Feb 26, 2013

Breathe in Breathe out. Repeat.

Last night I received a call from the school district with "an important message from the principal".  Turns out the toilets at the school had some issues and only half of the bathrooms were available for use yesterday afternoon.  No worries though, the toilets have been fixed and all is well for Tuesday.
Whew.  Close call.  I am so glad the school sees the importance in letting me know how many toilets are working at school.
Today, Gabriel came home and told me that the principal came to his class and told the kids that his teacher's baby died and his teacher will not be back for a long time.
Wait, I'm so confused.
The school has an automated calling system to tell me about PTA meetings, Yearbook Sales, Fire Drills, peanut allergies and broken toilets, but they can't use the same system to tell me that they plan to tell my child that his teacher will be out for "a long time" due to the death of her baby?
This was the exact reason why I pulled Gabriel out of school the other day and broke the news to him myself.  Because I feared that the school would handle this poorly.
When the similar situation occurred last year, our school guidance counselor or the school psychologist called each parent and let them know what happened and that they would be talking to students at school the following day.
So, I'm a wee bit disappointed today.
This is the second time in just a few months that the school has overstepped their bounds when it comes to handling tragedy.
Back in December as the eyes of the Nation were on Sandy Hook, I had 2 hours from the time I heard the story until the time I picked the kids up from school to decide how I wanted to talk to the kids about the shooting.
I picked up the boys and 3 minutes after they got in the car Eli said "did you know there was a man who came in to a school in Newtown and killed a whole bunch of people?".
How does a 5th grader with no access to TV, internet, newspapers or iPhone news updates get such information while at school?
It turns out his teacher felt the need to share some info with the students.
I was shocked back then but I overlooked what I saw as a misstep by the teacher and proceeded to talk to my kids about the situation.
Now, I find myself unable to keep quiet again.
I'm not suggesting that Sandy Hook or Mrs. M's loss would never be discussed at school, I just feel that it is the parents' role first to explain and console their children.
As I was ranting to my sister today, she shed a positive light on the whole situation  "I'm so very thankful that God already had Gabe in mind and that he was protected from this".
She is right.  I should be thankful for the provision God had for Gabriel and not so angry about the way the school handled the situation.
*Update* We did get a call tonight from the principal, a recorded message giving us the "this is what happened today" chat.  I'm just so baffled by the idea of tell kids first, parents later.
A letter will happen.  A nice one.  My child was not adversely affected by the way the school announced the loss, so I really shouldn't be mad at all.  I do however, want to do my part to prevent future incidences from going down this way.

Feb 21, 2013

Staring at a blank screen for the past ten minutes has not accomplished anything but sore eyes.
In the absence of knowing exactly how to begin this post, I shall start with this:

Psalm 139:13 "for you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb"

Regardless of what people believe about how the earth came to be, how humans made their entrance onto the scene, and at what moment a child is really a life, I argue that one thing must be accepted by everyone...the precision that is required for a sperm and egg to join together to produce a magnificent human is mind blowing.
Sperm meets egg despite the hurricane snow storm it has to get through to find the egg, then they attach to a life source, multiply a million times, and form all the different organs, limbs and features that has become accepted as normal in human beings.  
Cells multiply to become a child.  Still baffling.
Then baby grows and grows and travels through the most ridiculous transport method known to all man, and woman kind, in order to enter into this world.

It is often easy for me to take for granted that a couple that wants a baby will conceive, in a timely manner, and the baby will be born perfectly healthy. But it should not be taken for granted.

Today, I dropped the boys off at school and was met by T employee at the school who is the mother of Eli's friend and someone who I speak to often in passing.  She rushed out to the car and said she felt she needed to tell me news that Gabriel's teacher's baby died.  
T and I had talked before about how nervous I was that Gabriel's teacher was pregnant.  Not only is it frustrating for Gabriel to have frequent substitutes when the teacher is sick or has doctor appointment, I have a fear of the baby's death.  T remembered the conversation we had about last year's experience with a pregnant teacher and she felt compelled to talk to me.  I broke down in tears and asked her to please bring me Gabriel.
Last year Gabriel's teacher, Mrs. G, delivered her baby 10 weeks early and the baby died shortly after birth.  Mrs. G never returned to school and the loss of his teacher and her baby was very difficult for Gabriel.  He loves her and still talks about Mrs. G often and talks about how sad he is that her baby died.  He often prays for her, that she will have joy.
When his teacher this year announced she was pregnant, my heart sank.  No!  We love her and don't want her to go out on maternity leave!  I found myself praying for her health and the baby's health regularly!  As I got to know her more, we have talked about the baby a lot, she shows me ultrasound pictures and we have also spoken about the scary things in pregnancy.  She told me that Gabriel told her about Mrs. G's baby.  I apologized and explained that it weighed heavily on him because he loved Mrs. G so much.
Upon hearing the news today my heart first broke for Mrs. M and then for my sweet Gabriel.  How is it even possible to have your teacher's baby die two years in a row?
Once Gabriel was in the car I told him we were going home for a bit. He said "mom...I sure hope I am back in time for the announcement!"  I asked "what announcement?" Yesterday, Mrs. M went to the doctor with plans to find out the sex of the baby and today was the day they would all find out if she was having a girl or a boy.
At home I broke the news to Gabriel and his little heart was so crushed.  He curled up in my lap and just cried and held me tight.  
I received a call from T.  The administration is not so happy that she told me, apparently they are not notifying the students and parents yet.  I started to question whether I should have brought G home and told him or just waited until the school handled things there.  At the moment that I brought him home, I just knew that he was going to be crushed and I didn't want that kind of news and emotion to come out at school.  I'm glad T told me, I'm glad I was able to have G at home this morning and now I am just praying that T won't have any punishment at school and that G will be silent on the issue with his friends.
But above all, I pray for a woman and a man, a big sister and brother, a family and friends who have had their heart broken over the loss of this precious miracle that didn't quite make it into this world.  I pray that she will one day have joy returned and that God's love and comfort would be ever present.

**Update.  Turns out no, Gabriel could not be silent on the issue.  He told one little friend in class...the school hasn't said a word yet, holding out some hope that the two of these kids can be quiet about it until the rest can be told responsibly **

Feb 18, 2013

Those Kids....

they say the most off the wall things.

Last week Eli was reprimanded for using God's name in vain.  The kids rarely do, but when they let an "oh my God" slip, we usually just talk to them about it.  Last week, Eli not only used the Lord's name out of anger, he turned it into a full on tantrum curse word.
Matt felt it required more than a verbal chit chat so he assigned Eli the task of writing a letter to God, apologizing  for using his name inappropriately.
Eli wrote the letter as required.  He copied the scripture commanding us not to use God's name so disrespectfully and then apologized to God.  At the bottom of the letter he signed it

"Your Creation, Eli"

I have no idea why he opted for this closing as opposed to "love, Eli" or "deepest regrets, Eli".  I found it interesting because it is a reminder to me, and perhaps to himself, that he is who he is because that is how God created him.  No, God didn't create him to yell God's name in a fit because I wouldn't let him play the Wii, but God did create him to be the fun loving, bossy, concerned, loving boy that he is.

Eli likes to please people, he likes to lead, he likes to know every last detail of the plans, he finds comfort in knowledge and concrete information, he loves to teach little kids, he loves family and games and he loves to be outside and running wild with friends.

There are aspects of his personality that drive me crazy right now, because he is not yet mature enough to handle them properly.  There are things that he does that makes me cringe. Rather than try and change who he is, it is my job to teach him how to best use his personality traits, to sit back and watch him grow into the young man that God desires him to be, and pray for this child who is in fact God's magnificent creation.

Feb 14, 2013

Chaos of Morning

Why why why can't the boys and I pull off an easy out the door morning?
Is it me?
Am I allowing enough time to get them ready?  Am I spending too much time getting myself ready and relying on them to do to much on their own?  Are they getting enough sleep?  Are they confused about what is required of them?
I don't know.
What I do know is that I feel that I have tried everything, every last thing.  And yet we still have chaotic mornings that often include a fit, tears, and someone raising her their voice.
Examples of what we have tried:
Today: I didn't even shower, get dressed or brush my teeth.  I got up promptly at 7am and stood in the hall until 7:35 herding the cats boys.  As I folded laundry in the hall I checked in on them every 10 seconds "did you change your underwear?  "do you have on clean socks?" "get dressed Gabe" "happy valentine's day" "let's make it a great day" did you brush your teeth?" "lets get moving".
Everyone was on track.  Then an argument erupts accusing one of not brushing his teeth and there goes the morning.
Yesterday: I got up, woke the boys up, and then headed back to my room to get ready.  I come out.  One is dressed, one is not, one is spraying the mirror with the water bottle I bought to tame their hair and there goes the morning.
Day before:  I get up, wake up the boys, and find oh they are already up.  Uh oh Eli has his iPod, now I have to take it way.  He'll "never ever ever in the whole wide world ever get it back" and there goes the morning.
In other days: fights over who gets to read the devotional or pour their cereal first, burning toast, bumping with a backpack which results in breaking the closet door.  Throwing balls in the house, not tying shoes, he looked at me weird, none of your business, that's mine......
We established morning rules:
1. no playing anything until fully dressed and ready for school
2. one at a time in the bathroom
3. no talking to each other at all until you get downstairs
4. nevermind #3, no talking to each other at all until you get in the car.
5. scratch #4, no talking to each other until you get home from school.
6. E gets to sit by the power door on the way to school G on the way home.
7. No looking at each other.

The boys honestly get along really well almost all of the time, with the exception of school mornings in which case they get along about 1% of the time.
Not only does this drive me crazy, but it really kicks the day off bad for everyone!  Sometimes this bleeds over into a bad day for G at school.

So we have a friend coming to stay with us for 6 weeks.  Yep.  You read that correctly SIX WEEKS.  Matt and I were talking about the logistics of the stay and Matt said "you know the only reason why I wouldn't want him to stay here is because of the mornings".
Now, that is pretty bad when you are not sure if you can open your home to a friend because of the disaster that your mornings are.

Oh dear Lord help us with our mornings!

Feb 10, 2013

Magical Three Miles

We live 1.5 miles from a donut shop called Heavenly Donuts.  And they are heavenly. So heavenly that we have incorporated a stop at Heavenly on our way to church every Sunday.  Only on Sundays though!  The donuts are a reward for getting up and ready on time on a Sunday morning.  I admit it, we totally bribe the kids with the donut.  IF they are ready by a certain time AND I have not yelled at them to get ready by the predetermined time, then they get a donut.  Perfect plan.
Except....I've been working out 3 to 4 days a week for the past few weeks and trying hard to watch what I'm eating.  No specific diet, but just being diligent about avoiding all sorts of junky foods.  But only the strongest person can resist a Heavenly Donut, and I'm not that person.
What to do?  Run three magical miles.  Why are they magic?  Because they burn off that donut that I just ate!
I have no training or official knowledge in nutrition or dieting but I do know this: my old fashioned glazed donut, a cinnamon crunch bagel, a few cookies, a cup of frozen yogurt with a few toppings, each can be erased by simply running 3 miles.  Now, it isn't like "sins are forgiven" kind of erased.  Yes, I ate all that sugar and my body has to deal with it, but I'm just saying
300 calories consumed - 300 calories burned = I don't feel guilty about my little fried piece of Heaven!

I might venture to claim that my donut actually helped me run faster.  I know it is a stretch and I haven't replicated this experiment yet, so I can't claim it as fact but, today after eating my donut and going to church, I came home laced up my shoes and ran my fastest 3.6 miles to date.  That's right.  Donut power!  My 5k was clocked (by my super cool pink GPS watch) at 29.03!!  But I wasn't home yet.. so I had to run a little further and brought in my 3.6 miles at 34:07.  Woohoo!

So eat your donut, go to church, go for a run, then take a nap!  Perfect Sunday...in my opinion!

Feb 8, 2013

Since you are here....

Somehow you happened upon this blog post on this day, at this time, whether intentionally or on accident.  Since you are here I'm going to take advantage of your arrival and ask for your prayers.

1. Gabriel is applying and testing to attend a Talented and Gifted program at a different school in our district.  Both his teacher and I feel he is a great candidate for the program.  We are starting the application process now, Gabriel will test in March, and we will know by April if he was selected.  This is a pretty big deal for him.  If he gets selected he will remain in the program (unless it turns out to be a poor fit) for the next 3 years.  The program is housed in a school that has excellent ratings both in test scores, programs offered and parent involvement.  While we have had a good experience at this school so far, but the fact is Gabriel is not being challenged here and hasn't been since he started Kindergarten, he doesn't like school and he really doesn't have any great friends.  We believe that being in a Talented and Gifted program will be a positive experience for him and hope that being surrounded by equally talented and gifted friends he will learn to love learning and find some good friends in the process.
So, we are praying that he will end up exactly where he needs to be either at his current school with 3 more years of excellent teachers or at the TAG school.

2. My husband is carrying a super heavy load.  He is currently balancing three college classes, one full time job, daddy duties including basketball games, baseball practice and random acts of nerf wars, and he is trying to squeeze me in when he can and occasionally make some time for himself.
Work has been really stressful and he hasn't even started flying yet!  He is scheduled to start training on a new aircraft in a few weeks.  His boss is very dependent on him and prefers Matt to be around and involved in everything, even things that are not even his responsibility.  This is a compliment that the boss can count on Matt to get the job done well but it is taxing.
The good news is that, although his load is heavy, Matt has a really good attitude.  I'm quite impressed that he is doing all this juggling and he really is not cranky about it.  He told me the other day that it really feels good to be relied on so much, and know that he is doing a great job.  If only this pesky school thing were not also on his plate! He was a little overwhelmed with Calculus at the beginning of the quarter and I spent some time convincing him it would be OK to drop the class.  He refused, he is scheduled to graduate with his BS in Aeronautical Science in May and he is pushing through regardless of the work load!
I'm praying that he will continue to have the energy to balance the load and with a good attitude, that his officer rating will accurately reflect the hard work he is doing for his battalion, and that he will snatch that degree up in May as scheduled!

3. God had blessed us abundantly.  He has provided us with more than we could have dreamed of having, doing, and being.  I often hear friends' stories of going through year long deployments multiple times, as in 2-5 time, in the last decade.  My heart breaks for the years that those families were separated, and I'm so thankful that our family doesn't share that same history.  I know of people struggling financially, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Not that we don't have any of those issues, but I wouldn't say we are 'struggling' in any of those areas.  Loss, pain both physical and emotional, health issues... there is so much heart breaking trials so many people are facing and God has spared us.  All this to say, thank you God for your provision, for blessing us in ways we don't deserve and for having a plan for us that is far greater than we imagined.

Feb 6, 2013

Volunteer Update

This is the email sent to the people I listed as references for my volunteer application.

My name is xxxxx, and I am the Nursery Director at xxxxxxx in Olympia, Washington.

Clarissa is now living in this area, and has applied to be a Volunteer in our Children's
Department.   She gave you as one of her references.  I would very much apprciate
you taking the time to respond to some questions about her.  (See below.)

Thank you,

1.   How do you know Clarissa ?
2.   How long have you known  her ?
3.  How often do you have contact with her ?
4.   Does she get along well with others?   
5.   Is she respectful of those in leadership  ?  
6.   Have you seen her with  children ?
      If the answer is ‘yes’, what were the ages of the children?
      If the answer is 'yes', what have you seen?   (Kindness, patience, etc.)
7.  Would you trust her to care for your own children ?
8.   Is she reliable ? On time ? 
9.   Do you consider her to be a good candidate for working with children? 
10.  Are there any skills or abilities she has that you think would be helpful when working with 
      children?   (Example:  music, crafts, storytelling, etc.) 

I would like to share my favorite comments from the first two victims who had to fill this out for me:

I especially liked #9 (is she respectful of leadership?) Because if you've gone this far with their over-the-top expectations you're clearly on board with their expectations.

Holy smokes this church is serious.

For the last question I'd like to put "has mad karaoke skills"

She wrote the email in garamond font, I have a hard time taking her serious.

Going off your attitude I'm not sure I can comfortably answer questions 4 and 5.

Are you texting while driving? I'm going to have to report that in my referral letter. (I wasn't by the way)

I'm glad the referral form has provided my friends with entertainment.  I think they should choose not to fill it out and therefore deeming me unfit to volunteer. 

Clean = Peace

Yesterday Eli was sitting on the couch in the family room and said "mom, I love it when our house is clean.  It is so peaceful."

I couldn't believe my ears!  Yes!  This is what I have been saying for the past 16 years of marriage.  A clean house is a peaceful house.  You can easily find a place to sit, eat, read, watch TV, whatever, because the floor, furniture and tables are all free of clutter and dirt.

I was so pleased.  What a happy day!  He finally gets it!  Life is so much better when you can find your bed without having to throw stuff off of it and when you can walk across the floor without stepping on leggos, getting a playmobil helmet stuck between your toes, or tripping on laundry.

Oh wait . . . what is this on the floor?  Eli's pencils, wallet and dirty shoes.  That isn't peaceful at all!  What is happening?  I thought we came to an understanding.

I wrongfully assumed that because he wants the house clean and peaceful he was going to be an active participant in ensuring this status is attained.  
I think the message he was really sending was "it is sure nice when mom picks up after us".

Feb 5, 2013

Near Fail

I have an old window I intend to hang on my wall at come point.  I couldn't hang it in Germany because the window weighed more than the entire wall and the chances of the wall crumbling under the weight of the window was high, to say the least.
So here we are in a house with walls that come complete with studs and a handy hardware store just down the street with fancy hanging devices and yet I still haven't hung the window.
One reason why the window isn't hung yet is because I have not travelled to the hardware store to get the hanging thingies.
The other reason is that I want to darken it a bit.  I planned to stain it until I saw this fabulous idea on pinterest where you can use apple cider vinegar to make newer wood look old.  I like this idea.
Today was the day I was going to bust out with the project.
Apple cider vinegar?  Check
Window?  Check
Applicator?  Yep.  Well I think so.  The instructions said to use a brillo pad right?

No.  The instructions did not say use a brillo pad!
Thankfully, I decided to double check the instructions prior to soaking a brillo pad in vinegar and applying it to my irreplaceable  window I bought in Germany.

Steel wool.  That is what you are supposed to soak.  It is a little like a Brillo pad....minus the soap.

This is why I shouldn't even attempt pinterest projects.
If there were a such thing as a mommy report card my grade for crafting would be an F and I am quite confident the comments line would say  "failure to follow instructions".

Feb 4, 2013

Run Away

I won a free 30 day trial to a local gym that I hate.
I am so glad that there are a lot of old people working out at this gym.  I applaud them for maintaining some level of fitness as they wander into their later years, but I don't necessarily enjoy that there are so many of them!
Seriously 100 old people were on the ellipticals and treadmills today at the gym and I was so irritated.  Why?  Because there are only 100 ellipticals and treadmills.
So there I stood waiting patiently for one to open up while I watched 20 old guys plodding along in their street clothes - yes Izod button up shirts, jeans with a belt and Rockports - on the treadmill at a whopping 1.5 miles per hour.  One finally opened up and as I started to bolt toward it, grandma and her Reader's Digest cuts me off and takes over.
If you only want to walk at a pace of 1.5 miles per hour why not go to the mall? Do you need to take up a precious treadmill to walk at the pace equivalent to grocery shopping, perusing Costco, or moving from JC Penny to Macy's in the mall?  Come on people.
The other group of people that irritate me are the pretty ones who either expect results without working or don't care about results but it is cool to "work out".  If you are sitting on a recumbent bike while reading a book and texting, my guess is you will have to be there for 6.5 HOURS to burn off the smoothing you are sucking down.  I've read somewhere if you can sing, you are not moving fast enough.  I think that applies to texting too.  If you can text while running, cycling or ellipticalizing (?) you are not moving fast enough and therefore wasting space.  If you come in full make-up and you leave in full make-up without reapplying, you are not working hard enough. Get out of the gym and off of the treadmill!
In the end, after pouting for 10 minutes, I got my turn and jumped on a machine.  I ran 5 miles and looked like I was about to die.  If I had taken the time to apply make-up it would have either melted down onto my shirt or onto the treadmill itself I was sweating so bad.  I'm a face sweater.  Gross.  My face was so red when I left the gym, I honestly looked like I put my face under scalding hot water or the tanning bad for way too long.  I was gross, I smelled, I was sweaty and I was breathing rather heavy and probably loud but I knocked out 5 miles in just over 49 minutes.
My free trial ends in a week.  I have faithfully taken advantage of it, but will not even consider paying to join.
Thank goodness the groundhog predicts and early spring because at the end of this trial, these shoes are hitting the pavement!  I have 8 minutes to knock off my half-marathon time, I can't sit around waiting for treadmills to open up!

Feb 2, 2013

Car Chatter

It is amazing how many important questions are asked and answered in my mini-van.  And I don't even drive that much compared to most moms I know!

A few days ago Eli told me they were going to be having "the talk" in class this year.  
I said "what talk?" 
He said "you know puberty talk".
I fiercely interrogated him and determined that I had some time to deal with this issue.  I calmly said "no you won't be having "the talk" at school.  
The boys wanted to know why and I left it at "it is not the school's responsibility nor place to have "the talk" with you.  It is my job and they are not going to take it.

Days went by and the topic was revisited "tell me again why we can't talk about puberty at school?  
I reiterated that it wasn't school's business. 
Eli, right on top of things, said "actually mom it is health and health is a school subject".

So, I decided to get right down to it.
1. I don't know if what they want to teach you is what I believe in. Our beliefs are not the same as everyone else's and the things I allow you to do (watch, play and learn about) are also usually different than what your friends' parents and your teachers allow,  so I am going to make sure that I teach you what you need to know and when you need to know it.
2. Your class is crazy, immature and disrespectful and will be little fools when the teacher talks about this subject and I don't want you to be a part of that.

Eli conceded.  "You are right.  They will be.  My class is bad."

I turned this comment into a great segue for a new subject.

"Eli, why do you think your class here in Washington is so bad compared to the classes you had in Germany"

Without a moment of hesitation he replied "there are way more kids in the class here, too many for the teacher to really pay attention to what is going on and stop kids from being bad".

I think he hit the nail on the head there.

I'm glad that Eli understands where I'm coming from on this issue.  He totally agrees that the kids in his class are really immature and will make a joke out of "the talk".  I'm hoping to make him feel like he is getting the better deal by missing out on the mess that the class will be during the lessons.
I'm also hoping that he will see that it doesn't matter what everyone else is doing, we are called to a higher purpose than following the crowd.

Feb 1, 2013

Spring Break Bust

Spring break is coming up and we are going .... nowhere.
The no-cation is partially because Matt will be in Alabama on the 4th of April.  It is quite difficult trying to find something to do for spring break somewhere near Nowhereville, Alabama.  We tried.  Trust me, we tried very hard to find something exciting to do within a 4 hour drive of the mothership.  But aside from the beach, which is nice but not really worth the $2000 it would take to fly us out there, there is nothing to do in Alabama.
We extended our travel distance to Florida and looked into cruises but the dates didn't line up with being back in Alabama on a Thursday!  The only other thing in Florida worth the trip would be Disneyworld but our discount tickets are not valid during spring break (go figure) so we nixed that destination.
In the absence of something really awesome to spend our time doing in the great state of Alabama or nearby, we decided to send Matt to the heart of dixie alone and the boys and I would find something to do closer to home.
I'm cranky because our family spring break is usually awesome! Last year was Dublin, prior to that was Madrid, before that was Amsterdam & Interlaken, and when we lived in the US we went to Boston, and the very first time we had spring break (Eli was in Kindergarten) we went to Seville and Rota, Spain and Gibraltar.
I've decided I need to suck it up and make the best of it.  Enter: Spring Break Camp.  I shall begin planning.