Monday, July 28, 2008

This Day

Thanks for the comments regarding my previous post. I am happy to say that with more sleep, my daughter's attitude seems to have improved. Maybe her dour attitude was just fatigue, and maybe that's a contributing factor some of the time. But I would love to hear any other comments regarding raising little girls with a healthy sense of self. My husband read my post and now we both are paying more attention to how we interact with Carmen. Girls ARE different from boys and relate differently even to Mom and Dad. It can be exhausting!

But now, I just have to discuss my day. Bear with me, please. Last night, my daughter told us that her ground-feeding fish (plecostomus?) was dead. Great. I said we'd deal with it in the a.m. I looked in the tank this morning and saw it sticking out from the fake treasure chest at the bottom of the tank. Ick. I HATE dealing with dead fish. So I scooped the chest out with a net and took it into the bathroom. Using a plastic bag turned inside out, I removed the fish - but only got half of it. Double ick! Then I dumped the contents of the chest into the bag and suddenly, the bag started flipping around. For a split second, I thought the dead fish was still alive, only it couldn't have been because it was in two halves. Then I saw the worm-like cooley loch squirming around - AHHHHH! My dh came running and I shoved the bag at him and ran into the kitchen, where I had a good cry. I had forgotten that the cooley loch lives in the treasure chest. The kids tried to comfort me but it startled me so badly that it took quite awhile to calm down. All this before 10:00 am! I gathered my wits and made breakfast. Then laundry, dishes, bank business, and lunch. After lunch, I began my list of errands. Among other things, I had to hit the store for mushrooms and some things for my dh's birthday tomorrow (I had thought his birthday was today but, fortunately, I was wrong). As I drove into the parking lot of a strip mall, I passed an elderly lady driving an old Cadillac. On top of her car was a nearly full plastic glass of water. No one was behind me, so I sat and watched as long as I could. She drove out of the lot, across the street and into the next parking lot. Some kids on bikes watched the cup as she drove by. It never spilled. She disappeared from sight and I had a good laugh. I parked and walked into the drugstore, still chuckling to myself. Then I looked up and saw two women in front of me, both wearing various neck braces and arm casts. I was afraid they thought I was laughing at them so I stifled it. They looked like they had both been in a car accident or something. I was in a hurry but I tried to be patient as they lumbered slowly into the store. God often tries to teach me patience. Anyway, the next stop was a nursery, where I had planned to buy a monkey puzzle tree for my husband's mom's birthday. The kid working there didn't know what it was and said he'd look it up on the Internet, so that he'd be able to find it for me on the lot (what nonsense!) I finally found a rather pitiful one on my own and by then, the place was crowded (there wasn't a soul there when I first arrived). While waiting in line to purchase my tree, this sort of funny kid started talking to me. Then he said his name was Zach and wanted to shake my hand. By this time, I realized that he wasn't all there (to put it politely). My hands were full so I just apologized and declined a handshake. Then he wanted to know my name. And persisted. Fortunately, the clerk could see what was going on and quickly completed my purchase. Another customer tried to distract this kid from pursuing me. I just kept saying, "I'm sorry, I have to go" but this kid started to follow me out the door, asking my name. I couldn't wait to get in the car and leave, but the tiny parking lot was now full of cars. God is good, the kid stayed inside and I was able to get out of there. Oh, I just wanted to get home! And then ...

What I haven't shared on here is that my husband had minor surgery for a suspected melanoma on his arm last week. We got the news today. He got home shortly after I did. He saw the doctor for his follow up consult - it is melanoma and he'll need another surgery. I cried. Fifteen years ago to this month, Todd had his first melanoma surgery. He needed 2 more surgeries for that one as well. I have always prayed that he would never have it again. But God sometimes says no. Melanoma is a deadly cancer that can only be treated with surgery. Other treatments don't work. And it can spread if not removed in time. Fortunately, this one looks like it was caught in time and the second surgery is to make darn sure it's all removed. I just feel so badly for my husband. And, honestly, I feel badly for me. It's been a rough year for me, emotionally. And I didn't see this coming. My intuition was wrong this time - perhaps I didn't want to believe it might be cancer again. Yeah, that was it. I was fooling myself. We both knew.

The good news is that he'll have the second surgery here in town, instead of Portland. He'll have a consult with a plastic surgeon the day before our 20th wedding anniversary next week. Bummer. We'll have to celebrate big.

Melanoma happens because of the damage done to your skin as a child and young adult. I want to encourage you Moms to sunscreen your little ones. My kids often balk at this but I always remind them of what their Dad has gone through. This sure reinforces the issue. Protect that young skin. And protect your own as well - tanning ages your skin quicker.

So - that was my day. I had to get it all out there. We ended the day by watching the "Miss Potter" movie, in honor of Beatrix Potter's birthday today. It was good to veg.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is It So Tough To Be 7?

I had a disturbing thing happen tonight. While my 7 year old daughter was in the tub, I was folding towels and we were talking about being nice to others. She said that she's not nice and that she's bad. She meant it. In a split second, I realized that I needed to treat this statement seriously so I looked around the tub door and told her that she was not mean, she was a sweet person. I also, truthfully, said that she sometimes said or did bad things but that she wasn't a bad person. I don't know if she believed me but we went on to other things.

Thinking back on this conversation now, I know how easy it is for girls to feel badly about themselves, even at her age. From what I've observed, girls tend to want to please but they sometimes reach a point where they decide they can't please or maybe they've been told too many times that they aren't being nice and so they believe they are a bad person. Something like that. Carmen has been getting more and more, well, joyless. Sarcastic. She's funny a lot of the time because I don't expect such sardonic comments from her - I mean, she is ONLY 7, with a much more mature sense of humor than we expect of her. But with that sarcasm (which I try to quell) comes a child who perhaps sees things negatively. Perhaps her self-esteem is low and so her sarcasm is a product of that. Or the other way around. I don't know. I'm chattering here because I'm trying to make sense of this and wondering what I can do for her. Got any suggestions? I know there are several of you who have girls older than mine. Is this normal for a 7 year old girl? I have two older boys, so girlhood is all new for me. I was raised with 3 older sisters along with all the influence they had on me. I suspect it's the attitude of my 10 year old son who has had the most influence on Carmen. Which could explain a lot. Perhaps I need to work on his attitude and then it would rub off on her. No? Maybe? Or send them both to a good boarding school in Europe?

So ... how does one genuinely help a child to have better self-esteem? And, is that even the issue? I think we encourage her appropriately, not too much or too little and with sincerity. I can't let this go, I need to deal with this now or it will only grow. No, I'm not freaking, just being a parent.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ladybugs, ladybugs

Last week, we were at a toy store and I picked up a small ladybug habitat. I've been wanting to buy the larger one that I've seen in catalogs but it's about $20, more than I wished to spend. Plus, the company that makes them won't ship ladybugs to OR; this is likely due to the fact that we experience occasional ladybug invasions. I remember one year we had an average of 14 ladybugs crawling on our dining room ceiling daily. I was constantly catching them and letting them go outside. The worst of it was when one fell down on the table during dinner (did it land in a glass? I think so). Freaked poor Carmen out so much that for months, she was leery of eating out there. We just bought a new chandelier to go over the dining room table and so took the old one down. It appears that many ladybugs met their doom around the base of each lightbulb holder. Ugh!

Back to the habitat. My daughter actually loves ladybugs (as long as they aren't falling from the ceiling) and when she saw this small habitat, she asked if we could get it. So we did. My kids already know a lot about ladybugs and having one in the habitat would be a great experience but I hadn't seen any outside yet. I was hoping they would start appearing soon. Then yesterday, my son went outside and came running back in with a ladybug! Such excitement! Into its new home it went. Ever since then, my daughter has been very busy making sure this insect is well cared for, not too hot or too cold, isn't dead, has something to eat and drink. Today, someone found another ladybug, a smaller one with more spots, and he/she joined the first bug. We do not know how to tell if they are male or female. Any suggestions? I'm sure the ladybugs know, but they are not telling. This afternoon, Carmen asked if I'd go out with her to look for aphids. We found one on a rose leaf. Into the habitat it went and became dinner. Poor thing didn't have a chance. You can also feed them raisins. Which we did.

Amazingly, I'm the only one who has let a ladybug escape (no surprise there) but I caught it and returned it to it's home. I was redeemed. Tomorrow we need to clean up the ladybug waste (ahem) and we've been discussing where we'll put the ladybugs while we are doing that. It has been really educational and fun for my daughter, as well as my sons, all for under $7.00. Not bad. I think I've read that the Japanese think of ladybugs as good luck. If I believed in luck, I would agree. However, since I've lived in OR and have experienced the invasions, my thoughts on that would have to be: "One ladybug in the house is good luck, more than that is a nuisance!"

Unless, of course, we get more habitats.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Clay Time Is Over - For Now

"Enjoy life. There's plenty of time to be dead." ~Hans Christian Andersen

The above quote came from a post on jugglingpaynes. I just felt the need to share it here. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

We just finished a most unusual week, at least for our family. It was definitely out of the norm for me and my sleep-in-late kids. I had signed the kids up for an arts class using clay and every day I had to arise at 6:30 a.m., get myself ready, get the kids up at 7:30, feed everyone and head out the door by 8:30 (well, o.k., it was closer to 8:40) to drive 17 miles south to the class. Now, for your average Joe (or Jane) this is no big deal. As you might expect, we are not average. It was killer! I am not an a.m. person. Never have been. And my kids are like me.

In addition, I never was able to get any coffee the entire week, which didn't help my 11:00 a.m. slump each day. Oh, I didn't just sit and watch my kids - nooo, the instructor handed me a lump of clay as well, so I learned right along with my kids. It was fun but by 11:00, I didn't want to do anything more so I spent the last hour cleaning up (lots to clean up in a ceramics class!) And last night, I didn't sleep well so today I was in the dream zone all day. The class went until 12:00, so every day we'd get home, eat lunch and then it seemed like we didn't want to (or couldn't) do anything else the rest of the day. Our routine was thrown out of whack. Then there was the rush after dinner to get everyone to bed so we could start over the next day. It's been stressful, I tell you! (I know, I know, such a baby!)

But, it's been worth it. I'm glad it's over but I will miss the fun parts. It was so great to watch my kids sit and think about what they wanted to do. And then dive in. My oldest really surprised me with his fearlessness to try everything the teacher showed us. He worked on a potter's wheel, not once but twice! He poured molds. He coiled. He slabbed. Everything! This is a child who doesn't do any kind of craft at home and when he does, it's really abstract. I think he was very pleased with himself and I know he had a lot of fun. That right there made it all worth it (even the fee!) My younger two already have experience working with Sculpy clay so I knew they would take to the class - and they did. Even Todd got in on it (he has lots of clay experience.) He was able to come with us for 3 days and he made some lovely things. We are considering taking the class that is just once a week - and in the late afternoon! I can handle that easily - at least for a month or so.

Our finished pieces won't be fired until they dry so it will be several weeks before we can go back and get them. I'm looking forward to having everything here so we can enjoy them. I'm also looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. And coffee. You know - the old routine.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The 3rd, 4th & 5th of July

On the 3rd, a few days after my last post, my family and I went to buy fireworks. We always buy from the Boy Scouts firework tent. Our neighbors are usually there, but their son has grown up and is no longer a scout. This year, as we walked into the tent, I saw two women at the register. One of them looked familiar and I asked, "Do I know you?" Besides the fact that she tuned our piano years ago, she turned out to be the lady who interviewed David Ogden Stiers on the radio a few days ago! I was so pleased to be able to tell her how much I enjoyed the interview and we also told her how we had watched the Star Trek episode she spoke of, just the night before the interview. She agreed it was strange and we had a good chat. She told us about the interview, how she was able to get his agreement to meet her and how quick-witted he was. I was so glad to be able to talk with her and I know she appreciated hearing our comments.

As this is a small town, this lady (her name is Kathleen) has a son who used to take trombone lessons from my husband's step-dad, (Grampa Bob). My son, Chad, used to have euphonium lessons on the same day but different hour - we never crossed paths.

We celebrated the 4th yesterday, along with the rest of America. It rained all morning but by 3:00, it was clear enough to go to the parade in the next town over. A nice man beside us gave our kids some small American flags to wave. Lots of firetrucks and sirens (small town parade stuff). And those dreaded clowns. My kids run for cover. They don't like them either. Then back home for pizza, complete with pepperoni stars, the long wait for dusk to set off our way-too-expensive fireworks (my husband's thing!) and then watching the big fireworks set off from a dock on the Columbia River in town. We had to watch them from a different vantage point than usual and it was kind of uncomfortable. Too many people and some of them were drunk. I can't stand that! But the fireworks were beautiful and loud, just the thing to end the day.

One of the drunk men a few feet from us did provide a funny moment - at a hotel behind us, someone's car alarm was set off by the booming of the fireworks. The annoying honking went on for several minutes when this drunk guy finally said, "Turn that s*** off!" At that precise moment, the honking ceased. Then he said, "Thank you!" Todd and I thought it was hysterical and we had a good laugh.

We also got in some learning today. I use this day as an opportunity to teach my kids why we celebrate on this day and we sang some patriotic songs that I think my kids should know. There are many things that we automatically learned in school growing up that I need to teach my homeschooled kids, like the Pledge of Allegiance, for example. This became alarmingly apparent on the evening of the 3rd. As usual, we went to the 4th of July concert in our town (where Grampa Bob plays in the symphony) and at the beginning, there is a flag ceremony where all the military flags are presented, along with our nation's flag. When Old Glory appeared, I told my 7 year old to put her hand over her heart. She said, "Why?" rather loudly. I said, "Just do it!" and made a mental note to explain later. We usually say the Pledge of Allegiance on the 4th (among other times of the year) but I think she had forgotten or it didn't make an impression. I don't know. I just don't want that to happen again, plus these are among the important things my kids need to know about our country, about being an American.

No wonder I am always SO exhausted on the 5th! Our 4th seems rather busy compared to my own childhood. But it's what we do. Hope you all had a good 4th!