Monday, October 29, 2007

On Picking Favorites

I told you that Ethan was asking about favorites. I've been thinking about that. I don't pick favorites. In a motherly way I know I never could.

Well, my 20-month-old daughter doesn't feel the same way. Gertie has chosen. It isn't me. I can't believe this is happening with the child I carried in my womb and nursed at my breast for a whole year. What is going on here?

I'll tell you. My husband is unemployed. He's not unemployed in an unfortunate sort of way where he brings in no income, sits on the couch watching football and drinking beer. No. He's on sabbatical. He still gets paid. And technically he's still got work to do, but he doesn't have to make any formal appearances outside the home.

Now there are many benefits to having him home 24/7. He is a help around the house, and he's available for watching Gertie when I want to attend a meeting or run an errand. He's getting some things done around here that need getting done. And I like him, so it's good to have his company, in general.

But I am discovering the negative side to this as well. Gertie is spending so much time with her Daddy that she is choosing HIM over ME! It is becoming commonplace around here to watch, but more importantly hear, her scream as she is passed to me when Dad walks out the door. It is not unusual for her to follow Dad around the kitchen crying as he tries to cook dinner while I beg her to join me in the family room. When I carry her off to bed she pleads for Daddy instead of me.

So if your husband starts talking of quitting his job or taking a sabbatical or even a lengthy vacation, start securing your position as the favorite parent as quickly as you can. Feed them anything they ask for. Brownies for breakfast? Good idea. Take them to the park whenever they want. No, I don't think you need a nap today. Let's go play on the slide. Don't make them share their toys. Who needs friends anyway?

And I don't think it would hurt to sabotage the relationship between your husband and your child either. It's not completely a bad idea to encourage her to color a nice picture on Dad's favorite shirt, or eat the last cookie he's had his eye on since breakfast.

This is war. I have changed a lot of diapers to earn my place in my daughter's heart. I won't give up without a fight. I can play dirty. Let's go.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I've been reading Heather's blog, and it's got me thinking. She's writing about things I've been thinking for quite some time in my own head. I think I'm not even half the mother to my youngest that I was to my oldest. Sometimes she follows me around and fusses and I get frustrated, and then I realize that what she really wants is to be engaged. But it often doesn't change the course of the day. I feel so busy. Or sometimes so lazy. Today was a day I just didn't have it in me. I did get much done this morning, but in the afternoon I was so tired. I get more irritable than I want to be. It isn't even about losing my temper or yelling, lately it's more about disengaging.

I was trying to apologize to Ethan for being a bit irritable in the hot tub tonight. He thinks of it more as a small pool. I wanted to relax and he wanted to splash. Anyway, I apologize to him, and he says, "That's okay. I know I'm annoying sometimes." This breaks my heart. I want him to feel like he is safe and loved and enjoyed in his family and in his home.

We had a great talk after that. It started with him asking me, "Who is your favorite kid, me, Grace or Gertie? It's okay if it isn't me. I just want to know." Wow. I talked to him about my favorite things about him. That was easy. I love to watch him happy. Nothing beats it. And I wish you could have seen him when I picked him up from basketball camp this morning. He was so intense. All the kids were off the court except Ethan and one other kid. Ethan was dribbling across the court, darting in and out of cones. He did this endless times. He didn't look up to see if I was watching (which he often does). This was for him. He was working on improving his skills. He was serious. It was beautiful. I love his sense of humor, which is EXACTLY like his Dad's. They love to rhyme. Ethan's been rhyming since he's been talking. And it makes him laugh. I love that.

So I too am going to commit to engaging my kids more. From Grace down to Gertie, I need to stop checking out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Eyes in the Back of My Head?

Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention that my son went to church last night with no shirt on. He wore his winter coat over a bare chest.

What is especially horrifying to me is that I had NO IDEA he had no shirt on until we'd been there for 45 minutes. How does a mother miss the fact that her son has no shirt on as they're leaving the house? As they're eating dinner?

These things happen to keep me humble, and to keep my judgements of others (and other mothers) in check.

I'll sign off.

May all your children be properly clothed.

An Untitled Halloween Poem

Go to the costume shop, what do we see?
A costume for you and a costume for me

I see cats, dogs, and even kangaroos,
Demons and devils and creepy things too

You could be an EMT,
Spiderman, Superman, even the Black Flea

A princess, a fairy,
Some cute, some scary

Bumble bees are the bee's knees,
Grab a friend and be parakeets

If you feel jumpy, hyper or cocky
You could find a costume with football or hockey

You could be a cowboy or cowgirl
or dress up as a giant pearl

Have you picked out a costume yet?
Better do it soon so you don't forget

Grace wrote this poem for a class and I thought it was pretty cute. Although I happen to know that she hasn't yet chosen a costume. We aren't very Haloweeny around here this year.

John takes him mom home today. We are sorry to see her go. It's been a good couple weeks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I tell you, this blogging thing is contagious. I have recently added two new blogs to my list: Both my stepmom and my little sister have started up a blog site. I am so excited to be able to catch up and see pictures and know what they're thinking. I love blogging (or at least I love reading the blogs of those I care about).

Our day was a good one. I have a busy day tomorrow, but it's a good day for me. I have Bible study in the morning, volunteer with Ethan's class in the afternoon, a meeting later, and then church at night. I have crammed it all in, but Wednesdays are usually shot anyway, and these are all things I love.

And do you remember the friend of Grace's that died of a brain tumor right before school started? They are planting a tree in her honor tomorrow at Grace's old elementary school. Her mother requested that a few students from her class be present, if possible. (She would have been in sixth grade this year, and that is over at the middle school, so they'll have to be transported over, and miss a little school.) Anyway, Brooke's mother specifically mentioned Grace as a girl that Brooke talked about as being a good friend, and that meant something to me and to Grace, to know that, because Grace didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye when she wanted to. Now we know that Brooke knew that Grace cared about her. I just thought that was a neat bit of closure for Grace.

Is that Dad and Ethan in a Hot Tub?

I rousted John at 6:07 a.m. He was not ready. But he loves his children and a good surprise, so he got up, woke Ethan, and they climbed out into the hot tub. After a few minutes I woke Gracie up and told her I wanted to get some Bible study done this morning with her (she started a study in the mornings, but has been a little lax the last few days when she's feeling tired). Anyway, that got her out of bed without much suspicion.

When she came down, I asked her to let Uma out, which she did, but she didn't even look out the door. So I said, "Would you check on her to make sure she's okay?" My obedient daughter did this without complaint, even though it was a ridiculous request, and it was then that she saw her Dad and her brother relaxing in the hot tub that she didn't know existed. She had a very confused, but excited look on her face. I threw her a swimsuit and she was out the door in record time.

It is a memory we get to share. And I hope we'll pile them up.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Hot Tub

John and I spent much of the day outside today overseeing the installation of our new hot tub. We had a very large old one that didn't work when we moved in; we explored having it fixed up, but that didn't seem feasible. We found a great deal on this one, so we went for it.

The fun part is that we didn't say anything to the kids. It was so cool watching Ethan's face as he arrived home from school on his bike. He walked back there and the guy was still here giving us some instructions. His smile was huge. He gave his dad a big hug and thanked him (like it was just for him). He is still smiling.

Grace was at play practice until the tub was filled up and the guy was long gone, so she didn't even see it in the back yard. We haven't said a word, even Ethan is keeping this secret.

It is still heating up. We're at 90 degrees now, so I'm hoping John and I can get in before bed.

We are going to wake up a little early tomorrow morning and take a quick dip. The plan is that Ethan and John are going to go out and sit in the hot tub at 6 a.m. Grace usually wakes up at 6:15 or so. I'm going to make up some reason to send her to the back yard and she'll catch them out there soaking in the new tub. This should be good.

Ethan is sleeping in his swimsuit!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Technical Difficulties

We had a great weekend in South Dakota. We stayed with the Kniffens, and they were very gracious spur-of-the-moment hosts. Gertie had a great time playing with Wyatt and Colton. Brian fired off a rocket in that back yard that went so high in the sky it disappeared--literally.

We went to the parade and had a great time visiting with many old friends. (The kids complained that there wasn't enough candy because we were at the end of the parade and many people had run out by the time they reached us. I feel like I saw plenty of candy wrappers in the back of the van, so I doubt their version of events.)

I've probably already gone on about this at some other place, but I love parades, and especially marching bands. There were many of those, and I loved them all. I love the way they march in unison in their crisp-looking uniforms. I love the music. I can hear in my mind that I'm repeating myself, so I need to stop, but it was fun.

Gertie has caught a cold so she is VERY clingy and whiny. She had a fever the first couple days, and slept horribly on through the trip, but she's slept okay since then. (This is her little sick face on the way home.) I have bible study in the morning, so I'm hoping she's feeling better. If not, I'm sure John will watch her, but I like to take her, and I think she likes it too.

We brought Marge back with us. She'll stay for about ten days, I think. I'm looking forward to having her here. We thought she'd get to see Grace play tennis yesterday, but that was canceled because of rain, so tennis is done. We'll have a chance at flag football for Ethan today, but it's a bit nippy out, and John's mom is allergic to the cold, of all things. In South Dakota it is often cold. And it's pretty darn cold in Minnesota as well. But that's where we are.

I started this earlier today. I feel like I just list off the schedule for all to read, and you probably don't care as much about the schedule.

Tonight Ethan felt bad about getting creamed in football.

I made John the Almond Joy dessert he's been talking about since he ate it almost nine years ago. I baked the dessert while I talked on the phone with the doornob guy while Gertie followed me around fussing and begging that I pick her up. I didn't get the cake out of the oven on time, so then I sent John to the store for another cake. I love that man (and he loves me now that I made this dessert he had to wait nine years for).

Gertie has been dancing while John has been playing the guitar for the last half hour. The dancing should be called spinning, because that's what it truly is. I love to listen to John play the guitar. Every time I hear it, I'm so glad he does it. It's never enough.

Well, that was last night, and I was waiting to upload some pictures, but that is a bust, at least for now, so I'm going to publish anyway. I'll try with the pictures again later.

And that was a couple nights ago. Obviously I'm having technical difficulties. I thought this was published. I have added the pictures in, though, and hopefully this one would take.

The only thing I think I'd add is that John and I took a walk tonight after Gertie went to bed. We had a great time. It was dark and chilly and we just caught up on the day. I liked it. I miss it. I want to do it often. We'll try that.

John is complaining that while watching TV, you are enjoying your show, and then the commercial comes on and the volume is increased by ridiculous amounts. Does anyone else notice this? It drives me crazy. I don't think they should be allowed to do that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm trying

This is Grace and Gertie reading the Saturday morning paper together.

Okay. It's been waaay to long since my last post. I know this. I don't know how the time got away from me like it has, but I do know that I've been trying to come up with something worthy to report for several days now. I've even started to write, but I just end up deleting it. Things are going well, but I don't have any great stories to tell.

I'm forcing myself right now to write, because we are leaving for South Dakota in about forty minutes. It is Dakota Days in our hometown, and we like to go back for that each year if we can. It is a good time to catch up with friends. A lot of people seem to be around for the weekend. I'm looking forward to it. They have a parade and the kids always think it's a lot of fun. I'm not sure how Gertie will like it. The last parade she seemed a little upset at the noise level as the bands came by. I have discovered that I, on the other hand, just love the bands. I am not the least bit musical. I can't carry a tune, and I don't play any instrument, but I love to watch them march by in their uniforms and big hats, and I love the big band sound. It's my favorite part.

Grace won't be in the marching band, she'll be in the orchestra. I'm sure that will be nice too. I love to listen to her play the cello.

Monday will be Grace's last day of tennis. They'll have a meet here in Austin. And next week is Ethan's last week of flag football. I'm glad because it's getting colder out there in the early evenings. He doesn't seem to mind, but he's moving around. I'm sitting in a chair. That get's cold.

We may have a short reprieve before all the activities pick up again. I asked Ethan if he wanted to play basketball. He said he'd like to wrestle again. I'm okaywith that if it's what he wants (and it seems to be). It just seems like such an emotional roller coaster each year, but we'll roll with it, I guess.

John has fallen asleep on the couch for a quick cat nap before we hit the road. Gertie has fallen asleep in the chair. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. My guess is it's bad. I was trying to hold her off until we got in the car at three p.m. I guess she couldn't wait. I'm thinking she'll take a very short nap, and not sleep any more after I transfer her, but we'll have to see.

Well, I'll load the last few snacks into the car, and be ready to go before we take off. Thanks for reading, those of you that are sticking with me. I'm trying to get used to this letter to everyone.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Go Patriots!

Well, Ethan is giving up reading time tonight to watch the Patriots play the Bengals. Nothing beats Monday night football, but it is hard when you are eight years old and they don't start the game until a half and hour before bed. Sometimes we break the rules just a little.

It's been a good day today. I got several things accomplished, and that always feels good. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen every day. I am always surprised how long phone calling errands take. Can you make phone calling errands or does that make sense? Anyway, it seems like that always takes all day, somehow. I am trying to do some things on the computer that require a few calls to technical support. That takes hours. I hate those calls. You just can't budget enough time. Maybe I just have large, unsolvable problems. I don't know, but I'm still working on a few issues.

John is feeling a bit better. He'll have an MRI in the morning, and maybe we'll get some answers, or rule some things out. I'm glad he's pursuing it. He did make a delicious pot of chili yesterday. I'm so glad that I married such a good cook. I love to eat what he prepares.

Gertie and I made a quick visit to the park while Ethan was in piano. We had a good time sliding on slides while Ethan had a "perfect" lesson. We've been working on practicing, mostly trying to remember to do it. It's paying off.

Ethan and I are having some issues with his attitude. Maybe I should say I'm the one with the issue. He had a friend over yesterday and they made a huge mess of the upstairs. Ethan likes board games. I'm glad he does. But he took out about six board games and left them all out. Gertie plays up there all the time too, and she gets into that stuff. So anyway, I asked Ethan and his friend to pick up after themselves, and then I went about doing other things. This morning when Gertie and I went up there, it was still a disaster. I picked it up because I didn't want it to get worse, with the board games especially. The whole time I'm thinking about how I don't want to be a maid to my kids. I want him to be responsible for himself.

Well, on the way home from piano I was talking to him about this. I asked him if he thought he did a good job. He said he didn't know what a good job is. I said we have a problem if you don't know what a good job is. Then he gets upset and says that what he meant is I'm the one, as the parent, that determines what a good job is. I think this is ridiculous because he is smart enough to know when he's done a good job and when he hasn't. This makes me mad because he doesn't want to take responsibility for the bad choices he makes, and he tries to blame others. This is not a new game for him.

I told him he'd be cleaning up after dinner tonight by himself, and I expected him to do it with a good attitude, and to do a good job. He needed to determine what a good job was.

I have to hand it to him at this point, because he did do a good job, he did it with a good attitude the whole way through. He can really turn it around, which is also not a new game for Ethan. It made me proud of him to know that he could do a good job, and with a helpful heart, but also a little privately frustrated to know that he just doesn't care to obey sometimes.

Probably a boring story for many of you, I'm sorry. I just think it's so hard to be encouraging and discipline your kids all in one day sometimes. I don't want to ride him too hard, and I want him to enjoy his days and his friends and his home life. My expectations are high, but it takes a lot of effort to see them through. Sometimes I fail to do that, or I forget what I've disciplined. (That's one reason I think disciplines should be immediate and not last forever.) I want him to grow up to be responsible; to recognize his faults and turn them around.

I have to realize I can't always control his attitude, but I need to just hold his feet to the fire. I love parenting, but it is hard. It was physically taxing when they were young (and I'm in that stage too right now), but now it is full of decisions on how to best reason and influence and shape these more mature thinkers. I have to remember to do that prayerfully.

I work in Rochester the rest of this week. It's been a while, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to be working with the same judge that I worked for for three months. It will be good to see him again.

Patriots 10, Bengals 7. Top of the 2nd quarter. Go Patriots!