Thursday, October 30, 2008

What was I doing?

I feel there needs to be a follow up entry to the marker destruction post. This one is the stuff everywhere post. As with this post there is a corresponding example from Jake's life of similar behavior. Do you think it is my parenting style?

So Tuesday night I walk into the living room to do...something?...and what do I see but an entire box of kleenex spread around my living room as if a snowstorm hit the room. Isabelle jumped into the picture, I guess doing snow angels, when she saw the camera. Quite proud of herself.

So Isabelle cleans that up herself and I am now using kleenex out of a gallon size zip lock bag rather than a box. It looks like a bag of used tissues. Clearly I have issues when I am saving 69 cents worth of kleenex.
So this is upsetting but I move on. Then today I am making Isabelle oatmeal. She gets some of the dry oatmeal out while I am on the phone and is playing with it so I move the oatmeal container away from her and then go in the other room to do...something?. Eventually Isabelle comes to ask me if her oatmeal has cooled off and I come around the corner to this...

I don't know if it is accurately portrayed here but it was EVERYWHERE in the living room. A full box of oatmeal spread on the carpet and wood floor. And once again Isabelle looking proud amidst the mess. Yelling may have occured upon the discovery of this one.
Yet with all this Jake cannot be outdone. At around the same age he was down in our semi finished basement watching tv. I heard a noise and felt I needed to investigate, when I arrived I saw bird seed EVERYWHERE. He had clearly picked up the open 5 pound bag of bird seed and spun around letting it go where it may. I was so upset I forgot about the noise until I went to vacuum behind the bar and found a broken vase that had fallen off the bar. Jake was irritatingly in my way and ran behind the bar as I was vacuuming toward him and stepped on the glass. I grabbed him and "nicely" told him to go to his room. He complained he was hurt but I didn't care. When I finally went up stairs I discovered that sure enough he had stepped on the glass. I ended up calling a neighbor to come over and hold him down while I tried to get it out. I thought I had since I couldn't feel it anymore but 3 days later when he was still limping I sat him down and discovered a horribly infected foot. I brought him to the doctor who immediately scheduled me with a pediatric surgeon 2 days later, no pre-op appointment just get him in there. Since we had a very large deductible on our insurance I asked the surgeon if he could do it under local rather than general anaesthetic. So there we are in the operating room with 2 nurses literally laying on top of Jake and me sitting trying to read him a book while he screamed wildly and the surgeon looked for a piece of glass in a wiggling 3 year old's foot. Lucky for me he found it right away and out he pulls a piece of glass about an inch long and the around of a toothpick.
The good news is that Jake is turning out pretty good despite this behavior so I hold much hope for Isabelle's future too. My parenting technique may turn out some questionable pre-school behaviors but they start pulling it together when it really counts. At least that is what I am telling myself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time Management

I have spent a fair amount of time sitting on the computer this week. It causes me to ask the question, could I have better used that time? What else could I have been doing?

  • Begin making Christmas gifts rather than waiting until the last minute.
  • Planning menus for grocery shopping so that I don't have to call my husband to pick up dinner.
  • Playing dolls with Isabelle. Ok I wouldn't actually do this one.
  • Help Isabelle memorize her bible verse for Sunday School.
  • Organizing the pantry by food group. OR I could be grouping my cans by the recipes I want to make so they are all together when I want to cook.
  • Alphabetize the videos and dvd's
  • Put books in order based on the dewey decimal system
  • Research the dewey decimal system so I knew where my books went
  • Actually clean my house rather than waving the illusion of clean wand over it.
  • Actually go for a run rather than just talking and reading about running.
  • Vacuum the crushed tortilla chips out of my van before winter arrives.
  • Paint over the wall art in the living room
  • Find out what I am doing when Isabelle does wall and body art.
Hmm. Nope there doesn't seem to be anything better to do with my time.

I still don't like the school counselor but...

I was catching up on my bible reading last night when God spoke to me in Hebrews 12. "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy, without holness no one will see the Lord."

Live in peace. Is that what I have been doing? Not so much. This is what I love about God, he gives you truth and frees you. I feel released from my anger and ready to actually work with this man and get Jake in the right class rather than simply fight back and forth. I finally feel confident it will be worked out soon. Praise God.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I don't like the school counselor

Help me. I believe I am in a power struggle with the school counselor. Is it worth it? Am I letting my pride get in the way of common sense OR is it important that I make sure Jake is put in the proper elective class next semester? What is his problem? Why can't he see that I am the parent and deserve to be treated with respect? If he would just acknowledge in any little way that he has been a big butt hole I would be happy to let him take control of the one elective class that Jake has but I am just so incredulous of his behavior that I feel like I can't let it go and must make him PAY! What is wrong with me? As I mentioned in the knife post, I normally am good at cushioning my complaints with compliments but somehow they all fail me with this guy. I don't even want to give him a fake compliment. I can't even come up with a fake compliment to give him. Nothing. What does a school counselor do all day that keeps him from being sure that the 65 new students he is responsible for get in the correct classes? Especially considering that others do all the actual entering of information. As far as I can tell he truly is only responsible for solving problems. Which I imagine he must have alot of if he treats all parents as poorly as he has treated me. So I guess he is just insuring job security.

Well there are two up sides. One I have a meeting with the assistant principal in next week to tell her about my experience as a new parent. Since she has been so nice to me with the knife incident I am sure I will have no problem cushioning my dislike for the butt hole around some compliments but I know it will feel great to get it off my chest. And Number two, we are only in this school for one year before moving to the high school and then I will never have to see him again.

Do you think there is a lesson for me in this somewhere?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Craft Corner

You would think that having already done the whole pre-schooler thing 10 years ago I would know better the second time around how to avoid having my home destroyed. Yet somehow I find myself asking the same questions I was asking then. why? Why? WHY would you...? And What was I doing while you were doing this? Actually that is the question my family would ask me when I would tell them yet another "funny" story of Jake's destructive ways. And I always answered the same way, "I don't know". It isn't a lack of supervision that causes the behavior it is something in their DNA that causes a little click the moment you turn your head and they are off to ruin something. Isabelle is famous for putting marker on herself. I am trying to stop photographing it but each time it is so funny. Here is a recent sample:

This picture represents a time of particular creativity with the marker. Not only did she get her face, legs and arms but she had stripped down and with much pride told me she had marker on her butt. Now on her butt is strange but in fact on her butt hole is much stranger, both hysterically funny and slightly disturbing. And yes I photographed it since she so proudly showed it to me but no I am not going to post it. Should you fear something is wrong with Isabelle, Jake did it too. Well similar, he used a ball point pen all over his body including all the private parts only boys have. Since digital wasn't around at that time I felt I couldn't take a picture of him naked but did get a covered shot of the rest of his body.
Now all this is funny to me because of washable markers. In fact the other day she walked by me covered in marker heading for the bathroom. When I commented she told me to leave her alone because she could wash it off herself. Which is exactly what she did. So that is where I was one day when I noticed a little green marker on her fingers. I continued doing what I was doing (what was I doing?) figuring that I would clean it up later. This is exactly the moment all 3 year olds wait for to do something new. Isabelle had been digging through my purse that lovely afternoon and found a sharpie. (why did I have a sharpie in my purse?) Taking that emerald green permanent marker she found the most prominent wall in our entire home to draw a large set of circles with beautiful eyes in the middle. why? Why? WHY?
Here is a picture. Sorry it didn't photograph well.

Now I admit I haven't tried alot of stuff to clean it up but having some experience with cleaning crayons and dry erase markers (not washable by the way) off the wall I decided not to knock myself out just for the sake of trying. I recognize a wall that needs to be repainted when I see it. Of course since we don't have that paint left it leaves me with a very prominant reminder that I have a 3 year old. And just when it is blending into the background of my mind someone new comes to visit, the moment they walk in the door they know we have children. It is a great conversation starter and gets people thinking creatively about how I could cover it up. So far I am leaning toward nailing a frame over it and calling it art.
So what should I do about Isabelle and the marker problem? I'm sure there are chapters in parenting books devoted to this type of behavior. And you may be asking yourself what I do when this happens and why I haven't hidden the markers. Well punishments do happen and I have started to hear her remind herself of the rules when she gets out the markers, but I like my children to have the ability to access their stuff when they feel creative. Sort of a Melanie version of Montessori. So I put up with a little destruction but it is worth it to see my children have fun and develop their own little personalities.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Complexity of Family

Yesterday was a fun yet strange day. We spent the afternoon with 3 of John's siblings that we didn't really know existed until about 6 months ago. As an in-law I am sort of outside the situation and can enjoy watching it play out like a juicy soap opera and yet having been in the family more than half my life I feel a part of what is going on as we all are learning about a man we never knew.

I have a little experience with this in my own family as my dad shared some of his past with us a few years ago. It caused me to stop in my tracks and ask myself if my life was real. Was my happy childhood and my good relationship with my father real? And if it was real, why was it real? Why did I get the good life while someone else had struggles? It is hard to see your parents as real people who have made real mistakes. They should just be your parents.

Both our dad's have something important in common. A very big God who stepped in and saved them, who changed their lives and the paths they were on. And as a result changed our lives as well. So the childhood John and I had with our fathers was real. And as a result of the new knowledge I can better know and understand my father and my father in law. I may not have secrets I am hiding from my early 20's but I definitely made mistakes and would hate to still be judged because of them. But the trials of my youth have been part of creating who I am today. So I am thankful for who our fathers were in the past because it has created the men we know and love today.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Failing at Failure

I wrote this for myself a couple years ago and now my sister insists I post it. Just a little insight into the complexities of my mind:

I spent most of my life watching from the sidelines. I wanted to be active and athletic, I have always imagined myself as intelligent, adventurous and successful but I was afraid to step out, take a risk and be any of those things. I told myself I would be good at something if I decided to put forth the effort but I just didn’t have time, money, desire, etc and that is why I wasn’t doing it. “Of course I could get straight A’s but who wants to spend that much time on homework?” “Yes I could be a cheerleader but I just don’t want to wear those cute skirts around the school.” As I got older I had a great built in excuse of husband and children which led to the very popular, “I’m too busy”. I didn’t want to admit I was afraid to take a risk and not be the best.

The turning point of my life happened in my 30’s when I decided to sign my son Jake up for snowboarding one winter. Having not done anything athletic as a child I really wanted to see him learn a sport and feel comfortable being active. I decided to sign my husband up for lessons too so that Jake wouldn’t be snowboarding alone. Then I realized that I would be sitting home alone so in a moment of ambition I signed myself up as well.

The lessons were in January on 4 extremely cold Friday nights in Minnesota. Before they even started I regretted signing up. I hate being out in the cold and had managed to spend most of my life in denial about the fact that I lived in Minnesota where it is snow covered half the year. My husband was supportive of me taking the lessons but I am sure he assumed I would cancel my lesson at the last minute. There was just no precedent in which I would do something this active. And then when you added the cold weather? Forget it.

But there I stood that first Friday in January. The sun was down eliminating any chance of a warm up and the wind was blowing. Our son was sent off with a group of other kids his age who had no idea they were supposed to be cold and worried about breaking things and my husband and I were left alone with an instructor and one other parent crazy enough to learn this sport with his kid. About 30 minutes into the first 2 hour lesson I couldn’t feel any of my extremities, had sore muscles everywhere, bruised up my knees and butt, slammed my head against the snow multiple times and was exhausted. Although the instructor was very nice and helpful, I finally couldn’t take it anymore and went inside to warm up and get the boots off my aching legs.

I sat in the lodge for the next hour nursing my injuries and feeling like a major looser. Mad at myself for being inside, mad that I had spent all this money on these lessons that I wasn’t enjoying and didn’t want to take and most of all mad at myself that I had taken the risk and had failed. Although I didn’t realize it at the time I had a major turning point in my life while sitting in that lodge. I was frustrated with myself for giving up, which wasn’t new for me, but I realized I was tired of being frustrated with myself. I think it helped that my class was so small. I knew if I didn’t go back out there the instructor would notice I was gone. I decided it was time to give myself a mental kick in the rear and went back out for the last 20 minutes of the lesson. The instructor told me he really didn’t expect to see me again. It felt great that I had already overcome failure simply by going back outside and not doing the expected thing.

At the end of the first lesson we took the chair lift up to try going down the hill. Initially I told them I would wait at the bottom but at the last moment my new confident inner voice spoke and I went up the hill. I was scared to death the entire ride up. How was I ever going to get back down the hill with this thing strapped to my feet? The instructor and my husband both seemed convinced that I could do it and that little bit of encouragement got me started down the hill. I landed on my butt and head a few times on the way down but I made it to the bottom. And I had fun. I was able to laugh all the way down at my falls and those bruises were the injuries of a snowboarder not a failure. I went on to the rest of the lessons with much more confidence. Each lesson I was able to stay out in the cold longer and learn more. I never figured out how to get off the chairlift without falling but I learned to fall with the least amount of injury and get out of the way quickly. During the week I would think about going down the hill and imagine my body properly moving back and forth balancing on the board and getting to the bottom without a fall, it seemed so easy in my mind. During the last hill on the last night of lessons I actually was able to experience that very feeling I had spent the weeks imagining. I went down the hill cutting back and forth as if I was a pro and I didn’t fall once. It was the most incredible feeling I had ever experienced. I had never felt so accomplished and so powerful in my entire life. I didn’t care that the people around me had been doing it all night and gave no thought to it. I had done something that night I had never done before in my life. I had conquered my fears.

That night my life changed forever. I didn’t know how much at the time but almost every day that accomplishment has given me the courage to do something I never would have considered before then. I have talked to people I wouldn’t have talked to before, I have joined groups, led ministry teams, took up running, tried so many new things because I was no longer afraid of failure. I now realize that I fail to fail just by trying. Not everything I do works out as well as it did that night on the hill but I am just as thrilled to know I tried. My success comes from living my life, trying new things and being open to new experiences. I am still afraid of some things and I feel OK with that. I will never skydive and I don’t feel like a failure for not doing it. But I no longer avoid the things I really want to do but never admitted it because I was afraid of failing. I am living my life now and loving every minute.
The first part of my life I focused on being a success at failing. I failed if I didn’t win or do something perfect so I avoided failure by not trying anything. Now I spend my life succeeding because I measure my success by my willingness to take the risks. I have had so much fun trying new things and accomplished so much more in the past couple years than I did in the first 30 years. I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life active, healthy and taking on lots of new challenges.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keeping a secret

Apparently I can't keep a secret. I just started this blog today with the intent of telling no one and somehow my whole family already knows about it. Part of me feels they are the ones I wanted to keep it a secret from yet clearly a larger part of me needs their support and encouragement in order to do anything new in my life. So I am now bravely posting this link on my facebook page because of thier wonderful positive feedback. I am still afraid of sounding dumb so if anyone besides them should happen to check this out please be nice to me.

Zero Tolerance?

The events of Tuesday seem like a good first post on parenting.

I was just about ready for work Tuesday morning when the phone rings. It is the assistant principal at the middle school calling to tell me that my darling son had accidentally brought his scout knife to school and had come to them to turn it in. After much discussion with the principal and superintendent they made the decision not to suspend him but to simply give him a warning. I was to come and pick the knife up immediately. I responded as all good parents would, I began to gush to her how proud I was of my son for being able to correctly problem solve what to do when he realizes he pulled on the pants he wore to scouts the night before and didn't check the pockets. I told her how as a parent you wonder if they are learning anything and would he know what to do when a situation arose. I was thrilled to know he had made the right choice. Yes, yes she thought that was very nice but remember, He Brought A Knife To School. Oh Yea, sorry about that.

So I go get the knife and am laughing and thinking about it all day. On the one hand I do understand the severity of the situation and feel very blessed that he simply recieved a warning and not a suspension. On the other hand as I thought about what to say to Jake when he got home I realized that I was faced with a moral delimma. If he had simply left it in his pocket or popped in in the bottom of his backpack nobody ever would have known and he wouldn't have a warning in his file at all. I wanted to tell him should it happen again to do just that. Yet I knew he had made the right choice and I wanted to reinforce that decision. I wrestled with it all day long. Mad that I was having to think about it at all. I was venting about it to my husband when suddenly I stood up. He asked me where I was going and I told him, to email the assistant principal.

And this is why I like to tell people I am an annoying parent:

"I know you don’t know Jake or me but I can tell you Jake is a very good kid and we are very involved in his life and in parenting him. He was well aware of the knife rule which is why he brought it to the office when he realized he still had it in his pocket. I am very proud of him for making what I consider to be the right decision in how to handle this situation when it happened. However, I am now faced with a moral quandary. If he had hidden the knife in the bottom of his backpack until he got home it is almost guaranteed you never would have found it and there would have been zero consequences. But since he was given a warning and should it happen again would get a harsher punishment I feel tempted to tell him that if it does happen again he should just hide it. Now I don’t believe it will happen again. He has had knives for years and none has ever gone to school with him before. It was a simple oversight on his part as he left early for a bible study. But it is frustrating that I am faced with a situation and a society in which I am tempted to tell my son to do the wrong thing should it come up again. It is causing me to ask myself what he is really learning at the public school. Deception?"

Yes that is right. I sent that to her. Now should you want to send an annoying email to one of your childs teachers or principals I will tell you the secret. Sandwich it between two paragraphs of compliments and understanding about their job.

So when Jake came home I asked him what he had learned from the experience. What would he do if it did happen again? He looked at me and then said, "Hide it in my backpack?" I thanked him for learning exactly the lesson they had taught him. Then I told him if it happened again to do exactly the same thing and we would have fun together during his suspension. At the end of the day I have to be consistant in my parenting and I have always tried to teach Jake to live out his faith. It isn't always easy to do what you know is the right thing but it is still the right thing.

What am I doing?

I tell people I secretly want to be a writer but that is as far as I go. A couple times I have tried writing something for fun but it has never come off my computer. So now I am starting a blog I am not telling anyone about. If I get a few posts and don't think they are horrible I might tell someone.

In my mind it will be easier if there is a theme to the blog. I will know what I am supposed to post. I have a few areas of interest I considered, health/nutrition, finance/budgeting, spiritual growth, parenting, personal growth. I like them all but I finally decided that most of my life revolves around my 2 kids so that is my theme, although I suspose there is nothing stoping me from covering one of the other topics should I feel inspired.