Friday, August 31, 2012

What My Son Taught Me

Today I'm using a writing prompt from Mama Kat's Writing Workshop, #1) Share something your child taught YOU about parenting. Any parent knows that there are a million moments in a childhood when you learn from watching your own children. It's how we tweak our parenting styles to suit our own families. My own most recent experience came just the other day.

K-boy joined the Civil Air Patrol a few months back. It's an Air Force auxiliary with a cadet program for teens. The goals set forth in the manual are worthy and impressive, emphasizing personal pride and responsibility to the community and nation. The cadets wear Air Force uniforms and are drilled in real military procedures. Playtime it is not.

I'm actually the one who discovered the program. BadDad and I had never heard of it before. We decided to leave it in K-boy's hands as to whether he wanted to join. We explained that advancement requires real work and commitment. Cadets must pass rigorous physical and academic tests, and interviews in order to move up in the ranks. We'd be willing to support him (and drive him to meetings) but he would have take the weight of responsibility for preparing for it onto his own shoulders.

As homeschooling parents, we're quite used to having to push our children to complete tasks that they dislike. From math problems to household chores, we're often there with reminders to get the job done. We didn't want to have to push him through this activity.

Twelve year old K-boy made an informed decision to join CAP. My hubby drove him to meetings and took him for haircuts. I hemmed uniform pants, and sewed on badges. I swallowed the lump in my throat that the sight of my tall, adolescent son in a uniform caused, and looked for more ways to help. We both made sure that he had time in his days to study his manuals and quizzed him to test his knowledge. I laundered uniforms, ironed shirts and adjusted pins. We acted like parents.

The other day K-boy hit a glitch. The test that he was taking online froze up and wouldn't let him proceed. My invaluable advice to shut down and then log on again led to a message that he would have to get permission from his captain before attempting the test again. Gulp.

The afternoon before his meeting, I urged him to study some more, in case he had to take the test during the meeting. I wanted to quiz him, but he wouldn't let me. I waited to be pressed into last minute ironing duties, or to be asked to help him with something. The only thing he asked of me was to help him fold up the ironing board again, after he ironed his own shirt.

As he was going out the door in his blues, looking so much like a young adult that my heart squeezed in my chest, I said to him, I just feel like you're forgetting something. You didn't ask me to help you get ready at all.

I hugged him, not ready to let him go yet.

He leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. Mom, I'm fine, he said, I've got everything I need.

Then he strode out to the car, walking tall the way he does in his uniform.

Hours later, BadDad and K-boy returned home. Anxiously, I asked if he'd taken the test. He nodded, as he wolfed down a sandwich, a hint a of smile on his face. My hubby directed my attention to our son's chest. There was a bar, and new pins. K-boy had taken not one, but three tests that evening, gone through an interview, and been promoted. All without us there.

His eyes were shining with pride. He had done this. He earned his promotion. Yes, we supported him in our roles as parents, but in the end he walked into the meeting alone and confidently displayed his knowledge. His officers saw him not as our child, but as a cadet worthy of promotion.

That's the latest lesson I've learned as a mother. Whether I'm ready or not, the time will come to let go. K-boy, and someday his younger siblings, will walk out into the world, and face life on their own. I won't be able to pave the way for them. My son showed me that when that time comes for him, he will take on the demands of the world and do more than just meet them. He will achieve.

linking to: Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, Pour Your Heart Out, Proud Mommy Moments

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Love a Rainy Day

The thing with the warmer months is that sometimes there are those stretches of beautiful weather. For days or weeks on end it seems a shame to stay indoors and waste the sunshine. I apply copious amounts of sunscreen to my fair skinned children and our front door might as well be revolving, given the constant appearances of neighborhood kids. I hand out ice pops and bandages, find beach towels and bug spray, and do my best to keep track of what child is where at any given time.It's chaos around here, happy, joyous chaos. Sometimes though, I long for some rain.

I'm not talking about a flood or anything, just a good rainy day - an excuse to stay inside for a change (and for the neighborhood kids to keep to their own homes as well). I crave a good, soaking summer rain, that leaves the world refreshed and new, with a touch of coolness to the air, even if it lasts just a little while.

A rainy day when no errands really need to be run, is a perfect time to stay home and bake cookies, or play a board game. It's a time to cuddle up with my kids on the couch and read until my throat is dry. It's a chance to just talk and really, really listen.

If the lights go out, not for too long just for a bit, we dig out the flashlights and sit in the sunroom, watching the storm crash down gloriously on the skylights. Inside, we feel snug and safe. We laugh that it's like camping inside, and it's delicious because it's so different.

For a while, maybe a day or even two, the rain can make us feel isolated but not lonely. We're like a little island of warmth amidst the chilly drops.

Soon the rain will stop, and then the world will come back in as my children run out to meet it. But for a time I've had them here, just us, content together. And my heart is full of joy.

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Monday, August 27, 2012

That Kind of Day

Today was that kind of day for me. You all know the kind that I'm talking about. I woke up this morning too early, but the sun was shining and I couldn't fall back asleep so I got out of bed.

I packed up my hubby's lunch and waited to say goodbye for the day. On his way out the door, he somehow misunderstood my statement that women tend to be better judges of other women's characters than men. Hello! They are! That exchange left me exasperated and with the start of a headache.

I planned out my day. Lots of housework, including getting the schoolroom reorganized so that we're ready to officially begin the new school year next week, and joy of all joys, cleaning cat boxes. First I decided to start some bread in the bread machine and throw in some laundry.

By the time I was done with those tasks, D-boy was awake. After he gulped down his breakfast he started pleading for me to take him in the pool. The weather forecast had called for rain and cooler temperatures by afternoon. I looked at his hopeful, little face and agreed to a quick swim.

We hurried out to the pool, tiptoeing our way through the still dewy grass. The water was...brisk. I started doing laps to warm myself up. M-girl soon joined us. In between playing with the kids, which mostly entails throwing them into the water, swimming underwater with them, or pushing them around on pool floats, I did lots of laps. This is good. I told myself, I don't know why I don't exercise in the morning more often!

Finally, after a couple of hours in the pool, the kids were ready to go back inside. There I discovered that K-boy, in an effort to be helpful, had unplugged the bread machine when it started beeping. I plugged it back in and went downstairs to check on the laundry. Apparently my almost teenager was feeling super helpful today because he'd also picked one pair of his shorts out of the clean, wet laundry in the washer and thrown it into the dryer. The only problem was that there was already dry laundry in the dryer (which he'd failed to remove first). He put his shorts on tumble. Sigh!

By then it was lunchtime. I asked everyone what they wanted to eat. My trio of TV zombies didn't respond so I fixed myself a plate of leftovers. No sooner had I sat down to enjoy my repast, than they were in the kitchen with their lunch requests. I gulped more coffee as I fixed food, because suddenly I remembered why I don't work out in the morning more often. It leaves me exhausted for the rest of the day!

Then BadDad called from work, laughing about our early morning disagreement, I was so right, and asking if I could look up our health plan benefits online for him. After an hour of tediously reading through the plan, I had no answer for him because it's never given in the information section. Grrr.

About that time, a big, creepy spider was spotted hanging out on my bedroom ceiling. I asked K-boy, who is now taller than me, to get it and be sure it was dead. He squirted it with a water gun of all things! Of course it fell down and escaped. Now it's probably lying in wait for me.

Eventually, I did get some of the housework done (including the dreaded cat boxes). I'm sitting in the schoolroom now, just looking at what I have to do here. I'm also thinking that nobody really knows that I'm up here, and for the first time all day it's quiet. I might just stay here for awhile. Because it's that kind of day.

linking to: Finding the Funny

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Camping

Mention camping in conversation and you'll find some strong reactions. People either love it or hate it. I didn't grow up camping, but I happen to love it. Maybe it's the time away with my family, maybe it's getting away from it all, or maybe it's because I'm a true introvert at heart. Whatever it is, to me there's nothing like a camping trip for r&r. Even so, I admit that there can be some drawbacks to long stays in the great outdoors, especially with kids along.

Things I Dislike About Camping:

- Bugs. They're not my favorite, but you deal with them. Lucky for me I have two boy children who don't mind taking on freelance extermination jobs.

- Snakes. I've never actually seen one while camping, or hiking. I've heard of other people who've seen them, and so I'm ever leery of running into one.

- Other wildlife. Honestly, after living in bear territory for seven years, I don't scare easily anymore when it comes to wild critters. Live and let live, and put your food away at night.

- Showers. I don't like campground showers (particularly when they're cold). It's better than not having them though.

- Laundry. That's the worst thing on my list. At the end of every camping trip, I'm left with a massive pile of laundry that takes me a week to get through. Everything that we take camping ends of reeking of campfire smoke.

Things I Like About Camping:

- Fresh Air. We've got a big yard and lots of trees at home, but there's nothing like actually being out in the woods.

- Relaxation. Camp attire is quite casual. No one is worried about impressing others with the latest fashions. People walk around sporting baseball caps, sweatshirts and ponytails. I think it's good for my children to see that it's possible to have tons of fun, and not take hours primping for it.

- Lakes. I wish that I lived near a lake. Camping near one is the next best thing. Just the sight of the water calms me.

- Family time. I love having my kids away from all of the usual distractions like TV, computer, phone, neighbor kids. I get to spend real quality time with them.

- Work. Yes, I like the work that's involved with camping (at least to a certain degree). The kids are learning practical skills from my hubby and I: how to set up and break down a tent, how to safely build a fire, how to find your way in the woods, cook outdoors, etc. Each time they help with a task, I see their confidence grow.

- Stories. Every camping trip, there's at least one night where the kids absolutely insist on stories (the scarier the better). It's developed into a tradition for us, and the most wonderful part is that now the kids each come prepared to tell their own stories too.

- Play. Hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, exploring. With no TV at hand, we have to come up with ways to entertain ourselves. Somehow it's never a problem at all.

- Nature. There's something amazing about watching my kids absorb the beauty of the outdoors. They see everything, from the smallest flower, to the tallest tree. Even birds and insects are more interesting out in the woods.

- Campfires. They might be the cause of a lot of laundry for me, but there's something so primitive and earthy about a campfire.

- Food. Everything tastes better outdoors. Then there's the just for camping treats like, smores, campfire pies, and our new favorite, lemonade in a bag.

-Simplicity. When we're camping, and we're together as a family, it's easy to organize our priorities. We're all safe and well, everything else is just incidental.

- Memories. Even though BadDad and I are exhausted at the end of every camping trip, the kids are sure to ask when we're going again. They talk fondly about parks we haven't visited in years. These are going to be some of the fondest memories of their childhoods. And that, to me, is priceless.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Blogging and Cooking Don't Mix

Yesterday, when D-boy and I were at the grocery store he spotted frozen, waffle cut, sweet potato fries. His eyes lit up. He absolutely loves sweet potatoes.

The ultimate french fry, he murmured reverently.

Of course I had to buy them for him.

So last night while BadDad grilled burgers on the patio, I popped the fries in the oven, made a salad, and decided to blog. There was just one problem with my plan...

I forgot to set the timer and quickly lost myself in the blogosphere.

My hubby came in, saw the potato carnage and declared, D-boy's going to freak out.

Luckily, our little guy is the forgiving sort. Undaunted by the sheer horror of the situation, he noticed that even the blackened fries still had some good parts. He set about pulling the burned bits off and dinner was saved. Crisis averted.

Still, I'll be leery evermore of blogging while cooking. They just don't mix.

Linking to:  Finding the Funny

Friday, August 17, 2012

Challenge Them to Learn

Last week M-girl had a substitute ballet teacher. As I peered through the window in between chapters of the book I was reading, I noticed that the sub was doing things a bit differently than her regular teacher, but I really didn't think much of it at the time. Of course, I quit ballet at the ripe old age of three, so I'm not exactly an expert.

When class was over, I asked M-girl how it was having a sub. She looked up from changing into her street shoes, and replied in a subdued tone, It was fine.

No sooner had we shut ourselves into our car than her real feelings emerged.

Mom, it was horrible! she said. She didn't teach us anything. She seemed like a very nice person, but she was too nice to be a teacher. She wouldn't correct us at all!

As both a mom, and a homeschool teacher I was surprised and pleased by this outburst from my 8 year old daughter. Further discussion revealed that M-girl, suspicious that the sub was overly praising the students, began to purposely do the dance steps wrong - and was never corrected.

Contrary to what some adults might think, she wasn't relieved at the lack of pressure...she was outraged. I think she really felt insulted that the sub was underestimating her abilities, and liberally handing out worthless praise.

I couldn't resist jumping on the opportunity to point out that my hubby and I demand their best from her and her siblings, because to do less would indeed be cheating them of the opportunity to find out what they are capable of. She agreed, in her worked up, angry state of mind.

I'm not kidding myself. I know that there will be plenty of battles ahead with my children. My hubby and I will have to be tough sometimes, and push them to meet marks that they see no need of reaching. We'll do it because we love them, and we want them to reach their individual potentials.

It was really nice to have my daughter express so clearly her desire to learn and to be challenged to do better. It can be easy for parents fail their kids with the best of intentions. It's natural to want to shelter our children from the setbacks that true challenges entail. It's becoming all to common these days to hand out trophies and prizes to children just for participating, instead of allowing them to experience the sense of achievement that only hard work and practice can bring. Empty praises mean nothing, and kids are smart enough to pick up on that. Rewards that come too easily don't feel truly earned.

So thank you substitute ballet teacher. You are a nice lady, and I owe you one. I just won't be putting my daughter in your class again. She is a girl who wants to learn.

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Recipe For Love

Once upon a time when BadDad and I were even younger than we are now, we first met each other. By a fortuitous coincidence, we had both gotten jobs at the same company and that company transferred the two of us, and one other new hire, to the same city.

There we found ourselves, new to town, new to our jobs, and far away from our homes. Naturally the three of us spent lots of time together, exploring our new environment, and we all became fast friends. Somewhere along the way, BadDad and I realized separately that our feelings for each other were developing into something more than friendship.

One spring day I decided to bake a cake and invite BadDad and his roommate over to share it with me. I baked a banana cake from a mix and frosted it with canned frosting. My culinary standards have come a long way since then.

It turned out that only BadDad was able to come over. He was properly awed by my cooking skills, I'm sure. I believe it was as we conversed over cake and coffee, that he first began to fall deeply in love with me, and I with him.

Months later, BadDad (by then my boyfriend) invited me over to his apartment, where he promised to cook dinner for me. I watched in horror fascination as he proceeded to heat pasta, dump it on a plate, and pour cold, jarred sauce on the top. His technique, he told me, had been learned in college from a fraternity brother. The theory was that the hot pasta would heat the cold sauce with no need for a second pan.

Right then and there I realized that I would have to handle most of the cooking. So I quickly became much better at it. He's quite good at the eating part. In retrospect, I think that's the way he planned it.

We were married a mere 14 months after we started dating and we've never looked back. We just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary, and I can honestly say that they've been the best years of my life. Life has handed us great sorrows and abundant joy, and we've faced it all together.

When my children grow older and ask me how to know when you've found the one I will tell them about our recipe for love. When you find someone that will eat your sub-par cooking and still look at you with love in their eyes, telling you that it's's a good sign.

In the interests of complete disclosure, my hubby says this topic is far too corny for anyone to enjoy reading about. He doesn't enjoy chick flicks either, so I can't trust his opinion too much about this. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Driven to Extremes

Recently the kids were invited to a birthday party with a drive in movie theme. The hosts were going to set up a big screen in their back yard and all of the party goers were told to come equipped with cardboard box 'cars' that they made. 12 year old K-boy eschewed this invitation in favor of staying home with BadDad to watch scary movies, but M-girl and D-boy were enchanted with the idea and couldn't wait to get started on their cars.

Actually they didn't wait. No sooner had my hubby scrounged up a couple of empty cartons, then they set to work, visions of a pink convertible and an aquamarine big rig dancing in their heads. After much cutting of cardboard and usage of specially purchased duct tape, this is what their cars looked like.

Not quite party ready. I moaned and put it on my mental to do list. There it stayed until the day before the party.

By then I had two kids anxious that they wouldn't have functional cars for the party, and a colossal dread of the messy project ahead. Finally, I gathered new boxes and headed for the basement for some peace while I thought of how to assemble their dream cars. At times it would be simpler to have less creative children.

After much pondering, and more delaying, I realized that colored wrapping paper was the solution to all of our construction problems. A quick 4pm trip to Target, and we were ready to go with both hot pink and aquamarine paper. The kids were right there helping me, so hours later...we still weren't done and I sent everyone to bed.

The next morning (party day) I woke up bright, refreshed and panicked. We set to work like machines, cranking out tail fins, windshields, headlights and real working hoods. Finally, an hour or so before party time we were done and the cars were pretty darn amazing considering they were entirely made of cardboard, paper and tape. When I saw the grins on M-girl's and D-boy's faces, I was puffed up with super mom pride.

On the way out to the party M-girl piped up and said, Mom do you think Mrs. K. really meant for it to be so much work?

Oh, I'm sure everyone had a good time making their cars. This kind of work is fun! I replied.

Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the party only to discover that most of the other 'cars' were quite a bit simpler than ours. For starters they were still their original cardboard color, and didn't have the same degree of ornamentation as ours. Not a tail fin or whitewall tire in sight. The party goers, happy to be given licence to pretend, swarmed around, admiring all of the cars, and having the kind of carefree fun that children can have on a warm summer night.

Sigh! My hubby says I get a tad obsessed with perfection sometimes. Maybe this was one of those times? Perhaps I could have but the brakes on the crafting monster just a bit?

Still it was all worth it when D-boy, grin still firmly in place, asked on the way home from the party,

Mom, can I keep my truck forever?

Sure you can, Sweetheart. Sure you can.

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Thursday, August 2, 2012

When Six Year Olds Make Lunch

D-boy, my youngest is a six year old that loves to do things. If he sees something broken, he will try to figure out how to fix it. As often as not, when I'm in the kitchen he's right there helping me. He really is a help too, running to fetch ingredients almost before I need them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that he's a very capable child.

But...he also likes candy.

When I noticed at lunchtime the other day that he had already fixed himself a sandwich, I wasn't surprised. He does things like that. Then I took another look at his lunch choice.

Yes those are chocolate and butterscotch chips on there. At least it's on whole wheat bread!

linking to:  Finding the Funny