Girlfriends are the Best!

Yesterday, a girlfriend texted me and told me that she was praying for me. No particular reason; she was just moved to do so during Eucharistic Adoration. Her text brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her and let her know that she always has a way of sending me a message like that at just the right time. And it’s true. Many times when I feel like I’m drowning, she comes to my rescue. Even if it’s just in the form of a quick text message. It means so much to me.

She was concerned by my response and I explained that I’m fine, just perpetually overwhelmed. Having an infant, a baby, and three wild boys is a lot to get used to. Not to mention we school year round. Life is busy. It’s wonderful, but overwhelming. These days, consuming is a better word. I’m not trying to throw a pity party; I love my life. I really, truly do. This is just a difficult season. I’m grateful for the lessons I’m learning and all the many ways I’m growing as a person, but it’s still tough. Really, really tough.

We made plans to go out for drinks next week so we can catch up, I can unwind, and we can both have a good excuse to wear earrings. I never get to wear earrings these days; the babies just pull them right out. She’s already warned her husband “not to wait up,” but I’m sure we’ll be home by 10. Mornings come quite early at my house.

Our little conversation really brightened my day. And making plans to get out for a couple hours gives me something out of the ordinary to look forward to. I felt so much better, so relieved after that brief little chat. Not because we are going out next week, even though that is really exciting, but because I felt connected. Like I wasn’t alone anymore. Someone else was there for me. I’ve said this many times before, so I don’t know when this lesson will penetrate my thick skull, but I really have to reach out more often when I need to blow off some steam.

Then, as if all of that weren’t enough, this morning, I went out to feed the cat and found this on my front porch.

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Isn’t it cute?!? I looked around hoping to catch the giver, but no one was around. It was early and everything was still calm and quiet.  I looked closer and saw the sweet little post-it note attached. It was a gift from my girlfriend.

2014-07-31 08.40.24She is seriously the sweetest! I was grinning from ear to ear and giggling. I couldn’t wait to see what was in the bag. Truthfully, the bag could have been totally empty and it still would have been great. That unexpected pop of color on my front porch and her sweet little note had already made my day. But the bag was heavy, so it certainly wasn’t empty. What was inside was the best “happy” I’ve ever received. (The group of girls I ran around with in high school would buy little tokens for each other – a bracelet, candy, something related to an inside joke, etc. We called them “happys” because it made you happy to be on either the giving or receiving end.)

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Breakfast for my kiddos and holy water. Seriously – best idea ever!! I can’t think of a sweeter package to drop off on an overwhelmed mom’s porch.

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My kiddos were pretty thrilled about her thoughtful gesture, too. They call sweet breads of any kind “breakfast cake.” When they saw me pull a foil-wrapped rectangle out of the bag, they just knew it had to be “breakfast cake.” They were jumping and squealing and ate most of it in one sitting.

Thank you, thank you, Kathy!! You have been such an extra special gift to me in the last 24 hours and I am so very grateful for our friendship! I look forward to the day I am able to return the gift to you!

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Kids vs. Dogs: The Battle for the Greenway

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Looking at the greenway from our back porch

Our yard backs up to our neighborhood’s greenway. It’s not a very nice greenway, but it’s a greenway nonetheless. It gives the kids a little extra room to run and play and throw the ball around. Knowing the kids had that extra space is the only reason we purchased a house on a lot as small as ours.

Now that the weather is getting nicer, the kids have been spending more time outside. They (and I) are all very grateful for this reprieve from the monotony of indoor life. Unfortunately, their time outside seems to be upsetting some of our neighbors. Why, you ask? Are my kids overly loud? Disrespectful? Leaving garbage on the ground? Behaving in any way that is unsuitable for playing in a public park-type area?

Nope.

My kids’ presence is causing the offended neighbor’s dog to bark.

Seriously.

The neighbor and his wife have, on two separate occasions now, fussed at my kids, telling them they need to get back in their own yard.

I haven’t witnessed any of these exchanges myself. They conveniently only happen when I go inside to change a diaper or refill my coffee. But I have no reason to doubt anything the kids are saying. They’re fairly honest kids and they all come running back with the same story. By the time I get outside to address the situation, there’s nothing/no one to see.

Playing some chase-type game in the greenway.

Playing some chase-type game in the greenway.

If it were just this neighbor, I’d probably just write them off as a pair of grouches and ignore the situation (unless further action became necessary) coaching the kids, of course, to always respond politely to the neighbor’s “request.” But it’s not just them. My neighbor two doors down the other way grumbles loudly enough for us to hear when she gets annoyed at her dogs barking at my kids, but hasn’t had the audacity to say anything directly to them or me.

I seriously just don’t know what to do about this.

Kids play.

Dogs bark.

What’s the big deal?

I find the barking dogs to be annoying, too, but I would never go tell the neighbors that their dogs don’t have a right to be outside. And children certainly have more rights than dogs.

I really have tried to step back and look at this situation objectively, considering the neighbors’ point of view. Despite that, I simply can’t figure out where they get off thinking:

a.) that they have a right to tell my kids where they can play

AND

b.) how they can possibly believe that other people should have to alter their behavior to ensure their dogs behave appropriately

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On a happier note, it looks like Spring has finally “sprung!”

If these people don’t like the way their dog behaves, that’s their problem, not mine, and certainly not my kids’. There are plenty of other dogs in other yards that don’t bark at my kids. It seems to me that my kids aren’t the problem; the 3 dogs in question are. Actually, like I said earlier, dogs bark. That tells me the problem isn’t even the dogs. It’s these neighbors, specifically their attitudes.

I can’t help but wonder if they are simply spoiled-rotten, selfish people that think the entire world should cater to their every whim, or if they simply don’t like kids and don’t want to see any. Regardless, the problem remains theirs, not mine.

If my children were behaving inappropriately or antagonizing their dogs in any way, I would certainly take the necessary steps to change my children’s behavior. Since they’re not, I really think these neighbors either need to get over it or take the necessary steps to change their dogs’ behavior.

What I find most unacceptable about this whole thing (even though I find the ENTIRE situation to be absolutely absurd) is that they’ve chosen to take the issue up with my kids. If they have a problem, they need to speak to me or Josh. Not small children. Especially not in the intimidating manner that they are supposedly doing it. There is simply no excuse for two adults to be intimidating three small children, regardless of what the children are doing.

So, the question is, where do I go from here? I’m simply not willing to tell my kids they can’t play on the greenway. Does that mean I need to take the initiative, go down to the neighbor’s house, and address the situation? Do I just wait, hoping to catch them in the act? Do I just blow it off? I can’t decide. I really don’t want to be perceived as an annoying or unreasonable neighbor for any reason, but my children have a right to play outside. I’m not going to take that away from my kids just to appease a couple cranky neighbors and their dogs. I would like to think that if they would take a step back from the situation they would realize they don’t really have a right to be annoyed by us utilizing one of the amenities of our neighborhood, but something tells me these people aren’t that reasonable. So…what to do now?

Behavior Management Series: Target Problem Behaviors

This post is part of a series on behavior management. The preceding post can be found HERE. 
 

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When seeking to improve the behavior of your children, you need to decide what you want to accomplish with your kids. You want them to behave. But what does behave mean to you?

Target one or two, but no more than three, behaviors where you really want to see improvement. If you feel like you have 50 areas that need improvement, don’t worry. You can snowball to those later. For now, just focus on a few key behaviors or attitudes. For me, my key behaviors are obedience and respect. These are admittedly broad behaviors. If you are just setting out on a behavior management journey, you will want to target very specific behaviors. The more specific, the more easily you can measure success for both you and your child. By choosing very specific behaviors, you will be able to see your child’s improvement more clearly, you will be able to feel more victorious in conquering problem behaviors, and you will be able to easily move on to the next behavior you wish to target.

If you’re not sure where to begin, try sitting down in the middle of a particularly grumpy moment. You know, one of those moments when you’re nearly positive that your children are either possessed or on drugs. One of those moments where all you want to do is run away screaming. One of those moments when you can’t fathom why you ever chose to have kids. Ok…I think you know what I’m talking about.

Anyway…

Sit down during one of those grumpy moments and write down all of the problem areas you can think of. Be as specific as possible. Suzie uses a rude tone. Jimmy and Johnny pick on each other. Sally doesn’t share. Larry colors on the wall. Etc, etc, etc. If you do this activity in a grumpy moment, you will be more likely to identify all the problems you’re dealing with.

Then, when you’re feeling slightly less grumpy pick your list back up. Now, to the best of your ability, add the cause of the problem behaviors. Suzie uses a rude tone when she doesn’t get her way. Jimmy and Johnny pick on each other when they’re bored. Sally doesn’t share the legos. Larry colors on the wall when I’m working on the computer. You may not be able to do this for every behavior. That’s ok. Keep watching for situations that trigger the particular behaviors you don’t like. Add them to the list as you observe them.

You may be lucky enough to be able to eradicate some problem behaviors simply by identifying the cause. For example, if Tommy gets really hyper while watching Lazy Town, you may choose to simply eliminate Lazy Town. In this example, if he doesn’t watch the show, the hyperactivity will cease to exist. There is nothing wrong with manipulating the environment to achieve your desired results. If fact, for a situation as clear as that, it would be foolish not to. Otherwise, you’re just creating more work for yourself.

Next, sit down with your list after the kids are in bed or at another quiet time when you can think. You may wish to include your spouse or other caregivers in this step. Make as many observations about your list as you can. Do you notice any patterns? Are there groups of similar behaviors? Are there groups of similar trigger situations? The more you know about what you’re dealing with, the more effective you will be.

Finally, prioritize your list. Choose your top problem behaviors. These behaviors will be your focus. Having these priorities does not mean you allow all other bad behavior to slide, it simply means that these behaviors are your primary focus. This will help tremendously when you struggle with consistency down the road. (Stay tuned for that fun challenge!)

Next time, we’ll start talking about what to do with these problem behaviors.

Happy list making!

Next post in the series: Delight in Your Children