Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Operation: Out the Door - Still Struggling

Still trying to find a workable solution to the Out the Door situation. Okay, I'll cut us a little slack because last week was more hectic than normal, with parental late hours that spilled over into my own morning readiness. But we still can't seem to finish the dressing/eating/toothbrushing process any earlier than 15 to 20 minutes pre-school bell.

Strategy: An earlier bedtime.
Result: Son rises early, eats and promptly goes back to his room to read in his pajamas until told to get dressed. Daughter has been waking up in the middle of the night for the last week, which seems to have disrupted her sleep cycle enough to keep her in bed until roused.

Strategy: Clothes laid out the night before.
Result: Solves problem of clothing choices, but not the speed at which outfit is put on. Daughter prefers to have Mom dress her whenever possible.

Strategy: Backpacks packed the night before and preset at the front door.
Result: Cuts a couple of minutes of "where's my...?" time, but not enough to make a noticeable difference in departure time.

The one variable not yet altered - and oh, how I've hoped it wouldn't have to be - is my own waking time. I tend to get up well after Son and well before Daughter, and get myself bathed and dressed before checking on them. If they need my motivation to get the job done, then maybe it's my schedule that's the problem.

So: Earlier bedtime tonight for me, alarm pushed back half an hour. Perhaps this will allow for some family stretching time, too, which seemed to be a hit last week. Fingers firmly crossed. Update tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Update: Botoxing Mom Under Investigation

It seems that the law doesn't see eye-to-eye with Kerry Campbell, the mom who says it's safe to inject her 8-year-old daughter with Botox to give her an edge in beauty pageants. StyleList reports that young Britney was removed from her home while child welfare investigators question Campbell about her methods and credentials.

I've got to wonder: Didn't anyone in this child's life have any reservations about all this? Clearly, her mom chose to overlook the risks, but what about the "private source" that supplied her with the stuff - didn't he feel just the teensiest bit skeeved at being an accomplice? Did her pediatrician ever happen to see her shortly after a treatment? Did anyone at school notice Britney coming in with a swollen face or overhear her say something about the shots she was getting? Were any of Campbell's friends in on the secret - and if so, did they at least try to talk her out of it?

Let's hope that this will lead Campbell to do some serious reconsidering of her position that putting poison into her child's face is no big deal - and, perhaps, jolt some sense into other mothers who take the "by any means necessary" approach to winning a trophy and rhinestone crown.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Botoxing Your Child: A Misguided Momsperiment?

You've probably sneaked a guilty peek at "Toddlers and Tiaras" or one of the other popular reality shows showing the inner workings of child beauty pageants. So you know that these moms do whatever they can to give their daughters an edge when they twirl before the judges: buying thousand-dollar dresses, hiring professional coaches, taking the girls for spray tans and manicures, ordering kiddie dentures to cover up gaps from lost baby teeth.

But it seems that's not quite enough anymore. The newest trend in the pageant circuit is Botox injections - to mask any hint of a burgeoning wrinkle that might cost a girl valuable points toward a Grand Supreme crown. "It's pretty much, like, the thing. I'm not the only one that does it," this mom explains. A part-time esthetician, she gets her doses from "a trusted source" and administers the shots to her 8-year-old daughter at home. Her rationale: It's "safe," makes young Britney feel more confident about her looks and keeps her in the running in the highly competitive kid-beauty world.

Granted, moms experiment with their children's appearance all the time, from simple choices like clothing and hairstyles to more permanent options like piercing their newborns' ears. If a look doesn't suit their tastes - or if the child has other preferences (trust me when I say I'll never have my son's hair buzz-cut again) - it's easy enough to change, with no harm done. But intentionally putting a muscle relaxant in a second-grader's face? Without a doctor's supervision? A "safe" chemical with potential side effects like rash, chest pain, flu-like symptoms, seizures and breathing difficulties? At the very least, it's hardly in the same discomfort category as an ear piercing; the pictures of Britney holding an ice pack to her swollen face say it all.

I won't even get into the whole issue of the pageants themselves; that's a Momsperiment for another day. But if a child can't become a beauty queen without having her natural features and smile paralyzed in a most unnatural way, maybe it's time for the governing organizations to step in and draw the line. Otherwise, it may not be long before pageant moms start taking their kindergartners for nose jobs and brow lifts.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Operation: Out the Door!: Day 1/2

Off to a promising but still shaky start. If, as the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results each time, I think we've made a couple of baby steps toward mental health.

Day 1: So many variables changed that perhaps it shouldn't count as a true start to the Momsperiment:
 - This was an earlier-than-usual day because kids had to be at school for an early music class.
 - Because of said early hour, Dad was able to help them get up and dressed before leaving for work. Not part of the usual routine; need to increase my own involvement.
 - Dad offered an incentive to son: computer-game time in exchange for getting ready pronto. Pro: it motivated him to dress and eat promptly. Con: It distracted daughter from her own morning meal and ablutions. Need to weigh benefits vs. drawbacks of this option.
 - I opted out of a morning shower to  maximize my face-time with kids (giving them less time to sneak a quick read or bickering session).  Cut a few minutes off the departure time, but must consider whether the grossness factor is worth it.

Result: In the end, we still dashed out the door with minutes to spare. Further tweaking to the schedule appears necessary.

Day 2: Woke to the sound of a heated debate over whether a balloon trade could be rescinded if one of said balloons popped. Mom intervention required.

Today, I decided, was the time to try a team approach to the morning routine. I assembled our group in the hall and led us in a series of stretches. Kids joined in enthusiastically and even offered some exercise suggestions of their own. This idea seems to be a keeper, but will they be so enthusiastic on Monday morning?

Son then suggested a school-bake-sale-money incentive for the one who was quickest to get ready to leave. I agreed. Dressing, eating, toothbrushing and haircombing accomplished in record time. Excellent result, but - again with the incentives? Shouldn't this be something they do to learn responsibility, rather than a carrot-and-stick situation?

 Once they were ready to go, daughter asked me to read a few short books before leaving. Pro: Added to the good-feeling column. Con: Pushed back the departure time. Would have been nice to have saved those fifteen minutes.

Result: Arrived at school with 15 minutes to spare; better than average, but perhaps not enough wiggle room for unexpected delays and crises...such as son realizing, just as we got to the school door, that he had forgotten the recorder he needed for second period. Add to routine: double-checking all backpacks before bed.

In all, some valuable takeaways to implement next week. What do you think? A good start? What can we improve on?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Operation: Out the Door!

With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright;
Children clean and nicely dressed, and breakfasted every bite;
And at the school door stand, eager for the day ahead;
But there is no joy in my house - the kids are still in bed.

Yes, ours is one of those households that can't seem to get its act together on school days. We have plenty of prep time, but most of it is spent doing everything but prepping. If dawdling is an art, my two are practically Michelangelos. They lie in bed, play with toys, argue with each other - or me. One picks at her breakfast; the other buries his nose in the Wimpy Kid books. Today, I came out of the bedroom to find them hitting each other with balloons. Tooth- and hair-brushing is a hit-or-miss effort at best. We end up dashing to the car in a stressed-out flurry, arriving at school with minutes to spare - hardly the most conducive atmosphere for family harmony, much less good student performance.

I confess that I'm not the best time manager, either. I'm sure the kids are affected by genetics and/or observed bad habits, but that doesn't mean they need to use that as an excuse for the rest of their lives. There's always room for improvement - for all of us. (In my defense, I'm not the one still in Disney jammies 20 minutes before the first bell.)

So for the first Momsperiment of this blog, I'll be trying new strategies for our morning routine in hopes of making it both more streamlined and more pleasant.

Here's what I've tried thus far:

Nagging. The tried-and-true Mom Standby. Gets the job done eventually, but not in a timely fashion, and not without souring the mood of kids and parent alike.

Time reminders ("It's's after 8...we have to be out the door in 15 minutes..."). Doesn't always produce the desired sense of urgency. Both children still learning time concepts. Note to self: Perhaps time how long it takes to accomplish tasks?

Helping things along. As in: dressing them, brushing their teeth, feeding spoonfuls of cereal to the slow eater. Cuts a few minutes off the schedule, but relieves the kids of any sense of independence and responsibility.

Setting an earlier bedtime. Lack of sleep is linked to behavior problems and poor school performance. But in my kids' case, getting more than their usual 10 hours of z-time doesn't appear to be linked to greater morning efficiency.

Letting the children set the pace. A couple of times, I've chosen to sit back and let the dawdling proceed without comment or correction. We got out the door even later than usual, arriving just in time for them to join the line for the walk to their homerooms. Not enough of a consequence to get the lesson across. "Well, at least we got here," was my son's comment.

Now, before I launch the trial, I'd like to hear your thoughts. What are school mornings like for you? Are your children the kind who dress and pack for school without prompting, or do you have to drag them out of bed by their big toes? What works for you -  reward charts, timers, let's-see-who-can-get-ready-first races? I'd prefer to err on the side of positive reinforcement than privilege-withholding; what's more effective in your case?  Input from non-moms welcome too - I know you have memories of your own school days!

Let the Morning Momsperiment begin!