Two words, out of the blue.

danceBehavior is lawful, I learned this phrase when I became an instructor for Positive Behavior Support.  It has been a long time since I have taught the class, however this phrase always stays with me.  In short it means no behavior is ‘out of the blue,’ as we sometimes describe actions of others.  Any action an individual takes is a response to something whether we are aware of it or not, the trigger could be anything in the environment noticed by our senses, a reaction to another person’s behavior or behavior can stem from a thought.

There have been many occurrences, since by daughter began speaking regularly, where I would have been caught off guard by her simple communication.  Sometimes it’s while I am driving the car with her behind me in the car seat sitting peacefully observing the scenes passing outside her window when I hear the two words in her sweet high-pitched voice, “Thank you,” she says.  She is very polite expressing thanks to family, friends and strangers on a regular basis; it’s the times when there is no apparent prompt for the comment I am boggled by.  The comment appears to come out of the blue, except I know behavior is lawful and it must have a purpose.  thankyou

I’m so curious at the thoughts in her two-year-old mind which evoked this comment.  She didn’t get anything, no compliment received or favor helped.  Is she thanking me for the ride, praising me for being a safe driver?  Is she as appreciative to get out of the house as I am?  Was she just trying to start a conversation to break the silence and these are the words others respond to?  And then my mind takes me to wondering if it’s simply a thank you for being, kids are present in a way we lose as life gets more complicated.  They are not congested with the volume of thoughts, opinions, data and stresses we have in our adult minds.

Without having the words to provide an explanation, I am left to imagine.  Her enduring two-word expression, when the environment is otherwise silent, has developed meaning for me even when I don’t know what it means from her.  It’s a reminder to focus on the present, no moment is ordinary, I need to appreciate it all.

Bye Bye Bye Baby

Some weeks I look back and wonder, how did that happen? I had one of those weeks recently where in a mindless one activity to the next, I looked back and distraughtly noticed three major milestones conquered in days for my two-year old.

First, the adventures in potty training, I have written about them before just waiting for the momentum to really pick up and for her to grasp onto the concept. Finally it was me who committed hard-core, she wore big girl panties and a t-shirt at home most of the week. Strongly motivated by candies after successful tolieting and a rigorously timed routine of going to try about every 30 minutes she had very few wet accidents. She even stayed dry during an overnight in Nana’s bed, which after hearing about it made me panic since I had not warned Nana we were not there yet at home and she still wears diapers at night.

In the same week I assembled and painted her new big girl bed. With no plan or intention of making the transition, I just happened to have the time to work on the project. However, some days I end up being like the Mouse and the Cookie, with one step leading right into another. Before I really realized what I was doing her crib was disassembled in the basement and she was jumping up and down on her new big girl bed.

babaThe last major milestone was a completely happy accident. I don’t feel strongly about an age where pacifiers are unnecessary for other people’s children. For my child, I felt she was old enough and still she was hanging on to them. Despite chewing off the tips of the nipples and looking completely unappetizing, she would still cry for her “baba” to go to sleep or to ride in the car. She had been warned these would be the last baba’s she would have and when they were gone, they were gone for good. I frequently asked her if her baba was broken and if she wanted to throw it away, she did throw some away and as she realized she was down to her last one she lingered over the trash can a few times before deciding it wasn’t broken enough.

One evening before bed we searched the house together upstairs and downstairs, in the kitchen, in the bedrooms, in the bathrooms and through every nook and cranny to find her last baba, it went missing. I honestly did search hard, I was nervous about her big changes and adapting to life without her baba AND being in a new bed. At the same time I was silently cheering, the unnecessarily dependent relationship with this wrecked piece of plastic was finally going to be over.

After a good long search we had a talk about the baba being gone. My two-year old melted onto the floor for a few brief seconds and then went back to being excited about her new big girl bed. She asked for a baba a few times since and calmly settled herself when we talked about how it was gone.

A few days after the baba disappeared, it reappeared under the couch where I hadn’t been able to spot it before. I hurried to it before she noticed to keep it gone for good this time.

Thundersnow

02This is what I get for doubting the forecasts.

There is so much anticipation of big storms in Kansas City. Local meteorologists generate the energy of elementary students in their excitement for the possibility of snow. The warning of, “it’s coming, it’s going to be a lot, every county in Kansas has issued a state of emergency” all before a flake had even hit the ground seemed humorous to me. On more than one occasion there has been various other doomsday-like-conditions forecasted resulting in no precipitation at all. Needless to say, late last night after all the hype and not a flurry in sight I imagined this might just be another big weather disappointment.

01Peering out the window this morning I was alarmed to see how wrong I had been to doubt. Soft fluffy white covered the ground across the yard making it indistinguishable from the street and the yard across the street. Snow continued to come down hard with extra falling from the trees and rooftops when the wind blew. And to make this mini blizzard extra unique, the snow was accompanied by a little thunder and lightning.
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Unsure of the snowfall totals from this morning, it has stopped currently and it is forecasted to begin again around 6PM – we shall see…..

Miss Independence

trainingpantsandcheeseThe other morning PJ woke up with wild bed head, we put on her training pants and a sweatshirt. She also strapped on her white glossy church shoes which will accessorize any outfit in her two-year-old mind, all to come to the kitchen for breakfast. When I asked her what she wanted to eat she replied “cheese,” despite it not being a meal this is an improvement from her usual response of “juice.” Before I could even get back to her about what breakfast meal to eat she opened the fridge and helped herself to the remains of the parmesan cheese container.

On another note, potty training has been a big success this week with a little sugary reinforcement. Maybe too good since she is now trying to go potty without my help so she can flush and say she went to get a treat then turn around to try to potty again two minutes later for another treat. Nice try smarty pants, not gonna pull one over on me yet

Life is always entertaining with this silly sweetheart, I love being her mommy.

Happy Sleep

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Just a photograph to share from this past weekend. Parker had a busy morning playing with cousins and caught some quick zzz’s before an afternoon birthday party. I have a friend who loves to check in on her little ones while they sleep peacefully and says it’s the best moments to catch them looking angelic. I, on the other hand, don’t reenter the toddler bedroom until I hear her calling for me or on the occasions I have to wake her up to be somewhere.

Hope you get some happy sleep tonight.

Just Like Winning The Lottery

I’m a little out of the loop on child development research and all of the very specific (I’m sure very useful yet soon to be out of date) information on toddler potty training. It seems there is a treasure trove of data regarding when to start, how to schedule and what reinforcement should look like in regards to toileting. On the one hand, had I taken advantage of what knowledge is out there I could have an underwear wearing two-year-old. On the other hand I could have spent hours carefully plotting my methods and then banging my head against the wall when my independently minded two-year-old sabotages my agenda (speaking from experience.) Needless to say, we bought a seat for her and have crossed our fingers for the last six months she would gain interest and decide when she is ready.

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In the last week she has requested “pooh-poddy” (she has a habit of creating her own nicknames for things) and successfully completed #1’s and #2’s in the toilet. YES – Progress! There were plenty more diaper changes than uses of the pooh-poddy, progress nonetheless.

And when she makes the request to remove her diaper and give it a try, I sit on her bathroom stool patiently observing her face grimacing and squeezing pause. When she sees my expression in response to the sound I hear in the toilet she looks as startled and happy as me. Parker receives high fives and praises. We have invited in daddy and any house guests who happen to be there to also give congratulatory high fives. We have called Nana’s and Papa’s on the phone to share the news and hear their encouraging “yay, big girl!” Her pride in a job well done is so enthusiastic.

And after she has properly wiped, flushed and washed; Parker gets a rewarding treat, of the Peez variety. She holds her treat between two fingers with an exploding grin. She dances and displays her prize holding it out long in front of her “Look mommy, look daddy… Look.” Finally, sometimes after some redirection, she finally puts it in her mouth and quickly chews it until it’s gone. She has so much energy and excitement about her new found accomplishment, just like she has won the lottery.

Harper, The Junk Yard Dog

harper2My dog Harper is a 90 pound gentle giant still waiting to escape his puppy energy. He has a fascination with little dogs, continuously steals laundry and is my big black shadow. You might think his relentless need to be at my side is a sign of his loyal and guarding nature, sadly I think it has more to do with his sheepish comfort and need to feel protected. My husband says “Harper is a free spirit.”

harper3Really though, Harper is my junk yard dog. I can’t even imagine the disgust of having a dirty gym sock in my mouth and that’s not even the worst of his dirty habits. He has thieved an entire stick of butter off the counter, ate a whole chicken carcass and has removed diapers from the dirty pale. Our kitchen trash can posted on a stool for years before we finally invested in a can with a lid to prevent Harper from pulling things out of it. And if a bag accidentally gets left within his reach on the deck, the contents are likely to turn up in the yard. Yes, we have been those neighbors around here for quite some time. The neighbors everyone else wishes lived on another block because of the random milk carton, sour cream container and various plastic bottles continuously showing up.

Last night I was alarmed to notice Harper was not his jovial self. On his last bathroom break to the yard I saw him lay down outside as opposed to his usual sniffing around, chasing Macy or pacing at the door. When he came in he hacked a little and then flopped his body down with a thud as if to demonstrate he is done moving for the night.

I racked my brain trying to imagine what he could have consumed to make him feel this way, it wasn’t normal for his cast iron stomach to respond and feel sick. His food hadn’t changed and he had no access to socks to swallow or trash to devour. I figured he may have had some table scraps from my daughter, though this too is very normal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even the occasional Play-doh spillage.

Then it dawned on me… Earlier this week I picked up new dog treats and opened the box for the first time yesterday. In an effort to try to cook more and eat healthier for the whole family, I bought some extra special treats for the dogs too. The treats are all natural, no preservatives, they look and smell like ginger bread cookies (shaped like hydrants, bones and squirrels.) Not stinky, not dirty, not plastic, I guess my junk yard dog is not accustomed to eating the good stuff.
harper

Marriage and Club Misery

e&mMy grandma, Eleanor, passed a little over a month ago. I wrote about her the day it happened, blessed with the image of her passing surrounded by family and love. Grammy has been on my mind daily since. Our family gathered at her home the night before her memorial service and I spent a great deal of time going through and collecting photographs. Call me a hoarder or even obsessive, I don’t mind, I love pictures. I waste hours upon hours looking through photographs, taking pictures and editing pictures. For as much as I stress to others the importance of being in the present, I spend too much time stuck in frozen images from the past.

I never met my grandfather, my sister and I even commented last month about how awkward we sometimes felt not knowing how to refer to him. I don’t really know how he was addressed by his grandchildren, so I sometimes would say “my dad’s dad,” or “your husband” if I was asking Grammy about him. She did talk about him a lot too, often telling us how he would have loved us and how much he adored children. He died of a heart attack while my dad was in college. Grammy was never interested in dating or remarrying, she already had the love of her life, she would tell us.
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And even though I never saw them in real life together I know it was true. Grammy teared up talking about him sometimes, as if the decades since he had been gone hadn’t eased the grief she felt. I knew she still missed him desperately. During the memorial service family members talked about the love they shared, how they were always affectionate and caring towards one another. I still can’t wrap my mind around how she loved to iron his clothes just because it was for him, I do try to mimic the same enthusiasm for mundane tasks – trying to appreciate the ordinary.

Even without the stories, I know my grandparents were in love through the photographs I found in Grammy’s albums. Many of the pictures have one or both of them looking at each other instead of the camera, in many pictures his arms are around her squeezing tightly. Happiness and mutual respect exude from the black and white images. Their smiles are pure joy.

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My grandparents appeared to have the marriage everyone dreams of, they managed to stay dedicated to each other and their relationship. Was it just easier back then?

On Oprah’s interview with Jamie Foxx they got to talking about marriage. Without directly quoting, she said something about having a difficult time naming 5 couples she knows who have a “happy marriage.” Of course this statement made me ponder the same idea, how many couples do I know who appear to be happily married? Why is it so hard to stay happy in a relationship?

It’s as if married couples buy into Club Misery after saying “I do” and forget it takes work to create mutual satisfaction in a relationship. Friends can get carried away griping about their spouses, unintentionally creating a breeding ground for negativity in a relationship. On top of the social acceptance for the misery of marriage we are also tainted my social media distractions. There is less necessity to correspond with the love of your life when you can connect with whoever pops up on the Twitter or Facebook feed about the appealing subject of the hour. By the end of the day when significant others finally reach each other they have exhausted the day’s news with virtual friends.

I’m frightened for the next generation of individuals hopeful of finding love and happy marriage with a significant pattern being established of meeting and dating online. Manti Te’o, for example, maybe the only national story of this kind though he is certainly not the first to fall in love with a fake profile. The MTV show Catfish highlights even more of these cases, I can’t stop watching because I am shocked at how much people will trust in the hope for love.

e&m4So part of me wonders if my grandparents had it easier with their relationship in the era they fell in love? Or did their passion for family and love stems from some early struggles long before the internet. They did get married following The Great Depression, a time when Grammy’s family lost their business and had to close their stores. My grandfather was also drafted to World War II after Grammy gave birth to their first child. I wonder if these major life events helped to shape their relationship and reinforce what really matters the most.

Without being devastated by financial loss, being separated by war, natural disasters, illness or any other tragic events, what would it take for couples to focus on what really matters? Couples need to strive to love more, to be more devoted and to demonstrate more respect for marriage, it doesn’t have to be miserable unless you allow it.