Friday, January 27, 2012

Lunchtime Confessions

I had a chance to sit for a little while and have a some (almost) uninterrupted time with a few other moms. These were moms I trust, people I respect and share many values with. They happen to be moms that are also homeschooling their kids. That mattered in the fact that we share some unique challenges, as pointed out by one of my friends. Not more challenges than moms that send their kids to school, not harder challenges, just different. It is good to have someone in your boat.

Then it happened - I made a confession, well several of them. I shared with these moms some incidents that occured recently in my house that lead to a real mommy meltdown. I told them, embarrassed, about some of terrible behavior that my kids exhibited. I told them my equally terrible responses. I shared some things I was really ashamed of. I told them about some things going on in my house that I was certain were really defective. I waited for their reaction.

If you are a mom, you have probably been in a conversation with other moms when the 'Mompetition' was high. Some understated bragging about what a 'good mom' they were, how advanced/fantastic/athletic/well-behaved/smart their kids are. Sugar-coated, glossy glimpses of family life. All's well. We're good. Maybe it's true. Maybe it's not. This was not that kind of conversation.

My confessions were met with empathy and understanding. My frustration and disappointment were validated. My friends shared their own short comings and struggles of their own. We shared many of the same concerns and fears. We are moms who are striving to do what is good and right for our kids and find that many times we are falling horribly short of our own expectations. But sharing these perceived failures was like unpacking a backpack full of lies. The lie that everyone else is doing this better than me. The lie that there is a 'perfect mother' who I am trying to live up to. The lie that my bad days and mistakes will overtake the love & care & good times that are the norm around here. The lie that I am not good enough. The lie that people will find out I am less than perfect and hold it against me.

That backpack gets heavy once and while. It drags me down, it pulls on me until I find myself flattened by it's weight. But my friends, today, lightened my load. They freed me to return to my mission of mothering a little lighter. Thank you, friends. Let's do that again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

30 Day Mommy Challenge - Days 15, 16, 17 & 18

Welcome back to my log of the 30 Day Mommy Challenge created by Sigrid over at The Joyful Mother.

I meant to keep up. But there were birthdays being had...

and bridges being built...

basketball games being played....

and life generally trudging along while I am trying to blog about it.

I got some input from the kids for Day 15. I mentioned to them that although I am aware of some of my shortcomings in the 'mom' department, I needed to make a list of the ways I 'rock as a mom'.

1. I am a decent cook. Breakfast has been known to be an event around here, we try new foods often and I enjoy baking, so cakes and cookie abound. (This was Gavin's first suggestion for things I am good at)

2. I am very good at getting my kids out and about, taking them places, participating in activities, planning playdates, enrolling them in classes, going to the park, museums, roller rinks, nature center, libraries, etc. We are on the go alot - and my kids count that as a plus.

3. I say I am sorry when I am wrong and make apologies whenever necessary. (I checked with the boys, they agreed)

4. I say "Yes" as often as I possibly can. Although it might be 'yes' with a caveat such as 'in a few minutes', 'not today, but lets look at when' or 'yes, but not in the house'!

5. I am working really hard on constantly challenging myself as a mom (like this challenge) and that makes me rock!

Day 16 was about patience. People often hear that our kids are homeschooled and one of the first things they say is 'you must have alot of patience'. Homeschooling does not give you a corner on patience any more than it does for a mom doing the morning drop-off, homework and shuttling to after-school activities. Since I was mindful of being patient on Day 16, I realized that it is completely possible to be patient. Things that I may have usually lost my temper at, I dealt with from a place of patience because that was the plan. The exercise told me that it is totally possible to choose patience. It was a strange feeling to be thinking that I would normally be nagging or yelling about something and I could simply choose not too. Very convicting, indeed.

Turning off the TV, computer and phone when my children were with me was the challenge for Day 17. I generally don't have 'kid free' time to do these things, but I am very conscious of putting these tasks into blocks of time when the boys are engaged in something else. When the boys and I were engaged in something together, I did not answer the phone, but had to remember to write down who was calling. At one point, Gavin was telling me a long story (a favorite pastime for him) and I decided to shut the computer and move to the breakfast bar with him and listen attentively. I immediately saw the value in that. Some people might say that they should not 'interrupt' what I was doing...but I am choosing to see that differently. I can get back to the task as soon as he flits away - and what if someday soon, he is not telling me as many stories? The challenges that Sigrid has presented are not meant for 'one day', but all the days moving forward.

Day 18 was to forgive yourself no matter how you mess up. Blogging puts you at risk for trying to make your life look lovely, and happy all the time because those are the moments we all want to share. But right in the middle of this challenge I had a situation with one of the kids the turned into lecturing and a condescending speech and him going to bed with that being the last thing that happened that day. It gave me the sickest feeling and I tend to hold those incidents tight and ruminate about them for days. I tell myself that I am a failure and other ugly things. I think I obssess thinking that I can change what happened - but we all 'know' that 'the past is in the past'. Leaving it there is another story. Forgiving myself means that I need to change that tape, and say something very differently to myself when things happen that I am not proud of. I am working on swapping out the ugly tapes for something I bit more compassionate - to myself. This is a very nice place to move on from this challenge.

The Joyful Mother has a lot of great resources on her site like Ask Me, a video blog, and a new program called The Mommy Meltdown Cure. If you are looking to be happier mom (and happier kids are definately a by-product of that), and need someone to help you walk that journey, I think Sigrid is your girl!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

30 Day Mommy Challenge - Days 11, 12, 13 & 14

Welcome back to my log of the 30 Day Mommy Challenge created by Sigrid over at The Joyful Mother.

The Day 11 challenge was reminding ourselves how lucky, I prefer blessed, we are to be moms. To have these kids. That phrase is acute in my life, because people often remark to me that Mikey is 'so lucky to have us as parents.' because of his adoption. In truth, we sought him out, we wanted another child in our family. I was excited for the day that we got a call that Mikey could stay with us forever. Then there is Ethan. There are very few people who will ever understand the blessing of raising a child like Ethan - selected, lucky, chosen.  Gavin brought us such joy when he was born. He was like a little ray of light! He has so many great attributes including his competance, confidence and maturity. Sean is the cherry on the top of the Sundae! I know all the boys would agree with me that Sean is just the cutest kid you ever met and we are *all* lucky he joined our family. Parenting has pointed me directly towards God. Do I feel like this everyday? No, of course not. That is exactly the point of Sigrid's challenge. I will make it a daily exercise while I am doing laundry - remind myself how lucky I am to have them.

Which segways into Day 12 - watching what expectations we have for our kids. I like to be prepared. I try not to set my sights too high, don't want to be disappointed. I am prepared for things to fall apart and I seemed to expect that something would go wrong. I definately took note of some pretty low expectations.  I was very surprised when I took this day to ask myself what I was expecting. I expect Gavin to get out of control and Mikey to wake up grumpy. I expect and dread Ethan coming home in a bad mood. I haven't sorted it all out in my head yet, but there is a fine line between being prepared for the worst, but expecting the best. I really did not know I held these expectations until I took a day to focus on it. Remember, this challenge is not a 'one and done' type of activity. I am committed to continuing to focus on the challenges.

Day 13 asked us to look at our boundary setting and learning to say 'No'. My early parenting experiences taught me to set firm boundaries, to correct all unacceptable behavior and to say 'no' firmly and mean it.  I read tons of books about discipline. Truthfully, it skewed my parenting for many years. I think I said too many 'no's before I was lucky enough to rethink my position on 'discipline' and begin to place my relationship with my children above any behavior program.  I wish E, and Gavin & Mike had the mom that Sean has - but now they do! It is possible to say 'no' too much. If you think that could be a problem, spend a day watching how many times you say 'no' I believe that many of us moms say "no" way too quickly and arbitrarily things you could easily say 'yes' too. Although this challenge was stated differently, this is where I ended up.

Day 14 was committing to one thing that is going to take care of me. I knew immediately what that would be. I am committing to 30 minutes of intentional exercise, everyday. My preferred method is walking a few miles outside. That is not always possible, but I have other options at the ready. I also need to shift my focus of why I want this for myself. I need to lose weight. But whether or not I ever do, I still need this - I need the beta endorphins provided by exercise, I want to keep my heart healthy, I need the stress reduction exercise gives us, I want my kids to see me taking care of myself in that way. I recently had a physical in which all my statistics came back great. Low cholesterol, low sugar and good blood pressure. I want to guard that any way I can. I actually enjoy exercising, but have stuggled since becoming a mom with consistency. I am committing to making this a 'habit'. Ask me about it - encourage me if you would.

I like the work that is going on in my head and my heart. I am enjoying having something specific to focus on everyday. I don't know that my diary entries always convey the life-changing'ness' of addressing the issues in the challenge. I am plugging ahead, and hope that you are too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Model with Down Syndrome

Recently, a friend's little boy was featured in Target and Nordstom's ads. He looked fantastic and it prompted lots of internet buzz in the Down Syndrome community with Noah's Dad posting this. Then he went on to be featured on NBC's Nightly News. I love seeing people with Down syndrome included in all types of media. It is validating for parents and brings awareness to the community at large. It is positive and encouraging.

It brings me back to a time before Ryan was modeling, when Ethan (and lots of other kids with DS) were modeling.

That's Ethan, under the fort in the sandbox.

We answered our first casting call when Ethan was just a few months old. Guiding Light was casting an infant with DS to play the part of a newborn to be born with DS on the show. They picked a beautiful baby girl, but Ethan was selected by NDSS to be the face of their campaign for the year. From there, we were referred to the photographer that shot all the ads for Toys R Us. Our first casting call was in NYC. Modeling was a lot of fun. It gave me something else to focus on with Ethan other than an endless steam of doctor's appointments and Early Intervention.

Ethan was featured in Toys R Us' 'Guide for Children with Disabilities', and both of these shots were featured in the regular, Sunday sale flyer.

One evening, we recieved a call to have Ethan in Connecticut the next morning for a shoot with Ames Department Store. "All of his hair fell out" I said. "Um, that won't work, uh...ok...thanks." In a matter of weeks, Ethan had lost all of his hair due to Alopecia Universalis.

It was a sad and scary time. After leukemia, thyroid disorder, and a myriad of other things were ruled out, we received a diagnosis of alopecia. After some local doctors attempted to treat it with irritants and steroids, the Professor of Pediatric Dermatology at NYU shared with me that if it were his child, using the medications he was already on for varying disorders, he would leave the hairloss alone and 'let it be'. That's exactly what we have done.

Alopecia has presented challenges that I could not have predicted. Ethan has no eyebrows and eyelashes. It causes constant eye irritation. You need your eyebrows and eyelashes. Little, tiny 'bushes' of hair grow on Ethan's head making it necessary for constant up keep to avoid the very bizarre look of these little 'crops' appearing. Sunscreening his head is a 9 month-a-year production, and very challenging on long beach days - Ethan hates hats.

Ethan is stared at frequently and ocassionally, openly made fun of. Don't think I've been quiet on that account. People's behavior is generally shameful and I am shameless. What has become such a non-issue to us, remains a stark and shocking look to other people. I have never seen him embarassed and he often chuckles at it.  The best part of the whole thing is that Ethan loves the attention (good and bad) that his head garners. 

Ethan continues to lead us on a winding, bumpy road. He may be bald, but he is *never* boring.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

30 Day Mommy Challenge - Days 7, 8, 9 & 10

Welcome to my log of the 30 Day Mommy Challenge created by Sigrid over at The Joyful Mother.

We tell our children daily that we love them. But Day 7 asked that it be done so intentionally. I took them time to do it Sigrid's way. They all replied in some way - Ethan said, "ok, mom", Gavin and Mikey both told me they loved me too, and Seany just giggled. It was good.

Day 8 required that I focus on my intuition. I really spent alot of time thinking about listening to my God-given feelings. Why would we be blessed with such convicting feelings if we weren't meant to use them? I also thought about how freely we dole out opinions to other moms, when sometimes the situation might call for directing our friends to focus on their 'gut-feelings'. Interestingly, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary called Sound & Fury that very day. The movie showcased two related families whose children had been born deaf and the decisions each family was making regarding cochlear implants. It was so poignant and full of controversy, and I realized that each family was clearly doing what their intuition was telling them. I thought of the times I have listened intently to my intuition and times when I may have let an opinion on a book, a family member, friend, the internet or the "Should-monster" make a decision for me. No more! Let's encourage each other to pray, meditate, and spend some time listening to ourselve instead of everyone else.

This is my Wii family (sans Sean - he was too little to have an official Mii) There is no good reason to add this pic except for the fact that I get such a kick out of it and hope you will too!

On Day 9, Gavin was reading the list of challenges I have posted on my frigde. "How are you doing on your mom challenge?" he asked. I told him I was on Day 10 and asked him what he thought. "Wow, you really are doing good!" That was about as good as it gets. It is not that one day of not using critical, harsh or negative words with your children is going to make a huge dent (but it might), but the idea of even being conscious of it is! There were a couple of times I was going to say something to one of them and realized that it was really not important correction, therefore, it would have just been negative feedback.

Day 10s challenge took me most of the day to figure out what bad habit I could give up. I know it's a big one, but I am going to work on giving up on beating myself up. Negative Nelly needs to shut up! I pick apart alot of mistakes I make and generally use the same language with myself that I do not want my children hearing growing up in my house. I am going to quit being quit so mean to me!

You can still jump on board. If you haven't read the challenges, read them. Pick a couple to tackle, do them all. You can't go wrong even picking one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Personal Ad for Mikey

9 year-old, homeschooled hooligan, looking for fun! All playmates welcomed - 2 year-old boys, 5 year-old girls, a pack of wild 10 year-olds, or teenagers he can run after - Mike can and will play with anyone willing. Friends must move fast - Mikey never walks, he runs. Mikey enjoys cooking and cleaning (really!), eating and making messes. Mikey can ski, skate, and ride anything with wheels. He usually lands on his feet. Mikey likes dance music, christian music, silly songs, country music, rock, pop, classical music. He can eat his own weight in food, and say he's hungry an hour later. He is ridiculously photogenic...

See? He is a real 'family man' and a generous and caring brother. He has his very own sister. Mikey has honed the skill of pretending not to hear us - we have honed the skill of ignoring his act ;) Mikey loves video games and is armed to the teeth in Nerf guns. He is loud and funny and today...

He is 9! Happy Birthday, Mikey

Sunday, January 8, 2012

30 Day Mommy Challenge - Days 4, 5 & 6

Welcome to my log of the 30 Day Mommy Challenge created by Sigrid over at The Joyful Mother.

Day 4 was to 'create one family ritual today'. It took me the whole day to think of something I'd like to see incorporated into our days, something meaningful, something I did not just pick out because I had to pick something. I decided on meal time blessings. It has been a while since we said 'grace' or blessed our meals together. Hectic-ness, people eating at different times and in different spaces just changed things. But I'd love to see us take that time again, a little pause before meals, to be thankful. I used several internet resources to get short, meaningful, poetic prayers, including many drawn from a scouting reference.

I printed them up on 4x6 index card so that we can read, memorize and use these to punctuate our day with thanksgiving and reflection.

Day 5 was to remind yourself, when your kids 'push your buttons' (if you don't know what that means, maybe you don't need the Mommy Challenge!) that they are just kids.

Again, I used my inner arm to note that.

I was really proud of myself, it was going so well - until dinnertime. Mikey & Gavin sat at the island eating, and laughing hysterically - at nothing! They were carrying on so much that I wanted to knock their heads together and scream "stop it!" So I paused for a few moments and thought about what they were doing. It was annoying, it was beyond silly, it was unnecessay - but it really was harmless and quite frankly - "they are only kids". I refrained, and it passed in about 4 minutes. I don't think the particular incident held any significance, but the practice of being able to stand back and assess the situation was what was important. One situation, on one day of the challenge is not what is going to change me. It will be practicing this each time I feel that 'cut it out!' feeling emerging.

Day 6 asked me to be truly present when interacting with my children. It required turning away from my 'doing' and start 'being'. I thought I was very good at this. But as I noted throughout the day, what I am really good at is pretending/looking like I am attending to them. One time Gavin came to me to tell about winning Halo and providing me with a long narrative of the ending. I realized that I was still washing dishes, nodding and affiming, but not really listening. I dried my hands, and tried it Sigrid's way. I made eye contact (ever wonder why kids' eye contact is lacking - maybe we are setting really bad examples - take note of that in your day) and listened to what he was really saying. It made a difference in that moment and challenged my habits. There were many more incidents, including stopping my 'doing' altogether. Instead of setting Sean up with his toys only to go back to 'my' stuff, I stayed and played. It was time well-spent.

Upcoming challenges involve Love, Intuition, and Negativity.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Joyful Mother - 30 Day Mommy Challenge

I picked up a few days late on The 30 Day Mommy Challenge, but I was up for it! When I read through the challenge I thought, "these are the important things, this is what matters!"

It was Day 3 when I started, so a I grabbed a Sharpie and jotted down inside my forearm, 'Yelling', 'Watching', 'Playing' based on the first three days' challenges.

I have a history of going in cycles of raising my voice and yelling at my kids. I live with a lot of cognitive dissonance in regards to that. I grew up with a lot of yelling, and did not consider until well into my 30s that 'yelling' is not only not effective, it damages relationships and becomes *extrememly* habitual. I hate it, and yet I engage in it. Yuck. I don't yell everyday, and some days and weeks are better than other. I am getting to the point where I can feel the feeling that causes most of my distress creeping up (insight) and am able to make other decisions. Even when I feel like I've failed, I know that I am making changes, and I always make apologies to my children. But, having that concreate (or Sharpie marker) reminder that it was NOT what I was going to do that day was great! It also let me know that a little mindfulness goes a long way.

I 'watched' many interactions with my kids and them with each other without intervening. I 'watched' how bickering started, how snotty answers were formed, how impatience grew. It was interesting and informative to be a 'spectator'. It was then that I realized that point of this 30 Day Challenge. I realized that these were not things I could forget about tomorrow when the next challenge came up - I wanted to keep doing them! The list on my arm is getting longer!!

'Playing' is usually my forte. I play alot with my kids. Board games, video games (I am even trying to learn to play Halo) and I usually particpate in anything they are willing to do. I made time to sit with Sean and play a new game he got for Christmas. I admit I started the game thinking it was something that I 'should' do, but ended wanting to play with him again - are you catching on to the point of this challenge?

Each day of the challenge highlights a habit or behavior. But, I have realized it is not just 'No Yelling' on Day 1, or only 'Playing' on Day 3, and whatever comes next, these are things to be added to our daily ritual. I might be needing a new tattoo.

Next up - Adding a family tradition or ritual and remembering,
they're only kids!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

11 Things You Should Know About Gavin

1. Gavin was such a predictable baby, my sister and Just Jewelry Girl referred to him as 'textbook baby'.

2. Gavin could draw parallels between real life and Star Wars by the time he was three. He also still had his pacifier.

3. Gavin does not enjoy any activity that requires the use of an alarm clock.

4. Gavin is a good sport and a great cub scout.

5. When Gavin grows up, he wants to be a teenager. He also says he wants to be some type of engineer when he grows up. (after his stint as a 'teenager')

6. Gavin loves reading and is passionate about his books. Gavin loves video gaming and is passionate about his games.

7. Gavin inherited his parents' quick temper.

8. Gavin is a *very* good brother.

9. Gavin is a picky eater, often critiquing what I cook.

10. Gavin enjoys skateboarding, roller hockey, hiking, and camping. He loves math.

11. Gavin is full of factoids about The World's Largest blah, blah, blah. Gavin seems to absord information from the air around him.

Gavin is 11 today - and is a blessing to our whole family!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy Holiday Happenings

I dislike preparing for the holidays. I dislike the shopping, christmas carols played too early, too loud and too often (thanks, Ethan) and the general pressure added to the time of year. Dennis has dubbed me the Grinch - but it's not true. I don't enjoy prep - but I enjoy participation.

Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were low-key events, enjoyed by the whole family.

One of the things that has made this holiday particularly delightful is my Aunt Liz. I grew up without any blood relatives in this country. Although I am very grateful that we have always had close friends and psuedo-family, with which to celebrate, my Aunt Liz is my father's only sister. What's more, my father died when I was 8, so to have someone so closely related to him nearby is a remarkably comforting feeling. Aunt Liz is easy to entertain, loves to walk, enjoys the kids and compliments all my meals. See why I love her?! She brought a lovely friend, as well. Young, exuberant, and fun-loving, Dorothy is a pleasure.

Now take a deep breath and try to stay with me!

The Miss New Jersey...

took us to see Lovely, Lady Liberty.

Mikey's sister paid us a visit. It's too bad they don't look anything alike!

New Year's Eve was a Rockefeller Center-visiting, Radio City Rocketts-watching (no flash photgraphy, please!), ice cream ball rolling, midnight-swingset-climbing, firework-watching, horn-blowing, sparkler-waving night! 

New Year's Day was heralded by a noonish, champagne brunch. Really now - it's just sparkling cider except for that bottle of brandy you see on the table that was mistakenly put there by Ethan and quickly returned by Dennis ;)

A little science at LSC was thrown in for good measure.

Happy New Year, Eveyone!
And please, try to keep up with us ;)