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Jen, Kristen, and Patience

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July 2009 Archives


Some Days I Want

Posted by Patience on July 31, 2009 at 7:00 AM in Working Parents
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Some days I want to spend the entire day exploring the new interest or idea my kids woke up with that morning.

Some days I want to walk out the door to an exciting photo shoot and leave the kids with a babysitter who makes cookies with them and does messy crafts.

Some days I want to stay in bed and read without even a thought of responsibility of any kind.

Some days I want to design and make elaborate large whole cardboard box villages with my kids in the backyard.

Some days I want to retreat to my local coffee shop to write and sip tea with no one asking me to prepare a drink, snack or meal.

Some days I want to grab lunch with people in my line of work and network over gourmet loveliness.

Some days I want it all...

Mostly, I find myself trying to write early in the morning before kids wake up, running to a photo shoot hoping I didn't forget my battery and grabbing a cereal bar for lunch while I juggle this still really good life I have. Yet I wonder what it would be like to work full-time, I feel guilty for being home but not always present, I add and subtract the never ending to-do list in my head. I imagine what it all should look like.

I'm realizing it must be in our very code as parents to wonder, hope, worry that we are giving our kids everything we can so they can live the life they deserve. At the same time, trying to do the same for ourselves as individuals. Everyone around us with the same hope but doing it a million different ways. We do the best with what is before us and still sometimes long for different circumstances or dream of the greener grass next door. I'm sure it comes back to taking stock of good, the good that we have and the good we are doing by loving and holding those most dear.

But today, I give you full perrmission to imagine a little in the comments. What do you want some days?


Other People's Delightful and Spirited Children

Posted by Kristen on July 30, 2009 at 7:06 AM in Connecting with kids
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There is a common occurrence in our family. I write endless stories on the Internet about how crazy my children are and then I take them out in public where they behave perfectly. Okay, not always perfectly but tolerably well and certainly not with the breadth of evilness whereby they operate in the comfort of their own home. I constantly hear "I don't know what you are talking about with these children. They are a delight." My mother reminds me that I would rather have them misbehave with me than to do something really horrible out in public.

My friend has a similar problem with one of her two boys. Just last month Q put an entire container of sausage gravy into the dryer. His ready-to-pop-with-baby-number-three mother was not amused. I'm pretty sure dad had to come home from work early to clean up the mess and to, shall we say, save a life of one or to save the sanity of another.

Having met his mama through work, Sunday was the first day I got to meet these children of hers that I know through the Internet, Facebook and lengthy end-of-my-rope text messages.

And might I say, I have absolutely no idea what she is complaining about with this child. He is absolutely delightful and a perfect angel.


Quality Time vs. Quantity Time

Posted by Jen on July 29, 2009 at 9:28 AM in Jen
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at the beach-1

After an intense summer of traveling on Picture HOPE, I've had to trade in my badge as stay-at-home (or even work-at-home) mother and admit I have a full blown full time job. This means all the creature comforts of being home with kids--eating cereal together, going on bike rides, watching movies--are giving way to more focused, planned times of connection. I'm making dates with Carter, setting up set times to do certain things with Madeleine and negotiating big time with the calendar about when we can be together and how we can connect.

This leads to a certain kind of insanity that I didn't anticipate before I took on this new work. For example, who gets off a plane and then jumps in the car with her kids to drive four hours to the beach for 36 hours? The new advocate of quality time or this newly minted working mother, that's who.

This is a big shift, let me tell you, not only for my kids, but for me as well. I chose staying at home because my husband agreed it was the best thing for us and because I believed quantity always trumps quality. Now? I'm singing a different tune, but mostly because I have to. How else to explain to myself that this is temporary, that even with these big changes, everything is going to be okay?

Where do you fall on the quality vs. quantity continuum? I'd like to know I'm not the only mama having to redefine her philosophy and her parenting strategy this late in the game.


A Real Day

Posted by Patience on July 28, 2009 at 7:59 AM
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museum kid collage2

I miss the alarm clock and oversleep which makes me miss the ever important uninterrupted writing time in the wee hours of the morning.
The boys wake up crazy early and want breakfast, pancakes.
I promise pancakes, after I finish writing the article that is now 2 weeks late, yes 2.
Someone "accidentally" wakes up Lyra.
I throw cereal bars in their direction, hold/nurse a squirmy baby and try to write.
It doesn't work.
I feed the baby green beans, bananas and cereal bars in her high chair while I try to write.
She eats half, throws the rest on the floor and cries.
This wakes Lucy up who always wakes up kinda grumpy.
Lucy wants pudding for breakfast.
I say no and offer her a cereal bar, much drama ensues.
I search for a diet coke desperately in need of caffeine.
Jack insists I look at the new lego catalog. He and Josiah retreat to discuss money making schemes.
Lyra cries to get out of the high chair, 4 people have now stepped in the green beans all over the floor.
Lucy is still wailing over pudding.
I offer a Martha Speaks episode in hopes of returning to writing as I am now 20 minutes from my most recent deadline.
The phone rings, a call I must take.
Josiah strategically asks for a popsicle during a vulnerable parenting moment, I cave.
Everyone has popsicles.
Jack and Lucy fight over a spot on the couch.
I search for the diet is 7:48am

Tell me you have these mornings, days, whole years? Give me your real day in the comments.


Supersisters Getting Crazy

Posted by Kristen on July 27, 2009 at 6:44 AM in Traveling
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While Patience has been holding down the fort here at PBS Supersisters, Jen and Kristen have been partying it up at Blogher. Okay, Jen has been working and Kristen has driven over a thousand miles and right now is lost somewhere in Pennsylvania on her way back home. Tomorrow we return you to your regularly scheduled programming....


Supersisters at Blogher

Posted by Jen on July 25, 2009 at 10:52 AM in Jen
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gloria laughs-1

Kris and I are attending the Blogher Conference in Chicago this weekend. If you're a blogger and here, too, we'd be delighted to see you at the PBS Parents table and chat about what you're up to with your kids for the rest of the summer. If you're home this weekend, check out our sister blog Booklights and join the conversation about your favorite children's books.


What Do I Do About Whining?

Posted by Patience on July 24, 2009 at 7:00 AM in Raising Girls
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whining girl.jpg

Can you almost hear the whining in the picture? I am calling all parenting experts on this one as the whining is about to do me in.

I tell her I can't quite understand her whining voice.
I model the phrase and tone, she repeats with no problem.
I occasionally ignore or I ask her to try again.
I ask her how I can help and invite her to start over.

While she responds to all of this, it doesn't seem to stop or cut down the mind numbing voice. I'm stumped.

Any ideas superpeople? Do you have any whiners at your house? Give it to me.


6 Tips for Road Trips with Small Kids

Posted by Kristen on July 23, 2009 at 8:00 AM in Traveling
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mason love

We have been on the road for a total of 24 1/2 hours, but who's counting? This is the first time we have taken a true road trip with with our kids for distances longer than two hundred miles. It's tricky, this road tripping with kids. Here are some things I'm learning as I go.

1. Don't expect too much from your kids. You know your kids. Can they skip a nap and it is no big deal? Skipping a nap in our house means a guaranteed meltdown from 5:30 on. That's no problem if you don't mind doing dinner with 3 kids under 5 at a sit down restaurant at 7:00 p.m. while one screams maniacally. Can your kids share a hotel bed? We learned the hard way that Nate is a light sleeper who wakes if you flip over. Hello, late night and my apologies to the people in Room 208 and Room 212.

2. Stop often. We all know that your father wouldn't stop even for a bathroom emergency. This is your opportunity to be the cool parent who stopped to see the world's largest horseshoe crab or Truckhenge.

3. Be realistic with your travel goals. Calculate time to your destination and then multiply it by 2 if your kids are little. In the days before kids, I would take my total miles to my destination, divide it by eighty and then add 5 minutes for each fill up of the tank. Believe me when I say that eighty was a conservative estimate. Now? We'd be lucky if we average fifty miles an hour on a highway trip.

4. Pushing them too far will cause more problems than you already have. Do not wait for the baby to get too hungry. Trust me on this one. Now you have a very hungry AND very angry baby that will require more than food to feel better.

5. Use absolutely every stopping opportunity to get some energy out. Pick a gas station that has a patch of grass to run relays. Stop at a restaurant with a kid's play area. Stop at a mall. Just having them walk from one end to the other could tire them out enough to buy you some sanity until the next stop. Stay at a hotel with a pool and have swim races. We spent last night in a hotel with a water park inside. They were exhausted by bedtime. Not that they fell asleep in a timely fashion but I like to think it was better than having nothing.

6. Try to get them to bed at a decent hour if your kids aren't car sleepers. Only .00001% of the population has kids that sleep later when they go to bed later. If those are your kids, we envy you. Our were up at 5:30 this morning. Even with all of us going to bed at 9, I still feel like stabbing my eye out with a fork this morning. I think it has something to do with kids getting up during the night because they were in an unfamiliar place.

We are off to the pool and then back on the road. Pray for me. Seriously. And please do regale us with your road trip tips or horror stories in the comments!


Rewarding You With the Facts: Last Thoughts on the Problem of Rewards

Posted by Jen on July 22, 2009 at 8:35 AM in Jen
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carter's hands

Last Wednesday I wrote about the problem of rewards to mixed reviews from the fans of PBS on Facebook. Some thought my perspective was reasonable--mostly because of personal experience with children in school settings where intrinsic motivation is almost favored by educators looking to cultivate a love of learning. Others thought my take was naive, impractical, and at worst, unfounded in scholarly research. For those readers who wondered if there are any documented grounds for leaving rewards behind, let me offer up these articles, studies and a little clarification.

Extrinsic rewards may help a child (or adult) cultivate interest and follow-through in a new skill, but these kinds of rewards may also damage or diminish the quality of the intrinsic motivation already naturally present. Our lack of faith in a child's built-in motivation to learn something new may cause us to limit our efforts to create environments and circumstances where innate interests can develop and thrive. Read this Stanford University study on undermining children's intrinsic motivation.

Rewards, especially when given in the form of praise, can distance a child from his most valuable resource in achieving success--an understanding of the efficacy of effort.
Rewards and praise place a child's sensor for what's working outside herself--an effective tool if you want a docile child or an obedient employee--but the ability to access, monitor and employ personal effort will develop children who can succeed under pressure AND self-direct in the absence of visible incentives. Read this New York Magazine article highlighting the work of psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck.

Temperament has more impact on the effectiveness of rewards than the incentive itself.
Alfie Kohn (whose ears must be ringing after this week in the comments at Facebook PBS) has well-documented research highlighting the role of rewards in motivating school children and employees. He concludes that responsiveness to rewards is most widely effective with populations that are highly motivated to start. In other words, if the thought of working on commission makes you cringe, all the incentive in the world is less likely to make bring your best effort to the task and help you actually succeed. Read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn.

And one last word on rewards: Many commenters pointed out that the whole of our society is founded on rewards systems of one kind or another. Teachers issue grades. Employers cut paychecks. Parents dole out m-n-ms and gold stars. While I agree that this is how we've agreed as a nation to move each other forward, I believe real innovation, creativity and cultural shifts happen when there's time and space to discover the deeper motivations for not only what we do but how we want to do it. If we're not willing to build some reward-free zones where our children can experience the value of effort, free-thinking and internal motivation, I'm not convinced we'll be equipped to make the changes that are sure to come as bricks and mortar institutions adapt to an increasingly light and fast digital world.


Four Little Mothers

Posted by Patience on July 21, 2009 at 7:00 AM in Nature
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welcome baby bird.jpg

Weeks ago a tiny bird flew into our screened porch and built a nest in the pot given to me by a dear friend years ago when I moved into her neighborhood. It said "Welcome to the Fan." I couldn't get past the part that the bird was building in a place that actually welcomed her. Little things like this make me happy. She spent all day working hard, we left the back door open for her as good friends do for each other. The next week she left and we didn't see her again.

We didn't really think too much of it until one night when Jorge and the kids were helping to set the table outside for dinner on the porch. Everything causes a commotion in our house so in all the hustle of getting ready, we missed this:
welcome baby bird2.jpg

Jorge saw and heard it first. "Everyone off the porch!" The mother bird was going nuts. We all quickly grapped the entire dinner off the table and headed inside. We had been banished from the porch as it was now a nursery. Everyday for the next week Jorge and the kids would check on the babies and make sure the mom hadn't left them over our looming presence the first day. Jorge called every night we were away on vacation to give us a baby bird update. Is wasn't long before they left and everyone was in shock how fast it had all gone.

"They sure grow up fast." Jackie boy said.
"Yeah, I hope they will be alright." Josiah said.

These are the conversations of mothers.

Any old bird stories at your house? I think every kid at one point or another has this experience. Do you remember?

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