Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Full & Happy Life

That sums up my hopes for Raccoon, and for myself, in 2012.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Wants and the Shoulds

How does one develop more self-control? My husband is the king of self-control and I am the queen of indulgence. But I want to change, to be freed from my "wants" and to get sucked into the "good shoulds," the things that will help my family to be closer, happier, cleaner.

This is more honest than I tend to be, but admitting the problem is the first step. So here goes: I tend to get sucked into addictive things like playing computer games, online surfing, and chocolate. I've often tried giving something up, but I frequently end up with something else to fill the pleasure/sugar vacuum. These addictions may not seem that serious, but they are unhealthy for me. Especially the things that take time away from what I could be doing. I wish it were easier to do the good things. But it's hard for me to make delayed-gratification choices with my time. I chalk it up to tiredness, fatigue, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, whatever I can.

I heard a story once where a young man dreamt that everything he spent time on got reviewed after death. His record had tens of thousands of hours playing video games, watching movies, and wandering online. Time spent with Christ? Very little. People he shared Christ with? Few.

It's not that I want a holier-than-thou life, but there is more than just the here-and-now. If there is a record like that, I want mine to have as little junk as possible. Jesus said, "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20-21). I want my treasures to be eternally satisfying.

So I'm starting today, little by little to invest less in temporary pleasures and more in God's kingdom. Like a favorite teacher of mine would say, "Carpe aeternitatem: why settle for just one day?" Seize eternity. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Interesting World

"If children have interest, then education will follow" - Arthur C Clarke

I hope I can show Raccoon that there are so many fascinating things in our world, even in mundane places. Whenever we go on a walk or play in the park, I try to show him the little details, like spiderwebs and dandelions. I love how almost anything in the natural world can interest him. Man-made things are trickier, as a lot of them tend to be smooth and plastic.

Right now he loves imaginative play. He wakes up in the morning and rushes downstairs to his playroom, where his "zoo" is all set up. In the afternoon, he likes to play mechanic or doctor in our living room. For the first time since he's born, we haven't been spending most of our days outside; he's found an ever-changing world in his imagination. I hope he always keeps that creativity and sense of wonder.

p.s. Raccoon learned to blow a whistle today.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thoughts for 2012

My husband asked me today what my goals were for 2012. I'm not sure yet, but it got me to thinking. One of our mutual goals is to work on getting out of debt by Fall 2013. It'll take a pretty tight budget so we'll see how it goes. For me personally...

1) Take a trip to Maine and Washington state to see my ailing Grammie, my parents, and my only sibling who I haven't seen in 5.5 years.

2) Enjoy this year with Raccoon as it may be the last that it's just the two of us at home while my husband is at work.

3) I would like to know more of God's will for my life.


(Note added later: I found another blogger's 2012 list, and can I just say WOW!)

5/13 ETA - Close to out of debt? Nope. #1? 2 out of 3. #2? Yes. #3? In progress, I would say.

12/13 ETA - Still not out of debt, oh well. We're chipping away at it. I didn't get to see my Grammie but I went tp her funeral in 3/12. I spent the summer close to my parents and brother and his family, Wonderful.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Exactitude

I find it incredibly satisfying when I can say exactly what I need to, with honesty and clarity, at the proper time. If you knew of my strong fear of confrontation, then you would be proud of me for advocating for myself.

I have one more Christmas wish I am waiting to come true. Say a prayer for me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Niece & Nephew Sleepover

I started the tradition in 2005, before my husband and I had kids. What with one thing and another (mostly pregnancy and Raccoon's infancy), it hasn't happened for the last few years. Happily, it took place today. We made and frosted sugar cookies, ate pizza, watched The Grinch (the old cartoon version), jumped on the new trampoline, played basketball in the park, lit sparklers, and had some good time to talk about stuff.

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Too Much TV

I struggle with this question often - how much TV is too much? But for the holidays, I've decided to give myself permission for some down time of my own, and not just when Raccoon is sleeping. Any break I take usually involves the TV. Somehow I have not managed to teach/convince Raccoon to play on his own for more than 5 minutes at a time. I could probably do imaginative play with him all day and he'd still want more.

What I'm finding works for me is compromise:

1) Times of complete, energetic attention/play/conversation (he's such a great little guy) and other times where I put a puppet on one hand and do some reading while he talks/interacts with his "friend."

2) Make sure what he watches is the best possible option, or if not (he loves odd movies like Despicable Me, which has content I do not like) then talk about the movie as much as possible and/or censor it.

3) Turn off the TV whenever I can. If we're going to play, I ask him to turn off the TV first. I also have found that starting the movie close to the end often makes him more willing to turn it off when the credits start to roll.

4) If I don't make a big deal out of it (restricting his access), he doesn't seem to care as much about watching TV.

5) I start to worry more if we've gotten through an entire 1.5 hour movie and are starting it over again, along with other shows. Then I know I'm being lazy and need to get back in the game.

Confession: Even with all of this, he probably watches 2-3 hours *wince* a day (30 min each meal time, plus another 30...). Definitely room for a New Year's Resolution here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Full of Light

I like that description. Raccoon is very verbal and has an amazing memory. Shine your light, little one, to lead the way for others, but take care that you do not blind them.

One of our recent conversations
In the park, I say, "There's a little girl and her sister."
"I no have a sister."
"Would you like a sister?"
"No."
"Would you like a brother?"
"No. I no like babies. (pause) Mama have a baby?"
"No."
"Have more *Raccoon*." And he gave me a hug.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My 10 Ft Trampoline

I was originally going to call this post "The Trampoline Fiasco," but thankfully this adventure has a happy ending. I bought a trampoline for Raccoon for Christmas, pretty much our only present since it's such a big item. We live in a townhouse with a very small front patio. The trampoline is 10 ft across and the space we have (to park our car) is only 6.5 feet wide. Oh dear.

Anything you're probably thinking about measuring, planning ahead, etc. was already said by my husband, several times. I know, I know. But I did have sort of a plan, to raise it up so the edge would hang over the adjacent cement stairs leading up to our home. It took a lot of work (setting up the trampoline first inside our living room, then taking it down, setting it up outside to measure how much I needed to raise it up, going to the wood warehouse, going to the carpenter's workshop, waiting for the pieces to be made, then putting it up again today). But what a satisfying feeling to finally see it all set up.

We all jumped on it today, along with some friends we had over for a Christmas party. This evening, Raccoon snuggled with my husband and then me on the couch while we watched some TV. This might be a normal moment in some families, but for us, it was a wonderful first, to be able to hold him while he calmly sat still. What a feeling of peace.

My perseverance (my husband calls it stubbornness/pigheadedness) finally paid off for Raccoon. I told my husband that maybe someday I'll help him fight for something he wants and it will pay off for him too. Once it was an accomplished fact, my husband even admitted that it was an okay idea after all.

Ah, success.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Many Children?

This question has been on my mind lately. Raccoon turned 26 months yesterday and for now, it's just him. He's technically our fourth, so my husband says he's done.

I'd like more... I've always wanted to adopt, but I'd be open to another pregnancy as well. I like how one mom on a babycenter video said it, "I think we're good at 6... our family feels complete, it really does." Not that I'm thinking of six!

But my struggle is that to me, our family doesn't feel complete yet. So we'll see.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Permission to Take Care of Myself

From Raising Your Spirited Child...

"4. You have permission to take care of yourself. Your own need for sleep, quiet, uninterrupted adult conversation, lovemaking, a leisurely bath, a walk around the block, and time to complete your own projects is real and legitimate. It is not a sign of failure to ask a friend for help, to hire a sitter, or to allow relatives the opportunity to build a relationship with your child while you take a break. When you fulfill your needs you generate the energy to meet your child's needs."

I could cry, or laugh hysterically.

Permission is one thing, but actually doing something about it is another. Lately, I've been trying to build in several mini-breaks for myself. I've found it works better if I'm totally focused on Raccoon for awhile, with very involved imaginative play or physical activity, then I let him watch a little TV while I check my e-mail or prepare a meal.

It's an ongoing skill I think, balancing self-care with family needs and parenting responsibilities.

Honesty & Love

I thought I wanted to write about some enrichment ideas I have for Raccoon, but it turns out that what is really on my heart is the niggling feeling that there is more going on with him than I know.

I love my son. Fussy baby. I love my son. High need infant/child. I love my son. Strong-willed. I love my son. Energetic. I love my son. Persistant. I love my son. Sensitive. I love my son. Stubborn. I love my son. Challenging. I love my son. Unpredictable. I love my son. Curious beyond all reason. I love my son. Spirited. I LOVE MY SON.

Although some parts of our lives need a solution, the negative is not bigger than the whole. The negative things may get a lot of time in the spotlight, but the director of our play is Love. Honesty does not equal unlove. With all that in mind, I still need some answers and ideas for coping/overcoming, because there are many things in our lives right now that are NOT working. As a friend of mine describes it as, "Life is hard, but not bad."

Next on my reading list is Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Then I want to read Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Chynna T. Laird.

I'm not sure where this journey is going to take us. Stay tuned.


5/20/13 ETA - I just placed the first book on hold at the library.



   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Family

Susan Minot said, "The word dysfunction has, I think, served its purpose and now has lost its meaning. Every family, like every person, is imperfect, after all. The idea that there is a Family somewhere who functions is an odd concept. In my youth I was running from my family to try to find out who I was — their influence distracted me. Now I see what a powerful hold they have, no matter what."

I like that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Miracles

Most of the time, my son is like Road Runner and I feel like Coyote, trying to keep up. His little body seems often to pain him, and he is never at rest. But today at naptime, he woke up, snuggled, then just lie there next to me (completely still) until he gently drifted off to sleep again. Twice. I don't believe this has ever happened in all of his two years, until today. Not only one, but two perfect moments. It was like we'd found the secret garden and he could finally rest, at peace with himself and the world.

Raccoon also had a great time with a little next-door-neighbor in the park. She is 2 1/2, and usually will not play with him. Raccoon tried to interest her in a game of soccer, his favorite, but she walked away. Discouraged, he told me he wanted to, "Go home. Timi no play." I asked if he was sad and he said yeah. He walked part of the way home, then decided to try playing again. This is huge for him and I was very proud of his effort.

She still didn't want to play soccer, but she started following him around, and eventually they climbed up to a rundown shed and garden in the upper corner of the park. He went in first and peeked around the corner, "Come, Timi, come." She was undecided for awhile and I could see that Raccoon had his heart set on sharing his "house" with her. Finally, her curiosity got the better of her and she went in. Raccoon showed his joy by sharing some dead leaves with her. I was too far away to hear what he said they were. They went in and out of the house several times, each time Raccoon calling her and happy when she responded.

Moments of peace and moments of friendship. Miracles.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Fun Day

On Thursday we're off to buy a trampoline. That will be Raccoon's and my Christmas present, with which I think we'll both be very happy. Raccoon also has several little gifts to go under the tree.

We had a good time wrestling on the bed this evening. Usually that's a Daddy game, but he's gone tonight. On our solo evenings, I often take Raccoon to the park near our house, but it was a rainy afternoon, so we tried wrestling instead. It was pretty fun.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So far so good

Four days in and it's going well. I've also added toothbrushing to my list of goals, and telling a Bible story to Raccoon each day. I was just given some great materials for the story of Moses, so we've done the baby in the basket, the burning bush, the plagues, the Israelites in the desert, and receiving the 10 commandments. It's been a lot of fun, and Raccoon often wants to go through the stories several times.

Since it's Sunday, the verse I picked for today is:

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”” John 8:12

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1

I'd like to write that blogging every day during December is one of my holiday goals, but it's not going to happen... whereas the things below, I'm hoping they do:

1) Talking about Advent and giving a little gift to my son each day (a tradition my mother did with me)
2) Having the best Christmas our family has had in a long, long time

That's it.

I'm on my way with my Christmas tree up and decorated, and all of Raccoon's gifts wrapped and hiding in my closet. My husband and I peaceably decided to do money for each other this year so we could please ourselves (after 10 years of marriage, we're still gift-giving-impaired).

24 more days to go!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Odd Little Things

Raccoon does not like getting his fingernails cut (along with baths, crowds, loud noises, and what he calls "scary people"). He finally managed to communicate recently that it's the sound the clippers make that he doesn't like, and he commented in surprise, "No hurt?"

One of the phrases he learned quickly was "no touching," like if he didn't want a hug, or for me to touch him while he was nursing. He's not totally against cuddling if he's tired, but if he's on the go, it's more like he's trying to say "do not get in my way!"

The blog, In Particular, reminds me in many ways of Raccoon. When we can ride quietly somewhere in the car for 30 min, I breathe a sigh of relief. When we can go out in public, spend more than an hour away from home, or get through a meal at a restaurant, I thank the Lord for these moments of grace. But I still feel like I'm holding my breath, wondering if something will go wrong.

My two favorite quotes from In Particular:

"A wise friend told me to fight the urge to define what Henry won't do, wouldn't want, or can't handle. He'll let you know, he said. Let him show you what's possible."

"Lately, being Henry's mom is like listening to a violinist on the streets of Venice. I know the pigeons are dirty and occasionally I think the whole city is crumbling into the sea, but can you even believe this moment? I'm guessing this kid is going to have his heart broken a thousand times in large and small ways. Here's to hoping all those pieces get gathered up to refract light into something beautiful."

Raccoon, you are amazing, and your life is powerful already. Anything is possible and you are beautiful.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Teaching Children

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might.

And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then]

you shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (Amplified Bible)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Moms

"My mom reminds me what is possible, what is important, and what I need to do to give my son the world's best opportunities." Quote from a blog called In Particular.

As you can probably tell if you've read much of my blog, I love quotes. I think I got this from my mom, who also likes to collect bits and pieces from her extensive reading. Although my husband and I don't really celebrate Thanksgiving (we live outside the U.S.), it is good to appreciate what I have. I am grateful for many things, but reading this quote reminded me of how thankful I am to have a supportive mom.

Raccoon is actually my fourth child, although I no longer have the first three. My first daughter was born in 2005, came to us in 2006, and died in 2007. She had severe special needs, and my mom was with me through all the doctor visits, therapies, and the eventual despair when we realized she wouldn't be getting better. My next two daughters were in foster care with us for a year and a half before they were adopted. Raccoon is my first biological son, but not my first child. And my mom has been there through it all, encouraging me and helping me to go just a little bit further each time. And I am so very thankful for that. Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

JESUS

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Let it be known to you all… that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole… Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:10,11)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trust Your Instincts

One of my favorite pieces of advice from a college professor was, "If it's not working, stop doing it."

Albert Einstein said: "One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one's greatest efforts."

"Any parent knows the doubt monster and those of us charting an unconventional path know him even better," from the blog Diapers to Driver's Ed.

Trust myself with the things I think Raccoon needs: multi-age friend time and more resilience.

5/13 Edited to add - Raccoon's residence has improved a hundredfold, as shown by our recent move. I am so proud of him. These are still my prayers for him.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Advent

I just wanted to mention a great post about Advent, with lots more good ideas in the comments. When I was 5 years old or so, my family didn't have much money for Christmas. To make December more special, my very creative mom decided to give my brother and I something little every day, starting on the 1st until the 24th. She continued this tradition all the way through college for both of us, eventually adding our spouses as well. It didn't matter how little the gifts were, soon I was the envy of all my friends. "Something every day until Christmas, wow!" I just thought my mom was great, I had no idea we were relatively poor. My mom called the December presents "Advent" and other things were added to our family tradition as the years passed - old serial stories from the newspaper, readings about Christmas and Christ, along with periodic candle lightings and special church services.

Raccoon is 2 this year and I just realized when I read the above post that I'd better get busy if I want to start our own Advent traditions this year!

P.S. One of my prayers this last month is that I will be bold in sharing Jesus and my faith in Him, and that I will be able to share His love with Raccoon this year as we enter the Christmas season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Naps

Raccoon has decided this week that he no longer wants to take a nap. He is two years and 1 month old. When I did foster care, even my 5 year old took a nap. So I'm thinking, "No more afternoon nap?! You've got to be kidding me!?" but I repented when he fell asleep at 7 pm instead of his usual 10-11 pm.

We also have some visitors coming in about 10 days, so I'm just going to take this time to see what our napless days look like before I try to figure out how this is all going to work.

Edited to add: Thankfully, he was just getting his molars and did eventually go back to taking a nap. Phew! 

Edited to add: He officially gave up his afternoon nap at 3 years, five months, just one month after his baby sister was born. That one month had several blissful, shared naps.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Schedules

Raccoon only sticks to any schedule for about 3 weeks, and when he was younger he had no schedule at all. Even with his sleeping we go through cycles - late mornings, naps and nights, or moderate hours, or really early rising and sleeping times. It seems like I just get settled in and figure how to live with whatever schedule we're on when he suddenly switches to something totally different. At first I thought he'd never settle down, but now that I know that we'll eventually cycle through, it's somewhat easier.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Good Reminder

I've not read the book, but I like this quote (found here) and some of Kohn's ideas about parenting; it's a good reminder to focus on the future in the midst of the needy NOW.

“In short, with each of the thousand-and-one problems that present themselves in family life, our choice is between controlling and teaching, between creating an atmosphere of distrust and one of trust, between setting an example of power and helping children to learn responsibility, between quick-fix parenting and the kind that’s focused on long-term goals.”
—-Alfie Kohn, in Unconditional Parenting


Some of Kohn's ideas on how to shift focus as parents (number #2 is a theme that keeps popping up in my life, maybe God is trying to get through to me!):

  1. Reconsider your requests.
  2. Put the relationship first.
  3. Understand the child’s perspective.
  4. Be authentic.
  5. Talk less, ask more.
  6. Attribute to children the best possible motives consistent with the facts. (a quote from Nel Noddin)
  7. Try to say “yes” when you can.
  8. Don’t be rigid.
  9. Give kids more say about the stuff that matters (and even the stuff that doesn’t).
  10. Love them unconditionally (and I would add, in a way that makes the child feel loved, The Five Love Languages of Children by Chapman and Campbell is an enlightening read).  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Happy Child

"A happy child smiles, plays, exhibits curiosity, shows interest in other children, and doesn't need constant stimulation."

(Jill Storey on babycenter quoting Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness)

"A happy child smiles, and doesn't need constant stimulation" ah, the root of my insecurity about Raccoon. Even my mom comments that he is a solemn child and catching him with a smile for pictures has become pretty much impossible. Up until the last few weeks or so, "needing constant stimulation" describes something that is a struggle. Supplying his voracious appetite for learning is a challenge. Those seeds of doubt are probably why I read the the whole article in the first place; I do wonder if Raccoon is happy.

I'm not a super smiley person myself. The years right before Raccoon were very hard for me and I didn't have much to smile about. When Raccoon was born, I remember my cheeks hurting from smiling so much; I was so out of practice. Now I smile and laugh with him everyday, and I like that. But I also agree with a mom who said, "...when you have an intense baby it beats your self-esteem down and makes you feel like a failure."

Recently Raccoon saw me holding a friend's baby for the first time at a morning playgroup, and later that afternoon I asked him what he thought, not really expecting an answer. He was quiet for a minute, then said, "Give baby back his mama. Hold me."

I like to ask him what he thinks, just because I'm curious if he'll respond, and what he might say. So as we were snuggling before naptime today, I asked him, "Are you happy?" He looked up at me and said blissfully, "Yes."

At least for a moment, all is well in our world.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One of THOSE days

Reading an article on children and sleeping, I had to laugh at the statement, "Parent has the option to lie down beside the child for a predetermined number of minutes. The parent should not fall asleep in the child’s bed, but rather get up and leave after the set number of minutes." (Bold emphasis mine, ha ha ha). I usually figure out that I've fallen asleep when I wake up just enough at 1 am to crawl under the covers, fully dressed.

I also laughed when I read this blog entry because all of us have had one of THOSE days, or maybe one of those weeks/months/years as the case may be, although we probably have not run out of a beauty salon on fire. (You'll have to forgive the little bit of swearing.)

I needed those laughs because today, nothing has gone as planned, or even as remotely hoped for, in toddler world. A friend of mine once said something like, "I love naptime, it's like starting the day over." May our afternoon be more peaceful and joyous than the last few chaotic days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Turning Two

Today was Raccoon's birthday party. He had a wonderful time and enjoyed all of it - games in the park, the clowns, playing with his friends and cousins, blowing out his candles, eating cake, and opening presents. He participated really well, didn't have any meltdowns, and went to sleep early (for him) at 8 pm.

Tomorrow is Sunday, which we save for church and family time, but on Monday, I plan to launch into learning, hopefully more consistently. If you'd like to follow our learning adventures, click on over to The Imaginary Country of Celosia.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Birthday!

I am starting this blog to celebrate that my son, whom I shall call Raccoon (in honor of his intelligence, dexterity, memory, and hopefully adaptability), turns two today. Our adventures began when he was born, but I would like to be more deliberate, reflective, organized and consistent as a mother and as a person. There are many blogs out there, but I decided to start this one as a record of our unique adventures and trials.