Friday Finds

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Hey there!

It’s Friday! I find most things as a parent to be slightly bittersweet – like weekends. Though wonderful in many ways they’re definitely not the same as my pre-kiddo days. And while I am looking forward to spending time with AJ, watching his various sports and maybe squeezing a hike in Sunday morning – I also know that Monday won’t have the same dread that it had pre-kiddo either because… routines, man they are the best. Do you have anything planned this weekend? Have you come up with a way to incorporate the right amount of structure and fluidity into your weekends?

Without further ado here’s another round up of different articles and finds from around the internet this week relating to parenting:

  • Six Screen-Time Studies That Changed My Parenting Approach is a very digestible summary of the studies and how the author used the information. I especially appreciate the last two about reading and acknowledging our own roles.
  • Amazon is coming out with a children’s version of the Echo – along with some parental controls and FreeTime content it comes with a feature that will encourage your child to say ‘please’. I showed this article to my mom and she responded that my dad wants one “so that he can talk better than command… Hey, google.”
  • On A Cup of Jo, the author shares the Three Words That Changed How I Parent:  “Aim for yes.” This is very similar to advice my mom shared with me early in my parenting journey “avoid the power struggle” and was such a good reminder. The examples in the article made me smile and also realize I could definitely say ‘yes’ to a few more things – I read it Monday and can already sense the positive influence it’s having.
  • In this Scary Mommy post,  My Kids Eat Dinner At 3 P.M., And Here’s Why, the writer explains how changing the expected routine has worked for her family. I think it’s important to always do what’s best for your family, not one answer works for everyone – but if you share some of the same struggles I do this might work.
    • From me: While working as a teacher in OKC I incidentally started this routine of grabbing a quick, (often fast food – no shame y’all) small meal for AJ on the way home form school. It completely changed the tone of our afternoons and evenings. He often ate a little bit of the dinner I made myself later in the evening as a second dinner of sorts. By avoiding behavior driven from being “hangry” we were able to keep peace and it was so worth it!
    • From my mom (Dr. Venters): I use to feed the kids the dinner that I had made the day before since they were always hungry earlier than when their dad got home around 7pm. By the time we moved to Denver I just started eating with them at 5-5:30. Kept me from being “hangry” also.
  • BONUS: Having trouble transitioning your little from book read to actually falling asleep? I was recently reminded of these audio Sparkle SleepyTime Stories and wanted to share them with you.
    • When AJ was younger we used these at the end of our bedtime routine; I would rub his back for a couple minutes before leaving the room while it played. The stories are about 12 minutes long and were usually sufficient in slowing down his little brain and sending him off to sleep. I also used them quite successfully in my classroom as a pre-k teacher. I find kiddos really only need to lie still and  be quiet for 5-10 minutes to fall asleep. This worked for us. The other stories were not of much interest to my five year old but I’m thinking of resubscribing to try a few stories for my now nine year old. By the way there’s a similar adult version, Sleep with Me, I haven’t tried it yet though!
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Why won’t you just do what you’re told?!

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AJ’s first time in a pool, he didn’t let go of the side the entire time!

We often know what is best for our child. We know that if they just do this one thing that we’ve suggested not only will our lives be easier, but their lives will be easier. We have experience after all, years and years of experience that have taught us things like… showering as soon as we’re done swimming makes us feel better and keeps our skin from becoming itchy angry messes. That going to the bathroom before leaving the house is the best way to get to soccer practice on time and without an emergency. We know that following these suggestions will make everyone happier and less stressed. We explain our reasoning and we approach it in the least dictatorial way possible. So why or why “won’t you do what you are told?!”

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Pic from last week, it was fantastic! And yet this week I’m eating PB&Js… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 You guys. I know that if I get up with my alarm instead of snoozing it we will get out of the house in a more peaceful, less tense manner. I know if I spend 10 minutes a night picking up and putting away I will feel better in the morning. I know that if I prep five salads for the week on Sunday I will eat healthier, feel better, and save money. I know these things. I have experience with these things. But I still have a tendency to hit snooze, to read a book instead of clean the house, and to skip the grocery store and spend the week eating PB&Js instead of salad. Y’all, why or why, “won’t I do what I am told?!”

In a post written by Dr. Venters, “It is noted that the most compliant child [like I was] will only follow directions 75% of the time. And an aggressive researcher [like my child is] will rarely follow directions without researching other options first.” When I stop and remember my own experiences following directions– most often my own these days, which you would think would be easier to follow than someone else’s, it gives me more perspective on my child. It doesn’t make me feel better about the fact that his skin is shriveling and flaking off as I watch him sit in still damp swim trunks on our recently(ish) cleaned sofa – with the smell of chlorine permeating through the house. But it does make me more sympathetic, less likely to enter a power struggle, and more likely to explain the consequences once and let him experience those natural consequences for himself – as I add intensive healing lotion to the store list.

One last thing I want to add about this, is as a usually compliant child I find myself often worrying about how my aggressive researcher child will do in the “real” world, as a grown up. How is he ever going to hold a job? Adulting is hard enough but is he going to consistently make his life even harder than it has to be?! I voiced these concerns to a few of my co-workers recently and was SHOCKED when a few of them fessed up to being a child just like my son. Tales of their parents being at the school every week for some behavior or another, detentions and groundings. And ya know, if my child turns out to be as successful and happy as them – well then that’ll be just fine. 

Things I didn’t know

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Kelly and AJ in December of 2015. Photo by Rich Hayes.

~Written by Kelly on the fourth anniversary of AJ coming to live with her.

I didn’t know that half your clothes would be three sizes too small.
I didn’t know that you had never had a bedtime routine.
I didn’t know that you’d never had a bedroom.
I didn’t know that you would throw blocks at the door when you were mad.
I didn’t know that I would intentionally cut holes in your pockets.
I didn’t know that you would run into the street to prove a point.
I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that you would hug twice as hard when you felt your world falling apart.
I didn’t know that you would sneak into my heart the same as you’d sneak into my bed.
I didn’t know that I had the power to banish monsters.
I didn’t know that I would finally learn how to throw a football.
I didn’t know that I would fight for you in court.
I didn’t know what unconditional meant.
I didn’t know that to the moon and back just wouldn’t be enough.
I didn’t know.

I didn’t know, but now I know.

I know that I will be there for you through your highs and your lows.
I know that you will be there for me too.
I know that there is not one definition for the word ‘family’.
I know that it won’t always be easy, it won’t always be fun.
I know that it will always be worth it.
I know that I love you today and that I’ll love you every tomorrow.

To the moon and back baby, and a whole lot more.

Friday Finds

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A picture from our hike last weekend, hoping to sneak another one in this weekend!

Hi there and happy Friday!

We hope you have had a great week and are looking forward to the weekend! We’ve linked  a few of our favorite parenting-ish related finds from this week and wanted to share them with you as you go into the weekend.

This video had me doubled over laughing as Seth Meyers describes the birth of his second child… in his apartment lobby.

A beautifully written essay of a small-kindness experienced by a new mother in the midst of a stressful situation. The reader comments are almost as beautiful!

And a fun instagram post from famous author and activist Glennon Doyle as she comments on some of (her own) more relatable aspects of parenting.

 

Just in case you want to know what the texts of a real live #parentingexpert look like first thing in the morning. Listen to me: this is one thing I actually do know about parenting: IT’S HARD. We must stay strong and sane-ish. We must remember that we are the Bosses of THEM. Kids don’t change their behavior when It Doesn’t work for their parents. Kids change their behavior WHEN It STOPS WORKING FOR THEM. SO- you don’t want to do the dishes cause it’s too hard??? You know what else is hard? Making dinner! You’re on your own! Finding your uniform too hard? You know what else is hard? Driving you to practice! On your own! Forgot your coat and homework? DETENTION’S GONNA BE CHILLY!!!! Let’s love these suckers enough to make sure they learn. Let’s let them fail now – while it’s (relatively) safe. Let. Them. Fail. Let them be sad and mad at us. Better to let them think we suck then keep saving them, thus ensuring that they will actually and forever suck. I repeat- we are the bosses of them. We. Will. Win. We are bigger and wiser and we have the car keys and the money. We can do hard things. Tender Reminder: don’t bring the mom shame please. I swear I will turn this blog around. Less fake, more real. Less making parenting harder by pretending it’s not hard. More room for being human while mothering. Xoxoxox love you kiddos. Good luck this week. If you need me, call someone else. Love you infinity.

A post shared by Glennon Doyle (@glennondoyle) on

Why I listen for ‘remember when’

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An everyday walk turned into a ‘remember when’.

You guys, this parenting thing is HARD. It’s hard even on the best of days – when you’re well rested, well fed, and emotionally content. On the less than great days it can feel so defeating. My admitting that it’s hard doesn’t take away from any of the joyful parts – and we know there are many – it also won’t make it any less hard, but hopefully it can make you feel less alone.

Among the many things that make parenting hard, the one that is a huge struggle for me is balance. How do I balance my kids needs and desires against my own? They don’t always live in opposition but they occasionally do. If I feel like I need 60 minutes to myself in my room, how does that balance my child’s need to have me sitting next to him while he builds legos or his desire to have me play catch?

I don’t feel like every waking moment my child and I are together we have to be engaged. Similarly it isn’t fair to him if in all of our time together my phone is in my hand. (Y’all I’m trying to break the habit, I really am!) Before I became a parent I had strong beliefs about things like screen time, beliefs that in my current reality are just unreasonable and in past realities were plain laughable. A single parent in school full-time? Let’s be real, my child was lucky to be fed and read to – ok it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t good either. We’ve recently entered a new season of life, one that’s a little more relaxed, a little more peaceful.So now I am in the process of examining our day to day.

It’s not that I’m hoping to increase the quantity of time AJ and I spend together necessarily, but I do want more quality time. I’m looking at our interactions and asking, how can I up the quality of them. I have had so many ideas swirling around in my head – a well thought out pinterest activity perfect for instagramming everyday? YES!… no.. I have so much respect for parents who pull these things off but it isn’t me. By the time I’ve compiled the list of things we’d have to find or buy to accomplish the pinterest worthy activity — I’m already bored and burnt out. When I sat and really thought about the few times I’ve actually managed to get an activity to the kitchen table, AJ and I have had fun. But it’s never been an activity that gets talked about months later.

Speaking of activities that get talked about later, when I really stopped and listened to AJ and the memories he brings up later on – you guys it’s so simple:

“Remember that time we made our own pizzas together?”

“Remember when we went on a walk to the shopping place and I jumped off that ledge?”

“Remember when I helped with the laundry and we played that game where I was the king?”

“Remember that time we watched a movie and we made the fancy popcorn and s’mores together?”

 

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AJ making pizza for dinner.

So many of his favorite memories have come from the times I’ve simply made more of an effort to include him in the activities I would be doing anyway. Maybe you can relate, but if I’m able to cross of the things on my to do list, I’m more relaxed and happy spending time together. What I hadn’t realized however, is that like all kids AJ also gets boosts to his self-worth when he feels like he’s contributing to the household – and let’s face it, I have not figured out a sustainable way to manage chores. The past week I’ve made more of an effort to ask AJ if he wants to help while I do [insert mundane chore here] and sometimes he says “no” but sometimes he says “yes” and maybe it takes an extra five minutes to accomplish an activity but it is so much more fun when we do it together and I love that we’re creating new “Remember whens.”

I truly believe if I hadn’t noticed and started listening for the “Remembers” coming out of AJ’s mouth I’d still be in the kitchen cooking by myself. Stewing in guilty feelings that I wasn’t at the table creating indoor sand castles with a nine year old who would quite frankly rather be rowing himself down the alley with a skateboard and a stick.

I’m a statistic

As many districts in Oklahoma are in their second week of teacher walkouts I thought I’d share a post I originally shared on my Facebook:

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In 2003 it was estimated in a study that 40% of teachers quit before their sixth year. Another comprehensive study that began in 2007 and finished in 2012 calculated that percentage to be closer to 17%. While that is a less frightening number, it is still a very large percentage. A percentage I am a part of.

From my new desk job in a different city in a different state, I watch and support the efforts of my friends, old coworkers, past students and their families to change the reality that is a failing school system in Oklahoma.

In the same study as above it was discovered that 97% of first year teachers earning at least 40k returned compared to only 87% of those earning less than 40k. As things stand in one of the largest districts in Oklahoma a teacher is not scheduled to earn over $40,000 until her 17th year of teaching.

The raise matters, it does. As a single parent earning that little, I felt I could not provide for my child. In less than a year I have doubled my salary. The raise matters, BUT it is NOT about the raise.

I wasn’t called to teach, I loved parts of it it will always be a part of who I am and I’m grateful for the lessons my students taught me and for the love we shared.

If I felt I was called to teach, I might still be there. My last principal was amazing, supportive, and understanding. My coworkers optimistic, determined, and positive. Yet everyday I walked out of the classroom feeling like a failure. I could not provide what I felt my active and playful five year old students deserved in a mobile building, a shoebox sized classroom without any storage, and classroom supplies and enrichment materials coming out of my own meager earnings.

I saw a sign from the coverage of the Oklahoma teacher walkouts that said: Teacher working conditions ARE student learning conditions.

Yes it was easy to be frustrated that to use a bathroom I had to cross a parking lot. Yes it was easy to complain about not having time to clean and set up my room while my students had art or music because those teachers had to use the room since we didn’t have enough rooms for them. Yes I could talk about how much easier recess would be to monitor with a playground. It’s easy to talk about these things and say “but I love it” or “it’s worth it”. It’s much harder to say, “this is the best we can do for our students, and IT. IS. NOT. ENOUGH.”

Yes, I am no longer teaching because I wanted to send my kid to summer camp at the museum, because I wanted to be financially able to travel, because I wanted to be financially independent from my own parents. I wanted to be respected for the service I was providing, the hours and investment I put in. BUT I am one of the 17% because I couldn’t handle the emotional stress of our students’ circumstances for another day.

I support the teachers in Oklahoma demanding better for themselves, their families, their schools, and their students. You got this!

This too shall pass…

AJ asleep on mat in master bedroom

My son, now nine, came to live with me when he was five. Well beyond the newborn middle of the night wake up calls. In many ways at age five we were beyond many of the parenting stages that are frequently talked about: sleep deprivation, terrible twos, potty training, etc. Sure we’ve gone through many different iterations of our relationship since that day in April almost exactly four years ago that we became family. But I was unique in that, as a mid-twenty year old with a young child I’d never experienced consecutive nights of disrupted sleep.

Until a few months ago.

My now nine year son suddenly became incapable of sleeping through the night in his own room. When AJ first came to live with me we struggled immensely with going to sleep. Many phone calls to my mom (she even wrote us Alec and the Sandman to help!) and internet searches later, but most importantly with time to develop a consistent bedtime routine, we had slayed:

    The ‘I can’t fall asleep’ beast,

    The ‘I’m not tired’ beast,

    The ‘suddenly hungry despite turning down all snacks ten minutes ago’ beast,

    The ‘just one more book’ beast,

    The ‘I have to go to the bathroom again’ beast,

    And my favorite: the ‘I just miss you when I’m asleep’ beast.

But throughout all of this, once the boy was asleep he was asleep for 10-12 blissfully quiet and calm hours.

The first few time AJ woke in the middle of the night, I was calm, I didn’t hit the panic button. I just walked him back to his room and sat with him until he fell back asleep. I did this, again and again and again, multiple times a night, night after night. I became a zombie – I lost my patience and I hit the panic button. The internet had fewer suggestions for this problem than it did when he was five. The suggestions I did find mostly boiled down to routine – which we had faithfully maintained for years. I was out of ideas, so I did what I always do when I’m stuck – I called my mom.

Her advice was to roll back the panic, to survive within it. This was a phase she said, it too will pass. In the meantime find a temporary solution that makes you both happy and healthy.

Empty mat in bedroom

Enter the camping mat. For over two months this camping mat has lived in a corner of my room waiting. And for a little over a month and a half I woke up in the morning looked over and saw my little man snoozing next to me. Sure I worried throughout this time: can he possibly be getting quality sleep? is he warm enough down there? IS THIS GOING TO GO ON FOREVER? Well he never once complained about being cold or uncomfortable – he is 9 and not 29 I suppose. And low and behold about two weeks ago it stopped as quickly as it started. It has been two weeks of waking up to an empty mat and I’m ready to pack it away, it seems it’s need is gone – but if I’m wrong I won’t hesitate to bring it back. It won’t be forever, it’s just a phase and it won’t last.

I’m grateful to have had this experience and the reminder that sometimes there isn’t a true solution to a problem. Sometimes you have to look at things differently. This wasn’t a problem to solve; it was a phase in our lives to accommodate and find peace within. And believe it or not I already kind of miss this phase like all the others behind us – even if only a little bit.

Introducing… ME!

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Kelly and AJ

Hey there! This is Lana unicorn, aka Kelly – the youngest daughter of Dr. Wanda Venters. I just wanted to do a quick little introduction as you might be seeing me around the blog and on some of the social medias in the future.

While I will leave the more educational pieces to my mom, I hope to write some fun and insightful posts about my experiences as a mom. I was a preschool and kindergarten teacher for 3.5 years where I met my now adopted 9 year old son AJ. “Alec and the Sandman” is based off AJ and me and, of course, our four legged family member Waldo. A little over a year ago I decided to change careers and become a computer programmer — so if you notice some web changes coming up that’s probably me too!

I love The Unicorn Stories. They are still a favorite bedtime read and have helped both myself and my son tremendously. The online parenting community is so special and I can’t wait to have a space to contribute. I look forward to sharing this parenting journey with you!

Kelly.

Guns and Safety

I grew up on twenty acres and there was usually a loaded shotgun in the corner for crows and coyotes. My dad kept a handgun in his desk. My seventy-year-old grandmother kept a loaded handgun under her car seat—as I discovered once by braking sharply while driving her around. Even as a young adult, I thought this “protection” seemed dangerous. As an adult, I found the statistics on the risk of guns to the people who owned them fairly convincing and I have never wanted one.

The family I grew up in was lucky not to have suffered a firearm accident.. I know countless stories of friends and patients who were not as lucky. When I visited my parents’ home with my children, I would gather up the guns and put them high in the closet.

My position on guns is that the second amendment does grant people the right to bear arms but this right is not unlimited. Most people will agree that a person does not have the right to keep grenades or missiles. There are limits to the weapons a person can own. Then the question is what are those limits and when does safety for society as a whole take precedence over personal rights.

At this point in America, gun violence is a definite public health risk and as a society we need to improve our current limits. I hate that I feared for my daughter’s safety as she became a teacher. I hate that going to high school or a high school sporting event makes me nervous in terms of a possible shooting. All the metal detectors in the world aren’t going to make a football game or school parking lot or an open air concert safe.

When I was growing up our school drill was to duck under our desks in case of a nuclear attack. Of course this seemed ridiculous even then as means of preventing injury. Now children from preschool up know that danger can easily be outside their classroom door or around the corner.  My children got nightmares from fire drills. I can’t imagine the nights after “Active Shooter” drills.

I stand with #NeverAgain for sensible gun laws.

That Gut Feeling

We have all heard that phrase. But what does it mean? New medical information tells us that there is constant communication between our guts and our brains. We have all felt “butterflies” in our stomachs when we are nervous. How our gut feels often influences how we feel or perceive situations. How anxious we feel often effects how our stomach feels.

Many children, especially between the ages of 4 and 10 years, have recurrent abdominal pain. This pain rarely has a serious source or cause. But the children’s stomachs hurt and the pain makes them anxious. Also their anxiety makes their stomach hurt. As pediatricians we often do some preliminary screening tests to rule out disease but if those tests are normal and the child is growing well with normal stools then the next step is to try to decrease the anxiety in our patients. We can reassure the family and child that there is no serious illness going on. Which when you stop and think about it, is really good news. Most children will have the stomachaches off and on and the treatment will be to stay in school, use a benign medicine such as Tums and know that the pain will pass.

Making sure that your child is not constipated can help limit their pain. They should have a bowel movement at least every other day if not daily. Miralax or mineral oil and stool softeners can help achieve this stooling pattern. The family can pay attention to any foods that trigger a stomachache. Many children become lactose intolerant at these ages and will do better with cheese and yogurt, foods in which most of the lactose is broken down, than with milk. Many high fructose foods and candies can trigger stomachaches. These are chewy candies or fruit roll ups. In my house licorice was often the trigger.

While it is important to understand that we should take care of our gut it is also important not to obsess about everything we eat. There is new information that extreme diets or even restrictions of normal foods, i.e. gluten when the child does not have celiac, can harm our health.

Probiotics and meditation and other relaxation techniques can be helpful. Sometimes just practicing taking a few slow deep breaths can be soothing.

If there are many stressors in a child’s life or if the abdominal pain worsens, professional counseling can be helpful.

The main point is to listen to our guts, respect our guts, but do not worry too much about pain in an otherwise healthy person. A great 15 min TED talk about the gut can be found at the following link: