My Love/Hate Relationship With Play Dough

For almost three and a half years of Cookie Monster’s life, I banned Play-Doh from our house. The only time he or Gamera got to play with it was when we were at other people’s houses. Anytime someone gave us Play Doh as a gift, it mysteriously disappeared. You see, I hate Play Doh. It crumbles. Gets all over the floor. Ends up on my carpets no matter how much I tell my kids to only play with it in the kitchen. It dries into hard, sharp chunks that gunk up toys. It smells funny. And it dries all too quickly.

I tried to make play dough a few times, but they always turned yucky really quickly (either getting super wet again or getting too clumpy). I gave up on that idea after wasting several cups of flour and salt.

I felt mildly bad since the kids kept watching YouTube videos on various Play Doh sets and how to make fancy ice cream cones or whatever. But I certainly didn’t feel bad enough to give in and buy them any.

However, Cookie Monster’s preschool teacher had the most awesome home made play dough. It was nice, clean smelling, didn’t clump, and had a great texture. I kept putting off asking her for the recipe because I didn’t want to bring play dough into the house. I knew once I did, I would never get rid of it.

Well, one day in the summer, when I was hugely pregnant with Glow Worm, somehow we ended up with a bunch of play dough Cookie Monster’s teacher gave us. She also lent us a bunch of play dough toys (eg: rolling pins, knives, stencils, cookie cutters, scissors). Cookie Monster and Gamera were occupied for hours. HOURS. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a fluke but it wasn’t. They played play dough for HOURS at a time every day and did not stop.

I would overhear Cookie Monster quote the YouTube videos he watched, saying, “Remove the excess.” “Use the molds.” And watch him know what to do with certain play sets because he’d watch the videos over and over again.

It was amazing.

I immediately asked for her recipe and started scavenging craigslist for play dough toys. And now, I make a new batch of play dough every month or two. The kids love it and I don’t hate it quite as much. (Nor do I feel bad about throwing away old play dough because it was cheap to make.)

If you hate store bought Play Doh and don’t mind about 15-20 minutes of work, here is The Best Play Dough Recipe Ever. The secret ingredient is cream of tartar. I have no idea what people use it for other than for play dough. Pro-Tip: after you make the play dough, put it in a ziplock bag unzipped overnight. That way, it doesn’t re-condense and get all moist and yucky right away.

Enjoy!

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Sometimes Love is Easy and Sometimes, Not So Much

The hardest part of love, for me anyway, isn’t loving people in spite of their faults. In fact, it is the near constant reminder (especially when caring for small humans and listening to my own mother) that it is MY character flaws that prevent me from loving people well.

Yes, some people make it hard to love them due to prickly personalities or extremely annoying habits, but in general, I would say the fault is mostly mine. If love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self seeking, is slow to anger, keeps no record of wrongs, (among other things) I am screwed. (And that was just this morning.)

Truthfully, I love my kids with all my heart and soul. But then they talk back or don’t listen or scream or throw tantrums or revenge pee (I’m looking at youGamera) or do any number of things that drive me almost insane with frustration and anger and I yell or say mean things and I feel like a shit. Then we somehow make it to bedtime and they’re asleep and angelic and gorgeous and it is all I can do to contain my vast and unending love and devotion to them.

If only love were a feeling only! Then I’d be the most loving mother and wife in the whole world – the whole universe, even. But no. My kids (and most people in general) can only experience love by my actions – not my beautiful feelings. This is incredibly unfortunate for any number of reasons – first and foremost, that I am incredibly selfish and controlling.

Before I had kids, I never understood why Old Testament people would sacrifice to idols or perform any number of rituals or sacrifices to prove their love and devotion. I couldn’t comprehend why people seemed to love their rituals, superstitions, curses, magic, psychics, and fortune tellers, etc. But now that I am older and have three small humans I love and adore, I totally get it.

I totally get why people would make sacrifices at the altar of a god they could see, touch, and feel. Why they would flock to mediums for divination or healing.

It is about control.

You see, I would MUCH rather prove my love and devotion to God by following superstitions and religious rules and traditions. I want an instruction manual to get what I want, when I want, and HOW I want. Some people think the Bible is exactly that: a really huge and thick How-To manual on how to earn God’s favor. Hence, you get those health and wealth preachers and nonsense like The Prayer of Jabez.

If I am honest to myself, I often want a sure-fire way to get what I want from God. If I just do XYZ then I am guaranteed my kids will grow up healthy/happy/successful/whatever. I don’t want a relationship with God – I want God to give me the stuff that I want! I want him to be a magical genie in a bottle. A supernatural slave.

In the same way, I would prefer to demonstrate my love and devotion to my kids by following a restricted diet than to not yell. It is much easier to sacrifice or follow rules than it is to have an actual relationship – you know, where I am kind and patient and have actual conversations versus just staring at my phone instead of dealing with my children as human beings with feelings and wants and desires of their own.

Usually I learn lessons about God through my interactions with my kids as a parent. Today, it’s the opposite. I guess I just assume I want a relationship with my kids (although now that I think about it, obedient robots can sound extremely tempting!) and don’t assume I want a relationship with God. Make of that what you will.

Sometimes, Parenting is a Slog

I came to an unexpected realization tonight. I don’t think I’ve been happy lately. A lot of it is due to me feeling overwhelmed about Glow Worm and then my two older kids on top of that. Then, I feel stupid for feeling so overwhelmed because let’s be honest. Glow Worm’s skin issues aren’t life threatening. (The infections may have come to that had I allowed them to rage on, but I didn’t and he’s much better now.)

After going to Stanford pediatric dermatology, they gave me some skin regimens that though labor intensive and a pain in the ass, are quite doable and are working. My main gripe with them is they care more about treatment versus prevention. They seemed skeptical about what I think is the root cause of Glow Worm’s eczema (protein sensitivities from food). So, short of repeated treatment (granted, effective treatment), they aren’t really helpful in terms of preventing this from occurring in the future.

I find this both disappointing and infuriating. It’s not like I suggested Glow Worm’s eczema was caused by aliens doing scientific experiments on him. FFS, be useful! It is NOT a fait accompli! Blergh.

So, hopefully, this is just a phase that I’m going through. Sorry my blog is nonstop complainy lately. Please don’t think I am not grateful for my life and my kids. It’s just a tough (for me, anyway) time at the moment.

What I am SUPER grateful, other than my family, are my awesome friends who go out of their way to babysit my older kids so I can take Glow Worm to doctor appointments without also having to deal with two small children, as well as offer to pick up and drop off Cookie Monster from school. It so strange how it was initially very difficult for me to accept this type of help. Now, I’m all for it.

Truly, I don’t know how people do it without any help from friends or family. I would just curl up and cry (more).

I am so tired that my house is a mess (I haven’t really cleaned it in at least a month – which in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal, but the part of me that likes to get things clean and done cringes), my kids are barely fed and clothed, and I just pretty much let Cookie Monster and Gamera fend for themselves. In fact, this morning, I realized that not only do I have no idea how to play with Gamera when Cookie Monster is at school, I have no desire to.

I am not sure whether or not that is a good, bad, or neutral thing.

Part of me thinks that one of the perks of bearing multiple children super close in age is me no longer needing to entertain small children. The other part of me thinks that I am a lazy, half-assing parent. (Perhaps both opinions can be simultaneously true.)

I know several of my friends have suggested that I hire a baby sitter to come and watch the children while I decompress. While I appreciate that suggestion, the thought of doing so just causes me more stress. My kids have only been watched by family or close friends. Hiring a babysitter to watch all THREE of my kids (that is THREE kids four and under) is costly (around $25/hr or maybe more) and likely, traumatic for my incredibly clingy children. In fact, I think Glow Worm would be the most accepting of a baby sitter. Also, I find it really wasteful since the whole point of me being a SAHM is to STAY AT HOME. This is my JOB.

Keep in mind, I also do have a reasonable amount of alone time when Hapa Papa is at home or my mom comes over. I do leave the house sans children. Of course, when I come back, I usually have to be OK with the house looking as if a tornado swept through it and my kids in various states of disarray. (Not that this is not the situation when I watch my kids by myself, but it is even MORE overwhelming when I have just been all peaceful and happy and then walk home into what seems like a Disaster Zone and have to switch back into parenting mode. Then I find that all that Zen-ness immediately leaks away and my shoulders tense right back up.)

Anyhow, I find myself constantly tired and annoyed – even with going to sleep when the kids sleep (around 9pm). Granted, my sleep is constantly broken, but I AM sleeping. I finally got around to watching some TV the other day (I haven’t made a dent in my DVR in at least a month) and my reading seems to have picked up again. But mostly, I feel as if I’m treading water and anything I do to decompress just piles up the To Do list higher and higher.

Compounding this is Hapa Papa traveling a lot as well as my mom being gone for about two weeks with her own travels. Yes, yes. Cry me a river. I realize that so many people out there are single parents and have to deal with this AS WELL AS work full time. I get it. I am not special or unique in my travails. I’m not trying to start a “Who has it harder” pissing contest. I am just telling it like it is for me right now.

No doubt, I just have to chug through this and in a few weeks, Glow Worm will be markedly healed, I will get more sleep, my kids will miraculously listen instead of looking at me like I’m making suggestions until I yell at them and even then, they move SO FUCKING SLOWLY – oh right, I was in the middle of telling myself that it will all be better soon.

I know I would seriously feel less stressed if I did the following:

1) Sleep more.

2) Build in more time to account for the unaccountable SLOWNESS of my older children doing ANYTHING that requires haste.

3) Stop caring HOW my kids do things as long as they do it. However slowly.

4) Eat more fruits and vegetables. (Oh, let’s just be honest. Eat fruits and vegetables. That would instantly make it more.)

5) Stop worrying about if my children injure themselves. I can warn them all I want but if my kids seem to have an utter inability to sit in the center of the fucking chair, then they deserve to fall off. Every day. I just. Gah. I suppose that’s why we have health insurance. *sigh*

6) Choose to focus on the good moments.

7) Choose to let go of the bad moments.

8) Drink more peach bellinis. Mmmmm… I need to learn how to make me some of those. I have a VitaMix. And Google. It can be done. (Sigh. Now I’ve become a stereotypical SAHM who drinks. I don’t even drink! But I can start!)

Alright, who wants to have an afternoon (Oh, why lie? Morning sounds fine, too.) play date where we make and consume peach bellinis?

The Winner’s Mentality

Every time I watch a game, I am reminded again of my utter lack of a killer instinct and winning mentality in sports. Hapa Papa says that is because I don’t play any.

I beg to differ. I’ll have you know that I played on the tennis team in high school.

I can say with great assuredness that any time I started losing momentum, I would almost immediately resign myself to having lost the game and pretty soon, game, set, match, I’d given up the game.

Now, one could argue that had I more competency in tennis, I would’ve been more confident and sure of my win. Or it could be my being female. Who knows? All I know is that I am not a clutch player. I would rather take the guaranteed loss than risk my heart and try, then lose.

But I suppose Hapa Papa could be right. Perhaps if I had grown up playing sports and had enough proficiency, I too would want the game winning shot.

All I know is that thought terrifies me. I think it’s also part of the reason I wasn’t more successful as a Financial Advisor. (It has an 80% fail rate.) Even going into the job, I didn’t think I could do it. How could I succeed with an attitude like that?

I was always waiting for my manager to call me in his office and say they were letting me go. Any time a client called, I would internally freak out that they were going to tell me they were unhappy or wanted to leave. (Although when clients fire you, you usually just see the account transfer out. There rarely is any advanced notice.)

What is my point with all this? I guess that fear pervaded so much of my life. It was in my bones. And I can’t tell whether that is because this Loser’s Mentality is because I just wasn’t confident and competent or whether this is because I have a character flaw and am destined for failure in all that I do. (Which, logically, I know is ridiculous. Because if I failed at everything, wouldn’t that mean I succeeded at failing? This hurts my brain on a Monday morning after a late night JT concert.)

 

One thing I am pleasantly surprised about, though. For someone who yells at my kids a lot, I am actually rather calm when “crises” occur. I have taken multiple calm trips to the ER (mostly for Cookie Monster because this boy sure gets injured!) and have even administered an Epi-pen shot (also Cookie Monster) without totally going berserk. Not sure how I’d react in situations that require CPR, but I did learn it (a few years ago – I should have a refresher course) and if someone were to require it, I’d probably be able to do so. Especially, if that someone were my kid.

Hmmm. Now that I think of it, I read a book called Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson (affiliate link used) that does explain a lot of it. (Same authors of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.) You can read an excerpt/NY Times article here.

The tl;dr version is that we all have two copies of a COMT gene. One version makes us a Worrier (excellent under every day circumstances and crumbles under pressure) and one version makes us Warriors (bored under every day circumstances and thrives under pressure). 50% of us have a copy of each gene while 25% of us have both Worrier genes and 25% of us have both Warrior genes.

They ran experiments for performance under stress and found that while you would think the Warriors would perform best, it was also not entirely true. Under similar beginner skill levels, Warriors would perform best. However, once the level of experience increased, Worriers would perform better because they had more experience and a better memory from which to draw.

Anyhow, my blathering aside, I guess that it just means I do not have the skill or experience needed to be a clutch player but I DO for parenting my children. That’s comforting on a Monday morning. 🙂

Nagging an Inattentive God

According to this Huffington Post article, nagging is one of the top reasons people divorce. (Incidentally, I’m obsessed with the HuffPo Divorce section. I find that sometimes, you don’t know what works until you see what’s broken.) I can tell you absolutely that if nagging is the main reason, I’m screwed because goodness knows I would never try to change my behavior. Everyone knows that Hapa Papa is the reasonable one in the relationship.

The main reason I nag Hapa Papa (other than, apparently, my being female – sexism alert!) is because I don’t feel heard. Hapa Papa has a bad habit of rarely acknowledging things I say to him. Of course, he claims that my heavy onslaught of orders/mandates/”conversation” makes it near impossible to acknowledge them all. I just say he’s a quitter.

So, I keep nagging Hapa Papa until he acknowledges me in some way (usually with annoyance). And then I nag him until he actually does what I want. (Two separate actions.)

Hapa Papa is not the only one in the family to bear the brunt of my constant nagging. So are my children. I constantly harp on Cookie Monster and Gamera to sit down properly in their chairs, (Cookie Monster falls out of his chair AT LEAST once a day. Like, seriously? No learning from experience, that child.) eat their food, pick up after themselves, put away their toys, hurry up, etc. The other day, Cookie Monster told me to stop talking and go away because he couldn’t stand hearing me tell him to sit down in his chair anymore. Then, he promptly fell out of his chair. Again. (I felt smug and vindicated; I am a small and petty person.)

Lately, I made the connection that my kids whine in due part because I nag. (Ok, I didn’t make the connection on my own. It was spelled out in this Parents article. More on this article in a future post.) My kids whine because they are afraid that they aren’t heard or acknowledged. So, they keep asking for the same thing over and over again, with greater and greater urgency. I really hate that they are learning my bad habits. I am hoping that if I stop nagging, they will stop whining. I think I made it fifteen minutes.

Anyhow, the other night, I was praying for my kids and I found myself repeating the same plea to God over and over again. “Please keep my children safe. Keep my children safe. Keep my kids safe. Watch over them and keep them safe from harm.” Sometimes, I varied it up and said the same thing but in different words. Or in a different order. And then I stopped.

Did I think that God didn’t hear me the first time? Or that God might have missed part of what I was saying? Or that God was stupid and required me to explain things repeatedly and slowly, as if God were a foreigner who couldn’t understand English?

When I thought about it, God doesn’t really need me to pray for Him to know what I want or need. And certainly not on repeat. Presumably, being omniscient and all, that’s stuff God would already know. After all, prayer is for the supplicant, to get to the root of their heart’s desire. So what did that mean when I kept praying the same thing over and over again, as if I were stuck in a loop?

And then it hit me. Some part of me thinks God isn’t listening. Or that if God is listening, that He doesn’t care. Therefore, the only way to get and maintain God’s attention is to whine and plead and cajole and just wear Him down until He’s like, “STFU! Here’s the stupid thing you wanted. Now, please STOP with the praying!”

If I were God, I’d have punched me in the throat. I’d be totally offended. And super annoyed. (I suppose who’s to say that God is not offended or annoyed? *slowly looks up and backs away*)

So I decided I’m going to try a new thing. I am only going to pray ONCE for something per prayer time. It’s really hard. It’s as if I am trying to fill up the airtime with God so that I don’t have to hear anything He has to say to me about my life or my desires.

It is hard to trust that God takes me seriously and wants me to have good things. It is hard to remember that God is the original Prodigal Father. That my love and desires for my children pale in comparison to how God feels about me. I find it incredulous.

Then, I find that the only prayer available to me is a short but apt one: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV)

Massive Parenting Fail

A lot of parenting is a big crap shoot. You may have a situation (say, your kid being a real PITA when it comes to eating) and you want to find a solution. So, you look to your friends or the interwebz or books (remember those?). However, every now and then, you have a situation where it doesn’t really bother you, but you feel as if it should.

I will call this phenomenon, Creating More Problems for Yourself™, also known as, You Are a Fucking Idiot™, or You Stupid Masochist™.

As many of you know, Cookie Monster can be difficult when it comes to eating. He’s not the world’s pickiest eater, but he’s picky enough that it annoys me and bothers me and often, he goes to bed hungry because he just didn’t like what was for dinner. I’ve battled it out many a time with him, and it always leaves me wiped out, annoyed, and sad. Sad because I turn into a screaming monster and end up roughly shoving Cookie Monster into time out, or locking him in the garage (with the lights on), or locking him in his room for a few minutes. This leads to weeping hysterics from Cookie Monster (can’t imagine why) and escalating tantrums and simultaneous Limp Toddler (so I feel as if I’m going to wrench his arms out) and Will Not Move But Can Really Kick and Slam His Head Into Something Toddler.

However, we’ve been making some headway, and usually, I stop caring and tell him if he doesn’t eat by the time we go upstairs to take a bath, then he’s just going to be hungry until breakfast. For his meals in general, I don’t care if he takes a few bites, goes play, runs around, and then comes back for a few more bites, and then disappears again. It annoys me slightly because I know it’s a bad habit, and it makes it hard to go out to eat, but ultimately, I don’t care.

Well, one of my friends came over the other day and her four year old daughter kept saying that my kids weren’t sitting down to eat properly and running around during meal times. My friend wasn’t trying to make me feel bad or anything – she was just pointing out that they were very strict with their kids about meal times. No loud talking and no running off during meals. Totally reasonable. My friend was just trying to explain why her kid was making these observations. No judging.

Anyhow, I got it in my head that my kids should sit still and eat their food all in one sitting without taking breaks. I randomly decided to begin enforcing this yesterday morning – with no warning to my kids. Needless to say, it did not go over well. At 7:40am in the morning, I was already screaming at Cookie Monster, throwing him in the garage, bringing him upstairs to his room while he was screaming and weeping his brains out. All he kept crying was, “I want to play!!” I finally collapsed on the floor to the kids’ room and almost started sobbing. I left Cookie Monster there and went downstairs and ignored my children for awhile to calm down.

Then, I had an epiphany.

What the fuck was I doing? I don’t even care about whether or not Cookie Monster sits at the table quietly for the whole duration of his meal. If he doesn’t finish his food by the time we have to leave (or whatever other reason), then he’ll be hungry. I don’t want to scream and yell at my sweet boy. And certainly not first thing in the morning. Why was I trying so hard (and failing so miserably) to enforce something that I didn’t care about in a way that didn’t fit my personality at all? It was like putting on the wrong skin – that’s how I felt during the whole heated exchange. That I was not myself – and it was horrible.

So, I said, “Fuck it.” As a result, very little screaming for the rest of the day and yes, Cookie Monster went hungry for dinner because he didn’t want what I made and I was fine with that. So was he. He wasn’t going to die and I wouldn’t feel like a shit. Win/Win.

I know I’ve posted about this before, but it’s good to remind myself YET AGAIN. I do not want to be responsible for dimming the lights in my children’s eyes (especially Cookie Monster since he’s the oldest and I’m the hardest on him). I want them to know only love and kindness from their mommy, however imperfect I am. I want to be worthy of their love and adoration.

Cookie Monster can be an annoying PITA (ie: a preschooler) but then there are the times when he races out of the door after school, throwing his arms around me saying, “You’re here!” or when he ran to me last night and declared, “You’re my best friend!” (I don’t even think he knows what that means, but it means a lot to me.) There are the moments when we’re laying in bed and he cups my face in his hands and his big eyes glow full of love and enthusiasm and he just laughs and laughs and laughs. Or when we’re saying our prayers and he is just so grateful for everything when he recounts his day.

I have to hold on to the truth that I love my boy even when things are chaotic and I’m exhausted and cranky and feeling as if kicking a puppy would make me feel better. Sometimes, it’s just really hard to remember in the heat of the moment.

*sigh* When I tell Hapa Papa this and he’s also tired and cranky, sometimes, he’ll tell me that it’s my own fault because I wanted so many children and that it will only be harder with four kids. I have to restrain myself from punching him in the throat. But other times, Hapa Papa is sympathetic and understanding and gives a lot of grace.

That’s also what I have to remember: no matter how much I screw up and I yell, “Jesus!” in half expletive and half prayer, that I am given a soothing balm of grace that covers my many sins to my children. I have to trust and hope and choose to believe that God’s grace is sufficient – and that my children will grow up fine despite my many failings.

Weird. Somehow my post went from my massive parenting fail to a post ending on God’s grace. I suppose it is aptly fitting. Amen to that.