Thursday, October 29, 2009

The wild child

I was reading a blog yesterday that was featured on the SITS web site and as I commented on one of her posts I decided that the topic was worth a post on my blog. This woman has 3 little kids and made the fatal mistake of going to the bathroom. She returned less than 5 minutes later to find her oldest had flooded the kitchen/living room area by holding the auto water on her fridge down the whole time, one child standing naked on top of her high chair having removed her own poopy diaper and a baby working her way out of the swing. While she was laughing about it she also questioned whether these behaviors were on the good mother list or not. The idea being that clearly if she was a good mother her children would not behave that way. I assured her those behaviors were definately on the good mother list.

When Jake was little that certainly wasn't how I felt, the good mothers had well behaved children and the bad mothers (me) had wild and uncontrollable children. While I wasn't sure if I was a good or bad mother at the time I was sure I was doing my best and that I could trust God to give me the wisdom I needed to raise my wild and uncontrollable son.

Now Jake and I are both older and wiser. He is so easy at this age and makes me look like a good mother on such a regular basis that it is hard to look back at those early years and remember that he walked to the corner store by himself when he was 2 wearing just a pair of shorts and a mac and cheese mustache, decided to go do some shopping at the Disney store on the first floor while I was checking out at Sears on the 2nd floor when he was 4, spun around in a circle while holding an open bag of bird seed, wrote all over his body with a pen (and I mean EVERYWHERE), went outside, dropped his pants, squatted down and pooped in our front yard, put the race car in neutral while pretending to drive and pulled it out of the driveway, brought the entire canister of sugar downstairs to eat while watching tv, then eggs and flour (which turned into cookie dough in my vacuum), smashed a hole in is bedroom door and of course no childhood is complete until they have written on the walls. I could go on but you get the idea. Did all this mean I was a bad mother?

Once in school I got a list of "off task behaviors" from the teacher which included the horrifying, chews pencil, crawls to circle time instead of walking and jumps over his snow pants when he is supposed to be putting them on. There were a few truly inappropriate things on the list such as grabbing his friends and pretending to chock them when he got excited about something (what can I say, it was a phase). Needless to say he didn't get invited over for alot of play dates.

Then one day he grew up and his "bad" behavior became more cerebral. Suddenly he questioned everything! Jr high was a battle of wits, I had to be sharp.

Now one could certainly argue that a little more structure and discipline in our house wouldn't be a bad thing. Jake might have gone on more playdates, he might have been able to play at the mcdonalds play place, I might not have lost him at the mall and our home and property might be in better shape. But he learned the life lessons he needed for the long term and is turning into a wonderful young man.

My response to this woman's blog post was that good mothers aren't made in what their children do but in how they respond to what their children do. When Jake did all those things I didn't ignore him, I didn't berate him, I didn't beat him. Each behavior created an opportunity for me to teach him, nurture him, guide him, listen to him and love him. A bad mother isn't someone whose children mis-behave, a bad mother is someone who doesn't care.


OK John just came up and I was telling him about this post. His great insight is to think of the original parent and original children. No not Cain and Able...God and Adam and Eve. God was the perfect parent and yet his children, Adam and Eve, still disobeyed. If God's children can dis-obey I think we can give ourselves a break when our children do too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A year in review

Last Friday John and I went out of town. We had a lovely weekend but that is not the point of this post. The point is that last Friday was the 1 year anniversary of my first blog post and I did not get a chance to post anything to commemorate it so we are pretending today is the day instead.

To celebrate I have updated my profile picture and "about me" section. I am amazed to discover that a year later it is no easier to find a picture of me by myself (that I really like) than it was a year ago. Maybe I should stage a cute one with me and both my kids since the blog is about both of them. Well, the title is about them but lets face it if you read here you know this blog is really about ME. ha ha!

Since I am always so profound and brilliant I thought I would take this opportunity to remind you of some of my best work from the past year:

I began with some random posts that first month but Jake gave me my first chance to share what my parenting is all about with this post about bringing his scout knife to school. I like to be memorable when interacting with school officials. I also had a post about how much I disliked the school counselor. We don't need to revisit that rant but I will share that last Friday when I wasn't commemorating my 1 year of blogging I was talking with his new counselor about moving him into an advanced class for Chemistry and had a much better interaction which resulted in the successful transfer. They did charge us $5 for the schedule change but I am going to resist discussing or dwelling the absurdity of that action.

So then in November I asked myself "what if I didn't watch tv?" and literally as I was typing decided then and there that we would not watch tv for a week during the day. I updated daily here, here, here, here and here. Even just skimming over them I can see that I might have to re-read them since I have been having that familiar tv overload feeling lately. I wonder if it is the weather. We barely watch it during the summer when Isabelle is outside all day long but once the weather changes and she is inside we don't know what to do and turn to the television. I have definitely maintained some of the lessons from that week, she is painting behind me as I type, but still can see room for improvement. But that is the beauty of life, each year we improve upon the year before learning the lessons God has brought to us in this season of life.

Also in November I did my first post on our trip to Africa. So many more to follow.

In December I did a post on the evolution of Jake's Christmas parties. We are looking forward to this years party already and I am wondering if we need to take it up yet another notch and if so, what does that look like?

So then in January I went on for 4 posts about mentoring, just thoughts off the top of my head, here, here, here and here.

So then in February I decided to talk about my running. I like to call myself Forest Gump just up and running out the back door one day. I still love to run but have been considering adding several biking days to my schedule in preparation for maybe some family bike rides or perhaps doing the MS150 again with my hubby. Truthfully I have a little injury that I will get over but I has made me think about cross training a little more. I also made some sacrifices to the exterior face lift project we are planning for the exterior of the house so that I can get the club membership back now that I no longer work there and don't get it free. Instead of new siding we just might have to paint the existing and call it a day. I will be healthier and our house will still look better than it does now.

Then in March I did my first post on Simplicity. A new theme for my life and I continue to look for simplistic posts for you all.

In April I posted an extensive description of our trip plans for Africa

Then in May I was anticipating bathing suit weather and did this post about my cellulite. I have been amazed at the number of comments and visits I have gotten just from this post. Apparently everyone is trying to learn to love their cellulite. It is here to stay after all!

I love coming across posts where people give step by step instructions on how to create simple things, clothes, curtains, crafts, etc. Being the "special" crafter/sewer that I am I did this post in June about a day spent with mom.

In July I started freaking out about our trip to Africa and did this post just 11 days before the trip.

August arrived as did our amazing trip to Africa. I posted excerpts from my journal here so you could all share in my experience.

Lest you think I don't post about my children regularly even thought the title of this blog would infer that I was going to post all about them, in September I posted about the new school year.

And finally my favorite post from this past month is probably this one.

Of course I think they are all good but what do I know? How about you, what was your favorite post of mine from this past year?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

open adoption

Our wonderful daughter Isabelle is adopted. We have an open adoption with her birthparents, Sam and Lauren. We have become so comfortable with the relationship that I sometimes forget that other people find it odd and will mention them in casual conversation. They have become such a comfortable part of our lives, I can't imagine not knowing them.

I did not initially intend to pursue an open adoption but through the process we were encouraged to do some reading on open adoption by the agency we were working with, New Life Family Services. As we worked through the adoption process and began to think about adopting and raising an adopted child we began to see the benefits of open adoption and decided to pursue a completely open adoption, share all information, pictures, visits, etc. (I don't really know what "etc" would be, facebook maybe?) I don't think we could have anticipated how wonderful and fulfilling it would be to have them in our lives and how much we would come to love them not just as Isabelle's birth parents but as members of our family.

(As a side note, open adoption is not like shared custody where they get her every other weekend, they didn't divorce her. We are 100% her parents and make all the decisions regarding her. It is more like how I really love my sister or brother's kids but know they aren't mine, they are like an aunt and uncle.)

We first met Sam and Lauren shortly before Isabelle was born. We met at the New Life offices with our respective social workers present to facilitate the meeting. We hit it off immediately. One of my favorite stories from that meeting is telling them the name we had chosen. I will never forget the look on Sam's face as he shifted positions and lit up as he shared why the name Isabelle was so profoundly special to him. I think we all knew at that moment that this was going to work out just fine. 5 weeks later we brought Isabelle home from the hospital and began developing a relationship with them as I sent pictures almost daily those first few weeks and then began regular visits.

Their future roll in her life will include being available to answer questions I could never answer about her conception and birth, about their decision to let us raise her, to assure her that she was always loved and wanted, to give her a sense of identity, a sense of security in her existence. A big job to be sure. Most adopted children at some point struggle with a sense of abandonment. No matter how much I love her and try to explain their decision she will need to hear it from them.

Right now Sam and Lauren's roll is to be the fun friends that come for occasional visits and are excited to watch Isabelle perform, will sit and play with her, want to photograph her and in general allow her to be the center of attention while they are around. Something I am sure she would like to see alot more of around here.

Today we had a fun visit with Lauren (Sam is back in Iraq but did phone while she was here). Isabelle was her very usual self dancing, singing and showing off. She was the emotional girl she is every day here and would run into her room and slam her door when we didn't do as she told us to. Lauren gets to see the "real" Isabelle. I told her it is a good sign of how comfortable Isabelle is with her. And Isabelle, who does change clothing regularly through the day, got naked for probably the 3rd of 4th time in as many visits. We agreed to see if the next visit we could keep her clothes on. When we stopped talking to her because she wouldn't get dressed we got another stomp to her room and door slam. We couldn't help but laugh and Lauren apologize for the dramatic behavior, although she insisted it wasn't from her!

Over the years we have gotten some great pictures of the visits:

The first visit after she was born.

Today's visit

Monday, October 19, 2009

Keeping simply busy

What am I doing around here you ask? What are my thoughts lately? Well let me tell you...

My sister has been purging her house lately and decided to empty the open shelves in her family room and simplify them with just a few things. She is even wishing she didn't have them at all. It has me thinking more about simplicity and my desire to simplify my life. I have always been a minimalistic decorator. I like full busy decor in other people's homes but find it stressful in my own home. I used to feel that it made my home look boring and wondered if I should fill it up more but then a couple from our church came over and began to rave about my simplistic decor. They loved it because of the fact that it wasn't full of clutter. We had just moved in at that time and really had nothing, I have added to our house since then filling it up a little more but I always try to keep it simple. Recently a friend (who I know is reading this) came over for the first time and said my house was "cozy". That is the very word I used to describe how I wanted my home to feel when I was doing some decorating a few years ago. I love that kind of validation. :)

I did a little rearranging of the furniture this weekend while John was out of town. I like to keep him on his toes.

My office seems to be the area where that rule fails me. I did go through this weekend and purge a bunch of books off the shelf but that just means I can now fit the ones I have left on the shelf, still work to be done there. The main purpose of my work in the office was to organize Isabelle's craft area. Clearly it isn't working when she finds things by dumping out an entire bin (or two). The first thing I did was to clear off a bookshelf in Jake's room and confiscate it for the craft area (he had 2 so I figured he could spare one). Then I sorted all the craft stuff into categories and found bins around the house to put them all in. I am quite happy with the results and so far everything hasn't been dumped on the floor.

Oh the new organization always looks so good when it is fresh. Will it stay this way? Only time will tell. I have been coaching Isabelle on putting things away when she is finished with them. So far with my coaching it has happened each time. I guess part of teaching our children discipline is teaching it to myself. I have to be disciplined to remind her and teach her each time so that she develops the discipline to do it without me reminding her in the future. OH the work of parenting. I must improve myself to help my child grow.

So a tour of the new shelf. The top shelf is all the markers, different bins for each kind, crayons, a scissors bin and a paint brush bin. The black box has the dot-a-dot paints and then random craft stuff that I don't have enough of to give their own location. Shelf 2 has white boards and dry erase books on the left, a bin of stickers in the middle and field guides and some other random books on the right. Bottom shelf is coloring books on the left, bin of various paper in the middle and a folder of coloring pages she has made and wants to keep.

I did get her to brutally reduce the huge number of papers she was keeping down to a reasonable amount but would love some thought on this subject. At this point I could just toss to my hearts content and as long as she doesn't see it in the trash she will never know but eventually I should have a system. I did tape a few cute ones on the wall but don't really have a great wall space to do that.

Those of you with children may be thinking that the craft area is lacking a little. Should you happen to be one of the people who purchases a Christmas gift for my daughter, feel free to fill in where needed. I do have paint in the closet but otherwise that really is everything. Sad I know.

Normally I would say that I don't like crafts and that is why Isabelle has so little craft supplies. Truthfully I just don't like to have strange crafts around my house so I don't do them. I am learning to appreciate a few simple crafts and have started a list of projects to entertain myself this year. Be warned, if you are on my Christmas list you may get one of these things next year.

I have decided that since I have a fancy new camera I could probably make this kind of thing happen:

Should take me all year to find the letters I need.

How about fingertip oven mitts. I actually just bought one of these for myself (to put in my stocking) that I found at a craft show. It will be inspiration all year long.

My first idea was the Rice Pillows which I came across while blog surfing.

Oh and at that craft fair they also had those cheap gloves you can get at Target with a little crocheted embellishment around the wrist. My grandma taught me how to crochet a long string which I believe I am capable of attaching around a mitten. Oh the thrill of trying to revive a long dormant skill. I bet my mom could help me if I can't figure it out...

So what crafts are you working on this year?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Minnesota Weather World

Friday we had cold but lovely weather here and headed over to an outdoor orchard experience at Emma Krumbee's in Belle Plain with Grandma and the cousins. It would probably be more fun when it is a little warmer but we bundled up for the 40 degree day and the kids had fun jumping around.

Picking pumpkins
We really tried for a good group shot but they just weren't playing our game.
How cute is she? And please note this cute wool jacket I found for $7 at a thrift store. I rock.

The big event happened Saturday morning when we woke up to this:

Yep snow and ice in October. And the leaves on our trees are still green! The second weekend in September we went to the Ren Fest and it was 80+ degrees out. A local new station was interviewing people and asked John about the weather. He said that while he was enjoying the late warm weather he predicted snow before Halloween. He was right! The snow is gone now, the trees are so confused some are just dropping green leaves rather than turning colors first.

And finally, last week when it was raining every day my poor daughter, who apparently didn't get enough swimming in this summer did this:

Despite the fact that our thermometer said this:

40 degrees. I guess she is a true Minnesotan.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not Me!

Happy Monday! It is Not Me Monday. I haven't not done this in a while but I was thinking of some this week and am actually remembering on Monday so here goes.

I definitely did not yell at my daughter to get out the door and in the car so we could go somewhere. After getting her in her car seat I did not remember that I had forgotten something. When I got inside I did not also decide to go to the bathroom, put on some lipstick and grab a snack while she waited out in the car. No I would never do that. I am always ready and prepared when we go somewhere. I would never yell at her to hurry up when I am not ready myself.

I did not spend 3 days sick with the flu this week. A doctor friend did not tell me it was highly likely H1N1. I did not go to the library and Target fully contagious because I figured nobody would know I gave it to them.

I was not at Target because my hairdryer had broken over the weekend. I did not proceed to get sick and spend 3 days on the couch and then have to drag my sick self out to buy a hair dryer because I am so vain that I would not want to risk how my hair might look if I washed it and let it air dry. My husband did not refuse to go buy one for me so I wouldn't have to go out, he did not compare it to buying tampons.

Go check out MckMama's web site for lots more fun Not Me! Monday posts.

Friday, October 2, 2009


It is hard for me to believe that my son is at this stage. I am loving it but the older he gets the more I can't believe he isn't my sweet little boy anymore. He is a young man entering the last 3 years of his childhood. How did this happen?

Giving her the corsage. We made the reenact since he just gave it to her unceremoniously in the kitchen when they arrived. They are still learning how all this works. We all are.

I made this corsage. Wishing I had spent the money to order it while making it an hour before Britta arrived. Knew I probably needed smaller flowers when I bought them but had Jake tapping his toe next to me. Still I think I did fairly well and will be even better next time.

The required posing by the tree in our backyard. We kept walking them around the tree to find the best light.

My favorite picture of the night. And I just think everything looks better in black and white.

They are calling this their signature pose since they tend to do it often.

The whole group they went with. They are on the far left end.

They Guys, Jake far left.

The Girls, Britta far left.

Another cute one of them.

OK I know what you are all thinking, "what happened to Jake's other eye?" Well, I wish I knew, it disappeared recently and he seems to have no desire to go find it. Britta seems to like him with one eye. And sadly, John only had one eye when I first met him at this age too. So apparently it is genetic. Eventually John found his eye so maybe one day we will see Jake's again too.

Also, since you know I am obsessed with simplicity and saving money I must share about Jake's suit. The entire outfit except the socks, underwear and tie only cost $45. I brought Jake to Saver's where we found the suit, a tux actually, for $10, black dress shoes for $13 and a black dress belt for $2. I did buy a brand new $20 white shirt for him and the look was complete. He looked just as good as the boys in their brand new much more expensive suits and I felt great. My mom did take the waist out a little which will insure that he can wear them until his next growth spurt. Very exciting.

John and I had a little homecoming celebration as well. The hosts of the after party (yes apparently you have to have an after party that goes til 1:30am) invited the parents to come over for a party during the dance. John and I found a last minute babysitter to watch tv while Isabelle was asleep and we headed over. We have so enjoyed getting to know Jake's friends over the last year and it is nice to know their parents are all just as nice and easy to get along with as the kids are. I have said it so many times but we really do feel blessed by this group of kids Jake is a part of.

The growing vocabulary

We made a run to the Minnesota Zoo today. I had finally gotten free passes at the library and decided today is as good as any to go. It is cold and rainy but most of the exhibits are indoors so it is the perfect way to spend a yucky day.

I have fond memories of going out there with Jake in the winter to get out of the house. We would go to the dolphin show and eat our little lunch while we watched a really great show. Then go through the tropics trail where we would see lots of fun animals and then literally run through the Minnesota trail because part of that was open to the outdoors and we had put our coats in a locker.

So Isabelle and I headed out and I had her all excited to see a big dolphin show. As I am walking in I mention this to the ticket desk who informs me they no longer do dolphin shows because the dolphins are too old and the newer dolphins are too young. They don't know when they will be bringing them back. OK we were still able to look at the dolphins.
Then off to the tropics trail to see all the old animals. Well turns out they are completely remodeling this part of the zoo and so most of the animals I was used to seeing were gone and half the trail was closed for remodeling. I was starting to feel a little down on the zoo and glad I got in free. But then we got to the Minnesota trail which has already been remodeled. It was fantastic. Still open to the outside so it will be a run in the winter but I felt warm and relaxed as we walked the trail.
This is the raccoon display. There is a little log cabin front and an old metal garbage can which one was actually sitting on top of when we walked up. Can you see him on top of the wood pile? Sorry the picture is so bad. I don't understand my camera and think I accidentally changed the setting and couldn't figure out how to fix it.

That was a hour and I was ready to head home. We sat down for a snack but Isabelle insisted we walk the outdoor trails. I told her it was raining but she went out the door and announced it had stopped. I did dress warm and had my gloves in the bag so I agreed to head into the wet cold and see a few animals.

We headed around and saw a few cool exhibits, tiger, coyotes, moose and played on the indoor farm exhibit(although I didn't walk all the way out to the farm).

Finally the drizzle is starting to pick up a bit and I am trying to power back and right before we return to the building is a whole new outdoor exhibit that is again fantastic. Otters, Grizzly Bears and others. I couldn't help but slow down to see them.

Eventually we made it back to the main building and back home. What started out as a ho hum zoo experience definitely improved and has me looking forward to many years of hanging out at the zoo with Isabelle and getting to know the new animals and the new exhibits they are creating.

OK so that is the overview of the experience. But there has to be a couple cute stories with a 4 year old. Today seemed to be about vocabulary and outside education. So we see an aquarium with a bunch of turtles in it which she is excited about. All of the sudden a turtle floats by and she says, "OH! Look! It's a painted turtle!" (she says everything in an exclamation, she is 4) I look down and sure enough that is the kind of turtle it is. "How did you know that?", I ask. She learned it at the Nature Center. Oh yes I do recall something about you looking at turtles in your little class last week. OK money well spent, that $7 has equipped my child with the name of a very common Minnesota turtle. Pat myself on the back.

Then we are looking at the grizzly exhibit. It is very nice and they have a few fake volcanoes steaming and then water shoots out of a hole. "Look! A Geyser!" OK the name of the painted turtle was impressive but Geyser? Where would you learn that? So I ask her and she tells me she learned it from the show "Ruff Ruffman" on PBS. Of course, where else would you learn that kind of random information when you are 4? Should I pat myself on the back for letting her watch TV? Then she says to me, "what's a geyser?" She can use it correctly in a sentence and yet still has no idea what it is. Yep she is a smarty.

you can see the geyser in the background of this photo.