Thursday, June 9, 2011
We got one of my former students to babysit for the weekend. I was really nervous about leaving my children because I have not left them overnight with anybody other than my mother or my mother in law, but they did great and our babysitter was awesome! I am really lucky to have a plethora of former students who are willing to babysit (usually without compensation - their idea, not mine - but I made her let me pay her this time).
We left our kids in good hands and headed out early in the morning. We stopped at a specialty cupcake shop on the way down where we purchased expensive cupcakes so we could say we have now joined the fancy cupcake craze. Mark and I then checked into an old, romantic hotel that is over 100 years old. The elevator never worked, but I thought it was fun to climb the three flights of stairs because the staircase is so grand and really appeals to the history lover in me. We were right in the heart of downtown which was perfect. We could walk to all sorts of restaurants, shopping, and the theater we were attending.
We enjoyed shopping and a leisurely dinner on the night we arrived. Mark had flowers delivered to me at our table at the restaurant, which was a lovely surprise and made me feel special. The next morning we got up and ate our pricey cupcakes in bed. We pretended to be the judges from Cupcake Wars, rating each cupcake as we ate them. In the end we decided that none of them were really all that great and worth the money. We took our time getting ready that morning, but finally headed off for some lunch before the play. After lunch, it was off to the theater!
The musical was all that I remembered and craved. We've seen it twice before, once in the same theater about eight years ago and once by our local high school about ten years ago. We both love musicals and listen to a variety of musical selections on a regular basis, but it has been years since we attended a professional performance. It took my breath away to listen to the music and watch the story line unfold again. I forgot how much I enjoyed live theater until this event. Both Mark and I were enraptured during the entire performance. After the musical was over, it was time to head home, but we could not stop talking about the play and the music on our way home because it was that refreshing to enjoy!
We didn't set up any concrete plans for most of the weekend, but just basked in each others company. It was so nice to reconnect sans kids. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in work and being a parent and it becomes even easier to forget about being a proper spouse to our partner. This weekend gave us much needed time and we came away closer as a result. It was also nice to put away some of the hats I so often wear. For a day I wasn't "Mom" or "Mrs. D". I was just myself, Rachelle, and the spouse of Mark. What a refreshing change to wear those hats exclusively and remember who I am when I am not playing all those other roles. I loved the entire little get away and hope it won't be six years before we do it again!
When was the last time you took a trip with just you and your spouse? How do you reconnect during those times you can't get away together? I always love to hear from others!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I have been thinking a lot about what kind of mother I am and what kind of mother I want to be. I have found that when I am home from work, my thoughts are often still either on work or on my classes. Instead of getting my full attention, my children have been getting only partial attention. That is not fair to them at all. They are my greatest blessing and as such, deserve my full time and attention. It's not their fault that their mother works and they should never come last on my list of priorities.
The quote from David O. McKay (one of the former prophets of my church) that reads, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home" has been on my mind quite a bit. Reading this quote, I was once again reminded that no matter what I do at school, it will never be as important as what I do at home. I know that, but sometimes I forget.
I set the goal to be present when I am home. No more thinking of work, the state of my house, the classwork I need to finish, or other distractions. All of that can wait until the next day or when my kids are in bed. In the time I am home with my kids, they get all of me, as much as possible, every single day. They need that and I need that.
Since doing this, I have found my relationship with my children is blossoming more every day. On the drive back from Grandma's house (she watches the children for me), we turn off the radio and talk. I hear what is going on at school from Camden and enjoy the small talk from Easton. We talk about the best and worst parts of our day and as a result, we are all looking for the positive more. Sometimes we sing, sometimes we tell silly stories, sometimes we just chat, but I love every minute of that. I treasure this quiet time with them, free from worldly distractions.
Because I am working so hard on being present, I notice the small things so much more. I notice the crinkles that appear around the eyes of my boys as we have a tickle fight and they laugh and laugh and laugh until they finally give in and say, "Mommy is the best" (the only way tickle fights end in our house). I memorize the peals of laughter that ring out from the jokes and stories told. I treasure the deep conversations as I teach my boys life lessons that help that help them become the men I hope they will be. I admire their growing bodies and notice how Camden is turning into a long, lanky boy that is all arms and legs while Easton is losing his baby face and looking more like a little boy. I delight in the funny things they say, like Easton praying for, "A baby sister and a ghost" and Camden telling me, "I'm much skinnier than you Mom." I love it all.
These years fly by way too fast. My oldest is six and my youngest is three. It won't be long before they won't need me in the same way. They won't want to cuddle me, give me hugs, or give kisses daily. One day Camden won't tell me that I am the most beautiful girl he knows and that he wants to marry me when he gets older. One day Easton won't want me to kiss his owies better. Before these days slip away for good, I need enjoy every moment. I need to savor the simpleness of each day and to suck the marrow out of the beauty and joy they create. I need to always be present for them and in their lives. It is the most important thing I can do each day, taking mental snapshots of my boys and their daily lives, putting aside all other cares and focuses, and giving all my attention to them.
To any readers out there, how do you try to be present each day? What do you notice when you are fully present?
Saturday, April 23, 2011
1. There are only three basic styles of shirts for boys - t-shirts, button front, and polos.
2. Even if a boy has never seen a gun or heard of a gun, they will fashion anything into a weapon to point at others.
3. With boys, you will have more Lego's than you ever thought possible.
4. Said Lego's will frequently be scattered throughout the entire house, which you will step on and then curse.
5. Boys love to collect rocks and sticks. Random sticks and rocks will be found regularly in the laundry, bedrooms, and other obscure places in the house.
6. As a result of #5, you will regularly carry a small forest and/or rock garden out in your garbage.
7. Bugs are fascinating! So are snakes, lizards, frogs, and other creepy crawly creatures.
8. Wrestling is a daily occurrence and as a parent of boys, you must master various wrestling moves, throws, and holds to protect yourself.
9. Laying on your stomach is always an invitation for boys to jump on your back.
10. Your young sons legs will always be covered in a mass of scrapes, bruises, and scars.
11. The fascination with the male anatomy starts very young and never ends.
12. There is no such thing as too dirty.
13. Boys will be on the go from the moment they wake up until the moment they collapse in bed. Their energy is boundless!
14. The ability to pee anywhere at any time is incredibly entertaining. You do not know how many times you will tell your sons, "We don't pee there!"
15. Farts and burps are always funny.
16. They can never have too many balls or cars.
17. Boys can wear through a pair of shoes/socks/pants faster than you can buy them.
18. Why walk when you can run? Why walk down the stairs when you can slide on your butt?
19. Water is always meant to be splashed in, especially if it is muddy.
20. Boys love to create and build. Anything can turn into an object to build with.
21. Everything is a contest to win.
22. There is no such thing as too loud.
23. You will be the queen of the castle! Hugs, kisses, and compliments abound with two little boys who think their mother rules the world.
24. The responsibility of raising strong, faithful, hard working, and loving boys will weight daily on your shoulders. You will always wonder if you are doing all you can to raise the kind of men you want in the world.
25. You will love your boys more than you ever thought possible. You will thank God every day that those precious souls were sent to you.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
This is Camden's cake. I made all of it, except the figurines. My friend Sarah helped me freehand some of the fondant work. Camden loved his cake!
When the kids arrived, they colored Mario themed pictures until all the kids got there.
The kids were all given a Mario mustache to wear if they wanted. It was so much fun to see these little kids with these huge dark mustaches.
We played a matching game first of various Mario characters. The kids earned a coin for each match they made. After that, we played Smash Boo. We blew up white balloons and drew Boo's face on each of them. The kids were each given a Boo to sit on to squish. When their Boo pooped, they got another coin. It was hilarious watching the kids sit on these balloons.
While we were smashing Boo, it decided to rain outside, which meant the kids got a little wet during the next game, Yoshi egg hunt. We hid eggs stuffed with candy and coins around our condo and once the rain let up, we sent the kids out to find them. They got to keep all the eggs they found.
Then we did a Goomba Stomp. This was the favorite game of all the kids. We drew Goomba faces on balloons (blue because we could not find brown ones in our town). Then we dumped them on the ground and let the kids have at it. They stomped and stomped until all were popped. They got a coin for each Goomba they squished.
Look at the ground just littered with popped balloons (and all the kids pitched in to pick up the scraps without being asked - these kids were awesome!). After this, the kids got to change in their coins for their reward bags. The bags included bubbles, punching balloons, candy coins and regular coins, Mario fruit snacks, Cosmic brownies, and assorted other candy.Because it was still wet and slightly muddy outside, we came back inside for our last game, Mario, Mario, Luigi (like duck, duck, goose). Our space was a little too small for this game, so the kids were hopping over each other and all over the place. It was pretty funny to watch them and they were pretty creative!
After all the games, we opened presents. Camden got royally spoiled. He loved everything he got.
Finally, after presents, we ate pizza (Mario is Italian after all) and had cake and ice cream. Then the kids just played until their parents picked them up. It was a great time! Everything went smoothly and other than a little rain, it was a perfect day! Here is Camden, thrilled with his party and his day (notice the 2nd missing tooth?). I love that tomato sauce smeared face!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Here is Camden letting one of his balls go.He watches eagerly to see what will happen.I love that tongue poking out! It's a sign of concentration for him.So much anticipation!Yes! He knocked some down!
Then of course we have Easton. I love those tiny little hands on such a big ball.
Easton is not as expressive as brother. Like personalities, he is more shy and reserved, so we see his semi smile here. That's a good thing!
Here is real excitement!
Pensive (or just picking at his lips, but we'll go with pensive)
And back to his normal, subtle, shy smile. (Ignore the dirt on the corner of his mouth - not sure what that is). I love that face!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This book was sitting on the desk of one of my student's desk yesterday morning. I am always looking for new reading material and love to read YA literature because I love to share new readings with my students. I picked it up off her desk, read the back, and starting flipping through the book. I was fascinated and asked her if I could borrow it. This isn't the sort of book I normally read, but I love the way it is written. It is written completely in verse. Since we are studying poetry right now, I found it a perfect example to show my students about how poetry can be written and can be used to tell a complete story.
The main character, Kristina, uses poetry to convey her descent from normal, suburban teenager to drug addicted teen mom. Kristina pays a visit to her father, who she hasn't seen in eight years, one summer. During that visit, she tries drugs for the first time and is hooked. The story follows her from that first experience through some hard life lessons. The poetry tells her story, changing format, style, and content based on what is happening in her life at the time.
It's a gritty book because of its subject matter. It does have some swearing and some sexual content. This book is not a book for everybody, but for an older teen audience, I think it has a lesson to teach. The author loosely based the story on the real life story of her own daughter who had similar experiences. I would rate this book pg-13. It is a worthwhile read, even if just to study the unique writing style.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
It was a year ago that I started using coupons. At first I thought coupons were stupid because most of the ones I saw were for things my family rarely ate - mainly processed food. When Mark's hours and wages at his old job were cut (a prelude to being let go), it became a necessity to make our budget work each month. I discovered that although I might not be able to use coupons on everything, there were plenty out there for the healthy things I like to have in my house, as well as for all the toiletries my family uses on a daily basis. I soon learned that I would never have to pay for toothpaste, pasta, or dental floss again if I used the right coupons paired with the right sale.
When Mark lost his job, having shelf fulls of things my family eats and uses regularly was a tremendous blessing. Although I am not as avid as some people I know, I can find good sales almost every week, even in my small town. I now love the hunt of a good sale to use with my coupons. I get four Sunday newspapers so I can have more coupons on hand for whenever a great sale rolls around. Couponing is fun!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Mother - Being a mother is the most important hat I wear. I am truly blessed to be a mother. Both of my children came to me after years of infertility. Because of that, I try to never take for granted the privilege of being a mother. If I fail in this job, then I fail in life. I can do no greater work that in my home. Even though I am not a stay at home mom, being a mom defines me more than almost anything else. I love the time I have with my boys. I am working very hard on savoring every minute I get to spend with these remarkable creatures.
Teacher - I am in my 13th year of teaching 8th grade English. I absolutely love what I do. Junior high kids, with all their challenges and frustrations, are fascinatingly brilliant, beautiful people. I enjoy being with them and teaching them on a daily basis. In addition to wearing the hat of teacher, I also wear the hat of mentor as I mentor teachers new to the profession, as well as the hat of being the head of the English department at my school. This means I am usually very busy at school with all the responsibilities, but I like wearing those hats.
Student - Last spring, after receiving an email about online master's programs, I decided to go back to school to get my master's degree. This is something that I have always wanted to pursue, but the cost and time have held me back. When I discovered I could get my master's degree completely online, for much less than the local college, and be done in 18 months, I jumped at the chance to do it. I am now three classes away from being done and will have a master's degree in Educational Theory and Practice by the end of July. What does this degree mean? Not much really except that I get a nice pay raise as a result of having it. I have loved wearing the hat of student. The classes I have taken have revolutionized my teaching. I have learned so many new things in the past year and my students benefit from that. I feel I am a better teacher than I have ever been, trying new ideas and techniques in my classroom on a regular basis. I recently applied to start an online gifted endorsement once I finish this degree. I really want to learn more about helping the gifted learners in my classroom.
Reader- I still love to read voraciously. I love sharing what I read with others. I am hoping in the near future to start a blog about the books I read, but we'll see when/if that happens. This is one of my more enjoyable hats to wear.
Couponer/Saver - In the past year I have discovered the joy and fun in using coupons and saving money. I have always tried to look for a deal, but couponing has opened my eyes to a whole new way to do so. I have had a ton of fun seeking out the best deals and finding the coupons to go with it. My food storage has grown by leaps and bounds by wearing this hat.
Survivor - I have learned I am tough. The past 18 months have shown me that I can survive hard times. Not only can I survive, I can grow and thrive. I am more confident in who I am as a result.
Sister, wife, friend, daughter, chef, maid, chauffeur, cheerleader, coach, comforter - those are just some of the many hats I wear. It's sometimes a crazy life juggling all these hats, but it's my life and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
The biggest change for Mark is a change in jobs. Last April, he lost the job he had been working for the past ten years. This was a huge blow to his self esteem. Although he found a new job right away, it was not something he loved and it definitely would not work with his schooling, my job, or child care. We knew it would work temporarily, but needed something new before school started for me again. It was a long search, but in August he found a job he just loves. Mark now works at the local youth detention center. It has been the best move and change for him. He is so happy and fulfilled in his work there. I have never seen him so happy at a job as he is at this one. His hours can be wild (lots of evenings and some over nights), but I don't care as long as he is happy with what he does. This job has been a tremendous blessing to our family. I love that my husband finally has a job he loves as much as I love mine.
Mark is still going to school. It has been a long, hard struggle for him. When he lost his job, he went to visit with the local vocational rehab office. They did some tests and diagnosed him with ADHD. Because of this diagnosis, he qualifies for grants that pay for all his schooling. This has been another huge blessing for our family. The program requires that he maintain a certain GPA in order to keep getting the funds. Because of that, he is working his tail off in all his classes and should be done in another year. I am so proud of how hard he is working to get that degree.
Mark continues to be the main stay at home parent during the days. His mother fills in for us on the days we both have to work. I am so glad my children get that time with him. I know it is not traditional, but it works for us and our family. Mark is a GREAT father and my kids are blessed to be able to get that extra time with him. He has a relationship with his children that few fathers get to have as a result.
Mark is a wonderful husband. He supports me in everything that I do. He is there for me and the kids. He helps around the house and helps with the boys. We love to laugh together and he gets me in ways that almost nobody else does. I am truly blessed to have him in my life!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Eastie is my shy bug. He likes to hang back until he is familiar with the situation before letting his presence be known. He does not like to be the center of attention. When he comes visit me at school, he likes to hide behind my desk until he is ready to go say hi to everybody. If you try to get him to talk or play before he is ready, watch out because he will either give you the dirtiest look imaginable or growl at you. He needs plenty of time to adjust to a new situation before he is comfortable in it.Easton is fiercely independent. One of the most common phrases in our house is , "I do it myself." This pretty much defines him to a T. He really loves to go off and play on his own. Although he loves playing with his brother and other friends, he is perfectly content to play by himself. He can entertain himself for hours with any toy or book. He does not want to be defined by anyone else. He is just Eastie and he defines himself with his independent streak.
He is also stubborn to the core! Right now he flat out refuses to potty train. He can go potty on the big boy potty, but he just won't. He refuses to wear underwear or pull ups. Ask him if he wants to be a big boy by wearing underwear and he'll just say, "I not a big boy. I just Eastie!" If he doesn't want to do something, he will sit with his arms folded and give you a crusty look. He has perfected the silent pout (at the age of three!) and is not afraid to dig in his heels. It his way or the highway much of the time.Easton has a unique sense of style. He does not care what anybody else thinks of his style. He wears what he wants. Since Christmas, it has been his Toy Story slippers. We can get him to wear real shoes to school and church. The rest of the time it is his "sipilers". He cannot sleep without them. He was stuck on his dinosaur costume from two Halloweens ago for several month. Every once in awhile it makes an appearance again and he'll wear it out shopping. I find it adorable to watch him walk around with this huge dinosaur tail behind him in a store, oblivious to the looks (usually chuckles and smiles) others give this adorable boy. I wish more of us had his confidence and unique style where we don't care what others think of us.
Easton loves to torment his older brother. He admires Camden so much and wants to do everything brother does, but he also knows how to push all Camden's buttons. Because he is younger and often looks so innocent, he gets away with a lot more than he should. He knows this and uses it to his complete advantage.
Easton was diagnosed with an expressive speech delay this past fall. I was aware he didn't talk much and so took him to early intervention to be diagnosed. Because of this early diagnosis, Easton was accepted into our district preschool speech therapy classes. He goes one day a week to preschool and loves it! (I find it so ironic that I fought so hard to get Camden services through the preschool, but was never successful, but that Easton, because he had a diagnosis before the age of three, was accepted so easily.) He gets to ride the bus to and from school, so he thinks he is so big. School days are his favorite day of the week!Easton loves to dress up. He regularly gives our costume box a workout. He loves Toy Story and can often be found carrying around something Toy Story related. He likes to carry something small with him wherever he goes. He loves to give hugs and kisses and loves to be tickled. He still loves to be held upside down whenever possible.I love this little boy! I love everything about him. His huge brown eyes can melt me just about every single time. He can be so sweet, but so sour at the same time. I love this about him. I am blessed to be his mother!
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sometimes being the mother of a child with issues can break your heart. Most of the time, it’s easy to focus on all the ways Camden is normal, rather than notice his differences. I see all the progress that he has made in the past few years and I am proud of how much he has grown and progressed. But sometimes something happens that brings it all back to your forefront, reminding you yet again that your child isn’t “normal” and may never fit in completely. Yesterday was one of those days that hit me over the head like a brick, leaving me weeping for my child.
Yesterday I picked up my boys from Grandma’s house. She takes care of them during the times when both Mark and I are working. She lives about 20 minutes away, so the drive home is a good chance to talk to my boys about their day. I turn off all music on the drive home and just talk to my sons. After the normal questions – What did you do at school today? Who did you play with? What did you learn? – Camden just started to talk. As he talked, he told me about a group of children at school who call him names, who (according to him) always tease him, and, apparently yesterday, told him his mother was going to die.
Now, I have taught long enough to realize this is kid stuff. Kids are mean to each other. Kids call each other names or say mean things all the time. It’s nothing new or unusual. I am also perfectly aware that Camden is probably not innocent. Knowing my son, he said or did something first that provoked this meanness. I wasn’t there and I am sure I don’t know the full story.
I don’t take what the kids said to Camden personally. Normally it would roll just right off my back. I’m not sure why it bothered me so much yesterday. Maybe it was because I am tired and stressed right now. I just finished two days of presentations to other teachers and have a big project due this week. Maybe it’s because I am hormonal right now. Maybe it’s because Camden takes what other kids say so literally and I have to explain to a worried child that his mother is not going to die (nothing is wrong with me that I know). Maybe it’s just another brick in all the things Camden has going against him that toppled the emotional wall. I’m not sure the reason, but I was left again with the many thoughts that race through my mind on so many occasions.
Why is it that we target so easily those who are different than us? Why is it that we can so easily focus on what is wrong with a person rather than what is right with that person? Why is it that we look for reasons to tear each other down rather than lift each other up
I look at my beautiful son with his beautiful soul. He has so much to offer. There is so much that is right with that child, so much that is wonderful. Daily I delight in this precious treasure. Why is it that others cannot see what I see when I look at him?
I get regular emails from Camden’s school, telling me about another behavior problem. I appreciate those emails because I always follow up with consequences at home (I do not let the fact that my son has PDD-NOS and SPD excuse his behavior), but I know there are other parents don’t get those emails because their child doesn’t have problems at school. I have coworkers who chuckle when I say I got yet another email from his school, smug in the fact that they never received such communication about their child. At church I get questions asking about how Camden is behaving that day because they don’t want him to act up yet again. It seems like everywhere we go, somebody is judging my son because he has some issues and because, as a result of those issues, he doesn’t always act like all the other kids his age.
I hate the fact that Camden’s only safe haven, the only place he is loved unconditionally, is his home. I hate the fact that the only people to focus on the positives of Camden, rather than the negative, are a few family members and close friends. I hate the fact that each day my son walks into a world where judgment and criticism face him at every turn and I can do nothing to stop it.
Instead of noticing that my child sometimes scratches his butt in public or sometimes picks his nose, why not notice how he can define the word nocturnal? Instead of noticing how my SPD child hums to himself to block out noise, why not notice how his sensitive hearing allows him to memorize and repeat funny lines from TV and movies? Instead of noticing his obsession with video games, why not notice the creative games he creates to play with friends or the detailed pictures he draws as a result of these video games? Instead of asking if Camden is going to behave during the Primary program (after you sat a kid with SPD right by the organ during the opening exercises), why not notice he is probably the only kid his age with his speaking part memorized, needing no help or prompting at the podium? Instead of noticing how quirky he is or that he sometimes says socially awkward things, why not notice how he loves to talk to anybody at any time and has never met a stranger?
My son, with all his uniqueness, has so much to offer this world. Yesterday, as we drove home and after the conversation about the kids being mean, Camden said, “Look at those beautiful lines” as he pointed at the power lines running alongside the road. He proceeded to tell me how awesome power lines were with their dips between poles creating waves. Then he said, “It’s amazing how those lines attach to houses.” What a profound observation! Here I was, focusing on the gray road ahead of me and silently worrying about my son, while he was noticing the beauty of something so simple – power lines. When was the last time you stopped to noticed power lines, let alone the way they look and work?
I would not change my son for the world. Camden, with all his quirkiness and issues, with all the things that make him challenging, is so uniquely beautiful. His issues make him who he is. He is charming and endearing. He is funny and smart. He is perfect, just the way he is. I have no doubt that God made him this way. Wishing away his issues would be wishing away the essence of my son, my first born, the child who made me a mother and I would never wish that away. I only wish others could look for and focus on all that makes my son completely incredible.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Sometimes life dishes us trials and events that shake us to the core, that are so very private and all consuming, taking over aspect of our lives. That was what happened to me in the fall of 2009 and lasting into the summer of 2010. My little family was rocked and shaken in the most extreme ways. For almost a year, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. Every time I thought my little family had reached rock bottom, I found out we had only been standing on a ledge that quickly crumbled beneath us, plummeting us even further into a dark abyss. I have never experienced a year as hard and as trying as this one before. Because of the deeply personal aspects of what my family experienced, I haven't shared the trials we went through with many people. Outside of a few trusted friends, nobody, not even our immediate or extended family, knew what we were experiencing. Because of the deeply personal aspects, I will not be sharing many of the trials here either. But the past year explain my absence from blogging for so long.
I'm the kind of person that goes into self preservation mode when faced with hard times and challenges. I can only focus on the tasks that take my immediate attention and energy. Last year that meant that everything, other than my job and my family, went by the wayside. I hunkered down and did my best to ride out the storm. I let a lot of personal interests go as I focused on what was most important.
Now that life has slowed down (as slow as it gets around here anyway!) and I am not in self preservation mode as much, I can return to blogging. I have felt the need, more than ever, to chronicle the lives of my family and myself. I use this as a sort of journal. I love to share the funny things my kids says, pictures of them, and the daily occurrences of our lives. I am excited to return to something I once loved so much!