Tag Archives: Family

Lovin’

Here are a few of the things I’m Lovin’ these days:

{ Source: Pinterest.com }

  • Slick getting his own car.
  • Fresh memories of The Trailblazer being home.
  • The forecast for a mild winter.
  • Pinterest.
  • Trying new recipes.
  • Cooking big, so I can send food to The Trailblazer and his roommates.
  • Helping Slick make plans for his future.
  • Listening The Caboose rehearse for an upcoming concert.
  • The freedom that comes with having older kids.
  • Finally loading music on my iPad.
  • My new laptop.
  • King Cake

Share your list!  Post it in the comments below, or drop in your link!  Can’t wait to see what you’re Lovin’!

Quiet Time — or How I Watched a Movie in my Own Living Room

I’m not sure if he thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or if Mr. Wonderful made some unshared New Year’s Resolution to pay greater attention to my ‘needs,’ but for the last few days, some freaky stuff has been happening.

Take Sunday, New Year’s Day, for example.  I found myself home alone for a little while.  Mr. Wonderful and the boys left the house for about an hour, leaving me and the dog all by ourselves.

Now, I get my fair share of alone time – after I’ve dropped a kid off at school or at a friend’s house, when I’m headed to my MIL’s to pick her up for a doctor’s appointment, and even in the grocery store.  But you may see a pattern here.  If I’m by myself, I’m usually away from home, and usually doing something for someone else.

I hardly ever put myself first.  I rarely ask others to do what I could just get up and do myself.  And I very, very seldom watch TV.

So with this gift of an hour, I cozied up in the big chair with a glass of wine and the remote.  At first it felt a little odd, scanning the channel guide, passing up all the football games, zombie shows, and Spongebob reruns.  I scroll to the channels that never get watched, and see a lovely chick-flick beginning.  Figuring I can watch the first hour or so, I settle in.

Sipping my wine in the clean, quiet house, a sense of calm sweeps over me.  I resist the urge to watch the clock, not wanting the precious time to end.

{ Source: Touchstone-Disney 1990 }

Just about the time Julia Roberts is picking out some new clothes on Rodeo drive, the guys return home.

That’s when the freaky part happened.

The boys instinctively entered the living room, intent on usurping control from me, and Mr. Wonderful stopped them.

“Your mom’s watching a movie.  Y’all go upstairs.”

Curious, I looked to see where these words came from.  And there was Mr. Wonderful looking my way.

“Really?” I replied.  “I’ll turn it off.”  It seemed almost foreign for me to be sitting down watching a movie — a chick-flick even — when they were home.

But I went with it.

I just sat there.

Watching Julia and Richard get to know one another for the one-thousandth time.

I heard the little kitchen TV turn on and the sound of NFL announcers wafting my way.  Was he testing me?

I was in the living room, with the big tv and the remote, watching Pretty Woman while he sat isolated at the kitchen table watching football.

This was uncharted territory.  I wasn’t even sure how to respond.

Was this some passive-aggressive attempt to get me to put the game on?  Did he have some dreadful news to deliver, and wanted me in a good frame of mind to do so?  Or was he simply … letting me watch tv?

I didn’t really know what to think.  So I pushed the complicated thoughts out of my head.

And watched a movie.

Christmas in Holland

There are a lot of people who find Christmas difficult.  This year I find myself becoming one of them, and I want to stop.

The Christmas Crunch is bearing down hard, and I’m trying hard not to let it steal my joy.  The events of the last few weeks could easily have done so without some pretty strong defenses.  (Luckily, my 25 years as an Army wife have taught me a few of those.)  But it’s hard.

This morning, Mr. Wonderful and I were discussing the many ‘adjustments’ to our holiday celebration we’re making this year.  I tried not to get disappointed about not having time to bake gingerbread cookies.  I put aside the fact that I didn’t send out cards this year for only the second time in twenty-six years.  I let go the fact that half of my decorations are still in their boxes, where they’ll sit for another year.  We agreed not to fry our turkeys this year, but to go with a plan that’s less labor-intensive.  We’ve trimmed Christmas to the bone, because we’re spread too thin to pull off our usual routine.

Then the phone rang.

And we were reminded that none of that’s important.

Instead of spending the day trying to catch up on all that’s behind schedule, we decided on a paradigm shift.  We decided to let ourselves off the hook, and have a different celebration than we usually do.  We did it the year after Katrina, where we scaled back out of necessity, and we did it the year Mr. Wonderful was in Iraq.  And we’ll do it again this year.

I won’t worry that my chandeliers aren’t decorated, and that my linens may not be pressed.  I won’t worry that I’m serving steamed carrots instead of my mother’s cornbread dressing.

Instead I’ll give thanks that we’re gathered together.

I’ll be happy that even though Christmas won’t go the way I envisioned it a month ago, it’ll be special.  And I’ll remind myself that if I can put my disappointment aside over things that didn’t happen I’ll be able to enjoy the things that will.  I might even find unexpected joy.

My little family has faced some unexpected challenges this year.  2011 certainly isn’t ending the way I expected it to three hundred sixty-or-so days ago.  But it’s ending well.

The last few days have reminded me of an essay circulated among parents of special needs children.  I’ve read it dozens of times as it related to my son’s academic challenges.

I’ve never really thought about it as a metaphor for Life.

But it is.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

WELCOME TO HOLLAND
by
Emily Perl Kingsley
(c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved)

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

Catharsis

I don’t like my mother-in-law.  And she doesn’t like me.  There.  I said it.

{ Source: balloonrelease.blogspot.com }

I’ve been tap-dancing around that for 26 years.  Actually longer than that, for the discord between us began before I married her son.  She disapproved of me the first time she met me, and it has never changed.  For the life of me, I don’t know why.

I’ve used every tool in my belt to rationalize the behaviors that exist between us.  “She loves her son.”  “No one would be good enough for her boy.”  “It’s not me, it’s her.”  And all this time I’ve been trying to endear myself to her, trying to fit in, trying to change things to make her love me.

For many years, I acquiesced to keep the peace.  Resistance, I thought, would widen the chasm between us.  I dressed for her approval, bought gifts, and attended social events – all to gain her endorsement.  But it never came.

All I ever wanted from her was a smidgen of love.  But with love comes acceptance, and that’s something that just wasn’t possible.

My husband has had a very tough time through all of it.  Stuck between us, not wanting to alienate her, not wanting to forsake me, he walked a tightrope for a very long time.  Shaking off the lifetime of programming that ‘mama’s always right’ has been hard on him.  And I’m sorry he had to go through it.  But it had to happen.

My blog is full of affirmations about attitude that I try to embody every day.  But applying my own wisdom to this obstacle has been the greatest personal struggle I’ve ever faced.

Putting it in perspective became necessary.  So I boiled it all down.

I’m a good wife to her son.  I’m a good mother to her grandchildren.  I’m a good caregiver to her husband.  I’m a loyal caregiver to her.  I’ve never once had an outright confrontation with her.  If that isn’t enough for her, then she doesn’t deserve me.

I am enough.

I can’t mourn the loss of something I never had, but I do lament its void.  I won’t let go of the pain, because then the lessons would be lost.  I’ll hold on to it, to let it remind me what I don’t want to become.

It’s not in my nature to air such a thing, and then not find some meaning within it.  So here’s where I will make promises to myself, and a vow to keep them.

When my sons bring home mates some day, I will not lift the lid of the pot and say, “he likes it better this way.”  I will not ask if she’d like to borrow something to wear to the party we’ll both be attending.  I won’t give gifts with instructions on the manner in which they are to be used.  I will let them live their lives, and raise their children.  I will give advice when it’s asked for.  I will maintain my own life, so I don’t have to live vicariously through theirs.

And I will not judge them by arbitrary means. Their worth will be weighed by the love they give my sons.

Memos from your Child

For those of you wondering where The Lucky Mom gained her vast wisdom, I want to reveal one of my best sources, and share with you some of his best advice.

Dr. Don Fontenelle is a family therapist in my home town.  His book, How To Live With Your Children is my parenting Bible.  Below you will find a much-shared bit of his wisdom.  I hope you learn as much from it as I have.  If you share this, please credit Dr. Fontenelle.  

MEMOS FROM YOUR CHILD

  • Don’t spoil me. I know quite well that I ought not to have all I ask for. I’m only testing you.
  • Don’t be afraid to be firm with me. I prefer it; it makes me feel more secure.
  • Don’t let me form bad habits. I have to rely on you to detect them in the early stages.
  • Don’t correct me in front of other people if you can help it. I’ll take more notice if you talk quietly with me in private.
  • Don’t make me feel that my mistakes are sins. I have to learn to make mistakes without feeling that I am no good.
  • Don’t protect me from consequences. I need to learn from experience.
  • Don’t be too upset when I say “I hate you.” I don’t mean it, but I want you to feel sorry for what you have done to me.
  • Don’t take too much notice of my small ailments. I may learn to enjoy poor health if it gets me much attention.
  • Don’t nag. If you do, I shall have to protect myself by appearing deaf.
  • Don’t forget that I cannot explain myself as well as I should like. This is why I’m not always very accurate.
  • Don’t make promises you may not be able to keep. Remember that I feel badly let down when promises are broken and this will discourage my trust in you.
  • Don’t tax my honesty too much. I am easily frightened into telling lies.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. That completely confuses me, makes me not listen, and teaches me to manipulate you.
  • Don’t tell me my fears are silly. They are terribly real and you can do much to reassure me if you try to understand and accept my feelings.
  • Don’t use force with me. It teaches me to be aggressive, hostile, and that power is all that counts.
  • Don’t fall for my provocations when I say and do things just to upset you. Then I’ll try for more such victories.
  • Don’t do things for me that I can do for myself. It makes me dependent, feel like a baby, and I may continue to put you in my service.
  • Don’t let my bad habits get me a lot of attention. It only encourages me to continue them.
  • Don’t try to discuss my behavior in the heat of conflict. For some reason my hearing is not very good at this time and my cooperation is even worse. It is all right to take the action required, but let’s not talk about it until later.
  • Don’t answer silly or meaningless questions. I just want to keep you busy with me.
  • Don’t let my fears arouse your anxiety. Then I will become more afraid. Show me courage.
  • Don’t pay more attention to my mistakes, failures, and misbehaviors than to my successes, accomplishments, and good behaviors. I need lots of understanding, encouragement, and positive attention. I cannot pat myself on the back and rely heavily upon you to do so.

Source: HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR CHILDREN: A Guide For Parents Using A Positive Approach To Child Behavior.

By Don H. Fontenelle, Ph.D.

For information on this and other books by Dr. Fontenelle (Changing Student Behaviors, The Parent’s Guide to Solving School Problems, Are you Listening?/Attention Deficit Disorders, Purrfect Parenting, and How to be a Good Parent), contact him at 504-834-6411, 517 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, LA 70001.

I’m guest posting today at The Everyday Warrior

Surviving a Deployment

{ The public sees the beginning and the end.

At the beginning, the TV cameras are scattered among teary families.  Husbands patting pregnant bellies and wives clinging to the necks of their mates.  Nervous mothers and fathers proudly holding posters of their sons and daughters in uniform.  Marching bands and dignitaries are there to send the unit off with a patriotic bang.  For the families, there is a conflicting swell of pride, fear, and apprehension.  For the soldier, there’s a clash of duty, responsibility and anxiety…   }

© The Lucky Mom

To read the post in its entirety, hop on over to TheEverydayWarrior.com.

http://theeverydaywarrior.com/2011/11/26/soldier-story-saturday-surviving-a-deployment/

My Happy Place

There is a stillness and calm in my house right now that I don’t get to enjoy very often.

Slick and Mr. Wonderful have already departed for school and work, and The Caboose is still snoozing on the couch.  He’s off this week for Thanksgiving break, so last night he enjoyed one of his favorite indulgences: sleeping on the couch downstairs with the dog.  I sit here in my chair watching him sleep, with his best friend Perro snuggled beside him.  The tapping sound of the keyboard is the only thing breaking the silence.

In a home with three boys and a dog, stillness is an elusive condition.  Our normal state is kinetic, even frenetic.  We never stop.

To get away from our usual hustle, we often vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, in a cabin tucked high in the mountains.  I’m the lone early bird in the group, and I make it my daily habit to awaken before everyone else to take advantage of the stillness and quiet.  It charges my batteries.  It fuels my soul.  It gives me a place to retreat to (if only in my mind) when the chaos of life overwhelms.

I keep a photo of this Happy Place in my kitchen.  And even though my view right now is of a treehouse instead of these magnificent mountains, my batteries are charging in this stillness of my home.

The Lucky Mom's Happy Place. - Highland Lake, NC

Chasing squirrels — or How I Learned Persistence from my Dog.

Every day my dog wakes up with a mission: to catch a squirrel.

Day after day, he sits at the back window watching them.  They dart around the yard, up the trunk of the big oak tree, into the treehouse.  They leap from rooftop to treetop to trampoline like little stunt men practicing parkour moves for an action film.  Their newest habit is to jump on – and swing from – the climbing rope in the oak tree.

And all this drives my dog crazy.

"I know you're up there, squirrel. Just wait til next time."

He scratches at the window pane, whimpers at the back door, and begs to be let out.  Because he wants to catch that squirrel.

This drill has gone on for years, ever since the oak tree matured enough to make acorns.  The squirrels, with their sharp senses, are alerted to his presence immediately.  They know just how high to ascend to be out of his reach, and from that height they usually sit and taunt him.

But he chases them anyway.  Every day.

I’ll never know if he doesn’t realize that he can’t outrun a squirrel, or if he’s forgotten that this effort has been a failure every other day he’s tried it.  Or if it matters.

What I do know is that every day he believes that today will be the day.  Every time I open that door he bolts into the yard with a conviction that can only come from knowing his mission will be successful.  Every day.

I want to face my days with conviction like that.  I want to wake up every day thinking – no, believing – that today is the day I’m going to get it all done.

  • Today is the day I’m going to wake up early enough have uniforms laid out and breakfast on the table when the boys come downstairs.
  • Today I’m going to fold all the baskets of laundry in my bedroom.
  • Today I’m going to give my work my undivided attention.
  • Today all the emails will get replies, the pile of papers on the kitchen counter will get sorted, and the bags of old clothes brought to Goodwill.
  • Today I’m going to have a snack and drink in the car when I pick the kids up, and I won’t get on Facebook until all the homework’s done.
  • Today I’ll cook a healthy dinner, and won’t start doing the dishes until everyone’s finished.
  • Today the evening will be pleasant, there will be no yelling about showers, and all school bags will be packed the night before and waiting at that back door.

Unphased after the chase.

And when it doesn’t turn out the way I expect, I want to keep my cool like Perro* does, and wait for the next day, when I get another chance to get it right.  I want to wake up eager to catch that squirrel.

Inspiration is everywhere.  You just have to be open to recognizing it when you see it.

*Yes, my dog’s name is Perro (Spanish for “dog.”  My kids thought that was clever.)

Advice from the rear-view mirror

Every day I hear young moms beating themselves up because they have a hard time living up to expectations – both their own and those of others.  I want so badly to hug every one of them, and assure them that it’s going to be alright, that they’re going through the hardest part of motherhood, and that this, too, will pass.

I refrain from offering too much advice in person (usually out of fear of being hit with a sippy cup), but since that part of my life is behind me and I now have the clarity of hindsight, I want to share some hard-earned wisdom with all of you “younger versions” of me.

1.  Cut yourself some slack.  We all yell.  Our houses aren’t as clean as we’d like them to be.  We occasionally send our kids to bed without a bath . The list goes on.  You don’t have to be a perfect mom to raise good kids.  Last week I posted a photo on Facebook about positive parenting, and I was surprised at some of the reactions.  A few readers interpreted it to mean we have to do awesome things every minute of the day.  But that’s not the reality of parenting – every day is not a good day, full of rainbows and glitter.  Try to find moments of joy amid the chaos, but don’t expect to be able to maintain storybook standards all the time.  Work hard for your kids, but don’t expect Utopia.  It doesn’t exist.

2.  Your kids aren’t perfect.  They don’t always clean their rooms when you ask.  They tell lies to get out of trouble.  They hit each other.  Expect them to test their boundaries, because that’s part of growing up.  It isn’t a failure on your part.  It means they’re normal.

3.  Teach them right from wrong.  In our culture of acceptance and political correctness, we’ve gotten away from using terms like right and wrong. But we need to bring them back.  Children need to know that everything is not OK.

4.  Explain why.  I’m not a big fan of the phrase “because I said so.”  While its use is sometimes necessary, it shouldn’t be a standard response.  Take the time to explain the “why.”  You have to teach them the reason behind decisions, because someday they’ll be making them on their own.

5.  Let them fail.  We knew a family from school whose son was “over-praised.”  His baseball skills were fussed over like he was A-Rod, and if he made a bad grade, his mother would march in and demand that the teacher let him re-take the test.  The Trailblazer once said about his friend, “One day he’s going to realize that he’s not the best at everything. And he’s going to freak out.”  The best character-building lessons in life are learned through failure.

6.  Look forward, not back.  When mistakes are made (by you and them), don’t dwell on it.  Extract the lesson, throw out the pain, and move forward.  Nothing is gained by rehashing the sins of the past once the lesson has been learned.  This becomes more important in the teenage years than you can ever imagine.

7. Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep.  Eat right.   Exercise.  As we all know from airplane safety drills, our own oxygen masks must be fastened securely before we can help them.   But be realistic about it.  (See item #1.)  It’s easy for that to become another place where feel inadequate.

One day, you’ll wake up and your baby will be 11 years old.  You’ll be able to actually enjoy quiet, instead of fearing it.  You’ll be able to go to the grocery store alone.  You’ll know that all the very hard work you put in while they were little is paying off.

When that day comes, go find a young mommy and give her a hug, and tell her everything’s gonna be alright.

Blazing a New Trail… or How I got philosophical over my son quitting the lacrosse team

Slick dropped a bombshell on me the other day: he doesn’t want to play lacrosse this year.

Waiting for the shot.

He had a list of very good reasons for his decision; all driven by his desire to make good grades and have choices when he has to pick a college next year.  And while I was really proud of him for having such clarity and perspective at 16-years old, I was very disappointed.  For me.

Lacrosse has been our family’s social hub for a long time now. The Trailblazer started playing at age 10, then Slick joined in middle school, and we’ve had at least one kid playing every season for the last 9 years.  These families have become some of our closest friends.  We travel with them, cheer during games with them, and collectively hold our breath when our boys take a knee for an injured teammate.

How can I NOT be a part of it?

How could he ask me to break up with MY friends.

And what would I do with myself every weekend from January to April???

I paused for a moment, and then (of course) gave him the supportive answer he was looking for.  I told him I was very proud of him for having the courage to realize he was ready for a change, and to chart a new course for himself.  I told him redirecting one’s future is a skill many adults don’t have, because they fear change more than they fear continuing down the wrong path.  I hugged him and sent him off.

Then I went in the back yard and tried not to cry.

He's so adorable. Don't tell him I said that.

Because when you leave a circle of friends, they move on without you.  I know I’ll still see them, but when they start sharing the funny story about what happened at the tournament in Mississippi, I won’t be a part of it.  And because my feelings are so damn sensitive, I’ll pull away to avoid feeling left out.  And I’ll miss my friends.

I’m so proud of Slick.  He amazes me with his maturity and vision.  I had neither at 16.  (Or 26 for that matter.)  And I know that he is on a path that will lead him to great places, so if studying harder is the ticket there, then I’m on board with that.

I wonder if the Mathletes have a parents’ club?