Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Things People Carry

Do you ever wonder about the stories behind the things people are carrying?

We've been taking an evening walk after dinner. This evening, I was paying attention to the people we saw as we cruised our block.

A woman and her husband, each carrying a plate with slices of pizza balanced on them. The woman carried a guitar case. She seemed genuinely happy to see Teagan. Teagan barely noticed her- Teagan was far too busy pumping her legs on her tricycle. But I could see that seeing my daughter and my dog seemed to really bring this woman joy.

We round the corner.

A man and his teen son are crossing the street towards their car. The man is carrying a small, open corrugated box. The son is carrying roller blades, one in each hand. They are in a hurry. The man glances our way, catches my eye, we exchange pleasantries. The son makes no eye contact. They quickly get in the car.

I notice the old woman, standing behind the storm door of the house they've just left. I can't clearly see her face and I wonder if she is happy or sad... is she glad to have seen the man I assume is her son, the teen that I assume is her grandson... but sad that they have had to hurry off to their lives, their busy-ness?

We keep walking. I turn my focus on my daughter, to her joy at racing ahead on her Red Rider trike. My son, watching his big sister, dreaming of the day he can ride his own trike. I wonder who will walk by my house when I am standing in the door way, watching my own children go off to attend to their own busy-ness?

Do You Set Goals?

As part of your parenting, have you set goals? I don't mean "I want my kid to be a doctor" or "I just want my kids to grow up happy." I mean goals of what kind of person they will be. What you hope to teach them and inspire them and lay as their foundation. Have you thought about that foundation and what it needs to consist of? I frequently say that one of my main goals is teaching self-responsibility. I want my kids to understand that they control the choices they make, they control the way they manage the consequences to the decisions they make. I very much believe that you can't choose what you feel but you can decide how you behave in reaction to that feeling. Merriam-Webster defines "responsibility" as accountability, reliability, trustworthiness. Hence, recognizing the power one has in life by realizing the power of choice means being accountable to one's self, being reliable to one's self, and being trustworthy to one's self. That sounds like an amazing person (to me). Another important goal is compassion and empathy. I want my children to feel. To understand. To have the ability to imagine someone else's shoes (or lack of shoes, for that matter). To see many sides of the same story or situation. Merriam-Webster definitions... Compassion- sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it Empathy- the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner Just as I audit my parenting style and look to see how my choices are impacting our home culture, so to do I have to stop and evaluate if I am not only parenting and disciplining with these goals in mind but also living my life with these as my personal goals. Do my children see me being compassionate? Do my children witness my empathy? Do my children hear my own self-responsible self-talk? Unfortunately, I think the one that I need to work on the most is empathy. I can be very empathetic towards people who don't live under my roof. I would think that it would be easiest to show empathy towards my husband, my children. And yet, those are the people that I most easily take advantage of. It is somehow easier to dismiss a fall as not really hurting, reduce a headache to not being that bad, excuse or ignore tears or sadness. It takes more time to sit down and dig into it. More than time or energy, it takes vulnerability. And maybe that is my biggest weakness- allowing myself to be vulnerable by showing my concern, by taking the time to validate. It also takes admitting to being selfish and putting my own demands and needs and wants ahead of all others. And that isn't a place I like to admit being in. So I am challenging myself. For the next 4 days, I will make every effort to be more empathetic and compassionate towards my family members. I will let down my walls. I will take the time. I will focus on my loved ones and their hurts. This takes my parenting audit a step further. It's about more than keeping off the computer and sitting on the floor. It's about engaging in all interactions. One thing that I can sometimes do really well and that I can pull from is when we show up to pick up the kids from daycare and Teagan has had a rough end of day and is feeling sad or down. Man, can I relate!! It would be so easy to stay tough and hurry her out the door and snap at her to change the way she is behaving... but I feel better and she feels better when I just stop and get on the floor and pull her in and hold her. Because I understand how it feels to have had a rough day, to have wanted to be with my family, to have wanted to be home. I can't really understand her perspective but I know how I feel when I have a rough day and how eager I am to get to my soft place, my home. So look for updates over the next 4 days... my goal is to be more empathetic, more compassionate, more soft, more connected. With my kids, my husband, my self.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Man I Chose To Marry

My husband. The father of my children. My best friend. My life partner. My co-parent. My soul mate. My lover. My everyday. I've already shared about our wedding. I can tell you all the typical stuff that people talk about- how we met (cast in a community theatre production of "The Snow Ball"), our first date (we didn't actually have one), and so on. I could wax on about all the things I love about him. Or complain about everything he does that drives me nuts. I could share the little everyday things that he does that make him who he is. I could talk about his job, his hobbies, his friends. his preferences in music or movies or TV shows. Instead, I'm just going to share some pictures. Pictures that capture him in some, but certainly not all, of his moments.
His "Comin' To Getcha" Face
The Face He Makes That Makes Zappy Laugh
The "Get That Camera Out Of My Face" Face
The "If I Make A Silly Face, Maybe She'll Put The Dang Camera Down" Face
The "OK, Fine. Keep Taking Pics and I'll Just Go All GQ On You!" Face
But no matter the face, he's mine. He's all mine. Body and soul, mind and spirit. And I'm his. We may bicker or fight or snip at each other. We don't agree on politics. We aren't in the same religious place. But we work. Work is the key word. We don't struggle through and bear some odd torture by being together. It's been 5 years of marriage. 7 years of knowing each other. And there have been no deal breakers. No great struggles. But then I stop and think about what we have suffered together. The miscarriage. Ginger's unexpected passing (our dog). His grandfather's passing. Family relationships that don't work. We have faced a handful of relatively minor stresses. But WE have faced them. We have struggled through them together. We trust each other to buckle down, dig in, hold on to one another, and make it through. We work. We accept. We work. We compromise. We work And we laugh. I'd like to laugh more. But we find humor in so much of life. We laugh through things whenever possible- from a funny movie to a 3 year old's meltdown to health issues to whatever else life throws at us. Work, compromise, laugh. And take a lot of pictures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Follow Me... or Talk About Me

I'm going to be shameless and beg. I really want folks to follow my blog. See over there on the right? Under my daily "How Am I Feeling" pic and under the profile info? My Fanbase. That's right. There. I would really like to know who all reads my blog! I want to get connected to other blogs (I follow a bunch of blogs, as you can see from the list below The Fanbase) and have other bloggers connect to me. I want to know who my audience is. I want to have an idea of who is reading about my normal little life. So if you stop by each day, I want to know. If you are here for the first time, I want to know. If you swing by when you think of it, I want to know. And if you use Blogger the way I do... you really need to know about this "Follow" feature. It is so super easy for me to read my favorite blogs. I start with My Dashboard. It has a section of all the blogs that I Follow. I can either look at the list of recent posts for a specific blog or I can see the list of recent posts of all the blogs I follow. It is super easy to keep track of who has posted and has new things to say! I can easily catch new Wrecks on Cake Wrecks, the latest over at The Fourth Frog, and even see my husband's latest on Jeffardy! So I encourage you to become a Follower. Join my Fanbase. And leave comments so I know you are out there!! Who knows where this blog could end up- I would love to someday do contests and giveaways and such. But I need a Fanbase first! So join and spread the word and be my friend so I can feel good about myself!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Close Encounters of the Teagan Kind

So my audience base is still really small and I am horribly impatient. So I'm calling off the contest (so much for giving away a dream vacation...) and am just going to give away the answer myself! It's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Classic Spielberg. Classic film. If you aren't familiar with it, you must see it. Truly. Must. Or, you can wuss out and read about it on Wikipedia. But you really should watch it. And if you haven't seen it in a long time, consider cracking it open this Halloween season! So Jeff flipped it on yesterday. It was playing on some commercial free cable channel. Kids and I had been in the other room when he turned it on. Then kids and I come into the room and kids are ignoring the TV so we leave it on. Then Teagan starts to watch the movie. I have to admit to being hesitant at first. She doesn't handle spooky well at all. If something has even a hint of spooky, she wants nothing to do with it. She started paying attention to the scene where little Barry is "kidnapped" by the aliens. Again, I am watching with great concern. I don't want to make her feel scared or make her think there is something to be scared of. But she is watching little Barry- and he isn't scared. Remember? The appliances are operating themselves, the grates are unscrewing themselves, the mom is freaking out, trying to shut and lock everything... and little Barry crawls out the doggie door and disappears. Scary scene- mom is screaming and scared senseless (as any of us would be), it is dark and there are weird lights and happenings. Teagan asks us what is going on. Daddy carefully explains, in a very upbeat way, that the little boy just wants to talk to the aliens because he can understand them and not many others can. Daddy explains that it is kind of like Zach- he grunts and screeches and makes noise but we can't really understand him yet and sometimes he gets frustrated that we can't understand what he is trying to tell us. The aliens are feeling the same way and they just want to talk to Barry and Barry wants to go talk to them. Teagan continues to watch with great interest. She can't get enough. She watches as Richard Dreyfuss builds models of that mountain- in his mashed potatoes, in his living room. We missed a chunk of the movie- where the people in Indiana actually make their way to Wyoming. We were out on our walk after Zach's fall for that part of the movie. But we were back in time to see Barry's mom and Dreyfuss on Devils Tower National Monument. And to see that famous scene where the spaceship rises up from behind Devils Tower...

And Teagan, displaying just how closely she has been paying attention, gets excited and says "Look! It's what he was building when he made that mess, Mommy!" So we all snuggled up on the floor- Mommy, Daddy, Teagan, and Zach- and watched the rest of the movie. We answered all of Teagan's questions... about the music playing, about the aliens and why they look weird... we did our best to put things into terms she would understand. I compared the aliens to animals like cats and dogs. We watched as the aliens selected Richard Dreyfuss to come aboard the ship and join them. Teagan delighted as the little child like greys held his hands and gathered around to touch and embrace him. We watched the hand signals. We explained the people coming back, the little boy returning to his mom. Then the credits rolled. And the spaceship lifted back into the sky. And it lifted up into the stars, getting smaller and smaller until it... *blip*... vanished into the starry night sky. I turn off the TV (it is now bedtime) and turn around to a very sad faced Teagan. In my head, I'm thinking she is upset because she wants to keep watching TV. Nope. Any sci-fi fans are about to swell with pride and fully understand what an incredible moment this is for her sci-fi geek dad... I say "Honey, why are you so sad? What's wrong?" Teagan: "I want the aliens to come back. I miss them!" So Teagan has decided that if the aliens ever come back, we need to invite them to stay with us. She even bundled up a blanket at the foot of her bed last night so that if any aliens came to Earth, they would have a cozy spot in her bed. She also decided that if the spaceship comes to out house and they want to talk to her, we would all go on the spaceship, the whole family, so that we could all be together and so the aliens would have someone to talk to who understood them. You know... part of me is so excited for Jeff because this is an opportunity to open the door to all things sci-fi (at a careful and slow pace, of course). But for me, this goes beyond sci-fi. This was a demonstration in my daughter's compassion, in her connection to other living beings (even if they were made up), in her ability to feel what something or someone else was feeling. Aliens showed me my daughter's humanity.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Secret Super Power

It really was an upside down day... so many experiences to share. Remember the story of Zach falling and getting hurt at his birthday party a week ago? Deja vue and then some today. His face was almost completely healed. Miss Lisa had dutifully been putting Neosporin on the abrasions under his left eye. All that was left was a scab on the side of his left nostril. This evening, my sweet baby boy was playing and toddling and being his happy self (after a cranky afternoon probably due to teething). And then he fell. And hit that same left side of his face, under his eye. He scraped the scab off his nose and further scraped it. He ended up with 2 small lacerations under his eye. He bled. And he screamed. And he cried. He was actually inconsolable. Until I remembered my secret super power. OK, it's not so secret. The boob. Never have I been more proud to have been nursing for these past 12 months. Even with our struggles, even now as he only night nurses so he is nursing frequently over night, even when I've felt like quitting... this moment made it all worthwhile. We cleaned him up and he cried. We wiped up blood and he cried. We put an ice pack on his eye and he cried. And then he latched on to my breast and began to suck and the sweet, warm milk filled his mouth and he swallowed it into his belly and his body relaxed. We could pat and dab and ice without concern. I looked down and would see his blood on my breast... and feel so intensely sad. My baby's blood. On my skin. But then I felt such comfort. Such peace. I have a secret super power. I have the ultimate comfort object at my command.

Here are pictures taken after he nursed. Daddy was getting ready to run to Target to pick up some Motrin (we had just run out this afternoon). And Zappy wanted his Daddy. The tears are in reaction to Zach reaching up to rub his eyes and nose. Daddy sushed and snuggled and calmed him down in the way only Daddy can. And Zappy felt better.

It was a team effort. I, alone, did not calm the baby. In the midst of Daddy running around grabbing the needed supplies as I held and cleaned Zach's face, Teagan was by my side, patting Zach's leg, calling him honey, shushing him and comforting him. She even brought him HER blankie. While Daddy went to Target, Teagan and I took Zach for a walk. Teagan gathered fall leaves and shared them with Zach. He loved watching his sister and his dog- we brought Sassy along.

A teaser... More on this picture tomorrow... I want to give my readers (all, what, 6 of you?) a chance to answer... leave your answer in the comments!! Fantastic prizes for the first correct answer! OK, not really. But we can pretend!

What movie is Teagan watching?

My Ballerina

Teagan has been taking a "preschool creative" dance class for 2 months. She loves it. It is primarily an introduction to ballet with some free form dancing mixed in. Each class follows the same basic routine with some new elements each time. Teagan does so amazingly well in dance class. No matter how horrible her behavior has been, she is always full of joy and attention in dance class. She especially loves when Miss Katie (the teacher) asks the class to say ballet terms.


But true joy comes from being an airplane. Flying with arms spread wide, flying as fast as possible with the music, zipping back to the "airport" when the music stops. Drum time is also fun. Miss Katie plays different rhythms. Each sound means a different type of movement- tip toeing or running or marching or sliding or skipping. Sliding is fun because you face the mirror and what little girl doesn't love seeing herself in her leotard, dancing, sliding, gliding? But it isn't always total fun. Sometimes, there is disappointment. Like when each girl gets to skip to the drum, across the room, solo. Teagan is always eager for her turn. There was one girl in front of her. She was excited and asked if she could go next. Miss Katie, being fair and honorable to all the girls, told her she would be next. The joyful smile fell. My girl held back embarrassment, disappointment, tears. But you always get a turn. The disappointment quickly turned and a smile escaped when Miss Katie said Teagan's name. And there is nothing but joy when skipping! Perhaps that is a life lesson. When you feel disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated, sad... let it all go and skip!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Own Cup of Heaven

This week, while perusing The Pioneer Woman, I enjoyed reading her recipe for a syrup to make chocolate milk with. Basically just cream and chocolate. Here's the recipe. I've also previously mentioned the BK Mocha Joe. So good. I wanted to find a way to make my own. All I find online is that it is 40% coffee, 40% shake mix, 20% chocolate syrup. Or something like that. An idea strikes me. Make my At Home Mocha Liz with PW's syrup... oh my! This morning... heat the cream, melt the chocolate. Heat a small amount of coffee. Melt some vanilla ice cream. Mix it all together over ice. It's pretty dang good. I made it more chocolatey than the Mocha Joe. Because I like chocolate. And next time I would use a bit more ice cream so that it would be smoother and creamier. Home Mocha Liz. Guess it could be my new rap name?

Friday, October 24, 2008


You wanna know what sucks? When you want to break the rules and your plan is working smoothly and you get right to the point of achieving... and things outside of your control defeat you. We planned to play a little hooky today. First, a confession. There is something I have to tell you about me and Jeff. Something we enjoy doing that others may not understand or approve of. But something that is almost a foundation of our relationship. It started when we were dating and we still are addicted to... Teen movies. Yup. Movies made for teens and the younger set. Movies that people our age aren't supposed to be interested in. From Bring It On and 10 Things I Hate About You to classics like Sixteen Candles and Can't Buy Me Love and Weird Science. Heck, even TV shows like Degrassi (old and new), 90210 (old and new), and so on. And most recently... Disney tween/teen flicks. Camp Rock. Minute Men. And, of course, High School Musical. And HSM 2. You see where this is going, maybe? Today is the big screen debut of HSM3: Senior Year. The other 2 aired solely on the Disney channel. And today was the big opening of the final installment. So we made a plan. It started innocently enough. I had called Jeff to see if he would be near home and then heading this way because I left my gym bag at home and hoped he'd be able to swing it by. And we started talking... It's fall break for a lot of schools in the area so lots of office types are on vacation. Including my boss and Jeff's boss. Jeff was no where near home so he couldn't easily bring me my bag... and it just so happened that a local theatre was showing HSM3 at 11:00. He rushed to get here. I jumped in the car and off we flew. The parking lot was packed and our hearts sunk a bit. Rushed in, cutting off a couple families of tweens on the way, using our size and stride to our advantage. And as we hit the line... the display changed from 11:00 to those heartbreaking words... SOLD OUT. If I was Teagan, I would have been crying and whining and pouting and screaming. Sometimes I admire her abandon. No 2 hour lunch for me. Just as well, I suppose. So we went to a new-to-us pizza place for lunch and then hit Old Navy to find some fall clothes for Zach. So a productive lunch all the same. And good company. But... my inner 3 year old is still having a bit of a meltdown, clinging to my stuffed Elmo, snot pouring down my face...

Why Winning Doesn't Always Feel Good

After 4 days of fantasticness with Teagan, we finally had a rough patch. This morning, all heck broke loose in our home. Meltdowns, crying, screaming, bad choices. It started innocently enough, as all of these situations do. Teagan had a great bedtime so she knew she got to watch TV. She also knew she had to get dressed first and did so with minimal complaint. Smidgen of fighting but nothing I thought was going to lead to a horrible morning. She asks for a vitamin- check. Asks for cereal- check. Asks for a piece of cheese- check. She is sitting on the couch, watching Imagination Movers and eating her Babybel cheese. This cheese comes wrapped in cellophane and has a wax wrapping to remove as well. She has taken the wrappings and thrown them on the floor. You can see where this is going, can't you? The show ends and I ask her, again, to pick up the trash. She wants to watch Sid. Fine. We will watch Sid as soon as you pick up the trash. Then she gets her mad face on and says, "I don't like you." I manage to keep my cool and respond by saying "I understand you are mad because I'm not putting Sid on for you. I still love you. And as soon as you do 2 things, we can watch Sid. 1- change your attitude. Make a different choice. 2- pick up your trash." And I stuck with that. And it continued on so that I basically asked another 3 times. And then it got to a point that it was 6:27. We leave at 7. Sid is almost half an hour. In order to have time to watch a second show and get morning routine done (brush teeth, put on shoes), that should has to start no later than 6:30 and that is pushing it. So at 6:27, I gave her a 3 minute warning. Then 2 minutes, then one minutes, and even a 5 second countdown. I can honestly say that I gave her ample opportunity to pick up the trash so she could watch Sid. Probably gave her more chances than most parents. But we hit the time wall and the opportunity had to go away. The TV went off and the meltdown went On. I immediately and calmly said "I understand that you are sad that we won't be watching Sid. If you choose to scream and cry, you are deciding to spend time in your room." She ended up getting escorted to her room twice for the calming behavior issue. By the second time, Jeff had joined us and was helping to get Zach dressed and then was working on Teagan's shoes and socks. And that was when Teagan pushed Zach down with her foot. On purpose. And he cried. And she got an immediate time out from Daddy. Which, of course, included screaming and crying. We get out the door and on our way to Lisa's. Usually, behavior is vastly improved for Lisa so I was surprised when we had to give her a Mommy-imposed time out at Lisa's house. Teagan was playing with Zach and started pulling on the hood of his shirt, pulling back on his throat, and continuing to pull even as Jeff and I are yelling for her to stop as we rush over to free him. I took her into the other room to talk to her and she wouldn't listen and just kept laughing. So- time out. She's never gotten a time out from Mommy at Lisa's so she was spitting mad!! But here's the important part on all of it. I was angry. Jeff was angry. We were aggravated, frustrated, ticked off. But we kept our cool. And we maintained a unified front. Yesterday, I saw a clip of Dr Drew saying "Pick your battles. But be sure that you win the battles you pick." We won. The trash did get picked up. The TV did not get turned back on. Zach was apologized to by Teagan. And it was all done with purpose, with firm gentleness, with best interests of both kids at the forefront of the decisions. But that kind of morning... even when you know you've "won" ... it just leaves me feeling disconnected, out of sorts, concerned about what is going on with my girl that she was having such a rough time. Even my BK Mocha Joe didn't totally lift my concern. So I await the evening with anticipation and a little dread. I debate about whether or not I should call and check on her. I hope that Lisa can work her magic and help Teagan get into a better spot. Because I want to enjoy my girl and my time with her.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Day Teagan Became a Big Sister

When I first became a mother and the anniversary of that day of labor and delivery approached, I felt very connected to Teagan. I felt like there was something special shared between us on that day. It was a day of remembering the events of that delivery... the timeframe, the contractions, the breaking of my water, the meconium, the NICU team, the pushing, holding her little hand before she was whisked away so the NICU team could clean her out... Today, Zachary Robert turns 1 year old. And I don't feel like today is just about me and Zach. Today is the day I became a mother of 2. Today is the day that Zach entered the world. Today is also the day that Jeff became a father of 2. And today is the day that Teagan became a Big Sister. Before Zach was born, we lamented over the pregnancy, fearful that we wouldn't be able to give Teagan the attention she deserved, scared we had really screwed up this family balance. I remember nights when I would sit on Teagan's bed and watch her sleep and I would cry and apologize to her for what we had done. The mommy guilt (and pregnancy hormones) were certainly overwhelming at time. It truly felt like we were on the verge of destroying her world. We tried our best to prepare her (and us). I carefully selected books that would help her understand what was going on with Mommy and what life would be like once the baby arrived. Sidebar: Dr. Sears has 2 fantastic books that became a big part of our routine and I still feel really helped her understand and empowered her as a sibling. We would read about Mommy being pregnant and what that meant. But the book about what would happen once the baby arrived was awesome. We would read it and then look at pictures from when Teagan was a baby and would talk about the things in the book that we would do for the new baby that we did for Teagan when she was a baby. The book is also different from other sibling prep books because it is written with attachment parenting in mind. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding are the norm in the book, dad plays an important role, etc. "Baby On The Way" taught Teagan what was going on with Mommy's body and helped her prepare for that baby growing in my belly (that she would talk to and feed through my belly button). "What Baby Needs" showed her what it would be like to have a baby in the house and gave us the opportunity to talk about her babyhood. And I also recommend "You Can Go To The Potty" for anyone facing toilet teaching! We haven't yet read "Eat Healthy, Feel Great," but you can bet that it is on my list! Where was I? Oh yes, mommy guilt. But it wasn't just Mommy Guilt. Daddy Guilt was in there, too. I've learned an important lesson from the Imagination Movers. Instead of looking at "problems," I like to see "idea emergencies!" Because "problems" are negative. But an idea emergency puts you into action mode and helps you find solutions and silver linings. So it felt like we had a problem on our hands. We were so conflicted about this new baby coming along. We didn't realize that it was actually just an idea emergency. So much enhancement, so much joy, so many silver linings... it's hard to put into words all of the wonder that our Zappy brought with him when he entered this world. I once said that Teagan taught us love and Zach taught us joy. That is still so very true. Silver lining... Daddy and Teagan got to spend lots more time together and are closer for it. Silver lining... Teagan is a big sister. There aren't words to describe how valuable that is. Our family is complete. We hadn't even realized that it was missing a piece. We thought it was fine the way it was before. So now my mommy guilt rears up from time to time because I thought we didn't need a Zappy. I was so wrong. We needed Zappy. The light he has brought to us, the smiles, the laughter. Our Happy Zappy. Happy Birthday to my precious baby boy. I love remembering how it felt to hold you. I loved my time at home with you for the first 3 months. The sun coming through the windows, you napping beside me, waking up to nurse and smiling and cooing. I remember how you felt in my arms, full of snuggles and cuddles and love. You've made me a better Mommy. You've turned Teagan into a big sister, showing us how much more she had to offer. You've completed our family. That's a lot of accomplishment in just a year!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Birthday Party

It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster this weekend. Anyone who is a friend on Facebook knows that. I was very excited to see my mom and brothers. Very much looking forward to a date night out for our anniversary. Eager for Zach's party. Mom got sick. No mom. No brothers. (3 adults) We had no shows at the party. Jeff's sister's daughter was sick so they couldn't come (2 adults, 2 kids). Uncle Briney was a no-show (1 adult). We had planned food for 15 - 20 people. We had planned for leftovers to return with my brother Ted to college. We ended up only feeding 8 adults and 4 kids. Amend that. 6 adults ate. 3 children ate. So we had a lot of leftovers. Thankfully, deli meat is good for the week so Christy and I have been enjoying sandwiches at work for lunch. Teagan and I headed to the park to decorate. Zach was napping so Daddy would bring him once he woke. They weren't long behind us. Before anyone even arrived, Zach fell and sustained what has been, to date, his most serious injury. He was stepping up from the grass to the sidewalk, fell forward, and landed on his face. He did the "wait and inhale from the shock and pain" scream. He's never done that one before. It broke my heart. So now he has a red abrasion on the side of his nose, his cheek, and up under his eye. He played golf. Teagan ran off to play as soon as Mimi and Pop-pop (Jeff's parents) arrived and agreed to take her. He played golf a lot. Or maybe not a lot but I couldn't resist taking a lot of pictures. And he played ball.

And he snuggled. Because the face injury really changed the day for him. My super happy guy was a little happy. He was enjoying being outside. But he had just learned that outside can really hurt and he seemed a little down. A little more focused. A little less Zappy. So he snuggled. Because snuggling makes everything better!

He "climbed" a tree. This was a lot of fun. He and Daddy would walk over to this lovely... birch?... tree and he would climb around the little trunks.

And there were presents. But the best part was watching Teagan help Zach open presents. Even though she was hugely excited, she didn't jump in and take over the present opening. She was very focused on teaching Zach how to open the present, how to tear the paper, showing him what was inside. He is very lucky to have his big sister there to guide him through these important milestones.

And what would a birthday party be without cake? This cake is special. Again, that relationship between big sis and little bro shines through. We have a family tradition of going out for ice cream on Sunday. We go to an ice cream shop that is in a little strip mall and part of the enjoyment for Teagan is walking the length of the mall and seeing in the windows of the other shops. Of particular excitement and interest on each visit is Taylor's Bakery. There is a room full of wedding cakes that you can see on display from the sidewalk- including a cake that seems to reach to the ceiling. Teagan decided a while back that Zach's birthday cake needed to come from Taylor's. And she has been carefully watching the window displays and making observations about different cakes and decorations. So we took his party invitation in and asked them to create a small cake that would be similar to the design on the invite.

In addition, Zach got his very own "smash cake," designed like the number 1 and decorated to compliment the main cake.

Teagan refused to even touch her cake at her first birthday party. Zach touched the cake but wasn't too excited about eating it. Instead, he was very interested in exploring the "buttons" on his cake and seemed confused as to why the buttons didn't produce light or sound of some sort.

So it was a good day from the most important perspective- that of my kids. And especially of Zach. He got to experience presents and cake. He was surrounded by people who love him- even if it wasn't everyone who loves him. And by the end of the party, he was back to being his smiley self. Tomorrow is his first birthday. One year ago today, at this time, I was certain that I would be pregnant forever. They were talking about having to consider induction. There were minimal signs of my body approaching labor and no progress over the past 2 weeks. And yet... here he is... impacting our lives in ways we never imagined. Our blessing, our surprise, our Happy Zappy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Planning for the Next End of the World

Alrighty. Let's get right down to business. I am happy to report that after not having a tantrum free day in over a week, we haven't had a tantrum or meltdown since Sunday night! She had a GREAT day at daycare yesterday- even earning a bonus end of day treat because she cleaned up the playroom on her own. With the plan from yesterday's blog in place, we carried the positive momentum forward. Computers stayed closed. We stayed focused on the kids and upbeat in our interactions with them and each other. It took focus, concentration, and it was difficult at times. But it felt so good to be back on track. Now I just have to keep it going. One thing I've really been thinking about is the responsibility of change. For the past few weeks, as we have gotten caught up in life stress and gotten lazy in our parenting, I feel like I've been waiting for Teagan to make these big changes and suddenly be better. She knows what the good choices are and I just have to wait for her to grow up and take responsibility. Um, hello? She is 3 years and 7 months old! I am the one who has been working on making choices for 34 years! I am the one who has to set this example! It won't happen by itself. And the only way she is going to learn, the only way these lessons become a fundamental part of her being is if there is repetition of these principles and ideals. So we will work to make positive choices that keep everyone happy. We will work to make positive choices in our behavior when we are disappointed in the outcome or in being told no. As a parent, I will internally evaluate WHY I am saying no BEFORE I say it. Is it because I don't want to get up right now? Is it because I have something else in mind? Is it because it really isn't a good idea for that moment? If I am saying no for selfish, lazy parent reasons, I need to get over it. But what happens when Teagan acts out? When she shoves her brother? When she whines or pouts because she isn't getting her way? There are certainly going to be times that she simply can't have things the way she wants them. Sometimes she handles those situations well and I do give her praise for it. But sometimes... it's the end of the world. The screaming, the crying, the gasping, the absolute fit. What do I plan to do the next time she's in nuclear meltdown? Nuclear Meltdown From the Wiki article: Before the core of a nuclear reactor can melt, a number of events/failures must already have happened. Well that certainly applies!! Before Teagan's meltdowns occur, there is most certainly a series of events that lead up to it. The key is knowing those triggers, knowing how to side step them, helping her manage them. In the worst case scenario, the above-ground containment would fail at an early stage, ... or there could be a large hydrogen explosion or some other over-pressure event. We are certainly familiar with the over-pressure events! In the best case scenario, the reactor vessel would hold the molten material, ... limiting most of the damage to the reactor itself. And here comes the plan. I've said this before. But I struggle so deeply with my own anger when she has hit her meltdown point that it is hard to get over myself and do what is needed for her. ...hold the molten material... What has worked fabulously on 2 occasions is to hold Teagan close and tight and to calmly and quietly repeat near her ear... "Calm, quiet, in control." And when she starts to settle down, when the anger breaks and the tears are sadness... "I love you. Shhhhh. I've got you. I love you." ...limiting most of the damage to the reactor itself... By holding her and calming her, I can absorb the meltdown, I can take in the negativity and make it functional again. Because I am the Mom. Because I want to protect my child from these meltdowns, from feeling out of control, to guide her through it. So we will work to disengage the events/failures that can lead to a meltdown. We, Jeff and I, will focus on being tuned in to our kids. Keep the laptop closed until bedtime. On the floor, engaging in play with the kids rather than monitoring them, staying positive in our communications with each other and with the kids, staying actively involved in helping Teagan see where her choices are. And should the meltdown occur in spite of our best efforts, we will be reactor vessels who hold the molten material. Not yelling, not engaging in discussion, not focusing on the behavior choices that got us to that point. Focusing on getting the meltdown contained and controlled and then moving forward. Nuclear meltdowns... fizzling out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Figuring It Out

I believe in active parenting. I don't like just taking each day as it comes, except when the days are good. But when we are experiencing troubles... I can't just sit back and wait for it to pass. I have to try to find an answer, a solution, something to try. Teagan continues on this path of easily falling apart, having screaming meltdown fits. She's either awesome or she's awful and it is starting to take a toll on everyone. She doesn't feel good, I don't feel good as a mom, I can see Jeff is beyond frustrated, and even Zach gets upset when Teagan acts up. I admit that I've been trying to just muddle through the difficult days. To wait for the storm to pass and hope tomorrow is better. That isn't working. So, I start my project by turning to a trusted parenting resource. Dr Sears. Now a family business and not just the work of one man and his wife (doctor and nurse). I religiously read his books on caring for baby, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and discipline. So I've started today by reading the Discipline & Behavior section. An article called "7 Ways to Help the Angry Child" catches my eye. I read this: The habitually misbehaving child is usually an angry child. If your child seems "bad" all the time or you "don't know what else to do" or your child seems withdrawn, search beneath the surface for something that is angering your child. In counseling parents of these children, I have found two causes: Either there is a lot of family anger – mother and/or father is on edge all the time and the child incorporates these feelings as part of himself; or the child feels angry because his sense of well- being is threatened. Helping children who misbehave repeatedly or seem "bad" more than "good" usually begins with a total family overhaul. Take inventory of the influences in your child's life. What builds up his self-esteem? What tears it down? What needs are not being met? What inner anxiety is at the root of the anger? Anger is only the tip of the iceberg, and it warns of needs to be dealt with beneath the surface.
I'm really not sure that Teagan is an "angry child." I'll keep reading. But I will stop and think about how Jeff and I interact and if we can treat each other better for the sake of our kids. I'll stop and try to view my own snappy comments or hot headedness so I can see it from the perspective of my children. 10 Time Out Techniques 1. GIVE LOTS OF "TIME-IN" When behavioral psychologists introduced the time-out concept, it was titled: "Time-out from positive reinforcement." Positive reinforcement means giving the child lots of positive "time-in" with a connected style of parenting. Then if the child misbehaves, this positive parental input is briefly withdrawn. As a result, the child gets used to feeling right when acting right, and feeling wrong when acting wrong. By making the connection between good behavior and good feelings the child becomes motivated to keep his act together. For time-out to work, he first needs a large quantity of quality time-in. Hm. I know I can be more plugged in. First step will be to not get on the laptop until after bedtime. Instead, I'll get down on the floor and play, read, do puzzles. I think I've been slacking off in that department. I've been monitoring play and not playing. Temper Tantrums MANAGING TANTRUMS IN OLDER CHILDREN As a child nears three years of age, tantrums lesson because he now has the language to express himself, and he's busy developing in other areas of his life (such as imagination is blossoming, and more fears are surfacing. Tantrums may reappear at four with a surprising twist. A four-year-old is smarter, stronger, louder and more adept at pushing parents' buttons. The child now realizes he has his own power in the family, and that can be threatening to some parents. It is important not to squelch an emerging personality by overreacting. Give a positive message. Give your child clear messages of what you expect. Be positive and specific in your instructions: "I expect you to be polite at Grandma's. We can show her your new books and maybe she'll read one to you. After lunch, we'll go home." This is more meaningful to a child than "I won't tolerate tantrums, and I expect you to be good." You can't reason with a child during a tantrum, but you can before it occurs. Give your child other outlets for emotional overload other than tantruming: "Use your words instead of your body to get what you want." Help him use his body positively -- lots of opportunities for motor activities and outdoor play. (Get an old mattress or a mini-trampoline to bounce on.) Play lively music to dance to and have jumping contests. Encourage him to draw what he's feeling on a "tantrum table." After a tantrum, ask him to "draw angry pictures about what you feel." You can do this yourself when you're angry and talk about what you're doing: "I'm drawing angry lines and angry faces!" What really helps is for your child to see you manage your temper tantrums. When you're angry, try lying on your bed, kicking, and hitting the bed. Or, say "We're going on an angry walk. Get in the stroller." If you are beginning to realize this is a problem area for you, now that you have little eyes and ears soaking up your every move, you will want to get help on managing your anger. Having children forces adults to take stock of their own emotional maturity. We've all been there to one degree or another, so don't be embarrassed to admit, even to yourself, that there are changes you would like to see take place in you, so you can be a calmer parent. Don't reinforce tantrums. Don't let your child use a tantrum as a means to an end. If he knows that as soon as he gets within grabbing distance of the candy at the check-out counter in the supermarket all he has to do is pitch a fit and you'll give in to quiet him down, then he's already conditioned to begin his act as soon as you approach the counter. Next time explain before you enter that high-risk area: "We are not buying any candy, so it won't do you any good to fuss. You can help mommy put the groceries on the counter. Remember, we're buying frozen yogurt to have at home." A friend tells us she handles private and public out-of-control tantrums differently. In private, she becomes so bored by the tantrum that it soon stops. In public, she says sternly to the child, "You may not embarrass me," -- and the child believes her. Just Say No! One day I was with our then five-year-old, Lauren, at the supermarket check-out counter. (I reason that if the store is silly enough to risk putting candy in front of children, the management deserves the behavior they have caused.) Lauren threw a tantrum in protest. I kept saying "no" to the candy request. Finally, she got the message that "no" means "no", finally! The clerk later whispered to me "I wish more parents would say "no" to their children." Ignore it? Whether or not you ignore a tantrum should depend on what you think the cause is. If you judge that the child is pitching a fit to gain your attention, ignore it. By you not reinforcing tantrums, your child will get the message that this behavior is not acceptable: "It gets me nowhere, I might as well be a nice person" (Then be sure to reinforce the nice person.) If you're going to ignore the tantrum and walk away, leave your child with the message that you are available: "Eric, you must really be angry. When you calm down, I will try to help." Then you walk away, though not far, and allow the child to regain his composure. Shouting "shut up" and storming off closes the door to communication and escalates a tantrum. Instead of walking away from the tantrum, you could try the homebase approach. Stay nearby the scene and keep busy: read a book. Don't get drawn into the tantrum or start arguing. If the tantruming upsets your harmony or the child wants to get physical, you need to walk away. A phrase we use is: "That's disturbing my peace." Remember, a tantrum will go on as long as it can hold an audience. Big audience reactions will be rewarded with an encore. Sometimes, announcing "I'll be here when you're ready to calm down and talk" is enough to motivate the child into changing characters. When a two-year-old goes out of control, you can usually physically take charge. This is not so with the four-year-old or older. He is now big enough to hurt you. You may feel like locking him in his room, but a safer option would be for you to lock yourself in your room until he is able to calm down. If you feel angry enough to hit your child immediately separate yourself from your child. Some mothers have put a child in a room and have found that the child destroys property. If he destroys toys, remember they are his toys, and you will not replace them. If he destroys parts of the room (breaks a window, dents walls, and so on), he will be shocked at his own angry power the first time it happens. It will most likely not be repeated because it is so scary. The older child can be required to work off what it costs you for repairs. If this destructive behavior does happen again, you will need professional help to sort it all out. There is just too much anger there. A sudden onset of tantrums is a clue to put on your detective hat. There is likely to be a problem going on in your child that needs solving. One mother we talked with, who is also a psychologist, acknowledged her large part in escalating tantrums. She would keep talking, and engaging the child in battle. What she learned was she should have stopped talking and just done something to bring the tantrum to a close. I definitely need a game plan. So far, we have: 1. Assess how the adults are modeling behavior. I know that I can do better managing my own bad mood or tiredness or frustration. 2. Get engaged. No computer time unless kids are asleep. Stay focused on being connected with the kids by playing, reading, doing projects together. And step 3 will be the plan on how to manage these tantrums. What specifically to do and what not to do to get through them and hopefully see an end to them. Again, we need to assess what we currently do. I know we are guilty of continuing the battle... Jeff and I both will continue talking to her while we are putting her in time out or while we are trying to get her calm. Bringing up the bad behavior or bad choices certainly won't help her calm down, will it. I'll get focused on Step 3 later today. I need more time to mull it all over!

The Long Hike

Or “How Christy and Liz Accidentally Tortured Themselves”

All remaining guests (ok, Dan and Tim) had plans to leave Gatlinburg by Monday morning. We had invited Brian and Christy to stay with us Monday night so that we could caravan back to Indiana together. The four of us also thought it would be nice to have Monday be a Girlfriends/Guy friends day.

Christy and I planned a few hour hike in the morning and then intended to hit the arts and crafts community (located north of downtown Gatlinburg). Jeff and Brian were going to head to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and the Haunted Adventure and then spend the day working on computer things for an upcoming weekend event.

Christy and I headed out to the Smoky Mountains National Park Visitors Center and picked up a guide to the hiking trails. Since we have plans for the afternoon, we decided on a shorter hike (5 total miles) to Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Falls has a sheer 80’ drop so we figure it will be very pretty. We pull into the parking lot of the area where the trail starts. We are amazed at how packed it is and are concerned that there will be too many people on the trail. But we decide to forge ahead and see what happens. We start on the trail at a pretty good pace- trying to pass up the hikers who stroll and find a spot without a lot of other people around. We are enjoying the creek running nearby and the trees and hearing the leaves fall from time to time. We stop on occasion to listen for wildlife.
Unfortunately, we are both in worse physical shape than we had thought. We both start to wonder when we will ever see a waterfall! We eventually came across a small waterfall and decided to stop for a rest. We were inspired to hear that we were only about 10 minutes or so from Rainbow Falls! Eager to reach our destination, we headed on up the trail. We came to another waterfall. This one cascaded down a series of boulders and large rocks- very pretty- and was fed by a farther away sheer drop waterfall. There was a sign stating that it wasn’t safe to climb on the rocks. We admire it briefly and continue on. I think we both assumed that the trail would take us to the base of the waterfall. What we didn’t fully realize was that the falls we were passing was Rainbow Falls!

We had hiked 2.6 miles to that point. We trek on and the conversation is flowing and we are simply enjoying each other’s company. Eventually we realize that we are no longer seeing other people on the trail- we had previously been running into other hikers (coming back down the trail) very consistently. We are no longer hearing running water from the falls or creeks. The trail has gotten thinner and steeper and rockier. We are constantly hiking switchbacks and have convinced ourselves that something has to be right around the next corner. We stop for a rest and another hiker comes up behind us (from Rainbow Falls). We had chatted earlier with him and his wife and hadn’t even realized that we were past them! His wife was waiting for him back at the falls (this is our first realization that where we had been was all there was) and he was just going to hike ahead about 10 minutes to see how far he could get. We decide that we will continue to hike until he comes back down the trail- just 10 minutes, right? HA! We had to hike another 30 minutes before he comes back. We ask what he found up ahead and are told that it is just more of the same. Our hearts are sinking. He tries to brighten our spirits by telling us that Leconte Lodge, at the top of Leconte Mountain, is just 2 miles ahead. ACK! We didn’t know anything about a lodge! We climb on top of a nearby boulder at the edge of the trail to rest and get some pictures- hoping to demonstrate how high we had climbed this mountain. Then we began the LONG journey back down.

Our biggest problem was that we had each had only a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast (around 9 or 9:30). We had gone 5 hours without food or water. Since we had only anticipated a 5 mile hike, we hadn’t brought water bottles with us! It is now 2:00 and we are just starting back down the mountain with no idea how far we have hiked. Thankfully, God sent us a guardian angel. We took great delight in short-cutting across switchbacks. At one point, coming down a particularly steep one, 2 men stopped to watch our progress. We had already come down far enough that we were past the falls and had begun running into humans again. We gave them hope that the falls weren’t much farther. Christy mentioned that the only reason we look so exhausted is that we had gone beyond the falls! I took that as opportunity, having seen that one of the gentleman was carrying a backpack, to “complain” that we had left our water in the car since we hadn’t anticipated such a long hike! Lo and behold! This kind stranger had 2 spare bottles of water in his pack! It was the best tasting water I have ever had in my life! Christy and I eventually got back to the car. We spent the last mile comparing pain points- hips, thighs, calves, ankles, knees, feet, toes. Everything from the waist down ached and screamed in pain.

Getting back into the truck was the best feeling in the entire world- next to getting back to the cabin and getting into that hot tub! Our plan went out the window. We had intended to meet the guys back at the cabin at 5 (after shopping at the arts and crafts shops- remember) to make plans for dinner. By the time we got back to the truck, it was 4:45. We had spent almost 7 hours hiking up and down a mountain.

After returning home to Indiana, I did some research on Leconte Lodge. From the point where we started our hike, the lodge is an almost 7 mile hike. If we truly were 2 miles away from the lodge, we hiked 5 miles up the mountain. And, as we all know, what goes up, must come down- we hiked 5 miles back down the mountain. WHEW! We went into town on Monday to grab some dinner (a rather crummy Mexican place called No Way Jose’s wound up being our dining selection- none of us were impressed) and spent the evening watching a movie. And I took a few more trips into that hot tub!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Day After

October 19, 2003

By Sunday, our family members had departed from Gatlinburg, as had a few friends. Those of us still around got together for a fun afternoon in downtown Gatlinburg! Christy, Dan, Tim, Jim, and Dave met up with us and we headed for the main drag. Dan and Tim had gotten a rave review for a restaurant so we all decided to head there for lunch (Cherokee Grill). We all enjoyed our dining experience- especially the company- and then headed out onto the strip for some strolling!

The shops in Gatlinburg range from quaint to extremely touristy. People watching can’t be beat! There were lodge shops and quilt shops and candy shops galore! Since Jeff and I were enjoying the weekend sans diet, we treated ourselves to some salt water taffy and turtles- yummy!

Christy, Dave, Jim and Liz took a trip on the Gatlinburg Skylift. The Skylift has been running since it was built in 1967. When we reached the top, we took some time to visit the giftshop as well as enjoy the view. On the trip up, there is a spot where your picture is taken. Outside the gift shop is a display of people who have come to Gatlinburg every year and taken a ride on the Skylift (the pictures are date stamped). We really enjoyed the series of a young girl with her father growing up to become a young woman with her husband and a child of her own. It was very touching.

Me and Christy at the top of the Skylift

Me and Jim at the top of the Skylift
Jeff, Dan, and Tim- the men who couldn't handle the Skylift!

After the Skylift, the time had come for Jim and Dave to head back home. We said our goodbyes and the remaining friends continued strolling.

Soon, the afternoon had become long enough. Dan and Tim needed a little nap before the day continued. Brian had finally woken up at their cabin. So we called it a day and headed out of downtown Gatlinburg and back towards our cabins! The group decided to take a quiet evening on Sunday. We had originally planned to dine at a steakhouse called The Alamo. However, the wait was long and the prices were high. So we decided frozen pizza from a local grocery store would suit us just fine! Christy and I headed to the store while Brian and Jeff headed back to our cabin. Then we spent a relaxing evening in the company of 2 of our closest friends, enjoyed our pizza (which we almost burned- oops!), and watched a movie.