Monday, July 14, 2014

What I thought I knew about having kids

If you haven't seen Bill Cosby's skit on "natural child birth" then you should put that somewhere in your "I should check that out" memory bank.

In it, he talks about how he and his wife are "intellectuals."  He elaborates about all the plans they make in having children, and then hilarity ensues.

I have a lot of friends who are on the fence about having kids.  They hear rhetoric ranging from, "kids are just too expensive" to "plan and make sure you're ready to have children."

I reject this entire paradigm of thinking about children.  Here's all you need to know, coming from a father of 4 kids.

Children are an act of faith.

That's it.  They're not "expensive" they're not a "huge responsibility" they're not a "life-changing event," they are an act of faith.  Do you want money in life?  It's okay to say yes.  Well, having kids is a leap of faith that you can both mentor and provide for this little person and still get what you want.

No matter what your goals are in life, children do NOT prevent you from achieving them.  Sure, you can use your kids as excuses for falling short if you want, and they can make certain goals in life more challenging--but what no one told you is they can actually make achieving a lot of your goals a lot easier.  Children are about the best motivation I have ever found in my life for achieving the things I always wanted when I was single, but too nervous or complacent to actually do.

So, whatever any half-brained journalist, column writer, or socially indoctrinated friend tells you, just know that in the end, children are an act of faith.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Typical Evening With Kids vs Without Kids

Read a "Typical Saturday Morning" post of this nature, so here's the evening version courtasy of yours truly.

With Kids Time Without Kids
Get home from work, stressed, disgruntled and in need of a break. You can't be tired, it's not allowed yet. Kids are screaming, there's an odor in the air of a dirty diaper, TV is playing loudly in the background. 5:00 Get home from work tired. Flip on the TV, find something interesting to watch.
Attempt to change out of your work clothes without being followed or having any one of a hundred non-washable stain treatments haphazardly thrown about your dwelling mark what you're wearing. Make it into your room with only one straggling kid who insists on you wearing a tiara/blob of mud (depends on gender) 5:30 Ooow, sitcom.
All candy, snack food, junk food, health food, and basically everything except for the Gerber first-start food you bought specifically for your kids has been ravaged, so you start eating some Gerber first-start food. You dream briefly of catching up on the mess in the kitchen/living room/bedrooms/bathrooms. 6:00 I'm kinda hungry, gonna grab some chips or snack food.
Okay, I can't get this mess mopped up, and I can't sweep because of all the legos scattered about, so where's that bin you bought for your kids? Cracked in two, guess all the toys go in the garbage? You announce that you're throwing away toys to your kids, and they panic, start screaming and possibly pick up one or two of the 346,204 items they've left on the ground. You concede and just use your foot to push enough of them aside to clean one area of floorspace that you haven't seen in a week. 6:30 I can do dishes tomorrow night. Big Bang Theory is on.
It's been two days since I've been able to keep the 2-year-old from biting me while attempting to brush her teeth. Argue with the wife about which tranquilizing drugs are safe to use on children for a bit. Try to act excited and turn teeth-brushing into a game. Have blood drawn from young teeth, again. 7:00 Should I go out tonight? Meh, let's see what else is on. . .
Try to read child a bedtime story. Get your third rib bruised when they wiggle violently on your lap. Tell kids to stop arguing with the story. Attempt to tuck them in, only to have 15 complaints delivered serially (it starts with a "I want water," I get water and return to be informed that it has to be in a sippy cup, so I put it in a sippy cup and return to be informed that it has to be a blue sippy cup. I continue this process until I pass out, blow up, or give up) 7:30 I should probably get changed. Guess I'll coordinate with a close associate about evening plans.
Half the kids are down, so it's safe for me to look in all my hiding spots for food that might be edible. Help oldest with homework. Break up a fight. Finally stuff face with more than discarded baby food. 8:00 Change to pajamas, find a book, start reading.
Tell the older kids to finish their chores and start getting ready for bed; be ignored. Turn the TV on to see if there is a show available that you might enjoy, and you find one--briefly ignoring the PG-13/TV-LV rating on it and attempt to turn it on. 8:30 What a great book!
Woah, yeah, didn't want my kids seeing that. Hopefully they didn't. Aw crap, they've been behind me the entire time glued to this show and they noticed that I'm eating some regular food and that they finally have my attention so they start demanding food identical to mine. I provide, then help them brush their teeth and send them up to bed. 9:00 What time is it? Who cares, it's just getting interesting.
I'm pretty sure I heard a loud thud from the kid's room. I go to investigate. They've been throwing toys off the bed and have woken up the baby. Help the baby calm down and fall asleep again, scold children, go brush teeth after locking the door behind me. I haven't showered in two days, so I best attempt that. Well, wife is in the shower and has already ignored advances for the past few days. Guess I start getting my stuff together for work tomorrow. 9:30 9:30? I got time.
Work bag packed, check schedule for tomorrow. Check facebook for a few minutes before you hear the voice of your oldest say, "who's that?" Ask them why they aren't in bed, to be informed that another diaper needs changing. Try to get the kids settled after the most recent diaper change. 10:00 Hmm, video games? Don't mind if I do!
Lay down. My mind is racing too fast to go to sleep. Quell anxieties about being a good parent for a moment and attempt to organize thoughts. Hear a knock on the door, one of the kids has wet the bed. Get up, help wife change the sheets, lay back down and repeat. 10:30 Yes, new high score!
Slam pillow over head defiantly when the baby starts to scream. Briefly reflect on how much your life sucked before you were married and had kids and smile a bit before telling your wife you love her. She smiles, and gets up to take care of the baby. 11:00 Maybe I should think about going to bed. . .Ooow, facebook!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lost My Marbles (follow up)

So, the marble program is now well established in our household, and we have found it to be a very useful, low-maintenance tool for improving the quality of life in our home.  It takes us about 3 minutes per day to keep it up to date and running, and it has had a drastic impact on our home.

Here's how.

First, the marble system fundamentally boils down to a physical reward for doing something that mom and dad like.  Rewarding kids is important, and they need a wide variety of positive reinforcements for good behaviors to turn into habits, which build into enjoyable personalities, and the marble system is meant to be used as an add-on to praise, treats, affection, quality time, and entertainment as rewards.

My kids have now learned that marbles are valuable.  They owe me 14 marbles per week for their room and board, which has helped them learn to take initiative (particularly on the weekends before rent falls due).  V grows much more helpful on the weekends just before Rent is due, whereas N gets more conservative with her spending habits.  Y, the 2 year old, has just learned that she gets more freedom and goodies when she does what she's told, and I think she understands that marbles translates to good things happening for her.  Each trip to the store becomes a thrill to the kids, because they're looking to spend their marbles on toys, or candy.  The best part about the marble system is that mom and dad have no say in how they chose to spend their marbles, or when they can play with the toys that they bought.

Ownership seems to be a lot more important to kids than I thought.  I'm not talking about gifts and birthday toys, though those are important.  I'm talking about the process of working, saving, and earning something.  It's theirs, and no one can take it from them.  Having those havens of ownership has cut down on fighting significantly.

N has things that are specifically hers, and if Y or V ask to use them, we say, "talk to N."  Giving kids this dominion has become a tool to actually teach sharing, because Dani and I will never infringe on our kids genuine property rights for the items that they earned.

If you'd like to try the marble system in your own home, here's how we got it started.

Create a chart of things that improve the quality of life in your home, and things that kids do that decrease the quality of life in your home.  Some examples:

Good Stuff Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Showing kindness without being asked
Helping with the dishes
Living room cleaned before bedtime
Getting dressed (morning)
Getting Breakfast On Your Own
Brushing teeth

Costs Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Hour of TV
1 Hour of Computer Games
Making Mom or Dad Ask More Than Once
Not taking care of yourself

This is a baseline for our "marble" chart.  Dani put pictures by each task to remind the kids what each one was, and laminated it.  We use a dry-erase marker to keep track of what they've done during the week, and then jars that contain their running totals.  Usually, we try to give them the marble right when they finish doing something good, but N and V really like the accounting part of it, so we keep track of their money with both their running-total marble jar, and their tally points on the chore board.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I've been the sole provider for our family since we were married.  I've worked very hard so Dani could be a stay-at-home mom.  That's what we discussed when we were engaged and that's what we wanted.  It was mostly because we wanted to champion traditional family values and show, through the way we lived, the benefit of following them.

That was about 8 years ago.

Now I've been working a day job for the better part of a decade.  If social pressures and dogma get their way, then I'm almost done with decade 1 with 3 or 4 more to go.  When it's all over, I get to spends the last few years of my life traveling, serving missions, playing with grandkids, and so forth.

I do believe that we all have to work to be happy and successful in life. But, when it comes to the conventional wisdom of how we need to go about work, I don't buy it.

I don't buy that just having mom accessible to the kids is what's best for them.  Why have we designed our entire society around taking fathers out of the home?

What is wrong with designing a social structure where kids, who are old enough, study and learn right next to dad each day as dad works to provide?  Can't I both provide for my kids' present needs and teach them to provide for their own in doing so?

I realize that doing this would sort-of predetermine what kind of jobs my kids would be good at, and becomes the foundation of a class-based society, but I'm just conceptually sick of this idea that a father is an appendage to their kid's development.  I want more than that, and I just don't know how to fill that role.

For the time being, I'm just content to be my kids' tutor for their school work.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fitness After 4 Kids

One goal I tried to keep between pregnancies was to get back to pre-baby size and weight.

That didn't happen after my 3rd. I was actually on a diet plan when I then fell ill with an awful stomach bug that went around causing me to not be on plan but on an I.V. drip at the hospital. I then found out less then a week later I was pregnant. Stop the diet and prepare for baby.

Pregnancy 4 was the one where I gained the most and because I didn't loose all the weight from baby #3 I weighted the most I had ever weight in my entire life.


How to fight it? I started working out. I found that it helped with the depression, gave me a little "me" time and helped me be happy because I was working on getting to my goal of pre-baby #3.

Now of course it hasn't come off nearly as fast as I have wanted it to and I still can't fit into my jeans with out a comical dance that includes a lot of jumping, sucking it in and strained finger tips as I try to button up my jeans. Oh, I've gotten them buttoned but the over hang muffin top is enough to make me cry.

Keep going I'm doing great.

But exercise is not enough. My major obstacle is eating. I'll eat if I'm bored, stressed, depressed, mad, or just out of plan habit. Does that taste good? Yes? We'll then don't mind if I help myself to more then my stomach can handle.

So I'm working on that.

I talked to my doctor and he told me things like this take time. I have to develop the habits and just because it doesn't come off now doesn't mean it wont when conditions are better.

"What other conditions?" I asked him.

Turns out, sleep. Yeah a 3-month-old who was waking me up 4 times a night and the occasional random scream from the 2 year-old who can't find her sippy was wearing me thin emotionally, but did nothing for my waist-line. Thus creating a very tired mommy.  The doc said that getting enough sleep, and keeping your stress levels manageable play a big role in weight loss and fitness.  Yeah, add the juggeling act of 4 kids and my stress levels were up too.

It's not all neat and orderly how I would like. I don't get to the gym the same time every day and get 2 hours to myself. My 8 hours of sleep are still out of reach (we're working on that) but I'M DOING WHAT I CAN.

And that is what counts.

Oh I still beat myself up and slip and then beat myself up some more. But everything takes time and work and I have a great hubby who is helping me along, because it's something I want. He likes how I look. I just want what I had before and I know it is possible. So here I go.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pavlov's Children (follow-up)

Well, it didn't go exactly as planned--but few things do when it comes to parenting.

Y and I spent a lot of time figuring things out, and here's what I learned:  kids can't process emotions the same way adults do.  When I'm angry, she doesn't pick up on those queues unless I deliberately exaggerate them.  I remember readings some studies showing that teenager's minds didn't process emotions shown on people's faces in the same way adults did.  It stands to reason that toddler's process emotions in a different way too.

This training helped her learn four audio queues.  Y now recognizes my approval, regular communication, agitated, and angry vocal inflections. Before this week and this time training, she really didn't respond to me at all.  She is responding very well to those now.  The treats and negative reinforcement were hardly needed at all, and the entire process took about 3 sessions ranging from 5 minutes to 2 hours.

Since Y went through the training, she has started cleaning up when asked and doing what she is told by the time I reach my agitated inflection.   I call that a miracle.  Before, she was very disruptive when it came time to cleanup--running around, dumping the toys, and so forth.  Now she is looking for ways to help and no longer trying to make things hard for her older sisters.

I'm looking forward to rewarding Y for the next few room cleanings. I also think Y and I will start getting along much better.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Sorry, no post today--ran short on our buffer, and we couldn't find any time to write in this past week.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fight Reduction Plan

I was up late last night thinking in my bed.  I do that a lot, think.  Last night, my thoughts were centered around all the little-kid fights in my house.

I hate these fights.  I hate the contention, the noise, the results, and just everything about them.

Then I started to think, "why do people, in general fight?"

I went through a lot of different reasons, and none seemed to fit.  After about a half hour pondering it, I stumbled across one that did.  I think people fight, in general, because of a lack of graciousness/patience and intelligence.

Why would we go to war as a nation?  Well, because politicians can't think of a peaceful solution in time.  They could get more time if they were more gracious or patient, and they wouldn't need as much time if they were more intelligent and creative.

The same is true for kids.  Kids aren't exactly well known for their intelligence and ability to creatively solve their own problems.  My three of my kids feel like that's my job, and take no responsibility for it.  Also, children aren't known for their patience either.

I don't think I can eliminate all the fighting in my home, but I think if I teach my kids a bit more graciousness, patience, humility, and creative thinking, I might be able to reduce it significantly.

So, to start, my biggest fight-starter is Y.  I started playing a game called "fast grab."  I put 11 objects on the ground, and we stare at each other like a game of chicken.  Once one person goes for one, we try to grab as many as we can.  Whoever grabs the most, wins.  Now, I'm much faster and dexterous than a 2-year-old, so I could win any time, but that's the point.  It helps remind her that she, literally, can't just take what she wants, and that the only reason she gets anything is if I let her--which I do of course.  Combine that with positive encouragement, and it becomes an example of graciousness, and forces her to be patient with the most frustrating thing in her life--herself.  She loves it because she gets one-on-one time with a parent, and I hope it's going to work out well for everyone.

I'm still trying to come up with ideas for teaching my kids patience and gratitude.  If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments below.

Monday, May 26, 2014

7 Chores Appropriate for Toddlers

Kids, contrary to popular belief, are not helpless.  Some are quite capable, and many of them want as much independence as their developing frames can handle.  Helping around the house is a great way for children to improve their motor skills.  It also can help boost their self esteem and reduce their destructive tendencies.  Here are some activities that we've found any kid capable of walking can do.

  1. Put toys in a bin -  Putting toys away is the simplest activity.  A toddler won't always remember where the toy goes, but they can understand the words "doll" and "blue bin" just fine.  The trick is to show them exactly how to clean up by explaining what you're doing as you're doing it.  I find it is also helpful to grab their hands and get them to go through the motion of picking up once to help the concept stick.
  2. Sweeping - They can't handle a full-size adult broom, but there are plenty of kiddie brooms.  Don't expect them to get full surface area coverage, but they are capable of picking up spills of dry cheerios just fine and getting them to use a broom or brush of some sort really helps them with their fine-motor skills.
  3. Washing walls - A tiny bit of Lysol in warm water and a rag, and you can get the first two or three feet of your wall scrubbed down.  Most kids find this activity fun.  We've had to do this whenever a kid takes crayon to the wall--Dani and I refuse to clean that with our own hands.  It has worked really well, as we've only ever had two or three incidents with each kid before they caught on that they'd have to scrub really hard to get stuff off.
  4. Cleaning up spills - It depends on how much sugar was in the drink.  Water, Gatorade, and most juices can easily be cleaned up by a kid with a damp rag and a dry rag.  The only drink I can think of that has required a subsequent parental clean up is hot chocolate.
  5. Dishes - Kids can rinse dishes off just fine if they can reach the sink.  We have a little step stool in our kitchen so our kids can reach easier.  They are also really good at sorting clean dishes out of the dishwasher.  We have our kids pull all the clean dishes out and sort them on the counter so Dani and I can put them high-up in the cupboard.  N is tall enough to get most all of them in the cupboard as well, but it's convenient for us to have all the like dishes and cups stacked and ready to go after the dishwasher is done.  Hand-washing pots and pans tends to be a little beyond what they can grasp.
  6. Making their bed - We have a toddler bed for Y and regular doubles for V and N.  Dani and I had to coach and help out with this one for about a week, but after they had to make their bed two or three times they started sleeping in a much more orderly manner.  It will always take a little help, but V and N can make a bed together without any help now--and they've even extended those skills to folding full queen-size comforters.
  7. Laundry - They can't really start the washing machine, and Dani and I don't like them handling the detergent, but giving them a hamper in their room and expecting them to carry a full hamper down and placing clothes in an empty washing machine is something every kid is capable of doing.
Well, I hope this gives you some ideas of what you can do to get kids helping around the house.  What are some household chores you've been able to get your kids to do?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Getting Into Gear

Parenting is hard.  It is the most difficult thing about my life.  Being a parent means having a ton of latent stress.  I find myself plagued with questions of the nature of, "Is my kid going to fit in at school?"  "Are they going to do well enough to get by in society?"  "Are they willing to learn and adapt to their environment?"
It really doesn't matter what the question is, the point is that I can't push them all out of my mind.  They weigh on me, as a father.  It weighs me down and slows me down.
When I'm not dealing with latent stress regarding my kids, I'm dealing with actual stress from my kids or job.  Keeping a toddler alive is a stressful job.
Stress sometimes gets to me.  I can't just brush it off all the time.  Some days, I can't just "cowboy up."

But sometimes I can.  Dani and I call such times as "shifting."  We have our neutral positions (pinterest for Dani, bloons tower defense for me), and we have our different gears.  When we shift into gear, we're spending energy and getting good things done.  When we're in "neutral," we're regaining energy.

The kids force us into gear frequently.  While we are doing good things when the kids shift us, usually we don't do them in a good way.  That's when we start yelling, and getting upset.  When we chose to shift, that's when we're patient, kind, and deliberately good parents.

I feel like a bad parent when I'm forced into action.  I hate yelling at my kids.  I don't like punishing them for trivial reasons.  I feel like a bad person if I am forced to shift.

So I'm working on building the strength to choose to be a good parent, and to motivate myself into action.  Here are some of the things that I've tried that have helped:

1.  Read my scriptures
  I'm a religious person, so this is an uplifting activity for me that gives me more emotional strength.  It could be any good book that can engage your mind and emotions.  For me, the scriptures are my go-to source.
2.  Go out alone
  Babysitters are hard and require planning.  Ya know what, though, not everything I do requires my spouse present.  I like arcade games, and sometimes just doing something I enjoy on my own can help get me back in a positive frame of mind.
3.  Spend some one on one time with your kids
  My daughters have good days and bad days.  When I need to recharge or refocus my efforts, I find one of my kids who is having a good day and spend some one on one time with them doing something they want to do.
4.  Do something nice for your kids
  Their excitement can be infectious, and anything out of the ordinary can be exciting.  My kids talk about trips we've taken with them to the candy store for days on end.  Anything new is exciting, and anything nice you do for them can quickly put positive feedback and energy into your daily life.
5.  Set boundaries
  Your gonna be forced to do things you don't want to do as a parent.  I have never once changed a diaper because that was my heart's burning desire at that moment.  When you do have to act as the "bad guy" for your kids, chose some lines that you won't cross.  For me, the line I don't cross is saying something as if I were assigning a negative label to my kids.  e.g. it's okay to say, "you did something very stupid" but it's not okay to say, "you are stupid" to my kids.  Those boundaries will put some silver linings on your dark cloud moments.
6.  Involve kids to participate in your neutral state
  I play games when I'm in neutral.  I often find one (or more) of my kids on my lap when I'm playing.  Sometimes, having them there is enough to turn my mind and my will towards being a better parent, and it leads to play time with my kids.  Sometimes, just letting your kids watch you can be a good positive motivator.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pavlov's Children

Y likes to push buttons.  She knows exactly how to cry to get Dani and I to capitulate.  I'm fine with a daughter pulling my strings to try and serve her own ends, but it needs to go both ways.
Some days, Y just is super helpful (for a 2-year-old).  Other days, I have to physically pick her up and move her to where I want her to go.  It's really hit or miss, and I'd wager this lifestyle is not helping my long-term health.
So, I've decided to prioritize.  I want her to clean when I ask her to everytime without delay.  I want her to go to her room when I ask her to every time (bed time, time-out, breaking up fights) and I want her to stop taking things from other kids and hitting them.
I'm drafting up a 2-year-old obedience school curriculum to do just that.  It's loosely a behavioral conditioning setup using positive and negative reinforcement.  The positive reinforcement is going to be a combination of chocolate, positive interaction with me, and chasing (because Y loves to be chased).  The negative reinforcement will be taking away her security blanket, and spraying her face with water.  I think those two negative reinforcements will work better than the yelling and time-out punishments I've been giving her, since she seems to have a good deal of separation anxiety.
The plan is to get the older sisters out of the house, have a messed up living room, and train her to clean it one item at a time for the first few days.   After a few days, I'll move up to having her clean by giving her two tasks at a time, and associating that with the phrase "clean the living room," and then bump her up to cleaning the entire room.
As for fighting and hitting, I figure the opposite is having her give things to her sisters when they're playing, so I'll ask her to take a toy to N or V and then reward her for doing so.
Then, over the course of a week or two, I'll gradually back off on the rewards until I'm certain she'll continue to exhibit good behavior without being immediately rewarded with a treat.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Dates

My dad told me:
  "Son, a lot of guys think that the way to live the good life and be surrounded by beautiful women is to make lots of money and buy a fancy sports car.  In reality, the real way to be surrounded by beautiful women is to have daughters."

Well, the ol' man was right.  It's exceptionally hard to get Dani to go out with me now (babysitters are a rare commodity), but even suggesting a daddy-daughter date is enough to get N, V, or Y jumping up and down with excitement.

Daddy-daughter dates aren't like regular dates, though.  Normally, you're trying to get to know the person through understanding their tastes and preferences, often through conversation and activities.  In daddy daughter dates, you become the Sherpa-style guide to your adventurous explorers.  Kids don't have enough life experience to know their tastes and preferences like adults do, so they find it out by exploring.

I think next daddy-daughter date I go on will be taking N on a hike up the mountains.

What date ideas do you think would help kids explore the world around them?

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Idiot Box

T.V. is a strange beast for a parent to deal with.  On the one hand, it makes a decent half-babysitter.  Plopping the kids in front of a show while you get some work done around the house is terribly convenient.  On the other hand, the babysitter you're handing your children over to changes every 20 minutes.
T.V. effectively is accepting a show's writer as your babysitter.  Now, some writers are horrible people who don't share any of your standards.  Other writers are just trying to sell more toys to your kids.
  Mentally, I like to think of the T.V. as letting the local population of Walmart watch your kids while you shop.  A lot of people will be just decent and helpful.  Who knows, if you let this happen in real life, maybe a kind hearted retired school teacher would find your kid and just play with them until you got back (Leap Frog).  Maybe they'd be supervised by a social worker (Sesame Street), or by another parent with kids (Barney).
I started with the positive because any actual parent would be terrified to hand their child unwittingly over to the population of a local supermarket for fear of pedophiles.  In reality, there aren't many T.V. producers that are trying to get your kids to explore their sexuality at an early age--but they are out there and they are cunning and self-interested.
So, what can you do?  Well, you can get rid of T.V. all together, if you have the strength and energy to pull that off.  Dani and I, personally, don't.  So, what we do is we watch the first few episodes with them and tell them what we think.  There was a show our kids found call horseland, which was basically the movie "mean girls" for 3-year-olds that we banned because of all the catty fighting and unpleasantness shown in there.  If there aren't characters that I can clearly label as "good guys" who are worthy of my kids' emulation, I ban that show in my house.  I don't mind if there are bad guys, or scary parts--shoot, I let my kids watch Doctor Who regularly because I think it helps show the merits (and dangers) of curiosity in a healthy light.  I do care about the behaviors shown in the shows my kids watch.

What about when you've built up a good number of shows for your kids to watch and they can't agree on one?  My girls usually can settle on My Little Ponies, but Y always wants Barney or Leap Frog, V always wants Ponies or Ruby Gloom, and N wants Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Ever After High.


I mentioned the marble system in our house in a previous post.  So, we make it so one hour of T.V. costs a marble (the equivalent of one chore around the house).  The second hour of T.V. costs 2 marbles, third costs 3, and so on.  This is a per-kid system, so it effectively ensures that each kid gets to chose one hour's worth of T.V. shows a day, and since they have to do their homework to earn the marble, I'm not worried about it rotting their brains.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


We've had 4 kids for 3 months now.  It's been a big adjustment.  I've had more than a few days where I felt like the mom off Malcolm in the Middle, ready to explode at the next provocation.  If it's this hard with four generally well-behaved kids, I can only imagine what it's like for other families.

It might be another 7 or 8 months before my blood pressure is back down to the 3-kids levels, but I'm finally learning to chill out once in a while and stop panicking all the time.

Ya know, when we were pregnant with N, I was a neurotic mess.  I wondered if I could be a good dad, or if I could take care of a newborn child.  That neurosis doesn't lessen with each additional kid, it just gets pushed off and moved to your subconscious.

Why is 4 such a hard adjustment?  Well, a new baby is always more time-intensive than a toddler.  Toddlers want to explore on their own, and some even fight you for their independence.  Babies take at least one parent out of the game when they're awake.  So, even though the baby is starting to sleep more regularly and takes frequent naps, it means there are effectively 4-8 hours a day where either Dani or I am a single parent of 3 kids under the age of 7.

I have my limits, and taking care of these four kids is beyond them, so I think the reason adjusting has been this hard is because we've had to teach the older kids to help take care of the younger.  That requires even more of our time to teach than to just do it ourselves, so we've invested so much more into parenting in the short-term in hopes of long term benefits.

It is working, slowly.  N will now get bowls and get breakfast ready in the morning for her two younger sisters, and she'll help clean up after them (she's rewarded with extra marbles for doing so).  Dani has taught all the kids to clean their room and helped them immensely with that.

I guess, in retrospect, if I had known that each additional kid was this much harder, I would've forced my kids to learn how to take care of themselves sooner and saved me all this stress.

Monday, May 12, 2014

8 Tips for Disciplining a Toddler

So, I think every parent gets here.  You have a kid who simply won't obey.  Obedience might keep them from doing something socially unacceptable, dangerous, or just something that specifically gets you riled up.  Before you get to your wits end, here are 8 different methods of discipline that have worked with our toddlers.
  1. Hugs  -- as strange as this sounds, half the time when a kid is acting up, they're just looking for more attention.  If they can't get positive, they'll get negative by throwing things, causing fights, tearing up the room.  
  2. Sitting and holding them -- Kids are wild.  They want to run around.  Holding them down might give you some bruises, but it also gives you a chance to lecture until they are willing to do ANYTHING to run free again. 
  3. Lecturing -- Kids don't remember stuff very well, and the way you lecture has to be different with small kids.  They understand most of what you're saying before they're able to crawl, but they can't retain audio information for more than a few seconds.  Keep the lecture down to one or two sentences, repeat it about every 15 to 20 seconds two or three times.  Repeat it again about every five minutes and it's much more likely to stick.
  4. Withholding -- I try to keep this as a last-ditch effort.  My kids each grew attached to something new every year or so of their lives.  When they really act out, taking that one thing can be very effective to get them back in line very quickly.  This only works for an hour or two at most, use it sparingly.
  5. Spanking -- oh my how much we've heard about this as parents!  I'm sure we've all heard posts from one or more media outlet saying that spanking my kid is bad because psychologist X says I'm permanently scaring my kid by hitting them.  Here's the thing, kids don't process pain the same way adults do.  It doesn't register in their brain as "danger your body is being damaged,"  it more closely registers as "information, be alert! and pain"  I don't know why kids brains are wired like that, I just care about how to leverage this as a parent.  When would I want my kids to be more alert?  How about when they're placing themselves in physical danger?  If given the choice between my kid getting hit by a car and getting a spanked, then I'll spank them every time.  If you have to spank them, you have about 2 words worth of lesson to give before they drown you out.
  6. Treats -- An ounce of prevention is worth, well, who cares what it's worth if you get 20 minutes peace and quiet?  Using this as a disciplinary technique is tricky--it's basically like training a dog.  When there's a mix of good and bad behavior, having treats on hand to give the kid can help the good behaviors drown out the bad until it virtually disappears.  Kids have bigger brains than dogs, so they catch on pretty quick.
  7. Choice -- Giving more choices takes more of your time, and is hard.  Blue dress vs red dress, you have to wait for your kid to make up their mind.  If you don't have the strength to give your kids options, then they'll instinctively know something is wrong.  The best part of this technique is that kids, who I find are generally kind and loving, will want to help you be happy again, so even if you aren't consciously disciplining and are just frustrated by something, your kids will probably start jumping in to help fix the frustration.
  8. Incentive -- Money works with me, and it actually can work with toddlers too.  Well, not money precisely, but monetary-related rewards.  Earning something is sometimes a bigger win than being given something.  For N, it was a week's worth of good behavior, and 10 minutes in the toy aisle at Walmart where she decided on a fuzzy green ball by playing with that more than anything else.  Once she realized that the marks on the calendar meant she could chose a toy every so often, desirable behaviors skyrocketed.
*Disclaimer:  toddlers are generally unruly and wild and not considered controllable by any stretch of the imagination.  These are just "tips" or things that have worked for Dani and I in the past.  Good luck.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

She lost a tooth

   N went to church Sunday to show all her friends her loose tooth.

   Monday she went to school with a loose tooth. She returned home with a small plastic tooth that opened up and held her first lost baby tooth.

  Tuesday after school, she went to write a note to the Tooth fairy requesting that she keep to keep her tooth but still get a present.

   After writing said note, she discovered her sister V had taken the small plastic tooth, opened it and lost her tooth.


   Mom vacuums EVERYWHERE.

   Mom shifts through mucky nasty water and other junk that was vacuumed up and discovered the lost tooth! And to add to the "I am MOM hear me ROAR" feeling, the tooth had broken in half and I found both pieces!!! Thank goodness teeth don't float.

   N discovered tooth broke.

   Cry some more.

   Mom says the tooth fairy still takes broken teeth.

   Crying stops.

   10p.m. at night and mom remembers the Tooth Fairy. Mom searches the house for the note. Stuffs it, a note from the Tooth Fairy and the tooth in an envelope and places it next to N's pillow.

   BANG, BANG, BANG! On the parents bedroom door that morning!!!!.

  Great rejoicing over 50 cents.

   N - "Mom, I love the Tooth Fairy. She writes nice notes and gives great gifts!"


Friday, May 9, 2014


Will I ever not feel busy again?  I heard that radio jockeys have every minute planned out in advanced.  Some even break it into 30-second intervals.

That's what my life is like now with 4 kids. . .for example:

7:40 - wake up
7:41 - no, serious, wake up, the kids are screaming
7:42 - calm the kid who is crying
7:43 - get the oldest out of bed
7:44 - shuffle the two younger girls downstairs
7:45 - tell the oldest to get out of bed, but this time louder
7:46 - get bowls for everyone out
7:47 - address complaints about breakfast while serving them whatever I can reach
7:49 - you forgot pants, go put pants on
7:49 - clean up Y's spilled bowl
7:50 - try to get caught up on the dishes
7:53 - get the baby out of the crib, all things from here on out are one-handed
7:55 - tell the kids to eat faster
7:56 - have kids put bowls in the sink
7:57 - tell N to go get dressed
7:58 - teach V and Y to make their beds
7:59 - tell N to get dressed faster
8:00 - Teach V and Y to get themselves dressed
8:04 - finish getting myself dressed
8:05 - get my work clothes and computer packed up and ready to go
8:09 - tell N she can't wear a shirt for both her tops and bottoms
8:10 - See if Dani has finished the lunches
8:11 - N is clothed, needs shoes and backpack
8:12 - address complaint that V and Y are now bored
8:13 - finish packing
8:15 - out the door to go to school/work for the day

And I won't try to scare you with Dani's schedule :S

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I can tell the future

I can tell the future. It's true! I have a 70% accuracy rating.....I think.....

I randomly wake up at 2 am remembering I never took the child proof knob lock off the girls bedroom door. Following this thought is the, I bet the is the one night V will wake up needing to go to the bathroom and she wont be able to get out. She will then cry and wake me up to get out. I SHOULD GO TAKE THE LOCK OFF. Do I? No. "I'm being parinoid" I tell myself and force myself to go back to sleep.

So what happens?

Did I get woken up at 4:30 in the morning? No. Yeah for me! Until I step on a wet spot on the carpet that morning. Turns out since she couldn't get out she peed her pants, put her urine soaked bottoms in the hamper because they were "yucky", put new bottoms on and went back to bed.

Should I punish her? It is my fault she couldn't get out in the first place.....but then why didn't she cry and potentially wake up all her siblings and in turn making me a grouchy monster? No. No I did not punish her, at least not that bad. I did ask for a marble since she didn't tell me about it till after I stepped in it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Proud to be an American

A conversation I over heard a dew weeks back between N and V.

V: *mumbling*
N: "You're not from China! You are from The United States of America."
V: "Oh, yeah."
N: "And we speak English! Here I'll show you. Uno, dos, tres...."

Yeah I was rolling.

Monday, May 5, 2014


When I grew up, all I heard was, "get a degree if you want to (be happy/successful/survive)."  I was bombarded with studies from the college board about how I'd make at least 30% more throughout my life if I got a 4-year degree.

It's not true.  People survive, and are perfectly happy in this life without a college degree. The  non-college educated can quite easily make more than college grads now.

I'm not saying that a degree isn't valuable.  I AM saying that the advertised value of a degree is wrong.  Instead of telling my children "get a degree or you'll die!"  I'm gonna tell them, "get a degree with a purpose."

Many of my friends went to college just because it was the thing to do.  They studied and got good grades because they were told to.  Most of them retained very little of what was taught them.  To my generation, our parents taught us wrong in regards to college, and some conspiring intelligent and well-established people have now laden us with so much debt that we're effectively slaves to the older generations.

I can't do anything to free my generation from this, apart from extol the virtues of getting out of debt, advise them to put off buying what they want (or feel is needed), and to learn wise money-management practices.  If you were born between 1975 and 1995 you'll be lucky to get out of debt before you're 50.

I can do a lot to keep my kids from becoming slaves.  Tell kids to get a degree with a purpose.  Teach them to calculate the value of debt before taking it on.  Get them into college as soon as they can (and if that's before age 18, then so much the better).  Help them test the waters to make sure their plans for the future match up with what reality can provide (by helping them do job searches and looking at posted requirements, and working with them to create a resume).

College isn't the answer to all life's problems, it's a tool for solving some of them. Unless my kids know how to use it, what purpose would it serve?

Friday, May 2, 2014

The "C" word

I was taking a mush needed and desired nap after church this last Sunday. The boy was swaddled and sung-as-a-bug right beside me. I vaguely remember N coming and telling me she wanted to cuddle too and joining our nap for a bit as well.

Not too long, I think, after that I rolled to my right and see N crouched on the floor. Grougly, I think to myself, "Can't she be a bit more quieter? I'm trying to nap!". As if on cue she ups and leaves my bedroom. But then it hits me. "Isn't that where my make-up bag is?" (Bathroom under construction = all bathroom products are on the floor on my side of the bed.)

I jolt out of bed and head to the hall bathroom. And there my three girls are. The oldest with my lip stick, the middle with a uni-brow, and my youngest with mascara rubbed over her face and my blush in hand.

What do I do? Did I reach for the camera and snap a shot to post on Facebook and share with family and friends? Did I double over? Did I give a lesson in cosmetology? No. What I did do was ask, "Why?" and not just asked but pleaded and demanded an answer. I snatched my make-up out of their hands and contiuded to ask "Why?! Why would you do this?!"

Todd heard my pleads and hurried up-stairs.

I annoyingly returned my make-up back to it's bag on the floor by my bed started to wonder the house letting him deal with the situation. I started to panic, my anxiety rearing it's ugly head. SO before I went into full panic mode I went from bathroom to bathroom collecting towels to wash. I started the laundry. I went to my bedroom and started to organize my clothes, hung up the piles in front of my closet and then just sat there.

Todd came in and shut the door and proceeded to tell me the punishment he delt the girls. Observing my controlled breathing he asked me what was wrong.

I spilled.

Why can't I be one of those moms who runs for the camera? Why couldn't I laugh myself silly at the uni-brow and raccoon eyes? Why didn't I take the lip stick and fix Y's lop-sided grin? Why couldn't I be more like all of them? Oh I dared to COMPARE!

I know, I know. We are all different and it's not fair to ourselves or anyone else to compare but it happens. More often then I'd admit. 

Todd listened and he helped me organize my thoughts so we could both understand what I was trying to convey.  It took the entire evening.  Finally, right before bed, Todd said something that just clicked,
  "Dear, no sane person would ever judge themselves against another person.  We're too complicated for that.  No two people have had the same life experience, and no two people are alike, so why bother trying to rate yourself against someone else?"

It was just what I needed to hear to get me in the frame of mind to listen.

To Be Continued....

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Out of the mouths of babes

Our master bath is in the process of being remodeled. The contractor/neighbor remodeling it loves kids, and our kids love visitors, so when he comes they want to talk to him, show him their toys and tell him their news. Here is a bit of an exchanged when he came last to do some work.

V - "Hi!!!"
Contractor - "Well hello there."
V - "Guess what!"
Contractor -  "What?"
V - "I have a potty! It's not mommy's potty it's MY potty!"
Contractor - "Really."
 V - " Yes! I'll show you, come with me."
She takes him upstairs to the hall bathroom and points to the potty seat on top of the regular toilet.
Contractor - "I see."
V - "Yes that is my potty! One day when I have a big butt like mom I'll sit on the big potty!"

Contractor busts up laughing and I just mentally subtract a few points from my self esteem.  Thanks V.


Monday, April 28, 2014

4 Year Old Logic

When the newborn came a few months ago, he was late.  To try to induce labor, we walked around for about 8 hours and did everything we could the Saturday before he came.  I was overdue at that point, and had been having contractions every 2 to 10 minutes for a day, so we figured it was time.

Well, Todd's friend Garrett came over and watched the kids on that Saturday.  My kids love their "Uncle Garrett."

Today, V told me, "Mom, you and dad need to go away so Uncle Garrett can come and play with us."

Such love. . .

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Parents, your job is. . .

I am a man of few pet peeves.  People who drive below the speed limit and fail to move into the turning lane before breaking are numbers two and three on my hit list.

The undisputed king, however, is people who say, "Parents, your job is. . ."

Pardon me, but who do these people think they are?  Are you my employer?  Are you paying for my medical benefits?  What qualified you to take on a managerial position over me in regards to my parenthood?

At best, they're a teacher at a school--at worst they're some political activist DINK (Double-Income, No Kids).  In any case, they are so far out of line and completely off base.  Most parents seem to understand that you're out of place telling another parent what to do with there kids.  Some parents who've had children move out of their house occasionally cross this boundary--and they are equally insufferable.

Here's my views on it:

PARENTING IS NOT A JOB!  It never was a job.  You will never get paid for what you do as a parent.  You will not get health benefits (you'll actually get a number of detriments).  There is no such thing as PTO, or even "time-off."  There's no overtime for reading bedtime stories, and no yearly bonus for helping your kid achieve high academic performance at school.

Honestly, you would have to be a completely ignorant moron to say, "Parents, your JOB is. . ."
A more enlightened approach would be, "Parents, your ROLE is. . ."

but even that is a presumptuous and pompous stance.  My role shifts and changes from day to day to meet my kids' demands (and they are demands, not deadlines nor user-stories, nor requests). 

All and all, if you think you know what to tell a parent to do with their kids, I give you a big fat universal, "Shove it!"

Parents are almost as complicated as kids are.  Just do your best and find a way to be happy with it.  Some days are more challenging than others, and you simply don't have the energy to keep your kids from fighting.

Kids are people--not subjects of study in academia.  If raising kids were simple and easy, we'd be too simple and lethargic a species to raise them. Parenting, in my experience, has been more about acknowledging your faults and rolling with the punches than it is about strict bedtimes and which snacks they can eat.  I don't think there are many bad parents out there at all, I believe most are good parents, and let me tell you why:

Good parents are the parents who get up more than they give up.
Good parents are the parents who are mindful of their kids needs.
Good parents don't know they're good parents--they hope they're good parents.
Good parents chose to be parents.
Good parents take care of themselves as well as their kids.
Good parents acknowledge their faults.
And most importantly,  good parents don't really care what other people think of their parenting--including me.  I'm not qualified to say what makes a good parent and what doesn't--I'm just hoping that something I've said has given the exhausted mom a reason to smile and not criticize herself for trying. I'm just trying to be the cheerleader for the parents of the world.

So, dad, keep going to the job you sometimes hate--because you're a good dad.
Mom, keep making PB&J sandwiches--because you're a good mom.
Mom and Dad, it's okay to take a break, but never give up--because that's what makes you good parents.
To these kids, you're the best parent they could ask for, and don't forget that.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Why gamers are happy people

I'm a dad, and I'm also a gamer.  I'm raising my kids to be gamers because I think gamers have the best subculture of any entertainment-based group in the world.  Here are 22 reasons why gamers are happier people.

  1. When a regular person gets really angry, it's called domestic disturbance.  When a gamer gets really angry, it's called nerd rage and sparks a universal conversation about brotherhood. (umadbro?)
  2. Some people just get gloomy and depressed when there essential utilities go out (water, heat, sewage, ect).  Gamers get upset the same as anyone else when their internet goes out, but they quickly gain a moment to appreciate the HD graphics of real life--and it gives them a chance to eat and catch up on Deep Space Nine episodes, or to sit and ponder on the meaning of life or their League of Legends build.
  3. Despite the fact that most games cost $40-$60 brand new, gamers still have the cheapest form of entertainment on the planet on a per-hour basis.  Many gamers chose to play things on a 6 - 18 month lag.  This yields a form of entertainment that costs $20 and will be enjoyed for 40 to 120 hours over the course of a month or two.
  4. Regular people who are out to hurt others are called felons and require expensive peace-keeping services to disarm and pacify them.  Gamers who are out to hurt others are called trolls, and can easily be disarmed through congeniality and lack of interest.
  5. If there is an unproductive, repetitive, or largely useless topic of conversation among gamers, then they just agree to not bring it up.  If that happens with normal people, they form government programs.
  6. When a gamer manipulates the system, they are called a hacker or a moderator.  Moderators are chosen from those who have proven themselves to be an asset to the game environment.  Hackers are swiftly banned from the game, and those who were victim of the cheater are quickly compensated.  The hacker loses all their virtual wealth, and then starts over.  When a regular person cheats the system, they're called a bond trader, lawyer, or politician.  So long as they don't do anything that is visibly reprehensible, they are given opportunities to further manipulate the system to their benefit, regardless of whether they've improved or harmed the ecosystem.
  7. Asking for help among regular people is called begging, asking for help to a gamer is called "power leveling."
  8. Regular people insist that everyone is equal.  Anyone who goes against this should be argued with and humbled via taxation and incarceration.  Gamers understand that some players are much much better then others, and should be studied and emulated, or countered if possible.
  9. The only class distinctions to a gamer are based on skill level, and there is nothing evil or wrong about that.  The only moral consideration involved with these classes is how well mannered you are about your skill level.
  10. Violence to regular people is a broken home, heartache, pain and suffering.  Violence to a gamer is a baseball bat and a zombie.
  11. Regular people learn by going to classes.  Gamers just try to figure it out, and study up on things as needed.   They are graded and rewarded by results, not with assignments and an emotionally charged lettering system.
  12. Our addictive substances are not controlled by the mafia or cartels, they're controlled by industrial grade servers and graphics cards.
  13. It takes about three mouse clicks to hang-out with your friends.  It takes about six to do something with them.
  14. If a guy acts like a pervert to a girl, then she just blocks chat--and often has options for retaliation (lots of gamer guys are willing to jump to her aide to roflolstomp the perv if asked).  To non-gamers, that requires filing a restraining order and possibly a lawsuit, and there isn't much recourse available.
  15. Showering is not required for social graces, and instead can be enjoyed as a luxury.
  16. World hunger, sickness, and pain are all problems to be solved by typing, "brb bio"
  17. The "daily grind" is entirely optional to a gamer.  Work still sucks.
  18. Pizza is considered health food.
  19. When they find love, they are rewarded with lifetime happiness points.
  20. If you're looking for answers about who you are, where to go, and what to do with your life, consult the strategy guide.
  21. Match-making means jumping in queue.
  22. If you don't like the way something is run, then you just uninstall it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Diapers Stink

Diapers stink.

Even before they've been used.  I hate changing diapers.  I hate paying for diapers.  I hate having boxes of diapers in our food storage.  I hate having cloth diapers as a backup on hand.

After they've been used, I hate them even more.  I hate the smell of ammonia.  I hate how unpleasant the wet paper and chemicals feel as I'm taking them out.  I hate how the solid contents feel.

I hate everything about diapers, just not as much as I hate cleaning poop off the carpet.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How I Lost My Marbles

Marbles have become the currency of our household.  Do something nice, get a marble.  Help around the house, get a marble.  Do your homework, get a marble.

They're bright, they're shiney, and just what young children want.

Except the marbles aren't for them, they're for me.

We didn't have a strict chore-chart or requirements for our kids until about two weeks ago, when all the noise, and fighting, and general chaos common to a household with many young children finally caused me to emotionally snap.

I don't know what exactly snapped in my head, but I think it was along the lines of, "I'm working two jobs trying to provide a good living and future for these kids and they won't even show me the kindness of responding to me when I call their names anymore.  That's it!"

The weather was agreeable enough, so I put coats on them and said, "go outside until I figure out what to do with you."

I went downstairs and Dani and I talked about my concerns.  Feeling like the kids were just taking and taking more and more from me everyday and not really giving anything back (even emotionally) in return.

Now some ancient history.  I am the grandson of a man named Henry.  Henry was a man too stubborn to work for anyone else, so he started (what became) a successful car dealership in the 1950s.  After my dad had finished doing work for him on a particularly hard day, he was given $1.40.  My dad asked, "Is that it?"  to grandpa, who then took him to his bedroom pointed at it and said, "how much are you paying me for that?"
  Dad, still a kid said, "Nothing. . ."
  "Well, there ya go."  and Henry walked off.
I am the emotional and biological descendant of that man.  I understand what he was thinking here.  It's not that he didn't love his son enough to provide for him, it's that he did the work needed for him to survive without any tangible return on it.  The tangible return is an important thing for people like me.
Having the unconditional love of my children is nice.  Having them hug me and say they're happy I'm in their lives is what keeps me going.  Believing they'll do great things with their lives is nice, having them excel on their school work or in a particular skill set is what motivates me to work harder as a parent.
And, by golly, marbles are tangible.

So, now, every time they do something that takes them a step closer to being self-sufficient, we give them a marble or two to put in a jar.  The current exchange rate is about $0.20/marble, and they can easily earn 4-8/day, with an effective maximum per day of 18.

And, until the fighting stops and I get some of the more meaningful tangible benefits back, they owe me two marbles a day for their room and board.  I'm pleased to report that all my kids are paid up through the week.  It's stupid and immature on my part, but it keeps me going--and I hope they'll learn some basic money-management skills in the process.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Four Under Seven

So, Dani and I had a pretty quick start to the whole parenting thing.

Four kids, the oldest is six.

To give some of the non-parents some insight as to what that means:  little kids really can't take care of themselves.  In fact, that's how they come--completely dependent on your time and energy.  Everything they want out of life is provided by you.

If this were a hostage situation, then the silver lining to the situation is that their demands are simple--fresh milk every two hours, a new diaper about every 3-5 hours, and to be held or otherwise played with for at least 70% of their waking life.  Since they sleep 16-20 hours a day, this really amounts to being half as productive as you'd otherwise be for 4 hours out of the day, dealing with some unpleasant smells, and mother having a highly irregular sleep routine.

And then they get older, and suddenly the hostage situation becomes a lot more real.

Fast forward two years, and suddenly they can walk, they can say words, they can climb, and their demands are no longer so simple or straightforward.  They've, thankfully, realized that the bargaining position of, "mom never sleeps" is untenable.  However, they now have some bargaining powers beyond screaming.
Negotiations take more effort, but less time, for example:
   Me: Y, you've got to limit your dairy, or you'll get clogged up and put in a lot of pain.
   Y: Cheese?
   Me:  It's gonna hurt you
   Y:  Want cheese!
   Me:  We've had this conversation before, and if I cave in, then you'll be crying in pain tomorrow
   Y then puts the cheese down, and will either fall back to her old methods of crying, or use her new bargaining chip of starting a fight with her sister.

Then onto the four year old.  They've learned exactly which buttons of yours to push, and which not to by how you respond to them.  This either means your kid starts to become a clear blessing to your house, or a curse--depends on what they learned from observation.   For us, it's a bit of both.  She's learned that we sometimes respond to extreme emotional outbursts--uncontrollable crying, whimpering in a corner, but still relies heavily on her old fallback of fighting with her sister.
  V:  Can I watch ponies?
  Me:  You've watched 3 hours of T.V. today, time to find something else
  V then promptly finds a toy, and starts playing with it right in front of her sister, often taunting her with it until her 2-year-old will-power is all but spent and she grabs for it.
  Me:  Why are you fighting?
  V:  Y took my toy!
  Me (thinking):  Who does she think she's fooling here?  I'm not gonna reward them for bad behavior, but I have been working 10 hour days for the past month and I just want this fighting to end.
  Me (aloud) : Alright, I'm taking all the toys and everyone can just sit and stare at the wall
-- 10 minutes later, a fight breaks out over who gets to stare at what dot on the wall --
My hope of spending 20 minutes decompressing from the day is shot.  It was held hostage, but I didn't meet the demand of unending entertainment, and now one of the hostages is dead.
  Me:  Go play in different rooms
  -- They casually obey, but pretend like they didn't hear anything after 5 minutes and we're back to where we were before the first fight broke out, until I forget that V has watched 3 hours of T.V., give up, and put an educational show on --

Needless to say, I am not particularly proficient at hostage negotiations with the four year old yet.

Then there's the six year old.  She's sweet, but devious.  She can be bribed, because she's learned the value of helping around the house and doing her homework.  With proper maneuvering, I can use this one against the other 3 and hopefully sneak away from parenting long enough to go to the bathroom if I play my cards right.
And then I hear all three of the mobile children screaming.
  N:  Y hit me!
  Me:  Why did she hit you?
  N:  I don't know. . .
  Me:  What do you want me to do about it?
  N:  Tell her to stop
  Me:  Do you think that will work?
  N:  Yeah. . .
  Me:  Do you know how many times I've asked her not to hit?
  N:  Hmmm. . .twice?
  Me:  I've been telling her not to hit one to two times a day for the past 18 months, so that's anywhere from 400 to 800 times already.  Do you think once more is gonna change her mind?
  N:  No. . .
  Me:  Look, I have never hit or pushed her.  If she learned how to do that, she learned how to do it from you or from V.  The best way to get her to stop pushing and fighting is to teach her by example and never hit or fight, but find other ways to solve the problem.
  N:  Okay
   -- 10 minutes later all three are screaming again.  I rush upstairs to find N tackling Y to the ground.  My chances of playing SimCity tonight have become the most recent casualty --
  N looks at me stupefied
  Me:  She obviously doesn't like that, she's trying to push you off.  You're teaching her to fight again!
  and at this point, the six-year-old falls back on her old standby of extreme emotional outbursts and starts crying uncontrollably in the corner.

Clearly I need work on my six-year-old negotiating skills, but I failed to meet the newborn's demands of a fresh diaper every 3-5 hours and he has, as a result, decided to hold all the air in the house hostage until his demands are met.

Oh well, maybe I'll get the smell aired out before tomorrow morning. . .

Welcome to parenthood!

Change of Pace

I want to make this blog about being a parent.  Dani and I think this would be a good topic to get us back into blogging.  Shoot, that's what most people read blogs for--cute pictures and stories of kids.

With ours, we'll mix in stuff we've tried with our kids that has worked, and stuff that didn't work, and do our best to help keep the content of our blog useful.

Look forward to blogging with you.

Why I'm (still) a Mormon

I don't expect much more to ever be posted on this blog, and I'm largely just posting this to share it with some particular friends....