December 23, 2013

In which I destroy the sacred grounds of childhood

We do not believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy at our house. We never have. Before K was born, Jim and I decided that we were not going to "do" the mythical figures as a reality for our kids.

This is not a popular position to take. My family was confused and (I think) a little upset when we informed them of our decision. I think they get it now, but it was not an easy thing to throw into the mix.

Jim did not grow up with holiday figures, but in a more extreme way than what we ultimately decided to do. His parents felt that Santa and the Easter Bunny took away from the truth of what those holidays were about from a Christian perspective. They also didn't usually have a Christmas Tree, do Easter Egg hunts or anything more "secular". He and his siblings were not allowed to dress up for Halloween, go to school Halloween parties, trick-or-treat or do anything for what was considered a pagan holiday. I'm not sure what the reasoning was for no Tooth Fairy, but I think it might have been similar to what we decided on. Jim and his siblings were given strict instructions to NEVER ruin the holidays or beliefs of other kids. And they never did.

For me, my parents did the whole shebang. We went to visit Santa, we left out cookies and made lists of what we wanted. Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets were part of our celebrations. The Tooth Fairy stuck money under our pillows. We decorated our house for Halloween, dressed up, went trick-or-treating, etc. But there were limits for Halloween: nothing evil/scary, no witches or devils. And for the religious holidays we always included church, prayer and discussions of what those days meant in conjunction with our faith. And while I was fine with our traditions, I don't think I ever had a real need for any of it.

So, Jim and I had quite the discussion before we had kids about what we would be doing. We were both fine with how our parents did things, but not so adamant either way that it had to be the same, so we had to really think about what we wanted from holidays and the meaning behind it all.

I am a very practical person. I honestly am not sure I ever believed in the "magic" of things. My parents tell me that when I was four and they took me to see Santa at the mall I declared that it wasn't Santa, just a man in a suit. And when I was seven I was totally sure that Santa and the Easter Bunny were actually my parents, that I devised a way to make them tell me. (I casually mentioned after church that I kinda wasn't sure Santa existed the way I kinda wasn't sure Jesus existed. I was such a little conniver!) They confirmed everything that night and I wasn't a bit surprised.

Our decision for our kids was that since we believe in the meanings behind Christmas and Easter, we wanted to emphasis those things and not confuse it all with the make believe. So, no Santa or Easter Bunny. We do presents and a Christmas tree and Advent calendars and cookies, but the kids know that it is from us and we do what we can to discuss deeper meanings and the elements we really do believe to be true (Jesus's birth, resurrection). For Easter, all egg dying and Easter Egg hunts happen before Easter so that that Sunday is set apart for rejoicing in what we consider to be one of the most exciting events in history!

For Halloween, we do dress up and trick-or-treat, but we don't decorate the house specifically for Halloween. Instead we have a more autumn decorating esthetic (pumpkins, gourds, leaves, fall colors, happy jack-o-lanterns). We consider it a fun tradition, but de-emphasize/avoid anything that does not fit with our greater beliefs about good and evil and what we should focus on in life.

The Tooth Fairy fits in along with the rest because we have a general desire to build up our children's trust. The idea of lying to our kids, even if it is for "fun", is not a part of us. We want to have trusting relationships with our kids, show them that we are honest to the best of our abilities so that they can cultivate that in themselves. We are happy to give them things like presents and traditions as their parents, because we love them. But not to pretend it is something different.

I, like many others, am quite frankly disgusted with what so many holidays have become lately. It's half guilt trip/behavior modifying tool and half parental nostalgia/over indulgence. Every year in the late fall, every fourth person you meet gives kids a guilt trip about Santa. If they cry or misbehave in the store, I've had so many workers/people passing by tell my kids (in a sugary sweet voice) to be good so Santa will be happy with them. Every adult asks the kids whether they've been good for Santa, whether they are excited for Santa, whether Santa will bring them something good this year. We usually just smile and ignore it. The nice thing for my kids is that they don't have to internalize other people's attempts to define them by their momentary behavior. But what about other kids?

And kids' Christmas movies are just plain ridiculous. So much heaping guilt about Christmas spirit and believe going away and how it hurts Santa and might ruin Christmas. It's so heavy handed that I think I could draw some other cultural conclusions about our relationship to religion and faith just based on our treatment of Santa in Christmas movies and books!

The newest thing I've seen is the "Elf on the shelf". If you aren't aware, it is a little elf figurine that parents can buy and it "moves" around the house and purportedly spies on your kids for months and reports to Santa whether or not they've been bad. I want to be careful with this one because I know a lot of people close to me who love having the elf for their kids. And I do understand that other people have a greater desire to make things whimsical and fun in that way than I do.

However, I feel it often puts a huge, unnecessary burden on kids and parents. It can make the kids nervous and adds ANOTHER requirement on the parents (since the parent has to move it around or explain why the elf didn't move if they forgot to do it). And it reinforces the idea that the only reason to be good is so you get presents.Some people do put more into the fun aspect and less on the be good aspect, but for every family that does, there are 20 who use it as a primary disciplining tool.

I think a lot of adults try so hard to maintain the "magic" of holidays and youth and fantasy that the holidays become more about the adults than the kids. Parents kill themselves to decorate, buy, and do all the right things so that childhood will be perfect and holidays will be special. Kids are told to behave so they get stuff and people spend way more than they should to spoil kids and give them "everything they deserve". I personally see a major contradiction there. Not to mention that the majority of people end up really unhappy at the holidays because it isn't going the way it "should".

It isn't helpful to tell other people how to live their lives, especially if we are bashing each other over the heads with "true meanings" as a weapon to say, "I'm doing this right and you aren't". So I don't mean that here. And I have plenty of my own missteps with special days and times. I still end up overwhelmed with some of the traditions that we've adopted that suck the joy and energy right out of me. I still have ended up focusing too much on making the season feel right and therefore losing sight of more important issues. Still working on all of that.

For the first time this year K has expressed some disappointment with not having things the same as other kids he knows. But in many ways I can see that it's directly related to his kid desires for more and more, rather than better, that we as parents are helping him work through. He is mostly fine with the way things are, though, and we hope and pray that the decisions we've made will have a lasting impact on who he is as a person. And S as well.

October 3, 2013

Tricks shouldn't be for kids

One of my issues with current parenting/child interactions is how much people think tricking children is a good idea. It's more pervasive than I realized before I had kids.

For example, every time my kids have gotten shots, I've been uncomfortable with the approach the nurses insist on. The method always involves trapping the children so you can sort of unexpectedly jab them with needles. Some nurses are pretty good about explaining the process, especially to older kids who have gotten better with conversation. I appreciate that. And when they are babies, there is really nothing else you can do but keep their limbs still so they don't hurt themselves more by thrashing.

What I have trouble with are these two things:

One, the way toddlers/preschoolers are positioned. The nurse wants the child laying down with legs over the edge of the table, mom holding the top half of the child pinned to the table with arms up (sometimes over the child's head) and the nurse holding the legs and quickly giving the shot. I can't think of a more vulnerable and scary thing for a kid. I just think of how much I'd hate it to be put in that position so someone could do something so painful to me. Plus, I don't think it helps kids in the long run to learn to deal with difficult situations if they have no choice in how they position themselves.

For S's shots yesterday, I gently laid on top of his upper body, like a hug, and gave him kisses, praise and tried to prepare him for the two pricks. But I always feel like there has to be a better way to do that!

Two, for older kids they do not want the child to look at the shot being given, and want their arms/hands restricted as well.

My approach to parenting is to try to prepare my kids and help them try to work through tough/painful things with more autonomy (when the situation could allow it). For K's shots yesterday, I spent a good deal of time explaining what would happen before we got there (he doesn't remember his last shots a couple of years ago) and explaining different ways he could deal with it. My personal approach for years now with painful medical procedures is to think through what is going to happen (instead of vaguely worrying about it) and to pay attention the whole time to what is happening so I'm not surprised by it. I told K that he could choose to watch the shots being administered so that he would always know what was coming and when it would be over. The nurse tried very hard to make him look away when giving the shot, but I made no effort to stop him. I hugged his arms to his sides and held his hands to minimize any involuntary or fear movement, but tried to let him help keep control of himself.

I think we usually short change kids when we as parents/leaders overreact on their behalf and don't allow them to figure out a way to deal with the inevitable. Shots and pain are part of life. Pretending it won't come or downplaying it to the point of lying does not do any long term good. I've been given many a dirty look when nurses hear me tell my kids that it is going to hurt, but it won't last long. But to me that seems so much kinder than saying it won't hurt at all. And, frankly, I feel it undermines trust in authority in the long run.

And because of my honestly, I feel that each time my boys encounter a potentially scary or painful situation, they get a little better with dealing with it. Neither of my kids ever cries very long or has a major overreaction to shots or other things like that. They aren't perfect or indifferent, but it's so much better than what I've seen from kids who's parents over dramatize the whole thing and then make the kid more scared or feel they have to keep up a big reaction. My approach might not work for all kids or parents, but I think using it from the beginning, as way of life, does help in the long run.

We can trust our children far more than most people believe. Of course we want to shield them, but too much shelter causes different kinds of fears and problems.

Part two of my views on honesty for kids to come. Be forewarned, it's not popular and I'm pretty sure some people think we're totally crazy for it.

September 10, 2013

How do you change without change?

As a kid, I never moved. My mom had moved a lot so when she got married it was a big goal to buy a house and stay in it forever. And so far they've been in the same house for almost 39 years!

I have a little bit of a gypsy spirit, however, and always wished we could move. But I figure that is mostly because I had the privilege of having a stable home that I could always be sure would be there. That security helped me feel more safe with exploring. Plus, I'm just an exploring type of person! (My mom can give many details of this in me from the earliest times of my life.)

When Jim and I got married, it was really cool getting to be in our own apartment. After three years we wanted something different, and moved. That began a series of many moves all over. The biggest move, to Colorado, was partly inspired by a sense of stagnation and fear of never getting to try new things and be different people. I know part of me hoped that by changing location I could change the things I didn't like about my life, myself, my marriage, etc. In some ways I suppose it worked. Being in a new city without the ease of family to fall back on and familiar places does make life different. Plus we lived in a very different type of climate/environment. There was no way to mistake Colorado Springs for Illinois! All you had to do was look up at the mountains.

But, there was still a degree of unhappiness there. I realize now that it was mostly due to the fact that I was pregnant, had a baby and a young, difficult child and therefore life would have been hard no matter where I was! At the time I assumed that moving closer to family would fix a lot of the challenges because I would have help in a way that I didn't with my friends in Colorado.

So, we left. Some issues had been resolved while we were there, we grew up a lot, we made some smarter choices with our money and lifestyle, we got closer as a couple. But, we weren't ready to come back to Chicago. In part because we feared we weren't yet past the things that had been tripping us up the last time we lived there: driving too much, spending too much, not having enough close friendships, schedules being overly devoted/hijacked by jobs and family.

In Ohio, I learned what it means to not have much of anything you want. The country life was NOT for me. It was boring and devoid of culture. I liked our duplex apartment and when we moved into our own place in town it was better than being in an old, overly full farmhouse when we lived with my in-laws. But it was practically impossible to make friends (the country is quite the insider's club a lot of the time). We couldn't find a church where we felt really at home. Jim's job was awful and soul-sucking. I was still alone with a toddler most of the time. We made some very hard choices in order to save money and live on Jim's mediocre salary. So, we had no internet, no TV, and spotty radio and phone reception. We didn't go many places because there was both no place to go and no money to go anywhere. Again, we learned a lot about living, sacrificing and focusing on what we wanted in life. As well as accepting a life that literally had so little of what we wanted for our family.

When we came back to Illinois, we lived with my parents to save money and get in better shape before trying to find our own place in the more expensive housing market out here. We had to adjust to two (then later three) different family units living in one home. We had to ignore nagging feelings of failure and perceptions of I don't even know what when a married couple in their 30's with kids live with their parents.

Now we've been in our own apartment for over three years. All we've learned from our moves and growing pains has been wonderful and helpful.  But there are still so many changes we'd like to see in our lives and our family. We found that a lot of the problems we had before we left are still here, and causing the same troubles as the first time around. (Which is super depressing because we really hoped to be at least a little older and wiser by now!) Add in the desire to be more environmentally friendly, socially conscious,  healthy, budget conscious, and less materialistic and it's enough to have my head spinning. It's so hard not to feel like every decision I make could wreck my kids present and future. I'm working on letting go of the fears and accepting life as it comes. The worry about today and let tomorrow worry about itself plan. But, of course, that is really, really hard.

This apartment and these jobs are now officially the longest we've ever lived and worked in one place as a couple. We lived in our first apartment for three years, but neither of us has held the same job for longer than two years. So, we're fighting the desire for flight right now. We're working on stability and the maturity that comes from working through problems instead of leaving for something new, exciting and potentially better.

But we wonder how to make the big changes we want to make without a physical marker.

Recent sermons at our church have been helpful. We need to learn to empty our selves of self, be less inward focused in order to be more effective Christians, as well as spouses, parents, and workers. It's amazing how quickly personal desires can take over and overwhelm other aspects of life. How quickly we can feel trapped and uncared for or unfulfilled when we start giving too much thought to our own comfort.

We want to have dreams and then strive for those dreams. We want to be people who care for others and for the Kingdom of God. We don't want to build up our own, safe little life and/or try to live out anyone else's idea of what is best.

So, we are trying to listen more. To be more open to change (especially internal/behavior change), and open to what others may need (whether inside our family or not). We want to live the life we have now and not keep wondering or worrying about what should or could be. Life feels like it is moving faster now that we have kids. As we age, we see more and more what everyone has always said about making the most of the now because it does move fast. We'll have a kid going to college in about 11 years!!!!

I still have very little of any practical sense of what to DO. But I'm trying none the less to be more and do more. And I'll keep praying for guidance.

School update, and life in this town

A little over two weeks have passed since K started school. And it has been a whirlwind.

He started on August 22nd in the second grade. The first day was so good! He was excited, only a little nervous and really ready to get started in this new world of school that wasn't at home. We had rain that morning, but decided to walk anyway. Jim went to work late so he could be there for K's first day. The kids had their umbrellas and raincoats and we had fun joining in the throngs of other families walking to school.

On the front stoop.

About to go in for his first day.

First day was a success!

Side note about our neighborhood: I LOVE the mindset/habits of the people here! And the way people participate in the goings on of the neighborhood. There are always tons of kids outside playing, walking, riding their bikes. Families go for walks in the evenings or on the weekends. Men, women, teenagers are always out jogging or walking for exercise. Whenever anything happens weather related (snow, storm, etc), there will be at least five people outside as soon as they can be to shovel, clean branches off of the street, etc. I would say about 40% of the families and kids walk to school. And a lot of the dads participate in the walking, many of them doing drop off AND pick up. 

When we were ready to move, we had certain things we wanted from a neighborhood. As a one car family for most of our marriage, being able to get around even without a car is important. Not to mention a priority as a cost saving and environmentally sound way of life. So, we required a place that would allow us to walk to activities and necessities. Our current apartment is 1/2 mile from the Metra train station, library, a local grocery store and numerous shops and restaurants. There are three parks within a short walking distance. And the best things is that the rest of the people in the neighborhood take advantage of the proximity to all of these things as well, so we aren't the "weird" ones using sidewalks and bringing a stroller into the library and grocery store.

Anyway, after a few days, the principal called about K's reading and writing skills. I met with her and with K's teacher and was able to see quickly that the high standards they have for these subjects, and the fact that he was also not quite up to par with some of the math expectations, meant that he would really struggle if he continued in second grade. I chose not to take it personally that he needed to go into first grade, because our standards for K's learning these past years have purposely not been the same as institutional school's standards. We wanted to allow him to gain character, mature emotionally, have time to play, enjoy learning about areas that appealed to him, gain spiritual knowledge and slowly take on more responsibility for himself. Often school messes up all of those areas, especially for kids who aren't ready for it.

So, after Labor Day, K moved into a first grade class. He was really sad for one night at the prospect of leaving the kids he had just met and the teacher he really liked. It was so hard to have to watch him go through that. (Especially since I've contacted the school about once a month since last January to try to get them to test him or show me their first grade curriculum so we could determine where he should be academically. Arg!) But, as Jim said, in the scheme of things, this is a pretty minor disappointment. Plus, since we've home schooled, K doesn't have the same stigmas about grade level that come from always identifying yourself that way. He doesn't see second grade as inherently better than first, or that first graders are dumber than second graders.

The new teacher isn't as good as the second grade teacher, so that's a little hard. But he seems to mostly like the class. He's learning all the rules of the school and expectations of a classroom very well.

The biggest adjustment is spending so much time away. Last year he was tired of being home and this year he is really missing being home! We're also seeing some real attitude problems when he gets home from school that we have to work on. We had some with him anyway, but I think spending so much time having to follow rules and not get into trouble and being around a lot of people all the time is wearing him out more. We might have to institute a little quiet time when he gets home each day to help him reset or something. But the time crunch is pretty intense now. School, work, Awana, church, errands, etc. We will definitely be a lot busier this year!

But, my sense of freedom feels very good. I've gotten overburdened by the feeling that I'm the sole person in charge of his learning. It was hard not to second guess, get frustrated with myself, give up when he raised lots of resistance to new things, etc. I'm very comfortable helping him with homework and stuff, and we still read and learn in other ways together. But it's nice to have the bulk of his academic life in someone else's hands for now. And the time alone with S has been so nice. We've gotten very little of that in his three years, so we're both enjoying it.

August 17, 2013

New things going on

So summer is winding down. Not necessarily weather wise, but free-time wise.

I went back to work this week and K will be starting at public school next week! We had a pretty nice summer. Didn't get a chance to do anything very different or particularly exciting, but I enjoyed getting a little more time with the kids. We had a garage sale and our usual visit to Ohio for Jim's family reunions. The kids did the reading program at the library and a few of the events they offered as well. We finally got our beach time in last week (can't believe the weather and schedules didn't cooperate until AUGUST for us to finally get to the beach).

After two years of homeschool, we decided K is ready for public school. I was pretty much ready last year, but I didn't feel like K was emotionally ready yet. He's a pretty sensitive kid who has some personality quirks, so we felt it was still best for him to be home as he continued to develop. We wanted to give him a strong character base before sending him out to test it in a larger arena. But last year was really difficult for me, and therefore also for the kids. I was sick a lot, and often depressed and overwhelmed. It was hard to find motivation to keep teaching K while doing everything else that needs doing with two kids, a husband, a home and a job (among other things).

All the struggles brought me to a point of realizing that despite the pluses of homeschool, I don't think it is right for K and us this year. We decided early on that homeschool would be a "one year and one kid" at a time endeavor for us. Jim and I both liked school as kids and both did well in that environment. While we are very aware of the negative aspects of public education, there are plenty of great things as that I think we were ignoring for a while.

K very much needs a schedule. He thrives in knowing what is expected and what comes next. And I am not organized enough to give him that the same way a teacher in a school will be able to. He's also ready for more challenges, from other kids and from a professional teacher. As an intelligent but also very strong willed and negotiation-oriented kid, we were hitting so many barriers to him learning from me. Add in my exhaustion and constant sickness and I just didn't have enough oomph left in me to fight him tooth and nail for every scrap of learning that took place. He is a relentless seeker and loves to be in charge. I also like to be in charge, but try hard not to be over bearing. And the only way to move forward with K a lot of the time is to out work him, out think him and out plan him. And then you still only have a 50/50 chance.

We decided in the spring that the public school would be our choice for this year's schooling. I started with the eye exam and making the other doctor appointments, and then otherwise prepping him for the change. We got registered a couple of weeks ago, have most of the supplies bought and packed in his backpack, and have talked and talked about what we think it will be like this year. Yesterday we found out who his teacher will be, so that's exciting. Now we just have to wait until Thursday!

I don't expect public school to fix all of our problems with K's behavior and learning. But we're all really excited for a new chapter to start. I'm looking forward to finally having some time with S one-on-one. K tends to dominate any interaction he's involved in, or egg things on when it's difficult, so it will be nice to be able to focus on S. Especially since he's three now and needs more disciplinary attention. (Ah, the joys of three.) But now I'm free to take S to story time at the library, maybe sign him up for a Park District class or two. It sounds nice to have just one kid around for part of the day!

K is super excited about school for himself. We've discussed that it won't all be perfect, but we all feel it will work really well for K's personality. He's excited to make some new friends and have gym and lunch time and his own classroom and desk.

I'm taking the new school year as a cue to try some new things for our schedule too. The looseness of our homeschool "schedule" was a bit tough on me also since I work well having deadlines and guidelines myself. So I have some plans to have a morning and evening routine that will help make the school year run more smoothly. It feels like a new beginning. And that's always fun!

July 30, 2013

A little happy customer gushing

Not long ago I discovered the website I believe they are a sponsor of a blog I like, I really liked the site, which is a mix of classic/retro/vintage/nerd clothes, decor, shoes, accessories and household items. A little bit of everything.

I started a wish list on the site right away, which is something I do for places I like so I can "shop" without having to buy anything. And so it is saved in case I do want to buy something later.

Not long after setting up my account, I got a survey asking what I thought about Modcloth. Another common thing store websites do. Not long after that, I got a follow up survey with more questions. Based on the second survey, I was apparently chosen to participate in a more in-depth marketing plan to look into how people shop and their clothing habits. The email said I would earn gift codes to use at Modcloth for my time, which is free money/clothes. So I was totally in!

I had to download an app on my iPhone and then was given three "missions" to complete over about a week or two. The first was to take out most of my clothes/shoes/accessories and take 30 second videos of different groupings, then answer a few questions about where I bought them, what I do and don't like, etc. The second mission was to take photos of five of my most recent purchases and answer questions about them. And the third was to take screen shots or pictures of every time I did anything fashion related online (checked emails from stores, put things on a wish list, checked a fashion blog or article, bought something, etc.) for two days. For each mission I completed, I got a gift code. Those three relatively small things I did gave me a total of $150!!! How awesome is that?!?!

The moderators said they liked what I had given them and now I'm scheduled to do a Skype interview on Friday to discuss online purchasing...for another $150. I've never made $75 an hour before. And it feels good.

I have to say, I'm extremely impressed with this company. I hadn't even made a purchase from them yet and I got to be a part of their research!

After I got the first gift code, I did make a purchase. I got a cool shirt and a new water bottle. Later that day, I got an update on my phone that a dress I had really wanted was back in stock. I ended up chatting with a customer service rep online to see if I could cancel the first order and get the dress instead. I couldn't cancel, but she gave me a code for free shipping and I bought the dress anyway! Great customer service, and so far I like what I've bought.

My second order was placed today (new bathing suit and a cool desk organizer to snaze up my office). I'm sure I'll be just as happy with this stuff! And then I'll still have more free money for something else after the Skype interview Friday!

The whole thing is just so cool. I've never done anything like this before and never would have expected to do so. Jim says maybe this is an indication of some type of job I could have in the future (fashion related). I'm not sure about that and have never thought of my self as particularly fashion forward, but who knows. No matter what, I'm happy as can be with the way this worked out!

June 18, 2013

The beginning of grief

I have been very fortunate in my life that I have not often had to deal with the deaths of close family members. That is certainly not the case for many people.

The first major experience I had with death was my maternal grandfather. I was 10 when he was diagnosed with cancer at 62 (I think) and quickly deteriorated over the holiday season, and ultimately died a couple of days before Christmas. The experience was a lot of firsts: first extended time around a hospital, first time I remember seeing my mom cry (she's not much of a crier), first feelings of loss.

My mom was way overwhelmed at the time, of course. She had a one year old (who barely slept), a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old. Her beloved father was dying and she had to watch it happening, trying to be supportive of her mother and brothers and get to the hospital regularly despite all of us needing her time. (I get this more now than I ever did then!) It scared me to see her be vulnerable. I don't think I saw it much before then, which is why it has always stood out so clearly from that time.

In learning to deal with the onslaught of new emotions, I decided to follow whatever my dad was doing. It seemed easier than trying to jump into what my mom was doing. When we visited the hospital, I don't remember much. I know I would follow my dad out to the hallway and wait there while everyone else talked and said goodbyes and I love yous in the room. Plus it was nice to avoid seeing someone I love change so much physically and be in so much pain. I tried to emulate my dad's more passive and (in my understanding) less emotional response. I tried very hard not to cry, not to be needy.  In retrospect, my dad was probably pretty depressed at the time and therefore even less of an example for me to follow. But how do you realize that as a kid?

I didn't do much grieving for my grandpa at the time, avoiding as much talking and experiencing as possible. I might not even have gone to the funeral. That's sort of vague in my memory. One thing I took was a memory of someone telling me that my grandpa said he was ready to die, but regretted that he wouldn't get to see me grow up. Not even sure if that was real, but it has always meant a lot to me. And, of course, I wish he could have been around longer to be a part of our lives, too.

This set the tone for my few other experiences with death.

My paternal grandmother died when I was 19. She was 75 or so, I think. I was very, very close to her. We spent lots of time together and I believe we always were kind of alike. I admired her, loved her and loved to be with her. She's practically sainted in our family, but we probably can't say that because we aren't Catholic. :)

I was in my second semester away at college when she got sicker and it became clear that she might die soon. My family had been having a hard few years my last years of high school and into college. I didn't want to be home because I was so tired of the emotional drain. I got the call from my mom that my grandma had died. I mostly remember being numb. Maybe crying a little by myself.

When I arrived at the funeral home, I saw my grandma's body in the casket and had that jolt of revulsion, sadness, loss that hits when you see the shell of someone who meant so much to you and they are not there anymore. Shortly after that, my grandfather came in and I saw him stand over her body. They had been divorced for my whole life. Their contact was quite limited over the years. The look on his face when he saw the woman he had loved and lived with and experienced so much with, even if it was years before, I will never forget. It was full of regret (or some form of that), love and, I think, fear. Like looking at his own mortality.

The funeral was hard because I had determined to not deal with it. I've always hated crying and needing things. Especially in front of others. And I took it to extremes. The day of the funeral, I did everything I could to be distracted. I didn't even sit with my family during the service. Choosing instead to sit with my maternal cousin (so it wasn't his grandma who had died) in the back of the room. I looked away and desperately tried to ignore everything everyone said about my grandma and their feelings so it wouldn't break me. There was a part of me that knew too much emotion might cause a total breakdown.

That refusal to deal, to grieve, caused the whole grief process to linger for years and years. My sadness and sense of loss actually increased for a couple of years.

Less than a year after my grandma's death, my paternal grandfather died. To be blunt, I hated my grandfather. He was a bad person. He hurt his family, his friends and just about everyone else, in his dogged pursuit of his own desires. I knew he was a broken person with a rough, loveless upbringing. But it was hard to let that matter to me when the evidence of how he deeply wounded some of the people who have mattered most in my life (my dad, my grandma) and the stories of how he continued to victimize his friends and seemingly everyone else he came into contact with were practically impossible for a justice-minded girl like me to overlook.

God dealt with my hatred until I could finally say that I loved him, even though I never liked him. But I can say pretty honestly that I didn't feel much grief when he died. We had memorial service for him. I don't know if I ever even cried, unless maybe for my dad's loss of both his parents within a year.

And that was the last family loss I experienced. It was in the year 2000.

Until yesterday. Yesterday my dad's brother, my uncle, the only other member of the Schmitt family outside of my dad and us still living, died from a short but difficult...I don't know what to call it, "battle" isn't quite right, maybe "attack" of cancer.

And now I am going to, for the first time, really, experience grief. Let myself feel it and have it. It's time.

Happy Father's Day

I'm a couple days late with this one, but I've driven close to 900 miles back and forth all over the Chicagoland area, and to Ohio and back, and Indiana and back. All in the last 10 days! 

But I still want to say a thank you to two important dads in my life. My dad and me, circa 1983-85: 
He's worked very hard to be a wonderful Dad to his three girls. Teaching us to be humble, work hard, apologize for mistakes, love others, love God and never stop learning. He demonstrates all the time what it means to take on the hard parts of life and handle them with grace and strength, no matter how weak you may feel. He has shown that it is possible to rise above illnesses and the bad parenting example he had and be better because you choose to be, and choose to let God lead you when you don't know what to do yourself. I'm thankful beyond words for his love and example and support and humor and so many, many other things.

The other is, of course, my Baby Daddy, circa 2011:
I'm SO glad that my boys have him as their father! Jim's thoughtfulness, love, practical care for others, dedication, loyalty and ability to see others for who they are (rather than what they pretend to be or what he pretends they are) makes me so excited for my boys' future. Their personalities mixed with his example will, I believe, make for some way awesome men! Jim's partnership as a parent is a much needed foil to my personality and I'm so glad we get to strive and pray and work together to raise these crazy wonderful kids.

Thanks to both of them for all they are, will be, have been, and hope to be! I love them both more than I could ever express.

May 28, 2013


I love classic literature. It's my favorite thing to read and usually the most fulfilling type of reading that I do. I always have a list of "need to reads" to draw from.

My latest read was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

We've had it on our bookshelf for a few years now, but I just got around to reading it. The decision was spurred by a classic literary criticism book (from the 70's) called The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar that I recently read. As an English major, I also love literary criticism. My brain actually naturally critiques the things I read and makes connections. English teachers and classes just helped me do it better. This book was a fascinating read and made we want to read or re-read all the books they wrote about and referenced.

I started re-reading Paradise Lost by John Milton, since it is one of the main reference materials that the criticism uses, but that's pretty dense reading so it's slow going. Then I picked up Frankenstein.

And, as usually happens when I read literature, I was surprised by the reality of a story I've "heard" and seen depicted before. Movies and retellings can never capture all the minutia and layers in the original. And sometimes they completely change the whole point of the plot!

Frankenstein begins with a series of letters written by a young adventurer named Robert Walton on his way to the Arctic to explore and hopefully discover things no other man has ever found. He writes to his sister about his plans and thoughts. A few letters in, he relates a fantastic tale of seeing a giant man on a dog sled in the middle of no where, and shortly after that, picking up a man named Victor Frankenstein who was pursuing the giant man and is near death. Frankenstein tells his tale to Walton and Walton relates it to his sister.

The basic plot, if you don't know, is that a young science student figures out the secret to creating human life and makes a man from elements of corpses. He brings the "man" to life, then immediately realizes that everything he has done is a bad idea and he never thought about any consequences, so he leaves. The "monster" then is left to fend for himself, having no knowledge of the world or himself. He struggles with what it means to be moral when he is met with violence from every person who has ever seen him, then struggles with hatred for the man who created him. The "monster" decides to get revenge on Frankenstein and most of the book is a sort of cat and mouse game between the two.

I'm always intrigued by the layers of separation that 19th century writers (particularly female writers) employ to tell their stories. There was a desire to give credibility to their work so they used male narrators, letter writing or third parties to tell tales that wouldn't be considered appropriate for a "proper" woman to write. The desperate acts of Frankenstein and his monster were quite shocking to readers at the time. Even now, without the explicit "horror" descriptions that a modern book might have, the tale is hideous to contemplate.

That fact that it was written by a young woman who had recently gotten married (without parental approval) and had a young child is even more interesting. I think the movies usually give off a very male vibe. They showcase man's hubris and god complex, make you think about the nature of morality and what it means to be a monster, or a monster's creator. But to think of it in terms of women, of mothers, can make it pretty mind blowing.

There are questions of hubris and god complexes in the text, but those subjects take on a different feel when you think about it from a woman's point of view. We do create human beings. We are responsible for life and (in a way) for how our "creations" turn out. Mothers are often blamed for the deeds of their children, or for not being a good mother and therefore ruining a child's life and/or future. And at the same time, a woman who becomes pregnant goes through her own metamorphosis. Bodies change shape, act differently, are beyond our control, scare us because we don't know what to expect from ourselves, or the little being inside of us.

At the same time, women have historically been seen AS monsters. Men consider them temptresses, devils, immoral, an "other" who is unpredictable and foreign. So you can see a lot in the characters of the "monster" and Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is not a difficult read, nor is it very long. But the text gives a lot for the reader to think about. I highly recommend it and thoroughly enjoyed it myself!

May 18, 2013

They gone!

For a couple of months now, K's teeth have been loose. All four of the front teeth have been a little loose, with the top left and bottom left the most wiggly. K's been waiting for a long time to lose teeth. He knows a couple of other kids who already have lost some, including his cousin, so he's been anxious to join in.

Almost daily I've been checking on the progress with him. Wiggling the teeth and discussing how they feel and how much longer it might take, etc. On Tuesday I did the same and I made my prediction that the top left tooth would come out first. It was the loosest. So much so that it sort of falls to the side and now he has a little gap on one side that wasn't there before.

But, you never can tell how these things will go!

I was baby-sitting my nephew and all three boys and I were in the van (still getting used to the fact that we HAVE a van!) on the way to pick up Jim from work. K and my nephew were sitting in the back seat together, laughing and playing. Then K made a little exclamation and told me his tooth was out. Since's he's a six-year-old boy, I had to ask a few times to make sure he wasn't joking!

To condense the story, K was pulling on a tag on one of his toys, trying to pull it out with his teeth. In the process, BOTH of his bottom teeth popped out! One landed in his lap and the other we still haven't been able to find. We were in the car so it should be there, but we can't find it because it's so little.

K was elated the rest of the day, and is still enjoying the feel.

He put the one tooth under his pillow and got his first tooth money! We actually don't do the tooth fairy thing (or santa, the Easter bunny, etc.). I don't think I've ever mentioned that before so I might do a post just on that aspect of our lives soon. So, K knew he'd be getting money from us. But we still had him put the tooth in a little tooth fairy pillow that I had as a kid and that my mom gave to him, and he got to be surprised by how much he got. Jim made two dollar bills into origami shapes and then we gave him two quarters also, since he loves quarters.

It's hard to know how much to give in this day and age! I've heard that most parents give a lot more now than our parents gave. Since he lost two teeth, and they were his first, a dollar per tooth plus a bonus quarter, seemed good. I would be interested to hear how other parents are handling this though, money-wise.

So now our boy looks like this:

May 9, 2013

Turning 3, Buggie Style

I'm getting quite behind, obviously, but S turned three on the 21st of April. It was fun to see him finally enjoy a party and opening gifts. He sang happy birthday to himself all day and was very excited to have people coming over. He ran around, playing and talking with everyone. When it was gift opening time he didn't cry or get overly distracted by all the attention and gifts. He actually had fun! Yay for growing up!

We decided on a bug theme. In part because I found caterpillar invitations on sale in the fall and in part because S does love anything bug/animal related. I don't do it up super big for two and three birthdays because I know the kids don't get much out of it yet. So I mostly worked with what I have and went simple and cheap.

Table decor was a butterfly net and butterfly balloon (from the Dollar Store) in a vase. I got polka dot napkins and mixed them with plain white napkins. Cups and plates were red, green and white, also from the Dollar Store. I thought ants on a log would be a fun appetizer. Easy, well-loved and yummy.

We made a caterpillar out of green balloons taped to the wall. Have I mentioned how much I love having an artist husband to draw things like caterpillar faces?

And decorate our baby's gift! (The gift was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)

Opening presents.

Uncle Steve blowing bubbles for the kids (the neighbors were all outside and happy to join in).

S stole the bubbles for himself. He was the birthday boy!

Jim is the photographer at most of our events, since he's better at it and actually likes to do it. I don't think he's uploaded his picture yet, though, so these are all I have. I'll add photos of the cupcakes adorned with plastic bugs another time.

April 15, 2013

Quick catch up and pictures

What we've been up to lately:

Park time. Two weeks ago it was finally a little nicer out so we had fun being outside for a few hours.
S found his favorite toy, Larry Boy from Veggie Tales, that had been missing for a few weeks. It was in the stroller, which we hadn't used because of weather/sickness.

Inspecting K's space.

Deciding to go another way...

Little brother attack!

Toilet seats make great hats. At least it was clean!

Lego maze. He used a marble (or two) and tipped the board to get it into the middle.

We finally moved S to a bigger bed, the bottom bunk. No more crib!!!! It's ridiculous how much more space we have in the room now.

We played Yahtzee to practice math. K got two Yahtzees in a row and beat me by over 150 points!

Each week in church, S does a craft of some sort. Neither of my boys has ever been much for group craft activities, which I have to say makes me a little proud. (I'm not much into crafts either.) I knew immediately that this was S's craft for the day because of all the extra little ink marks all over. The other kids' pages had a perfectly placed handprint near the middle of the page. That's just not S's style.

A few of my AWANA students from my team, getting recognized for saying verses or finishing their books. It's so cool to see how hard they work and all they learn about the Bible! Only two weeks left of AWANA. It was fun, but I'll be glad to have my Wednesday nights back for a couple of months!

April 6, 2013

End of an era

Five months after Jim and I were married, we bought a 2001 Honda Civic with 5100 miles on it. It had been a dealer car, so we got a discount. Jim had researched and we knew it would be a reliable, long term car with good resale value. And it was!

We hit 200,000 miles about a month ago. There was a semi-absurd amount of pride we felt in that milestone. Even though we knew that Hondas can go to 300,000 prettily easily, it was still a sense of accomplishment.

Our tiny little four door had gone on road trips to New York, Georgia, Wisconsin and Maine. It drove us to our new homes in Colorado and Ohio. We made many, many trips back and forth from Ohio and Illinois. Both of our boys came home from the hospital in it. That Civic took us to work, church, family gatherings, emergency rooms, doctors visits, on dates, shopping, on mini-trips as a couple and later as family. Almost the whole history of our little family was tied into that car. We loved it well. (Though we never named it. Could never figure out something appropriate.)

When we bought our Vintage Plum four-door (in a nine hour car dealership marathon), we had high hopes for it. Much prayer was expended in the beginning; prayers for safety, a car that wouldn't need to spend much time at a mechanic, prayers for protection from accidents. Our families both had many bad cars through the years and both of us had old lemons as our first cars. So we vowed to always be grateful for a car that started every morning and worked well enough to get us where we wanted to go.

After twelve years and 200,000 miles, we are still profoundly grateful that God answered all those prayers and more. We did our best to take care of the Civic but we were by no means perfectly prompt with all the maintenance. Yet we were never in an accident and never had any major problems with it.

Despite all its wonders, a four-door Civic is not an ideal car for a family of four. Two carseats in that backseat was not fun, for the kids or us. No power locks and not a lot of storage space made even trips to the mall difficult, trying to maneuver a stroller in and out of the trunk and getting the kids in and out, circling back and forth around the car. Plus it was practically impossible for us to travel anywhere with other people. On Easter, for example, we picked up my grandma to bring her to Easter dinner at my parents' house. In order to do this, I had to climb in between two carseats and wedge my expanding hips into a tiny space with no wiggle room, drape my arms over the backs of kids and carseats and try to keep my legs from falling asleep for the 15 minute ride. Not exactly an ideal situation. But the last of its kind!

Thus, we've had it in the back of our minds to get a new, larger vehicle and sell our dear little Civic. And this week we did.

We are the proud owners of a 2004 Toyota Sienna mini-van! From seating for "five" to seating for seven. A back row that folds down completely so we can transport stuff or pack it full for camping! Leather seats! Heating and A/C that adjusts for each side and the back! Screens on the back windows for the boys! Room to spread out comfortably! Space for other people to ride with us! We are still pinching ourselves.

We're all itching for a road trip now. A new chapter in our lives is demarcated. April 2013 is the beginning of a new era for us. I wonder what adventures we'll have in this car?

March 21, 2013

Come at me, bro!

I think I've mentioned before that I've been pretty active in my life. I was on a swim team and volleyball team as a kid. I did volleyball and Tae Kwon Do as a teen. Thanks to Illinois's (very good) law requiring physical education classes everyday for all grades in public school, I got lots of time to play different sports and games with my classmates. My church loved competitive activity, so our youth groups always played games. I went to summer camp, which had more group games, plus swimming and horse back riding in the summer, cross-country skiing, tubing, skating, and tobogganing in the winter. My family went to the beach at least once a summer, plus occasionally to water parks or camping.

Needless to say, I got plenty of time to play and exert myself physically. And I really enjoyed it!

I was not as competitive as my sister. She was the type to who performed better when she was competing, rising to the pressure and possibly body checking someone to win (love you, Jess!). I wasn't seen as competitive compared to her. But I still loved to win and compete. I just usually chose things that had a more individual kind of test. More about me trying to best myself and push the limits of my abilities.

As an adult, I've found it much harder to get this type of activity. It costs money to join a team through a Park District. I haven't been at churches that have organized games, or I don't have the time, or a baby-sitter. I'd love to join Tae Kwon Do again, but the same issues of time, money and baby-sitting apply.

In the fall I began volunteering as a leader in our church's AWANA (a youth group, for those unaware). K is in Sparks and really likes it. This is his second year and S was old enough to join the little kids nursery time, so I could be a leader. It's nice to volunteer and do something fun since I'm going to be there anyway. But part of my desire to join was because of the team and competing. When I was in AWANA as a kid, our leaders were quite competitive. There were always chances for the leaders to do a game, with or without the kids. And everyone loved to do it. Our church isn't as into as mine was growing up (but they often did go too far in their desire to win or have the winning team, in retrospect). But, I have gotten a few opportunities to play this year, and I love it!

Last night, another leader and I played tug of war. Two leaders from each of the four teams go head to head. It was great! My team won (maybe my extra Mommy weight does come in handy a little, plus my nice long arms) and then all the little girls (ages 5-7) ran out to hug us and cheer us and give high fives. That's just such a fun experience. I look forward to more of that in the coming years. Whether it's volunteering at AWANA or maybe down the road getting a chance to join an adult team of some sort, or martial arts again. I always picture when the boys are older doing something as a family. Lots of people do that with martial arts-parents and kids all joining in.

I guess I've come to see that competing and joining in stuff like that is just part of who I am. And we've been trying lately to include more of the things we love in our lives so we don't feel like life is wasted or moving by without much enjoyment.

March 16, 2013

Black Thumb

S  Black ThumbS. Because I'm sure both are black, considering my level of prowess with plant-y things.  I didn't buy a plant for our apartment until six years into our marriage. After K was born. (At least I don't remember ever buying any plants before then.)  I suppose I felt more capable of keep something alive after doing so successfully with a human. Plus I felt a new need to be motherly and domestic "for the sake of the child". So, I bought a pretty hanging plant called a Wandering Jew. It looked good, and had a silly, slightly racist name, but the tag also said that it needed almost no care. Perfect for me!

That plant grew and made our Colorado apartment a little more homey. (It wasn't much to write home about by itself. Except for the view of the Rockies, of course.) I felt like a better mom because I had a plant (I read plants naturally help purify the air in your home, and just believed it without further thought because it seemed right, and I wanted it to be right). Plus, K liked to stare at it when he was a baby and could pretty much only stare at stuff.

When we moved to Ohio, I wasn't about to keep the plant with us for a thousand mile trip. So, we parted ways (i.e., I threw it in the dumpster because none of the friends helping us move wanted it). I'm not very sentimental about that stuff.

For the two years we were in Ohio, I got no new plants. Part of the time we lived with Jim's parents, so it didn't make sense to domesticate their house. For nine short months, we had a duplex. But again, no plants in the house. The seduction of fall led me to buy some mums to put on our porch. They looked great. We really enjoyed them. I could have planted them in the little patch of ground around the porch so they would come up again the next year, as my mom suggested. But I didn't. Because I don't actually care about gardening and thus was very lazy about it. I might have planted them in the spring (again, can't really remember), but then we moved right away. So I have no idea how that turned out in the end.

Cut to now. We have one plant that Jim got at work as a little baby plant that has survived and thrived and is now practically a small tree. (Note: Jim should be in charge of all green things in our family.) And my mom gave me a plant she's had forever. Both have managed to stay alive (though the one from my mom nearly didn't make it).

I guess I got cocky. I wanted to grow a useful plant and bought a cute little seed kit on clearance at Anthropologie (leave it to Anthropologie to get me interested in something I otherwise could care less about). K is a kid and therefore loves the idea of growing stuff. So, I bought Miracle Grow potting soil (figuring a miracle would really help me) and we planted zucchini, lemon mint, basil and tomato. The idea of plucking ingredients off the vine in my own kitchen then using them for meals is pretty enticing.

Within a week, we had sprouts. Within a couple of weeks I had to move the plants to larger pots because we were getting leaves and they were larger.

But, within a week or two after that, they stopped growing. And now they look like this:

Dead. My florist sister checked them for me but was pretty sure they are a lost cause. Sigh.

I had even decided to do a cute counter top garden using Twinings tea tins. (I saw it on Pinterest, natch.) I ordered $30 worth of tea (not a big deal, since we drink it all the time) but with the "excuse" that it saved us from having to buy separate pots for the very useful herbs and vegetables I was growing for our family. As you can see from the picture, I had one tin in use already.
Cute, huh? These were waiting in the wings:

But alas, all the plants are dead. And the reason is probably because I have no interest in reading up on how to care for them. Beyond planting, watering and keeping them by a window, my knowledge is exhausted.

Now the only "plant" on my kitchen window sill is this one:
A solar powered daisy K bought from the Farmer's Market last spring. But, of course, it no longer sways to the rhythm of the sun because S broke it. Nothing but broken down plants in my kitchen.

March 8, 2013

Silly boy

We've been hit by sickness once again. Yuck. Fevers, aches, chills, congestion for K and Jim and I (though I wasn't hit very hard this time, thank GOD). S had a wonderful night of vomiting two nights ago, that I was lucky enough to be on duty for. I'm very thankful that this is the first all night stomach bug S has had in his almost three years of life. It's so hard to deal with when they are little because they don't understand what is going on and try to reject things like the bucket you place under them. I'm pretty sure he believed that if the bucket wasn't in front of his face, then he wouldn't throw up. So. Much. Laundry.

But anyway, in true kid fashion, S was pretty much back to normal the day after. He was chatting away, playing, etc. So we got to hear more of his hilarious comments and actions.

He was still a little out of it for the morning, so we were wondering how he'd feel after taking his nap. We heard the door handle and then out comes S, with his cowboy boots on. He got out of bed, grabbed his blanket and pacifier, and got his cowboy boots out of the closet to wear. Nothing cuter than that boy when he gets all dressed up with the accessories of his choice!

A little later he was playing with a cool toy set that my mom's friend gave to the boys. It has a castle, dragon, ogre, knights, the whole shebang. S loves the dragon and ogre and totes them all over the place. Funny thing is, he can't say either name. So when he's playing it comes out more like this, "Watch out fragon! The yogurt is gonna get you!". Or he'll burst out of the room and say, "Rarrr! I'm a yogurt!" No wonder most people have no idea what he's talking about!

That afternoon, another collision of cute and bad pronunciation came about when Jim was taking out the garbage. He put stuff in the back hallway and left the door to the apartment and to outside open. S walked past Jim and said, "By myself." Jim turned to see S standing by the backdoor with his cowboy boots on.

Then S said, "Dad! I'm gonna go make sandcastles in the snowman! By myself!"

Which means play in the snow. Because S calls all snow at all times "snowman". We can't stop him! No matter how many times we say snow he still says snowman. "You want to sled in the snow?" "Yeah, sled in the snowman!" I guess he decided since he had boots on (even if they were cowboy boots) he was all ready to play in the "snowman". Jim was able to convince him that it was too cold, especially without a coat or gloves.

I love this kid's sense of humor!

February 22, 2013

New Eyes

We were pretty much stunned to find out recently that K needs reading glasses!

In anticipation of K going to public school next year, I decided to spread out some of the required to-do's and get his eye exam out of the way this winter. Especially because Jim told me that we actually have eye insurance, despite the fact that I was convinced that he had told me two years ago that we didn't. Silly me.

So, I prepped K for the exam by explaining what to expect, practicing reading things far away, with one eye closed, etc. He's a smart kid, but he's a worrier. It's tough to find the right balance for him of giving him enough information to help him be prepared and not freak out, but not give him too much information that he worries more and more and practically makes himself sick. We were walking the line with the eye exam. He had a blast practicing, but then kept telling me that his stomach was hurting until we got there, and for most of the exam. Can't win them all.

But he did what he was told and did really well. The doctor saw a slight problem with K's ability to focus so we had to make a separate appointment to dilate his eyes and check him again.

We practiced for the second exam and he was totally excited to go in again. He took the eye drops without problem and then got some cool sunglasses to protect his eyes once the dilation set in.
They also gave him a toy for being so good. No upset stomach this time!

The test proved that he needed reading glasses. I hadn't noticed any problems for him, other than occasional headaches that didn't seem to have a cause. He also wasn't interested in learning to read when I worked on writing, letters, sight words, etc. but I chalked it up to laziness and/or being a late bloomer with reading. Turns out it was partially that he was having a difficult time seeing it!

At the first appointment, K decided he wanted grey glasses. We found a good, dark grey pair right away the first day and they held them for us. After the second appointment, we still had to wait a few days for the lens, but now my boy officially wears glasses!

I was hoping he'd have perfect vision like Jim or his grandmothers did, but he's taking more after me. I got glasses when I was seven. My Dad and Jim's dad both got glasses young, too. At least it's just reading glasses. Much easier to keep them from getting lost or broken if he won't be wearing them all the time! And he just looks so cute in them!

February 20, 2013

Why kids are awesome

I think it's pretty clear that I am not a kids-complete-me, or "Being a mom is what I was born to do!" kind of mother. This is the hardest job I've ever had. Part of the reason (and the reason that I tell myself to feel better sometimes, but it is really true) is that I take the job very seriously. I know I have a huge responsibility to raise these little people and that is quite overwhelming. And often frustrating.

However, I also know that I can be a pessimist; often too much of a pessimist. Today I was thinking of all the reasons that is it is great to have children. This despite the fact that I found the TV remote laying in a plate of syrup, was woken up at 6:15am, and entered a living room and kids' room strewn with toys and games that were all put away last night. :)

1. They are a comfort.

  • Nothing is as pure and comforting on a rough day or in a rough moment than an unsolicited hug and kiss from a little person who loves you so completely.
2. They are hilarious.
  • The other day K told a joke that delighted Jim and I. "Robbers shouldn't disguise their houses as donuts. Because if they did the police would find them when they came to get donuts in the morning." And, because he's a kid and hilarious, he added, "Because police love donuts."
  • S is learning tons of new words but can't always pronounce them. Train is "frain", truck is "Fruck", camel is "cammamenal".  "I put the frain on the frain frack, Mommy! Look at me!" Never ending source of smiles.
3. They laugh. With their whole selves
  • When a child laughs, they give themselves over to it completely. And this makes me happy not just because they are laughing, but because I know they CAN give themselves to being so happy because they are loved, protected and supported by us. That can cover a multitude of issues.
4. They don't care about our faults
  • I can be mean, poor, sick, harsh, boring, etc. but I am loved just the same. That kind of unconditional love is unique. Spouses, friends, parents all offer versions of unconditional love, but it just isn't quite the same.
5. They are little copies of me and our families
  • S makes funny faces while watching TV, just like Jim does. K has the same toe shape that my sister does. S has the same eye shape as Jim, Jim's Dad, Jim's grandpa, etc. K draws all the time, just like my artist husband. It's cool to know that our family continues on like that.
6. Watching them learn
  • We get the job/privilege of teaching our kids so many things. Even if we didn't homeschool, we'd have the opportunity to watch these little, tiny babies learn about the world and how they fit into it as they become little kids, big kids, teenagers, and so on. It is such a cool feeling to see light bulbs turn on and joy in their faces as they discover new things or figure out something that has been hard to understand.

February 14, 2013


I think the older I get, the more I realize I have to learn and the ways I still have to grow. I just read a good little article on forgiveness here.

I'm blessed to have a wonderful, loving family. We're not perfect and don't treat each other fairly or perfectly all the time. But it's still so good. I want to be willing and able to forgive others. Whether it's my family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, I need to learn to forgive more fully. For my own sake as much as anything else.

That's true love, after all.

February 8, 2013

Mommy Tourette's

My children (and I would assume most children) have both gone through what I call Mommy Tourette's. S is completely infected right now. K is past the worst, but still exhibiting the signs. This is an exhausting disease for any parent with ears. I suppose deaf parents don't experience it as badly, but the negative effects could definitely transcend hearing.

As a hearing parent, here is a day in the life with a child who has Mommy Tourette's:

6AM (or 5, or 7)-Child wakes. Thinking processes may or not be activated. Mouth works just fine.
Child [from bed or in parents' room, depending on age]: Mommy. Mommy. Mommy, wake up.
Mom: Uh.
Child: Mommy. Mommy! Mommy, need drink. Mommy, wake up!
Mom: In a minute, Baby.
Child [good day]: Otay, Mommy. [goes to play alone or with sibling for a few minutes]
Child [bad day]: Mommy, Mommy, Mommy! Drink, Mommy! Thirsty, Mommy! Wake up, Mommy!
Mom [good day]: Ok, I'm up. Good morning. [gives child kiss and affectionate touch on the head. child doesn't acknowlege] I'll get your drink and some cereal. Why don't you play with your dinosaurs while I get it?
Mom [bad day]: Just a second! I'm tired. Stop pounding on my bed and give me a minute to get up! I have to go to the bathroom, so please wait for a second. Don't cry! I'll just be in the bathroom for one minute, then I promise I will get your drink. [child whines/cries outside bathroom door and until the second the drink is in hand.]

9AM Mom on computer, cleaning or getting ready in another room from child.
Child: Mommy!
Mom: Yes?
Child: [silence]
Mom [few moments later, louder]: Yes? What is it?
Child: [silence]
One minute later.
Child: Mommy! Mommy, look at me!!!
Mom [comes to child]: Yes?
Child: Mommy! Look at me!
Mom: You're playing with your cars? Nice!
Child: Mommy! [unintelligible babble with a few real words mixed in]
Mom: Wow!
Child: Mommy!
Mom: Yes?
Child: Play cars!
Mom: Yes, I see. I have to finish what I was doing now.
Child: Mommy!
Mom [turning back]: Yes, what is is?
Child: Mommy, look at me!
Mom: I SEE you, yes. Have fun playing.
Repeat 1-15 times

3PM Mom and child(ren) at library. Mom sits nearby kids at library play area, possibly trying to read herself, but not allowed to step more than five feet from children for various reasons and often expected to sit on the floor to play with puzzles, blocks or books, even though child is frustrated by Mom's playing or doesn't want any actual help.
Child: Mommy.
Mom: Yes?
Child: [babbles to self and toys]
Child: Mommy!
Mom: Yes? [waits a moment] Yes, child, what is it?
Child: Mommy! Mommy, puzzle!
Mom: Please don't yell in the library. We have to whisper.
Child: MOMMY!
Mom: SHHHH! What is it?
Child: I did it! Puzzle, Mommy!
Mom: I know, good job! Remember to be quiet in the library.
Child: [silence]
Mom walks six feet away to look at a book quickly. It's a risky move, but she's feeling a bit claustrophobic.
Child: Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, look at me!!!
Mom [from six feet away, trying to be quiet]: I see you, honey. I'm right here.
Child: Mommy.
Mom ignores this one.
Child: Mommy...Mommy. Mommy!
Mom: Yes? I'm right here. Don't yell.
Child: [silence]

Etcetera, infinity, ad nauseum, Groundhog Day.

And, scene.

February 4, 2013

January review

When I look back at my pictures from the last couple of weeks, I realize that we actually are pretty fun and busy people. But, man, in the daily grind it feels like we never do anything special and everything is hard and frustrating. Maybe I should look through my pictures more often to keep some perspective! and maybe if I have some perspective, it will rub off on K so he will never whine about being bored. (Wishful thinking.)

Here is a little review in pictures of our last three weeks:

I had a box of cake mix, we wanted dessert. K asked me to make a Pikachu (from Pokemon) but that was too complicated. We settled on making a Pokeball by using a Bundt pan and I colored the frosting to sort of match (it's supposed to be red, black and white). It tasted good and was a fun little addition to our day.

We went to visit my best friend and her girls. She had the idea to make "gingerbread" houses.

It was mostly for eating purposes, not aesthetic.

Jim, the boys and I went to the free day at the Shedd Aquarium downtown one Sunday. The kids' first time there and our first time attempting a weekend free day. It was madness, and the kids were tired and whiny most of the time. We did get some cool moments though. Like S with Jim looking at the giant aquarium in the center of the building.

And K admiring his favorite thing-big turtles! They had one sea turtle (his most favorite) but he enjoyed the big river turtles too.

Tired S got a little ride/rest with Daddy.

Panoramic view outside the back entrance of the Shedd. Cool fountain/statue in foreground, Field Museum and a few buildings in background. Jim and K are on the left. It was freezing and windy, but we decided to get some pictures anyway.

In a VERY rare turn of events (he hates sleep), K fell asleep in the car on the way home. While eating chicken nuggets. Had to get a picture of that!

The first sticking snow we've had in over a year on January 25th. We made sure to get outside. Simon didn't even remember snow it's been so long!

S trying to make a snow angel like K did, but he couldn't quite figure it out.

Thankfully, he has a big brother to help show him the ropes. S called it a "baby angel".

K had his first eye doctor appointment and did well despite being nervous. We're doing a follow up visit today because there is a chance he might need glasses!

Every so often, K asks to have a tea party with me while S is napping. Last week we made cookies, K decorated the coffee table, we got out the fancy tea cups and played Uno while having our tea party.

I guess they don't have it too bad in life. Plenty of photographic evidence of our awesomeness.