Whachoo talkin about Danos?

When Yordi was told by a friend the other day to "Go wash your hands in the sink" she replied, "That is not a SINK, that is a BOWL." This friend then looked up at me and jokingly said, "Wow, I'm impressed that she's using complete sentences already, but I think I liked her better when she didn't speak English."

That's when I realized that we were moving away from the "Please excuse my child's actions, things were different in Ethiopia," stage and into the, "My kid just said what?" stage of parenting. Our social 7 year old is becoming a chatty, and quite often sassy 7 year old. I'm doing less interpreting and speaking on the behalf of my children every day. Which means they are saying more of what's on their mind... many times to complete strangers and usually with the social graces of a 7 year old. Habtamu is more likely to go into shy-boy mode and less inclined to blurt, but Yordi is becoming quite comfortable telling people exactly what's on her mind.

Here's a couple recent episodes from Daddy's Head-slap theater:

While enjoying dinner at church the other night, Yordanos stated to the whole table, "Habtamu sleep good, his bedroom is over Mommy and Daddy's. I am scared at night, my bedroom is next to house with loud radio." I know, I know, on the scale of inappropriateness, this is like a 1 out of 10, but it was completely out of left field, and caught me by surprise. It also got us talking about what our unemployed neighbor would possibly be doing while playing loud music late into the night, which really wasn't something neither Chris nor I wanted to speculate on with the church crowd.

Then 24 hours later I'm with the kids in Wal-Mart trying to talk Yordanos into trying on a really cute summer dress, but tragically it's white and purple, not pink, and therefore completely unworthy of her attention. The girl behind the counter in front of the changing rooms heard us going back and forth and commented that she thought the dress would look really good on her. Smart Daddy would have played the 'You can use the changing room if you try on the dress' card but Irritated Shopper Daddy wasn't thinking about how to spin the angles. Anyway, I digress. The girl behind the counter noticed their accents and asked Yordi where she was from. "Ethiopia" she stated, "It's very far. Looooooong airplane," and gave her the NeverEnding Flight interpretive dance. The girl agreed and laughed, then asked how long she and her brother were staying. The question struck a nerve with me only because an African friend back in college once told me that inquiries about how long he was staying were deeply inconsiderate. He felt that they imply an expectation to leave and that you might as well have asked, "When are you finally going to get out of my country?" Yordi's response was sufficiently horrifying.

"My mommy died. My daddy is sick too. So looooong airplane," she stated in an eerily nonchalant, sing-songy voice while continuing her little bored-on-the-airplane dance. "They're adopted!" I choked out trying desperately not to add, "Not abducted!" which surely would have made me sound as defensive and embarrassed as I really was. That was followed by the almost obligatory, "Aww" and "God bless you" which I have yet to find a truly graceful way of accepting. I did my best to not literally run out of there, but we did leave as soon as there was an opportunity.

On a lighter note, I got a little more out of her at bedtime the other night. More than just the usual "I don't know" and "I'm scared."
She said, "I wish I had sister. Same bed then not scaried." Finally something to work with!
"Big sister or little sister?" I asked.
"Little sister," she said.
"Then that would make you the big sister and you'd have to be brave," I giggled.
"Brave what?" she replied.
"Brave." I said, "Not scared." She thought about that for a minute and so I moved on.
"Sleep together like Ethiopia?" I asked.
"Yes. Why America no?" she shot back.
"Well, America is different. We want you to know you're special so we give you your own room and your own bed," I fumbled.
"Rich yes?"
"Well, rich enough that you can have your own bed," I smiled.
"Bed how much?" she asked.
"Yours? Oh, your bed was a gift from the people who thought you were nice before you spoke English. Good night!" I turned off the light and left before I had to explain why I was the funniest guy in the room.


Tying One On... or... Belt Me

No, seriously, try to hit me... but in the karate practice way, where you throw one right-handed punch, and I deftly side-step it, (pretend) break your elbow, worm my arm under your armpit and onto your neck, where I push down, as my knee comes up to meet your nose, and my free hand karate chops the back of your neck. I'm pretty fast at it now, but it would take some compliance on your part. :)

Anyhoo, Habtamu and I are AWESOME, and are now, incidentally, green belts. We broke another board using a front kick this time (side kick last time) and it took me three tries to break that thing. I was afraid of breaking my toes... yes, yes, you hit with the ball of your foot, but the toes, the toes, the TOES are attached to the rest of the foot, and I would hate to see my new desire to exercise fade away with a broken toe.


The rest of the Valentines weekend that never EVER ended

So I'm thinking to myself, "I just survived a hockey game, swimming, and a grand total of 36 hours with the kids by myself (with the help of friends and family of course) and I'm feeling pretty good." And it was only getting better because I still had all Sunday afternoon AND Monday was a holiday. That's a lot of time to lay around and bask in my awesomeness. Chris played right along and when the kids ask what we were going to do after Sunday lunch she said, "Well, I know Daddy wants to lie down for a bit, then after that we'll go swimming." I'm telling you, if I didn't already love that woman, I'd love that woman.

So like a lion with a belly full of wildebeest, I settled in for the well-deserved Victors Nap of Triumph while the kids watched some Narnia DVD or whatever. I don't remember, it wasn't my shift and the lioness was back in charge. Sometime around mid-afternoon Chris shakes my foot and says that now that I've slept through the complete Voyage of the Dawn Treader, everybody's getting ready to go to the pool. Fine. I get up and stumble to the bathroom with one eye open. I pee, then look in the mirror and realize that there's still only one eye looking back. Leaning in close to the mirror, my brain knocked on it's back side while my finger poked at it from the front. A bright pink eye blinked back at me twice, punched me square in the face, and then closed again. I kid you not, I actually unscrewed the lightbulb and then put it back in with absolute disbelief that my eye could possibly be that disgruntled and discolored. Then I called Chris in to take a look and got the appropriate 'OMG' response, which alerted two more fuzzy black heads to come in for inspection. She ascertained that it was not 'the real' pink eye because other than my eye being obviously irritated there weren't any other symptoms. So she did what any good mother would do by making me a cocktail of some of leftover antibiotics and H's old eye drops and sending me back to bed.

I slept through swimming and then pretty much whatever else happened on Sunday.

That evening though, miracle of miracles, my eye actually started to clear up. The cats were a little miffed that their bedwarmer was actually moving around, but everyone else was happy for me. So you would think that after that I would have gotten a good night's sleep, but whatever was agitating my eye seemed to retreat straight into my nose cavity and hunkered down. Now, I'm normally a nasal drip, 85 tissue kind of guy but this stuff wasn't budging. I couldn't blow it out or seduce it with decongestants, all I could do was wake up every 20 minutes gasping because I'd subconsciously closed my mouth while sleeping.

So Monday was terrible. And contrary to popular belief, I do not ill gracefully. I know, it's hard to believe. I lose my mind and my body. I thought that spazzing out with a bottle of nasal spray and squirting myself right in the eye was the stupidest thing I could possibly do, but I was wrong. Mere hours later it occured to me that sometimes mouthwash can loosen up the nose and throat. So I go to the bathroom, take a capfull of Cool Minty Death, start to gargle and then remember that I can't breathe at all through my nose. Absolute Jenius. Funny how spitting seems so natural until your life depends on it. All I could think of was the headline, "Man found drowned in own bathroom, Police have taken in bottle of Listerine for questioning."

After a day of this, I had finally found a working combination of nasal spray, somethin-a-pheds, and horse tranquilizers that allowed me to breathe for about 90 minutes before I'd start feeling everything seal up again. However by now, Chris was exhausted and bedtime couldn't come soon enough. Monday was shot and I wasn't looking forward to going to work on Tuesday, but I could now at least foresee it actually happening. We got the kids to bed and collapsed.

10 minutes later we hear, "uuuuh... uh.uh.wuuhh... uuuuuuh" faintly floating down from upstairs and then the harsh reality from my son who can't sleep either so he starts yelling out the obvious, "MOM! YorDANos Scaried! Mom! MOM!!!"

We all know this dance and we (Chris and I) hate the song. The rules are as follows:

-No eye contact
-Break the "scared" cycle as quickly as possible, usually this is best accomplished by distraction. Try getting her out of bed, having her go to the bathroom, and then escorting her back to bed.
-Under no circumstances shall you engage the small child, especially not verbally.
-If you are feeling compassionate you can hastily rub her forehead.
-Walk away and don't look back

Breaking any of these rules will provide the desired attention and she will continue to descend and only say "still scared" until she's completely inconsolable. And I'll say this again... Chris and I still agree that this is not actual fear. This is over-tiredness, or 'I'll pretend I'm scared so Daddy will come talk to me-Oh crap I'm actually scared now' or it's one last power play for the day. We've played hardball, softball, good cop/bad cop, red light green light... you name it. It starts as a game then ends when she gets bored with it or falls asleep. So the running strategy is to make the game not worth playing as fast as possible, which is why getting her out of bed and then back in is particularly effective.

So Chris goes up there, pulls her covers off, and points to the bathroom. Yordi refuses to go. Because the only thing worse than this particular dance is a stubborn 7 year old calling audibles at 10 o'clock at night. I don't know what happened then, I just know Chris came back down and Y was still escalating her whimper into a high pitched whine while Habtamu continued the play-by-play commentary.

I don't remember all the details or the timeline of events, but I know how it ended. It ended like one of Habtamu's old tantrums except this was at 1:30 in the morning. It ended with me sitting on my daughter waiting for the words "I'm finished," knowing the cries of denial that have to come before acceptance. It ended with her exhausted, sweaty, stubborn body screaming first for mommy, then "Can't breathe!" (which honey, if you can yell that over 30 times, you're breathing just fine) then finally comes "JESUS! Please Jesus!" and I know we're in the home stretch. It ended with an angry "I'm finished!" She whimpered defiantly twice and then promptly fell asleep.

It ended with Yordanos willingly taking a 2 hour nap the next day and then coming downstairs all smiles and kisses.

It ended with me calling in sick on Tuesday (thanks to the exhaustion and my sinuses were still rendering me totally useless) and thereby officially becoming the longest weekend ever.


Crazy Cute

Because these girls are so super cute... here's some eye candy for you... and if this doesn't make you smile, then, well, maybe at least you'll shake your head and wonder why the heck my daughter keeps sticking stickers to her face...

This is Noe with Yordanos at the end of their last dance class. They're both going to Tumbling for the next 7 weeks.

My Son Thinks I'm Funny... Sometimes

H: Mom?
Me: Yeah?
H: Can I have an apple?
Me: Yes, of course.
H: Mom?
Me: Yeah?
H: Can I have 20 apples?
Me: Over the course of 20 days, yes.
H: (pauses, then smiles as he gets it) Good one, Mom!

We go off laughing into the sunset...


The Valentines weekend that never EVER ended.

I can't believe a week has gone by already and nary a peep from the Gardners. Well, let me just say that it's not you, it's us and that this has been the longest weekend ever. How long was it? Well, it's Tuesday night and it still isn't over.

So Chris tells me about 4 months ago that Valentine's weekend she's going out Scrapbooking with my sister. (You know, that's where you take perfectly good pictures, cut them apart, then glue them back together in book format...) Those of you who aren't familiar with the process may think that this would be a casual evening affair and not an ingredient in the recipe for disaster. However, if you know my wife, then it's no surprise that this was actually a 36 hour commitment.

Friday night to Sunday morning just me and the kids. This would be a first. Can you hear my sweat? It's screaming, "Mayday-Mayday!"

So as the clock was winding down, Daddy did what Daddy does best... DELEGATE! The plan was solid. Friday night, go to an IceHogs game afterwhich the kids would stay at their friend's house, that would take us straight to bedtime. The next day, GrandMa and GrandPa offered to come out and watch the kids while I played a guitar nooner at our local coffeeshop, then we'd go swimming at the Y for the afternoon, skip on to movie night at church (pizza and childcare provided) Boom it's bedtime Saturday night. Sunday morning we drive to church, mommy comes home, game set match. Daddy becomes a rockstar without even cooking a meal and if everything went right, I could even make it out for some Karaoke.

That was the plan. The plan was good.

Except... Friday afternoon, I got a call from the friend with whom we were going to the hockey game saying that his son had just been admitted to the hospital. He was still planning on going with his daughter, but that meant that, A) we'd be sitting in the cubscout section without a cubscout, and B) Karaoke was out. Fine. We were still on schedule, and that's what was really important here... not the fact that his son had to go through the ER.

So the kids first hockey game was fun. They learned the difference between watching The Mighty Ducks on TV and the absolute sensory overload of a stadium filled with nearly six thousand people. So they got the gist of the game and what was going on, but really when you're in that kind of new situation you focus on something small. Something familiar. Something you can wrap your mind around. As far as my kids were concerned, the whole experience revolved around finding, obtaining, and enjoying a sno-cone. Suffering through the noise, the spectacle, and the culture shock would all be worth it if daddy would just buy them a $4 cup of flavored ice and they could leave with blue-raspberry stained lips. Honestly, I wouldn't have caved, especially after Habtamu pulled the "Daddy I need to go potty really bad right now, oh wait, looks like they're selling sno-cones out here" routine, except my friend's daughter came back with one so I didn't have a leg to stand on. I was either going to be the biggest ass-hat in the stadium, or the savior of the free world. Well, savior of HALF the free world because I made them split one, which took a fair bit of negotiating.

Saturday started well, Grandma and Grandpa came over before the kids had really even started rolling. Their plan was to come out to the coffeeshop with the kids, eat, and listen to the end of my set. And although Habtamu will eat anything that once moo'ed, clucked or squealed (current favorite is BBQ Pork,) Yordi hasn't found any of the gourmet sandwiches the shop offers to her liking. She does, however like burritos, and specifically the no frills 99 cent ones at TacoBell. So I'm standing there, doing my thing, playing guitar and I see my family sit down, and Yordanos pulls out a styrofoam container the size of her head which no doubt holds an authentic Mexican burrito from the authentic Mexican place next door. Well, once the foil was pulled back and she realized that this was not just a really big bean and cheese burrito, she didn't want to have anything to do with it. We peer pressured her into eating half of it, but it did occur to me that I don't even know what was in it. It could have been one of them cow tongue and goat cheese burritos for all I know, and that certainly would have tasted 'unfamiliar' to her.

So I finish up my 'gig' and we packed our stuff and headed to the YMCA for an afternoon of swimming. Both kids are becoming strong swimmers. H gets more graceful and confident in the water every day. Yordi can do most everything the big kids do, albeit a little slower. Being able to navigate unassisted in the deep end is a big motivator for both of them. We got out and headed to church for pizza and a movie, and that's when my headache began. I figured it was just the chlorine, but by the end of movie I was actually feeling chills and nausea, so I scooped up the kids and we went home. It was close enough to bedtime that there wasn't any complaining.

Our Sunday schedule went as planned (I woke up feeling pretty good) and we met back up Chris at home after church. Mommy got 'no love' from the children when we walked in the door, mainly because H was still grousing about his balloon not being blue like Y's, and Y only shows affection on her own terms. It doesn't matter how you explain or rationalize through it though, it's still rude and I know it hurt Chris. H came around later and had a private moment with Chris, I don't know if Y ever did, as she often follows suit with her brother but in this case, she missed the cue.

So you're probably thinking, "Well, I wouldn't call that a disaster, it could have been much worse." I'll get more into it in the next post, but here's the teaser...

My big mistake here was assuming that 'the plan' was over on Sunday morning.


Worst... Substitute Teacher... Ever.

As I was getting up this morning, Chris, with that sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, not going to leave the bed today, look in her one half opened eye said, "Could you just take the morning off... it would make a big difference to me if I could sleep in for a bit." Now, we've been married 10 years and I know my wife well enough to safely interpret that as, "I will be comatose in 5... 4... " So I told her that shouldn't be a problem because I had to call in for my dental appointment (8 am filling, woot!) anyway. As I'm phoning the office, H who had been rummaging upstairs since 6:58, asks me if he can play wii. "Did you eat breakfast yet?" "No," he replied. "Well, eat breakfast then you can play wii for a little bit." I'll be honest, at that point I was just trying to placate him until I got out of the shower and I'm not above having Nintendo provide a little supervision. Then I hear my wife call, "Do your MATH!" from the bedroom, which sounded a lot like "3... 2..." to me. Realizing who the weak link is here, my son, with his big brown eyes and a mouth full of cereal looks at me and says innocently, "Breakfast then wii, Daddy?" "Um No. Breakfast, math, then maybe wii," I said, reminding him that although I look like an easy mark, he's going to have to wait at least until Mommy goes unconscious to pull off that crap.

"But I need help with math. It's hard. I don't understand," is the response I get with an additional 400 "tsk's" and head shakes which I left out from that quote for sake of clarity. "Well, I need to shower. You need to eat and try your math. I'm sure you can do it," and I headed for the shower trying to figure out how I was going to tutor my son through his math lesson. That's uncharted territory for me as Chris usually handles all the schooling.

Fortunately when I got out, I heard Chris talking him through subtraction with decimals. I don't know how she dragged herself out of bed, but I was really amazed. Although, since the lesson involved subtracting money, we probably would have been alright as I have a lot of experience in that area.

I left for the dentist shortly after knowing that I was going to be the "daytime activity planner" for the next couple hours when I got home. So I was trying to think of all those weekday things I've wanted to do but couldn't, and was drawing a total blank. When I got home the kids had finished their lessons, colored some pictures to send to Ethiopia, and even played some wii, which to me meant that there was no backlog and that I needed to start fresh. I swore in my head but luckily what came out was, "You guys have done a lot this morning, go ahead and play wii a little longer." Then I hopped on animalplanet.com looking for some educational videos that looked interesting but didn't involve a carcass being dragged. No such luck, but at the Discovery Channel site they had a clip of a guy throwing a cat in slow motion to show how they land on their feet. That was noteworthy so I called the children over and we watched that and a bunch of other slow motion photography videos.

Anyway, it was academic enough to remind me that I have never been to the library with my kids. So we packed into the car and drove out. They knew their way around, but I've only stepped foot in there to return stuff for Chris. It's not that I'm against reading, I'm just not into books. (I don't know what that means, I just think it sounds funny so I left it in...) The kids go straight for the computers that are set up for the library software. Yordi hunt-and-pecks in the one word she knows how to consistently type and gets three results on her name. Not exact matches, but three resources that at least started with "Yo." Habtamu asked me "Click here?" as he waved his mouse wildly and then eventually slowed it down over a link with a bunch of very enticing capital letters. "Sure" I said, "If you'd like to learn more about taking the ASVAB exam." "Ok!" he said, "what now?" I restrained from giggling wondering how many other folks have said the exact same thing after taking the test.

Then we looked at videos. Aaand then we looked at videos and then looked at them some more. Yordi was determined to hunt down the longest children's DVD on the rack. At one point she picked up a 98 minute Dora DVD but then set it down to bag bigger game. I quickly put it back on the shelf but she got the last laugh as she ended up with the BBC "Chronicles of Narnia" 3 DVD set. Habtamu on the other hand enjoys looking through all the movies jackets finding movies with cover art that leaves me no choice but to say "No." No, we aren't getting a werewolf movie. No, you can't check out that documentary on slavery with the noose on the cover. No you can't get that StarTrek Original Series video because I know you only picked it up because you think that 'scary' alien on the front will freak out your sister and you're probably right. He ended up with Air Bud and could not have been happier. I picked up a thing on Airplanes, a National Geographic DVD about the African Savannah (I suspect complete with carcasses) and a video of 6 classic fairy tales as performed by the Muppets. Admittedly though, that last one was totally selfish because I haven't been able to tell my children, "Stop crying wolf" and I hope Fozzie Bear will soon rectify that situation.

When we got home, Chris was up making lunch. The kids proudly displayed to her their newly acquired treasures.

"Oh, those look like fun," she said, "What books did you get?"


I left for work. Apparently I shouldn't be quitting my day job anytime soon.

Funny Notes

Yordanos did this copy work from the Bible in church. The last part is her own take on it. She thought it was hilarious, even though I'm sure she didn't know what she'd copied before she added my name.

This is a grocery list that Yordi added to...


Pressure Points

When Habtamu starts to breakdown emotionally, we can use logic a lot deeper into his descent than we can with Yordanos. I should preface this with saying that although the emotional stuff gets a lot of blog space, his episodes are getting further apart and he's often able to pull himself out before he gets to that point of no return. We can see him fighting to keep it together because he's very cognizant of impending consequences. He can pitch his fit now, but tv will be gone for several days later. He's rarely so far gone he forgets that. So if we all play our cards right we have a decent chance of walking away unscathed.

Yordi is a different story.

She'll pick the fight, make sure everyone has lost, and then just become totally miserable and defiant. Well, ok, not completely defiant because there's still that weird 'naughty chair' phenomenon where if you get her where she's supposed to be, she'll stay put. But the point is, she digs in and shuts down. Confrontation just makes her hunker down more, as was proven in the whole 'standing in the snow and won't come in' incident from a couple months ago.

So the other day she was crabby, who knows why, not that she really needs a reason, and was eventually told to take a seat and cool out. To her credit, she will go do that on her own, if she thinks it was her idea. (That's why we start the dance by telling her that sitting in the other room would be a good idea before we escalate to 'the chair' and then 'your bedroom.') Anyway, she had removed herself from the room but was still banging things, which is a tell-tale sign that the cooldown hasn't started. Both kids are like that, now that I think about it... So Chris tells Y that it's time to go to her room. Aaaand that's when I got the call at work.

"Hi, we've got a clean up in aisle 2 and she won't go to her room. What do I do?" Chris said nonchalantly. (She's really good about using phone time to calm herself down and remove herself from the situation for a few minutes.)

"Well, if it were me, I'd pick her up and carry her up there. But then I'd be really angry by now."

"Oh... I'm angry," Chris said almost sing-songy, "But that's not helpful and I doubt I can haul her up there."

So we discussed some other options. We talked about how confronting her directly won't work and that you have to come at her from the side. We talked about appropriate punishments and how just laying out the expectations and leaving (without a defined consequence) was probably the best strategy. I believe I used the phrase, "Just drop the grenade and walk out of the room. She'll figure out that she doesn't want to be there either." Then we hung up.

15 minutes later Chris called back and I could hear yelling in the background.

"How's it going?" I asked.

"Well, she's in her room. Screaming, but she's up there."

"Yep, that's my girl. How'd you do it?"

"Well, I informed her that I expected her to go to her room and that things would start being taken away shortly if she didn't go... Things like tv, the wii, and her toys."

"Her toys? That's a new one. Good thinking!" I said. The thing is, H gets really engaged with pretty much anything on the tube. Y doesn't mind not having it because it means we play more games together. She's never been effectively punished by having her tv privileges revoked. If anything, she likes the fact that she's being treated like her brother.

"Yeah, it totally worked," Chris replied. "She's up there. She's not happy, but she's up there."

So Chris hit a nerve with Yordanos. And it's about time because Lord knows that girl knows how to mash our buttons faster than that guy who used to hang around the Mortal Kombat game at the arcade. Oh, btw, I now work with 'that guy' and he's a very successful web developer.

And the best part is that since she complied, we didn't have to follow through. No blood, no foul so I guess we'll save the 'Which toy are you most attached to' game for another day.

I think it's the stuffed elephant.

This day in history...

I meant to mention that on Tuesday, nothing happened. The significance in that nothingness is that the kids went to the dentist that day and it was so uneventful that by the time I got home from work, I had to ask to see their teeth. Now granted, they didn't have any cavities so the real tools of the trade didn't come out, but still, 6 months ago we couldn't get either of them to even sit in the chair. Well, Y would have except H was throwing such a fit she didn't dare. Anyway, at the time our dentist was kind enough to peer into their open mouths in the hallway and at least confirm that things looked functional. Turns out H had some kind of infection but nothing that some good ol' American antibiotics couldn't take care of. Oh, and there was the obligatory "Me go Teeth doctor, all teeth out, Ok? Yes! OK! All teeth out! GO!" tirade, just to meet the one tantrum minimum.

None of that this time around. No whining, no cavities, no freakouts.

Totally uneventful.



This just in! (or out as the case may be...)

You may like pizza. You may like orange juice.

Your stomach will not like pizza and orange juice together.

Sigh... Another lesson learned the hard way. H has come to us a couple times saying that he "just throwed up a little bit," which we've never seen, and have always been a little suspicious of. Last night while driving home, after the pizza and OJ, he said he was going to throw up so I pulled the car over, helped him out, and leaned him over a snowbank. Whoo-hoo I love being a daddy! He held his tummy, cried, wretched, and spit twice on the snow. Satisfied and vindicated, he proclaimed "SEE!!! I throw up!" I kind of looked at him and just said, "Um, that's not throw up." "What you mean?" he said. "Well, throw up is everything out. Throw up looks like the pizza you ate, not spit."


"Really?" Habti said in disgust, making a face that indicated to me this was the first time he was actually visualizing what barf looks like. "Really Really? You are joking." "Nope. Really really," I replied using the most somber Daddy voice I could muster.

Now, I know full well that spit is often the pace car of the UpChuck 500, so even though I *thought* he was finished, we went for a little walk before getting back in the car just to make sure. (See mom, I did learn some life skills at college!)

Meanwhile on a totally different note, today H has been toodling around the house saying, "Like, Zoinks!" and then giggling. He knows it's 'bad English' and very satisfying in the way that it makes his mother and I cringe.

Also this evening, the kids and I were in the car tonight listening to the radio and both children picked up on the phrase, "RELAX! Don't do it!" that was being repeated over and over and over.

Wait until their mother hears about that one...
(Not our cat but I couldn't resist.)
We're big fans of the cheezburger here.


What's working and what ain't

A while ago, a good friend and person I would put in the 'successful' column of the parenting chart said that she believed children want to do the right thing and it's our job as parents to let them know what that is. It feels like a clear statement, but the devil is in the details. When do you teach discipline and when do you teach mercy? How do you convey what's appropriate without nagging or yelling because, let's face it, there's a lot of corrective action that needs to happen wherever children are involved. Recently we've gone back to a strategy we used very early on and kind of got away from.

We often give the kids choices and affirm when they make a good choice, but now we've started telling them the right answers. When things heat up, they really have the capacity to be weighing their options.

We used to give answers when the language barrier was more of an issue, as a "Repeat after me and you'll be rewarded" kind of game. This worked really well for hammering down the "Please" and "ThankYou's " and now it's coming in really handy for discipline. First of all, if you state the right answer in as part of the 'escalation dance' (You know what I'm talking about... when your button gets pushed so you push back, etc, etc...) it adds one more non-combative layer that allows the opportunity for things to simmer down. You give them a cheat sheet when you stop and say, "The right answer here is 'Yes Dad' and then don't wander off again." They no longer have to read your mind, or feel like they're in a lose-lose situation. You've already told them how to win, now they just have to follow through. We've averted a couple meltdowns by stepping back and just stating, "The right answer here is 'I'm sorry mom' and then we can all move on." Good cop- bad cop can play into this too. Chris has had to step in and say, "The answer daddy wants to hear is 'No Thank you.' Nobody will be angry or sad if you say that." It's worked well for us and we haven't had to add the OR ELSE at the end of it, even though sometimes I really really want to.

What seems to be crumbling is our sleep routine. Yordi has begun being 'scaried' in the night again. After several months of relatively few incidents, she's gotten up multiple times in the past week. Actually, part of the problem is that she doesn't get up, and just lays in bed yelling for us which inevitably wakes up her brother. I knew it was going to be bad the other night because I hadn't even gotten down the hall when she started calling. Now, we live in an old house which makes old house noises. We also have four nocturnal, semi-domesticated animals prowling around all night, so it's not as if we don't understand getting wigged out by bumps in the night. But why now? It just seems a little too convenient and Chris and I have come to the conclusion that we're rewarding her 'scariedness' too much. Too much chitchat. Too much attention. It's an easy routine to fall into, because you want to be there to the reassuring voice, but it's come to the point where during bedtime she'll actually say things like, "Tonight maybe scaried, yes?" Which sounds like something that needs to be addressed, but I think she's actually just testing how we're going to respond.

The worst was two nights ago where we were already late getting to bed and then H got spooked twice. Y had already gotten the fear ball rolling, but this was the first time she successfully handed it off. Habtamu heard something scary (later revealed to be the downstairs toilet lid being raised) that was enough to get his imagination going. So we turned on all the lights and went through both their rooms and closets to show that everything was clear. Then after settling down again, Y decided to get up and creep downstairs as quietly as she could. He rolled over saw she wasn't in bed with a slowly shifting shadow in the hallway and immediately came screaming and crying downstairs. I'm talking the sleep deprived, pupils the size of hams, manhood clutching, pure fear, screaming and crying. The only good thing was that he was still consolable, and allowed me to hug him and stroke his hair, but frankly I was starting to get weirded out. I mean, even spotting the bat last summer didn't send them into this kind of panic. So, we decided to set up the airmattress downstairs and let them sleep together.

Oh and does anyone know how to break the martyrdom cycle? When our kids get grumpy they insist that the world collapse around them. We have the occasional conversation like this:

"I asked you once already to help me put the dishes away, do it now please."

"Ok Ok! Me only BAD! Take plate, break, cut my neck, ok! OK?!"

"Wait, what?"

There are variations on that which involve wanting the dentist to pull all their teeth or breaking arms and legs but the 'I deserve decapitation' logic is my personal favorite. We try not to answer too harshly to that stuff, and sometimes we've deflected it with the, "The right answer is..." response, but yet it feels like underneath it all there's a legitimate feeling of worthlessness that should probably be addressed. Anybody else got martyr wanabees?