Jul 26, 2013

Application

Eli really wants to help me when I volunteer in the children's ministry at church.  I'm totally on board with that!  It is great experience for him to work with kids in a classroom setting and I can assign him to the little naughty kids so I don't have to deal with them.  Win win!
You may recall that my application process for the children's ministry was a wee bit painful.  Thankfully, Eli doesn't have to fill out all 50,000 pages, just four, and he only needs to give two references.
References cannot be family and need to be someone who can speak about Eli's mannerism with little kids. It was a given that one of the references would be Aunt Mika.  Eli and M have been buddies since the day M arrived in Germany.  Eli's patience with him is remarkable and he is generally really happy playing with M on his level.  I must confess, the other night when M was over, Eli attempted to play hide and seek with him in an effort to ditch the youngster.  M caught on real quick and the game was over.  But other than that, Eli is typically very kind, loving and caring with M.
Eli and I were trying to think of another reference and Eli suggested our neighbor Mrs. J.  She has a little boy who is 22 months old and Eli is often outside playing with him.  Eli went over to Mrs. J's house to ask if he could use her for a reference for his application to volunteer at church.  She said "yes" and then Eli handed her a pad of paper to write her email address down for the application.
Instead of simply writing her email address she wrote this:

"I have had the pleasure of watching Eli play with my son B on numerous occasions.  Eli has consistently demonstrated a maturity beyond his age because he is sensitive to B's safety as well as keeping their playtime age appropriate.  I am always happy for Eli's interaction with my son.  I think his mannerisms, kind and friendly nature, will be a great example for B as he grows older"

I must say, I am a wee bit proud of Eli.  Not only that he has a special place in his heart for little kiddos, but for the impression that he is leaving on others and that he had the gumption to fill out that darn application form.
I think Mrs. J's words were special to Eli.  He was a little embarrassed when I read the note to him (she wrote in cursive and he can't read it - see yesterdays post on time warps).  This is his first lesson in references.  The things you do on a daily basis without even thinking about it quickly become your legacy.

Jul 25, 2013

Time Warp

Matt was gone from the time Eli was 6 months old until he was 16 months.  In that time Eli went from only drinking a bottle and slurping down some mashed up baby foods to eating anything in sight.  He also learned to sit up, crawl, and walk in that time.
When Matt arrived at the airport and saw Eli for the first time in 10 months he asked me if he could take Eli out of the stroller.  He was clearly not sure what would happen when he did.  In the days following, Matt freaked out when Eli was eating anything bigger than a raisin.  I think in Matt's mind Eli was still that 6 month old little guy that didn't do much at all when he left.
Fast forward a year and Matt leaves again, this time when Gabe is 4 months old and returns when he is 18 months.  The same thing happened upon Matt's return.   He was confused about how much his baby had grown while he was gone.
To this day Matt looks at kids that are 6 or 9 months old and is clueless as to what their capabilities are. He once asked a mother if her 6 month old was walking.  Um no.
I think because Matt was gone while the boys were about 6 to 18 months old, he missed his opportunity to learn about child development during those ages, and he kind of comes off as a dumdum because he is a dad who doesn't know what to expect from an 8 month old.

Today I realized Eli has his own little time warp experience.  We lived in Germany from the time he was in 2nd to 4th grade.  I think somewhere around that time a kid would normally learn how to tell someone their address.  He didn't.
The address we gave people most often was our post office box number and when we would tell someone where our physical home was we just gave a description.  House 40 on Grant Circle.  The actual address is Building 2040-B Benjamin Franklin Village 68309 Mannheim.

So today Eli was filling out an application to be a student helper at church (more on THAT later) and in the address field he wrote "Sleater Kinney Road".
I inquired why in the world he would write that.  We don't live on Sleater Kinney Road.
He said "we live near it".
I pretty much lost my mind for a minute.  I grilled him.
What is our house number?
What is our street?
What city to we live in?

He rattled off all that info and then said "I didn't know what it meant when it said address".

I took a chill pill and returned to him with a letter addressed to us.  I then explained how to write an address.  And I realized that there is a very, very good possibility that he was never taught how to write out his address because 1) nobody writes letters anymore 2) while in Germany our address was quite confusing and it is highly likely teachers at school skipped the "learning your address" day in their curriculum.

Note to self: teach kids how to recite and write their address.

Jul 24, 2013

Dead Cat Walking

I have long subscribed to the philosophy that my cat is simply that, a cat.  In the event that my cat can not longer live a healthy cat life, I will take him to the vet for the ultimate cat nap.
I have friends who have paid thousands of dollars to nurse along an ailing animal.  I totally get it.  However, I'm just not that person.
I tend to equate animal healthcare, among other things, in trip value.
For example: my friend's dog recently required surgery and physical therapy to the tune of $3000.
I see that as 2 round-trip tickets to Fort Lauderdale, where Matt and I will then board a ship and sail away for a week to the Bahamas.
Doggy surgery vs Cruise to the Bahamas?  Bahamas.  Hands down.

So my cat is getting older and Matt and I agreed, and have shared with the kids, that in the event that the cat doesn't eat and drink on his own anymore or if he decides to dedicate anywhere in my house we will take that little drive to the vet and put him down.  No pills, no therapy, no surgery or tests.  Sorry but he gets three strikes and this cat is out.

Last night Eli told me that the cat pooped on the carpet in front of his litter box.  I cleaned it up and decided there was a chance that this was the result of a dingle berry.  I decided not to count it against him but it was his one and only warning.

This morning I woke up and there was cat vomit on my bed.  STEEEERRRIIIIIIKE 1!

He better figure out how to control his bowels and tummy or he is on a slippery slope to meet the big kitty in the sky.


Jul 12, 2013

Lessons Learned.

I called Eli today to talk to him about the afore mentioned camp issue.  I asked him what he thought about going to camp without knowing anyone else but his brother.
His response both humbled me and made me proud.
Turns out, some of lessons that we've been teaching him have actually sunk in.

Lesson 1: Your brother is your best and lifelong friend.
Matt tells the boys over and over again that they are brothers, they are friends, they fight for each other, they stick up for each other, they support each other, they love each other.  Brothers means you always have a best friend, someone to play with, and someone who will love you even after you punch him in the gut.  Love your brother and treasure your brother because through it all, he is the one who will be there.

Eli said "it doesn't matter if nobody else goes, I'll have my brother there".


Lesson 2: Embrace adventure - don't let fear keep you from living and learning new things.
I choose not to live in fear of trying something new, going somewhere I've never gone before, going somewhere alone or even trying randomly weird and raw foods.  I want the kids to live the same way.  I want them to try things even if they decide they don't like it.  I don't want fear of the unknown to keep them from enjoying life.

Eli: Even if I don't know anyone, I'll still have a lot of fun.

Lesson 3: If you want a friend, you might just have to put yourself out there.
Sometimes people approach you and start off a relationship.  Other times you have to be the one to initiate it.  You can sit there quietly waiting, or take command and invite a friend into your life.  Numerous times when we were traveling the boys would see a kid their age playing and want desperately to join in.  They started to learn that it didn't matter if there was a language barrier or if they looked different or played different, if they initiated a relationship chances are they would instantly have a new buddy to play with.

Eli: I don't have to know other kids when I leave for camp, but I'll be good friends with someone by the time we come home.

I felt a little guilty.  Rather than encouraging the boys to live out these lessons that we've been teaching them, I was setting the stage for them to back out of this adventure.  Eli could tell by the tone of my voice that I wasn't necessarily excited about their camp adventure, but he sat there rattling off all the reasons that he should go - the very lessons we have pounded into his head and the very same lessons that he has learned on his own.

I emailed the children's pastor and said "the boys are a go for camp".  He quickly responded "they will have a BLAST and God will do great things in their lives".
I absolutely concur.

Jul 10, 2013

Disappointment

Today I tried to pay a bill in person, register my kids for camp, get groceries and order a replacement part for the van.  Although my success rate for these tasks are 3 for 4 each check on my to-do list proved more and more disappointing.

I have one store credit card.  One.  I used it a lot when we lived in Germany because I could get free shipping as a card holder and I also earned credits for future purchases.  I always pay it off each month because the interest rate is 150000%.  I have tried to pay off the whopping balance of $75 for two weeks now without success.  I have paperless billing, my credit card was temporarily lost so I reported it and got a new card and now I can't pay my bill online or over the phone.  So I went to my local store to pay it and was informed that I could only pay online or over the phone.  See my problem.  Frustrated I said, well I guess it is time for me to sever my ties with this card, it is becoming quite a pain, to which the lady said "you should, they are very difficult to deal with".  And moving right along with my next task.
One of the seatbelts on the van is starting to fray.  That can't be good.  I went to to Toyota to order the part and it is $160 plus installation fees.  If I hadn't already pooped today, I would have had a bowel issue right there in the showroom.  Really?  I'm thinking two or three $5 bungee cords would be equally effective.  I was left with a decision: deem the seat inoperable and just use the other 6 available seats in the van, or buy the darn over priced piece of life saving equipment.  I didn't want to look like a horrible mother so I bought it.  If it only takes 1 hour to install it is $100 for the replacement.  My bet is that it takes 5 minutes but whatever.
Off to the church to register the kids for camp.  Yay!! I'm so excited for them to experience their first kids' summer camp.  I filled out the paperwork and asked if I needed to pay now.  The lady said yes.  I thought it was a wee bit odd because while waiting for the secretary to come and help me register I read in Sunday's bulletin that the church was trying to raise $6000 to help give kids scholarships to camp.  So I wondered who gets the $6000 if I am being asked to pay now, in full.  I decided the scholarships were probably for families who couldn't afford camp so I wrote the check for $490.  After I handed the woman the check and  the paperwork she told me that my two boys were the only ones signed up for camp.  I was so stunned I wasn't sure how to respond.  Registration was actually due this past Sunday.  I asked what will happen if nobody else registers.  She told me it was no big deal, kids from other churches were going so there would be plenty of kids for my boys to play with.  I said "OK" and headed to the car.
Camp is a great experience for a lot of reasons.  Learning about God, singing songs, playing games, getting away from your parents for a week and building relationships.  If I didn't care about that last aspect I would have sent the boys to camp with my sister's church in Ca.  They have an excellent summer camp and my kids would have loved it!  However, I didn't want to send them there for the sole reason that I wanted them to try and establish some friendships with other kids that they go to church with.  So, I'm pretty disappointed that we've been looking forward to this camp for three months now, and three weeks before camp kicks off we find out nobody else is going.
I emailed the children's pastor and asked him to hold off on our registration, I'm having second thoughts.
Last stop = grab stuff for Gabe to make Lasagna tonight.  I pull into the parking lot and see an older woman approaching the crosswalk.  I slow and stop so that she could pass and she through a little fit.  She was visibly frustrated and turned around and stomped around for a moment or two.  I thought "maybe she forgot something in her car and has to go back?" but once I moved on she went from her fit throwing place to crossing the street.  I don't get it.  So the old lady is pissed I stopped so she could cross the street?
I made it home without yelling at anyone, running anyone over, or having a stress related heart attack.  But I find myself shaking me head and mumbling to myself "really?"  This day has to get better soon!

Jul 9, 2013

Storytelling

This blog is about sharing stories.  Sharing adventures, life lessons, my successes and my failures.  I try it keep it real.  I try to capture the good and the bad, the exciting and the mundane.  I try to make this a reflection of my heart.
Writing is therapeutic for me.  I'm often able to express through the keyboard what I can't verbalize or I post on this blog things that I don't have an audience for at home.
Over the past few days I've written a lot.  And yet barely any of my writing has been posted here.  Despite my greatest efforts to put onto the screen what is going on in my heart, I have been unable to do so.  Perhaps because my thoughts are still not organized enough to make sense of.  Perhaps the missing pieces to my story are still hidden, waiting for me to discover them and see some new truth.
I have a story that I'm unable to tell, and that is rare for me.
It is almost paralyzing really.  Its hard to move on when my story is not yet finished.  I find myself working through it in my head, heading to the computer to type, and then deleting everything after an hour.  I'm grumpy.  I don't like unfinished business.
I got hooked on this ridiculous game on my iphone where you identify logos.  It is really quite impossible.  The logos are from all over the world for all sorts of products and companies.  I keep trying to put it down but it is haunting me.  I've spend way too much time googling things like "spanish cell providers" and "logos with crowns and dogs".  I'll start playing and tell myself to just try and solve 3 logos.  3 hours later my eyes are burning and I've unlocked a new level.  Painful.  Don't even look it up.  Its evil.
This thing in my head has the same effect as that darn game except there are no "cheats" or websites that hold the answers.  I've got to figure out this one on my own.

Jul 7, 2013

Hangman

Gabriel asked me to play hangman with him.  I obliged, but I am always quite leery of playing this game with kids who don't spell very well!  It adds a whole new challenge when guessing words and letters.  You have to factor in misspellings of words and the fact that sometimes kids forget their word actually has a letter you called out in it.  Loads of fun!
We were working through Gabe's phrase, slowly, when finally the puzzle was solved "Gabe does not miss Eli"
Eli left yesterday morning with my sister and will be gone for about 10 days.  He gets to spend a whole week with my mom, dad and niece K.  I'm quite confident that Eli is going to have a blast.  When he left he did ask to take a picture with me so he didn't forget me.  Quite honestly, he is probably going to have so much fun that the photo may be the only thing that reminds him of his family back home!
However, back here at home it is already eerily quiet.  Matt and I are taking wagers as to how long it takes for G to start asking how long before Eli comes back home.
It doesn't take long for our family to feel the absence of one of our members.  By lunch yesterday Matt said "I can't imagine life with just Gabe and no Eli".
Me neither!
We have this fabulous opportunity to just love on Gabe and spoil him a whole bunch and get to know him outside of the duo.  But I know we will be very excited and ready to get our other rascal back next week!

Jul 6, 2013

Tea Cups and Coffee Mugs

I've decided that people can be basically be divided into two types of vessels: Tea Cups and Coffee Mugs.

First you have your coffee mug.  It can hold much more than a tea cup, you don't have to hold your pinky out to drink out of it and it can take a beating.  You can put it in the dishwasher and microwave and probably even bump it on the granite or the edge of the cupboard and it won't shatter.  It may chip but it probably won't break.
Then you have your tea cup.  Tea cups are dainty.  They can only handle a little at a time, they are fragile and they require a little hand wash and dry to preserve their delicate structure.
Both are admired and enjoyed.  Although coffee mugs aren't particularly beautiful, they can have a fun design and be awesomely ergonomically comfortable for consuming my beloved coffee.  Tea cups have beautiful paintings, interesting shapes, and come with all kinds of lovely embellishments.  They both serve a purpose.

People that are tea cups are treated delicately.  The ones you speak sweetly to, you tip-toe around, you cater to.  Tea cups need to be coddled, to make sure that they don't get broken.
People that are mugs, are just mugs.  They don't really come with special requirements.

I have mug friends and teacup friends.  I enjoy them both. Teacups require a little more special attention than mugs but once I figure out how to tip-toe it becomes easier to be with the teacups.  Mugs are comfortable.  Mugs are easy to be with, easy to care for, and generally reliable.  Mugs are easy going, up for anything and don't have all sorts of things to account for when planning a get together.

Today I found myself thinking about mugs and teacups.  I was wondering if it is better to be a mug or a teacup?  Teacups get special attention, that must be nice.  It must to handy to never have to be put in an uncomfortable situation because everyone hand washes you.
But mugs are strong and hardy and they get to go places that teacups would never venture.

After a little thought, I decided I'd prefer to be a mug.
I'd rather be dropped and survive than be kept on a shelf so I don't get scratched.
But I'd like to be a special mug that someone actually cares about if they chip, not just a mug that comes in a set of 8.  I want to be a collectors mug, a limited edition.  Sure, you can still throw me in the dishwasher and take me outside with a book, but if a ball comes flying toward the mug me, you'd reach out and save the mug rather than letting the ball knock it to the ground.

I think sometimes people forget that mugs can break too: that strong people have weaknesses, that givers run out of stuff to give, that helpful people can get tired of helping, that tolerant people have limits and sometimes independent people need a hand.

Be kind to your mugs.

Jul 2, 2013

Wizard Convention

Last night we drove up to Seattle to meet some pals for dinner.  I've said it once or twice before and I'll say it again... one of the best things about Army life is meeting people from all over the place and getting the opportunity to bump into each other down the road.
We met M&M 10 years ago in Clarksville.  A few years down the line we ended up being stationed in Germany together, and last night they were passing through Seattle so we took advantage of the opportunity and had dinner together.

Nothing to do with Wizards.  That was just a side note.

We were driving back from dinner and passed a large building with quite a few people congregated out front.
Eli exclaimed "wow there must be a wizard party there.  Everyone is dressed up like wizards".
I didn't even look.  I was sucked in to a new game on my iPhone and didn't bother to check out the wizard party.
Moments later Gabriel reads the sign on the board outside of the building "Congratulations Graduates". Then he turns to Ei and said "Eli, those are graduation outfits not wizard costumes".

Free entertainment right there.