Friday, December 29, 2006

Update on the appendix-less man

Mark was released from the hospital at lunchtime today (his surgery was at 11 pm yesterday, so we were happy to be released so early). He's taking Tylenol and the dreaded Vicadin for his pain, without negative side effects. He's sore, and has been sleeping a lot, and seems to be feeling a bit better tonight than he was earlier today.

The surgeon said his appendix was twice its normal size, but it was in a very favorable position for surgery and the incision was smaller than anticipated (about 1-1/2 inches, I would say). The appendix hadn't burst, which made for an easier surgery and much easier recovery. Mark can take off the bandage and shower normally starting tomorrow. He has been restricted to no heavy lifting (meaning, no lifting of children) for 2 weeks. It will be a rough couple of weeks for the whole family, that's for sure. But I'm so glad Mark is on the mend!

Mark was one of 7 patients with appendicitis yesterday. The nurse wasn't sure if it was a record or not, but it was certainly out of the norm. Is there something in the water? I think maybe I should start drinking Evian.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mark's Record Is Broken

Mark has never broken a bone.
Mark has never gotten stitches.
Mark has never had surgery.
Er, wait.
That last one is no longer true.

It is 2:00 a.m., and I am writing to report that Mark has joined his brother Rob and our friend Erik and is now appendix-less. He had an attack of the "stomach flu" last night that lasted through the morning and the pain just wouldn't go away. And suddenly, the pain was just in one spot on the right side of his abdomin. The surgeon said it couldn't have been a more textbook case of appendicitis if Mark had tried.

So we spent the day at the hospital while our kids were under the care of another mom from my babysitting co-op, Laura, and then Mark's parents, who are flying out of town at 9:00 tomorrow morning and just left my house a few minutes ago (all of them saints, I tell you.) Tomorrow morning, since my parents and my sisters' family are all out of the state on vacation, I will drop the kids off with Mark's Aunt Linda (yet another saint) so that I can be with him at the hospital. It's amazing how much scheduling there is when someone is sick.

Mark didn't say anything too funny coming off of anesthesia, but apparently he did try to climb off the stretcher in the recovery room, telling them, "I'm going home!" [He doesn't remember saying that.] He said that he had dreams about Abby and Ethan dancing and giggling when he was in surgery, which is a very pleasant thing to dream.

It's never dull around here, is it?

Good night.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Never-Before-Seen Performance

Ethan (er, rather, KiKi Witch) will now perform for you using his new karaoke machine from Grandma and Grandpa. Enjoy!


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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas Eve

I am currently listening to Abby belt out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" over and over in her room while she is *supposed to be* taking a nap. It's hard to be frustrated when she's so darn jolly!

We spent our morning opening presents from my sister Bobbi's family, and then of course playing with them. It is a leisurely day so far, to be followed by a festive night with my parents coming over to celebrate Christmas with us. This evening, I will be singing in the church choir for our 11:00 p.m. Mass (joining the Christmas choir was one of the fun highlights of my advent this year). It should turn out to be a great day!

I am really looking forward to tomorrow. We are going to bake cookies this afternoon for Santa. We will also sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, which Ethan has been singing already for the past month. The kids will come downstairs to open 5 gifts each plus a stocking that Santa will bring. We will spread out the gifts over the morning, and later on Mark's parents will come over for brunch and another round of presents. After that, we're off to Mark's mom's extended family.

It should be a really fun couple of days! This is such a magical time of year!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Traditions

As we raise our children, Mark and I are developing lots of family traditions. It is really important to us that the kids have certain things that they can count on year after year. It is really important for all of us. Christmas seems to be a time of many traditions.

Here are some of the *new* and *existing* Christmas traditions that the Team Meat family observes.

Hand tree *new*: When we had our basement-reveal party, I asked everyone in our family to help make a Christmas tree for our new basement. We all made a hand-print to help create the tree in the photo. I labeled all the hands. I love the way it turned out. I would like to do this every year, and keep the trees from past years and hang them all up. I will either complete the tree at Thanksgiving, or maybe I'll host a small party at the beginning of December "just because".

Cutting our Christmas tree *existing*: I believe that my parents have always had a real Christmas tree that our family cut each year. They still do. And so do we! We make the cutting of the tree an adventure, and the last few years we have started the tradition of going with Mark's parents. I just love choosing the perfect tree!!

Gammers and Grampa *new*: My parents bought a couple extra gifts for the kids this year, and decided to give them away at the beginning of December. So they came over one afternoon to play with the kids, gave them their cool dressup clothes and a couple Christmas books, and we had dinner together. It was a really great relaxing start of the Christmas season. We're planning to do it again next year.

5 Days of Christmas *existing*: When Mark and I were first married, we were living 2-1/2 hours away from our families. This meant lots of weekend trips home. And it meant that Christmas Eve and Christmas day were spent away from our own house. We didn't want to haul our gifts to each other across the state in order to open them on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. So we developed a "5 days of Christmas" tradition. We would package our gifts to each other in 5 chunks, and sit down with the Christmas tree all lit up to open one each night prior to leaving town. It spread Christmas out for us, and gave us something to look forward to each day of Christmas week. And we usually write clues on the tags so we can try to guess what the gifts are each night, too. Even though we are home for Christmas now, we still do this...we just wait until the kids are in bed. ;)

Christmas card picture *existing*: Since my oldest sister Becky was born, my parents have included a photo in with their Christmas cards. They were always a full-family photo, including my parents, and the photo shoot was always an event. While I didn't always enjoy the photo shoots (there is one year when I was about 8 where I was crying in most of the pictures), it is an awesome tradition and is so fun to look back on. Now, we receive a card from my empty-nester parents each year with a picture of the two of them. I have always loved the tradition, and ever since Mark and I were engaged, we have sent out Christmas cards with photos. Up until 2 years ago, even the pets were included (now, it is just too crazy to try and set up a shot with 4 people, 2 dogs and a cat).

Advent tree *new*: This year, Christmas is so exciting for the kids. I wanted to count down to Jesus' birthday with an advent calendar. Mark's mom gave me a cute advent calendar from his childhood, but it seemed a little too fragile for preschool hands. So Mark bought this advent tree from Starbucks, of all places. It has drawers that pull out, and you turn the drawers around as the month progresses to create a winter scene. The drawers came with chocolates, but in the future I will find small trinkets to represent different parts of the story of Jesus' birth. The kids love the tree.

Gift for Jesus *new*: Mark and I love all of the activities surrounding Christmas, but we definitely want our kids to understand that what we are doing is celebrating the birth of our Savior. So I came up with the idea to purchase a toy as a family to give to a child who could use one through Toys for Tots. In the future, I would like the kids to pitch in some of their saved money to help buy the toy. I want to stress that as we celebrate Jesus' birthday, we should give Him the gift that he asked for, to help take care of those in need. We tried this activity this year. We learned a valuable lesson, the hard way: our kids are too young for this concept right now. The endeavor was not well understood, and resulted in a 3-year old screaming as we left Target because she thought we were at the store to pick out a toy to reward her for doing well on the potty. Bad, bad parenting mistake. Next year, we might be ready.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

Friday, December 15, 2006

One of these days

But not today. I have a few posts rolling around in my head, but haven't had (or rather, haven't made) the time to write them.

I am taking my own personal mantra to "enjoy this Advent season to its fullest" to heart. I have said no to some commitments that were causing me stress. And I feel darn good about it. Unfortunately, blog-time is one of the things that is on the back burner for the time. I hope to write something very soon - stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Bee-u-tiful Basement!

As promised, here is the Virtual Grand Reveal of our finished basement! There are a few things that need to be done yet (some wiring of the outlets, for instance) but we are able to play downstairs now! I AM SO HAPPY!! My husband and Dad-in-law have given me such a gift by adding living space!

Before the carpeting was laid, I asked Mark to sign the floor for future homeowners to find some day when we are gone...
Here is the trip down the stairs...
The view of the rec. room from the bottom of the stairs...
There is a little niche that was perfect for a dressup area (the mirrors will be mounted on the right-hand wall very soon)...
I saw this idea somewhere for putting up a clothesline to hang artwork, and I loved it. So the wall at the bottom of the stairs holds my kiddo's artwork (and all at their level so they can see it, too)...
This is the "reading nook." We'll also do puzzles, arts and crafts, and other stuff in this corner. Eventually, I think the kids would really like bean bags in this area too...
I bought 3 big bookcases at a garage sale this summer for $1 each. They were really junky. But after a few coats of paint, and a lot of structural reinforcement by Mark, they turned out well! We attached two of them together to hold all of our storage bins of stuff. It's hard to tell, but each shelf is a different color (light green, dark blue, dark green, light blue)...
I am so happy to have a "conversation area" now. Across from this chair and couch are a pair of chairs. The couch pulls out to a bed, also, for any overnight guests we may have. I haven't figured out what I'm going to do with the support pole behind Sawyer yet, but I'm thinking I might cover it with fabric...
This is the office, which can be easily converted to a bathroom in the future (see the plumbing hookup on the floor?) Mark is anxious to get our two computer desks and 4 computers set up down there!
This is the view of the office from the main room. I just really like the artistic look of the striped pattern through the circle pattern of the outer room.
There are three other rooms in the basement. There is a store room (which is jam-packed with stuff and needs to be sorted out soon), and two closets (one holds the sump pump and the other has the circuit breaker and will hold all of my scrapbooking supplies). The basement is gorgeous! Come by and see it in person, if you can!!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Preview of coming attractions

Tonight, we are hosting a gala event to celebrate a momentous occasion in the Team Meat house. We are finally moved in to our newly finished basement!! Our family and neighbors will be coming over for the Grand Reveal. No one has seen it in its finished state except the four of us, and I can hardly wait to show it off!

The kids got their own sneak peek yesterday, after not seeing the basement in well over 6 months. The first thing Ethan said? "Wow... real carpet!"

We have been playing down there every spare minute today, and will be doing the same right up to the party, I'm sure. Be on the lookout for photos of our awesome new living space!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Our Resident Dr. Dolittle

Abby has always had a special way with animals. Since she was a teeny-tiny thing (some could argue that she still is a teeny-tiny thing), she has never had fear of any animal, big or small. It is easy to see that love pours from her to any animals. It really is amazing and beautiful.

Yesterday, on our Christmas tree cutting adventure, we took a wagon ride from the parking lot to the tree farm. The wagon was pulled by a team of horses, beautiful mammoth Clydesdales.

As I mentioned before, it was really cold yesterday. And very icy. Our wagon was being pulled by three horses on the way back to the barn. When we were almost to the barn, a pregnant horse named Mamie lost her footing on the ice and fell down sideways. The other horses had to do a quick two-step to keep their own footing.

The time that Mamie was down was small, but it had a big impact on a little girl with a giant heart. Her eyes were as big as saucers, and she kept asking me if the horse was OK. After I mumbled some reassurances, she dropped it for the moment.

Over hot chocolate, she brought it up again.

After her nap, she mentioned it again.

Today, she has brought it up several times. Not to ask me how Mamie is, but rather recalling the events. "The horse slipped. Fell down and got hurt," she would say, as she furrowed her brow.

I know this is eating at my animal-empathic daughter. I just hope she can find her own peace with the incident. And I now know that when our pets' time on earth is through, as much as we will all grieve, there is one girl in our family who will be hit the hardest.

Mamie is on the far right. Beautiful horses!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Oh, Super-tall Christmas Tree

We spent the afternoon with Grandma and Grandpa on our annual trip to cut our Christmas trees. It was really, really cold. But it was beautifully snowy, with big fat flakes that you can catch on your tongue. The perfect day for tradition.

Getting ready to go...

The tallest tree we've ever had. It will fit nicely in the two-story foyer!

Brrrr.... we need our hot chocolate!!

Waiting for Grandma and Grandpa


Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Weather Outside is Snowful



Yesterday, we had an ice storm, followed by a few inches of snow. Schools were closed, Mark worked from home, it was kinda fun.

After dinner, Mark went out to shovel the driveway, which meant that we all went out. The kids put on their snowpants, boots, hats, mittens, coats. As soon as Ethan got down the front steps, he plopped himself on his back and made a snow angel (which he has been wanting to do for a month now). Abby had a blast throwing loosely-packed snowballs at everyone. The kids got to help Daddy uing their "shovels" (which are really Chuck It tennis-ball launchers used for the dogs - but they also work really well at chucking snowballs at your unsuspecting husband from the neighbor's yard). Everyone had fun, even Dad who was stuck actually shoveling.

Ethan cried when it was time to come in after 45 minutes (when the sun had set and we were still outside throwing snowballs in the dark with our neighbors). The kids are going to LOVE playing outside this year.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

November 30th - The End of NaBloPoMo

So it's 10:42 pm on the last day of the month. I'm sitting in front of a finger-printed monitor, trying to find inspiration for my last post of National Blog Posting Month.

I should have had a plan. I should have had my grand finale chosen on November 1st, with each post working up to some awesome piece of writing I saved for last. The icing on the cake.

But I didn't, and so I sit, staring at the computer screen. I just read Mark's final post (the post about me), and now I feel like even more of a loser. A loser with no plan.

So, I will take this moment to thank you, my readers. The members of my family. My friends. My acquaintances. My friends-through-other-friends. My strangers who might stop by to see what's up. I've enjoyed writing for this last month. There was some good, some funny, some hilarious, some poignant, and some just plain stupid. I hope you could all see a snapshot of the life of a wife and mother who is scrambling to run a household and is happy to just keep everyone alive here. Including the pets. I've enjoyed writing every day, and would like to write more often than I have in the past.

So look for more posts on raising a Spirited Daughter, more posts about preparing for the holidays, more posts on the hilarious or touching things the kids say.

And when you find them, be sure to send me the link.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 29th - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I just finished designing my Christmas cards tonight. And, might I add, they rock.

We received our first card in the mail today from Jenny's family. That girl is always so darn on top of everything - good thing my competitive nature forces me to get my cards out soon in order to keep up. ;)

I am doing well on my Christmas shopping, although I'm not sure Friday is a realistic goal. I might be finishing up this weekend.

We might get our tree this weekend, too. Or maybe the weekend after.

Don't you just love the Christmas season??

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

November 28th - Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • My scrapbooking weekend (two weekends ago) was great! My Mom, my sisters Becky and Bobbi, my nieces Kelsey, Bree, Courtney and Breanna, my great friend Jenny and Bree's friend Victoria all accompanied me. We got too little sleep but had so much fun. We held 4 or 5 different challenges throughout the weekend (i.e. "use stamps on a page" or "create a pocket on your page" etc.) It was really nice, and the store that hosted us was especially hospitable. I hope we can return there next year!
  • I got a call today from the vet reminding me that Sawyer's castration is scheduled for tomorrow. Couldn't they just say "neuter?" Do I really need to think of it that way??
  • Speaking of the cat-that-has-moved-in, he has not peed outside of the litter box since "the incident." Woohoo! And it appears that the odor is mostly gone. We have an odor-eliminating product that a friend gave us to try this week. With a little luck, the problem will be a bad memory soon!
  • Speaking more of that crazy cat, I have learned a lot about owning a cat in the last month.
    • This cat is LOUD. He mews about everything. And he sounds just like Abby when he's crying in the middle of the night. We have been fooled many times.
    • Cats are night animals (duh). He sleeps and sleeps all day, and then goes ballistic after the kids go to bed. He wakes us up many nights with his crazy running around in our bathroom or the foyer downstairs. The poor dogs.
    • Sawyer insists on sitting in my lap when I'm working on the computer. He won't take no for an answer. At least with the dogs, they will just stare at you until you do what they want - they aren't laying in your lap against your will. Oh yeah, they do that too.
    • Cats are fussy eaters. The dogs will eat anything. Literally. And they will eat it quickly, no matter what it is. Sawyer has to sniff his food from every angle before deciding if he wants to take a bite of it. He never eats all of the food in the bowl, but meows for more when there are 10 or so pieces left. He won't drink water that's not fresh (but will drink out of the dogs' water bowl, which is much more foul than water that has been sitting out for a few hours).
  • Abby has been hit-or-miss on naps since her 3rd birthday. This week has been great for naps. In fact, today (for the second day in a row), she actually tucked herself into bed while I put Ethan down for his nap and just waited for her kiss goodnight. If only it was always that easy!
  • Mark and I have been like two ships passing in the night for the last month or so. During our free time, one of us is usually watching the kids while the other is doing some kid-free activity (working on the basement, attending a meeting, etc.) We are in serious need of a weekend away for just the two of us. I am hoping that we can plan a trip to Chicago for January or February. With effective scheduling, my sister's family can watch Abby and Ethan for us. Just imagining time alone to reconnect makes me giddy!
  • There are two families of kids that attend our preschool who are in need of help right now, because both moms have just had some very serious and major surgeries. The rest of the families (including us) have come together to provide playdates, meals and house cleaning services. Have I mentioned how happy I am with this preschool, and how proud I am to be part of their community???
  • Isn't this the cutest thing you've ever seen?

Monday, November 27, 2006

November 27th - Who's that?

This morning, Abby was poring over one of her favorite books. It is a book of bible stories, but it is aimed at a much older child. The drawings are anything but cartoony, and the stories are not the cheery "Noah's ark" stories of our children's bible. The stories tell of people dying, famine, God's wrath, etc. But Abby won't listen to the stories anyway, so it doesn't really matter... Abby loves to look at the pictures in the book.

Today, she kept looking at drawings of a white-robed, long-haired, bearded adult Jesus healing the sick, talking to the masses, praying.

"Who's that?" she'd ask on each page.
"That's Jesus," I'd reply.
She wasn't convinced.

"No, Mommy. That's Daddy."

Maybe she has realized that like Jesus, Daddy performs his own miracles around here. Or maybe Daddy just needs to shave and get some more fashionable clothes.

-------------------------------------------------------

Ethan watched Toy Story today, for the millionth time. When the movie would get to a scene with Andy's evil neighbor boy, he would turn to me and ask, "who's that, Mom?"

"That's Sid," I would explain.
"Sin?"
"No, Sid."

At the end of the movie, he announced, "I don't like Sin!"

Thank goodness for that. That will make my life as his Mom much easier.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

November 26th - Schooling

I just finished an episode of Dr. Phil that aired this past Friday. The topic: schooling options. The discussions included traditional schooling, home schooling and "unschooling."

From what I understood from the show, unschooling is similar to home schooling but without a curriculum. It is "child-lead learning." The child experiences learning by experiencing life. The child isn't taught in a traditional way, with his parent or another adult being the teacher. The child is exposed to many different experiences, and through that exposure gains education.

Home schooling is a well-known alternative to traditional schooling. The parent acts as teacher of the child, and the child isn't taught in a public forum but instead is taught at home (I do realize that many home school families try to share teaching resources and the parent may teach a certain subject to more home schoolers than just their own children).

Traditional schools are what Mark and I both experienced growing up. And, of course, even traditional schooling has many alternatives today. Public, private, charter, Montessori, and other types of schools are all options. The commonality is that kids are taught in a classroom setting with other children.

Schooling is just one of the many "hot buttons" of the parents of our generation. I personally know people who are choosing every type of schooling mentioned (except unschooling - that one was new to me). Everyone seems very passionate about their choices. Of course, we are no exception.

Our children will be schooled in the public school system. In fact, the school system was a big factor in choosing the location of our home. We have a lot of information about the system. We both attended the public schools for our entire education. Mark's mom is a teacher at one of the elementary schools. My sister's children have all attended the same system for all of their educations (and have all gone through the same elementary school where Abby and Ethan will attend). Mark and I are very comfortable with the education we received, and felt very prepared for college.

It is important to me that my kids experience all that the public school can offer. From the ride to school on the bus to the extremely diverse population which is enrolled in our public school system, our kids will be preparing for "the real world" that awaits them when they graduate. And the system provides a challenging education as well.

I won't go into the reasons that home schooling, unschooling, or any of the other traditional schooling options are not our first choice. I respect other parents' right to choose what they feel is best for their children without criticism. I just feel strongly that as of right now, the public school system that our kids will attend is our best option to educate our two precious children.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

November 25th - 'Twas The Month Before Christmas

Ah, the Christmas season is here.

Time for Christmas music (love it!)
and Christmas tree chopping (love it!)
and Christmas lights (love it!)
and Christmas decorations (love it!)
and Advent (love it!)
and Christmas parties (love it!)
and Christmas food (love it!)

and Christmas shopping (chirp, chirp)

I don't love the shopping so much.

I love the picking out of the gifts
but I don't love the driving around (hate it!)
and wrapping (hate it!)
and shipping (hate it most of all!)

I have deemed this the year of the cyber-gift -or- the year of the gift card. Whenever possible, I am ordering online or buying a gift card and calling it done.

I have already gone online and purchased Christmas gifts for all of our nieces and nephews in Florida. I paid for wrapping. And they will be shipped directly to their houses. No trips to the post office for me, no sirree! Such a relief!!

My older nieces and nephews are either going to provide me with a specific item to purchase (online, of course, to be shipped directly to their house) or they will be getting a gift card to their favorite store (which is presumably what most teenagers really want, anyway). I am not going to stress out about gift-buying this year. And I WILL be done shopping by December first, come heck or high water. ;)

This year, Advent will be mine to enjoy sipping hot cider or cocoa after playing in the snow with the kids, or singing carols by the fire, or lazily decorating the Christmas tree. The thought of it makes me grin from ear to ear!

Merry Christmas season to all, and to all a good night!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

November 24th - Cooperation

Today, over breakfast at Panera Bread, Abby and Ethan were fighting over a muffin.

Abby: Don't touch!
Ethan: It's mine!
Abby: Leave me 'lone!
Ethan: My muffin!

Mommy: I don't like the way you're yelling at each other. Can't we have some cooperation?

Ethan: Yeah, Abby. Let's have some craperation.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

November 23rd - Giving Thanks

Happy Turkey Day, Everyone!

Today is a day of being thankful for all that we have. We are so blessed to have what we do.

I am especially thankful for the gift of Mark. When we had been dating about 6 months, I was already certain that he was the one I wanted to marry. I knew we were right together because I liked myself so much better when I was with him. He has always inspired me to be my best. He has always been my calm rock when waves were threatening to tip me over. He encourages and challenges me, keeps me in check and gives me wings.

I am very proud of who Mark is becoming. He is undergoing some transformations within himself that I am overjoyed to witness. He has stepped out of his comfort zone so many times in the last year, challenging himself to try things that are outside of his box. He has taught a Faith Formation class at church (that he himself volunteered for without being asked). He has given a lengthy presentation at a software conference. He is pursuing an opportunity to start a business with a long-time friend and colleague. He is stepping up and saying "no!" at work when he needs to. He always presents himself as confident and intelligent, and gains respect. He is maintaining a good relationship with his brother, despite being 1500 apart. He is making a new mark on the world (or Mark on the world -heehee), and I'm so proud.

Mark and I have been together for 12 years this weekend, which is over a third of my life. I honestly don't know what I would be like without Mark since he is such an integral part of who I have become. So today, as on all days, I thank God for the gift of Mark in my life.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

November 22nd - My Spirited Daughter: Part 4 (Persistence)

Persistence: Abby can do it by herself, Papa.

In the book I've been reading (Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka), the spirited child is described as being more: more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic than other children.

The second trait talked about in the book is persistence. Spirited children need, want and seek power. Persistent children are determined and strong. They push where other kids don't . They never give up. It is nearly impossible to ignore them or distract them.

How it relates to Abby: Abby's persistence is her strongest spirited trait. She can lock in for battle over anything. If she wants to climb the couch, and has been told not to climb the couch, she will do anything she can to find a way to climb the couch. She challenges every rule. Her will is very strong.

Abby is also incredibly motivated to accomplish things. She never asks for help before she has exhausted all possibilities of completing something herself. She accepts any challenge with glee. She has learned so many things in her short life by using her persistent nature.

How we can manage Abby's persistence: A major key to successful parenting of a persistent child is choosing battles. With Abby, everything could be a battle if we let it. Mark is much better at choosing the important battles, while I have had to work hard to identify which battles are worth fighting (absolutely no running into the street, prayer time is special time we need to take seriously, aggression is never tolerated), which battles can be negotiated (how much/what kinds of food Abby eats, can Abby sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor or only in her bed, can Abby take off her shoes and coat in the car) and which battles can be avoided (letting Abby choose her own clothes even if they don't match). Negotiation is a key strategy to creating a harmonious home environment. Getting to a place that we can all live with is so much better than "my way or the highway" when parenting a persistent child. Negotiation may look like a weak parenting strategy, but it is really teaching our child how to use her persistence as a positive, and to consider the needs of others to arrive at a solution. And it allows Abby to be spirited without losing a battle of wills against her parents, which will undoubtedly affect her self-esteem. Of course, some things are non-negotiable and have to be accepted. Negotiation also teaches an important life skill: coming up with another acceptable solution when she is dead set against ours.

Having said all of that, consistency is extremely important for the persistent child. Persistent kids are testing limits all of the time. If a limit is non-negotiable (or has been decided already through negotiation), we must remain constant in our enforcement of the limit. As parents of a persistent child, we can't make exceptions to rules without experiencing a big downside: that rule will be tested even harder in the future. Consistency will provide Abby with a sense of security, because we are unwaivering.

I'm sure that there are many people that question how we are raising Abby and where we draw the lines with her (and how on earth could we negotiate with her - isn't that allowing her the power?). For example, when Abby turned three we made a decision to allow her to use all of the equipment at the local playground without any help. The playground is intended for kids who are 5+ years, and has some very challenging equipment (a completely verticle rock wall, for example). Abby has spent the last year proving to us that she can handle the equipment despite her petite stature and young age. She is always very careful and graceful when she uses the equipment. She has never come close to falling, and her persistent nature has helped her to accomplish her goal of being independent on the equipment. Over the summer, Abby and I negotiated to come to a "yes" together... and I decided to let her use the equipment alone at her 3rd birthday. She was very happy with that, and I was happy to be able to make her happy. But she is the youngest kid on the playground using the equipment without help, and I get lots of looks and gasps from other parents. I would imagine other parents of spirited children would "get it."

Positive things that we can tell Abby: You really stick with things. You are committed and decisive. You are assertive. You are independent and capable.

Our own persistence level: I am persistent myself. Mark is not persistent (he doesn't lock in, he easily walks away from arguments that could become battles). When Abby challenges the rules, it usually feels like a personal afront to me [although I can intellectually tell the difference]. Mark has a much easier time being cool and collected and not engaging in a battle of wills. My persistence becomes a hinderance in my relationship with Abby because I have a tendancy to want to have the power in the relationship, which always puts Abby in a losing position. It is hard for me to look for the win/win solution. I need to allow myself time to unlock from the battle, time to regroup and collect myself. As Dr. Phil often says, "do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?" The answer for myself is that I want to be happy, and having a harmonious home life will definitely make me happy.

In summary, persistence is a great trait to have to become a successful adult. Big things wouldn't happen without persistence. Persistent people are the ones that get stuff done! But persistence can cause big problems in relationships when power struggles are constant. In order to live happily, we need to minimize the power struggles and find ways that our persistence can shine.
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Source: Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Previous Posts: My Spirited Daughter - Part 1
My Spirited Daughter - Part 2 (Introvert vs. Extravert)
My Spirited Daughter - Part 3 (Intensity)
Next Topic: Perceptive Nature

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November 21st - My Spirited Daughter: Part 3 (Intensity)

Intensity: Abby's strong reaction to her banana breaking in two

In the book I've been reading (Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka), the spirited child is described as being more: more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic than other children.

The first trait talked about in the book is intensity. Spirited children have very strong reactions to things. If something is pleasing, they laugh and scream louder than other kids. If something is displeasing, they can throw a tantrum that is more intense and longer than other kids. Everything seems black and white, love it or hate it, great or horrible. Emotional reactions are very strong.

How it relates to Abby: Abby's intensity is probably the most noticable trait to strangers. She can cause a huge scene if she is upset about something (just ask Mark or his parents about her meltdown at breakfast last weekend because she didn't want to take the time to pray). She has a strong reaction to just about everything, she either loves a food or says, "I don't like it!" (if we're lucky - many times she will scream and cry or push her plate away if we present her with food she doesn't want). She is not wishy-washy about her opinions.

Abby is also extremely enthusiastic and excitable, which is one of the traits I've always hoped for in my children. She becomes so excited about things we might view as trivial (like Jennifer's birthday gift of the $5 Barbie), and her enthusiasm is infectious. Nothing can make me smile more than Abby's joy.

How we can help Abby deal with her intensity: We can identify Abby's intensity with words when we notice an outbreak coming on; this will help her to predict when she might become overwhelmed. We can provide soothing and calming activities (a warm bath, stories, quiet play, etc.) We can use humor to diffuse intense reactions (Mark is GREAT at this). We can teach Abby to use time-out as a way to calm herself down instead of as a punishment. We can teach Abby to breathe slowly and deeply if she is feeling overwhelmed. We can give her permission to remove herself from a situation where she will likely have an intense negative response.

Positive things that we can tell Abby: You do everything with gusto! You are enthusiastic and expressive. You can become frustrated easily. Being intense does not mean being aggressive.

Our own intensity level: I am pretty intense (or short-fused, as my parents would say). I would say that Mark is not very intense. My intensity is what makes Abby such a challenge for me, because I have strong reactions to things as well (and my frustration threshold is pretty low, so I can go from content to completely annoyed very quickly). My intensity can cause a chain reaction in Abby. I have learned that I am my best when I have taken my own time-out to diffuse my intensity before dealing with Abby's strong reactions. I rely on Mark A LOT to bring the overall intensity level down by stepping in and taking over when I need help.

In summary, intensity can be a positive trait. Many adults with intensity are the go-getters who can motivate others to accomplish big tasks. Intensity can also be a big negative if not managed well. Mark has a manager right now who is so "hot and cold" that no one can stand him. One minute, an employee is the greatest thing since sliced bread and the next moment the manager is screaming profanity in that same employee's face for saying something he disagrees with. That is pretty intense!
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Source: Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Previous Posts: My Spirited Daughter - Part 1
My Spirited Daughter - Part 2 (Introvert vs. Extravert)
Next Topic: Persistence

Monday, November 20, 2006

November 20th - It's Pottytime, Woody*

I haven't posted about potty training in a long time, mostly because it makes me want to scream in frustration. Way back in January (oh my gosh - can it really have been that long ago???), I asked for guesses about when the kids would be dry during the day. The latest guess was September 1st, and at the time I thought that was ridiculous.

It's November 20th. Neither kid is potty trained.

Ethan is very close. He will use the potty when asked, and asks to use it about half the time he needs to ask. Recently, he has been waking up in the night to go potty. He likes to wear underwear. More important to the process, he likes to gain approval from his mom and dad.

Abby is another story entirely. She goes through cycles of doing really well, and cycles of not caring one bit about the potty. She doesn't mind a dirty pull-up, but underwear is another story (she will sneak into the bathroom and change her own underwear if she has an accident - she can't stand being wet). We have tried so many different things with her. Stickers, sticker charts, M&Ms, calling Daddy, big praise, little praise, no praise, a talk from her pediatrician, using action figures to ask her to use the facilities, letting her dictate her own schedule, using a timer. None of these are the magical inspiration that has potty trained Abby. The only knowledge I have gained (the hard way, mind you) is that if she is resistant, the best course of action is no action. Forcing her to do something never works.

From everything I have heard from anyone who has struggled with potty training, the answer is simple. The kids will do it in their own time.

So.... anyone want to revise their guess? ;)

*The real line is "It's partytime, Woody" (from Toy Story)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

November 19th - A Sunday Night Haiku

scrapbooking weekend,
alas you are over now.
now I must catch Z's.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

November 18th - Croppin' 'til We're Droppin'

Well, I'm writing this post on Tuesday, but if you're reading it that means Mark has done his job and posted it for me.

I'm not at home this weekend... I am sharing some awesome company with 2 of my sisters, my mom, 4 nieces (and one friend-of-a-niece), and my great friend Jenny on a scrapbooking weekend. Right now (if this is between 10am and 2am Sunday morning), I am probably scrapbooking my little heart out. I hope I'm getting a ton done, since I am so far behind at the moment.

You see, I'm insane. It's true.

I decided before Abby was born that I would gift my 2 mothers with a scrapbook of her first year of life. When Ethan arrived, I provided the same. Pretty nice gifts, I thought.

When Abby turned 1, my insanity kicked in full-force. I tried to stop it, but I couldn't. I gave them another gift - Abby's 2nd year of life. I'm sure you can see where this is headed.

I am still providing a book each for Abby and Ethan to each mother. My mothers really appreciate the books, which makes me happy to do the work on them. I am also completing books for Abby and Ethan themselves (don't want to short-change my kids, that's for sure!) My 7th book in progress is my "family album" [which will actually be mine, all mine]. My family albums start in 1997, and end when Abby was born. The other 6 albums are only caught up to February 2006. You can see that I needed this weekend away to catch up a bit.

So here are some pictures of a couple pages I completed on my last weekend away in June. I love them so much... hopefully they are inspiring me to complete great things this weekend!!

Friday, November 17, 2006

November 17th - Things That Make Me Smile


  • I call Abby "Abs" which Mark absolutely hates. Of course, Ethan has started doing it too. Sorry, Marky!
  • The way that Ethan tells me he has to "shake it off, like Dad" when he uses the toilet.
  • When I go upstairs for 1.5 minutes to gather laundry and come down to find Abby in a completely different outfit.
  • The way Abby pronounces Sawyer "sore-er."
  • Ethan couldn't find his special Baby one day, and started to cry. "Sorry, Eth, but we'll have to look for Baby after your nap." He looked at me with tears in his eyes. "But I love her, Mom!"
  • Abby actually thinks her name is "Abby Girl" instead of Abigail. I can't bear to correct her.
  • The way Ethan still thinks his flatulence is hilarious and has to announce "gas!" accompanied by giggles.
  • When someone leaves our house, Ethan yells through the window as loudly as he can, "Bye, Boo Boo La La!" He came up with it on his own one day, and it always sends him into hysterics.
  • We play a game of "Who Likes to eat..." On her turn, Abby always asks, "Who likes... worms?" "Yuck! Ew!" Then she gets a sly look. "Who likes candy worms?" She's got us there!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

November 16th - Oh piss


Well, we've found the downside.

Of owning the cat, that is.

A few days ago, the door on Sawyer's hooded litter box was mysteriously cemented shut by a pile of, er, kitty excrement. The culprit of such an act is unknown (Casey? Abby? Sawyer himself?), but the results are well-known. Before the litterbox problem was discovered and remedied, the cat peed all over the futon in Ethan's room.

It was so bad, it soaked through the futon mattress and dripped all over the carpeting below. The mattress is in the trash. The carpet got deep cleaned and then treated with some sort of pet odor remover. The odor is still around, permeating much of the house.

Today, Mark found a spot in the living room that smells especially bad. The rancid odor of cat urine.

We're not sure if the living room spot happened at the same time as the futon, or if it is now the start of a new "piss-all-over-the-house" routine. Dear God, let it be a one-time thing!

For the next day or so, Sawyer is quarantined to the main level in order to prevent further urination on the bedroom level. In a couple of days, we will also know if the odor will go away with the carpet treatment or if further action needs to be taken.

Good thing he's so darn cute.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

P.S.

I'm halfway done with my month of posts! Yeah!

November 15th - Conferences

There's a kitty on my keyboard, following every word that I'm typing across the screen. He loves to play with the mouse icon, too, following it and batting at the monitor. Crazy cat.

But anyway. (or is that anyways... I'm never sure)

This is just going to be a brain dump about the school conferences meeting we had tonight for Abby (Ethan is too young for conferences yet). There was nothing surprising that came out of it, really. The teacher and preschool director have observed that Abby is very good at playing independently, but struggles a bit with joining in games. She can initiate activities and follow others, and really enjoys art. She needs to work on attentiveness during circle time, following directions and following class rules. [can you tell I'm copying these categories off of our progress report sheet?]

We talked for quite awhile about Abby's temperament, and the challenges that we as caretakers face to help her fit better into the classroom environment. It was obvious that we're all observing the same behaviors, so she is consistent. Now we're going to work to be consistent from school to home to help Abby be the best she can be.

Since preschool started 2 months ago, I have noticed that Abby has made some progress on circle time because I sometimes listen from the hallway after I drop Ethan off in his room. She is actually sitting on the circle rug now and sometimes participating in the activity, which is improvement that I'm very happy about. She does need to pay more attention and participate more, but we are happy with any improvement.

The biggest differences I've noticed in Abby since preschool are social. She wants to play with other kids during freetime before class starts. She talks about other kids once we get home. And just today she greeted Mrs. Sandy with a big smile and, "Hi, Mrs. Sandy! I've got my brown!" because today was wear-brown day. She wouldn't acknowledge Mrs. Sandy when she walked into class a month ago. I'm very glad that she's feeling more comfortable now in her new environment. With comfort, the real changes can happen.

Now we know which areas to work on through the year. We got some good ideas from the conference about how to strengthen some of the necessary skills. We'll be putting them to good use soon.

I'm very glad that Abby is enrolled in preschool this year, and that she'll have another year before kindergarten. She will benefit from the social skills that two years of preschool will bring. She will benefit from the structure that preschool will bring. And as of now, she loves it and looks forward to it.

It's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November 14th - Change of Dressing

As you can see, my blog has a new look!

Mark has converted my blog to the new, beefier version of blogger (Blogger Beta), and also created a super-cute title for me. Isn't he a gem??

I love the pictures in my title. What cracks me up that in the first picture of Mark, he is really wearing one of Abby's princess crowns. He conveniently cut that off, didn't he??

Someday, when I have "free time" (a category of time that seems to be shrinking by the day), I will actually set up categories for my posts to make it easy to search my blog for a topic of interest. Maybe when the new house cleaner starts (e.g. half past never). [teehee]

Monday, November 13, 2006

November 13th - Girls Gone Wild


Couldn't you see Abby's Barbies flashing guys in some tropical location as they drive by in their cool, uh, minivan? Spring break rules!

Ok... I know this is the lamest post ever, but I am exhausted and can't come up with anything better right now to meet my goal of a post per day. So there.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

November 12th - Nine New Neckties, Nightshirt, Nose

Each week for preschool, Abby's 3-year-old class works on a different letter. The teacher has asked that we work with our children to choose pictures of items that start with that letter. The pictures are brought in each Monday and reviewed with the whole class.

I don't know if Abby's just not with it or what, but she has zero interest in this task. As far as I can tell, she hasn't connected that the letter A sounds like aaaah and starts the word Abby. But we still try each week to choose a picture or two that start with the letter.

This week's letter is N. I drew an N on the whiteboard and handed Abby a marker. She promptly drew a P (a straight line with a circle next to it). It might be the wrong letter, but at least she's learning something at school!

"What words start with nnnnn?" Crickets chirping. "What about nose?" More crickets. "Nighttime?" After a few minutes of prompting, Abby goes back to the whiteboard and starts to scribble, tuning me out.

So I've taken the task on myself. I wouldn't want Abby to be the only 3-year-old without "N" pictures at school tomorrow. You know how cruel kids can be.

Neander-
thal


















Nostril














Nudist














Nuclear Weapon














Nausea













I just hope Abby's teacher doesn't figure out we did her homework for her.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

November 11th - Talking to God

Our family of four has never been great at saying grace before meals. Nightly prayers? Yes - it's a must. But grace has fallen by the wayside.

Until preschool.

The class says grace before their snack at school, which is really wonderful. Now, Ethan insists on grace before any food enters his mouth. "Prayers first" he always reminds us.

The grace that the preschool uses is the old familiar:
God is great, God is good,
Let us thank Him for our food.
By His hands we all are fed,
Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
Ethan always says it while squinching his eyes shut tight and rocking his head back and forth - it is really adorable. Abby knows every word and will recite the whole prayer.

I sure am glad we chose this preschool.



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We do nightly prayers together as a family. They are usually songs, but sometimes recited prayers like "Now I lay me down to sleep..." or impromptu spoken prayers. I am very happy that we share this time as a family, thanking God for the many blessings we have.

Tonight we sang one of the kids' favorites.
Thank you God for giving us [item]
Thank you God for giving us [item]
Thank you God for giving us [item]
For our family!
We usually do 6 rounds of the song, with each of us taking a turn choosing the item and the kids having an extra turn. I am always amazed at the things the kids choose.

Tonight's prayer went like this:

Abby: food
Ethan: Ryan [his cousin-whom he thanks God for almost every night]
Trista: family days
Mark: trains
Abby: Woody [from Toy Story] and Barbie
Ethan: fishes (not fish or fishies - fishes)

We end the day on such a good note when we take the time to pray together. Tonight I feel especially blessed with my children.

Friday, November 10, 2006

November 10th - Silence, Please

As you are well aware, Abby is an independent introvert. She plays quietly by herself a lot.

Her brother is, well, not.

Ethan talks. non. stop. most. of. the. day. He chatters and chatters about everything. He enjoys speaking. Usually, I enjoy listening to him.

Today, however, my head hurts. My ear infection has not gone away (althought it is somewhat better), and I'm tired and cranky. I just want a little peace and quiet. Ethan has another idea.

"What's for lunch, Mom?"

"Macaroni and cheese."

"What's for lunch, Mom?"

"Macaroni and cheese."

"What's for lunch, Mom?"

"Macaroni and cheese."

"What's for lunch, Mom?"

"Ethan - I've already told you - MACARONI AND CHEESE."

"What's for lunch, Mom?"

"You already know we are having macaroni and cheese. Do not ask me again, or you will need to sit in the toyroom by yourself for a minute. My head hurts, and it bothers me when you keep asking what is for lunch."

[Approximately 60 seconds of silence goes by, time relished by yours truly]

"What's for lunch, Mom?"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

November 9th - Fate, God, Cosmic Intervention - You Decide

I am a person who believes that God speaks to me in very subtle ways. I leave a lot of my important decisions to research combined with intuition (I like to think my feelings about things are influenced by God). I like to think things happen for a reason, although I may not understand the reason.

Take the way that Sawyer entered our home, for instance. We're playing at the playground with our neighbor Kim and her daughters Gracey and Tayla (actually, Tayla wasn't playing much - she's only a couple months old - she was mostly sitting in the stroller looking cute). Anyway, Sawyer comes out of the field behind our street and goes right to Abby. How did he know that Abby was our animal lover? Why did he choose her over the rest of us at the park? When he eventually followed Abby home (despite my shooing), I felt a little tug from God. But then he was gone for the rest of the evening. When he tried to climb into the car to go to work with Mark the next morning, the tug was stronger. And when he didn't leave our porch for hours, I felt this union just might be a good idea.

Today, at the same playground, I noticed a piece of trash in the bushes, the same bushes that Sawyer had emerged from just 2 weeks ago. Not being one to leave trash around, I went over and picked up a leaflet. "Professional Residential Cleaning by Sherry - Call today!!" the leaflet read.

Could God be speaking to me again? Maybe Mark and I need to have a talk tonight... ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

November 8th - I Cried and Cried

My kids are hilarious. Truly.

Ethan has taken to letting me know that when I have left him somewhere, "I cried and cried, Mom. I cried and cried." Now, by all reports, he doesn't cry long (if at all), but of course this elicits a little sympathy from Mom.

Abby has jumped on the bandwagon. When I go to tuck her into bed because for some reason Daddy isn't good enough tonight, she also reports, "I cried and cried." My poor baby.

Today, Ethan found a new use for his new statement. When Mark and I dropped the kids off at preschool with their Gammers for Grandparents Day, Ethan told Mark that he wanted Mommy to stay. "No, Buddy, you're going to stay with Gammers and we'll pick you up later."

Ethan thought about it for a minute, and decided to warn Mark.

"I'll cry and cry, Dad. I'll cry and cry."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

November 7th - Feeling Loopy

Yesterday morning, I made a desperate trip to my doctor for help with an ear infection. She told me that I have fluid buildup in my Eustacian tube, which is inflamed. The treatment? Antibiotics.

After 4 antibiotic treatments, the pain I have been experiencing is not any better. And my pain management solutions of Advil and Tylenol aren't hacking it. The ear infection started Saturday evening, but over the last 24 hours I have never felt so much pain in all of my life. Pain that is merely dulled a little by massive doses of over-the-counter drugs. I have been reduced to a sobbing mess several times over the last 24 hours, begging for relief. It is time to call in the big guns.

My Mom finally arrives at 10:25. By 10:30 I have taken a Vicodin "borrowed" from my Dad, which is my last resort to manage the pain of this ear infection. Please, let there be some relief. I head up to bed to watch TV, leaving Mark with the kids for the second day in a row.

A half hour into my relaxation, I feel the Vicodin kick in. Suddenly, my vision is impaired. I move my head to look at something, and it takes a little longer than usual for my brain to catch up. I feel like I've had a few glasses of wine, like my mind and body are seperate entities.

I get out of bed and stumble to the top of the stairs, calling to Mark. "Oh my gosh - I feel so out of it!"

"Maybe you should take a nap now," he says. I wind my way back to bed and to Sawyer, who's been my ever-present sidekick for the last day-and-a-half. Suddenly, my stomach feels really sick, flipflopping this way and that. I rush to the bathroom. Bent over the toilet, I wait and actually pray to throw up so that I will feel better. But I never do throw up. The nausea passes.

I realize that I didn't actually eat anything when I took the pill - what was I thinking? So I eat a bit of lunch to help the situation, all the while staring numbly at the television in my altered state. 10 minutes after lunch, I feel the familiar flipflop and rush to the bathroom again. But again, no relief. Eventually the nausea subsides.

I drag myself back to the bed and turn off the TV. Sawyer lifts his head briefly to note where I am, and flops back down. I am suddenly exhausted. I close my eyes and don't open them again for another 2-1/2 hours, a record amount of sleep over the last 2 days. The effects of the Vicodin have worn off and my ear is throbbing again.

I get up and walk to the bathroom. I pop 2 pills into my mouth and wash them down with water.

The pills are Tylenol.

Monday, November 06, 2006

November 6th - Would the REAL Abby please stand up

This little girl , Emma, is in Abby's class at preschool. She's 3-1/2, and resembles Abby so much that other mothers confuse the two and often ask me which one is which. They have the same hair (color and cut), same body build, same eye color, same type of noise and same cute chin dimple. It's very strange to see an Abby-look-alike twice a week.

Abby and Emma are friends, and I even saw them dancing together in class last week. Maybe they'll get wise and figure out they can take classes for each other in high school...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

November 5th - A Black and White Gift

I like having pets. When I was a kid, my first pet was a hamster named Hammy (original name, I know.) He was white and light brown, a really nice hamster. I'm sure I was pretty rough with him, as kids can be, but he survived it. Shortly after, I got two more hamsters [they must have been brought home by one of my sisters - I don't think Mom and Dad would have allowed three hamsters]. We named them Smokey (black) and Bandit (white with a brown ring around his middle - a "band" if you will). My sisters obviously didn't appreciate my naming skills and felt the need to step in.

Bandit died pretty quickly of some nasty hamster condition. And then Hammy busted out of his cage to get it on with Smokey. Soon after, there were a bunch of hairless baby hamsters stumbling around in Smokey's cage, which were promptly eaten by their mother. My infatuation with hamsters ended right then and there.

When I was 9 or so, I began obsessing about having a dog. I desperately wanted a dog to love, and "of course, Mom, I will take care of it!" I did research (I was the researching kind even back then) and decided that a beagle was the only dog for me. My parents didn't exactly say yes, but they didn't exactly say no either. I determined that I would be a beagle-owner soon enough.

It was the summer of my sister Bobbi's wedding. July 4th, 1984. The day of fireworks and festivities. The day the dog wandered into our neighborhood.

She had a black coat with a pure white chest. She was the sort of dog you couldn't look at and determine the breed. Black lab? Too short, she wasn't all black, and the head shape was all wrong. No, this dog was pure mutt.

She was extremely thin, with every rib visible. The first time we saw her she in the backyard of the house next door. She drank from their plastic kiddie pool as if she hadn't had water in a month. When she saw us outside, she wandered over to our chainlink fence and eyed us hopefully. My heart was won over.

My sister and I pet her dirty, mangy fur. She had obviously been outside for a long time, and desperately needed a bath. After awhile with the dog, my Dad decided it was time for her to go [he wasn't a big proponent of the "get-a-family-dog" plan]. While I begged and wailed, Dad drove her a few blocks away and dropped her off in a field. And we went away for the day to a 4th of July barbeque.

We arrived home after dark, tired and sunburned from the hot July day. And there on the front porch sat the black dog. In my mind, our dog. At the risk of looking like the most insensitive people in the world, my parents reluctantly put the dog in the backyard for the night and gave her some food and water.

Soon, signs went up and the newspaper advertised the dog we had found. Meanwhile, everyone warmed up to the dog. She was very sweet, not too energetic (read: not wild), and very grateful for her care. We began to suspect abuse, because she had an intense fear of men and would wimper and cower whenever we carried the rolled-up daily newspaper.

There was no response to the advertisements for this black dog we had found. And my parents faced a decision: what to do with this grungy mutt? In the end, the skinny black dog with the white chest had won everyone over, and we kept her.

My sister named her Sparkler in honor of her entrance into our lives on the 4th of July, but we always just called her Sparky. She had worms that required immediate treatment. She needed all of her vaccines. And she had just had a litter of puppies which were never found. She was a shell of a dog, and she needed us.

Sparky lived a long life with our family, even beyond the time that I was married. She went from a fun-loving puppy who easily learned dog tricks to a mellow adult that would enjoy nothing more than laying near your feet while you watched TV. In her twilight years, she became nearly blind and developed crippling arthritis that made her wimper in pain. It was then that my parents knew it was time to let her go, and took her for her last trip to the vetrinarian.

Sparky was a wonderful pet, whom I adored. To stroke her fur and care for her gave me lots of joy. She may not have been the beagle that I dreamed of, but I'm so glad she was my childhood dog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

November 4th - Patting Myself on the Back

"As the parent of a spirited child, you have to remember to pat yourself on the back for the little successes, to celebrate your moments of greatness." (Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka)
8:30 a.m. today. Mark went to work this Saturday morning, more overtime that he has to endure. I am left at home with two preschoolers and an agenda to shop at the mall. After a quick prayer for patience for all of us, we hop into the car and head to the mall.

We arrive at the mall in record time... apparently there isn't a lot of mall traffic at 9:00, before most of the stores are open. We run hand-in-hand from the car through the gusty winds and step into the warm oasis of the shopping center. Our first stop is Panera Bread.

"I want that one!" Abby cries, pointing to a rich chocolate cake.

"Not for breakfast, Honey."

We settle on a giant muffin that we share while piled into a corner booth. Our trip is off to a great start.

We head off to the stroller rental, the kids prancing ahead while I bring up the rear, carrying the coats they've discarded during our breakfast stop. Sure, we could have brought our own stroller, but it is much more exciting to rent the car-themed double stroller instead. It's well worth the money at times like this, when the kids will be dragged around for some serious shopping. Somehow, pretending to drive the stroller by using the ineffective wheel perched ahead of each seat can keep these two happy for quite awhile.

We head to the elevator area, where Ethan pushes the "Up" button. Abby protests, but finally calms down when she has the privilege of pushing the button in the elevator car labeled "2." The trip up the elevator is exciting and never fails to bring wide eyed looks from Ethan and Abby. We cruise over to Kohl's, our first store.

Kohl's requires a long time, as there are a lot of sales today that interest me. Kids' clothes, toys, housewares, and boots are all on the agenda. The stroller-car provides the entertainment for awhile, until we arrive in the shoe area.

"We need to pick out some boots for each of you. This will be fun!" Their eyes light up and they peruse aisle upon aisle of footwear. Ah, toddler boots.

"Abby, these pink boots are cute," I absentmindedly mention while I scan the shelves below the sample boot. Size 6, 7, 9, 10. No 8's, which are what I'm looking for. Are you kidding me? While I silently curse the other parents who have size-8 toddlers and bought all of my boots, Abby points to a different pair. "This one, Mommy!" She is motioning to a cute pair of light brown boots with a row of flowers embroidered around the top. Size 5, 9, 10, aha! Size 8! We shimmy her already-shoeless feet into the boots. A little large, but she has no problem walking as she struts her stuff up and down the boot aisle. I check the price. On sale for $13 and change - perfect!

Ethan is silent, which can only indicate that there's a problem. I look at him, and see that a black cloud has come over him and he is pouting. "I want boots, too, Mom," he says.

"Good job being so patient while we picked Abby's boots, Buddy. Now it's your turn," I say as I give him a little smirk. His eyes light up.

"Spiderman, Mom!" The marketers of these boots were genious, putting Spiderman all over the shoebox that sits right at stroller-level.

"Yeah, Eth. Let's see." I scan the Spidey-boxes. Not a single pair of 8's. I silently curse the other parents who have size-8 toddlers and bought all of my boots. "How about this other pair, with the cool red stripes?" I ask hopefully. Ethan half-heartedly agrees to try them on as his glance drifts back to the tower of super-cool Spiderman boxes. I put Ethan's foot into the boot. It feels like the boot is the right size to accomodate his wide feet. I finish dressing Ethan's feet, and let him walk to try them out.

He steps into the aisle like he's an astronaut walking on the moon. He takes one exaggerated step after the other, complete with "clunk!" sound effects. "These feel good, Mom!" he exclaims with a wide grin. The boots are the same price as Abby's. SOLD.

We have one more department to stop in. It's time to bring out the artillery, while the troops are still behaving. I need to put that Halloween candy to good use.

"You've both been soooooo good, you can each have a special treat!" I say, as I pull two suckers from my purse. I don't hear anything from them as I shop for picture frames, their mouths are too busy with their dum dums.

We head to the checkout with two empty boot boxes and some other merchandise, the boots remain on the four feet inside the car-stroller. We wait in line awhile, and finally get to the register. The perky cashier smiles at Abby and Ethan. "You were very patient waiting in the checkout line - great job!" she says, reinforcing their good behavior. We leave the store with smiles and packages, ready for the next stop.

It's time to run, I decide, and I bring the stroller to a stop at the play area. "Shoes off!" Abby reminds Ethan as they both struggle to get free of the stroller. They spend the next 20 minutes running around, climbing, sliding and crawling through tunnels. They are very cooperative with other kids there. They are very happy. I don't have to warn them more than once to stop climbing the slides. It is very pleasant for all of us.

"Mom, I have to go potty!" Ethan blurts out across the play area.

"Let's go, Abby! We need to get Ethan to the bathroom," I call to my high-energy daughter. She ignores me. "Abby. Look at me." Her eyes turn my direction. "Ethan needs to go potty, so we have to go right now. I'm sorry I didn't give you any warning." She isn't happy, but she agrees and runs to get her boots before jumping into the stroller. We rush to the bathroom, and arrive just in time.

"It's time to go to one more store, and then we're done at the mall," I announce as we pull out of the restroom. Abby and Ethan give a running commentary of all the sights along the way, the giant statue of Goofy at the Disney Store, the "Mommy" mannequin at the clothing store. And we arrive at the toy store.

Outside the store, I try to plan my strategy for a successful trip into (and out of) the toy store. Time for another round of artillery. I distribute another snack, individual bags of Teddy Grahams. The kids' hands are now occupied. We can enter the store.

I pick out a few items for Christmas gifts. Abby and Ethan are preoccupied looking at all of the toys that surround them in the over-crowded toy store, and don't notice what I've chosen. Good, it will make Christmas morning more fun that way. I pay for the purchases and stroll out of the store. "Bye toys, see you next time!" Ethan calls as Abby waves goodbye to the floor-to-ceiling displays of every toy known to man.

We load up the car and drive home after a very fun and succesful trip to the mall.

Friday, November 03, 2006

November 3 - My Spirited Daughter: Part 2 (Introvert vs. Extravert)

The book I have been reading (Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka) begins with an overview of spirited temperament traits, as well as a survey to determine if your child can be categorized as spirited. By my estimation, Abby does have many of the spirited traits. I will go into detailed posts throughout the month discussing the 5 core spirited traits as well as the 4 "bonus" traits that some spirited kids possess. But today I will discuss the beginning section of the book, regarding introversion vs. extraversion.

Introversion and extraversion describe how you get your energy. We can all look at our own patterns to see whether we are an extraverted "people-person" or more reserved like an introvert. Do you need social interaction to be your best? Do you require quiet time by yourself? What is your natural tendancy for social interaction?

A person who is more extraverted than introverted draws energy from interaction with others. Communication fuels this type of person. They will walk in the door from a day at work (or school) and tell every last detail of what happened that day. They relish playdates and parties. They need group interaction to draw their energy.

A person who is more introverted than extraverted refuels by being alone or with a few special people. They need time to reflect on ideas before sharing them. They become overwhelmed by too much social interaction. They need private time to re-energize.

How it relates to Abby: Abby is an introvert (who is living with an introverted Dad, a middle-of-the-road Mom, and an extraverted brother). Prior to reading the book, I'd never taken the time to think about where the four of us fall on the spectrum, but it helps to explain a lot of our behavior. Abby has always liked to play independently. She will take a toy or a book to another room to be by herself. She becomes very cranky if she's had too much time with her extraverted brother (who tends to be talking most of the time). She's not very forthcoming with the details of her day at school on the drive home. She needs time to ponder before making an important decision. She is very thoughtful and purposeful in completing tasks, and takes time within herself to think about them first.

What we've done right: We let Abby go to play by herself when she wants to. I belong to a regular Friday morning playgroup with some neighborhood kids, and Abby will play with the kids for a few minutes and then disappear somewhere alone, which I allow (although I've wanted to encourage her to interact many times). I've come to realize, the playgroup is more for Ethan's and my need for social interaction than for Abby's.

Introverts often need more personal space than extraverts. Abby does not like when people sit too close to her, or encroach upon her space. She responds by saying "go away" or "leave me alone." Although we work on having her say it differently, we are encouraging her to use words to ask for space. Ethan often unknowingly violates Abby's personal space, and she will respond by pushing him away after asking him to leave several times (which is not acceptable, but is understandable). Abby's personal space issues spread into the way that she reacts when she's hurt. She doesn't want physical comforting when she's hurt - she wants everyone to stay away from her. The interesting thing about that is her birthmom once asked me if Abby responded that way to being hurt, because she has always had the exact same response.

What needs work: We need to give Abby time to process her day before talking about it. A prime example of how this has worked for us was a few weeks ago, when I went with the kids on a preschool field trip to the pumpkin patch. That evening, Mark asked Abby what happened that day. He got barely a word from her. I was starting to wonder if she enjoyed the trip or not. But the next night, as we were sitting down to our family dinner, Abby started telling Mark all about it. From out of the blue, she was animatedly sharing stories of the chickens, sheep, hayride, pumpkins and other things that we had done the day before. She wanted to share her experience, she just needed time.

Introverts don't handle interruptions well. I am constantly interrupting Abby when she is in the middle of something, to praise her or ask her questions. I have always thought that making sure to give her encouragement while she worked was good for her. But interruptions rob introverts of energy. I need to wait until she's finished with a task before praising her, and then the praise will be much more of a reward.
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Source: Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Previous Posts: My Spirited Daughter - Part 1
Next Topic: Intensity

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November 2nd - That Darn Cat


We've got an addition to our zoo. The cat we took in last week has not been claimed yet, despite a large effort to find his home. So unless someone calls to claim him, he is here to stay. Or so our enormous vet bill indicates.

We're naming him Sawyer after either the character from Lost or Tom Sawyer, depending on who you prefer (I got to name him because I'm in charge like that). Sawyer is a siamese/calico mix with flamepoint coloring (his ears and tail have a concentration of orange color). He has beautiful blue eyes. Sawyer is about a year old, and will be getting fixed in a month. Snip, snip, kitty!

I've never been a fan of cats. Mark has always loved cats, but my allergies (and distaste for such snooty animals) have kept me away. Sawyer is a very sweet cat. The vet says that his breed mix makes him the perfect cat for households with dogs and kids. That's us! He's basically the golden retriever of the cat world.

The dogs have been adjusting well to a feline companion. Casey is so laid back that it doesn't phase her. Maggie is pretty high strung and is always aware of where Sawyer is and what he's doing. They have a love-hate relationship, though, because they have been seen staring each other down one minute and then sleeping together the next. Good thing the dog breed and cat breed are both friendly to other animals.

The kids love Sawyer, of course. Ethan asks for the kitty the moment he wakes up, and is very gentle with him. Abby is our resident animal lover, and has attached herself to Sawyer like they're siamese twins (haha - siamese!) She has a very hard time being gentle with him because she loves to play with him so much. She really likes to pick him up (a big no-no) and will sometimes try to grab his tail or leg to make him stay near her so she can pet him. Sawyer is extremely tolerant of her behavior, and really loves Abby despite it all. If he wasn't tolerant, there is no way that he could live here. He has passed the test.

Mark is already a cat-lover, and enjoys cuddling with the little furball. He had the fun task of taking him to the vet this week (a tag-along on Casey's appointment), and discovering all of the details about him that we were trying to figure out.

Sawyer has won me over. The biggest shock to Mark is that I actually pushed to keep him instead of finding another home (or worse yet, leaving him with an animal shelter where he might never find a home). He's so very sweet and gentle, and low maintenance. The kids love him so much. And my cat allergies have not been bad at all (apparently 6 years of living with dogs has kicked those allergies right in the butt). Mostly, I am a sucker for an animal in need.

Good thing he's also a great cat.