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.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


in my Hello Again post, I ended with a short list of some of the things happening in Cave land.  For a group of people living in a cave, we have certainly come to see the light in ways we never expected.  Being able to see the light has involved copious amounts of forgiveness, both asked for and received.

As a clan, we have a long history of "sucking it up" and moving on. Only "sucking it up" is really about as effective as "sucking the life out" and tends to produce approximately the same results~ mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion.

There are some things in life that perhaps are best dealt with by "sucking it up" and moving know things like spilled milk.  Other things however, need serious and extensive attention.  The kinds of things that disrupt your thinking patterns, your social patterns, the way you interact with yourself, your family, and your community, those are the kinds of things that need attention.  The problem is, your behavior feels normal to you, and everybody else seems like the problem, and its hard to recognize yourself as the common denominator in a series of failures.

Our little clan of cave hairs came to a crisis point last spring.  We found ourselves in a near constant literal and figurative combat mode, sparked by years of unrest (literally not sleeping due to crazy work schedules and frequent nightmares) and a new neighbor who thought it was way too awesome to set off large firework explosions in the middle of the night, we were a family ready for the fight.  Combat readiness, while valuable in certain organizations, you know, like the MILITARY, isn't really a positive component of family relationships.  It (combat readiness) tends to erode trust and tenderness, two of the most important aspects of successful, loving families.  With little tenderness remaining, and trust eroded to an all time low (let me explain here that we're talking emotional trust...the kind that dictates how strongly we fortify ourselves against emotional hurt.  Please do not infer acts of dishonesty, marital or otherwise, because that's not the case.) we found ourselves resentful of each other and in a constant battle of wills....and finally in marriage counseling and anger management classes.

The best thing that ever happened in our marriage was me being officially diagnosed with PTSD.  Why you ask?  Because it got Mr. Cave Hair to look in the mirror and ask "If my wife has PTSD, and she hasn't experienced (insert whatever he has experienced here....suffice it to say, he's been in real combat) then how could I NOT have PTSD?

I knew he had PTSD, but he was stuck in being bigger than the mission, believing not being able to handle what he's experienced in life to be a sign of weakness.  NOT SO! In fact, one Vietnam Vet put it best in an interview with Warrior SOS, "if you are a decent, caring person, you cannot help but be effected by what you have experienced".  So, in fact, having difficulty processing what you've experienced and putting it in its place relative to where your life is now, versus letting it dictate how you live your life now, isn't a sign of weakness, its a sign that you're not a freaking sociopath!  Nobody wants to be a sociopath, right?  So basically, unless you think sociopaths are awesome, its now ok to admit that taking a 6 year old with half his face blown off to a MASH unit haunts you and that the memory of such occassionally disturbs your ability to act "normally".

So what have these diagnosis meant to the Clan of the Cave Hair?  Its meant finally realizing that not everything in life can be controlled by just trying harder.  It has meant accepting that some stuff just can't be controlled.  It has meant bringing wonderful people into our lives who see in us something of value, a family of individuals worth rescuing.  It has meant finally being honest with ourselves about what we can and cannot handle.

It has meant FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness asked for and recieved, from each other, to each other, from ourselves, to ourselves, and from our God, and yes, even too our God...because frankly, we were an angry lot, and while it may seem blasphemous, we needed to forgive God for letting us experience the things we have been most hurt by, so that we could understand that it has been by those things that we have also become the good parts of ourselves, cave hair and all ;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cookin' in the Cave-Valentine's Day Edition

Just because I "CAN" doesn't mean I "HAVE TOO"....

That was my rule for Valentine's Day creations this year.   Its quite liberating really. I mean, really, is it genuinely necessary that I make a triple layer chocolate mousse fudge cake with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate curls? NO! Its not! I CAN do that, but to what end?  I don't need it, my kids won't eat it, and it takes alot of time, energy, and even a small portion of the grocery budget that I'm just not willing to part with right now.

Priorities.  Putting first things first  That's where we're at in our little Cave Hair Clan right now.  It was a priority to provide something fun, something special, and something the kids could help me with for a Valentine celebration.  It was NOT a priority to have it be excruciatingly time consuming, expensive, or "perfect".  Perfect is as perfect does, and a triple layer chocolate mousse fudge cae with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate curls may be "picture perfect" but if the family won't eat it, and I make myself into a martyr over the process...its not the perfect cake for US.  

There's only one martyr being celebrated on Valentine's Day, and it is not MOM.

So here's Valentine's Day celebration treats done Cave style:
Divine in all their crunchy, creamy, sweet, smooth, and tanginess, heart shaped Pavlova desserts are both a family favorite and a nod to our Australian heritage. To get sprinkles to stay on the meringues, add it before you bake. We did ours up in our own unique style, with lemon scented meringue, and creme fraiche instead of the classic whipped cream. I LOVED them made this way, even if it started out as necessary substitutions for other ingredients I lacked. I will be making them this way again, for SURE!

Ginger Gems
Did you ever start out with the best of intentions and then in a moment of honesty realize, you just weren't up to completing the task as originally planned? Its far too easy to just throw it all away at this point and adopt an "all or nothing" attitude about even the smallest of things. But knowing one's limitations does not require an all or nothing attitude. Not even close! Adaptability is the key. The dough for these ginger gems (featuring a healthy dose of ChefTess' Wise woman of the East Spice Blend...perfect with anything gingery) was originally intended to become beautifully decorated ginger people, personalized for each of 8 preschool class mates. Sunday afternoon rolled around, it had been a long and physically exhausting week, and I wasn't interested in spending my entire Sunday afternoon decorating cookies. Plus, the point was for Lily to help, and she LOVES to decorate, for about 3 minutes, then she's ready to move on to the next thing. Turning this ginger dough into "Ginger Gems" was the perfect solution. We took the chilled dough, rolled in balls, flattened out into a tray of non-pariels and stuck a heart on top of each one. Lily helped to the end, the turned out extremely festive, and every single cookie was decorated, baked, and cooling in under 30 mins (starting with previously mixed and chilled dough.)


for us...

which, after all, is really the point.

Friday, February 11, 2011

hello again

I've been thinking it may be time to resurrect the blog.  2010 was a year we found ourselves saying "don't let the door hit you in the butt" too, but 2011 is full of hope and good things to come, and as I seem to have my life together enough to find myself watching TV and taking a nap mid afternoon because all my work is done, I think maybe I can come back to the occasional blogging activity.

I know everybody says "we're on an amazing journey"...its become somewhat cliche, so I'll refrain from saying "We're on an amazing journey", but I will say, I like the path we're on right now, and I feel hopeful for the future.
Some things broke down, rather, some PEOPLE (more than one!) broke down last year, we came as close as completely falling apart as is possible without actually calling it quits, but at the same time, we experienced greater achievements than we've ever experienced, and it was a WEIRD year! But this year, we've got some wonderful people and organizations in our court, helping us put things into perspective, and helping us to find a greater appreciation for life and the people, places, and things with which we find ourselves interacting.

the "Sneak Peak" version is a little something like this: Family counseling for all of us, individual counseling for three of us, PTSD, anger management, discipline contracts, EMDR, 7 Habits of Happy Families training (LOVE IT!), karate training, saying NO, adding art and creativity back into life, and teaching the New Testament to 8,9,and 10 year olds.  LIFE IS GOOD, and its ok to feel wonky inside, with or without Cave Hair.

"See" you again soon,