Slaying the Snooze-button Sloth

I had some trouble deciding what to do for Lent this year.  We gave up meat in 2002, but since then we’ve eaten so much less meat that giving it up completely wouldn’t make a noticeable daily difference.  I toyed with several ideas and started into Lent by reading selections from the Gospel aloud to Nicholas every night, but although he likes to hear me tell the story of Jesus he did not appreciate the written version–like, he would not stop screaming–so that didn’t work out.  We were nine days into Lent when I suddenly knew what I should renounce. Read more…

Overheard in an office

…and reported to my friends and family in this e-mail on September 9, 1997, long before there was an Overheard in the Office Website, back when I was working at the invention company:

Last week, my least-favorite co-worker departed for another job.  There was much rejoicing.  Stephanie had irritated everyone by criticizing them while insisting that she was perfect, telling everyone that she was smart because her mother was a teacher yet displaying great ignorance, making a lot of noise, and being only marginally competent at her job.  After she left, we found the client files that had gone missing (she was one of the most frequent speculators about this mystery) crammed into all the cabinets of her cubicle, and we realized that one reason she hadn’t been doing her data entry was that her computer’s keyboard was ruined by all the food crumbs she had dropped into it!

Some time ago, I had decided to control my annoyance with Stephanie by regarding her most ignorant and strange comments as merely amusing.  Here are some that I wrote down:

“Make sure they’re in numberal order–you know, by A, B, C….”

“Don’t you be criticizing my diet.  These pork rinds are only thirteen percent cholesterol.” Read more…

Nightmare Management

My own child so far has not had much trouble with scary dreams or bedtime anxiety, but here are two ideas–one from my own childhood experience, one from my brother’s–that I’ve never seen in professional advice on getting nightmare-prone children to sleep:

I had a tendency to imagine things lurking in the dark.  Sometimes I got so frightened I couldn’t sleep, and sometimes when I did sleep I dreamed about those things “getting” me.  My parents quite logically provided a night-light to make my room less dark.  Read more…

Toddler Discipline in Three Easy Steps!

Here’s something I wrote when my son was 13 months old.  Rereading it, I was surprised to realize that the basic structure of my response to misbehavior hasn’t changed at all now that he’s three years old; these basic steps have become second nature, while the details have gotten more complicated and wordy!

I feel there are three basic steps to handling objectionable toddler behavior, two of which are optional depending on the situation:

1. The firm objection. Optional; use if behavior needs to stop immediately.
Example: “OWWW!! Let go of my hair!!”

2. The redirection to a positive behavior.
Example: “Touch gently.”

3. The consequence. Optional; use if behavior is persistent or if consequence is unavoidable.
Example: “When you pull my hair, I don’t feel like holding you.”
Another example: “Because you broke the jar, you’ll have to stay in here alone while I go sweep up.”

The other big thing I’m working on is checking my urge to say no. Often things I think are going to be problematic are not if I give Nicholas a chance to show me what he’s actually going to do, which may be different from what I think he’s going to do. For example, I kept stopping him from grabbing the phone cord near where it attaches to the wall because I was afraid he’d yank it and damage the flimsy plastic thing that holds it in. When I finally let him handle it without interference, I found that what he wanted to do was to hold the slightly slack cord about 6 inches from the outlet and shake it up and down in a joyful manner.  That doesn’t hurt anything. The yanking I’d seen him do before was all caused by my attempts to make him let go!

Ohh, look at the rushing river!

That’s what Nicholas said on Saturday as we were walking up the main street of our neighborhood.  After a moment’s puzzlement, I realized he was talking about the gutter full of melted snow!  Speeding downhill, running between a bank of tire-scrunched snow clods on one side and the curb on the other, criss-crossing itself in lovely diamond patterns, it was indeed a rushing river.

I remembered, for the first time in years, the drainage ditches that ran alongside all the streets in my neighborhood when I was a little kid.  (Then the streets were repaved in a more modern style, with curbs and drains, and the ditches were filled in.)  They didn’t rush much, due to the slight slopes, but after a thunderstorm they did resemble rivers and often inspired me to imagine what it would be like if the streets were rivers, each block was an island, and my bicycle was a pedal-boat.

One ditch didn’t drain completely except during the long dry spell of summer.  Most of the year, it was a pond, with several distinct gradations of decreasing grassiness and increasing sliminess down its sides.  Tadpoles lived there.  It was just a puddle between street and lawn; it was their whole world.  Crouching at the edge of this pond on a hot day, I could feel coolness rise from it when the breeze blew toward me.  I once watched my brother fall from his Big Wheel into the pond and felt surprised when he didn’t disappear below the surface; it seemed much deeper than its few inches.

Another ditch, near my dancing school, was eroded around tree roots, creating cliffs and caves that would have been delightful to explore if you were three inches tall.  One springtime, it was lush with moss and tiny wildflowers.  I would take an hour to walk four blocks home from dance class because I couldn’t resist exploring each part of this river with my eyes, sending my tiny self on a long and beautiful journey with many places to stop and admire the view.  One day I went over there with a friend and some small dolls, but although they had a lovely picnic, it somehow wasn’t as much fun to use “real” little people.

The area’s major stormwater drains remained after the street renovation.  Most of these were utilitarian concrete culverts that, when dry, provided an uninteresting sunken-knee-deep sidewalk through the middle of a block, and, during a thunderstorm, offered a wading experience that was likely to yank you off your feet, scrape off all your skin, and maybe give you a concussion.  There was one place, though, where the water ran out of a pipe under the street and into a place that looked just like a creek: It was all dirt, plants, and mostly-natural rocks.  I spent many hours playing there when the water was medium-low, moving rocks and studying the way that changed the water flow.  It was a haven away from the orderly shoebox-like houses on their plots of crew-cut lawn, the station wagons and chugging air-conditioners and rarely-visible people.  Just by stepping off the street and swinging my legs down over a concrete wall, I could drop into a pocket of wilderness.

I often hear parents exclaim over how having children has drawn their attention to things they never noticed before, how they marched through their daily lives blind to the beautiful and fascinating details of the world.  I’ve never lost that childhood ability to notice little things and imagine around them.  A hike, whether in the wilderness or along city streets, is a series of discoveries for me.

But having a new person in my life, a person who sees from a different height and interprets from a different perspective, brings to my attention many things that I was overlooking and renews my appreciation for things I was taking for granted.  One day last spring, Nicholas spent a few minutes looking down through a grate at water pouring from several pipes into a larger drain, and then he looked around at the surrounding buildings and exclaimed, “Mama, the people in those buildings are using their sinks!”  I don’t know that that really was the source of that particular water, but it reminded me that the city’s many sinks do drain into an elaborate and carefully designed network of pipes that is normally out of sight and out of mind.  We have running water right there in our homes and buildings, summoned at whim, and we rarely think about what a miracle it is and how many people’s care and concern went into making it happen.

Uggh, the snow is melting, and the whole world is slopped with dirty gray slush.  But look at the rushing river!  Nicholas saw it and brought me back through whole worlds I thought I had forgotten.