Positive Reinforcement

First, I apologize for the lack of posts lately. To say October has been busy for the Feldmanns would be an understatement. Traveling for D, loads of fall-related activities for the girls (aka – fall-related projects at school for Paige and fall-related separation anxiety everywhere for Blair) and haunting at The Children’s Museum for Mommy.

Expect an October-recap soon. Like, a week from tomorrow or so.

In the meantime, a quick post to keep you satisfied.

On the advice of our pediatrician (and numerous fellow mommies), we have started a system of ‘positive reinforcemnt’ for Paige. Meaning, Mommy will hopefully yell less and Paige gets to have stickers on a chart (a decrease in the amount of yelling is directly related to an increase in the amount of stickers…see how smart I am? Wow. Sometimes I even impress myself).

Soooo, Paige’s first chosen prize was a trip to the ice cream shop (or ‘ice cream factory’ as she calls it) with her Daddy. Second chosen prize was a trip to The Children’s Museum. Both were quickly achieved.

Then, as expected, she lost interest. I was forced to choose her third prize for her, because “I don’t care Mommy, you just choose something” was the response I received when I asked Paige what she wanted.

I chose a witch Pez dispenser. What I would consider a hot-ticket item.

It’s been sitting on the counter, next to the stickers and the sticker chart, for 5 days.

Folks, let me just clarify – the bar for getting a sticker on that chart is pretty freaking low. Like, all-Paige-really-needs-to-do-is-try-not-being-sassy-for-a-few-minutes-in-a-row-or-stop-trying-to-strangle-her-sister low. And she only needs 10 stickers to get a prize.

Anywho…she FINALLY got the stupid awesome witch Pez dispenser this morning. As I opened the package, I noticed something on the label.

M: “Paige. This Pez dispenser glows in the dark.”

P: “Are you kidding me, Mommy?”

M: “I’m not kidding. It says right here on the box, ‘GLOWS in the dark.'”

P: “Stop it, Mommy.”

M: “I won’t. It’s a true story.”

P: “This. Is. Awesome.”

And it was worth all five days. Because, let’s be honest. Who doesn’t enjoy a little sassiness with their positive reinforcement?

**Story update – since I’ve started this post, I’ve heard Paige explain to Blair that she can’t have any Pez  because she is “a baby and not a good girl.” This is a direct quote:

P: “Bear, you can’t have any. You grab. You push. You tried to bited me. You have no stickers on your chart.”

Hello, pot? This is kettle, and my name is Paige. You’re black.

Super Why

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with ‘Super Why.’ It’s a kid’s show on PBS, and it’s one of Paige’s favorites (although it rarely makes it into the rotation onto the TV, since we don’t have it on that often).

These are the characters, and they all have “super powers” that have to do with literacy and reading. Princess Presto can spell and Pig can “build” words (hence the tool belt). Little Red Riding Hood is part of their crew, but I’m about 99% sure it’s because they feel sorry for her. To date, she has no super powers I can identify, except that she has mad skills on those roller blades (yes, I spend a considerable about of time analyzing these shows. See what a good parent I am? What with my judging Little Red and all?).
Whyatt is the main character, and he has the power to change stories. Each episode the crew “jumps” into a story to get clues to help them solve their own real life problem. Well, not necessarily a ‘real life’ problem, since they live in Storybook Village. Oh, and since they’re cartoon characters.
Stay with me people, I promise this is going somewhere.
So, occasionally Whyatt has to step in because a character in a story wants to change, but can’t. For example, the Giant doesn’t want to throw tantrums, but it’s part of his story. The Big Bad Wolf doesn’t want to blow down houses, but it’s part of his story. They all say “But Whyatt, it’s in my story. What should I do?”
Ahem. Wow. That was a LOT of time spent writing about this kid’s show. Thank God I went to graduate school. Money. Well. Spent.
So, the other day a friend of mine came over and brought goodie bags for both of the girls. They were so cute, and they had tons of fun Halloween stuff inside: candy, tattoos, spider rings … did I mention candy?
Because Paige mentioned candy. About 800,000 freaking times. Before bed that night. And starting during breakfast the next morning (which, mind you, is around 6:30 am). 
Obviously I DIDN’T give her candy after breakfast, but by the time 10:00 am rolled around my patience was wearing VERY thin with her questioning (seriously – someday this girl could interrogate terrorists. She’s THAT good at wearing you down until you snap).
“Paige!,” I yelled calmly said. “I am serious. If you ask for candy one more time, we are putting every last bit of it into the trash can. And you will be helping me throw it away.” (Seems harsh, I know. But that seems to be the only tactic that works with this girl.)
There was a pause, so I thought the conversation was over. I ran upstairs to hide went to put away laundry and a minute or two later Paige walked into my room.
She looked at me with those cute pink glasses and gave me one of her big, missing-tooth smiles.
“Yes, honey?” I said.
“But, Mommy. It’s part of my story. It says, ‘Paige keeps asking for candy.’ What do I do?”
I stared at her open-mouthed for what I can only image was about half an hour. I then gave her a little pat on the head and turned around so she couldn’t see me laughing. While biting my cheek to keep from smiling I told her that we would just have to change her story.
Well-played, Miss Paige. Well-played.

Microcosm

**Warning – this post is very sappy. It’s what happens when I am low on sleep, and watch too many television dramas while also taking allergy medication. You’ve been warned.**

There are so many days when it feels like I wake up, blink my eyes and then all of a sudden it’s time to put the girls down to bed again.

So many days when I get irritated at the drop of a hat. Become focused on marking things off my ‘to-do’ list. Yell ‘Speak loudly’ a little more often than I’d like. Get frustrated with things that wouldn’t normally bother me.

And then there are the days where I feel like the Grinch. Not in the bad, stealing-Christmas kind of way (although, if I were going to steal a holiday to keep for myself, it would for SURE be that one). But in the my ‘heart grew three times’ kind of way.

And it’s the little things that make time stand still. An unsolicited hug or a kiss. A little girl that stops mid-field during her soccer game to turn, wave and yell “Hi, Mommy! I love you!” A baby girl that wakes up in the middle of the night crying, and stops immediately the second her daddy puts her in your arms.

And I’ve had an epiphany recently (okay, after watching ‘Parenthood’ – seriously, that show. I wish I lived next door to the Bravermans).

I realized that my little family of four is a little microcosm of my larger, extended family. And I’m continuously being reminded of just how important family is.

Paige and Blair do things that drive me crazy. They do things that make me laugh. And they oftentimes seem schizophrenic in the way they can annoy me one second and make me feel over-loved the next. Honestly, there are times that I look at them and I literally can feel my heart ache with how very much I loved them.

Just like family. We laugh. We argue. Okay, we fight. We do things that disappoint. We do things that uplift. But we know in our heart of hearts that there are always people who will love us not matter what. There are always people who will love our children, even when it seems like they’re trying to make themselves impossible to love. There are ALWAYS people who root for us when it seems like no one else is around or even cares. There will always be a group of people who genuinely want to see us succeed. And who know just how great our best-selves are.

And, that at any given time during the day, there are always people who are thinking about you. Telling a story about you. Smiling at something you did, whether it was today or two decades ago. Missing you. Wishing they saw you more often.

And it hit me. THAT’S why I became a mother. Those are the feelings I can only hope I instill in my girls, and the feelings I know my family and my husband’s family will help me pass along. What it feels like to be unconditionally loved, and to love unconditionally.

Our little household is a microcosm of the larger Whitacre and Feldmann families. It includes the good (laughter, love, overall silliness) and the bad (impatience, and occasionally a little swearing).

And I can’t wait to see (okay, I can wait a while…like 30 years) what the next little microcosm looks like.

Four Eyes

I sort of always knew she’d end up in glasses. In fact, her opthamologist told us last year it was a strong possibility.

I mean … her eyes were sort of crossed sometimes. Okay, they flat-out crossed when she was tired.

Seriously, I love this picture. It’s one of my favorites of the two of us. We were hanging out on our screened-in porch in the late afternoon while Blair was napping, and it’s a perfect snapshot of Paige and her personality. Missing tooth. Crossed eyes. Sometimes I really can’t stand how much I love this girl.

So, a few weeks ago we went back to Dr. Roberts (LOVE him, by the way!!), and he said it was finally time. Not only does Paige have an astigmatism in one eye, but the poor kiddo’s prescription is +6 in each eye. Meaning, she is SEVERELY far-sighted. Like, might-not-even-be-able-to-see-details-of-her-hand-in-front-of-her-face far-sighted. 
After a two hour appointment (which included dilating her eyes again – an AWESOME experience for those of you who haven’t tried it. And if you want an example of sarcasm, see the previous sentence.) it was time to pick out her frames. She marched in, went right up to a specific pair, and never changed her mind. It was meant to be, and her sassy glasses suit to a ‘t’ – and match all of her outfits, which helps. 
I’ve said if anyone can rock a pair of glasses, it’s Paige. I wasn’t wrong.

So, so stinking cute. Every time Derrick and I look at her we have to give her a smooch. If it’s possible, she’s even cuter than she was before. The lenses are so think that they make her little eyes look huge. And I love it.
Our only concern is that she might be channeling The Church Lady. Especially in the morning when her hair is crazy.
Well. Isn’t that special?

Plane Trip

Okay. I finally feel ready to talk about it. I’ve had some time to mull it over and process the experience. I’ve had some wine. I had some more wine. I’ve slept. I’ve forgiven my children (for now, right?).

Here’s how it went down. The car ride was uneventful, and sweet Blair even took a little snooze. Paige was very well-behaved, and one potty emergency aside, she seemed ready for the trip.

We got through security fine. The girls had some snacks, and checked out the airplanes. There were a few arguments, but nothing out of the ordinary. They had slyly lulled me into a false sense of ‘this-won’t-be-that-bad’ optimism.

Then we boarded the plane. And the shit hit the fan.

Nani had generously upgraded us to Business Class, and the girls and I were grateful for the extra room. The flight attendants were happy to see us. The two gentleman sitting on the aisles in the row in front of us, not so much.

Blair began entertaining the boarding coach passengers with her newly-perfected animal sounds. Her favorites to-date are the elephant (high-pitched screech) and the bear (high-pitched roar). Sensing a pattern here?

The man in front of Nani plugged his ear with his finger.

Oh dude. You don’t even know. If you think these cute sounds are worthy of your irritation, it’s gonna be a LONG flight for you.

And so it was. We took off, Paige settled into her seat to watch ‘Tangled’ for the millionth time. And Blair proceeded to throw a fit.

A screaming, wiggly, don’t-hold-me-mommy-but-hey-why-the-hell-are-you-putting-me-down-mommy!!! fit.

I was sweaty. People were starting. I alternated between begging her to please be quiet to actually just holding my hand over her mouth in an attempt to muffle the screams.

Nani tried to help. “Perhaps she wants some goldfish?” I handed Blair the bag (the off-the-shelf bag, mind you – not just a small Ziploc baggy). She threw the entire thing on the floor.

Douche-bags in front of me now both had their headphones on.

Fast-forward an hour and a half. Paige had enjoyed a nice snooze, the rest of her movie, and plenty of free Business Class snacks. The laptop was put away. The tray tables were in their upright position. Blair was still screaming. The men in front of me had started shooting me dirty looks. But, we were close. I could feel my ears popping.

I had spent the previous 30 minutes asking Paige if she needed to potty. Like, asking her every 2 minutes or so. To the point where she finally gave me a curt “Just stop it!” Fine. You don’t need to go. I get it.

Ding goes the Fasten Seat belt sign notifying us we are preparing to land in a few minutes. Paige turns to me. “Mommy. I have to potty. Really, really bad. I don’t think I can hold it.”

Cue the total breakdown of Row C, Seats 1 and 2. Blair continued her massive fit, and now Paige was screaming. SCREAMING that she had to pee. At one point I’m pretty sure Blair headbutted my lip, but I’m not sure if that pain was from her or just from being affiliated with these children. At another point Nani just looked at me and said “Just let them cry.” Because I’m pretty sure she thought I was either going to suffocate Blair or hurt Paige.

Sidenote for the a-hole sitting in front of Nani: Perhaps you don’t have children? Fine. Perhaps you have forgotten that you were once a child? Perhaps you think I woke up this morning and thought to myself “Self, if these girls could be on their WORST behavior during a 2 hour flight in a cramped space, then I will call this day a roaring success!”? Perhaps you think I’m sitting back here having a cocktail and ignoring my two screaming kids? Perhaps you think I haven’t pulled EVERY FREAKING TRICK out of my magic bag to try to make it stop? Perhaps you haven’t heard me smack my 3 year-old’s mouth for telling me how mean I am and that I am a bad mommy? 

Oh? And perhaps you think I am under the assumption that your choices for flying were either your own private jet or the Business Class section of an Airtran flight?

Dude? It’s a $50 upgrade. Don’t act all hoity-toity with me, okay? My kids have ruined enough clothes on this vacation alone to sponsor your ticket. Get over yourself.

The plane landed. Paige had people feeling sorry for her because she was crying hysterically that she had to go potty. (Folks – you’ve been had. This is all drama, no action. I would not have been surprised if we had gotten to the bathroom and she looked at me like I was a crazy person and said ‘I don’t have to go potty?!?’).

I think the icing on the cake was probably somewhere around baggage claim. Nani took the girls outside to the van while Derrick helped me load up the suitcases and car seats.

I climbed inside to latch the girls’ seats, and Paige asked me for the 300th time if she could have her ring pop back (No, because I made you throw it in the trash because you hit me, remember?). I calmly told her no. I less calmly told her that if I heard the words ‘ring pop’ come out of her mouth one more time I was going to take her blankie away.

This next part is not a joke – I cannot make this stuff up.

Paige pulled her toy cellphone out of her backpack and started quickly typing on the keypad. She looked at me and said “I’m just texting Susu to tell her what a mean and bad mommy you are.”

Um, what??

So, I may or may not have snapped. I may or may not have jumped out of the van, pulled down her little pants and underwear, and spanked her little bottom.

And I may or may not have looked up to notice that there was a priest (in full priest regalia) standing three people down from me.

Yep, perfect ending to the perfect travel day.

We loaded into the car and Paige sweetly says “I’m feeling happy now, Mommy! Where are we going now?”

“To the orphanage,” I responded. And I swear to God (or, at least to that priest standing outside baggage claim), if we had passed one on the way home, I would have dropped them off.

Fast forward through dinner, baths and bed (because, honestly, I wasn’t involved. I was sitting on the front porch drinking my wine and reading an Us Weekly). The girls we in bed by 5:30, and asleep by 6:00.

We woke the next morning and Derrick had to go to a speaking engagement. The girls and I bundled up and headed to our first Farmer’s Market of the Fall season. They were wonderfully behaved and even held hands.

Jeesh. There you go. Making me fall in love with you all over again.

Little stinkers.