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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Twas the Stomach Bug before Christmas

Illnesses usually do not come with an announcement.  There is never ample time to prepare and execute a plan of attack. They often arrive without regard to convenient times, locations, or special occasions.  Illnesses are not polite nor do they consider the impact of symptoms on their tiny targets.  A stomach virus is especially cruel. It often invades in the middle of the night when a victim is awakened in a most unkind manner.  The dreaded rush to the bathroom is usually pointless by the time the nasty bug is recognized.  All a parent can do at that point is comfort the child and initiate "Project Clean-Up" using appropriate haz-mat suit and protocol.

This is the scenario I encountered with my three children at various times within the last two months.   Each has taken their turn.  Two were gifted with repeat visits by the dreaded "hum bug."  Prior to Thanksgiving, we experienced a round of stomach ailments. Then right after Thanksgiving, we braced for Round 2. My eight year old son was stricken first closely followed by his eleven year old sister.  There is a certain element of creativity that must be employed by parents who have two children with a stomach virus at the same time.  This is especially relevant  when living in an environment that houses only one bathroom.

I assure you, this parenting dilemma is not covered in those videos you are advised to view prior to leaving the hospital after the birth of your children.  Some parenting books appear sqeamish when discussing bodily functions. Why? After all,everyone has had a bout with the intestinal consequences and repercussions related to the dreaded "rotovirus."  I believe more should be marketed to parents regarding motor planning and making adaptations to your environment during these traumatic parenting events. That way parents don't feel like idiots when both children are spewing liquids from more that one orifice at the same time.

Motor Planning:
motor planning,the ability to plan and execute skilled nonhabitual tasks. Also called motor praxis.
Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.
Here's where my experiences working with Occupational and Physical Therapists have come in handy in the parenting department!  I will never say they told me to do what I am about to share with you.  However, I was able to interpret their advice regarding body positioning and handling, making adaptations to the environment, and appropriate protocol for keeping my children as comfortable as possible in between their copious expulsion of bodily fluids.  (I'm trying really hard here not to be offensive with regard to terminology.)
I also had to make sure that I kept my children's school informed about their absences on a daily basis.  Our school district has a pretty strict standard regarding loss of time from school.  Even though there's not much you can do to decrease the time required for this illness to run it's marathon-like course, a trip to the doctor was still necessary to document that I indeed had a good reason for keeping my child out of school.  I can just imagine what I would say to the judge when called in to court to account for my child's frequent absences:
"I'm so sorry, your Honor.  I was so busy holding my son's ass over the large trash can while trying to avoid having him vomit on the kitchen floor that I forgot to call the school.  Meanwhile, my daughter was in our one and only bathroom having diarrhea and vomiting into the small trash can. Please forgive my oversight so I do not have to do community service.  Chances are great that this will happen again as long as other parents continue to send their sick children to school and reinfect my child!"  (Oops.  Did I just say that?  That's a whole other blog post.  So I won't go there today.)
Thankfully all that drama is "behind" us for the moment and I can now focus on getting ready for Christmas.  But I learned once again that parenting is definitely a fly-by the seat-of your-pants endeavor.  Adaptations always need to be made.  For a whole week an old shoe box lined with recycled grocery bags served as a quick fix when my child needed to throw up and couldn't make it to the bathroom on time.  A trash can can be cleaned up and sanitized.  I became quite adept at clean up duty at 3:00 in the morning.  The most important thing is to help your child feel comfortable and try to maintain some semblance of dignity. 

Parenting is a "team sport"  sometimes.  It helps to share, commiserate, and explore the opportunities or resources that are available to us.  Thanks for taking time to read this.  If you feel it would help someone else,  I invite you to pass it along.  It helps to know our shared experiences can make a difference! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gifts from the Heart

Holiday time and gift giving are chasing me again this year.  There are people I want to acknowledge for all the amazing ways they show kindness, emotional support, and love throughout the year.  This time of year leaves me breathless as I run toward that finish line that screams "Christmas."  How to balance these feeling of generosity with the little Grinch of a Gremlin called "the budget"  is a challenge that threatens to release the bah humbug in many of us.  Here are some ideas that I recently unpacked from my holiday box of memories.  Perhaps one of them will inspire you to create a gift that can be added to someone's treasury of holiday memories.

  1. I was the oldest of six children in our family.  Each year my Dad would carefully print the Months, Days, and Numbers on a large blank calendar that he had picked up from an office supply store.  (I assume that's where he found the item.) He then added every important event we needed to remember:  Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Special Occasions.  This was his hand written gift to my mother.  She posted that large calendar by the phone (back in the day when phones were actually attached to the wall) and used that organizational tool to track all of our activities throughout the year. 

    We posted my dad's concerts (he played French Horn for the Army Band, Virginia Philharmonic Orchestra, the Virginia Opera, and various other venues).  We also listed school activities and special projects that were due.  At the end of the year, it was fun to look back on that calendar and see how much our family had done.  I loved that calendar because it was so well written.  My dad had excellent teacher style printing, but I knew it must have taken some time for him to make it look that nice.

    Even if you don't want to hand write a calendar, there are many beautiful pre-printed ones that can serve the same purpose.  Add special touches of your own:  Favorite quotes, inspirational words of wisdom, or funny sayings sprinkled throughout each month.  The gift of time spent adding those unique items makes the present a Gift from the Heart.

  2. One year I purchased card stock from the craft store and cut each sheet into pieces the size of business cards.  My three children and I added memories of special things to give to their grandparents.  We included descriptions of special meals and favorite treats, movies we viewed together, holiday events, funny quotes, unique personality traits we love and appreciate, and even aromas that have left a lasting impressions.  I added memories from my own childhood including things I enjoyed about growing up in a large family.  My children even added art work on those tiny cards.  We found a decorative box (there are many selections at the dollar store) and placed those cards into the box.  A ribbon was added to complete the look and keep the box closed until its reveal.  The hand written cards and art work took some time to complete, but turned into a fun activity with my children.  It was a Gift from the Heart.

  3. One year when I lived in Germany I found myself alone for Christmas.  I decided to volunteer to make and deliver cookies through our church group.  Baking helped me remember the amazing aromas associated with my Hungarian mother's cooking.  I packaged the cookies in those cute little holiday tins, just like my mom did when I was a child.  I received my mission to deliver cookies to the soldiers on guard duty for Christmas Eve.  In my little yellow 1978 German Specs Volkswagon Passat (hey...I paid for it myself in cash for $550.00) I delivered those cookies.  I could have been delivering gold given the response from those soldiers.  Their smiles and heart warming thanks were all I needed to feel the spirit of Christmas.  I no longer felt like I was alone, in a foreign country, far away from my family.  I was also given a Gift from the Heart.  

There are many ways to make a difference to others this year.  I would love to hear from my readers about how you created a memorable moment and gave a Gift from the Heart.  It doesn't have to cost a lot.  It just needs a little time and a touch of creativity.

Have a wonderful week and thanks for taking time to read 
this blog.  You are appreciated!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Home Baked Gratitude - A Thanksgiving Tale

One night my children were listening to another one of their father's tales from work.  Dinner time conversations, when staged around an actual dinner table, can lead to some pretty amazing outcomes.  A recent job change to a Senior Living environment provided the subject.  Actually, a few concepts emerged that night.  1.Work ethics  2.Quality of Life  3. Respect for individuals who have a treasure of life experiences  4.Memory Enhancement Activities

The children had just finished sharing their schedule of daily events from school.  It came time for their father, Ramon, to share his day.  Tales from papi usually have a high level of drama, descriptive language, and a tremendous amount of detail that either intrigue the children or make them beg to go do their homework.  I listen because it usually leads to some creative ideas of my own.  I'll spare you the details of that for today!

Ramon recently accepted a position as Lead Cook for a Senior Living Home that markets itself as one of high quality and compassion.  It's also one where a family's expectations are elevated to correspond with the expense of said quality of services.  A brand new facility is still under construction.   Ramon traveled to another location 50 miles away to complete his training in preparation for the opening.  So imagine Ramon's shock when he arrived at the one-year-old building and discovered that the kitchen staff had grown accustomed to taking short cuts. 

Menu items that were expected by the residents often got substituted.  Cooking techniques were altered to reduce wait times but created less tasty food.  The "cookie" that was listed for the desert plate came from a box instead of home made.  Ramon asked about recipes that are given by the company and was directed to a location where they are kept.  He was told that if he wanted to make the cookies it was all right, but other duties also needed to be completed for dinner service.  Ramon located the cookie recipe and saw that it was a simple one.  He easily baked enough for the dinner service plus completed all the other assignments in the kitchen.  Turns out that this simple act of initiative and desire to give the residents a better dining experience lead to a heart warming interaction with one of the residents.

Ramon was asked to meet one of the residents after she had finished eating her meal.  She complimented him on the home baked cookies that were added to the dessert plate.  Mrs. Larsen said to him, "I used to make those same type of cookies for 20 years when I worked for a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado.  I wished I could still make them, but it's so hard to get the recipe out of my head and onto the cookie sheet."   She thanked him for giving her a happy memory of times when she baked cookies for others.  He had a few tears in his eyes and I admit that it choked me up too.  This kids squirmed uncomfortably in their chairs, as they often do when mommy and daddy get emotional.  But I could tell that the story made an impact.

Another story from the Senior Living Home:  Ramon brought home a container of Red Cranberry Juice Concentrate that was accidentally delivered to the kitchen.  I asked why the residents can't have the red juice and was told that they might spill it on the carpet.  I asked, "Well why don't they have the carpets specially treated so the spill gets wicked away.  I know that product exists!"  Ramon said, "They do have carpets like that, but they still prefer to give the residents white cranberry juice."  I informed him emphatically, "Well when I am in a Senior Living Residence some day, you damned well better serve me RED cranberry juice!" 

Let's all take time to appreciate individuals who have way more life experiences than we do.  There are stories that need to be told and we should listen.  There are memories that occur with the taste of a cookie or the aromas of a well cooked meal. I believe that if someone has to opportunity to make a difference whether through a career choice or by being a volunteer visitor, they should take the time to make every moment a quality interaction. I would hope that someone would do the same for me or a family member someday.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Hope you make more than a great meal!  Make some Memories that are worthy of conversations for years to come!  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Anatomy of A Conversation with My Children - Life Lessons

I am always intrigued by how a seemingly simple conversation with my children can evolve into a more serious subject matter.  Wednesday morning I dropped Sebastien off at school first since his brother Nathan had a Doctor's appointment.  I then returned home for transportation round#2 with Isabella needing a ride to Middle School then Nathan and I going to the doctor's appointment from there.  On the short ride to drop off Isabella, I asked Nathan to please remind me to pick up a bottle of water for Sebastien so I could deliver it to him when Nathan was done with his appointment.  Sebastien's Spider Man water bottle had sprung a leak when I attempted to fill it that morning.  It was a Dollar Store purchase so I didn't expect it to last the entire school year. 

Sebastien likes to chew on the top to his water bottle, so it was likely the cause of it's early demise.  Nathan made a negative comment about this so I felt compelled to launch into my developmental explanation about why some children have a need to chew on things:  water bottle tops, erasers, etc...I informed Nathan that some children, like Sebastien, actually need to chew to help them focus in school.  Sebastien has a lot of motor energy that is probably hard for him to contain while in school.  Yet he does it extremely well.  Chewing may be a compensatory technique for him.  I'm not sure if it totally convinced Nathan, but it did allow me to further explain another topic near to my heart.

We discussed how everyone has different learning styles.  Some people are kinesthetic learners and need to be able to touch items to learn about things.  Writing, hands-on science experiments, and learning about letters through texture props can facilitate learning.  Also, some individuals need to be in motion to pay attention and learn.  Last year Sebastien's Kindergarten teachers were excellent about allowing the class to participate in music and movement prior to beginning their rotation of centers.  They learned their sight words through action games such as a "snow ball" throw.  The sight words were written on sheets of white paper, wadded into balls, and placed into a large bucket.  When the teacher began the music, a snow ball throw began.  When the music ended, each child had to grab one snow ball and bring it to the teacher.  The child then opened the ball and revealed a sight word, which he/she recited for the teacher.  Brilliant and fun!  I had the opportunity to observe this for the Christmas party last year and was impressed by the results.

Some individuals are visually tuned in and do well with written information, posters on display in the room, and other props.  I explained to Isabella that when I help her with homework, I always ask to see the math problem or the information she is trying to study because I need to have that visual cue.  If she just recites the math problem, it is harder for me to focus on a way to help her.  I also need pencil and paper to show her how I envision the problem being solved.  (kinesthetic)  

Music is a terrific auditory cue that helps with memorization of information.  Listening to the teacher, hearing a video tutorial, and being able to study while listening to music, a movie, or other external sounds are also indications that someone is an auditory learner.

We talked about how sometimes children can be on "sensory overload" and have a difficult time focusing in a classroom.  This overload can happen if the lights are too bright, there are unusual aromas in the room, if others are talking too much, or if the classroom has so many decorations and information displayed in the room that they become distracted.  (I have seen a lot of overloaded classrooms - sometimes out of necessity when teachers have no storage space.)

I explained to Isabella and Nathan that sometimes a child will be allowed to chew gum in the classroom if it helps him/her focus on the assignments.  Other children may be prescribed treatment by an Occupational Therapist that encourages them to sit on a therapy ball instead of in a regular desk chair because it helps the student maintain focus.  There are many reasons why students could benefit from adaptations to their environment and to their work stations.

When I mentioned the therapy ball, Isabella shared that there is a student in one of her classes who uses a therapy ball and sees a therapist.  The child is having a hard time attending to her work and gets distracted.  The student lost a parent in a car accident just over the summer and needs extra assistance adjusting to Middle School due to the trauma experienced so recently.

Of course, I started to get teary-eyed.  I stopped in front of the school to let Isabella out and gave her a big hug.  I told her how much I love her.  You never know when a car ride to school will lead to a conversation that stops you in your tracks.  Forget about the list of things that you planned to do!  That day, I took Nathan to his doctor's appointment, picked up another water bottle for Sebie, took Nathan back to school, and personally took the water bottle and a snack to Sebastien's first grade classroom.  Those simple actions took on new meaning for me as I thought about the now mother-less middle school child whose life had changed forever over the summer.  And I felt a deeper appreciation for the opportunities I still have to talk to my children about the things that matter to me and to them.

Anatomy of A Conversation indeed!  Allow your children to talk, but also take those teachable moments and see where a conversation might lead.  From a chewed up water bottle to learning styles to the loss of a parent...all these conversations are helping my children gain information that will shape who they are, how they learn to cope in the world, and hopefully inspire them to respond with compassion to those in need when the time comes.

Thanks again for taking time to read this and I welcome your input regarding the subjects I write about.  Sharing resources and encouraging each other as we go through our journey as parents is a worthwhile endeavor.  It is a pleasure to have you along for the ride.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Memory Games & Techniques for Maintaining Relationships During the Holidays

Last night I needed to take my own advice and adapted the A to ZZZZ Good-Night Game for myself.  Too many things going on right now and it's hard to fall asleep sometimes.  My version of this game is to begin with the letter "A" and think of people I have known whose name begins with that letter.  By the time I got to the middle of the alphabet, I began to feel a sense of calm.  My spontaneous journey back in time brought back memories from childhood to adulthood including places where I have lived, worked, traveled, and gone to school. Soon whatever worries I had were replaced by gratitude.  I have truly been blessed in spite of all the trials and challenges.

Sometimes I think about all the things I have yet to accomplish and don't give myself enough credit for the intriguing, awe inspiring things I have experienced.  Perhaps that's a first born symptom or just the way I was hard-wired from the moment of my conception.  Whatever the reason, I continually look for ways to accommodate the way my brain functions.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this dilemma.

Another fun activity to do is to look at the change in your pockets or purse once in a while.  When I hold a coin in my hands and look at the date, I immediately recall how old I was at that time, what I enjoyed doing, a special event, or a family trip.  (Like the one where our large family of eight traveled from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Minneapolis, Minnesota in a small Ford Escort - Luggage rack on top.)  These simple memory games are known as "anchoring" techniques. For more ideas regarding memory techniques refer to the link below. Perhaps you will be inspired to use some of these techniques when you gather with family and friends for the holidays.

Learning Inspirations - Monash University

If you do this activity with other family members, be prepared for some disagreement as to the actual facts of the memory.  Why does this happen?  The differences in remembering are the result of a few components:
  • Depends on the age of the individual at the time of the event. 
  • Life experiences at the time of the event can cause each person to "frame" the event the way they perceive the moment.
  • Each person has variations in their sensory awareness of surroundings.  One person may focus on visual details while another family member may recount aromas or a song that was playing on the radio - an auditory cue.
  • Some people "check out" when family chaos ensues - thus eliminating any chance of a negative memory. (Think of the person who falls asleep during times of stress.)
The best thing to do if you and a family member disagree on the details attached to the memory is to let it go and not argue.  Does it really matter who is "right" or who is the more accurate "family historian" ?  Just know that your memory is exactly that....YOUR Memory!  Be happy you have that very personal account.  Finding ways to keep memories alive is important.  Story telling, journaling, and pictures are great ways to bring back the experiences that help define who you are, what you have become, and where you still want to go in life.  Sometimes you may need to replace negative memories by creating new ones in the present. 

Thanksgiving is coming up soon.  Families and friends may reunite for this holiday time.  This is usually a perfect time to either renew relationships or regret gathering together.  Which one will you select?  Hopefully it will be a time to remember, repair, respond, and renew relationships. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A to ZZZZZZ - A Good-Night Game

Occasionally one or more of my three children has a difficult time falling asleep.  Usually the reason is what I call "Restless Brain Syndrome."  I tried to research this topic on line and found articles related to actual sleep disorders, ADHD, and various diagnoses.  None of these applied to what I will share with you today.  We all have moments when concerns prevent us from "turning off" our brain at the end of a long day.  Children experience these moments too.

My six-year-old, Sebastien, has way too many ideas going on for someone so young. Throughout the day he typically comes up with ideas for new superheroes, what they will wear, their character traits, and how they will be incorporated in his next movie script.  He creates elaborate drawings of buildings, his future tree house, and martial arts gear. I can't keep enough paper, glue, and tape in the house to sustain the tremendous creativity that emanates from this tiny being.  And I wouldn't have it any other way!  Sebastien often competes with his eight-year-old brother, Nathan, for how many journals he can go through each month.  Those books are filled to overflowing with a treasure of amazing and intricate structures. Perhaps someday it will help them determine the course of their future career interests.

For now, I am responsible for the daunting task of assisting my zealous bunch in decompressing at the end of the day so that they can wake up refreshed and ready to tackle school each morning. Mondays are especially challenging since they have had two days of "free-style" activities coursing through their veins.  So last night Sebastien needed a little extra assistance winding down and getting to sleep.  I am grateful at these times that I worked with awesome Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists back in the day who made me aware of Sensory Integration issues and how different children respond to stimuli.

In the interest of sharing some intriguing Parenting Tid Bits...

  • What Is Sensory Integration? - › … › Sensory Integration Dysfunction
    This article explores sensory integration: what it is and what problems relate to it.

  • Sensory processing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Images of sensory Integration

    Although my children have not been diagnosed with "Sensory Integration Disorder"  I can appreciate many of the concepts and have adapted our bed time routine to accommodate my children's energies, activity levels, and tendencies toward sensory over load at bed time.  To help them de-camp from their list of unfulfilled activities and dreams of future creations, we came up with a Good-Night Game to distract them and help them relax:

    You are probably familiar with this game in some form.  I call it the A to ZZZZ Good -Night Game.  I ask Sebastien, Nathan, or Isabella to imagine that there are little lambs or another type of animal who are still out in the farmer's field.  It is getting late and it is time for them to come home so we can put them to bed.  Each animal has a name beginning with the letter A,B, C...etc.  We sometimes use this as a memory game too and list all the animals each time we add a new one.  (think of the game "I'm going on a trip and in my suitcase I will pack...)  Same concept!  It's fun to hear the names they choose.  One night, Sebastien just wanted to make a list and not say all the names every time a new name was selected.  I knew then that he was already tired.  Works like magic!  Here's why:
    • It allows the children to participate in one last activity before calling it quits for the evening.
    • The repetition and refocusing of thought process allows the brain to relax similar to meditation.
    • It provides the children with a strategy that can be adapted for future use.
    • The children have control over the type of animal and the names.
    I once worked with a teacher with whom I shared my dilemma regarding how to help my children decompress at the end of their day.  She shared her story about how she was the same way as a child.  Her mother let her talk about her day before bedtime or read a story to her...anything to help get her mind off the many things she would think about late at night.  As an adult, she still experiences these same issues and was very helpful to me when I would arrive to work tired after dealing with my sleepless child.  Just hearing her express how she felt as a child helped me gain awareness of my own children's concerns and come up with some strategies.

    Another strategy I came up with can be found in my blog post:
    Hope you have a wonderful Monday and Find Inspiration to Feed Your Spirit this Week!


    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    "After Action Report" A Post Halloween Story

    It's been a few days since I have been able to get to a computer, but I had to share my Halloween experience this year.  When was the last time Halloween brought tears to your eyes?  Well, this year was one of those times for me.  I have been "flying solo" when it comes to Halloween and other events with my children for a while now.  This year was different.  My daughter decided that she wanted to go with her friend from school.  The friend's parents supervised the door to door trick-or treating preceded by dinner and ending with a movie.  I hesitated for a moment, but then decided to let her go since I had already met the parents. My daughter made a valiant attempt to restrain the inevitable eye rolling when I dropped her off at their house.  I appreciated her "tolerance" for dear ol' mom.  I admitted to the other mother (who was way cool because she is a professional make up artist and hair stylist) that I am having a hard time letting Isabella go with friends even though I know there is parental supervision.  The other mom said, "Yeah, me too." 

    So Isabella was turned over to another capable mom who helped her get all "Zombiefied" for the big night.  I returned home after posting my Halloween poem on this blog, and found both sons ready to go.  They had created their own costumes to reflect favorite super heroes and were excited to get started.  The difference this year:  Their dad was able to participate with them and supervised their door to door treasure hunt for goodies.  We had been separated until our visit this summer.  This year, thanks to a glitch in our return travel plans to Georgia, the boys were able to spend time with their dad.   (See Blog Post Titles Below regarding our unexpected change in summer vacation plans.)

    My role in our little adventure was to do reconnaissance and keep the van warm while the children and their father prowled the streets for houses that clearly indicated Trick-or-Treaters were welcome: Lights on and decorations such as fog served as our visual cues. In some cases, scary sounds and music provide auditory cues to beckon them forward.  I followed closely and kept the window rolled down so I could help them find their next target.  After a few houses, I could tell they were getting into the adventure of meeting people, saying their thanks, and waving good-bye.  Their father was equally happy for them.  He didn't celebrate Halloween as a child and I think it was fun for him to watch his children and their interactions with everyone.

    There was a feeling of camaraderie with the people who handed out the treats.  Some neighbors banned together to create a festive atmosphere - this happened a lot with cul-de-sacs.  Everyone was friendly and I realized that this was one time of year when we got to interact with individuals we may not usually get to see.  I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of our neighbors.  That warm feeling combined with the realization that last year at this time I had been struggling to corale three children after a long day of work.  It wasn't long before I got a lump in my throat.  I thought, "What on earth is making me cry on Halloween?" 

    Here it is:  It's hard to be a single mom. The expectations are high and it feels like there's never enough of you to go around.  As much as you want to believe that you are all the children need, the fact remains that they miss their dad, regardless of the circumstances.  So this year I was grateful that God has mercifully provide me with an abundance of love and forgiveness in my heart.  That has to be it, otherwise I don't know how I would make it through the many challenges that continue to present themselves for my review and resolution.  Halloween was a huge success for all of my children and for their dad.

    I played a significant role in navigating through another Happy Halloween.  It seems like every year I am dragged into this celebration kicking and screaming (in my head).  But after all is said and done, I feel a sense of pride that my children 1. Become creative geniuses when we see how much costumes cost at the store.  Home made is the way to go! 2. Are pleasant, polite, and socially appropriate with the neighbors.  3. Are really pretty good at rationing their treats so they don't over indulge on day one and throw up all over the place.  4. Demonstrate a kind heart by sharing with their friends and with mom - who loves anything with caramel, coconut, or dark chocolate.  5. A bonus of post Halloween is the skill of negotiation required to trade treats with your siblings and friends.

    Forgiveness is hard.  Really, honestly, truly hard.  But the rewards of watching your family weather the storms of chaos will hit home when you least expect them.  Like on Halloween.  When the weather is cold, the decorations are intriguing, the friends that surround you are comforting, and the children you love with all your being are able to share a special moment with their father - who has been forgiven.

    Isabella arrived home after her siblings had completed their evening of trick-or-treat.  She looked amazing thanks to the "mom of her friend" with the artistry skills.  When I asked how it went, Isabella gushed with excitement and clearly enjoyed her evening.  Then she told me, "Yeah, my friend's mom started crying too.  She said how grown up we are getting and she couldn't believe it."  I confessed that I too had my moment of wanting to cry a little.  Wierd?  Not at all!

    Hope you too enjoy the little things that add up to a whole lot of memories!  Happy November everyone!  Thanks for letting me share.

    Refer to Other Posts for Back Story:
    Spontaneous Moments and Unexpected Gratitude - Part I
    Consequences and Resolutions - Part II
    Moving Forward - Part III
    Why Did I End Up Here?
    Blessed Patience Rewarded

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    A Cheshire Cat Moon

    It's five in the morning and I'm on the road
    when I see a spooky sight.
    A Cheshire Cat Moon
    smiles like a buffoon
    and casts a luminous light.

    No eyes can be seen.
    Can't tell if he's mean
    or simply awake just for me.
    I'll have something to write
    before Halloween night.
    Perhaps that cat's smiling with glee.

    It's five in the morning and I'm on the road
    when I see a spooky sight.
    A Cheshire Cat Moon
    smiles though it's too soon
    to be out on a Halloween night.

    Have a Happy and Safe Halloween

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    The Leaning Tower of Laundry - Creative Genius or The Result of Reduced Field of Vision?

    My children have the ability to extract a wide range of emotions from their worn out mother. Their daily quest to break me down often leaves me to wonder, "Should I draft a proposal for our own reality television show?"  The drama that we create and escalate rivals the escapades of some crazy reality series...minus the income! Seriously, these children look so angelic, yet are capable of rendering me speechless and feeling like my brain has been squeezed of every drop of "Love and Logic" parenting it could hold.  I love them immensely and feel proud to be their mother 95% of the time.  The other 5% leaves me ready to pull out my nose hairs one by one.  I am not too proud to admit that there are moments when it is a blessing that other people are unable to read my thoughts.  They would be shocked!  But here's the truth:  Most parents have moments like that.

    I had an opportunity to take some of the wonderful "Love and Logic" classes and desperately want to believe in the concepts that were discussed.  I have even practiced the techniques ad nauseum.  Let me tell you, those techniques are excellent and do work, but my children fight them kicking and screaming along the way.  If you haven't heard of the program, here's a link for you.  It is well worth the classes and their resources are very helpful.  However, let me assure you that parenting is a human endeavor fraught with detours.  I have to admit that I take many detours and often revert to hard core military boot camp style parenting when all else fails.  Not every child is the same and in my case, all of them want to be "in charge."  So while you peruse the website for the "Love and Logic Parenting" techniques, let me share my adventures in what I call the "Laundry Pile Project."    
    Love and Logic Institute, Inc.
    2207 Jackson Street
    Golden, CO 80401-2300
    Phone: 303-278-7552
    Toll Free: 800-338-4065
    Fax: 800-455-7557

    Last week after returning from the laundrymat for our weekly adventures in "Clothing Maintenance"  I encouraged everyone to please put away their own items.  Their drawers are all clearly marked with their names and the clothing item that belongs in said "drawer."  Funny that by the end of each week underwear ends up in the shirt drawer and dirty shirts become co-mingled with socks.  Anywho...each week we regroup items and categorize them for the week.  Yeah, I know...but I was raised by an Army Dad and an Immigrant European mother and organization was key to keeping a large family household organized. I do find comfort and security in actually knowing where to find things.  Makes sense to me.  My children are more of the free style fly by the seat of your pants variety. We're a work in progress.

    So after the weekly rearranging of the drawers, I placed a fresh laundry bag in the same spot I always do at the beginning of the week.  Each day I remind the children to make sure their dirty clothes end up "INSIDE" the bag. You'd think this was a given.  They know and see that each week I close up the laundry bags to put them into the car for our trip to the laundrymat.  Yet inevitably, the clothes end up spilling over the sides by Day #3.  This past week, after one reminder, I decided to let things "fall where they may."  I waited as the first bag filled up.  That's when it all begin.  "The Leaning Tower of Laundry" begin to take shape.  First there were a few socks.  Then the pants were added.  Underwear began to topple over the pile.  I remained silent.  Surely someone would get tired of stepping over that mess and begin a new bag. Nothing!  Finally, that tower reached it's maximum capacity and tumbled over.  

    The kids looked up at me with wide eyes as if to say, "Now what?"  Hmmmm. I wonder.  I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Hmmm.  Looks like that pile could use another bag."    I thought to myself, "Did they not see that coming?  Was their field of vision impaired in some way?  Perhaps they enjoyed the look they had created as they expertly stacked each piece of clothing to form a skyscraper of socks and undies."  Whatever the reason, it made me think about the creativity involved in their sculpture.  As I lay awake in bed last night, here are the random thoughts that I just had to get out of my system before I could doze off:

    1. Too bad I won't have anyone from Architect's Digest coming over to do a story on this amazing structure.
    2. I will definitely win no prizes from Home and Garden regarding this awesome decoration my children have created in the corner of their room.
    3. Hmmm. Wonder if this qualifies as a "Work of Art."  Will the Museum of Modern Art be interested in an exhibit featuring my children's "Leaning Tower of Laundry."  This can be accompanied by their "Brownies Squished into the Living Room Carpet" and "Shoe Collection Radomly Placed by Front Door."   Hey...stranger items of a biological nature have been displayed with significant fanfare and controversy all in the name of "Art."
    4. Maybe one of them will decide to study engineering or become a sculptor.
    5. Go to sleep, Mary.  Just list this as one of the many mysteries of motherhood that you didn't see coming. 
    6. I just have to write about this on my blog.
    So the children did end up getting those clothes into bags and cleaning up that tower.  After all, they are pretty good kids.  I was happy it got done without all the usual drama.  And we had a little chuckle over how silly it was to let that pile get to a point where it fell over.  Hopefully next week will be better and we have learned it's better to start a new bag when the first one is full.  This was one of my better "Love and Logic" moments.  Looking forward to many more.  Like I said, we're all a work in progress - mom included.
    Happy Wednesday!  Find a quiet moment for yourself.  You've earned it!

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    The Imagination of a Six-Year-Old Super Hero

    Six-year-old Sebastien has the kind of imagination that leads to amazing creations.  I can't even predict where this gift will take him into the future, but I know that wonderful things happen when a child's (or adult's) imagination is nurtured and encouraged.  Sebastien is like some of the children I used to read about in children's books.  He has a zest for anything in motion, including himself.  His skills on the monkey bars and the backward flips he has demonstrated (with no formal gymnastics training to date) are legendary among family and friends.  It is no surprise that whenever we go to a park, whether outdoors or at the McDonald's play area, he inevitable becomes a magnet for other children who are fascinated by his creativity. 

    Sebastien's latest inspirations come from favorite super heroes.  I remember when my own brothers ran around the house with "capes" fashioned from dish towels and safety pins.  Rubber band guns were designed using wood scraps and clothes pins.  The Big Wheels were the favored mode of transportation as we raced to catch the bad guys.  Life was filled with fun and it seemed like most of our time was spent outdoors.  Imagination was not only encouraged, but expected as a necessary supplement to the simple toys of our day. So when I see my own children creating, imagining, and designing their own forms of entertainment, I have to smile.  Technology cannot totally eliminate the human need and dare I say desire to come up with our own  forms of entertainment.

    Sebastien has been known to use straws from McDonald's to make his version of "martial arts" equipment. (I can't bring myself to call them weapons)  He has created sparing sticks (I'm sure my children would cringe that I don't know the proper terms) and various tools to reach the toys that become trapped behind the cages that surround the play areas.  He has rescued quite a collection of Happy Meal toys.  Many times I have seen him with a ring of children around him as he demonstrated how to create toys or tools from the straws.  Parents often watch as everyone soon becomes engaged in a martial arts practice initiated by Sebastien.  I really do need to enroll him in some classes.  The boy has some awesome moves for someone so little.

    So Sebastien's latest favorite super hero is Wolverine.  He is fascinated by the claws and will take just about anything to design his own. (Which is fine with me given that the Wolverine Toy claws cost $25.00 each at Target.) Yikes!  Here's where the imagination comes in quite handy!  Today, you will have access to Sebastien's exclusive list of how you too can have Wolverine Claws that are cost effective and fun to make.  Hope you get a chuckle out of this and take a moment to reflect on some of the things you or your own children have created.  I love seeing things through the eyes of my children.

    I have to admit, there are moments when I wonder, "Does everything have to become Wolverine Claws?"  Then again, this moment in Sebastien's life will go by so fast.  I know I'll miss it when he outgrows this phase.  So here's the list of things that he has already used to design those claws.  It's fun to share with you and I hope it will make you smile.

     Wolverine Claws

    French Fries
    Ritz Crackers
    Fish Sticks
    Dry Spaghetti Noodles

    Hope your Monday was awesome.  Have a wonderful week and remember to share a fun memory of your own childhood creations with your family!

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Observations on A Walk Home from School

    Last Monday I was without our vehicle for a short time due to last minute appointments. The lack of said vehicle occurred during peak pick up times from school. I decided to walk and pick up my two sons, Nathan and Sebastien.  I could picture their surprised faces glowing with excitement at the prospect of walking home.  Perhaps we could even stop at the park on the way back to play before picking up my daughter from middle school. It couldn't be that far away.  Many children from our apartment complex walk to school.  I congratulated myself on this spontaneous exercise activity and set out on my journey.

    Oh lovely Colorado.  Those amazing curvy uphill sidewalks added a spicy twist to my exercise recipe.  I regretted bundling up against the cool, windy weather we had that day.  It wasn't long before I wanted to remove those layers of clothing and the thick knit hat.  Not only was I becoming quite warm, I also was carrying two extra jackets to bundle the boys.  You see, they had only taken light jackets and I was concerned they would be cold on the walk home. So I trudged on with the added weight of the cumbersome jackets.

    Turns out that the short drive to school is actually a 2 mile trip.  Seems a lot longer when you have to walk.  I'm not accustomed to walking this far on a regular basis and have only recently returned to exercising.  Each step reminded me of long forgotten workouts from my younger days.  Back then a 2 mile walk seemed easy.  I remember running on the beach in North Carolina on the outer banks with my sisters and brothers.  Once a year each January we tried to go for a short visit. Even with the wind blowing on a chilly day by the water, I zipped along at a good pace.  I miss the energy I had back then.

    But we can't dwell on the past. So I continued on until I reached the elementary school.  I had seriously underestimated my walk time and arrived to find that my sons were almost the last ones to get picked up.  Nathan was worried.  "Where were you?  Where's the car?"  I usually arrived extremely early to avoid the chaos of cars lined up in front of the school.  So my late arrival created legitimate concerns for my sons.  Sebastien was happy to see me, but not thrilled when I layered him up with another jacket and hat.  After a brief moment of explanations, we ventured away from school and began our travel home.

    The weather cooperated on the walk and I was grateful for the sunshine.  The boys became animated as they told me about their day at school.  As I watched their expressions and actions, I was reminded how much we miss when we are in an enclosed box with wheels and sound proof windows.  I remembered my own experiences walking home from school with my friends when I was in the third and fourth grades. (When we lived close enough to walk to and from school.) I promised myself that we would plan more walks home from school even if there's snow on the ground.  The menu of sensory experiences is priceless.  Here are my observations from that walk:

    1. Sebastien enjoyed getting off the sidewalk so he could walk in the colorful leaves of Fall. His shoes created a swishing sound as they slid through piles of leaves.

    2. Nathan pointed out the trees and mountains that were visually stunning against the backdrop of the clear blue sky as we walked home.

    3. The boys felt the breeze as it blew through their hair (hats came off shortly after our departure from the school), heard the leaves rustling, and felt the sun's warmth on their faces.

    4. We saw birds, squirrels, and insects.

    5.  We smelled the scent of pine needles, freshly cut grass, and flowers.

    There are many places we go that are too far to walk.  However, we have also started to explore other modes of transportation with the children.  They recently experienced riding the city bus, which provided many new sensations for them.  I loved traveling by bus, strassenbahn, plane and train while living abroad.  Each mode of transportation has its own unique experiences.  But the joys of walking are often underestimated.  Some of my happiest and funniest memories are the result of walking and exploring.  It's fun to be able to share these moments with my family.

    Have a wonderful week.  Hope you have an opportunity to get out and walk to enjoy the Fall weather. 

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Parent/Teacher Communication - A Letter on Hold

    This is the letter I wanted to send, but restrained myself.  I'm not sure what training is offered to teachers regarding how to communicate with parents, but the interaction I experienced was lacking in many ways.  I know there are many great teachers out there who have to deal with a variety of challenging behaviors too.  I still hold some hope that the parent/teacher conference coming up next week will help me resolve some concerns I have regarding communication issues.  Would love to hear how you resolved your concerns and the results following a meeting with a teacher.
    October 09, 2013
    Dear Ms. Teacher:
    I wish to follow up with you regarding our conversation on the phone yesterday.  Isabella Rodriguez is one of your sixth grade students and I am her mother, Mary Rodriguez.  On Monday I received an automated call from XYZ Middle School that my daughter had been marked “absent” on your attendance record.  The call came after school hours.  I checked with my daughter to make sure she hadn’t missed attendance check for your class.  She assured me that she was indeed in class and on time.  I told my daughter I would check with the attendance secretary on Tuesday.
    I went to school on Tuesday before noon and spoke with Ms.LMNOP, Attendance Secretary.  She checked and informed me that Isabella had been marked absent, but that she would check with you regarding Isabella’s attendance.  I informed Ms. LMNOP that Isabella was at school and I wanted to make sure her record was cleared.  She said she sent an email to you and advised me to check back with her later.  I did call back and was informed that she had not heard back from you yet, so I was given your voice mail.  I left a message but did not hear back.
    I called back again this morning, Wednesday, and inquired into Isabella’s attendance status for Monday.  Ms. LMNOP informed me that it had not yet been changed.  I explained that I would like to hear back from Ms. Teacher by the end of the school day.  She agreed to place another call to you to follow up.  I also encouraged my daughter, Isabella Rodriguez, to talk with you and ask you to please call me so I can be assured of her change in attendance status. 
    I do appreciate that you called me around noon today.  I am concerned about our conversation and would like to clarify some points so there are no misunderstandings. 
    1.      I heard you say to me in our phone conversation that you were unable to reach me due to your responsibilities with the track team on Monday and Tuesday.
    2.      I am concerned that you felt a need to make excuses versus respectfully apologizing for the oversight and kindly agreeing to take care of the matter to ensure Isabella’s attendance was properly noted for Monday.
    3.      I know how busy a teacher can get. I was also a teacher and I understand the pressures associated with balancing work, family, and extracurricular activities.
    4.      It was upsetting to me that your tone, according to my perception, was one that indicated I was the one disturbing your schedule.
    5.      The school and the District were very specific about the level of concern regarding a student’s absence from school. This is noted in the Parent/Student Handbook.  I take my children’s participation and attendance seriously. I also felt it necessary to come to school
    in person to make an attempt to correct the error in Isabella’s attendance record in a timely manner.  I feel that the same courtesy should be extended to parents.
    6.      My daughter did speak with you and you informed her that correcting her attendance would have to wait until the end of the day because you have meetings all day.  She felt like she was bothering you and that you didn’t apologize to her for the error.  Students can feel when they are being brushed off.  Respect should go both ways. 
    My concerns go beyond what occurred with my daughter.  Here are some thoughts I would like you to consider:
    ·         What if your error in attendance created a crisis for a family?
    ·         What if a parent received the call and really believed their child was absent?
    ·         What if that child couldn’t convince his parents that he really was at school?
    ·         What if that child was disciplined in a manner that was inappropriate for the situation?
    ·        What if the error never got corrected and the parent ended up getting a call from the  court system?
    Perhaps that is a bit dramatic.  It could occur.  I just happen to believe my child and always check the facts.  Not every child will have a parent advocate for him/her.  I would have been ok with the error if I felt that you cared.  That is the whole point of writing this to you.  It could have been avoided.  Sometimes it’s hard to know how to communicate with parents.  I get that.  I have had many challenging parents to work with the age group I taught.  So in the interest of being your advocate too, here’s how I wished our conversation had gone this afternoon:
     The first thing that would have gotten us off to a better start would have been if you didn’t call me “Isabella” and knew my name.  There are several ways you could have found out who I was, including asking my child, “What’s your mom’s name?”
    Ms. Teacher:  “Hello Ms. Rodriguez.  This is Ms. Teacher, Isabella’s third period teacher.  I want to let you know that I received your message. Thank you for taking time to make sure we correct this for Isabella.”
    Ms. Rodriguez: “Thank You so much for returning the call.  I know how busy you are.”
    Ms. Teacher:  “I apologize for the error. Looks like Isabella’s name was close to another child who happened to be absent on Monday.  I will personally make sure Ms. LMNOP corrects the attendance record.  I know how important this is to you and to Isabella.”
    Ms. Rodriguez:  “Thank You for taking time to call me and to correct this situation.  I appreciate your time.  If you ever have any concerns about Isabella, I hope you will call me.  Have a good day.”
    Ms.Teacher:  “Thank You for being a concerned parent.  Have a nice day too.”
    Ms. Rodriguez:  “Thank You.  Good-bye.”
    Ms. Teacher, I know you have a challenging job.  I appreciate all you are doing to make sure my child receives a good education while in your class.  However, making excuses and minimizing my concerns was not an acceptable interaction.  I hope that in the future, you will call on me if there are any concerns regarding Isabella's attendance and participation in class.   
    Respectfully Submitted,

    Mary Varville-Rodriguez
    Mom of Isabella


    Mini-Memorable Moments are Priceless

    This week I was gifted with an opportunity to connect with a total stranger.  Yet he came into my life just when I needed him.  Wednesday was a stressful day for me.  One of Isabella's teachers accidentally marked her absent on Monday.  The efficient school system that is District 11 provided an automated call to inform me that my daughter had missed a class and that I needed to call back.  I knew that my child was in school all day, but I checked with her in case she had been tardy.  Perhaps there had been a substitute teacher who might have missed her during attendance.  Isabella assured me that she had been on time and in every class.

    I went to the school in person on Tuesday before noon.  The attendance secretary checked and informed me that Isabella had been marked absent from her Social Studies class by her teacher.  No substitute was in on Monday, but there was a substitute on Tuesday morning.  The attendance secretary reassured me that she would leave another email and a voice message for the teacher.  When I called back that afternoon, there was still no word from the teacher.  I left a voice message too. 
    By Wednesday morning I still had not heard from the teacher, so I called the attendance secretary again.  I let her know I had not yet heard from the teacher and was concerned because I did not want an unexcused absence to remain on Isabella's record.  She recommended that I leave another voice mail for the teacher.  I said I would, but that if I didn't hear back from the teacher by the end of the day I would like to schedule time to meet with the principal.  Here's my concern:  The district expects parents to inform the school of a child's absence in a timely manner or risk being reported to social services.  If I take the time out of my schedule to determine the cause of a marked absence, then I expect the same courtesy in return.

    I understand how busy a teacher can get.  I have been in a teaching position too.  What I know is that if there were an error on my part or as the result of an oversight from my team, the last thing a parent wants to hear are excuses!  Well, that is exactly what I got when the teacher finally called me back Wednesday afternoon.  I heard that she was busy with the track team on Monday and Tuesday and was in meetings all day on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  She said Isabella's name was next to another child who was absent on Monday.  She never apologized or empathized with me or my child.  I expressed that I simply wanted my daughter's attendance record corrected.     

    I wrote a letter as a follow up but never sent it.  I didn't want Isabella to experience any repercussions if the teacher decided to become offended.  So I'll wait and see if future issues arise.  Perhaps she was just having a busy and stressful week. At any rate, parent/teacher conferences are due next week, so hopefully I can communicate with the teacher so that she actually remembers who my child is next time we talk. (She called me Isabella on the phone.)

    My conversation with the teacher left me in a little bit of a funk.  I know...get over it.  But I do expect teachers to at least accept accountability for their oversights.  Lord knows I've had many conversations with parents over the past 25+ years of working with children.  Even if the issue was a missing pacifier or a bottle cap, I took that parent's concerns seriously and made sure they knew I would do whatever I could to make sure it didn't happen again.  It means a lot to know a teacher cares about your child!

    An Unexpected Meeting  

    So funky me went to grab a bite to eat at KFC (which I hadn't done in probably over a year) and went to find a table.  As I walked past two gentlemen, one of them flashed me a huge smile and said, "Hi.  How are you doing today?  Isn't it a beautiful day outside?"  I had to respond.  I noticed that the young man had either physical and/or cognitive challenges and no apparent internal editor.  But on that particular day, I was grateful that he was so open and friendly.  I said, "Yes.  It is a beautiful day."   He stood up, walked over to my table, extended his hand, and said, "Hi. My name is Joshua."  I responded with a handshake and said, "Hi Joshua.  My name is Mary."  Joshua continued to grin at me and responded, "I bet I know your middle name."  I said back, "O.K  What's my middle name?"  He said, "Louise!"  "No, not Louise", I answered.  He thought for a moment.  I told him, "I'll give you a hint. It begins with a B." 

    Joshua said, "Beth. Is it Beth?"  "No, not Beth."    He took a sip from his fountain drink.  At this point I noticed two older ladies watching our exchange.  They smiled.  Joshua said to me, "Is it Bernice?"  I responded, "No. Not Bernice.  But you're getting closer."  Another gentleman who was perhaps a guardian or relative said, "Josh.  It's time to get going."   Joshua turned to me one last time and said, "Bernadette!"  I laughed and smiled and told him, "O my gosh. Yes!  You guessed right!"  He had a hugh smile on his face.   The two older ladies laughed out loud.  We all got such tremendous joy out of this conversation.  It was so simple and pure and spontaneous.  It pulled me right out of my funk.  On his way out the door, Joshua said good bye and I let him know that I appreciated how he came up to me to talk.  I smiled and encouraged him to have a nice day too.

    What an unexpected blessing.  I'm always amazed how God knows just when to send a little sunshine into your life.  I hope you too experience a joyful interaction with someone in an unexpected way.  When someone has an obvious developmental or medical challenge, don't discount the value of what they have to offer.  We can learn something from individuals who have faced adversity and continue to smile. 

    Have a wonderful Monday and a week filled with mini-memorable moments.  They are priceless!

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Adventures from Sunday Mass - and Inspiration from Six-Year-Old Sebastien

    Going to church when your children are young is not always peaceful, heavenly bliss.  There are moanings, groanings,negotiations,and pleadings from the children,"Why do we have to go?  But what if we get hungry?  Can we have donuts after mass?"  You get the picture.  To make matters even more challenging, sometimes the people who surround you at mass do not always share your views regarding reverence and respect.  For example:  Half way through the homily at mass yesterday (the homily is the portion of mass where the priest explains the gospel reading and offers inspiration for how you can apply the concepts into your daily life experiences - this is the part I really love to hear whenever possible) a parent with her two young sons entered church and stood right behind us.  Since we were seated in the last pew, we could feel their presence looming over us like one of the dementors from a Harry Potter movie. I know, I know. That's not nice Ms.Mary. But seriously, how would you feel if you had people towering over you when you were trying to pay attention to the sermon?   I figured they were going to wait until the priest was finished with his story then take a seat. I assumed incorrectly.

    What transpired was an example of what not to do when you enter a church.  Especially if you are already "tardy to the party."  The mom proceeded to talk to her two sons and point out where friends were seated. I waited patiently hoping she would interpret some non-verbal cues I provided for her convenience. A simple head turn in her direction would surely indicate that I was able to hear her conversation.  I didn't sigh loudly in protest.  I didn't make facial expressions or body gestures to voice my concerns.  I simply turned in her direction....five if to become privy to their conversation.  Sadly, the woman did not respond by hushing herself or her children.

    I'm pretty tolerant when it comes to families with small children,  I myself have had to make more than one hasty retreat to the "crying room" when my children became too noisy during mass.  To be perfectly honest, there are moments when I still struggle to maintain order with my three. Sebastien is very active and has a hard time sitting still.  His imagination often takes over.  He becomes intrigued by those cute little pencils that are placed in each seat for visitors or members to fill in the collection envelopes.  Did you know that three tiny pencils strategically placed between your knuckles become Wolverine Claws?  When this happens, Nathan, age eight, feels responsible for correcting his brother's behavior even through I've advised him that this is my job as the parent.  Isabella, age eleven, rolls her eyes and throws a sympathetic glance in my direction.

    Anywho... back to our errant family.  I finally decided that the best approach for our three dementors had to be delivered in "direct" form.  So I channeled my mother, who is excellent at keeping rowdy church people in check, and turned to the women behind me one more time.  I kindly and calmly asked her if she and her boys would like to take a seat and pointed to one two pews away...plenty of room for all of them with minimal disruption to the individuals who were already seated.  She declined.  At that point I said, "I'm trying to teach my children to be quiet in church. Shhh."  It was polite. It was direct. It made my point.They remained quiet for the rest of mass. They left before distribution of communion.  What?????!!!!

    Who knows why they chose to come late,stand instead of sit,or leave early. I'm always happy when anyone chooses to come to mass. It's a boost for the week. It energizes me and helps me refocus on my goals. It's a way to become closer to God and to my family.  It's a legitimate way to torture my children with moments of mandatory silence. (Just kidding. They need Jesus!)  It's hard to know when to speak up sometimes.  We don't want to offend people, but at the same time....shouldn't we hold each other accountable?  There have been times others have had to correct my children.  It's not always easy, but I know it's important for them to learn to be respectful.  I hope the woman with her two boys returns to church next week so I can say hello and tell them, "So good to see you again."  You never know what other people are going through.  Perhaps something you say or do can make a difference.   

    So here is Six-Year-Old Sebastien's Inspiration from Sunday Mass:  I had to tell him to settle down and be respectful.  He was quite restless at church yesterday.   "Sebastien, please calm down.  We need to be quiet.  This is Jesus's house."  Sebastien responded, "Well then, where's his room?"  Never a dull moment with these children!

    Have a Wonderful Monday filled with lots of Inspirations! Find something fun to share with others today!  Thanks for taking time to read this post and for allowing me share what I love to do.. write!