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yelling

This is one of those posts that is difficult for me to spit out, because it involves a lot of soul baring on my part.  I want to talk about yelling and how it destroys the trust and bonds between parent and child.   ...continue reading How Yelling Hurts Your Happiness

10449515_10152804281021233_3424402695285680926_nOccasionally I get one of those parenting epiphanies that reminds me that most things are not that big a deal.  My kids aren’t in preschool yet, and I constantly feel like if they aren’t then I must fill their time with preschool like activities.  But I realized today that in the end it doesn’t matter.  ...continue reading No, Really, I Promise, It Isn’t the End of the World

toddler sounds title

A friend of mine the other day mentioned that she believed that infants and early toddlers learned whichever noise was the most irritating to their parents and used it exclusively to get their attention.

This, I firmly believe, is precisely the case with Little R.  From the time he was about 9 months old he would issue out this sound that is of the decibel that makes one want to rip their ears from their head.  It isn’t particularly high pitched, and is definitely not a scream.  It is quite like an air siren of the sort that warns of tornadoes, or impending air raids, with a sprinkle of bull horn for good measure.

I sincerely hope that things over here don’t get that serious, because I’m quite certain that I may not wake up for thinking it is actually Little R wanting milk in the middle of the night.

Seriously, it’s like nails on a chalk board times a gagillion.

He’s learning words everyday, but he still can’t quite use his words to communicate what he wants.  So his default is the Noise.  He will bring over a book, show you an airplane for the 100th time that day, and issue the Noise.  He will want a puzzle to play with and issue the Noise.

He will fall down and hurt himself and issue the Noise.

He will get in a tussle with his brother and issue the Noise, which may or may not escalate into a hybrid of shrieking and the Noise.

He begins the day with the Noise coming from his room to let us know he’s awake, and when you go in there, depending on how you posture yourself, he will either get louder with the Noise, or he will give you an adorable “Hiiiigh,” for hello.  I have yet to figure out how I can get the latter greeting every morning.  There seems to be no significant predictable pattern.

He often ends the night the Noise to let you know he’s ready for his story and milk.

It is the worst broken record on the planet and it makes me want to lock myself in a padded room.

We are trying to ignore the noise and get him to begin using his words, or signing for what he wants.  The noise has become a bad habit that we need to break and I know the only way to break bad habits is with consistency, firmness and a TON of patience.

For the love of God, will he please grow out of this soon.

He's still adorable though.

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On a good note, the weather is cooling down here in Amman and I’m finding it almost reminds me of home.  We even had thunderstorms the other night.

Rain, Rain, don't go away!
Rain, Rain, don't go away!

Love & Happyness to All!

~M

How do you all break the bad habits your children slip into?

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Warning, seriousness to follow.  And when I’m serious I ramble a bit, so apologies in advance.

Sometimes I have to take a moment and smell the roses.  Things are good.

In an All-American effort to keep working harder and keep self critiquing only to work harder, its nearly impossible to live in the moment and just take things as they are.

Occasionally I need to remind myself that things are good, that I’ve come so far from how I could have ended up, that I’ve achieved so much in a lot of ways.  And even if they aren't, it's OKAY!

I was reminded of this when we had new friends over for a play date.  Over coffee and the sounds of our children’s laughter I had an educated conversation with one of H’s coworkers.  It was so nice to speak with someone who shared a very similar outlook on life.  We talked about the kids and I blushed in embarrassment when I gave Little R a bottle.  It was close to nap time and he was getting cranky. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 18 months old?  I can see our pediatrician, hands off as she is, scowling across the ocean at us.  However, we’ve been through so much transition over the past several months, and, well, I seriously doubt he will be 2 or 3 or 5 years old and still wanting his Ba-ba.  H and I have always parented off of instinct.  We were also blessed with a very independent first child who let us know when he was ready to quit things.  In Little R's case, I'm glad he isn't a thumb sucker, nor does he like pacifiers, so I feel blessed that we are down to 2-3 bottles a day, only before nap and bed time.

“I know…he shouldn’t have a bottle at this point.  I feel awful that he still does,” I explained.  Wow, well that was self-deprecating.

And then my guest scoffed at my embarrassment, “Bah- whatever works for you and yours.”

I could almost here the collective gasps from all my suburban neighbors back in Nova, ready to rattle of a list of reasons/recommendations/judgments as to why “whatever works” is precisely not okay.

But for me, a fifty ton weight was lifted off my shoulders.  Why am I so concerned about how things look or what others think?

It happened again during another visit, with a new family here for the military, when I was chatting about how I think Little P is too over the top for the playgroup, and I feel bad taking him.  I feel like maybe the other moms think him overbearing.  “You probably fit in better than you think!,” she surmised.

Yep, she’s probably right.  And even if she isn’t, what does it matter?  What matters is whatever works for me and my family, and that means getting my boys out to socialize, even when it makes mommy nervous and shy.  It's times like this when I really miss CG (Colorado Girl), because she's like my kindred spirit introvert soul sister.  We get each other so well its scary at times, and she's always the best at encouraging me to follow my gut and get over myself for what's right, or to tell the world to f*&# off if it's appropriate.

Being overseas is just solidifying my opinion that Americans really have overthought and over analyzed things to the point of absurdity.  (Read more about that here.)  We’ve lost all capability to operate off of our instincts, whether romantic or parental or from common sense.  Mothers are constantly comparing themselves to one another or grading themselves off of whatever book they read recently.  Not to mention the obscene levels of judgment shown toward every other women they know.  I mean, obviously my close group of friends are loving and wonderful, but we all frequently discuss the judgment we get from others around us.  Not that we are innocent victims mind you.  I’ve been guilty of this very thing I hate in others, reading about the latest thing to keep a baby happy, then celebrating success for the nanosecond that it works, followed by allowing my ego to inflate to the point where I feel like I can tell everyone else how to do things.  I try, at least, not to do that, and I’m usually too shy to actually speak my thoughts, but it doesn’t make it okay that my internal monologue is lecturing and pontificating like a PhD student.

I recall last year that I ranted about our neighbors who kept their twin girls up much later than we did, and we could hear them crying and fighting to get them to eat dinner at 8 pm….  I was so quick to silently ridicule their schedule, and say “well they just really need sleep” as I smugly enjoyed a drink with my husband.  What I should have realized was that we rarely heard them on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when their girls slept in, probably offering them some precious extra zzzs.  My kids never sleep past 7 am, and rarely past 6:30.

When did Americans become such know-it-alls, in such an amazingly UN-knowledgable and UN-educated way?  When did the encouragement of innovation and individuality and instinct die out?  To each their own right?  I mean we love to throw out cliché after cliché that we claim describes our lives, but in reality most of us are secretly comparing and judging with the rest of them.

And if we aren’t actually being judged, or doing the judging, we all have this nagging inner judgment because we are so paranoid that we are Doing. Everything. Wrong.  That kind of negative thinking puts us on the defensive, and so turns this vicious cycle round and round like a cheap county fair ferris wheel.

The thing that gets to me, though, is that for introverts like me, who already have a hard time fitting in and meeting new friends, this cycle makes us retreat even further into ourselves.  We trust no one.  I’ve been catching myself assuming that I’m unwelcome here because of what I’m used to from back home.  And I know now that it isn’t the case.  So I’m going to try a little harder to come out of my shell.

I’m finding life abroad refreshing.  I feel as independent as ever, because I always have been.  But independence and confidence are two very different things.  Everything happens for a reason.  I think this lifestyle we've chosen is going to bring me new confidence and strength and a renewed faith in humanity because I’m meeting so many wonderful women who have also chosen this crazy life.  And they too, are able to distance themselves and gain a similar perspective that I have.

Whatever works for you and your family.   That's the practical thing to do.  That’s what you should do.  That's what I am going to do.

Love and Happyness to all,

~M

The Jordanians are are open and kind, and love to celebrate.  There is celebratory fireworks (and the occasional celebratory gunfire) to everything from the Eid celebration to the release of the various school exam scores.  The release of exam scores is quite fascinating.  Since the schools are private based, all of them are on slightly different schedules and run from August through May/June, with a few that are even all year I think.  But it isn’t until late July or early August, that the exam scores are released at a stagger across a week or so. This is when families find out how the children faired academically through the previous year.  There are fireworks and gunfire and processionals of cars honking horns and driving in file as they celebrate their success.  The teenagers drive with windows down, music blaring, and celebratory shenanigans ensue.  H and I laugh- there are few constants throughout time and space, and one of those is that of the teenager.

And of course, as many people know of the ME, the driving is horrendous, without rules or laws or lines in the road, and when there are lines in the road they are most definitely arbitrary guidelines per say.

However, the thing that stands out most given our circumstances, is their absolute love of children.  I’ve never been anywhere where my kids were so openly adored in public.  Rather than frowns and scoffs when my boys act like boys and get a bit unruly, I’m greeted with smiles and re-assurance.

Seriously, we had a great demonstration of this just the other day as we were touring the Soap House with Little R on my back and Little P running around crazy.  The soap house is the location of Trinitae- a company specializing in dead sea mineral products.  They hand make everything from bath salts to scrubs and lotions to diffuser oils in a beautiful 100 year old home overlooking downtown.  The boys had been wonderful walking companions during a tour sponsored by the CLO, and I think Little P had had all the behaving he could handle.  He needed to expend some toddler energy, and so, as toddlers are oft to do, he had a burst, not unlike the ones our Australian Shepherd has in the yard.  He ran behind the counter, and into their kitchen, and into the storage room!  He explored the bathroom and ripped the beautifully crafted soap on a rope from the decor.  H and I chased him around, with Little R strapped to my back, red with heat and embarrassment, apologizing between scolding, wishing our group would buy their stuff so we could move on.  But the older gentlemen whose family owns and operates the place just smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said “Ah, it’s safe here, let him run!  Let the little one down, let him run!”  And later, his young attendant just kept laughing at them both, she kept saying “It’s okay, it’s okay!  They are so cute!”

My inner mom, with her apron, oven mitts and firm but gentle smile, who is constantly ridiculing and critiquing my parenting, gauging my aptitude by the behavior of my children, had a hard time wrapping her head around this.  It really is an eye-opening thing, to be somewhere that embraces children as they are- full of attitude, energy and other antics- vice fitting them into a mold involving dance recitals, two year old soccer leagues and impeccable manners.  For the time being I feel like I’m far away from the ridiculing stares in the aisles of the Leesburg Target whenever one of my kids gets too tired or throws a tantrum because I told them, indeed, they do NOT get a toy every time we go to the store, regardless of whether it’s only a dollar.

The Jordanian love of children can be also very overwhelming. When we are in the shopping malls, we are inevitably bombarded with a gaggle of teenage girls who want to kiss and pet and take photos with the Double Troubles.  Little P eats it up, playing shy and blushing at the pretty girls.  Little R, introvert like his mommy, immediately feels the intrusion of his bubble and runs to hide between my legs or behind or wherever he can.  I can only imagine what he’s thinking:  Help!  They’ve come over the walls!  We’re under attack!  The zombie apocalypse is among us!  so I smile and hug him, trying to be as encouraging and serene as I can, because I too am all Get out of my bubble!  They are on the offensive!  It doesn’t help that the Jordanians, and most of the population in the Middle East, are especially fond of blonde haired children, because they are such a rarity.  Needless to say, we don’t take the kids to the mall very often.

Also, since they are so keen on letting kids be kids, I often find that there is little discipline amongst the elementary and middle school set.  You can tell the kids really rule the roost at home, or at least it seems so.  Since it is summer they run around through the night, into the early am, screaming and playing and carrying on, often throwing fits and tantrums from what I can only think is exhaustion, while we are trying to get our kids to sleep through the night!  Thank goodness for the shutters and our white noise phone apps!

Still, as Little P announces a proud “Shukran,” or “Thank you,” to a worker in the little family bakery we found, I realize that I’d take this over the ridicule of the American mommy wars any day.  We love our little bakery- more on that later I promise- where we are always greeted with big smiles and one of the regular employees there gives the boys free cookies and watches as we pick out a box of treats, diligently picking out the cookies Little P points out.  He even gave them cookies during Ramadan, and gave Little R a kiss on the cheek, which I felt was so very kind, given their sacrifices during Ramadan.  They lift their hands and laugh it off when Patrick runs around and grabs breadsticks out of baskets, while I follow him and toss them in the bag to purchase.  Whenever he says “Shukran,” the locals, even the taxi drivers, light up with joy, and you know that they appreciate our efforts to fit in the best we can, fair hair and all!

~M