Friday, December 14, 2012

Emotional Roller Coaster

It’s been an emotional whirlwind of a day.  I woke up this morning with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.  I was really taken with the beauty of our children.  Not just mine, our collective children.  Their exuberance was palpable.  Today was the last day of school before the holiday break and those kids were ready to be done with school and onto bigger and better things. 

After I dropped off Kees I took the big kids to the Fernwood Campus and then went to get coffee for Kees’ teacher and myself.  I was going back to the school to walk Kees’ class over to Fernwood for a holiday celebration concert.  Coulter’s choir was going to sing.  It was his first concert and Kees and I were going to see it together. 

Watching the kids from Hollyrood all file over to Fernwood is quite an event.  Imagine almost 200 kids walking through the park.  It’s a beautiful thing.  They all arrived in the Cafetorium and in a very orderly fashion they found their designated spots.  Within 10 minutes the Cafetorium was packed with all the kids from kindergarten up to the 5th grade.  On the stage was the BCS 3rd-5th grade choir in all their cuteness.  And on the floor were the other 450 kids waiting patiently.  The choir sang about 10 songs and in between each song one of the big kids in 8th grade would read a summery about a holiday from somewhere across our planet.  The audience sang along with some songs and just watched for others.  It was bliss.  I find it hard to believe what joy I get watching my kids thrive in their school.  It is a slice of perfection.  I welled up with tears of joy.

While watching this perfect vignette a message comes across the screen of my phone, “26 dead, 18 of them children, in Conn. school shooting.”   I gasped.  What is happening?  I pulled up the story and sat there, mouth agape.  I passed my phone and watched other shocked parents have the same visceral reaction that I had. 

The “show” concluded and I walked Kees’ class back to the school.  This experience was not nearly as carefree.  I watched our kids, our precious kids go back to their little Norman Rockwell school.  I know that the school in Connecticut was the same, that their parents felt the same way about their school that I do about ours. How could this happen?  What was he thinking?  What could make a person do such a thing?  Were there warning signs?  Why is there so much violence?  Is there nowhere where our children are safe?

I kissed Kees good-bye and walked home in a numb haze.  When I got home I turned on the TV and sat there dumb founded.  I saw the grief on parents’ faces.  I saw pictures of terrified kids.   I saw hundreds of armed men running around an elementary school.  Good God!  I cried… 

I had to turn off the TV.  It was too painful.

I tried to go about my day, I had a lot to do, but it was exceedingly difficult.  I had gifts to put together for our administrators.  I thank God for those women at our school.  They are amazing.  And then the face of the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary came to mind and the tears started again.   I placed some sweets in the bag of goodies….more tears.  We are so blessed with the dedication of our teachers and administrators.  Tears.  Deep breaths.  I wrote a note to the principal and vice principal at BCS.  There is no way to convey to them how much I appreciate what they do but I try.  It is extraordinarily hard to write because my hand is shaking.  More tears….

I go to the “big” school and deliver my packages.  I see our principal and I want to hug her but that would be weird.  I know she is shaken.  I try to speak and it takes everything in my power not to burst into tears.  We look at each other and don’t say anything, we just shake our heads.  I finally hand her the gift and just say, “Man, what a day.  Here’s a little something for you to say thank you.”  She is grateful. 

I stay at the school because at 1:30 there is a middle school dance, Sophia’s first dance.  I will be a chaperone.  She will be mortified.  She has asked me many times, “Why?  WHY?”  I stick with my standard answer, “Because I promised you from the day you were born that I would be at your dances and I do not break my promises.”  Each time she smiles and looks worried. 

The problem is it’s only 1:00.  I wander the halls looking lost.  I finally leave to get a bite to eat.  In the chaos of the day I forgot to eat.  I get in the car and there is more information on the radio.  Again, I cry.  I waste a half hour and then return to the school.

When I get into the Cafetorium it is transformed from the fine arts theater it had been in the morning to Studio 54.  There were lights, loud music, blinking colored lights, boisterous kids and a concession stand.  I got to assist with the concessions.  There was candy, soda, hats, boas….all sorts of silly things and the kids “needed” it all.  When Sophia saw me she didn’t run.  As a matter of fact she even let me take pictures.  Again, I welled up with tears.  This time it was tears of joy.  I see our principal and she too is full of joy to see our kids having so much fun.  She says, “They are such good kids.”  And they are. 

The kids jump, scream lyrics, dance in groups, laugh and buy junk from the concession stand.  Again our perfect little school and our beautiful kids make me cry.  We are so blessed. 

I have to leave the dance a few minutes early because I have to pick up Kees at the little school.  All the parents are in a fog.  I talk to a few friends and we’re all feeling the same thing, great sadness, shock and love for our children.  When the kids come out each parent collects their little person and I see many embraces.  Embraces that are a little longer, looks that are a little more grateful.  I catch the eye of a friend who is hugging her little girl and with out saying a word we convey, “Thank God our children are safe.” In just a look.  She knows, I know.  I get Kees and can’t get enough of him. We walk home hand in hand.  The little things mean so much. 

Sophia and Coulter walk home.  When they’re all home I sit them down right in front of me and I tell them the kid version of what happened.  I explain that they can ask me questions or just talk to daddy or me about it.  They understand. 

Tonight I have my family around me and I am grateful.  My children are safe and happy.  They’re excited for Christmas.  aI am happy but also mourning for the families in Connecticut.  I cannot imagine their pain.  I don’t want to.  It is too hard even this far removed. 

I am exhausted from the highs and lows of today.  I will never be the same.  I will pray.  I am glad that I have this outlet.  How do we move forward?  How do we stop these things from happening?  I wish I knew. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Letter to my Children

Dear Children,
I am very disappointed in the way things are going around here and I am asking for your help in fixing some issues.

Your shoes, backpacks and lunch boxes are continuously left out on the floor in front of the entrance to our house.  This makes our house look messy and it is unacceptable.  I will not live this way any longer.  It is sloppy and dangerous and you need to figure out how to correct this.

Your homework is not being done in a timely manner.  Kees, your homework has not been completed for weeks past.   Coulter, I have to constantly remind you to do your homework and then while you are doing it I have to harp on you.  Sophia, your homework is much bigger and requires more attention.  You are smart enough to do it yet you choose to wait until almost the day it is due to get it done.  This makes me very anxious. 

I have news for you all; I have already done 1st, 3rd and 6th grades, as has your father.  We don’t need to do them again.  We are willing to help you do your homework if you have genuinely given it your best effort.  To date I have not seen any of you do that. 

Your rooms are a disaster….almost always.  This too is unacceptable.  I understand how they get that way but you need to make a short amount of time to clean your rooms when you take LOTS of time messing them up. 

General areas of the house….  This house is daddy’s and mine.  We worked very hard for many years to pay for the house, the things in it and for all the times we have together.   Your stuff is all over this house and this will stop…TODAY!  If you do not pick up your stuff I will take it and keep it.  The kid’s bathroom, the hallways, the living room, the kitchen, the dinning room, the fort, the storage closets, the basement, the TV room and the office are all common rooms.  This mean that they are for everyone to use equally.   Do you EVER see my clothes near the front door?  My lunch box or my things strewn all over the house?  NO, because I care about my home and my stuff.  Your things are NEVER to be left in our room or bathroom.  I will keep them if you do that any longer.

We like to share with you because we love you.  You have not earned these things we have.  To get things and a house you need to work hard.  Your previous endeavors have not shown that you are up to the task. 

You 3 are going to meet and decide what is going to be done about these issues.  You will decide what the penalty is for failure to follow the rules and you will willingly comply with your rules. 

If you don’t come up with a plan you will fall under my jurisdiction and that means follow my rules as I set them out.   A few things come to mind as penalties…  No sleep overs, no play dates, no computer time or games, no Wii, no AWOL, no candy, no dessert, no slot cars, no Legos….  I can go on all day. 

As a friend of mine once was told…..  “Your good time ends when my bad time begins.”  My bad time has begun…….

I will assist you in figuring out details of a plan but you will come up with an initial plan.  If the penalties for not cooperating are not harsh enough I will triple them or greater.  That means if you say, “If my room is a mess I only loose an hour of Wii.”  I can come back and say, “No, you loose it for a week.”  I advise coming up with reasonable penalties the first time. 

I am very serious about this.  I do not want to yell, be disappointed or be penalized for your poor behavior and homework habits any longer.  You will be taking personal accountability for your work and stuff. 

I look forward to working with you and to a cleaner, more organized and peaceful home. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Disneyland and a Menu

When our family was planning a trip to Disneyland one of the things we pondered was, do we tell the kids or not? The down side of telling them was we would have to hear about the upcoming trip all the time. “When are we going? How many more days? Why is it taking so long?” and so on. The upside of telling the kids is they get to anticipate the trip. I know I really like thinking about upcoming trips. Often times I get as much satisfaction planning the trip and traveling in my head as I do on the actual trip. It’s so much fun to think about all the possibilities. We decided to tell the kids a little more than a month out. As it turned out it was the right choice. They didn’t make us too crazy with the questions and they did fanaticize about the upcoming experience. I also got to get their input on what they thought would be fun. I think we could all agree that a trip to Disneyland when you are between the ages of 6 and 10 is a pretty exciting adventure.

Fast forward to people in the 70+ years set. Today I was doing my Meals on Wheels route and almost every recipient of a meal asked for a menu. Menus are usually given out at the first of the month and today is the 9th, that’s a long time to go without a menu. Why is the menu so important? Most of these people are home bound and see very few people. Their lives have become smaller over time and fit in the space within the walls of their home. The menu gives them something to look forward to. “Is today lasagna day? Oh, fish!” and the like. To you and I this may seem like a small thing but when it is the one variable in your day it is a much bigger deal. We all need something to look forward to.

We are all so different in what and how we live our lives and one of the few constants is something go look forward to. It gives our lives meaning, a sense of purpose. Kids always do it. You know how they say, “Next year for my birthday party I want to…….” And it’s the day after you just threw their birthday party. Or how they talk about Christmas all year? It’s maddening! As a matter of fact I have talked to my kids A LOT about living in the moment. That too is so important. But kids always have something to look forward to. -In the end we all need to appreciate what we have but when you are older it’s different. There are less positive experiences to look forward to then when you were younger. Birthdays have lost their luster, Christmas isn’t what it used to be and tomorrow will probably be much the same as today. Except for lunch, it can be such a pleasurable experience, especially if, “It’s something I love.” So I made it my mission to see that the people on my route get a menu tomorrow. In the future I need to make sure that I have them available so when someone asks I can get them one. I have always heard my people ask for menus but until today I hadn’t really considered why this was so important. We all need to see people where they are. Our experiences are unique but our desire to be valued is not. I value my seniors and I try to see them, really see them. Their experiences are wide and their lives have become narrow. If knowing what is for lunch is the thing that gets them to look forward to tomorrow then I can make that happen. May we all have something to look forward to!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maximum Quotient

My kids are awesome. I am crazy about them. They are smart, funny and fairly well mannered. They are also 11, 8 and 7. I realize that their age means they have had a fairly short window of opportunity to learn about our world and how it works. Throughout their days they feel the need to share their funny noises, jokes, perhaps a new “move” or story they’ve made up. And when they share they have to stop me from whatever I am doing and say, “Mom, momma, look mom or MOOOOOOOM.”

They are in that phase where every new thing they do is amazing to them. It’s unique. It’s probably the first time that anyone has ever done “the thing” and certainly it has never been done with the skill level that was just achieved. AND, as if to prove their point, they will say, “Mom, mom, mom….watch this.” and do “said thing” again with commentary. “I did this. And then you went like……. And then I went like……It was so cool.” Now I am supposed to act surprised or impressed….but I am not. Especially since 90% of the time I saw “whatever” the first time.

I am a terrible faker. If I was not impressed with that “whatever” that just went down you will know. I will acknowledge that it happened and smile but I am certainly not going to hop up and down with glee. My philosophy is when they do something that is truly impressive I will applaud loudly, sincerely and with great gusto but until that happens I will just acknowledge that they did something. I refuse to give great energy to the ordinary. I refuse to let my kids believe (and many kids are taught differently) that they are extraordinary at “whatever” when they are not. I have 3 kids and if I stopped to watch every little thing that they wanted me to I would NEVER get anything done. I am trying to train them to be extraordinary by giving proper attention to the ordinary. My kids will know when they are extraordinary because I will be in the front row cheering at the top of my lungs.

Yesterday was a day FULL of ordinary “Moms, mommas and Look Moms”. My kids said, “MOM, momma or Look mom.” Approximately 1000 times each. (See, it’s irritating just to read twice!) It was over 100 outside and our delicate northwest bodies stayed mostly inside to make sure we didn’t melt. Kees was out of sorts which doesn’t help because Coulter, essentially, has a button that says, “PRESS HERE FOR BEST RESULTS” and Kees can read. He was hitting that button with great precision and hitting it often. That brought rounds of “MOOOM. KEES IS BEING MEAN.” It is also hard to care about that after 15-20 times. Coulter does not have the capacity to ignore Kees.

When asked to do something Coulter generally goes about doing it in a happy and willing manner. Kees watches Coulter clean, unload the dish washer, pick up or whatever. This presses BOTH my and Coulter’s buttons. Kees doesn’t care AT ALL. I get frustrated with Kees and make him do the work and then Kees gets mad and starts yelling. He starts in with his own, “MOOOM” versions and I want to smack him. I don’t, I just want to. He eventually does his part but it takes 20 times longer than it should. Moms everywhere know about this one.

Sophia is getting over the hump. She knows not to annoy me with all the different kinds of “moms” and generally can read me when I am getting frustrated. She does like to talk. I know this too will end but for right now she is full of LOTS of non information that wears on me. She goes on and on often without making a point. Or she tells me things that she knows I already know. There are only so many mundane points one can hear in a day without wanting to pull one’s hair out. Again, I know this sounds harsh and maybe whiney but there are some days where it makes me NUTS.

I would like to ride in the car for 10 minutes and listen to NPR without 50 interruptions. Or I would like to pay bills without having to get up 15 times to help someone or to mediate a fight. I often find that I can go for hours without doing anything because I know the moment I start something I will have to stop and either start over or figure out where I was and pick it up there. Paying bills used to be an hour or two activity. It can now take me all day with my many delays. It is very frustrating.

I believe I reached my quota of pleas for attention at about 3 pm yesterday which made the time from 3:01 – 7:20 excruciatingly painful for me. When I get to that point I can hardly function because I so don’t care about what ever. At that point the kids have cried “WOLF” so many times that I can’t respond with anything left. I have nothing left.

Bob called me at 5:00 yesterday and I am pretty sure he could tell I was done. He volunteered to make dinner because I was at AWOL with the kids until 6. Bless you Bob! Sophia was having a sleepover at a friend’s so I took her at 7:15 and after that I headed to Fred Meyer. From 7:20 to 8:45 I was at Fred Meyer just walking around and being by myself. It wasn’t Zen, it wasn’t peaceful but it was alone. I could look at a label and not be bothered. It sounds boring but at the time it was what I needed.

I don’t know what the number of “moms” is that maxes one out but I certainly hit it yesterday. I couldn’t take one more “mom” or mundane “fact” I just couldn’t. Yes, I survived but it was painful.

Today the kids went with my mom to her house for 2 days and I am loving it. I am going to try and savor these 2 days and embrace all the “moms” that come at me when we get up to my mom’s. Until then I plan on getting my quotient of quiet, good food, adult conversation and Bob. “T” minus 48 hours begins NOW.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sophia Sick

How is it that I can miss my girl so much? 12 years ago I was so happy being alone at home. I could do what I want, whenever I wanted. Then SHE came along. First, she occupied my body and then took all my time, was always in my thoughts and totally stole my heart. I watched Sophia grow into the beautiful, smart, strong young girl that she is today. Like all parents, I marveled at my daughter and took great joy in her development. I still do. She is an amazing kid and person.

She is in Wisconsin. She has been gone for a week and will be gone for 2 more weeks. I can’t believe I let her go! She’s with her best buddy, Katia, and her family on Papoose Lake. Before she left I worried that she would be home sick. She has been a little bit home sick but more than that, I am Sophia sick. I miss her like crazy. When she’s here her stuff is all over, she “forgets” to put away her dishes, her room is a mess, her laundry is piled up and she messes up the kitchen. When she’s here she also makes me laugh, plays with and watches the boys, she snuggles with me in bed and makes me smile and my heart sing. I love her so much and this is far too long for her to be gone.

In 7 years she’ll be going to college. 7 YEARS! That is like tomorrow. I have known since the day we brought her home that we were preparing her to leave our home. I teach her to cook, do laundry, clean up, be kind, negotiate, read, stay healthy and so on. All of us know that ultimately, this is what we are preparing our kids for but it really does go so fast. OK its fast most of the time….there are times where it’s excruciatingly slow but overall it has gone speeding by. And with time going so fast I don’t think I can let her leave again for such a long time. Forget home sick, I can’t stand it. I’m Sophia sick and 3 weeks is too long for my daughter to be gone from me.

She’ll be home the first weekend of August but I am not sure I can last that long. I suppose I will survive but I don’t think I can do this again at least not for 7 more years. Maybe then I will be ready for her to go to college but honestly, I don’t think so.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Country Boy at the Country Fair

The Oregon Country Fair is quite a scene. It is about 25 minutes west of Eugene in a heavily wooded area. I need to preface this with the fact that I have never been to this country fair before. When looking at the information on line the one thing that I wanted to check out was their nudity rules. Here's what the web site said,

"Is nudity allowed at the Fair?
In accordance with Oregon law, people are required to cover their genitals in public."

I can deal with that. I knew there would be various levels of undress but hey, it's Oregon. It's nothing I or my kids haven't seen before. My nephew William....that's another story.

William is a 13 year old boy from Georgia. As they say in Georgia, "Georgia born, Georgia bred and when I die I'll be Georgia dead." He is, for all intents and purposes, a country boy, especially by Oregon standards. I knew that this fair would be something he's never done before and probably will never do again. It is 2 and a half hours away but I felt like it was worth the trip for the experience.

We went to the fair on the opening day and arrived in the parking lot at 10:20. The gates were to open at 11:00. It was really fun. From the moment we entered the parking lot everyone kept saying, "Happy fair!" Like it was a national holiday. The 3 boys and I lucked out and got a ride right to the front gate! As we rode along it was the same, "Happy fair!" Almost everyone was in a costume of some sort. There were lots of tutu wearing dudes along the way. This took William by surprise. It's at about this point when William started saying, "Well then." It was like a guys way of saying, "Oh my." As we pulled into a parking spot up front we could hear a drum circle and lots of whoop whoops and yeeeeeawwws.( Oh, and here's the cool truck we saw too.)
When we turned the corner we could see all the commotion. What fun!
The stilt walkers were so cool.  They were dancing around, banging on bells and drums.  My boys were in their element.  William felt like he was on another planet.  Then some guys covered in mud wearing grass clothing, yes, I said grass clothing came around the corner.  I heard another, "Well then."  Next the green people came running through.  "Well then." And finally some very scantily clad folks.  They were wearing loin cloths...that's it. "WELL THEN."

We walked toward the front gate and got ready to go in.  Again, more of the same.  From the fair people, "HAPPY FAIR!"  From William, "WELL THEN."  There were about 1000 people waiting to go in and we were in the front of the pack.  As we entered it was a wonderland of country fair.  It looked like a human size fairyland.  All the structures were as organic as they could be.  Most of them were made from whatever was in the forest.  As we walked along we checked out all the booths.  Here's a little sample of some of the music at the fair.     There was lots of pottery, tie dye, fairy wings, devil horns, shrines, capes, more tie dye, pottery, music, and the like. There were a few guys that were giving out free hugs, even one mostly naked guy. William said, after the guy walked by that he should have gotten a hug. Yeah, right.
About 30 minutes in there was a parade.  I am pretty sure this parade went on all day just going in circles while picking up new people and dropping some off.  It was an never ending, constantly evolving parade. "Well then." 
We walked around for a total of 4 hours.  My boys bought horns and capes.  They needed some good fair regalia.  William didn't see much that interested him except the fudge.  That looked good.  We saw shrines of all types, LOTS of topless women.  It was fun pointing them all out to William.  He got embarrassed every time. It never got old.  There was a dragon that was about 50 feet long and 8 feet high built out of twigs.  There were 30 people sitting inside eating their lunch. We joined them.  There was a special bench for stilt walkers.  The bench was about 6 feet in the air.  We saw the parade again.  We spent some time at the main stage watching people dance and sing.  There were a couple, "Well then's" there for sure.  
A funny little parade that we saw was about 5 large noses and a box of Kleenex.  The noses were on stilts and as they made their way through the crowd they'd stop and say, "I feel an attack coming." or some thing like that and then throw a weighted green bag out of a nostril.  It was really funny....and gross.  
As we approached the exit we saw the naked "free hugs" guy again.  What luck!  And William said he wanted one.  I said, "Now's your chance Will."  He smirked and said, "Ah, no thanks."  That's what I thought.  We made our way out and headed to the car.  There were HUNDREDS of people walking in as we were walking out.  It was very busy while we were there, I can't imagine how busy it was going to be with all those added people. 
We made it back to the car.  All 3 boys were complaining that their feet hurt.  I'm 47, how is it that their feet hurt more than mine?  We turned on the AC and headed out.  We were dusty, dirty and tired.  I knew those boys didn't particularly care about quality fair food so I opted for Subway on the way home.  They were all happy about that.  It was a fun, and definately memorable day!
A few more pix. 

Missing Girl

Yesterday my girl left for 3 weeks. I can't believe she's gone and I can't believe I let her go. She's in Wisconsin with one c her best buddies and her family visiting the buddy's grandparents.

We had to get up yesterday at 4 to get Sophia to the airport by 5. She was sleeping in our bed because she was nervous. When we got up Sophia went and got dressed and then came to be with me. She was so nervous! She was shaking from head to toe like our dog when I take her to the vet. I felt so bad for her but I knew she'd get over it and have a great time.

We got her to the airport at 5 to meet up with Aaron, the buddy's step dad. It was a quick hand off which was great, there was no time to be emotional. She said goodbye and was off on her big adventure.

I received a couple texts mid trip on a layover and she was having fun. Then a picture upon her arrival with her buddy. She looked so happy. I called her a little later just to say hello. She was all giggles.

Today when I called early in the day she was having so much fun she could hardly stop long enough to talk. Then tonight I got a call at 10:15 her time. She was tired, it was quiet and dark and she was feeling homesick. I know it's harder at night.

On the home front it's strange not to have her here. Bob made breakfast for the boys and called them up. He told Kees, "Kees, go get Sophia." He smirked at me. Kees ran off yelling for her. 10 seconds later he came back grinning, "She's not here dad!" We all laughed. I really miss her. As she's gotten older she is more and more fun. She's learning to cook, she will go to the store with me and keep me company and she is really funny. I really miss that the most.

I know this is all part of growing up and I am sure it will change her. 3 weeks is a long time. The longest she's ever been gone in the past is a week and that was hard. At least she can call if she wants.

I look forward to hearing all about her adventures and what she learns. A couple things I hope she doesn't learn...#1) Sun burns are as bad as mom said they can be and #2) The mosquitoes are as nasty as mom said. I got some eye rolling and a couple, "mmooooOOOOoommmmm, I know. You already said that." I always say, "I know you know this but I'm your mom and it's my job to say this." And then I dispense my advice whether she wants it or not. I love that kid like crazy and need her to be safe and smart. I told her, above all, trust your gut. If someone seems "off" stay away. If you are in a situation that feels like it could become unsafe, it can. Switch course. If you need help, get it. Follow your gut. I don't care if you think it will offend someone, you stay safe. And if I didn't think she would follow that advice I wouldn't have let her go. She's a smart kid. I won't be able to protect her all the time but I can teach her to stay safer by avoiding unsafe situations. I pray she stays safe and that she has the adventure of a lifetime. Safe travels little lady. I love you

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Different Kinda Summer

So far, so good, I am loving summer. This summer is shaping up to be much different than summers in our recent past.

First, we have gone out of town right after school gets out for the past few years. Last year it was almost a requirement. The meteorologists called June, Junuary last year because it was so cold. ON June 3rd last year I recall a guy saying, “I’m going to the mountain. There’s 2 feet of fresh.” That just pissed me off. REALLY JUNE? REALLY? None the less, we left town and went to California to chase the sun. Then we were off to Fossil for the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival and finally Priest Lake. All of the places were sunny while it rained in Portland. We came back on July 10th and the sun came out on July 11th.

This year we stayed in town. The weather has been reasonably nice and I have loved just going with the flow. The kids have been sleeping in, we’ve been out to breakfast a couple times, we’ve been swimming and generally doing the summer thing.

This weekend has been great fun. Last night we hosted a party for a friend of mine’s all women’s choir. They’re called Lyrica. They are in town for the weekend. I have known my friend, Lee Anne, for almost 35 years. WOW, that is a long time. They were such nice people and it was a true pleasure to have them here. Sophia and her buddy Ella were hired to work the party. That was a great deal. They made sure everyone knew where the beverages were, they took dinner orders and then they cleaned up the whole thing. I love having a capable kid. Our neighbor Deb came over at 11:30 and the girls then went to her house and cleaned up her play room. They wanted an even 4 hours. My boys made sure to introduce themselves to many of the ladies and then showed them their loft beds. They’re quite proud of those. I was very proud of my kids and all the ladies enjoyed them.

Today we all slept in (kids went to bed after midnight). At noon, Bob had a baseball game. He’s hooked up with the 35+ set and has played for the past couple of weekends and they’ll continue to get together over the summer. Sophia had a babysitting certification class and our boys went swimming….BY THEMSELVES! It was awesome. I watched the game and checked on the boys periodically. Eventually, I brought them some lunch. After the baseball game Bob went swimming with the boys. They boys ended up being at the pool for 5 hours and most of the time it was just the two of them.

Tomorrow the boys have Ninja camp. Coulter is convinced he will learn how to chop down a tree with his bare hands. They’re quite excited. Sophia and I will have a bit of girl time. I am grateful for the time with her because in July she is going to Minnesota with a friend for 3 weeks! I can’t believe I am letting her go but I am sure it is what I would have wanted to do when I was 11. It’s going to be very hard for me.

From here on out we have a few things planned, camping at mom’s house, summer cousin camp at dad’s house, a couple of camps for the boys and eventually a trip to California in August. We are mostly in town for a change and I am enjoying this pace.

The kids are enjoying freedoms that they couldn’t last year. They have grown up with Grant Park across the street. It started out with them going as a group to the soccer field. Eventually, we let them go to the playground at the school. Sophia can now go to most of the park as long as she is with a friend and lets me know where she is going to be. And today, the boys got to go to the pool alone. It was a big day and a big deal. I am still keeping close tabs on them but a little freedom feels good to us all. I am not the kind of mom that needs to be needed all the time. To the contrary, I love to watch them grow and gain independence. They are amazing little people and when they have freedom, I have freedom.

So our summer is going quite swimmingly thus far. I am loving the pace and hopefully, by the end of the week, Coulter will be chopping down trees with his bare hands. More to come.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Slacker Blogger

I was beating myself up for not keeping up on my blog. I love writing my posts but I have been doing 1000 other things. I thought to myself, “Self, what have you been doing?” And the answer came back immediately and very clearly. I have been living.

I spent more time writing last year when I was having trouble with SAD. It was easy to sit still and write because I wasn’t motivated to do other stuff. Sometimes in the past I wrote because I felt like I should. From here on out, I am going to write because I want to and only if I have the time. I am going to cut Heather some slack.

I have been watching my kids play sports. I love sitting on the side lines with the other parents chatting and watching my kids play.

Sophia’s soccer team is not very good. This is not criticism it’s the truth. They are, however, the cutest bunch of girls around. They like soccer and each other and that is very apparent. When someone gets hurt they all rush over to make sure she’s OK. This is even if the ref hasn’t blown the whistle which makes it very easy for the other team to score. They score often. Our girls aren’t very aggressive, they’re more polite like, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there. Here’s your ball.” And then they’ll step aside. Now, with all that being said, they have improved dramatically! Now they’re only polite half the time and they have moments of fierce competitiveness.

Two weeks ago the girls won a game, the first one in 3 years. We parents were so excited we could hardly stand it. It was great. The girls thought they had tied so we had to convince them they won. Sophia pulled a t’weenager and sulked because the coach yelled at her. I told her, “That’s what coaches do. They tell you how to play.” She wasn’t buying it.

And even with all that going on, I still love watching them play. Sophia is getting so long and lanky. She’s also strong and athletic. She’s growing up and I get a joy watching her that I couldn’t understand before I had kids. I don’t care that they don’t win. I love that they can have fun and focus on getting better, supporting each other and being good sports. We’re still working on that. I am proudest when they all walk off the field after a loss and talk about what they did right. We all need to do that.

And the boys are playing baseball. I cannot tell you how cute this is. Bob is their coach and I have to say, he is a great coach. He’s patient, strong, caring and an excellent role model. The boys each have a baseball bag with their stuff in it. They are the Giants and they have grey shirts and pants. There is nothing like seeing a row of little boys in matching baseball uniforms. It is beyond cute.

I haven’t been to practice yet but I have been to almost all their games. The first game was the hardest. Our boys didn’t really know what to do and the other team has been playing together for 3 years. Their coach was hard core and needed to win. Bob just wanted our boys to get a few hits and maybe an out or two. Luckily the batting team only gets to go through the roster once and then they head back out onto the field. If not it would have been a kagillion to zero. The cutest part of it all was what the boys said after the game. Kees was so proud that he hit a ball and that, “I helped get 2 outs.” Coulter had a couple hits and was quite proud as well. They didn’t focus on the fact that they got creamed, not for one second.

In one of the innings Kees was playing 2nd base. The short stop threw the ball to Kees a couple times and Kees missed it. Instead of being frustrated with Kees he solved the problem his own way. He started rolling the ball to Kees instead. Brilliant! It totally worked and they were both happy to get an out. I love when they problem solve on their own. I would have never come up with that solution.

One game was cut short because the other coach needed to leave. Bob wanted to do some batting practice with the boys since they had field time but they wanted to roll down the grassy hill. 12 boys ages 6-8 all rolling down the hill. So cute. Frustrating to Bob but who can blame them? Rolling down the hill is way fun and you’re only little once.

I often coach first base. Watching them hit the ball and then run is just great. All of them look genuinely shocked when they make contact. Then they have to stop and watch the ball and decide what they’re going to do next. You can practically see the wheels turning. I am yelling, “RUN! RUN!” Then, like someone flipped a switch, they get it and they run. Every time they get to first we talk about what is going to happen next. I do this 50 times during a game and it’s great every time. I love it.

And again, I get a joy out of watching them that I can’t explain. It brings tears to my eyes to think of them playing baseball. It’s cute yes but it’s also watching them grow up. They can do it and they’re learning. They’re learning to play baseball, to be part of a team, to listen to their coach, to be grateful to their parents for letting them play, to be supportive of each other and to focus on the positive. It is a beautiful thing.

I have also been doing my own things and doing double duty too. Bob has been gone every other week for almost 2 months now. The kids and I have our own routine but I definitely need to pick up the slack. I am on the board of the PTA and will be the President next year. I’m driving for Meals on Wheels and am working out 4 days per week. It is amazing how much time that can take. I am in a book club and a mother of daughters club too. All these things take time and energy on top of all the day to day stuff.

I have had 100 blog ideas but haven’t had time to write them down. I want to have a record but I also want to live without having to stop all the time. I often see people taking pictures when they are out with their kids. The kids are playing and the parents are yelling for them to stop so they can take a picture. LET THEM PLAY! Have you ever felt like you were missing out because you were taking pictures? I have and I don’t want to miss out. I have decided that many times I am just going to be in the moment and I’ll have to rely on my memories for pictures. I will blog when I have time and I won’t beat myself up when I don’t blog. So until next time….when ever that is. Be good to yourself and I’ll be good to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


When we are kids we all have heroes and heroines. We’re taught at first that they are recognizable mostly because of their tight fitting costumes and capes. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman etc. Of course the women are more scantily clad than the men but that is for a whole other entry. Google “Superheroes” and check out the pictures. 95% of them are men. And the men, of course, have big, bulging muscles. These are mostly used for beating up bad guys and saving us poor helpless women. Whatever… My kids have all been superheroes at one time or another. They jump off of things and dress in costume so they are not recognizable.

One of my favorite kid superhero stories is about Coulter when he was dressed as Spiderman for Spookorama at their school. I think he was in kindergarten. I painted his face because they aren’t allowed to wear masks for safety reasons. When we arrived at school a bunch of the parents said, “Hey, it’s Spiderman!” or “Hello Spiderman!” And each time this happened Coulter became quite alarmed. He would stop and say, “I’m not the real Spiderman.” He wanted to make this very clear and he would wait until he could tell that the person he was talking to understood that he was NOT the real Spiderman. He was afraid that if something went horribly wrong everyone would turn to him and expect him to handle the situation. He did not want that responsibility and he did not want people to have a false sense of security because he was there. It was over the top cute.

Then we jump ahead a few years when we all have to do reports on our hero(ine)s. Sophia’s first report was on Amelia Earhart. Coulter will be picking someone soon but hasn’t yet. We are forced to take a look at real people and see those who have really contributed to our society or have advanced us in some way. These people are real heroes. Take note, NONE of them are wearing tights or capes. There are a couple exceptions I suppose, Mikhail Baryshnikov being one.

A few of my favorite heroes are….. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, John Adams, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Sacagawea, Winston Churchill, Neil Armstrong, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Margaret Thatcher. I don’t think you’d catch any of them in tights and a cape, although it would make a funny picture. All of these people were visionaries. They had a dream, a vision, determination and tenacity. When others said, “It can’t be done.” they cast that opinion aside and continued on the path of righteousness and strength. They didn’t care what the masses said, the thing that was important was in their hearts and that needed to get out. It was more than a mission it was necessity. And by following their vision they have made a better world for us all.

Recently I have been drawn to more ordinary heroes. Yesterday I was at my workout facility doing a core strengthening class and then a cardio blast. It was (always is) hard. Really, it’s so hard that I laugh during class because I know that the teacher is crazy to think I could do all this stuff. I do the best I can and then I go back a couple days later to do it (half of it) all over again. When I walked out of the gym yesterday there were the usual suspects in the lobby, a group of 70-80 somethings. I said, “She was trying to kill us in there!” to which they all laughed. I stopped and talked to the ladies.

The 2 chattiest of the bunch were seated closest to me. We struck up a conversation. They were telling me that their class was really hard too, lots of strength training and balance exercises. They’ve invited the men but they won’t come. They’re too scared. We all giggled. One of them introduced herself to me, her name was Bo. She told me about all the things that she does and volunteers for each week. The day before she had volunteered with the Children’s Theater (I think that was it), a highway cleanup crew and had been to see Wicked with some friends. She makes being 80 something sound pretty great. She told me how on the clean up there was a piece of garbage across a little creek and up an embankment. Her 2 recently retired friends, both about 65 said, “Oh, just leave it.” Bo couldn’t do that. She leapt over the creek and climbed up to get the garbage. She climbed down and hopped back over the creek to toss it in the sack. She showed them. Her friend piped up and said, with a twinkle in her eye and a big grin on her face, “And we’re both in our 80’s!” And now these 2 ladies are 2 of my newest heroines. They are fun, active, involved and moving forward. They have a vision of their future and it includes helping others and being a participant in life.

Another of my senior heroines is my friend Signe, she is 80 and is on my Meals on Wheels route. She is not as mobile as she once was but she is very smart and involved in the rhythm of life, politics and spirituality. And oh, is she wise! I sometimes feel like she can see my soul. A few weeks ago she told me that up until this year she was having a fine time being an old lady. It is becoming less fun than it was. Signe often challenges me on various subjects and she makes me think. I am always glad to see her and glean a bit of wisdom. She is another kind of heroine.

And I don’t forget all the grandparents in our lives. They are all active and showing us the ropes on how to be older. My mom tells me what is coming and I am grateful to her for sharing. I know our makeup is very similar and I will most likely face many of the same issues. Ed is still skiing at75 and mom at 71. Ans works so hard I don’t know how she does it. She feeds thousands of kids every day. Bert runs his own company and helps many organizations raise money. Dad is still working and valued for it at 73.Sally runs their home while dad has been travelling with work. She set up a day camp for all the grandkids last year too. They are all very active and still….none of them is wearing capes and tights. Again, there’s an interesting picture.

I challenge you to take a look around and take note of the heroes all around you. Focus on what it is that draws you to them and makes you want to be better. What is it that you admire about them? Educators, volunteers, that woman who tries to kill you in the core class, a coach that lifts a kid that no one else did or could, the senior with consistently good advice, the friend who loves your children and family and my new friends who give me a window into what the 80s can be. There are so many out there and we just need to see them, really see them. They are there to be the example and to teach us all what we can be, and all of us can be a hero to someone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Modern Family

Sophia has been watching Modern Family with me lately.  I’m on the fence about if it’s appropriate or not.  Actually, to be more accurate, I don’t think it is appropriate but it has given me a platform to explain lots of things.  I guess it can be appropriate with explanation. 

There are often jokes that she doesn’t get so I stop the show and explain them.  This morning we were watching the one where Phil finds out that his 17 year old daughter is not a virgin.  He is driving his daughters to the mall and says something about Haley that ends in “aversion.”  His other daughter, Alex, starts laughing in the back seat, catches herself and realizes that her dad didn’t know about Haley’s indiscretion.  She starts to say, “I thought you said….” And then she trails off.  He sees their faces and he knows now.  There are shocked faces all around…….  I put the show on pause.  I ask Sophia, “Do you know what just happened?”  She doesn’t. 

I start to explain.  “Do you know what a virgin is?”  She doesn’t.  I explain that it is a person who has never had sex.  She knows what sex is.  She nods that she understands.  I explain that when Phil said, “aversion” Alex heard “a virgin” and started to laugh because Haley was not a virgin.  Their dad was shocked because he didn’t know that and because Haley is a young person, too young to be having sex.  I needed to make that clear to Sophia.  She understood what happened and that it wasn’t appropriate. 

Later on Mitchell was walking next to Cameron (they’re a gay couple) and was leading a party of 30 people.  To make sure he was visible he was carrying a flag.  He said, “Follow the party flag everyone.”  Cameron heard “party fag” and gave Mitchell “the eye.” Mitchell said, “I said party FLAG.”  Again, time to pause the show.  Sophia did not know the word “fag.”  I explained and we moved on.

In both of those instances I was glad she didn’t know those words.  She is 11 and still so sweet and innocent.  I love that.  I am grateful that those words have not come up in her circle.  I remember very clearly the first time someone in my circle brought up the word virgin.  It was in 7th grade and I had no idea what that word was.  They asked me if I was a virgin.  I said, “I don’t know.” After a 7th grade explanation I definitely knew I was one.  They all laughed that I didn’t know that word and I was embarrassed.  The truth of the matter is I shouldn’t have known that word.  Why would that come up in 7th grade?  Scary. 

I don’t want Sophia to have to deal with that.  Kids seem to know things earlier than when I was a kid and I would rather give her the explanation so I know she is getting proper information.  I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable talking to me but she will. 

I would never let her watch Modern Family without Bob or me there to explain what is going on.  Most if it would go right over her head.  I guess that would be fine except that I don’t want her guessing and misunderstanding what is going on.  A wrong interpretation or explanation by another 11 year old can cause quite a bit of confusion. 

It has been a good platform to us to discuss lots of different things.  It would be very inappropriate for Sophia if I wasn’t there.  She has been pretty well protected from the real world and she deserves that.  I want to give her enough information without overwhelming her.  It is a fine line and different with every kid.  I think she can handle what I tell her.  She is VERY wise and tells me if she is uncomfortable or if I start to tell her more than she needs to know.  Yes, Modern Family is inappropriate BUT we will continue to use it as a safe way to learn about our world.