Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Use Your Words: Why What You Say Around a Child Matters

My seven-year-old came inside from a raucous night of playing with his sister and some of their friends who live on either side of us and announced that one of his friends, a six-year-old girl in kindergarten, was called the F-word four times at school.

"The F-word.  I don't even know what it means," he scrunched up his eyes.

"Well, that's something we'll discuss when you're a little older," I said, hoping I had defused the situation and we could move along.

"F-U-C-K.  Fuck.  What does it even mean?"

I winced.  He laughed and so did my ten-year-old daughter.

Oh boy.  Strange that an act of love is expressed by such a mean, angry word.  A word I can't begin to explain to a seven-year-old.  For the record, I discussed the matter with the friend's mother and I wasn't at all angry at either the girl or her parents.  She innocently parroted back something audacious that she heard at school.  I just hate that she heard it in the first place.

Also for the record, I'm not a prim and proper Lady Grantham.  I have cursed like a sailor a few hundred times in my life, but ever since I became a mom I've watched my words more closely.  I realize that profanity isn't the worst thing my children can, or will, encounter.  I'm no Pollyanna, but I do think words are powerful.

I think the words you use say a lot about the person you are.  I think that the words you use inform people's perception and judgment (for better or worse) of you.  I think that some words, spoken in a threatening or vindictive tone, even by a child who is mimicking a brother, sister, aunt, parent, or friend, can be painful.  Thankfully, that wasn't the case with my son and his friend.

Children remember words, both cruel and taunting words and gentle, thoughtful words, and so I choose my words carefully.  I try not to dumb down my vocabulary around my children and have never altered the pitch of my voice when I speak to them.  They are capable of asking me for a definition and they appreciate being taken seriously.

I'm not upset that a child told my son about the f-bomb, but I am bothered that a kindergartener is exposed to language that is flip at best and violent at worst.  I've heard mothers at my children's school swearing up and down the hall at each other on Open House night as if the children around them didn't matter.  I choose to speak kind words, smart words, searching words, funny words, thoughtful and adventurous words around my kids because I want my kids to be kind, smart, searching, funny, thoughtful, adventurous people.  And I want them to speak to others with consideration not hate.

I realize that I cannot protect my children from profanity, or for that matter evil or heartbreak or loss.  I just try to guide them the best I can with the best words I can muster.

Monday, May 12, 2014

To-Do List Download

Hi Y'all!

I hope all of you moms had a lovely Mother's Day.  The kids and I spent time with our adopted Nana, then the husband and I spent too much money at a gardening center, I planted a little on the porch while it rained, then we drove to my in-laws for dinner.  It was relaxing because I let go of trying to accomplish anything.  Oh, and my husband cleaned my car with a steam vacuum!!

It's the little things, my friends.

When I last posted, I gave some advice for creating a To-Do List that actually works.  Then I got to thinking . . . what if I actually create a prototype of the format I was discussing?  What I believe the young people call a "download."

Between my iPad art apps and my creaky old laptop, I managed to create a little something for you to print all on your own.  Please let me know if it does not print properly so that I can make adjustments.

So here you go.  My Belated Mother's Day gift to all of you hard-working moms.  Or my Belated Poetry Month (which was April) gift to all of you hard-working writers.  Or heck, just my free gift to you because you, yes YOU, rock.  (The orange and red circles on the right are to check off each task as you complete them.)


Download PDF here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Making a To-Do List That Works!

I'm a list maker.  I make countless lists in an attempt to organize.  Do you do this?  Does it work for you?

What I've discovered is that, just as with writing, or gardening, or cleaning my kids' rooms, I need to prep for my list before actually making the working to-do list.


Here's what I mean: with writing, I take notes and write drafts before revising; with gardening, I weed and turn the soil before planting; and with my kids' rooms, I take every toy out of the closet and dump them on the floor before I sort, toss, donate, and organize back into the closet.

I have to do the same thing with my to-do lists.

This sounds a little nutty, because it's just a to-do list, right?

For someone with ADD, this is extremely helpful.

Here's what my pre-list looks like:

A mess, right?

There is just no way to figure out what's most important, which items have deadlines, and they're so jumbled and crowded that I look at them, get overwhelmed, and ignore them.  A fat lot of good those lists did me.

But if I approach these messy lists like I did my lecture notes from college, I can see them as brainstorming, or note gathering.  The pre-lists are basically a brain dump.  You can't let them stay like that!  You have to take them and mold them into something workable, something you can glance at to keep you on track.  What I'm saying is, rewrite those pre-lists - just like I did with my college lectures - into organized to-do lists.

Get a pretty piece of paper if you have one.  A clean sheet, if not.  Divide the week into days (I just list for the week days) and give yourself 3-4 tasks that absolutely must happen each day.  I make boxes for these items because they're easy to check off.  Then go back to your brain dump list and divide those items across the days.

I try to keep my master to-do list down to 3-4 tasks a day because more items will overwhelm me and possibly set me up for failure.  3-4 tasks per day is achievable.  If I finish those tasks, I can add 1-2 more (which you will see I did in the example below).

One way to divide up the tasks is to make sure not to do too much of one thing every day.  For instance, I hate shopping; however, I needed to hit a bunch of stores yesterday so I thought I would just hit every store on my list.  What was I thinking?  I started at 10 and ended at 2:30 with barely time to get things together and leave to get my kids from school.  I should have hit 2 or 3 stores and had enough time to blog or make phone calls or finish Mother's Day plans.  Instead, I felt like Grumpy Cat by the end of the day.

Here's what my revised list looks like now.

Notice I've checked off some items on Friday even though it isn't Friday yet?  That's because this isn't a hard and fast list.  You can remain flexible.  If you feel like knocking out something you put on Friday but it's only Wednesday, I promise it's okay.  My kids go to Montessori school and have weekly work plans.  It doesn't matter when they get the work finished so long as it's all done by Friday.  Consider your list a work plan.

I just ordered this nifty memo set from Zulily.|1399560898925

It already has the days of the week plotted along with an extra pad for notes.  You'll need this extra notepad for individual lists for shopping, packing, whatever you need to do in more detail.  Don't put your grocery list on the master to-do list!  You'll want it on a separate sheet of paper or on a reminder app so you can actually take it, you know, to the grocery.

I hope this to-do list tutorial is useful for you.  It seems obvious, but I'm just now implementing this system and it's working for me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How To Out-Stubborn Your Stubborn Child

When my husband and I were first dating, he and my best friend would tease me.

"And does she dig her heels in for no reason and refuse to let it go?" he would ask her.

"Yes, and does she do that cute little foot stomp sometimes?" she would ask back.

All the while, I'd fume with a smile on my face, not letting them know they had hit a nerve.  They knew anyway.

Fast forward to now: I have two stubborn children.

My husband finds no end of joy in explaining that genetic (or is it behavioral?) trait.  Yes, they get it from me.
 How To Out-Stubborn Your Stubborn Child

Case in point, my 7-year-old son has been regressing in the mornings.  I'm guessing it's normal, but nonetheless, irritating.  He demands help for the smallest of tasks: picking clothes, getting dressed, walking up or down the steps.  Mind you, if he's motivated he can do all of those things and more as independent as my 10-year-old.  This usually happens on weekend mornings at 7:00 when I wish he was independent enough to make his own breakfast and, while he's at it, a cup of coffee for his bleary-eyed mother.

This morning was not one of those independent mornings.

This morning, in fact, was the complete opposite of those independent mornings.

This morning he was helpless and stubborn.

My first trick for dealing with stubborn behavior is to be playful:  "Come on, let's go upstairs together to get dressed.  Hop on board!  Next stop: Platform Nine and Three Quarters!"

He just stared and smiled.

I coaxed again, a little more firmly, but he didn't budge.  I was holding two cups of coffee, one for me and one for my husband -- because I'm sweet and bring him coffee every morning.  I needed to get upstairs before my wrists gave out.  He needed to get upstairs before his dad and sister headed to school.  No one was budging.

"Okay, well, I need to get upstairs.  I'm done waiting."

And with that, I headed up the first few steps.

"Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!"  he protested.

I explained that I had waited and was done waiting and he needed to man-up.

He collapsed at the bottom of the stairs, crying that I said I'd help him and I didn't.  That I was being mean.  I turned around and saw him standing now, with his arms crossed.  He had stubbornly dug in.

My husband and my daughter both tried to persuade him to move.

No luck.

My husband started acting like he was going to cave and go get him.

"You're enabling him!!!"  I yelled from my daughter's room where I was turning out lights.

He backed off.

Then I had to switch to ultimatums:  "If you don't make your way up these stairs in the next minute, you're on your own.  I'll pick out your clothes, but you get dressed, brush your hair and teeth, and come back downstairs without me."

He didn't like that.

"Okay, so I'm going to get my coffee and come back downstairs now."

He started to crawl up the stairs, stubbornly complaining that I'm mean and that I lied to him.

"And if you don't straighten up and walk instead of dangerously crawling up the stairs, you'll be in time out."


Guess who won this match?  Queen of the Stubborns, thank you!  And I didn't even need to stomp my foot.

Of course I had to carry him to his room, and hold him onto my lap, but I did it!  I out-stubborned his stubbornness.

Lucky for me, I know what usually happens after willful outbursts like this; my son is filled with remorse and apologizes.  He cries and cries and hugs me and apologizes.

I know this is just growing pains.  He's learning to assert his independence, respect authority, and maneuver the shaky ground between the two.  I'm learning, too.  I'm learning to stay firm and love him through the rough patches.  No foot stomping necessary.