Raising strong boys

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I am a mother who swore no guns. But that changed, and I ended up buying a five-year-old Henry a toy arsenal when I surrendered to the fact that my disdain for guns and violence was not his.

Here’s a shocker. Boys are different than girls. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Both of my boys came out of the womb making blow-up noises and shooting me with their fingers, bananas, toast, sticks, you name it. They also came out loving and cuddly and sweet. Loving and full-body slamming are not mutually exclusive.

Embrace their spirit. Channel it for good. Help them become the protectors and warriors they are meant to be.

This is a great piece by Msgr. Charles Pope. Watch the video.

Mental floss

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I took Henry and Lillian to Henry Ford Museum last night. And let me say from the get go: We had a great time.

And now, for the rest of the story. (You have to say that like Paul Harvey.)

My day was madness. I got up and got busy so I could get some work done early in the morning. I was on my own with Cliff for the whole day, so my productivity bounced from writing, to feeding him, to his always successful yet ridiculously frequent potty breaks.

Before I could blink, it was time to pick up Lillian from school, then I rushed to get MC, stopped at Starbucks (because I HAD to), dropped off MC and Lil at home, then ran to get Henry from band. The plan was this: I’d get him, get home, shower, and then we’d go.

Guess what? Band ran 30 minutes long. That was my shower.

Who me? I don't know 'nuffin about no chocolate cake.

We raced home. To my dismay upon my arrival, I found Lillian dressed as a fairy princess and chocolate cake all over the kitchen floor. I guess I should be thankful that the reason for the mess was that Mary Claire was distracted from the moment-to-moment care of her siblings because she was practicing the piano. She was operating under the assumption that no screaming is good screaming. (An assumption–I confess–I too sometimes rely upon when they are 20 feet away and in earshot.)

I had to regroup. Time was not on my side.

For a split second I thought, “Oh forget it. It’ll just be Henry and me.” Then Lillian asked me when we were going. Drat that mind like a steel trap.

She picked out clothing. All of which needed to be ironed. And we were out of time. I put a long sweater on her and told her that she could not take it off at the museum. (Because it would expose the completely wrinkled shirt she pulled out of the bottom of her drawer. I was taking pictures for the blog and didn’t want her to LOOK as disheveled as I felt.) She successfully (amazingly on the first pick) chose tights that matched her outfit, and she willingly put on normal shoes (e.g., not Crocs, sparkly red shoes that would have clashed with the hot pink tights or bubblegum pink patent leather cowboy boots that are painfully too small).

I swept up some of the cake, and barked for MC to get the rest. In the mean time, Cliff sprinkled the floor with his cranberry juice by shaking it out of the lid of a sippy cup. Perhaps he thought the cake on the floor was dry. Or lonely.

I found a hat to cover my hopeless hair, put on some lipstick, ordered Henry to change his shirt (for the third time) and had to ask Mary Claire to tie my scarf. Because I’m challenged that way.

We got in the van and were off. I was worried we’d miss Santa’s entrance, but our timing looked good.

On the road, Lillian informed me that she had brought mittens that she would like me to put on once we reached the museum. I informed her that it wasn’t cold enough for mittens, and the walk would be short. So for the next 20-minutes she pretty much threatened that she would not exit the vehicle without the mittens. Well, that, and she interjected that for lunch I hadn’t put enough mayo on her sandwich, and her grapes had been wet. But her tirade mostly circled back to the mittens.

You can't always get what you want. And hey, look! It's when the chocolate cake saw better days.

Once we found a spot and started to unload, I saw that the mittens she brought were the thick play-outside-in-the-snow kind of mittens. And I knew there was no Buddy the Elfing way I was going to satisfactorily be able to wiggle those five-year-old thumbs into those ridiculous mittens.

She stood at the van door and declared first that she wasn’t coming, then that I had ruined everything, and finally, that she was going to freeze. I grabbed all 33 pounds of her and carried her to the sidewalk and set her down. To the tune of her continued complaints, we began our brisk (and short) walk to the museum, Then Henry said, “Come on Lillian. We don’t want to miss Santa’s arrival.”

She stopped dead in her tracks.

“Wait. Santa’s going to be here?” Some may recall that Lillian is not ever going to be president of the Santa fan club. “I. Am. Not. Sitting. On. His. Lap.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her that she didn’t have to.

Amazingly, she stopped crying and picked up the pace.

We got in the museum and found a perfect spot. I reminded Henry that he needed to always hold Lil’s hand, and I weaseled my way up front so I could get some good photos of Santa. And I did.

This would have been a great shot. If not for that kid's HEAD. Oy.

Once the jolly dude exited the cool antique electric car he was chauffeured in, I took my place back by the kids. Lillian grabbed hold of my leg, her blue eyes focused on my face:  “I am not sitting on his lap in this environment.”

Now, I don’t have a clue if she even knows what environment means, but that was definitely a winning use of language for a munchkin her size. I assured her again that she was in the clear. She relaxed, and we had an absolutely lovely time. The pressure was off, and we enjoyed all the sights and the sounds of the museum. The kids and I were thoroughly impressed by the Ann Arbor Boys Choir, and we enjoyed visiting with other families as we waited in lines for this and that.

A great moment. A great time.

The only other conflict of the night occurred when Lillian began writing a letter to Santa. She told Henry she was asking for a doll. An Indian doll. Then she proceeded to say that Christopher Columbus was not correct when he called North American’s Indians. Henry tried to explain to her that the term was Native Americans. He told her Columbus thought he landed in the West Indies, so that’s why he called them Indians. She didn’t buy it and muttered, “Christopher Columbus lied.”

After a little coaxing, she got back to business, finished her letter and happily mailed it. As I filled out a slip for a drawing to win some Greenfield Village pottery, the lady behind the table asked Lil what she wanted for Christmas. Lillian said, “A doll. An Indian Doll.” Then she started to share her views on Columbus’ faulty naming; fortunately it was lost on the lady and bystanders as I escorted her over to the cider and donuts.

We found a spot on the floor near the gorgeous and huge tree and had a little donut picnic. I tried to take some photos of the kids with the whole tree behind them. So picture this, I’m practically lying on the floor of the museum, and my hat keeps popping off, exposing my oh-so-luxurious seriously in-need-a-styling hair. (Note to self: Don’t wear that stupid hat when trying to take pictures. It annoyed me all night. It’s too big for my pinhead anyway.)

This one is actually pretty decent.

I’m surprised that I captured one semi-satisfactory photo, since Henry had a “duh” look on his face in most, and Lillian kept make gang-type poses. Why? I have no idea. The cider and donuts were great, though. Especially since—at that moment—I realized that dinner had completely escaped me.

When we left, there was skipping involved. And lots and lots of smiling. We had an awesome time. Once we got in the van, Henry (much to my dismay) brought up the Columbus thing, and I can’t say he won any points in the debate. Telling Lillian that there was no GPS in 1492 didn’t really seal the argument for her, and he pretty much gave up after she shouted, “Christopher Columbus was a LIAR!”

As we were getting close to home, Henry announced that when he’s older, he’d like to work at The Henry Ford. I agreed that he might just like to do that. Helen and Mary Claire have expressed the same sentiment, and Helen’s going to audition to sing during the summer. He said, “I’m either going to work at The Henry Ford or  be a dentist.”

If you know Henry’s history with dentistry, that’s one of the most perplexing declarations I’d ever heard from him.

“What? You want to be a dentist?” I asked for clarification.

“Yes. I want to have an office. Mental Dental.”

“What?” I wasn’t’ sure if I heard him. He was in a third-row seat in the van.

He repeated. Mental Dental.

I asked again. The answer was the same: Mental Dental.

I said, “Henry, what are you talking about?”

“You know, Mental Dental. Like the office we go to.”

“Henry. The office is called Gentle Dental.” I corrected him, trying to keep it together.

“Ohhhh. I thought it was for mental cases like me, who don’t want to go to the dentist. That’s the kind of kids I want to be a dentist for.”

I should note, we did go to Gentle Dental, but had to change to find a pediatric dentist who could to treat Henry, who is (I am happy to report) a recovering lunatic at the dentist.

When we finally got home, after hitting a fast food drive-thru for a healthy evening dinner, it was 9 p.m., and Richard was on a business call. Mary Claire was reading Clifford to Clifford. He cheerfully padded out of his room to greet us, then willingly went back to bed, as long as I followed for a nightly serenade of Gentle Woman and the “baby” song.

It’s all in a day’s work.

It sounds crazy. I know. But I wouldn’t have it any other wonderful way.

I will admit, though, I could use a little mental floss  … the vodka flavored kind.

Where's Waldo? Can you find the craziest Hass child? (Hint: It's a tie.)

When you’re down and troubled

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This morning I was reading Simcha Fisher at NCRegister. And I responded with this comment:

I hug my kids when they are hurt. But I also wait to see if they are actually hurt. They know my m.o. since often their response even through tears is “I’m okay.” They know I’m there for them, but want to be strong for me. I’ve parented with the hope that they can assess the situation themselves first. If they can. That said, I’m pretty keen on recognizing within a few seconds what kind of response from me is needed. And sometimes, coddling little boo-boos is the cure even if the bruise is one of embarrassment, hurt pride or being frightened instead of physically injured. But true loving occurs not as I rush to their aid or to their (at times over-) reaction to injury, but the solid loving that I give them all the rest of the time. Caring for the needs they don’t even know they have. Offering love and affection when they ask for it, when then don’t, and even when they tell you they don’t really want it at all. That’s the kind of undeserved, unearned love we get from God.

It got me thinking, I hope and pray that’s the kind of loving we can do our best to give everyone. In very simple terms, I’m pretty sure that’s the crux of the “love one another, as I have loved you” bit. And I know how I feel when I am called to love people who very specifically don’t want my love. But that’s when your loving is about Christ and them. And not about you. At all. I’m pretty sure that’s an element of the “emptying ourselves” bit.

Once again. God knows what’s going on. Happy All Saints Day. Prayers of thanksgiving for those saints known and unknown. Truly inspiring.

A nice story

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I wanted to share this story. No matter the number of children, we all have our shortcomings and our failings. I know I certainly do.

I choose joy. And sometimes joy is my mind’s second choice, because there are moments I’d rather choose misery (which is occasionally a comfortable place to wallow).  Also, since this website is actually named for the five eternal souls that I don’t have the privilege to raise here on earth, I never cease to count my blessings for those five who walk this planet and call me mom.

Down for the count

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Find me a parent who hasn’t counted as a motivator.

“You will come here now, 1, 2, 3.”

You know the method. And you know how your kids respond. When you’re at one, you get the are-you-serious look. At two, they know you’re serious. And by three, usually in high gear. Up until now, it’s been a staple in my parenting arsenal.

I need a new technique. Especially while driving.

“Lillian, you must share some of those Skittles with Clifford,”

“No. I won’t.”

“I told you when I bought them, they were for sharing.”

“I’m not sharing.”

“You will share. 1 ,2 …”

And she interrupted, “I will share. When YOU stop counting.” Shocked. I stopped. And she shared. But I was at a loss.

Out-of-box parenting needed.

If she pulled that at home, she’d be sent to her room. But driving in the car, I was stuck. And punishing her for it later would go right past her.

She tried something similar last week, demanding to wear plastic, three-sizes-too-small  princess shoes to the zoo. “I’m wearing these, or I’m not going.”I knew she wanted to go to the zoo, so it wasn’t a terribly hard negotiation. I called her bluff with an:. “Okay, you can stay home.” She responded with a “hmph,” marched into her room and returned with appropriate shoes.

But what happens when she pulls that on me when we’re going somewhere I want her to go, but she doesn’t?

Help. Suggestions welcomed and appreciated.

Fly me to the moon

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Cliffy may not talk much. But if our exchanges are any indication of what’s to come, I can humbly concede: Me thinks I see trouble.

No. It's the moon.

“Look at the sun,” says I.

“No. It’s the moon.,” says he.

“No, honey, it’s the sun,” corrects I.

“No. It’s the moon,” insists he.

This goes on and on. And the sun is always the moon. Thankfully the moon is also the moon. So, the glass is half full.

And, as I have often expressed here, this non-speaking two-year-old boy has some wicked hand-eye skills. His most recent exhibition is in his ability to catch flies. Yes. In flight. Don’t rush and call Mr. Miyagi. He’s not doing it with chopsticks. Yet.

He presents me with the dead Diptera, and I say, “Oh, you caught a fly.”

“No, it’s a bee.”

“It’s a fly.”

“No. It’s a bee.”

“A fly.”

“No. A bee.”

Yesterday, when he came upon a hornets’ nest, he eagerly approached to catch that bee, but the “bee” caught him. Twice. In the face.

And boy was he was howling. At the noon day … moon.

(And yes, I refrained from saying, “Now THAT’s a bee!”)

Mom mix a lot

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I made martinis using these.

Multi taskers

Don’t worry, I rinsed out the thermos before I give it back to the kids.

I think.

And since the cupboards are bare with regard to the breast milk, those little storage bottle things are handy.

And no, that’s not booze in the background. It’s olive oil. Sheesh.

An extra dry martini

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Lillian wasn’t thrilled about swim lessons. She spent the two days prior to the first lesson not-so-subtly lobbying for a stay in the sentence. It went something like this:

“I’m not going to swimming lessons.”

“Yes you are.”

“No. I. am. not.”

“Yes. you. are.”

“Well. I won’t put my face in the water.” Repeat. Repeat, again. And again.

Monday came. Coaxing got her there. Upon arrival, we discovered her teacher was my niece’s boyfriend, Billy. That got her to stay.

I watched through the fence. She laughed. She cried. She laughed again. She cried again. She climbed on him. She climbed out of the pool. True to her word, she did not put her face in the water. Day one. Down.

Later in the afternoon, while picking up her room, I mentioned that her blue bathing suit was clean, so she could wear it tomorrow.

“What’s tomorrow?” She inquired, with a suspicious head tilt.

“Swimming lessons.” I cautiously responded.

“What? I have to do that AGAIN?”

Apparently, I failed to mention that it was a two-week commitment.

“Yes. You do.”

She spent the entire day declaring that she was not going. She had gone. She was done. Time served. And that was that.

The next day, she was up and fully clothed at 6 a.m. I think in an effort to distract me from the lessons. At 9 o’clock, I started the cajoling. Which quickly moved to bribery. Hey. I’m not above it. There are certain things that require a little nudge. I wanted her to go willingly. And she needs to learn how to swim.

“We can stop at Johnny B’s and get a cookie.” I said. “One of those pretty flower cookies. Or a sunburst. What do you think?” The idea of one of those fancy frosted cookies was apparently just enticing enough to get the suit on and get her to van.

When we walked into the shop, she pointed to a tray of star cookies and said, “I want two stars.” Now, not to be manipulated by a four-year-old, I reminded her that I said she could have one cookie. Sticking to my guns. After all, I’m not a complete sucker.

She carefully examined the treasures behind the sparkling clean glass. Then pointed to her choice.

“I want the cookie shaped like a wine glass.” And there it was. A very large cookie in the shape of a martini glass. It was frosted to every edge in smooth and shiny lavender sugary goodness. Yikes. With the hopes of diverting her attention from the giant cookie, I showed her the flower cookies. The sunbursts. The graduation caps, even.

“No. You said I could have one cookie. That’s the cookie I want. The wine glass.”

The lady behind the counter looked at me, “Smart kid.” Mmm Hmm. Don’t I know. And stupid mommy. (I kept that part to myself.)

Needless to say, I got her the martini. She consumed the whole thing on the way to swim class. Between bites, she repeatedly reminded me that I needed to tell Billy that she wasn’t putting her face in the water. And that she wasn’t staying, unless I spoke with him.

Make mine extra dry

We arrived. I spread out her Little Mermaid towel. Kissed her on the head and started to move toward the parental quarantine zone. She quickly grabbed a two-armed hold of my leg, stopping me in my tracks. She looked up at me with those sweet yet demanding blue eyes, smiled while she said behind slighted clenched teeth. “You are NOT going until you have that CONVERSATION with Billy.” And I knew she had me. Again.

I dragged her clinging body the two steps to Billy, told him that she wasn’t going to put her face in the water. He said okay. Then he smiled at her at told her that she was going to need to put her face in when she was ready to learn to swim. But he wouldn’t make her do it. And that was enough. I was released from the death grip. She happily went to lessons, and eventually the feeling returned to my left leg.

She ended up having a great lesson that day and willingly went the next morning. (Not without unsuccessfully trying to swindle a cookie out of me.) She enjoyed the remaining lessons, and eagerly went every day. And the thing about not getting her face wet seemed short-lived. After all, you can’t jump off a diving board without getting your face wet.

The lessons? If you’re afraid to get your face wet, it’s not so bad starting the day with an extra dry martini. That, and every single parenting technique you use will someday (much sooner than you think) be used on you.