the car:

Edward: We should plant an evergreen tree in our back yard. Or front yard.
Mary: Well, we already have evergreen bushes in the front yard.
Edward: Yeah, but evergreen trees have great branches for climbing. (Observation based on two recent park visits.)
Mary: Yes, but if we planted an evergreen tree in our yard now, by the time it was big enough to climb you'd be an adult. Maybe your kids could climb it if Dad and I still live in that house.
Daniel: I'm not having kids.
Mary: Oh, really. Why not.
Daniel: It's too much.
Mary: Too much what?
Daniel: Too much 'sponsibility. I can only take care of myself.

Too true. Hard to believe that such profound rational thought could transition to blind rage within the hour. This conversation happened as we drove home from an afternoon outing at The Iowa Children's Museum. Edward's camp is there this week, so I told Daniel we could stay and play after we picked Ed up. (Most other days this week John will pick up; this week is a little tricky with trying to be in two places at once.)

They had a great afternoon and even left without protest when I said it was time to go. I made sure to compliment them on this good behavior and agreed that after such a busy afternoon (they were basically in constant motion for two hours among the exhibits) it would be good to relax with a bit of TV when we got home.

But 10 minutes into the TV time, Edward screamed in pain and it was revealed that Daniel had pinched and hit him (I think related to the remote control.) So I told him his TV time was over and sent him to time out. This produced a raging fit worthy of The Hulk himself. At one point he screamed at me so loudly and in a position so close to Edward that Edward actually started crying in pain and holding his ear (which is being treated for an infection at the moment.)

As Daniel dug in his heels and refused to go to time out I started counting, which he hates, but I told him I'd stop counting as soon as his body was moving toward time out. His version of "moving" was to propel himself into me, hitting and pushing. I told him if he wasn't in time out by the time I got to 10, I'd take away his Lego. When I got to 10 not only was he not in place, but he also hit me again, so I took away all the Lego and left him in his room still raging. He started slamming his door, but I worked hard to ignore it. Until I heard the splintering of wood and his raging tears turned fearful.

He had been pushing his door wider open, presumably to increase the force of the slam and managed to rip the hinge completely out of the wall, cracking the trim around the door.

When I realized what had happened I looked at him and walked away. He screamed for me, but I said, "I'm too mad to talk to you right now," at which point he returned to his raging screams of "Mommy is stupid!" A few minutes later all was quiet. He had screamed himself into exhaustion and fallen asleep.

Edward and I played some games and read some books while he slept. He crept down while we were reading, and when we finished the book I told him we needed to talk before he could come down and asked him to sit with me in his room. He would not talk to me so I told him to call me when he was ready and suggested he probably would want to talk to me before Daddy got home. (I didn't really mean it as a "wait 'til your father sees this!" threat. More like "You'd rather deal with us one at a time.") As soon as John's key turned in the lock, Daniel called that he was ready to talk. (John had been briefed on the situation by email and Facebook.)

We talked about anger how it feels (bad) and what makes him angry (time-out.) We also talked about who got hurt today--Edward's original injury, me when he hit/pushed/body slammed me and hurt feelings when he was saying "Mommy is stupid," his hurt feelings in time out, and the whole family/house with the broken door.

For now his door is taken away, though this is not as effective a punishment for a four-year-old as it would be for, say, a 14-year-old. In fact it may be more of a punishment for John and me. We'll see.

We've also reinstated daily rest time because the post-tantrum nap (which also happened yesterday with less collateral damage) is proof that he is wrong to tell me he doesn't need it. I know he does, but I haven't been fighting that battle most of the summer. Again, we'll see how that goes. It won't be restful for either of us if I have to spend an hour telling him to stay put. But the missing door and cracked jamb may be enough of a visceral reminder to carry us through for a while. Once school starts again he'll be back to that routine as they have a lights-out, rest-on-cot time each day. The kids don't have to sleep, but they have to stay on their cots.

Last week when Edward was having trouble in the evenings following his only full-day camp of the summer, I wondered aloud to John whether I'd actually done a disservice by bending over backward to enroll them only for half-day programs in the summer. They had the stamina for the full day during the school year and right now they clearly do not. John reassured me that we were right to give them that flexible free time in the summer. They got used to the full day schedule last fall and they'll get back to it in a few weeks.

I never wanted to be one of those parents who start a Hallelujah chorus when the kids go back to school, but it's really time. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Today's blog post transcribed directly from Daniel:

Up in my room, while I was having my quiet time, I played a game. It was a saber-tooth tiger game. Viking were trying to kill the saber tooth tigers. But my big flower blanket was a bullet proof den for the saber tooth tigers so the Vikings did not get them. The Vikings drowned in the ocean but before they drowned they got on an ice floe and they tried to shoot the saber tooth tigers but the saber tooth tigers were safe in the bullet proof den. The Vikings fell off their Viking ship and drowned. Because they were not wearing their life jackets.

(P.S. We saw Ice Age: Continental Drift over the weekend.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Some things we've been doing to entertain ourselves/keep cool this long, hot, dry summer.
Back yard swimming pool: Usually we discourage removing the water, but this year, we're actually glad when they transfer it around the yard a bit. Everything is dried and brown, but with any luck it's still just "dormant" and not "dead."
Using the wagon as a boat. Note that the bucket on the wagon handle is the anchor, which can be lowered or raised as needed.

Building block castles

Getting amazingly dirty at preschool (I call this "dirt goatee")

Painting with water colors. I am usually a firm believer in the "art at school" method, but the kids had fun with this on Monday afternoon when it was 98 degrees outside.

The happy face belies the reason for this picture, which was to document Daniel's first pizza cheese burn on his chin from the previous day. Ouch!

We made it through the tee-ball season with both boys sustaining interest and enthusiasm throughout. Parental enthusiasm waned toward the end, especially as the temperatures climbed into the upper 90s but stayed 1 degree below the cancellation cut-off (100 degrees.) It was the right call to have them on the two different teams this year, but I would not look to repeat the two hours in the park twice a week in the future. Next year Edward will move beyond Parks & Rec tee-ball though, so the issue is more likely to be the need to be in two places at once.

They've also both asked to sign up for soccer in the fall. Busy busy!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

This year's Fourth of July was HOT HOT HOT. Close to 100 degrees and smack in the middle of a week-long stretch of the same. We hit the pool in the early afternoon in an effort to induce late afternoon naps that would enable us to stay up for the fireworks. It worked! Even Edward slept for about an hour, waking up totally disoriented from the unfamiliar activity. We were invited for dinner (grilled out, eaten in!) with some friends who then accompanied us to the fireworks. We had some fun with sparklers and glow necklaces before the show started.

 This is the same shot as the first, but without the flash. I'm no photographer and our camera's pretty basic, but I thought this was cool.
 Daniel thought the show was too loud at first. Greater love hath no father than to let his four-year-old climb on him for a feeling of security despite the oppressive heat that had us all in pools of sweat even after the sun had gone down.
After a little while, Daniel relaxed enough to sit back (on me!) and enjoy the rest of the show. We got home late and the next morning came early--work and school for all--but a good time and good memories with good friends.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Edward had a birthday party at our house the last Saturday in June. Officially, it was a "half-birthday" party. Unofficially, it was a way for us to give him a party that did not involve a herd of six-year-old boys crashing around inside our house.

He invited four friends so that the total number of boys in our care, including our own offspring, equaled the age of his celebration (we rounded down, as we are in no position to deal with half a child.) One couldn't make it so we ended up with five kids. (Note: Edward also insisted on inviting his beloved Kindergarten teacher. She was out of town. Or was that "out of town"?)

The first step to a back porch/yard pool party was to clean off the back porch. The boys were in charge of wiping down all the balls and toys while I swept out many months of accumulated dirt. 
This was accomplished on the last afternoon before our state, and, really, most of the country was plunged into the great heat wave of 2012--a solid 10 days of upper-90s and low-100s. UGH! But perfect for boys running around with water balloons and squirt toys. (The invitation had noted: "In case of rain...pray for us!")

The next step was baking the cake, despite the heat. We had seen a picture in a friend's kid-oriented cookbook and thought this sea monster was appropriate for our water-themed party. It looked much better in the book, but Edward was quite pleased. And it tasted good.

Then there was the task of feeding and entertaining the boys for two hours. Food mission was accomplished with John's Little Caesers Pizza pick-up. Plus watermelon and fruit punch, by special request of the birthday boy.

Entertainment was all water-based with a large inflatable pool, squirt toys from the Target dollar bins (these also were the take-home gift along with a pack of gum), colored ice cubes for a relay race (and to see how the colors melted together) and about 200 water balloons. 

Those balloons lasted about 15 minutes and the games even less time, but in truth, they were perfectly content to make their own fun with the squirt toys and pool. In a moment of desperation before I realized all would be fine, I suggested that John create an "obstacle course" for the boys to run through. Starting with the old standby "head on bat and spin yourself three times" they ran forward and backward around the yard a couple of times, ending up in the pool.

At one point they started dumping buckets of water into the dirt where once a tree stood (still too root-y to plant grass) but by some miracle they were only interested in creating the mud, not jumping in it. (Daniel and Edward did this later and I was even more glad that the guests hadn't gone this route--might have been some unhappy parents!)

Lest you worry about poor Daniel fending for himself with four six-year-olds to contend with, let me assure you, he was not intimidated in the least.

All in all, it was a successful gathering. Edward was beaming from ear to ear and declared it "the best party ever!" After all, what more do little boys want than to run around like maniacs with their friends? And receive new Star Wars Lego sets as gifts. He spent the afternoon putting them together and the ensuing days slowly adapting them, adding and removing pieces, as needed for whatever role they might play in his evolving Lego Universe.