Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Apophenic Apptitude

Do me a favor and visit (so you can help me, and so you can have a new can thank me later :) ) find my post "Apophenic Apptitude" and comment, like, and share away so Jp and I can realize a bucketlist item of handing out TEN hundred dollar bills at the airport this Thanksgiving.--:L

Apophenic Apptitude

What’s better than a palindrome? A numeric palindrome.  
What’s luckier than 7?  11 of course!
What’s a giant bummer?  The fact that if you add all the one’s in 11:11:11, 11/11/11 you get TWELVE.  Unless of course, you subscribe to numerology, in which case even an apophenic maniac on the hunt for truth, justice and a great piece of art can turn the twin 1’s toil and trouble into perfect harmony, but not Royal Oil.

Because “Nothing is so alien to the human mind as the idea of randomness”(--John Cohen), I will don my most cosmopolitan of space suits and trek out into the vast vibrations of this planet, (or at least the city of Phoenix) in search of the truly random. When I find it, I shall place my One thousand, One Hundred and Eleven dollars and Eleven cents on the counter and ask “How may I obtain twelve of these?”


I will head to Phoenix Sky Harbor on November 24 with Eleven one hundred dollar bills to hand out to Uniformed Military, mothers with crying children, big brothers not picking on little sisters, and bikers holding the door for elderly couples. The other eleven dollars and eleven cents will buy one and a half Chai latte’s from the Starbucks at Terminal 4.  If my kids are lucky, I’ll spring the extra for two hot chocolates.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Split pea soup

An thoroughly fictitious imagination of  the letter between the now famous Swedish DIY kitchen atom splitter, and the authorities:

  •  "Dear Sirs,

    Recently I have undertaken to split an atom at home.  It is my theory that an atom can in fact be split using such every day appliances as a GE blender, Whirlpool stove, and a dollar store hotplate.

     I am currently engaged in blogging my attempts, and have had one particularly popular post titled "melt down in the kitchen, no toddlers or housewives involved"...however, after melting half a dozen premium movie theater plastic cups and blowing the hell out of my favorite "#1 boss" ceramic mug, it ocurrs to me that there may be some safety issues involved in my undertaking.  It is my greatest desire to accomplish this task without damage to self, home, or community, and further precautions are being put into place.  ie:  safety goggles and a lead apron are now worn on each occasion that the activity is pursued, clothing is no longer optional, and in fact is from here on out, prohibited in the kitchen area.

    The reason for my correspondence today is to satisfy the question of the legality of my activities. Please advise.

    Respectfully, the Naked Kitchen Atom Splitter

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


To the east, rising out of the earth like an ancient tribe of petrified nomads lies the Superstition Mountains.  Jagged, yet beautiful, reddish in their hue, nearly deplete of vegetation, they give the appearance of being steadfast and immovable, totally unchanging.  And yet, each crack, each line of strata, each thin-fingered skeleton of a peak that reaches for the sky tells a story of creation, sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic, but always beautiful.

In the temperate winter months, the mountain maintains its image of dependability.  The sun rises behind its massive rock formations, casts its long shadows against the crags in the late afternoon, and then proceeds to set in front of it.  Allowing the glowing sun to illuminate its beauty in whichever position the sun finds itself is a particular talent possessed by the sheer cliffs and rocky terrain.

In the heat of summer, the Arizona desert finds in itself a fickle personality.  "But its a dry heat" doesn't always apply in the month of July, as the monsoons breed towering thunderheads over every mountain in sight.  The  heat and the moisture create lightening, thunder, wind, and darkness; ominous looking clouds which threaten to dump massive amounts of rain at any given moment into any given ditch.

But more importantly they create shadow, and depth...even movement, on the otherwise immovable.

The mountain is always there, the next noticeable change to it likely only in the event of the catastrophic. And yet, the way the mountain looks...that changes by the day, hour, even minute, effected only by clouds, and sunshine.

Sometimes the clouds are dark and threatening, they stir up dust and block so much light that the mountain becomes difficult to see.  Other times, the clouds are light, airy, almost "happy" as they take on the shape of a rubber ducky, or billy goat.  The "happy" clouds specialize in playing up the mountains most inviting features.

Love is like the mountain, and life is like the weather.

Sometimes, just for a moment, love's landscape is changed by the atmospheric conditions of its home.  It may appear darker, more dangerous, brighter, or safer than it really is...but however it may appear at the moment, love is always there, its always love, and its always inviting you to appreciate its beauty, in whatever amount of light, dark, or perfect combination of the two it may be enjoying today.

Love is Love.  Let it be steadfast, immovable, dependable.  Accept that some days may bring dark clouds, and the accompanying wind and rains.  Expect that the sun will peak through, the wind will turn gentle, and that given a change in atmosphere, the mountain will yet again be revealed in all its beauty; perhaps appearing all the more beautiful for the casting of a momentary shadow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The moon hung lazily just above the cliffs.  The grazing donkey, oblivious to the moon's teasing swings to its backside, ventured nearer the ledge, delighting us with a scene so quintessentially southwest it had a slightly manipulated-for-our-pleasure feel.

The weather was hot, easily 103 or 4, maybe hotter, but we were barely aware of the day of week, let alone the numeric measure of our discomfort.  Tracks in the sand told a story of four legged reptiles, migrating birds, and the occasional human visitor.  A group had probably left the spot hours before.  They had done their best to leave no trace, but still we could feel that this spot had quite recently offered up its soft sands to the weary bones of summer adventurers.  Who were they?  What were they like?  Probably much like us, suburban nine-to-fivers looking for an escape from calendars and alarm clocks.

We ventured behind the camp, sifting sand through our sandals up a short path.  Carefully picking our way through bramble and cactus, we climbed over a few deteriorating shelves of shale onto solid red rock. There we found a history of ourselves.  Small handprints covering walls of a deteriorating household, layers of history imprinted in stone.  The snakelike drawing we found repeatedly over dwellings looked significantly different from others.  No menacing head, no rattling tail. What if it was an ancient house number?  A locator? A way to communicate "you're here! This IS the third house on the right as soon as you round the bend in the river" to neighboring families? What of the rams? The guys riding horses? The circular figures-some surrounding people, some empty?  What did they mean?  Did they mean anything? Did an exasperated (or maybe it was inspired) mother hand her children a bowl full of leftover whitewash, and tell them "we're moving anyways, go have some fun, leave your prints all over that wall." Or were the small prints a family tree of sorts?  Were the inscriptions "1874" "Jim was here" and "God Loves You" modern acts of vandalism, or additions to a story not yet finished?

The group could only interpret what was present before  us in terms of our own imaginations.  I began to wonder what would my home look like to adventurers 800 years from now?  Would they find deep meaning in the shape of my couch?  Would they presume a spiritual connection between the coils on the stove top and the strange sucking device I know as a range hood? What meaning would they find in my son's collection of Star Wars toys? Would the intricately designed toys be considered beautiful? Useful? Understood to be just what they are-favorite toys? Would they guess that I kept dozens of plastic grocery bags under my sink as an offering to some invisible god, or would they somehow ascertain the truth...its trash, but I feel guilty about even having them, let alone throwing them in a community dump where they will linger into infinity?

Brought back to the present by the scent of chicken pot pie in a dutch oven, I laughed a little.  Secretly, I would be delighted if they thought the Millenium Falcon was a mysterious communication system, and my house number a rank.

The rag-tag group convened around the camp-kitchen...somehow still the heart of our home, so many days away from home, happy, satisfied, and joyfully debating the possible meaning of the guy that looked like an alien.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pantscil Sharpener

“Introduciiiiiiiiiing….the Pantscil sharpener!”  he proclaimed loudly (and proudly).  Arms triumphantly raised over his shaggy brown mop of hair and grinning that famously snaggled toothy grin only an eight year old can posess, he waved a fresh, never been sharpened “I ‘heart’ NY” pencil in the air.  The pencil took on an air of “magic wand” as he prepared to demonstrate his first fully functioning invention.  Admittedly, I had only half-heartedly looked his way when he came bounding down the stairway.  Skipping the last two risers so that he could enjoy the loud “thump” of energy pounding into the floor after landing solidly on lower ground was such a part of daily life, it had no special meaning to my ears.
“Wait, what?”
“Introduciiiiiiing….the Pantscil Sharpener!”
“Mom, don’t you wanna see what a pantscil sharpener is?”
“I’m not entirely sure I do”
“Come on mom, its funny!”
Tears of laughter were beginning to collect in the corners of his eyes and he just couldn’t contain himself any longer. The Pantscil Sharpener must be demonstrated.  Now!
“Ok, show me what a pantscil sharpener is”
“It’s a pencil sharpener in my pants!” he explained in his still high pitched voice.
I dared myself not to laugh, but failed miserably as I observed him swinging the pencil downward, towards his waistband where he had stashed an electric pencil sharpener exactly front and center. 
The pencil activated the sharpener and the high pitched squealing of blades against new wood, paint, and graphite competed with the laughter in the living room. 
“Dude, NOT appropriate!” I managed to spit out between hearty laughs.
By now the tears were streaming down his cheeks and he was jumping up and down like a happier version of Rumplestiltskin.
He composed himself long enough to remove the electric sharpener from its temporary home and place the newly sharpened pencil on the dining room table.
“Here you go sis, a brand new pencil from my greatest invention”.
She gladly picked it up to draw a rainbow and a unicorn.
“I love my mama”
“I love MY mama”
“I love you both”.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Just to see what its like"

Its no secret, I love The Onion.  Every day the feed pops up on my facebook page and I giggle out loud at such inane observations as "Paleantology class winces whenever Fundamentalist kid raises hand" and "Rich first grader buys whole sheet of Gold Stars".  The stories are pure ri-donk-diculous-ness, and that's what makes them great.  One might think it would be hard to pick a favorite, but oh no.  It is not. The story that forces itself into every part of my daily life, remains knitted into my memory of all things hilarious, even DEMANDS to be acknowledged each and every day is "Boise Homemaker Bows to Mecca, Just to See What its Like".

For some unknown reason, Cave Dude has chosen the "Call to Prayer" as his alarm tone.  Every morning at 6:30 a very soft warbling call emits from that small hand held device we like to call "the slave driver". The tune is not unpleasant.  In fact, it sure beats the loud death-to-the-human-race robotic beep/buzz alarm that he used to have.  To describe the call to one who has never heard it is not within in my range of abilities.  If I were to try and sing it, it would come off as an irreverent mocking.  If I were to try to write it, it would come off as pure gobble-dee-guk. But what really wakes me up is the powerful urge it provokes in me to be that Boise woman and find a colorful rug to kneel on, just for a moment, while facing east.

In my head, that Boise woman looks alot like me. I have the scenario all worked out. The mother of two has been a lifelong member of a Christian church of one sort or another.  She's worked hard, had some disappointments, has a great , but not well known sense of humor, and a secret desire to be rebellious... in the safest way possible.  She's 40 lbs overweight, has a home that's reasonably well kept, but no showplace.  Her kids are classic kids.  She doesn't know what to do with her boy, and her husband tries his best to be boring, because he thinks that's what everybody wants from him.
She has two of those old fashioned braided rag rugs somewhere in her basement.  She found the kids playing "Magic Carpet Ride" last winter and has been toying with the idea of using it as a prayer rug ever since.  She kept her thoughts a secret, absolutely sure that admitting to wanting to try out bowing to Mecca would get her an appointment with the local clergy immediately and a whole crap-load of hail-Mary's.  The day she tried it, her husband came home for lunch unannounced and caught her bowing in front of the kitchen sink.  Thinking quickly, she explained that she was just "doing some detailed scrubbing" on the floor and quickly got up to fix him a turkey and mayo sandwich, on plain white bread, no mustard. Never suspecting she had been caught in the act of bowing to Mecca, he simply shrugged and asked "what's for lunch?"

Is it blasphemous?  Maybe.  But it makes me laugh every morning, and if laughter is the best medicine, then what better time to get my daily dose than first thing in the morning? Maybe tomorrow morning will be the day I try it out, "Just to see what its like."  Maybe Cave Dude will join least in the giggle.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Forward Marching

Its only fair to follow up after throwing out various diagnostic suggestions to the blogosphere. Professionals and opinions and doctors and technologists, and what feels like a lifetime of appointments kept in a 1 month period of time have left us with all kinds of "potential" diagnoses.  And again the question pops, why do we need everything to be labeled?

Well, because a label for cave-dude means qualifying for additional schooling, and other important services and resources for our family.

And a label for cave-dude jr.  means moving forward without a label.  Confusing, right?  Let me explain.  I think I've got the right people for our family working on all the right things.  As I had written before, the school had suggested that cave dude jr's behavior was far outside of normal. They were able to recognize that he is not malicious, or destructive, and is actually a pretty awesome kid, who has a deep need to be a big squiggle in the teacher's day. So we've pursued getting a "label" for this behavior, because the school requested it.  Without a label, he's headed down a disappointing road of school suspensions and dropping grades.  But here's the GREAT news.  Apsergers....nope.  He's too physically attached to his family for that to even be looked at as a root cause.  I'm good with that.  Hyperkinetic....heck yes, just about scored 100% on that one.   Hyperkinetic is the old word for a label we all know and hate.  ADHD.  UGH.  But here's the scoop on ADHD, with treatment, the school doesn't even need to know that he's been diagnosed.  So long as the treatment is successful, no label necessary! So, we're getting a label, to avoid a label.  The idea behind this is that with the proper medication, his ability to modify his own behavior (because the medication speeds up the neurotransmission between the parts of the brain that say "Squirrel!" and send you running, and the part that says "Its just a squirrel, no need to check it out, you already know what a squirrel does.") will be so much improved, that he shouldn't need any modifications in what the school, or his parents, or anybody else should expect of him.  I also love this doc's opinion that medications are to be consistent, not used "recreationally" to get through certain events.  In other words, the ADHD is a 24/7 issue, learning is a 24/7 behavior, and medications should match the 24/7 climate.  This also helps in laying the foundation that drugs are not used to get through events. Drugs are used to treat important medically related situations.  In other words, we lower the risk of recreational drug use in the future by not allowing the ADHD meds to be used recreationally where the child learns what it feels like to be "up" or "down" because the dose will be constant.  12 months ago, I would absolutely not have been open to medication for this.  But after seeing the excellent improvements for cave dude sr.  after starting meds to assist in coping with PTSD and knowing how much better he feels because of them, I feel open to giving it a try. Here's hoping for a future that includes an 8 year old who acts more like an 8 year old, and less like a toddler who's exploring the world for the first time every time we go out into public.  This could be a good thing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The summer of what

I clearly remember a conversation wiith Cave Dude on Jan. 1, that I had a great feeling about 2011.  I knew it would be the year we finally learned how to function a little less like neanderthals, and put our family first.
We've done REALLY well so far. Thus far, the hardest part of putting your family first is learning to say "no" to the things that don't add any value to your family life. Not everybody understands, and many want to argue that by not saying "yes", you are somehow not being a good example for your family. I couldn't disagree more. Setting boundaries, and showing your spouse and children that they genuinely come first honors and enhances life like no other experiment we've tried.  These experiments in family-first living are taking us in interesting directions. Our hearts and minds have been opened to new possibilities and opportunities. Our eyes have been opened to ideas and philosophies that support and enhance our religious ideologies while providing us additional tools for health and Happiness. We're in a good place.
But this good place is also a transitional place, and we're not quite sure where we go next,  because we've never traveled this road before. It feels alot like arriving in a foreign country with no language skills, Perhaps a kind stranger gave us a map, but we don't know how to pinpoint exactly where we are at, and don't know enough about the country to know where we want to go. So we embrace our new life as an adventure. Which is a little ironic, really.  I crave adventure, but we have lived so much of the last 8 years protecting our hearts from the reality of hurt, by engaging in being valuable to everybody but ourselves,  we lost our adventurous spirits. And as we've opened up and owned the responsibility for our own happiness, opportunities for relaxation, fun, and adventure have come pouring out of the woodwork.
And so we come to the summer of "what?" As in "what? I really get to New York?" And "what? I really get to attend a meditation retreat?" And "what? Really? Six days floating down the San Juan?" But also, what do we do next? What is it we really want the answer to be? What is it that we can improve on? What are the tools we are still missing? And what does our future look like?
We have the answers to some of these questions, and we are still seeking the answer to others. But I do know that we are at least in part becoming successful in our creating of happiness because of the many good examples of friendship, and especially family that we are privileged to have in our lives. We love you all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wounded Warrior Project Alumni Summit

How awesome is it that I can blog from the passenger seat in the car? I can remember talking about how cool it would be to have hand held computers someday in some years past, and look at this! I call it a phone, but its a computer.  I don't remember how long ago it was that a
handheld computer seemed impossible. But I do know that technology isn't the only thing that has changed since that time. Our world has changed, our communities have changed, our families have changed. Even we as individuals have evolved. Our values, beliefs, friendships, activities; nothing is really the same. There is beauty in that. We each have been shaped by our experiences, whatever they may be.
This weekend Cave Dude and I were invited by Wounded Warrior Project to participate in the West Coast Alumni Summit. What a wonderful opportunity to learn about the programs WWP has to offer, why they offer them, and who potentially qualifies for the various programs. We were encouraged to participate, spread the word, and be an active part in this community of military service members. Who makes up the community? Former and current service members who have experienced an illness or injury as a result of military service post 9/11, and their caregivers.
It was wonderful to find peers within this community of people who have acknowledged that they don't want to be defined in a negative way by their experiences as a warrior or caregiver. The WWP brought with them fun, information exchange and networking, and healing opportunities. The warriors and caregivers brought with them a willingness to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
My favorite part of the weekend was meeting as a group of careg with Lisa of for a wonderful presentation about finding happiness within the circumstances that we find ourselves, realizing our intention for happiness, and understanding that happiness is not one-size-fits-all! I could have done a full two-day seminar with Lisa...she exuded kindness and respect for humanity. I loved her statement/advice:"if its kind and its legal, go for it". Lisa is also the founder of which is the Harvesting Happiness curriculum, with emphasis on helping those suffering the emotional wounds of war find their happy identity once again.
During the session Lisa mentioned allowing our problems to wash over us like waves.  I loved that visualization. Not only am I a born and bred lover of the ocean, but we were just steps from the ocean during our stay, and the metaphor struck a chord in me.  Here's why; Not long ago I shared with CaveDude the advice I had received as a kid learning to surf: if you get caught in the impact zone, if you're being tossed around like a rag in a washing machine, cover your head, relax, and let the water bring you to the surface. As I have found myself contemplating the idea of considering problems as waves I realize that waves are the perfect analogy. They are real, they are abundant, they can be powerful. The wave's act of washing over a beach changes the beach. Sometimes the changes are subtle, barely noticeable to the naked eye, other times the entire landscape is changed permanently by the destructive forces of a storm or tsunami wave. But the inherent truth about waves, is that no matter how powerful, no matter how destructive, no matter the size, shape, or path of the wave, the wave never has the power to convince a rock to quit being a rock, or sand to stop being sand, but it does have the power to create something more beautiful out of the rock and sand as the elements clash together in the tumbling action of the sea.  There's something in that thought for my soul, and my soul is strengthened by the thought. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to listen to Lisa's perspective on harvesting my happiness, and I see that my seeds are beginning to sprout as I take comfort in knowing that happiness can be my very own version of joy.

Walking down the road of discovery with Wounded Warrior Project and the other Alumni opened my eyes to more possibility than I had imagined existed.  This is an organization who has truly made every effort to look at the needs of a service member turned civilian in the context of our post 9-11 world from a 360 degree view.  As a designated caregiver, a title I have struggled with, I could recognize that not only do they want to treat the warrior as a whole person (mind, body, spirit) but that they also make every effort to heal the family of the warrior as well.  At the Wounded Warrior Project, West Coast Alumni Summit, I could see that they take their mission very seriously, which is to say, they also know how to have fun, big time.
For our Minds we were treated to a talk and meet and greet with medal of honor recipient Tibor "Teddy" Rubin who told humorous stories about his survival as a teenager in Nazi concentration camps in his native Hungary and again as a private in the US ARMY in Korea.  That's right HUMOROUS stories, about being a prisoner of war.  For our bodies, we enjoyed hour long massages and a eucalyptus steam bath (remind me next time to wear my swim suit so I can really enjoy that steam!) I dare say, for our bodies we also enjoyed the best bed I have ever slept in, everybody was raving about the awesome beds at L'auberge Del Mar.  For our spirits we were treated to team building exercises (you know the one's you never want to do, but are always glad you did later in the day when you realize you have a new friend, and you might not have met that person without the stupid games you had to play together?) and of course our spirits were also fed with fun and good food.  The ocean at our back door didn't hurt either ;)

For more information about the Wounded Warrior Project, their programs, who qualifies to receive services, or to donate, visit  For more info on Harvesting Happiness or HH4Heroes visit or

Friday, May 13, 2011

And we get to watch a movie about PUBERTY!

Or...roadtripping with boys.
Or...conversations I will let you finish with your own parents. to derail a perfectly nice conversation in .28 seconds
Or...when three boys chanting "fart, fart, fart" is actually more enjoyable than what was happening just moments ago tweenage boys can make a young lady blush
Anything but this topic on a road trip, please?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Diagnosis: hypocrite

Not too long ago I wrote about how wonderfuly empowering asking for and receiving mental health care has been for the adult cave-people in this clan. I like to think I am relatively good at followingy own advice. When a need exists, it is strength, not weakness that permits one to cross the threshold into the professional's office and sit down in the big comfy chair.
But I find myself conflicted as I turn over again and again in my mind the suggestion that there is something wrong with my son that is greater than just not trying hard enough, or as simple as being emotionally immature.
I have counseled with teachers, administrators, friends, and friends with personal experience. It seems the general consensus is Cave dude jr could use some professional help and it should start with somebody who can diagnose Asperger's syndrome. Its hard to hear. Its even harder because the suggestions have been made in such a loving and concerned way. It makes it impossible to be angry or in denial when people act genuinely concerned that a child gets every resource he needs to be successful and that they just need him to be diagnosed so they can give him more.
But the part of me that is insecure and feels the need to interpret every challenge as first : proof that I'm not trying hard enough, and second: an opportunity to try harder, wonders if we just aren't effective enough in our parenting? What of all he needs is _________? What if seeking a diagnosis really is just seeking to absolve a couple of cave people of their neanderthal parenting style?  What if he gets diagnosed and now suddenly he's allowed to get away with murder at school, and poor grades from a previously above average academic student are now acceptable because he's. " special".
It all stresses me out. Friends in the know have advised to proceed with caution, other friends have said what can it hurt? At least you'll ha e a better frame ofreference for his " normal". Other friends have supported the "try harder" theory.
Even as I write this,  I know the right answer is to consult with professionals. But part of me is scared. What if being labeled steals his dreams for his adult life? How do I answer that? What if not being labeled and therefore not receiving additional learning and social resources steal his dreams? What if, what if, what if?
In the meantime, this wonderful little saber-toothed cub is home from school for two days while we try to discipline him in a way that makes a difference and curbs future outbursts, a task that has previously proven itself difficult at best. And what do I want? First to pike up this headache that is ravaging my brain and bowels, and second to talk with my counselor, stat.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cute recycled craft gift boxes for Mother's day

These cute recycled gift boxes for Mother's day couldn't be easier, or more fun to make!
Truth be known, these lean more towards the repurposing or reusing side of the whole "reduce, reuse, recycle" trifecta of greenery (what!? What other word do you suggest I use as a verb to describe the act of being "green"?) I have always loved little boxes. I have a very difficult time convincing myself that cute little boxes do not need to be kept. So when I purchased some small wheels of brie a couple of months back I knew I would be repurposing the cute little round boxes that contained that delicious buttery cheese. (By the way...brie baked with a little ChefTess' onion and balsamic jam is to DIE for...)
Happy Mother'S day! My mother and Cave dude Sr.'s mother will each be receiving one of these cute boxes filled with something wonderful. (Mom, if you read this...I'll hand deliver two weeks late! )
If you want to try your hand at recycling or repurposing a cute little crafted box for yourself or your mother, here is what you'll need :
-box of any size or shape in good condition
-mod podge™
-foam brush
-colored or patterned paper of multiple types
- sharp scissors
- hole punch for dots
Opptional- permanent markers, glitter, sequins, rhinestones, etc.
Start by choosing the first surface to work on an coat it thinly in mod podge™ then cover box in preferred  base paper (try picking a patterned paper for extra interest!)
Be creative as you add layers and shapes and textures for your own unique results.
-Cave Mom

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twentyfirst century digital boy

Twentyfirst century digital boy or "When cave dudes go techno".
As cave moms go, I like to consider myself not exactly a tech-head, but certainly willing to adapt to new technology. But the recent acquisition of a smart phone has, well...kicked my techno butt.
When I say my 8 year old has picked up the device and quite intuitively operated it, I don't pretend that we are somehow unique, jokes about kids setting vcr's for grandpa have made the rounds for decades. Its normal and right. Kids have adapted to technology faster than adults, probably since the invention of the phonograph (heavens what would they think of ipods?).
However, even a mom like me who knows none of this is unusual, can still be momentarily taken by surprise by an unexpected tech-y moment, like when jr. Cave dude asked for his allowance to be loaded onto a prepaid debit card. A what?! A prepaid debit he can make purchases online, because "  there's better stuff online and sometimes its cheaper too."
While I appreciate the argument,I wonder how that practice would translate into developing a real sense of the value of one's earnings?  I am absolutely positive that it is possible for him to learn the lesson in a way that is different from the way his parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents learned the value of their earnings.  The problem lies  with the teachers. As adults we have easily adapted to the evil that is money you never get to see. Our parents and grandparents warned us that ATMs weren't a good idea, that having such easy access to one's money could only spell disaster. But what did we do with those lessons? We gave them an "awe mom stop being so old fashioned" followed by a quick 4 digit pin and twenty bucks shooting out a magic door. We walked contentedly away from the magic money machine and set  ourselves on course to become perhaps the worst generation of money managers since...ever?
As parents, even cave dwellers want something better for our babies than what we have had. And so for now, lacking any other strategy in our arsenal of money management skills,allowance will be paid in good old fashioned green stuff...even to that twentyfirst century digital boy who thinks a debit card is a perfectly appropriate allowance handling system for an eight year old.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kung-Fu zen wierd

I'm pretty sure when your husband says "I don't want to scare you, but I kinda want to get weird, like kung-fu-zen weird" you should expect change on the horizon.  What will that change be?  Who even knows. But I have to admit, if kung-fu-zen weird is the direction we're headed, I can deal with that.  It sure beats tattooed freak biker wierd. At least we can assume that kung-fu-zen weird is a peaceful existence, I can be down with that.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Button button who's got the button?

Hi all my blogging friends.

While I haven't been actively blogging over the past several months, I am still going to ask each of you who finds this post to do me a favor.

Please visit Gingham Project by clicking on the cute little elephant in my upper right hand corner, read about their mission, and add their button to your blog (You'll need to contact them through their contact form and send them your html code! Othewise how will they know you are helping?).  Your button or link will be added to theirs in return.  Even if you only have a small readership, we never know which friend of a friend of a friend will be the one to feel the call to action.

THANK YOU for doing this for me.  This is my sister's project and people are coming out of the woodwork to help, but there is plenty more to do.  Follow Gingham Project on Facebook or subscribe to the SMS feed to recieve all their exciting announcements including some you will not want to miss!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

You're not standing up for something, you're QUITTING!

Another "found" post sitting in my drafts box.  I am curious as to whom I was addressing these thoughts? I don't honestly remember.  But I stand by them!
When somebody offends you, clearly the best way to deal with the offense is to quit, right?  I mean, hey! Instead of doing your best to be everything you know you are and them some, instead of showing the person who offended you that you are stronger than their opinion, instead of embracing the opportunity that always follows opposition, why don't you just quit! That will sure show everybody what a strong person you are! (or not.)

There's something to be said about standing up for something, and letting a person or group of people know that they have wronged you in some way.  There's something to be said for quietly going about disproving a person's idea of you.  There's something to be said for negotiating a stormy situation with grace and dignity and a resolve to fix the problem. Heck, there's something to be said for a screaming match if it results in necessary change from one or both parties.

There's nothing to be said for being a quitter.  That's not strength.

All that said, there's no reason to subject one's self to repeated abuses.  Walking away from abuse is in fact standing up for yourself. DO NOT misread the above to mean that going back for abuse again and again is ok, its not. Some people would rather continue building their house on a foundation of sand than step back, bull-doze the shoddy work, and start again on a foundation of rock.  Its easy to get all mad that somebody saw your sandy foundation you tried to cover up and go all passive-aggressive on their butts and really show them by walking away entirely with no return on investment.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grounding the Helicopter

Helicopter parenting, the business of flitting too and fro everywhere the wee one's go, having an ever watchful eye, never letting the children out of our site. We've all seen it - most of us are guilty of it.  Controversy has even found it (remember the woman who gave her kids some money, dropped him off at the subway and said "meet you at home"?).  Helicopter parenting is easy to fully justify, all one has to do is read the news and instant fear for our children's safety settles its hooks deep within.

Sometimes we helicopter because of the age of our children, or their developmental status.  Sometimes we helicopter because we don't like our neighbors, or there has been a scary news story.  Sometimes we helicopter because we simply forgot we had a choice! But mostly we hover because we are afraid of something.  Perhaps we are afraid of the unknown, or afraid of what will happen too our children in our absence.  We might be afraid of what our children will do in our absence, or even fear that another hovering mother-craft will catch us taking a break and wonder what's wrong with us! (because if we truly loved our children, we would be right there with them, protecting them from every single possible opportunity to experience disappointment, a minor injury, interacting with the neighborhood "mean kid", or getting stung by a bee, right? I hover, therefore I love.)

My son is about to turn 8 years old. This week I grounded the helicopter and allowed him and his 5 year old sister to go out and play with neighborhood kids without adult supervision for the very first time.  Grounding this bird is one of the hardest, but most necessary things I've ever done!

I feel like I want to explain the "why"s of my previous hovering, but I'm afraid I'll rev up the engine and have this bird in the air again in no time flat if I think too hard on the why's.  The why's are most likely the same as yours.  They seem to be mostly universal among the hovering-types.

We haven't thrown all caution to the wind.  There are rules.  I prefer if the kids play in groups of 4 or more.  I like the idea of safety in numbers, and if a split is ever necessary to get an adult's help, no child will be left alone, but 3 or more is mostly ok (depending on the age of the oldest in the group).  We don't play in the creek (its dry, but a potential home for rattle snakes, scorpions, and the random hobo.) We don't go inside anybody's home without permission from both sets of parents, and we stay inside the neighborhood, never exiting to the main streets for any reason.

I've discovered that I need to keep my garage door shut if I don't want my food storage rummaged through,  that there are still Eddie Haskel's in every neighborhood, and that boys still like to race bikes, and bikes still go "even faster if you peddle all the way down the hill".  Girls still want to have sleep overs with every new friend (uh, NO!) and are quick to play the victim if they set up a scenario where the boy does exactly what they set him up to do, but they didn't like the results.  There's always a kid that's too little, a kid that's too big, a kid who's bike is broken, and a kid who's hungry.  But best of all, there's always a smile, a laugh, a cheer and a shout when a boy crosses the finish line in precisely .2 seconds less time than the last.

Landing this hover-ific helicopter of a parent has been fabulous.  I haven't heard "mom, I'm bored" all afternoon, two days in a row.  I'll be keeping the copter in good repair. I will fly on the occasional reconnaissance mission just to see what the locals look like, who they're talking too, what they're talking about, etc.  But I think its time to expect the best.  Every adult deserves to have a treasure trove of memories to share at every family gathering that starts with "Remember when?" and ends with "You just can't let your kids do that anymore."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Triquetra/Trinity Knot

In lieu of the wearing o' the green,  I'm wearing one of these today.  Actually, I've been wearing it every day since I received it as a gift from my mother who recently visited Dublin with my sister. I love this beautiful knot and  its modern Celtic Christian use to represent the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) and to evoke thoughts of eternal perspective.

The package this charm arrived in had a short note enclosed explaining each item and where it was purchased and for whom, I got a kick out of the note because it reminded me of the notes my grandma Molly would include with her gifts to us throughout our childhood.  I knew that my gift was a Trinity Knot charm, but I didn't know what a trinity knot is.  Well....what an odd feeling to examine this lovely little charm and realize that its pattern is one that I have found myself mindlessly tracing with my fingers or  my eyes (does anybody else do that?  find a spot on the wall or ceiling and "trace" a pattern with your eyes? Or am I the only weirdo?) since childhood.

If we are having a conversation, and you notice that I am rubbing my thumbnail with my forefinger, it is more likely than not that this is the pattern I am tracing.  If I am staring at a ceiling fan, seemingly lost in thought, it is more likely than not that I am tracing this pattern in my mind.

I find this odd.  Perhaps just a tad bit haunting.  Not haunting in a scary way, more like a "insert 'Twilight Zone' theme song here" kind of way.

I don't technically believe in reincarnation, but I have questions about some of the things in life that feel "old" to me the first time I experience them.  This is one of those things I guess.  Although I can't find in my family records the Irish connection, I am told that there is one (and I'm frankly too lazy to search through it, the programs currently available are confusing and difficult, and I have no patience for them.) and I wonder, is there a "Biological  memory" or some other unexplainable soul-source for this funny habit? I don't know, but I sure find it a strange coincidence. Whatever the source of this strange habit of mine ( o' mine?) I am very fond of this lovely little charm and the soulful connection I feel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday

It's JP's birthday today, he laughed at me when I told him "Thank you for being born".  But truly, I'm thankful he was born.  He's brought joy to my life in the form of love, affection, understanding, hard work, discipline, honesty, integrity, honor, and duty.  He's not perfect, but he's perfect for me. I love him, and I'm glad he was born, whether he thinks that's a funny thing to say or not.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When Cave Hair interrupts the thought process

Found this in my "Drafts" box, leftover from last summer and never published.  Enjoy

Here's a snippet from the road to church this morning.

JP: You like nice
Me: Thanks, but I feel like a troll. I know in my head I don't look like a troll, but I feel like one today
JP: I like dungeons and dragons and hobbits and Lord of the Ring's creatures and stuff.

I posted an abbreviated version on facebook for all to enjoy, and a friend asked what feeling trollish is all about.  I gave her all kinds of examples, most specifically a headache that makes you feel like going all Grendle on the next person or goat to cross your bridge, but ultimately, I think I realized the problem was the Cave Hair.  Yes, the Cave Hair. 

It was too hot and sticky (yeah, I know, I live in AZ, where "its a DRY heat"...well, not in monsoon weather) to blow dry my hair last night and I paid for it, or maybe my kids paid for it, this morning when I woke up with Cave Hair Extreme and the headache to match.  Why does messy hair make me feel so grumpy? But I know Little Lily Cave Hair has already achieved full grumpitude by hair-style at the age of 4, so I think we're born with it.

A friend recently took a poll:  Hair conditioner- luxury or necessity.

NECESSITY! Have you seen this clan WITH conditioner? Without would be criminal.

But sometimes other people's crazy cave hair puts me in judgement mode too. I admit it.

Recently I was approached by a woman who had a nice blouse, nice necklace, nice makeup, and cave-hair.  As soon as she opened her mouth I didn't like her.  But then again, maybe it wasn't her hair at all.  Maybe it was her statement that I was wasting my time as a volunteer and should seek paid work.  Which was ironic, since she runs an organization that couldn't run without volunteers, and her child was directly benefiting from my volunteer work.

Friday, March 4, 2011

the Gingham Project - happy, helpful, hopeful

Over the past couple of years, I've been inspired by the stories of everyday people who discover a group of people they care deeply for and then set out to serve that group of people in ways that they are currently underserved.

I'm inspired by people who use their talents and imaginations to make things work.  Serving our fellow humans doesn't require wealth, retirement, or even a single thing that only some people have.  Service only requires the desire for a change, and action to make the change.

My sister Melanie Smith of Melanie Smith Photography and Smith Family Photography  is one of the everyday people who inspire me.

Last year she was invited to photograph a wedding in India.  She was excited for the opportunity to travel and photograph a wedding in an exotic locale.  What she wasn't prepared for was to fall in love herself.  Traveling across India to the many different locations of the many wedding related events and ceremonies, she found herself in Tamil, Nadu, India where she fell in love with the happiest, most hopeful, and helpful yet impoverished children she's ever met.  Having a mother's heart, she knew she would do something to improve the lives of these children, many of whom are either orphans, or have been made wards of the state because the parent's can not support them.

They attend school, they work diligently at learning, they desire 21st century skills.  They are hopeful.  Did I already say that? I repeat it because its important to know these are not children rubbing mud on their faces and tearing their clothing into rags in order to look desperate while they beg.  These are children who smile brightly, take good care of their school uniforms, report to orderly if completely underfunded schools, and embrace learning with their whole hearts. 

Enter the Gingham Projectg.

The Gingham Project. Happy, Helpful, Hopeful.  a project of Melanie Smith Photography and Smith Family Photography exists to improve the learning conditions of the children of Tamil, Nadu, India.  There exists a rich and complicated history in Tamil, Nadu, India and one side effect of that complicated history is that many of the children there do not have the same opportunities as children of similar economic circumstances in other places in India.  They do however embody as a whole the happy, helpful, and hopeful principals that the Gingham Project operates on. 

As of now, the Gingham Project does not have an official website, but its not too early to help Melanie, Melanie Smith Photography, and Smith Family Photography meet their goals for The Gingham Project and improving the lives of these happy, helpful, and hopeful children in Tamil, Nadu, India.

Proceeds from the books below, available for purchase through directly support the school children who so very much desire to leave a tradition of poverty behind them and develop 21st century skills in their homeland.  Please take a look at each book, (full previews available! just click on the images below and flip!) decide which format is best for you or the person you will make a gift too and place your order.  Your order will be filled by  and delivered directly to your home via the selected shipping service.

 Need a vacation? Love exotic images? Have a deep and undying love for history?  Like happy, healthy kids?
these books, available for purchase at will not only make you feel like you're on vacation in one of the world's most beautiful and historic places, but will also give you the privilege of saying "I did something important".  

Click on the images to see the pages of these beautiful books and then add one or more to your shopping cart.  These would make wonderful mother's day gifts!

All photography by Melanie Smith, and the Smith Family benefits The Gingham Project. We started this program after experiencing the happiness, helpfulness and kindness of children living in rural India. Together with our friends in India, we are working towards a future full of opportunity for the children livining in impovershed villages in Tamil Nadu, India.

7 habits of happy families - creating a family mission statement

Creating a family mission statement is a process.  It can't be done in one family night, or quite possibly even three.  It requires contemplation on things we may not be accustomed to thinking deeply on as a family unit.  And its my opinion that it requires some personal introspection on the part of the parental units.  (See "Your Sunday school answers aren't working for me"...the result of a moment of personal introspection spurred by the family mission statement activity.
As I've mentioned before, our family is participating in a 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families class offered at our son's school, and the experience is just exactly what we want and need in our lives right now.  Its a wonderful blessing to interact in this way with other families and school administrators/teachers. The information they are sharing with us is so full of positive expectations that we can't help  but feel empowered and energized by what we learn.

I may have already mentioned that the last two weeks we've been giving consideration to developing a family mission statement.  I'm in love with this idea! Its not a new idea, its been around a LONG time.  But now is the right time for our family to do this and live by it.

The first step has been to brainstorm AS A FAMILY (because otherwise it would be mom and dad's mission statement right?  Not that there's anything wrong with mom and dad having mission statements, but then it needs to be called what it is and not represented as a FAMILY mission statement.)

We have been brainstorming on 4 different topics:
 What does a happy family look like?
What do we want people to say about our family in 50 years?
What do we believe?
How do we treat each other?

I think some families participating in our class have had a difficult time answering the "How do we treat each other" question because there is a difference between how they DO treat each other, and how they know they SHOULD treat each other.  Speaking as someone who has worked/is working very hard to eliminate that discrepancy in her home, I can say that I understand the difficulty in answering that question.  So should you find yourself reading this post because you're thinking of writing a family mission statement, let it be known that in my opinion, the appropriate way to answer this question is how do you HOPE to be treated within the walls of your home and what are you willing to COMMIT too in terms of how you will treat your family members.

There are no "right" answers to these questions.  That was something I initially struggled with.  In fact, that is what prompted the "Your Sunday school answers aren't working for me" post.  I started off feeling that there were "right" answers, or at least "better" answers.  I assumed that these answers were the classic Sunday school answers. That's not necessary.  If those are the answers that sit genuinely in your heart, go with them.  But if they don't, this is not a sign of being fundamentally broken.  It just means that your path will be different from what your Sunday school teacher's path will be.  And that's good.  No two paths should be exactly alike! I am absolutely positive that the 12 men Jesus chose for his disciples each had unique talents they brought to the fold, and I am convinced that we are at our most effective in this life when we have recognized and embraced our talents and strengths, even those that might look to be weaknesses at first glance.

As our family has brainstormed, these are some of the things we have come up with so far:

"What does a happy family look like?"--
Learning, exploring, trying new things, cooperation, hard work, respect, love, charity, service, being a family forever, technology, reading, fun-loving, smiling, playing together happily, taking turns, knowing how to handle disappointment, patience, doing our best, never giving up.
"what do we want people to say about our family in 50 years?"
They were GOOD LOOKING! (or at least had a great sense of humor)
Talented, hard working, smart, genuine, trustworthy, honorable, happy, charitable, helpful, friendly, adventurous.  They loved each other, they never gave up. (yes, you do recognize a theme there.)
"What do we believe?"
We believe in God, that we have a purpose as a family, and as individuals.  Our family can be eternal. the golden rule, we each are unique.  We can discover things about ourselves, each other, and our world when we try new things.  There is a time to be a leader, and a time to be a follower.  Its important to know the difference.  Its important to stand firm in our beliefs.  Learning should be a lifelong endeavor. Its important to have fun together and enjoy each other's company.
"How do we treat each other?"
with kindness, respect, patience.  We hope for the best out of each other.

Over the next week or couple of weeks we'll be doing some more brainstorming and ultimately developing our family mission statement from these ideas.  Its coming slowly, and very  much in spurts.  We have found that the kids have only about a 5-10 minute attention span for this.  I'm sure its because this is still a very large concept to them, but they do participate, and they've offered up some great ideas during our brainstorming. 
If you find yourself working towards a family mission statement, or already have one, share away! I'd love to see examples of what other families have come up.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


This thing (Sometimes referred to as Thing 2, although she's really Thing 4) is FIVE. FIVE!!!!

Having gone through the 18 mos to 5 years stage  four times now, there have definitely been times that I looked forward to no longer being the primary caretaker of young children.  I find those years difficult.  Terrific Twos and Fabulous Fours, and well, don't even get me started on three year olds.  They are wonderful, they are funny, they are a complete and total mystery to me.  I really start feeling more confident as a parent at the magical age of 5.

And yet...

There is something very bitter sweet about the passing of this era.  I found myself feeling just a tad melancholy yesterday when I realized it was the last day ever that I would be the parent of a four year old.  

Four year olds are witty.  Especially this one.  The non-stop string of one-liners, crazy conundrums,  and hilarious singing and dancing has been a treat.  I will miss that as she grows and becomes more self conscious and naturally begins to hold back from some impulses.

But I'm also looking forward to knowing her as a 5 year old who loves to learn, explore the world around her and please mommy.

I love you little girl, who is now a big girl.

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It is what it is

I had my first experience with hypnosis this week. I went in to the experience excited, curious, and a little nervous about what it would be like.  I assumed it would be generally positive, because I wasn't warned to bring a driver to get me home.  Seems like a good enough measure of how a counseling session will go, right?
The word "amazing" is getting way too overused in my life, but it really was kind of an amazing experience. Or rather, the results of the experience were amazing.

As I closed my eyes and grasped lightly two gently pulsating electrodes, my counselor asked me to find a comfortable position and then began to guide me on an audio-journey.  The instructions were simple:  listen, don't feel it necessary to speak or respond verbally, and to do with the information what seems appropriate.  Use it, or toss it aside.

I recall being fully aware of my surroundings.  I was conscious that my nose itched, and my eye felt sticky.  I recall opening my sticky eye a handful of times during the session.  I recall three stories I heard during the time. One was about a rare flower, one about a girl releasing balloons, and a third about me building a home from the foundation up.

I recall that I had difficulty summoning up an image of a tour group tromping through the everglades in search of an evasive and rare orchid.  I recall being absolutely sure that the girl releasing balloons was going to suffer some dire consequence for releasing the balloons before she was told too. Which I think is funny, that even in a quasi conscious state, I was concerned about the "rules" and was freaking out that she wasn't following them! By the way, there was no consequence, the story described the entire experience of releasing the balloons as purely joyful.  It was difficult for me to imagine being joyful about breaking the rules (she was supposed to release them at half-time, but she couldn't contain herself and let most of them go way before half time because they were bringing her so much joy to watch  float away.) I recall being asked to imagine a blue-print for a home I would imagine building.  The blueprint I imagined was for a very average but very respectable ranch style house.  In fact, it was pretty much my friend Nicole's home that she had in Iowa.  Realizing that, I find it kind of odd that my blueprint was somebody else's home (but it wasn't, it was mine, I just recognize that it was identical to my friend's home.) I recall as the story progressed that I was asked to begin lining my basement that I had worked so hard to dig with cement or bricks and that as I did so, an unwelcome guest entered my thoughts with a gigantic sledge hammer.  In fact, the image this guest was represented by was this guy:

Only he wasn't chasing after a mouse, he was knocking down my walls.  I would attempt to wall him in with brick and mortar and he'd knock through in a burst of dirty cement dust.  There was a genuine struggle as I attempted, and ultimately succeeded in walling this big jerk out of my house! But the result was that I had closed off 7/8ths of my basement and had found it necessary to redirect my house building activities into an entirely different direction. The result was a ridiculously thick foundation. In fact the foundation was so thick that the basement was essentially  not a usable space. On top of that foundation was a one room "shack". I say it was a shack, but it wasn't crumbling.  I recall that it had wooden floor boards, a woven carpet, a wood stove and a rocking chair.  One child played inside while I sat by myself on a wonderfully shady and yet sunny front porch.  I recall that the view from this porch was vast fields of wild flowers and grasses.  There were mountains in the distance, but they were a welcome sight, not a threatening presence. A gentle breeze was blowing the flowers and grasses to and fro as I rocked in a chair on that wonderful porch.

I was aware that I was shedding tears.  As I was invited to open my eyes and end our session, I was aware that I did not feel fully present.  I was aware that I was digging around in my brain a little longer.  I was aware that I felt angry at the man with the hammer and that I was disappointed that my house didn't match my original blue prints. But my counselor made a statement that helped me tuck it back in and become more present in the room again.  She said "the experience is what it is.  There is no big lesson in there that you have missed.  Let the positive images come forward and take this time as a gift for yourself."  Knowing that there wasn't any big lesson I needed to decipher out of the experience gave me comfort.  I think I am guilty of needing to find a lesson in just about everything.  I like the idea of allowing some (most?) experiences to just be what they will be and to enjoy them for what they are.

The result of participating in this session was that throughout the day I found myself "seeing" the image of the beautiful flower filled land stretching out before me.  I found that to be energizing and that it engaged in me a sense of peace, calm, and confidence.  I loved that the predominant image that returned to me throughout the day was such a beautiful one.  I loved that the beautiful image trumped the negative image.  I felt energized.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this healing journey, and I hope my sharing will help somebody in some small way to know that not only is it OK to ask for and receive mental health treatment, but that it doesn't mean you're crazy, broken beyond fixing, or too lazy to fix yourself on your own.  In fact, I think NOT asking for help is just about the craziest thing a person can do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

7 Habits of happy families-begin with the end in mind

The last two weeks, in our 7 Habits classes we've discussed the idea "Begin with the end in mind."
We received one of the BEST compliments we've ever received as a couple and as a family when the instructors  made an off handed remark that they were talking about us and how we're a family who really begins with the end in mind.

This is not only one of the best compliments we've ever received, but also one that we can feel comfortable accepting, and acknowledging that this is an area that we are succeeding in. This is a somewhat new habit for us, but it has been a very natural habit for us that we didn't even realize we had developed.  But the evidence shows, this is a habit we are using to our greatest advantage.

Part of our success in developing this habit is realizing one very important thing.  People need sleep.
I'm not joking.

"How does sleeping relate to beginning with the end in mind?" you ask?
"If I take time to sleep, how will I ever get to the end?" you wonder?

As a family of cave dwellers with a crazy schedule that didn't make much room for sleep, we were not an effective family. Not at all.  We spent the majority of our time responding to "fires", living life as a series of knee-jerk reactions to circumstances that at least felt out of our control.  We definitely weren't beginning with the end in mind, because we could hardly function well enough to know what we would be dealing with the next day! To be fair, I think there is some element of this that is unavoidable when you have small children in the home.  It is difficult to say the least to know what your entire week should look like, let alone what your morning will look like when you've got diapers to change and naps to put little people down for.  But we were past that, without ever really getting past the reactionary living.

The biggest thing that has changed for us is sleep.  This past November we were fortunate to receive a new work schedule that was beyond our wildest dreams.  It didn't come magically, it came by way of mr, Cave Hair having to admit that neither he nor his family has handling the old work schedule well .  I'm sure it was not easy for him to do that, there is a part of him that LOVES the exciting circumstances his old schedule would allow him to participate in. But he did it for us, and the results have been tremendously good!

Its really a blessing to sleep.  Not just to sleep, but to sleep peaceably.  And having appropriate rest has made us able to think ahead, know what we want, and plan for it.  We have been able to adopt a "begin with the end in mind" way of living.

I'm really excited to be working on a family mission statement and can't wait to share what we come up with.  The process is turning out to be very enjoyable and even the youngest of our clan has been able to give valuable input.  I will share more soon, I want to talk about the process as much as the results, and can't wait to see your feedback.

Friday, February 25, 2011

your "Sunday School Answers" aren't working for me

Its because they are YOUR answers!

That's not to say none of my answers wouldn't make GREAT contributions to the average Sunday School dialogue.  My answers are in keeping with the gospel, and my religious beliefs, but I've been trying to find happiness inspite of my talents and personality strengths, instead of BECAUSE of my personality and talents.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

7 Habits of happy families-being proactive

One of the things that we as a family are the most excited about is the 7 Habits of Happy Families training that we've been participating in at Imagine East Mesa elementary school.  

The school recently adopted the "Leader in Me" curriculum, and as part of such, the faculty and staff participated in the 7 habits training over the summer.  They have been so excited about the personal changes they have experienced in their lives, that they decided to make the training available to interested families.  Now, I will admit, receiving a hand-addressed invitation to participate caused me to experience some mixed emotions.  I mean, on the one hand, wow! and on the other hand wow... Either they know us to be a family who cares, or a family who's struggling to figure it out. Or, oh yeah, there is that "both" that I am not ashamed to belong too.

The training has been facilitated by two super dynamic teachers known around the school as "the Matt's" not as in 'door' way, definitely no walking all over these two. They're a little like mutt and jeff, and they play off of each other beautifully as they get class participants engaged in discussing the 7 Habits and how they can be used in our family and personal lives for greater effectiveness.

We're only a few weeks in, and we've not covered a whole lot of material yet, but I love the slow pace, it gives us an opportunity to put our learning into practice. One thing I've learned about myself is that I'm pretty good at knowing all the right answers. I can talk the talk.  Walking the walk however...well, I have some work to do.  But that's part of what's great! I can identify the WHY of the things that aren't working, and if the WHY is me, then I can do what's necessary to change it! (and believe me I am a BIG part of the WHY. But don't read that as me self-bashing, its purely an acknowledgement that I'm not as effective as I can be, and now I'm beginning to understand what I need to do to change).

One of the first assignments we brought home was a family challenge to discuss responsibilities, and how we can become proactive in keeping up with our responsibilities.  That night we sat around our dinner table discussing what responsibilities each of us carries in our household and were surprised to discover that we really do share more responsibilities than we might have thought at first glance.

For example, the youngest of our clan (not yet 5) is responsible to bathe and brush her hair daily, wear clean clothes, put away her toys, and eat her meals. If you have children who love to eat, you may not consider eating meals a responsibility, for this child however, meal eating is a necessary responsibility.
For the next youngest of the clan, responsibilities include getting dressed all the way to shoes and socks every morning before breakfast, completing homework, and putting away clean laundry.  We discussed that some of mom and dad's responsibilities are providing a safe home environment, food, love, and electricity! When it was time to choose a responsibility to work on being proactive about, I was surprised at how easily the children chose which responsibilities to work on.  It was as if the same things that were making me and daddy cave hair miserable to argue about every day, were also making the kids miserable.  So it was with much excitement that the youngest chose to be proactive about eating her meals without complaining, and the next youngest chose to get dressed to the shoes without being reminded every day.


I never saw what was coming next headed my way....

Enter "Proactive Man!"

Lights thrown on to illuminate the gloriousness that is being showered, dressed, belt buckled, shoes tied, underwear clean, and hair combed. And a loud announcement of "I'm being PROACTIVE!!!!"

 At 4:55 AM......
But what's a proud mom to do other than congratulate her child and say "good job buddy". We did however go back to bed for a bit, with shoes on.  The hair was a little "cave-ish" by the time we finally got up for school, but so what else is new?  We wouldn't be us without it.

addendum to Raging Rhino's Growling Grizzlies

Turns out, the name of the center we visited is NOT the Child Crisis Center (although that IS their website name) but rather the "Family Resource Center".  Which is alot more user friendly than a crisis center sounds.  But nonetheless, if I thought the name was the Child Crisis Center, that belief still made it hard to go there initially.

For anyone in the MESA AZ area who is interested in FREE or LOW COST (nothing is more than $15 dollars and that's for materials) parenting workshops, relationship workshops, or behavior workshops like the one we participated in, I can't recommend it highly enough.  Visit the Family Resource Center online for a list of classes and contact information.  The enrollment process is quick and easy, and child care IS provided! (for $1.00 per session.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raging Rhinos and Growling Grizzlies

As a mother sometimes things just aren't what I wish they were.  There is one particular cavebear in our little clan that is feistier than the rest.  He is bright, charming, creative, intelligent, kind, and full of energy.  Sometimes that energy gets channeled into wonderful places where happy memories are created.  And sometimes...that energy goes no where good.  At school, especially, extra energy seems to get expelled through all kinds of inappropriate activities that typically end with a trip to the principal's office.

Anger is one form that extra energy sometimes takes.  And its expression has become troublesome.  Not discounting the possibility that we're not getting the whole story, there is still reason for concern as to how this angry energy is being used at school, at home, and well, yes, even at play.

Its difficult to admit that my child has a behavior problem.  It would be alot easier to blame it on everybody else. So and so is picking on him, this teacher doesn't like him, that kid is a teacher's pet, etc, etc, etc.  But none of that would help him get on better at school, it would just keep me from having to admit that there's an area (or 3 or 5 or 10) of parenting that I'm not doing so well at.

I know in my heart its better to admit that I'm falling short and ask for help than to let my kid suffer from bad parenting.  But that doesn't make it any easier to admit.  One big step was making the call to the Child Crisis Center.  Just the name alone put me on edge.  It felt bigger than what I felt we were dealing with.  Calling a place with that kind of name felt ominous, like I was somehow one parenting class away from completely losing it.  But making that call has been a wonderful thing for us.

Here's what I've learned:  The Child Crisis Center is a loving, safe, friendly place for families to learn together.
Their tagline "Strong Families, Safe Kids" says it much better than the title of their organization.  By offering a variety of classes for parents, children, even grandparents acting as caretakers, stronger more functional families can be created, and where there is love and safety, there too is a successful family.  The Child Crisis Center is not a place to be ashamed to visit.  Its not like visiting a welfare office, going to the "wrong side of town" , or otherwise any kind of embarrassing.  Its not full of dirty ne-er-do-wells.  In fact, the center is full of regular, every day, normal families, just like yours and mine who have decided that something is not working, and perhaps another perspective on the problem could be helpful.  Its full of families who love each other and want to experience family life as its meant to be experienced. Walking into a center such as this is not an admission of failure.  It is an admission of not knowing everything there is to know.  Not all the information you will recieve in this kind of setting will apply to your situation.  Take from it what works, and leave behind the rest.

What I love most about participating in these classes is the opportunity to bring things home like the "Bucket Filler" concept, which ironically is helping us more with our youngest child, than the child enrolled in the classes. But also the comraderie of children, and parents who all came together looking for the same kind of help, but showed themselves all to be wonderful, kind, personable, creative, and joyful people.  Each with a similar area of struggle.  I guess that's to say I learned we're "Normal" to need a little help.

And that makes it a little better.  Because really, don't we really just want to feel "normal" inside?
And when we secretly deal with a problem that we have made bigger than it is, our feelings of normalcy are stolen and replaced by feelings of shame and guilt.  Its silly! And I refuse to participate anymore.  So if you think less of me because I enrolled my family in anger management class, that's ok.  I still won't feel guilty about it, because guilt isn't the appropriate emotion here.  And I learned THAT at anger management.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Creativity and a clear head

 The first time I heard the phrase "Craft for health" I admit, I thought it was a little silly.  How could "crafting" be good enough for me to be a part of a healthy lifestyle? But then I started visiting a few different crafting blogs and realized that if I could take the opportunity to do something creative each day, it could be a beautiful way to clear my head.  I love to work with paper, there's something about the texture, patterns, feel, ability to layer, etc that I just really enjoy, plus, its inexpensive, easy to acquire, and easy to combine various other medias to create things totally unique.  I wish I had a better image of this piece I created for my dad's 60th birthday.  Its my own interpretation of a photo taken during last year's trip to Australia that he and my mother, and my sister and her husband took to honor some of my grandmother's last wishes.  The photography from that trip came back incredibly beautiful, and I loved the colors and shadows of the original photo.  This piece is paper and pen on wood.  Its not perfect, and its not meant to be.  That's what's beautiful about art, it doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to represent your intentions.  My intention here was to produce a piece of art inspired by the original photo, but not to be an exact replica.  I loved getting lost in the colors and geometric shapes for the 3 or 4 hours it took to complete.

I've made a goal to create a little something most every day.  It won't always be "art" so to speak.  Maybe it will be food, or a blog entry.  Maybe it will be a new arrangement of the animals on a child's bed.  Maybe rearranged pictures on the wall. The purpose is to get lost for a few minutes in something happy, and to let that spill over into all the rest.