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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Velvet Nose: Moments that matter with your kids

Singing incorrect lyrics is just one way to strengthen your family.
We sing primary songs to our two older children as part of the bedtime ritual most nights. During requests, they often get to the point where they sing the entire song to you to request that you sing it. They love the tradition, and it really does help calm them down and get them ready for bed.

One of the songs is one my children call "The Bluebird Song" but is actually called "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." They call it that because the opening line says: "Whenever I hear the song of a bird, or look at the blue, blue sky." So they just kind of ran with it and it became "The Bluebird Song." I actually had to ask my wife the real title just now.

One lyric in the song is, "Whenever I touch a velvet rose, or walk by a lilac tree, I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world, Heavenly Father created for me." And when I sing this to them, I always substitute "nose" for "rose" and poke their noses lovingly. Every time, they burst into laughter and correct me with their "Daddy-you're-being-silly voices."

"Velvet rose!" they emphasize. I'll sometimes alter the lyrics here and there just to elicit this reaction, but this one I do almost every time. It's almost become part of the song, sort of like a round. I love it, and by the delighted voices of my children when I boofer the lyrics, they love it too.

This is the kind of moment every parent should cultivate with their children. It is so important to develop inside jokes, quirky and silly repeating jokes, and little rituals that help you bond. This is a major strengthener to any family, even though the events often seem minor. Look for ways to cultivate these minor moments that will become lasting memories for both you and your children. And beyond that, it socializes your children, teaching them how to be a friend in part because you are being their friend with the kind of moments friendship are made of.

What rituals have you found in your family which strengthen you in minor ways?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The real reasons why babies don't smile

Don't even think about making me smile.
I know so-called “experts” say babies don't smile because of that whole “not developed enough” thinger, but I think there's more to it than that. So I got to thinking what reasons a baby would have not to smile. All of this came to me as I was cooing and wiggling my head and grinning like an idiot trying to get my two-week-old daughter to smile at me and show off her dimples. Here's the list:

  1. They're asleep: Yes. Even when they're awake they're asleep. Eyeballs don't mean anything. Just because they're looking at you doesn't mean they're consciously aware. They're just sleeping with their eyes open.
  2. They're little: Think about it. If you were that tiny and everyone else around you were ginormous, happiness probably wouldn't be on the docket. Emotions you would feel? Paranoia, fear, helplessness, and indigestion. Technically the last one's not an emotion, though it sure causes some.
  3. They have indigestion: Nothing worse than not being able to digest liquid easily. How hard can it be? But those little kids have a rough time on it, if the looks of concentration mean anything.
  4. They're about to puke: All the time. My kids have never even been anywhere near what some kids have, but man have I gotten doused with our newest little girl. The word shower comes to mind, but not in a good way.
  5. They don't see well: Their eyes are still pretty glazed over at two weeks. For all you know, they could see you as a fire demon or ogre making obnoxious noises or something.
  6. They can't move: Would you be happy if your life consisted of sitting in one place wiggling arms and legs until someone decided to pay attention to you? Oh wait – that's what people running those mall kiosks do. I'm pretty sure I've never seen one of them smile either. Mobility is a blessed thing. Flailing arms and legs while trying to lift a head that's a third of your body weight? Not so much.
  7. Liquid diet: Even when I try to feed my daughter ice cream, a muffin, or a juicy porterhouse, my wife disagrees with me. Not just a little either. If your solitary food source were human milk from you know where, I doubt your smile muscles would get much of a workout. Our social engagements often revolve around food. And that'd get pretty awkward if we all shared a baby's diet.
  8. Your head fit through what? Ouch. My head hurts just thinking about it. Enough said.
  9. They have siblings: Suddenly, the newest baby becomes a target of “affection” from the older siblings. This can only mean bad news for baby. But unlike the cat whose fur gets yanked out by loving children, baby cannot flee. Think about that for a second and then reread 6.
  10. Let me sleep! We inflict our schedules and our desires on the little tykes, who just want to sleep, daggummit. We wake them to show them off to visitors, we wake them for feeding, and we wake them accidentally when we step on them...or something... They wake up on the wrong side of the non-bed like 375 times a day.

These are the real reasons babies don't smile when they are newborns. Muscle control doesn't have a lot to do with it in my opinion. Life is rough when you're that small and helpless. There's a lot more reasons than these too. Why do you think babies don't smile?

UPDATE: Yeah, things have changed already since I wrote this. Now, when I make weird noises she looks at me quizzically as if she's trying to process what category of life to fit my actions into and when it slowly drifts into place in the comedic bracket she gives a single giggle, waves her arms uncontrollably and shows off her one dimple. Guess my idiocy finally struck a funny bone somewhere. Here's a picture to prove it:

PS: This post ran first on Modern Mormon Men. You can check it out there with a few comments from people if you'd like.

Funny Kid Story #4: Just last year

Being part of a family with three potty-break-happy children on a road trip, I'm always pleased to find a rest area with a family restroom. This makes potty breaks a lot easier. More importantly, not so many men passing through the restroom get to laugh at the insane antics I have to deal with every time I'm in a restroom with  my children.

Since this was the 600th potty break during this particular voyage, I exasperatedly hauled my son (wearing sandals) and daughter (barefoot) out of their back seats in the van to take them into the restroom without worrying about putting on the sandals which the girl had shed - also for the 600th time. When we got into the restroom, I realized there was nowhere to put her down without contacting - um, questionable floors of the restroom. I've seen how well my own kids aim sometimes and I'm afraid that was the general condition of the restroom. Proud of my brainchild, I realized my actual child could wait on the changing table while the actual emergency named "the boy" took care of business.

As I sat her down, she looked at me and said, "Daddy, this is for babies."

I looked at the 2-year-old giving me the sass and said, "You still are my baby, sweetness."

Her reply, spoken like a true teenage daughter: "Daddy, I'm not a baby anymore. I was a baby last year."

I tickled her and told her how smart she was, but part of me realizes her assessment is sadly accurate. Now that we have a newborn in the home, she has really realized she's not the baby anymore. But she will always be my baby, even by the time she's making me grandbabies. She just doesn't know it yet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Modern Mormon Men: Guest Post: Parenting With Zone Defense

It's just as easy as it looks...
Modern Mormon Men Guest Post: Parenting With Zone Defense: My first guest post on Modern Mormon Men is a condensed version of this post. Choose whichever you like. If you have kids, you'll laugh wherever you read it. Enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Guest Post: A Fellow Apparent Parent

Happy Independence Day from Apparent Parent! What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to provide you with the first post on the site that isn't coming from me? This blog can now celebrate it's liberation from my tyrannical, writer-crampy hand. With that, enjoy this post from guest author Lisa Gioia-Acres.

“She’s such a mother, isn’t she?” 

My daughter said those words to a friend of hers as I placed a plate of cheese and crackers on the coffee table.  Dinner was still about 30 minutes from being ready and I wanted to ensure my guests were not going hungry.  Yes, I guess I am a “mother,” the good kind, not the one with a swear word after it. 
Years ago I attended a function for my daughter’s school where she and several students were being honored for their academic accomplishments.  I mingled with other parents, many of them prominent members of the local community; their name tags identifying them with their company names.  My tag just had my name on it.  When someone asked me what I did, the words came out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.  “I’m just a parent.” 
At the time I was a full-time student working toward my master’s degree and was not gainfully employed.  I felt “less-than” amongst my peers who were successful in business. 
It was when my daughter went up to the podium and gave a speech that I realized just what a fool I was.  Being “just a parent” to that incredible young woman I gave birth to and raised made me the most successful person in the room. 
Since that day I have joined the ranks of the successful; I am a practicing historian, college professor, and still chase dreams of glory.  But I also cook everything from scratch for dinner guests, teach my children and grandchildren the beauty and practicality of planting a garden, make sure the kids are bathed and well-fed, and cuddle and kiss them incessantly.
Yep.  I’m a mother alright.  I would not want any other label placed on me.  
Author bio:
It took me a long time to believe I am a writer, much less be able to call myself one. In addition to writing, which has been my best psychoanalyst for many years, I am a historian who specializes in documenting life stories. I teach both history and anthropology. I am an animal lover and caregiver, a mom, wife, and friend. I am a blessed woman who calls herself the "optimist," as I believe there is good out of every life experience. Thank you for visiting and allowing me to share a bit of my story with you.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Funny Kid Story #3: Dancing Baby

This morning I was listening to Internet radio on my headphones while holding my infant daughter. Until now the kids have only ever known that headphones were good for removing the little buds just to annoy Daddy. But this morning I introduced to them what they were really for right after they woke up, sticking a bud in each of their ears.

They both got cute little grins and announced how silly it was that music was coming out of there. Pretty soon, my infant started squirming with hunger pains on my chest while the other kids listened intently to their shared ear buds on my lap. My older daughter got a cute grin on and said, "I think baby's dancing."

It's fun to watch kids build the framework of understanding around their lives.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Changing relationships with your kids: After the new addition

One of life's only true constants is change. I don't know who first became aware of that fact, but it's true.

This morning I realized how quickly those changes can come when my 2-year-old daughter sneaked up into bed with us and lay on top of me spread eagle for 20 minutes sucking her thumb.

This may not seem like an alert to change, but for me it was. Though my daughter will always find time to play with me, wrestle or build forts, cuddling has always been Mommy's domain. During family prayers, she sits on Mommy's lap. When she gets an "owie," she runs to Mommy. When she falls off the back of the couch right after we told her not to climb on the back of the couch, Mommy gets a cuddle buddy until its better.

This one has thrown a wrench in family workings. For me,
that has meant two other kids that love me a lot more for
coming home after work.
But since the arrival of our third child, I've noticed a change that's come over her. No longer does she arch her back in protest if I pick her up and cuddle her. Now she almost always chooses my lap for prayers - voluntarily. And this morning I got blissful wake-up cuddles with my beautiful daughter, even though Mommy was readily available, albeit less responsive. When I left for work, she cried. A month ago she would barely acknowledge me as I was leaving.

Now to the psychology of the matter. Since Baby's arrival, Mommy has been pretty wrapped up in feeding, changing and just plain holding the little girl, who often fusses because, well, she can't do ANYTHING for herself. This has left the kids more to their own devices, for better or worse. But when Daddy comes home, suddenly they've got someone there who isn't providing immediate care for someone completely helpless. Not that that means I don't ever have all three at once. Just last night I was sitting on our big, comfy chair while holding my youngest while my wife planned out a coming vacation. Soon my daughter came walking up with a book and made space on my lap so I could read to her. When my 3-year-old got the memo I was reading, he bee-lined it for my lap too, all but squishing the newborn between them on my chest. I literally had to find creative ways of holding the weight of the older kids off the youngest one while reading. I often used my reading arm to subtly push them away from the baby. Good times.

I guess my point is that sometimes it feels like your kids love you a lot more than other times. It's OK. It's natural. They'll come around. Just keep showing love and eventually it will be returned, even if it comes when the child makes it to adulthood. And the best part: When it hasn't always been that way, it feels so much better when your sweet little daughter cuddles into you for 20 minutes when she could have had her Mommy.

That is what parenting is all about.

Funny kid story #2: Little donkeys

As we were driving through Grand Teton National Park earlier this week, our 2-year-old daughter spotted some pronghorn antelope in an open field. Not knowing exactly what they were, she improvised as best she could in an ecstatic voice: "Mommy, Daddy, I see some little donkeys out there!"

 At least she didn't call them the Biblical alternate.
We saw some of these "little donkeys" in Grand
Teton National Park the other day.

If it were an adult calling a moose an elk or asking when the elk turn into moose, we'd all laugh because that person is a complete moron. But when coming from the mouth of a two-year-old, it shows major intelligence. We laugh because it's still funny, but at the same time we pat ourselves on the back for teaching her well enough that she could come up with a reasonable explanation for what was out there on the fly. She has had hugely limited experiences up until now, so it was fun to see her make such a connection. Watch for these funny ways your kids communicate the world as they know it. They help to brighten your day and you can begin to see intelligence taking shape.