Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to All!

It’s New Year’s Eve, the night; we wait for the entry of the upcoming decade.  Little Margo does not get it quite yet.  She has no clue about the celebration and staying up late…we have not yet introduced this activity to her.  But perhaps tonight, I shall do just that.  Go and wake her before the strike of midnight, provide her with a pot and wooden spoon.  Then we wait; we wait for the upcoming ruckus to start, and we join in.  Every year we hear the yells of “Happy New Year!” in the streets of our neighborhood.  But this year, we will make a little noise ourselves and introduce Margo to the tradition of welcoming the New Year.  Better put, the New Decade.  You just got to love it!

Happy New Year's my friends!  It will be a great one for sure!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas here lasts for two days....

The affair with Christmas starts on Christmas Eve.  We all head to my brother Guy's, and eventually arrive two - three hours later.  This has been our ritual for at least 18 years now.  I still remember the first Christmas I experienced with my husband at my brother's.  We were engaged at the time, and I so thought I was giving him the perfect present.  An NFL football, and something signed by Joe Montana, oh, plus a membership to the 49'er fan club.  Yes, it was done in fun, my hubby to be, loved sports.  Add to this observation, any time we went to a toy store or sports place he would head for the footballs.  So perhaps it was not all done in jest on my part.  I still remember when he opened up the package...hmmm...the smile was a little less than I expected, but it was still there.  Then he gave me his present...oh my goodness, it was a beautiful hand made jewelry box.  Boy did I feel dumb not taking the giving a little bit more seriously.  In reality, I was very serious, the problem was I miss read the man.  We still laugh about that Christmas, to this day. 

That Christmas was the first time I ever played with a Barbie; my niece was very young at the time, and she noticed I was not enjoying the experience as much as she.  Nicole looked at me with the big wide eyes of a 6 year old and said, "Auntie Maxine, don't you like Barbie?"  She was shocked at my answer, but allowed me to continue playing with her.

Christmas Eve is the night we gather, to eat a beautiful meal, talk, drink wine and exchange gifts among each other.  Now that the kids outnumber the adults, or at least it seems that way, it becomes a frenzy of unwrapping gifts.  Instead of children, we watch experienced sharks, shredding their package wrappings.  They each look at the acquired gift, and quickly move on to the next.  At least that is the way of the younger ones. 

The older teenagers, know better, or at least they have become a little more sophisticated about the process.  You still hear the glee when the perfect gift is opened.  That is the gift that captures their attention for a long time.  Sometimes, they will even come over and give you a big hug along with the thank you.  That is when I know, I bought the correct item.  By this time we are wading in wrapping!  The beautifully decorated area, is now full, of kids, parents, grandparents and wrapping.  The toys are stacked neatly, or not so neatly somewhere so they will not be lost

The next day is Christmas, this is the morning that Santa leaves his stash of goodies for those who have been, good, and a lump of coal for those who have been less then good.  We are still at my brothers, who can have Christmas without a handful of kids.  Little Margo, she loves staying at the cousins.

Mark and I arrive back to the house at 7:00 AM or so, and find the room is dark.  The two littlest ones, have been awake for about 30 minutes or so this year. They are found snuggling in Auntie Cori's bed, waiting for our arrival.  Next the teenagers are awakened by two small girls.  Then, the rush, or run to the Christmas tree.  "Santa was here, Santa came!" are the shouts uttered by all of our lips.  Everyone in this house believes in Santa.

First the cookies and carrots are carefully examined.  "Look, the cookie has a bite taken out of it, and the carrots, they are partially eaten too."  The wonder of this little experience is noted in the voices of the youngest two.  So again, the Santa story is preserved one more year.  Passed down from one generation to the next.  At last, the gifts are found, and unwrapped, but the frenzy does not exist.  These gifts produce the oooo's and ahhs any Santa would enjoy.  We are all content with the choices by Santa.  Now the rest of the day is set before us.  Eating our traditional meat pie, with grandmanma's ketchup.  All made with love and spice, and everything nice,...and then we shall gather around the table and enjoy each other in that very special Christmas way. Christmas, something to always be cherished, for the complete two day celebration. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas and the Kindergarten Teacher Gift.....

I can't believe the holidays are upon us! Tomorrow is the last day of school before the Christmas holiday break, and I only now purchased a gift for little Margo's teacher. I was reminded today of the impending tradition, when I saw one of Margo's classmates present the box of chocolates to Mrs. B. It was not wrapped, and Arnold began to point out a variety of letters on the box to Mrs. B. She accepted the gift with grace and acknowledged his current accomplishments with the alphabet on her newly acquired box of chocolates. Margo is currently oblivious to the gift giving towards her teacher thus far. I have mentioned it a few times, but no bites on her part. I will say she was quite excited about the books that Mrs. B. gave to each child in her class today. The individually wrapped gifts, contained the hand written name of each child on the tag, followed by, "from Mrs. B". Margo's friend came over to our house with her gift from Mrs. B. too, today after class. Both girls decided to wait until Christmas to open up their treasured present from their teacher.

Back to my quandary, what do I get for Mrs. B? I didn't want to do the chocolate or the wine, although both can be quite delicious. I wanted something a little more meaningful, and so I decided to write Mrs. B. an essay about rose bushes. I found a pair of beautiful rose bushes at Costco today, and thus began my inspiration for Mrs. B. and her lively rose bushes in her garden.

Once upon a time, there was a rose gardener, named Mrs. B. When I first met her, the garden was just starting to be developed. In fact I was not sure Mrs. B. could really be a gardener, because she was just starting out. I knew she was accomplished from her years of training at the university, and then she had even worked with the 1st grade roses for a year, but this year, Mrs. B. had to plant her own roses from almost scratch. These were the Kinder roses. They can be tough to manage sometimes I have been told. I wanted to discover how Mrs. B. would go about bringing the dormant roses to life.

The difficulty of planting a new rose garden, was understanding where the seeds were germinated and nurtured during their early days of life. I believe each of the 20 or so little plants were started with the best intentions at their home nurseries. Some of these nurseries have had a few of their older rose bushes grow beyond Kindergarden, before their most recent batch; other nurseries were experiencing the Kindergarden for the first time. This very wide variety of nurseries was providing a very wide variety of roses for Mrs. B's garden. Some of the dormant roses really did not sit well in one spot, nor did they keep their little thorns to themselves at times. However, Mrs. B. actually had them sitting on their own square plot after a couple of days. The colors of the plots were purple, green, blue, and yellow. She began to nourish them with the Alpha Bet fertilizer. It was working quite well. She combined this technique with the number quota. Soon each of the rose bushes was providing a variety of services about the garden.

One would describe the weather for the day, and let everyone know if it was cloudy, rainy or sunny. Another was in charge of the gate, ensuring it was closed and opened at the appropriate times. These little dormant rose bushes were amazing. Some could turn the light off and on upon request. Others would bring the attendance list to the main barn for filing. In fact each of these 20 dormant rose bushes was given jobs to do on a daily basis. Some were even table captains for the week. And suddenly, one could observe, that this new freshly tilled garden was becoming quite organized.

In reality it has only been about three and a half months since the garden began. In fact the nursery owners were still very interested in this kindergarden plot. I am one of those owners, and we gather everyday, outside the plot and wonder, what is happening inside. We actually share stories of things we've heard from the rose bushes themselves about the development of their garden. The over all consensus was our little rose bushes seem to all like Mrs. B. Sometimes Mrs. B. was away for a day and a substitute gardener came in to run the Kindergarden. Some of those days were marked by a little disarray about the garden. Soon Mrs. B. would return and start the repair work once again. Fertilize with Alpha Bet, and water with cheers.
Bit by bit, I watched, I saw the little leaves began to sprout. I head the stories read to me by my little rose bush. I watched the stubby little branches start to write words and then sentences that looked like run on words, and required some deciphering with a hoe. Eventually I was able to read this work. But you Mrs. B. already had the knack of sorting one word from the next. You weeded all about and throughout this garden. Sometimes it was a simple reminder of what needed to be done. Other times, the sacred "superstar" was turned over for the hour, and that seemed to cause the rose bush to grow in the most appropriate manner. I have heard it rumored that a "superstar" was torn asunder...and eventually the little rose bush returned to better growth patterns in the garden.

Do you remember all your precious rose bushes for this year Mrs. B.? Each one is a gift for you to grow, to nurture, and to create opportunity for growth in independence. In fact you garden more independence from each bush than we do, even though we were the original nursery. I know, once in a while, you were 'stuck' by the unruly thorns in these little dormant rose bushes. But I also know, in the next six months, each one of these little rose bushes will bloom. We will all be amazed by their colors, and fragrance, and in the end, we shall reflect along with you about the wonder of the dormant rose, now grown in the Kinder-garden by Mrs. B.

I really just wanted to give you the Elvis cheer, Margo has taught me so well. "Thank you, thank you very much!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Play Dates and Little Margo

Four weeks ago after school Little Margo approached a friend and said, "You really must say yes and come to my house and watch the museum at night film. It will really make you smile....." She can barely catch her breath, nor provide me the opportunity to interject, "let's do the play date tomorrow..." Her friend's dad interjects, "Baguette, needs to be somewhere after school," so a new time was set for 11:00 AM in the following Saturday.

This week, after school I was given a request by one of Margo's friends, "Margo's mom, can I come to Margo's house to play today?" Before I have a chance to say anything, she runs to her dad and informs him of the invitation, and then promptly turns to Margo to let her know the same thing. I am mystified, I was just run over by a little girl only three feet tall, and most likely 30 lbs to boot. I relent and even include the twins to the event. It has now become a hot chocolate and banana nut bread affair. The day before, Margo invited one boy and two girls to come over for hot chocolate. It had been an exceptionally cold day, and well there were some cookies to eat as well. So Yes, come one, come all to Margo's house. That afternoon there were 6 kids and three parents not including me.

The kids all played together for all these different events, and even more play dates. Why am I doing this insane thing? We are talking about two to three play dates a week for the past three weeks. Am I a sadist or just plain wimpy? Meaning I can't say no to a pleading face? No, no, no, I say it again no, I am not insane etc... There really is a method to my madness.

I remember the afternoon so clearly when Margo stood at the top of the stairs and said, "Mom, I don't know how to play with more than one friend at a time. It is very confusing." That was very interesting, and insightful for me to hear. This little comment reflected much about her brains lack of organization, so now it worked in social settings too. Here is the presence of Dyspraxia in its subtlest form. I suddenly realized I needed to provide her some opportunities at our home for 'gang play', before she would be able to figure it out at someone else's house. You see she had been to a friends house for a play date about 5 weeks before, and her friend included three or four other girls at the play date. Margo was totally lost, she wanted to lie down, or play in the sand by herself. It was difficult to get her engaged in any group activity. Some of which included dress up, and even drawing. These are some of her favorite things to do.

So now, after school, when Margo asks to have someone come over, I will suggest she invite a few other friends as well. She does, I break out the "instant hot chocolate", while they play games upstairs. Now these games can be dress up, castle or some other imaginary game called witch and children, snails or turtles etc...She is beginning to develop skills to participate in after school group play. She is learning to share her time and friends with others in the group at the same time. Little Margo no longer wants to do nothing, but is smack dab in the middle of the group activity.

I still encourage the one-on-one play dates too. These provide me a chance to get better acquainted with her friends individually. Often times I might be invited to "tell a story" about the two turtles or snails crawling on the floor. These two animals often times look just like little Margo and her friend under empty laundry baskets for shells. So yes I get my imaginative play dates in too. And well what more can I say, Margo is learning to play with more than one friend at a time. Now that is a good skill every kindergartner needs to learn...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Close Encounters of the third-grade Kind..."a little inspiration"

Margo's Kindergarten Teacher, "A monkey for Haloween"

I started reading Phillip Done's new book, "Close encounters of the third-grade kind", and was almost inspired to become a teacher. Of course I could not do it right now, but I thought when my little one was a little older, I could work on a teaching credential. But then I kept reading the next few chapters and was inundated by lists. Lists of what a elementary school teacher creates everyday or week to keep their lives in order. Then it hit me, I may be one of the Messys. Mr. Done states, "I'm convinced that there really are only two types of people in the world-----those with neat desks like my boss's and those with messy desks like mine. Tidys and Messys, I call them. It really is a Mars-and-Venus sort of thing." His discussion continues, however he reveals himself to be of the "Messy" variety. I can not tell you if that means he is a Venus or Mars type of person either. I can't even tell you if I am a Venus or Mars type of person. But I can tell you I am of the order of Messy's according to the book. I was not disheartened after this realization, because as I continued to read the book, I discovered the impact this "Messy" teacher has on his students.
So I started to read the book, not because I wanted to become a teacher, but because I thought I might learn something about relating to young children. I figured this would come in handy since my little Margo is only 6 years old at the time of this writing. Plus, I know how much Margo loves her teacher Mrs. B. In fact she has loved all of her teachers since preschool and Tuesday-Thursday class. So perhaps I could learn a few secrets about what makes a good teacher and then somehow figure out a way to transpose that into what makes a good mom.
And learn I did. I discovered caring for a student requires more heart and creativity than just brute force and organization. I lack immensely in the area of organization, and brute force is not another of my strong points these days either. So on with creativity, curiosity and imagination. These three C words are the "five dollar words" I discovered in Mr. Dones book. In many ways, his actions and interactions mearly mirrors the creativity, curiosity and imagination displayed in his students throughout the chapters of this book. Now it becomes my turn to use the three C's in my parenting style. (ok, ok, it is really two C's and an I, Creativity, Curiosity and Imagination)
I started in small baby steps, for instance my daughter writes a backwards J. Instead of saying "gee honey that is backwards", I told her a story that the letter "J", likes to look at the letter that comes before it, and voila, she begins to make the correction. What about the emotional side of can I apply the three C's there? Just yesterday Margo started to talk about wanting something important to hold or work with so she would be important. Oh my goodness she was just about ready to start crying a bowlful of tears. So I grabbed her in my arms, turned her towards the Christmas tree and began pointing to the very old ornaments hanging on the tree. "You see that red ornament Margo?" "The acorn shaped one momma?" she replied. "Yes that one, it is about 40 - 60 years old. It belonged to grandma Julie, it is a very old, and important ornament. Do you know, you are the only 6 year old I know who was allowed to place that ornament on the tree by yourself. In fact there are a lot of very special and important ornaments that we let you place on the tree all by yourself." There was a pause in the conversation, her eyes dried up, and she began to smile and tell me about her favorite ornament that she put on the tree.
There is a lot to be said about her comment regarding "...feel important." Doing things makes her feel important; good teachers make us feel important. Great teachers allow us to discover the answers to the secrets in life, both in joyful and sometimes painful moments. This book reminded me about what makes a good teacher. Knowing these traits is something I can apply to my relationship with my daughter. I am not sure I will ever become a certified teacher in my future, but I will become a "life teacher" to my daughter. I am sure I will have many interesting stories to tell from the experience as well as an enlarged heart for her and her friends.
Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind is the featred book for the Silicon Valley Moms Group December book club.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Its Harvest Time at the farm...

In August we start to prepare for the walnut harvest in October. I help my dad with the pipes. Water pipes that is. We must water the orchard one last time before the harvest. Water helps the trees handle the last bit of summer heat. It also helps the walnuts get their last growth spurt going. Plus I get to get wet on a very hot summer day! It is a lot of hard work. My dad could not set the pipes without me. See I can carry one all by myself. And I could not walk through the mud without the help of my dad. I am just like Grandpa George and get stuck in the mud. I just start to sink in it and then I get stuck. Grandpa George used to be strong enough to pull himself out of the mud when he got stuck in it...but now at almost 89 years old, he just can't do it without a little help from his sons. One of them is my dad!

Last year was my first year of really doing some work on the farm. Grandpa George let me in the club, by allowing me to pee and poop in the orchard. Hey that is what you do when you are working outside. From that moment on, I knew Grandpa George knew what was important to a then 4 year old. In fact I ask for permission to 'mark' the field every chance I get. You got to try it some time...but be sure to ask the farmer for permission.

In between August and October, the nuts just grow. There is one more watering session. But this time it is to create a hard surface for the walnuts to fall on. Grandpa George will pull the roller with the tractor all over the orchard. It is really heavy and flattens the dirt. Next my dad will help put out the pipes to water the area again. It takes 14 days, because you only water one row at a time. The watering is not as deep, but it still gets muddy. I do not get to help this time around because I would leave my footprints everywhere. Remember I am only 5 and 11/12ths.

October arrives and the guys have gotten all the gear ready for picking. I miss my dad every weekend. He goes to the farm every weekend, to pick and hull the nuts. This year the nuts are few, only about 2 tons for the whole crop. So I get to go and help pick on the last Saturday of our season, November 7th.

My uncle drives the picker, down the rows. The rows of walnuts were raked into existence by my dad and grandpa George. There was a lot of rain in early October, it sort of knocked a lot of nuts down and it also made the ground really, really soft. Now instead of being flat, it has the dents made by the big tractor tires. The nuts are getting stuck in those tractor tracts and lost in all the tall grass that has grown because of the rain. Oh well, my dad says to just get what we can. I help by using the rake to get the nuts out of the grass. Then I pick up the nuts, toss them into the bucket and empty the bucket into the bin. This is a very fun job, especially when I got to work with my dad. We even threw grass at each other in between emptying the bucket of walnuts. We worked together for a couple of hours and then our work was done.

My favorite part was pulling my sleeping bag out and laying down in the back yard to watch the stars come out just before dinner. My dad was right there with me, showing me the stars. Just like he was right there with me showing me how to harvest walnuts. Next year I get to help sort, well maybe not, but you know, then I will be 6 and 11/12ths years old.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Developing Community at 5 or earlier

Photos of assembling the Care Giver Kits:

Project completed, time to rest!

Community, what is that all about. Is it the excited voice I hear every time Margo mentions her neighbors across the street? She loves her neighbors across the street. They play with her, draw pictures with her, are 17 and 19 years old and they help Margo learn about neighbors and community. A few years ago one of our other neighbors was struggling with cancer, so Margo and I would pick her up from the chemo sessions. Sometimes we would come early and just hang out with her while she finished the treatment. Other times Margo would come with me to deliver dinners to our friends who were sick. One such time she wanted to purchase Debbie, a pot of flowers. I was at the store to purchase some french bread to go with the spaghetti dinner, but oh no, Margo insisted on the potted flowers. So with that insistence, she needed to deliver the flowers, while I carried the food. She was a bit shy, but realized the job must be done. She so wanted to make my friend feel better. So Margo carried the flowers to my friend's door, and brought them into the kitchen. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for Margo, Debbie was still sleeping, so she did not need to say anything. Margo was about 4 years old then. I have always wondered is she learning about caring for others from these kinds of situations?

Last year, in pre-school, one of her friend's older sister had gotten very, very ill, with a strange sickness. I told Margo a little about it, and we prayed together. The next thing I know she is insisting I call Tammy (her friends mom)and offer to bring them dinner to help her friend's sister get better. So yes I called, no dinner was required, but Margo was happy, we made the offer to help. Community, I think she is getting it. I think I am getting it too. It does not need to be complicated.

Last week, on a Sunday no less, our church shut down to be part of the community Aids walk. There was a group of us, who stayed back to meet and assemble 'Caregiver Kits', for a caregivers in Africa. All the materials were provided by World Vision, we were providing the labor. So yes, I have big dreams for my little daughter and figured she could start to learn about the community that extends beyond our borders. I brought her along. In fact I was there to only assist her in her labor of love.

Everything was laid out with signs in front of each supply. We grabbed the empty orange kit box, and started down the assembly line. Little Margo sounded out the words on each sign and the number of each item and packed it in the box. She was a little slow, but definitely methodical and serious about the task at hand. No I did not explain to her the details of Aids, but I did explain to her that we were making kits to help the caregivers. Those are people, like Grandmanma Margo, who takes care of someone who is sick and needs a lot of help. Just like Grandmanma Margo takes care of Grandpapa. She seemed satisfied with that explanation, and at one point suggested we send Grandmanma one of the kits too.

Other adults would come by and quietly wait while Margo worked. They did not worry that she was a little slow, and they smiled watching her work hard. She was part of the community at our church, serving a village in Africa. Other children also came and joined in the labor of love. I think that is what is amazing about community, it is ageless. There are no lines between the generations. Each life touches another, to make the other's situation better. So yes she really is learning and experiencing community. Welcome to our world my sweet little Margo. You will go far with your enlarging heart for others.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Boy Friends at 5?

Once more in the car at the end of a little drive the question comes forth, or rather a statement. "Mom, I need to find a boyfriend." A little background, in fact here is a lot of background. I thought we were going to avoid this phase for a while. It turns out the boys are chasing the girls, as it should be at age 5 and 6 years old. They are mostly looking for gals to play with, I think. Anyway, some have brought the idea of having a girl friend. One little one kept trying to kiss my daughters friend, that she ran as fast as she could away. In fact, she was so trying to avoid being kissed; she was sucking in her lips trying to keep them away from the little boy. Eventually she had quite the rash around her little mouth. The teacher did contact the boy's mom about the situation. I had quite the interesting conversation with mom. She asked her son why he was trying to kiss this little girl. The answer, “I want her to play with me” he said. So the mom had the wisdom to give him a few helpful hints about asking for a girl to play with him. Hint number one: Use your words, meaning, “do you want to play together”. Hint number two: don’t play tag if they do not want to play tag, or better yet, just keep your lips to yourself and no kissing at school. The two role played and practiced a bit at home. I believe the issue has passed and is no longer a problem.

Other groups of girls chase one little boy, to 'keep him away'. It is a small tribe against the one. Margo has let me know this boy is her friend, and she likes to play with him. She does chase him to thinking that is what he wants. I have since been told by one of the group she does not like this little boy. Margo pipes up the same, so I ask her about her comment of enjoying to play with him. Then she says I can play with him at home…and then I say, you can be friends with him, even if the others are not. And yes I said this front of the other little girl. Margo decided for now, that it is fine to be friends with others that perhaps some of her friends don’t enjoy or like. It turns out this little boy is chasing the girl V, who does not want to be chased. So she and her friends chase him to show them that they do not like him. This is all confused by my book. No wonder there is such poor communication between the sexes as adults; it all starts in the play ground of kindergarten. If V. would only use her words and say she does not like to be chased, then probably the “hate him” syndrome would not even exist.

And then I have heard the stories of 'Jane is Robert's girl friend'. But do they really know what this girlfriend boyfriend thing is really about? Do we laugh about it and say how cute, but at the same time bring adulthood into their childhood a little early? Let’s get back to my initial story. “So Margo, can you tell me what a boy friend really is?” “Well it is a boy you are friends with mom,” is her response to the question of the day. “Margo, you have lots of friends who are boys, what about Ben? He is your friend, you like to play together?” Quiet, that proverbial quiet is between us, where I know her brain is working a million miles a second. “Well mom, I need a really best boy friend,” is her final answer. Hmm is my final response, for now that is it.

Right now, I want to encourage her to be friends with those she enjoys. Not because a specific group says they are cool. I just learned about BFF’s and BFFF’s, Best Friends for life and Best Female Friends for Life. What a concept. Is it real, limiting or just there. Margo spoke up that she has many BFF’s, one is Lilly, another Aria, and even K. Her friend spoke up against K, but Margo did not back down. She likes K and that is what that is about. Her friend’s BFF is V and that is ok that it is not Margo. I like that, Margo is comfortable with her BFF’s. I am comfortable with her BFF’s especially when she added a few more that were much older. “I want you to meet my BFF’s who live across the street,” she said to her friend in the car. “They are way older than me, but like to play with me and show me movies, with my mom’s permission.” And I knew exactly who she was talking about, Stephanie and Nathalie, my dear friend’s daughters. They are a wonderful family and the daughters are a Jr in High school and a freshman in college. They are wonderful girls and I am totally excited they are Margo’s Best Friends for Life too.

All of this to say, the social structure of a Kindergartner is far more complicated than anything I ever remembered. I am so glad she drives in the car with me, because I think my subtle or not so subtle listening will help me understand her world a little bit better. And perhaps if I am lucky, I can steer her towards kinder choices when it comes to living and playing with friends.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Disneyland and Fear of elevators

The benefits of early reading can be great and sometimes cause a little more trouble than expected. For instance, Mark took Margo to Costco to purchase their dinner while I shopped. She read the sign...meaning, "Dad, I want the the hand dripped chocolate ice cream please." Of course she got it, because she read it, and dripped versus dipped was not too far off. Heck I would love a hand dripped chocolate ice cream too...sort of reminds me of my candle making days.

Monday we drove down to Anaheim and the Worldmark Anaheim Hotel, which is about a 20 minute walk from Disneyland. It only took us 7 hours to drive here, and yes we had several stops. Now Margo had no complaints what so ever during this part of the trip. She drew pictures, made grandmanma and grandpapa a card, drew a landscape, played with the etch-o-sketch and even her 'my little ponies'. Not a single whine out of her. An amazing feet for a 5 year old I would say. But then, she really was excited to go to Disneyland.

Back to the fear of early reading....we are staying on the 10th floor. Yes I said 10th floor, and no I did not opt to take the stairs. After our first elevator ride up, little Margo started talking about taking the stairs. What is she thinking? Then she started talking about fire's in the elevator, and how scared she was to ride the elevator, because we are supposed to take the stairs to avoid the fire. Where is she getting all these crazy ideas. Ahh it is that early reading I mentioned earlier. You all know the sign, in case of fire do not take the elevator but use the stairs. She was reading this sign, and decided since it was posted, fires must happen all the time in elevators. Thus her request to take the stairs at this hotel.

Today was our second day at Disneyland, and Margo had passed the test of doing the daring rides, so we brought her to the 'Hollywood Hotel'. I figured she would enjoy the drop zone of the activity. She said she wanted to go, so Mark took her. (I was not taking any ride that was fast, Mark was in charge of those types of adventures.) I sent them up the stairs to the entrance to the Hollywood Hotel, and that was that. I observed the sides of the building opening with screams of riders coming out the building. Oh what fun that drop can be...but wait, what if little Margo undid her seat belt in the midst of the drop. Would she know, not to touch it once it was set. Panic set in, and I ran to the entrance to find out about the safety of this ride. Ok, they assured me she would be fine. I sort of relaxed, and found the exit to the ride was a gift shop on the bottom floor of the ride. I went in, and discovered the experience takes about 25 minutes or so because they meander through the 'scary story of the twilight zone'. I know I screwed up, she will never want to ride an elevator again and I will be stuck walking the 10 flights of stairs with her at the hotel. What was I thinking encouraging her to go on this ride. Heck I saw other little girls younger than Margo go on the ride. But they were not Margo, with her big imagination.
Little Margo exited the gift store telling me, "Mommy, I will never, ever, ever, ever, never ever, ever ride that elevator again!" Then she proceeds to tell me all about the twilight zone, and being taken out of this world into another world...etc...etc...etc... Bottom line it was very scary. Now what do I do? I decide to encourage her to talk about this ride all day long. Yes whenever she brought it up I would listen and hope she would talk the fear of riding the elevator right out of her. We took her on simpler rides, which she enjoyed, and then she would talk about the Hollywood Hotel. Prior to leaving California Adventure, she wanted to go back and take a picture of the Hollywood Hotel, which had been struck by lightening and yes she would tell me the story again. We ended with the soaring above California flight, which she loved. I loved that ride too. And bit by bit, as she talked about the scary elevator ride, we would tell her how brave she was to go on the ride. And then we would tell her our hotel would not be struck by lightening, and that our elevators were not broken or in another world.
Right now, Margo plans on drawing a picture of the very scary Hollywood Hotel elevator ride, to show all her friends, so they will 'Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ride that elevator'. And thank goodness she has been distracted about the fire and elevators, because of the twilight zone, she visited today. Now we don't need to walk up the 10 flights of stairs to our room. At least as long as there is no lightening. If there is lightening, we may have a problem with staying at any hotel with elevators.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sometimes they say no, we say yes, and then there is compromise.

I never ever imagined I would compromise with a 5 year old. Really, she does not know better, she has not been to school, although she swears she can doctor me because she graduated from Explorer Preschool. I mean really, why should I compromise with her; let her negotiate with me? I am the parent! Yes I am the parent and 'mother knows best'. It is my way or the high way. What other nonsensical statement can I make to support my sense of absolute authority? It drives me crazy, regardless if I agree or disagree. Actually I feel crazy because I can't do it my way. I have now decided that song is bogus! Old blue eyes was blind to the reality of today's child, or any child for that matter.

How would I have felt if my choices could have been better negotiated? Would that have left me with a voice as a young adult? I did have a voice for sure in the area of politics and social justice...and even where I would go to college. But was it a voice grounded in security, or only in the differentiation every adolescent and young adult is to go through? Was my voice grounded in rebellion, the calling of youth or simply wise understanding. I have been told by my siblings, I have always marched to my own drum beat. I have also been told by many other adults, and teachers, that Margo has her own perspective about life. Her Occupational Therapist says her perspective of physics with regards to her body is wrong. Meaning, movements are done to her rather than her doing the moving. I suppose such an understanding would explain why I had to put the street in time out, two years ago when she tripped while walking. It is very difficult to put a street in time out. I had to make the appropriate finger wagging at the street, and use a fierce and authoritative tone as I said, "ok, time out!" to the street. It worked, she was satisfied that the appropriate punishment was meted out to the street for tripping her. And yes I did this with all authority and seriousness. That was the hard part.

Will giving her a voice now; encouraging such a voice, be a benefit to Margo while she grows up? Or will it cause her difficulty because she may find it difficult to conform. Or will she become some incorrigible little spoiled brat....and its all my fault???? Yes? No? what is the truth? I think if I can do this with some sense of boundary for her, it will all work out for the best. She already has a different way of looking at life, and the physical world, because of how her brain and body work together. This different perspective will affect how she moves through life in social settings and friendships. She observes groups and situations before she jumps in and participates. Right now she is comfortable with this type of action. She plays with the girls and the boys too. She loves her best friends Aria and Lilly...and I think a few more from school are developing along those same lines.

What are the boundaries I set? She reaps the consequence of not receiving a gift because upon its presentation she said she did not like it and did not want it. So I gave it to her daddy. That was at valentines, today, 8 months later, she now wants the puzzle to belong to her. But I stood firm, even in the midst of her complaining and whining. I explained, next time she can say, "thank you for thinking of me," set the gift aside, and decide later in private if she wants to keep the gift. "Yes Margo, the puzzle belongs to daddy, but he likes to share it with you." Of course there is still more discussion on her part requesting ownership of the puzzle, but, it is too late little one. And she will wrestle with this and eventually understand a lesson in learning graciousness. Margo still has a voice, its just she must learn the consequence of a quick voice.

I so wanted her to join the swim team this month...but she felt she was not ready. Margo said perhaps when I am 6 or 7 years old I will be old enough to join the swim team. I know, she is just very anxious to follow directions from a coach standing outside the pool giving directions. After much listening, to all the pieces of her complaints in choosing not to join the swim team, we have created a compromise. She will take swim lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday to garner more confidence. She will also do 10 sit ups and 10 push ups every day to help her core gain strength. I am hoping this will be enough for her physical development. Me, I will struggle for a while because I did not get my way, and see her get fit through swimming on the team. Yes that was important, but perhaps the compromise will work, and then I can allow her anxious heart to slow down and gain confidence in her abilities.

To be honest I find it a lot of hard work to negotiate and compromise and listen to her needs. But I am gambling, in the long run, it will make for a balanced little girl who will be able to take on the world as she gains in age and wisdom. So perhaps I am doing it my way???

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mom, my brain is pregnant.....

We were driving not too long ago, when little Margo announced to her daddy and I, "Mom, my brain is pregnant." Silence filled the car, again she said those words, "Mom, my brain is pregnant." "Mmm-hm," was my simple reply. We waited a little more and then the truth came out. "I have a baby brain, and the baby brain wants some candy, mom." "Mom, the baby brain wants to eat junk food, and my brain wants the healthy food, but the baby brain is really wanting the candy, mom." "Well honey, you need to let the baby brain know we don't have any candy." Ah silence, end of conversation, and now my own wondering begins....

Is she a little crazy, having two brains and all, or is she just creating a logical way to ask for candy? It seems whenever Margo wanted to do something a little off, it was the baby brain telling her to do it. Now I am thinking, gee this kid does not want to take responsibility...But STOP, remember she is a kid! Oh yes that is correct, she is a very sweet kid, with two brains driving her to mischievous choices in life! Woe is me the mother...But really I just laugh and address the questions and requests from the baby brain. I suppose I could say this is all about self actualization, you know, 'my brain' is telling me such and such to do or say. She has thoughts, I have thoughts in my head too, I just do not express them like she does.

Back to driving in the car...I love driving in the car, it really is becoming a confessional of sorts for Margo. "Mom, my body put the red candy in my sock." Now I am really confused with this statement. "What Margo, what red candy???" "You know, when Mr. J was here. My ears heard him say not to eat the candy, so my ears told my body to not open the candy and put it in my sock. But my body did not listen to my ears. My ears said again and tried to tell my body what to do...but it was an accident body did it."

I tried really hard not to laugh because she was so serious about this conversation and the struggle of choosing between right and wrong. You have to understand dear reader, the initial incident took place in August one year ago I think. Perhaps it has taken her this long (one year later) to figure out a way to articulate her struggles. She actually continued to retell the entire discussion her ears had with her body for about 5 minutes. It was hilarious, and I wish I had had a tape recorder. In the end, her dad and I both said it is OK about your struggle between the listening ears and the not listening body.

I am guessing this is a step in the right direction for little Margo's maturation into the knowledge of right and wrong. I think a big part of me is glad she does not mind sharing these struggles with me now. I only hope I continue to grow as a listener for her, in the now and the future.

I struggle like every parent does with wanting our child to excel and reach their potential. And like every parent, I get a bit pushy, perhaps way too pushy and need to dial it down. My friend Victoria reminded me "Margo is a kid, this is what kids do." Yep you are right, little Margo is a kid with a great imagination, and I will learn to listen and support you little Margo in the midst of your struggles. This is what I need to be concerned with, not that my daughter was pregnant with a baby brain. :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing....Oh Oh!

I have just signed an agreement to write for another blog...not sure when I will be posted, however that is ok. The blog is called Silicon Valley Moms blog or for short. It is the fault of Lindsey and Victoria, my two friends who encourage me on a regular basis to write. What a wonderful gift to have friends who encourage you to follow a talent or should I say an untapped talent. My hubby is part of the regular cheering team too; he reads my blog regularly from work and asks, “Where is the next installment?” So here I am writing when I should be doing the books! Books for my budget that is, so the big Oh Oh in the title. Perhaps I will tell him all is well in the world of high finance for our little family? At least until I complete the books. Yes tomorrow I will do the books, or perhaps late tonight, but only after I complete my blog.

Here I am trying to be an example to little Margo about following directions and doing what 'You are supposed to do", I am so glad she cannot read enough to catch, that I am not following directions. But this following directions thing is driving me crazy with her. Really, she follows the directions at school, gets her work done and gets to play. But with me, it may be another story. Margo really wants to just play with me after school. However, she has a little homework assignment. She needs to learn how to write her name starting with an upper case letter followed by the rest in lower case.

Oh, and did I mention it needs to be both her first and last name. Thus far we are seeing some success with her first name, and now I am introducing her last name. Because she really wants to play with me, she is not motivated to print nicely or follow the strokes. Instead she will write a letter, perhaps in two parts, from bottom to top, when it should be, start at the top and complete the letter in one stroke. Then she looks at me with a giggle to see how I will respond. Margo has just discovered a new button to push with me...I did not realize this would be my new button, she must read minds or something. No, she just knows me better than I do sometimes.

So what do I do to grab her attention and provide the "correct" motivation, I pick up one of her little books she had been reading, (it was a little board book), and I say, "Ok, Margo, I am going to throw this book away, unless you start to try and write your name on the lines....". She looks at me and laughs a very joyful laugh, so now I grab a little toy, a metal noise maker that a friend gave to her, and I say I will throw this in the trash and do so. She looks at me calmly and says, "Mom, I only need some help".

Ahhh, she is right, she only needs some help and I am freaking out because she is not doing it right. "What is going on," I ask myself, "Why am I feeling so angry and frustrated?" And then it hits me...I have become a perfectionist of sorts. Ok, I am a perfectionist when it comes to effort. Meaning, whatever I do, I must give it complete effort. It has nothing to do with the letter shapes; it has everything to do with "real effort", in making those letter shapes.

When I was told last year that Margo will say "I can't" to some new physical skill at preschool, I was worried she was giving up. So we read and re-read the story, The Little Engine that Could. Believe it or not, her new mantra started to be, I think I can...but this is really hard, or this is really hard work. She started to say it was hard, but still keeps trying, that is real effort. She acknowledges the difficulty yet, keeps giving the effort. Now I know effort is in her, but I need the motivation to draw it out. Believe me the best motivation was not, "I am going to throw your toy away."

When she said "Mom I only need some help," I heard I should now use encouragement, instead of my anger. It meant coaching her with every stroke of the pencil. Now I was still high strung, but I did try to make it fun by complementing what she did do correctly. And at the same time I kept muttering to myself, I cannot home school, I cannot home get the picture. (Perhaps I need to re-read the book, The Little Engine that Could.) Eventually I will be able to lighten up regarding home work, and her writing. I know she is only 5, actually almost 6 years old, but she is in Kindergarten.

I know that eventually her fine muscle movement will develop with all the OT, and playing with clay we are doing. I know that with continued swimming her core will strengthen and she will be able to sit up and hold the paper down while she writes rather than hold her head. Really, I carry this last paragraph in my heart as I watch her write, and go to school. And what I really need to remember, and exercise real effort in, is that she is growing bit by bit; her dyspraxia is being minimized and there is a whole world of adventure she will be able to run to and enjoy.

So just like me, she may not be doing exactly what she is supposed to do because, there is some fun to be had, a laugh and giggle to be given, a full life to be lived.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

School and three little words.....

"Serious learning with Daddy",
Mommy & Margo walking to school
First Day outfit,

Meeting my teacher

Margo has been in school 4 days in a row, tomorrow is Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday, when she gets to sleep in. That is what we talked about as we walked home today. Gee she learned that concept early. In many ways the first part of this week went by as a blur, so I shall try and tell her story of the first and second day of school. Why those two days, you may ask? Those two days are the most important times of her elementary educational journey. Really, the first day is for the parents, more than the child, and the second day is just about her.

We all woke up at 6:45 AM on Monday morning. Mark, her daddy had taken the day off to participate in the traditional sending off of the child to school. Of course we had no tradition to follow, but decided to start the process with Kindergarten. We heard the alarm turn off, and the pitter- patter of little feet, soon to be jumping into our bed for the prescribed snuggle time. Yes it went a little longer than I expected, but that was fine. I raced little Margo to see who would get dressed first, (the right motivation for focus is to win the race,) and she joyfully won. Next, we ate breakfast, as a family. Now that was a little wild, because daddy was playing with the doll at the table...and yes you guessed it, she was not eating. I soon realized I not only had to get Margo focused on the job of eating, but her daddy as well. This was done by removing the object of fun from the table, and quietly letting the adult offender know, he is not making this process easy by playing at the table! We do not want to be late, now do we?

It was at this point, I realized I was up-tight. But what about, I mean I already successfully passed kindergarten, and was a successful Explorer Preschool mom, but why was I nervous and emotional? Teeth brushed, hair styled with curls, bible reading and some praying together and we are out the door, walking to school for real. We arrive, line up and wait.

Mrs. Bridgford comes out and begins to kneel in front of every child to introduce herself to them, shakes their hand and welcomes them to class. Next she rises and meets the attending parent. Ok, I am thinking, she is friendly to the kids, and talks to them at their own level, to make them feel comfortable. Great, this is the teacher for Margo. Such a simple gesture brought a sense of calm to my heart.

We all enter the class room at the sound of the bell, and the kids sit on the rug in their own little spot. At first Margo is sitting in the back, but then when the teacher beckons some of the kids to move forward, she arises and sits in the very first row. I am thinking this is great, (did you know kids who sit in the first row get higher grades, and learn more), hopefully this means Margp will be less distracted by the other kids. Yes I really thought all of that in one minute or so. Mark and I were very proud of our little daughter. Not that she did much of anything else at that group time, but we are the doting parents. (Poor girl).

The parents’ time in the kindergarten room ended with an opportunity to participate in a scavenger hunt with our own child. This allowed all of us to get to know the class rooms, (yes there is a separate craft area), and restrooms etc...We also were able to help our children feel comfortable in their new learning environment. But I really think it was for the parents. The kids were all having a great time; we were the ones stressing to get through the list before the lights went out.

The final 45 minutes were spent in the assembly hall listening to the principal discuss her philosophy for the school. RESPECT, that is the philosophy of the school, so we figure all will be well here with little Margo.

We go back to the class room and pick up our little ones, relieved the first day is over. We say our goodbye's to the others in the class, exchange a few names and phone numbers and walk home. So Margo, did you like school? Did you say anything to the teacher? "I love you" was her response. What Margo? "I said I love you to the teacher, really quietly". Did she hear you Margo? What did she say back? "Thank you", and again there was that big Margo smile, showing there was something treasured in her heart. Three little words, "I love you," spoken to her teacher, and I knew all would be well.

The adventure day, ended with a trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and dinner at a restaurant. Mark and I were totally emotionally drained. We decided we were drained, because we just let our daughter go. Kindergarten is a different letting go, then preschool. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because their long journey through education begins here. Or it could be that we won't be able to watch what happens the next day, it is a goodbye from the outside with a little wave.

Day two, we arrive at school with a bit of time for Margo to play in the playground. I think every parent is lined up pressed against the fence, three rows deep, watching their children play at a distance. Others are in the open area, outside the door, holding their kids, or really their kids holding them. I think the kids knew this was really the first day of school, no mommy, no daddy around to give them a high five, or to run to when they accomplished some wonderful task of learning. We wave to the kids’ goodbye, as they walk in a line into their kinder classroom.

Five hours later, we return, all waiting under the eaves, away from the windows to the class room so as not to disturb the kindergarten class. At 1:45 pm, the doors open, and the children are allowed to leave one by one, if they see their parent. Ah ha, there she is, my little Margo, beaming when she sees me. She has a superstar tag, as do all the other little ones, but she is so proud of that star! (To date we now have three super stars.)

We begin our walk home, and I try to understand what she did today in class. She "...played, and played, and got to play with the dinosaurs, but the doll house is not open yet," Margo said. "Mommy today was better then yesterday!" Better then yesterday, the words I had encouraged her with earlier in the morning. "No worries mom, not for me," was some additional chatter.

Margo arrived home very hungry, so I opened her lunch and found most of it in tact. I served it on a plate with a fresh glass of milk, and soon learned she had to play, and did not have time to eat. This is something I have grown to expect since that second day. So our time together after school starts with Margo eating her lunch and telling me about her day. It is nice, it is simple and it is all good.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ready or not here "we" come! ooops I mean "I"....

We, yes I said we, have passed these last few days 'practicing' for school. Margo's first day of class is on Monday, August 24th. Sunday night, little Margo set her own alarm to awake at 7:00 AM on Monday morning. Her assignment was to wake up, climb down the ladder, turn off the alarm, and get her snuggle time with me, her mommy. After which said time is done, mind you it may include reading a few books, negotiating the possibility of watching a TV show, and the list goes on; Margo is to go and put on her clothes and yes brush her hair. Now realize she rarely brushes her hair at all, but hey it never hurts to dream. Next she is to come downstairs to eat her breakfast, have a quiet time with mom, (some type of bible time together), brush her teeth and walk out the door by 8:35 AM. Aha, we were successful the first day, by a few minutes.

I realized day two needed to start a little earlier, at 6:45 AM. Believe it or not, day two had room for tears, her telling me all her sorrows from days and weeks and months past. Yes even with the tears, we were still on time to leave the house and walk to school.

Day three went well too, I was impressed. She still asks to watch TV, aka cartoons, but only if she completes all her other tasks first. However the issue of choice came up for little Margo. This meant I was making all the choices. Her solution, to put the bible reading ahead of breakfast but still after she was dressed. This worked out fine too.

Day 4, today, I failed! We did not get up before 8:30 AM, I purposely did not turn on her alarm the night before, she went to bed way too late. No way was I going to go through a day with a tired kid if I could help it. So yes we would have basically missed school today, if it was already in session. Tomorrow, which will be Friday, and our last day to practice, is set with the alarm going off at 6:45 AM...the question is will she and I get up? I hope so, then all the practice would have been worth it. I wonder what the real day will be like? I promise to let you all know, on Monday night the 24th, or perhaps I will wait till Tuesday night the 25th, when she would have been at school for her first full day without any parents there. She will be fine, however the question remains, will I?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Birth Day

My hubby Mark showing me our little bundle of joy, November 21, 2003 , Proud daddy and daughter.

Dr. Mark Sloan and Clair holding little Margo

Grandmanma Margo cleaning up her little namesake, and Daddy and Grandmanma ready to enter the O.R.

I read parts of Birth Day, by Mark Sloan MD, while it was being written, perhaps before the book even had a title. I must confess, I know Dr. Sloan personally, he married my fact I am the godmother of his daughter. You see a copy of her feet at birth in the opening pages of the book. This all started a little over 5 years ago, I was pregnant with little Margo, and nervous or oblivious of the birth process to say the least. I kept secretly hoping Mark would finnish writing all the chapters of the book, Birth Day, before it was time for delivery...but alas I never told him that. I am not sure that would have pushed his process of writing this wonderful book along faster. It too seemed to be a long process of pregnancy for him, if I may use that term. We never can push the process or length of our pregnancy along, it is what it is, long or short.

During the final months of pregnancy, I was taking a yoga class for pregnant mom's. We all practiced the positions of balance and strength, and talked. Yes we discussed what our hoped for birth stories would be like. We were encouraged to write out those directives for the time of labor at the hospital. C-section was like a dirty word in that discussion, it was to be avoided at all costs. One woman came back and talked of her birthing of twins, and that in the end she had to have a C-section. She was sad about it, as I am sure others who go through this style of birth may be too. But I was provided the chapter on C-section to read from Mark's developing book, Birth Day. (Hot off the press, or computer I should add.) Reading this chapter changed my perspective regarding the "C-Section birth". From what I remembered, it was developed by those who did not want to choose between saving the life of the baby or the mother. It was developed and refined to save both lives. Now the mother and the baby would live! Such a simple idea, and it is this idea that stuck with me, as I entered the delivery room for little Margo's birth. It was an idea created by reading from Mark Sloan's writing.... I was not disappointed about the upcoming C-section, I was excited to greet this new life entering into the world.

I was at 41 weeks, and was just completing my weekly visit to the OB. We had passed the stress test, however the ultra sound gave signs my womb was starting to get a bit old, meaning, little Margo needed to come out now. So off to the hospital to check in and try for a vaginal birth using pitosin to get things started. Around midnight the process of labor started. Yes the contractions were pounding, but by 7:00 AM not much had changed. I was only dilated to 3 cm, which most of you know is not much. However, the pitosin drip was as high as they could make it, so there was quite a pounding going on. My O.B. decided to break my water for me, no problem, I was not too uncomfortable by all of this. Oh my goodness, then the contractions became more intense, and the frequency was quicker. By noon, the OB nurse made a check, and I had not progressed any further, even though the contractions were long and large. At this point it was decided a C-Section would be the best next step. I forgot to tell you they found a bit of mechonium in the discharge, so they were now more intent on getting little Margo out. I was a bit disappointed to say the least, but not for long...I remembered this time is about birthing life, and now I was excited again to greet little Margo. I walked to the OR, and had the music playing, "Light the Fire Again", my husband Mark, and mom were going to be allowed to attend the surgery/delivery. My Doula was there, now for the purpose of taking pictures. I was sitting on the side of the table, my O.B. holding on to me, as the anesthesiologist, was puncturing my back with the spinal. I looked up to my O.B. and said, "look we are all here to welcome little Margo into the world." That was when I saw my husband Mark and my mom, dressed in their "bunny suits", waiting to enter the OR. At 12:27 pm little Margo was born, and lifted up over the drape, so I could see her beautiful ruddy looking body, crying loudly with every movement. She was rushed next door to the resuscitation room to be checked out, my mom went with Margo, her namesake, and Mark stayed with me. Very soon I was brought to the same little room as Margo and she was placed in my arms. Her grandmother, had helped to clean her up, after she passed the exam. All was well and still is well with our lives, 5 and a half years later.

I am forever thankful, for having had the opportunity to read parts of Mark Sloan's book prior to my delivery. It opened my eyes to the beauty of a Cesarean, and the use of a Doula. This book in its early development prepared me for the wonder of birth. Thank you Mark Sloan! So glad you married the family!

Full Disclosure: Mark Sloan's daughter is the godmother to little Margo, oh yes, I get to call him whenever I have a question about little Margo. He is also a great pediatrician!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"I am taking two days off", said the 5 year old...

We just completed a wild week of adventure, with travel up north to visit the grandparents and cousins. Four days later we are heading back home to welcome house guests for the next week. On the way home, little Margo clearly states, "I want the day off." 15 minutes later she restates, "I am taking two days off, today, and tomorrow." I am not sure exactly what this all means, because we are driving back home from Santa Rosa. We had already stopped at our favorite bookstore in Santa Rosa, Copperfields books, to pick up a few activities for the trip. I filled up on coffee, Peete's if you must know; Margo had milk and a cinnamon roll. We packed into the car with her new drawing book, and a level 1” I can read book”, in tow. All was well, except for the traffic.

There is a lot of traffic coming south on 101 around 3:30 in the afternoon. We talked about which bridge to take home, the Richmond Bridge won the vote. I voted based on fee of course. Free is always better, plus we had gone north via the Golden Gate bridge. Margo was satisfied with the choice, so on we drove. Two hours later, and still one more hour of driving to go, I hear her comment about the day off. Sure I said, sounds fine to me. Hmm, now why would she want a day off?

Reviewing our activities and fun times over the past week, were wonderful. We started Monday, with a visit to the King Tut exhibit at the de Young Museum. Dad joined us for this adventure to visit King Tut, but left us to our own devices as we continued on to Santa Rosa, to visit Grandmamma and Grandpapa. Once there, she was greeted with the news that her favorite cousin would be coming over for a slumber party. Nathalie, is 8 years old, and acts like the older sister to Margo. Letting her know what she can and cannot do to have fun. Most of the time, Margo follows her around like a little puppy trying to please her master. Tuesday and Wednesday was set for swimming and diving for dollars at the grandparents’ day affair. Then she was off to stay at Cousin Nathalie’s for two days, which included a wonderful day at the Santa Rosa Fair. It was a wild and fun time. She tried some of her first “grown up rides” at the fair, and now we think she is ready for Disneyland. The nights were long and late, the mornings were early. Margo could never figure out why her cousin Nathalie kept waking her up early in the morning to play. For that matter neither could I, especially since Margo takes after me, her mommy Max, and loves to sleep in. Ok, she takes after her cousin and godmother, Claire as well. So the desire for sleep runs in this side of the family I believe.

Aha, the light goes on!!! She wants a day off because she had too much fun??? That sounds a bit strange to me…I wonder why she wants two days off? Saturday morning, I wake up, and hear her stirring in her room. Her Daddy and I wait for her appearance in our room and ultimately on top of our bed. But where is she? 10 minutes go by and no Little Margo. I know she is awake, but where is she? “Margo! Margo, where are you? Are you coming for snuggle time with mommy and daddy?” I speak loudly from my bedroom. “No”, is her lazy reply. “Really, we are waiting for you, we miss you,” I respond. Silence follows. “Ok, Margo, why are you staying in bed and not coming for your regularly requested snuggle time?” “It’s my day off,” she replies. “What!!” say I, rather astonished; who takes breaks from snuggles? “It’s my day off, the day I get to do what I want”, is her tart reply.

Wait, she just gave me the best definition of a day off…getting to do what I want to do. Mark and I look at each other and think what wisdom or should I say common sense is coming from our 5 year old. For the next week Mark and I both ponder over this statement on our own. What would such a day off look like, we begin to ask each other? He said, “She makes so much sense, I was at home for 4 days without you and all I could think about doing was eating dinner, then getting to bed to make sure I was rested. I just watched a little TV, it was not doing anything I really wanted to do.” Mark really had time every day to do something only he really wanted to do, but was caught up in the basics; food, TV and sleep. We both realized neither of us had a clue how to really enjoy a day off…or steal away the free moments for something each of us might really want to do throughout our day; what has our world become! So yesterday, Mark took his first day off or perhaps half day off on Saturday. He wanted to go visit his dad and hang out at the farm, and then hit a few golf balls at the range. He had received a new club and replaced his grips when he turned 50 as part of his birthday present. Well three years later, he had never tried hitting a ball with those new and refurbished items. Yesterday was the day, and it was something he definitely enjoyed. Yes he came home somewhat refreshed, yet tired, and now, it is my turn to come up with “My day off activity”, gee what will it be. I know I want to invite Mark along, so I suppose I better find a sitter or a play date.

Thanks to little Margo, I now know the definition of a real day off. I hope to take it soon, at least a few hours here and there. Perhaps if we keep ‘The Day Off’ a part of our lifestyle, it will become a family tradition. So what about you, when was your last day off, of “…getting to do what you want to do?”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I want that too! Why didn't I get one?.....You know the story...

We are still working through why she did not get the second trophy her two friends did at the swimming awards banquet. We tried to point out that she received a silver pin for her stroke improvement at Champs, and then the question comes, "Did Aria cry because she did not get the silver pin?". I don't know was my reply. Aria’s mom did have to explain to her daughter that she did not improve on her times at champs, the final swim meet of the year and thus no silver pin.” Aghhh and so the conversation continues.

Try to explain to a 5 year old, that she did not get the trophy because she did not always have the best attitude, (aka she cried about twice a week at swim practice) or she did not improve enough. Then it becomes a story of "mom, you always say I do not have a good attitude." Oh my goodness where did the "always say", come from, I muse in my mind. (She sounds like a teenager now.)

I must get to those positive parenting notes I have somewhere in my cluttered house! Now how can I undo the damage! My friend who is a social worker and sometimes works with kids, called to let me know that she would be happy to listen to Margo if she wanted to talk about the trophies. Gee have I done such a lousy job at parenting that my daughter needs counseling at age 5? I thought it could wait till she was at least a little past 6 years old, about half way through kindergarten. I hope you all know I am smiling widely as I have been writing these paragraphs before me. I would laugh at loud except that my two loves, daughter and husband are sleeping in their beds, and their doors are open.

So, all you parents must relate to this situation. Your kid does not win the prize, for improvement or leadership, or some other character trait; you KNOW they exhibit some time during the day. Then the question comes out really loud in the midst of the awards, "Why didn't I get the big trophy too?" At this point, I, the embarrassed parent want to cover her mouth and remove her from the award ceremony, while at the same time removing myself. But I do not. I figure this is where she gets a life lesson about earning awards versus winning awards. Isn’t it great, that at a young age we can begin to teach our children about the realities of life? We get a chance to learn the best way to teach them about this reality, that yes dear some people are nicer then others. Yes dear, some kids are smarter than others, or are better leaders than others. That is what life contains. It is neither bad nor good, but provides us a chance to grow into better persons. Yada, yada, yada....I am still working on the best way to explain this to my 5 year old, Margo.

First I thought perhaps it would be a good idea if she made cards and sent them to her swim buddies. Those were the girls who looked after her at the swim meets. I think she ended up with a bunch of swim buddies. The official one was Julia, then Rachel and Ashley, and of course Jessica, who is too old to have a buddy, but too young to be a buddy, and finally there was Ainsley, the 8-year old who shared Rachel and Ashley with her. Margo agreed to make these all cards...and we are starting the process of her looking beyond herself.

Then I had the idea, ok, how about making congratulation cards for Aria and Siena, about their extra trophies? What was I thinking, you are all saying about now? "But who will send me a card of congrats...for my pin"...and then the tears....and more tears...and then she bopped me on the chin, and I sent her to her room to think about what she had done. I visit her in her temporary holding cell; she had climbed up into her bunk bed to consider her current situation. “Are you ready to apologize” I ask? “No” she said, “and you should apologize to me”, was her reply. This part of the story gets to be a little hazy, but in her mind I was not helping her get over the trophies, because we keep talking about it. Better said, "How can I get over it, when you talk about it mom?"...."and you always say I have a bad attitude..." I realize she is making some sense, so I apologize and ask her to forgive me, which she does. Then I tell her I forgive you for bopping me on the chin, and then I wait..."Well aren't you going to say you are sorry?" "No, I am not ready yet mom." Ok, I say and leave for a few minutes. Upon my return, she does say she was sorry for bopping me on the chin, and then that is that.

This past paragraph was my attempt at getting my daughter to look beyond herself, via creating the cards...but instead I created an opportunity for her to think I thought less of her. So back to the drawing board I say. I need to approach this subject again, from another angle. I am not sure what the angle will be, but she needs to learn that awards are awards. It is something you earn for doing something well. And I really believe this was a good experience for her to start learning about this aspect of life.

Later that day, she mentioned how she would get two trophies next year, a big one and the little one. I think she really is planning on working on her attitude a little bit. She said, she will not cry if she bumps into someone while swimming, she will go and follow the stroke of the person in front of her even if she did not understand the coach, and she will try not to whine so much.

I think she really does love to swim, and as she gains her confidence with the different strokes and the different drills, she will not need to whine. Why you ask? Because she will be older and wiser as a 6 year old who would have completed kindergarten. Will she be grown up by then? No. absolutely not, but she will be a little bit more mature, and better able to handle her world and the changes that come with a wide variety of situations. I will be sure to provide her the "wide variety of situations".

I know, I know, you all think I am dreaming, I bet you can't wait to read what I write as she starts school in late August...oh we shall laugh out loud quite a bit I think! Enjoy the week, and whatever challenges your little ones bring you when they say, "Why didn't I get the big trophy?"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Camping with kids... a true adventure!

We did not need to go far to find the great outdoors. It only took us about one and a half hours to arrive at our destination. Now if truth be told, it probably took us 3 hours or so to pack, in fact I would say more since we started organizing the week before. You all know the drill, (and if you don't you will); climb up the ladder and pull down the gear. "Maxine, we really need to organize the garage, is the voice echoing lost among junk in that location.” "We need mantles for the lantern...oh and you need a sleeping bag too...hey where is my sleeping bag....I got it..." Yup it takes a lot to prepare for the first camping trip of the season! Everything is staged in the living room...did you know the definition of living room is: the room in which we live, aka: living room/staging room! This is my personal excuse for clutter.

My own preparations began with making chili, a huge pot, and dividing it up for the trip. Next I was finding the remainder of my spaghetti sauce I had frozen a few weeks before. Oh and last but not least, I had to make a bunch of cookies. I cheated a little bit here and bought some mixes I just added the butter and eggs and baked. They turned out fine. I must have made about 130 cookies, a little bit more than I needed, but hey we were going to be in the wild for two and a half days...we needed the comfort food. The best part was bringing the two bottles of wine which had been resting in our fridge for near 10 was time to drink these two darlings.

Ok, back to the story....We arrived, it was a fun trip, playing eye spy a frog, or a cow, or some other interesting object. My daughter found every existing American flag between San Jose and Fremont Peak State Park. The final 11 miles were very curvy, but very beautiful. At the top, we gazed upon the valley we had just passed through with all the other 4:30 pm commuters. But here, everything looked beautiful, the sky, the trees and yes the valley below. It was dry, a little dusty to be sure, but beautiful...the golden hills of California, spotted with Myrtle and Oak. It was not too hot, just right I would say. We found our spot, it was number 24.

Setting up camp went fairly quickly, most likely because we had practiced at my brother’s house over the July 4th weekend. We learned how to set up our tent there, and we actually spent two nights in that little place for practice. Now it was real, we passed the test; the tent was up in about 30 minutes. Little Margo was able to help along the way. She had the job of securing the poles to the straps of the tent. It was a little job, but big for a 5 year old. Next in order was to prepare the meal, spaghetti and meatballs. It just meant setting up the stove, lighting it and letting everything defrost. Thank goodness for cast iron pots! Our friends arrived, they brought their small brood of three, two 5 year olds, Ben and Lily and one 3 year old, Ava. Jeff and Linsey were pros at this adventure compared to us...that took the pressure off of us. The kids played, and we all set up our camps to completion. Dinner was ready as the sun set, and all the kids were hungry. So were the adults...we ate a lot of spaghetti sauce in that one night.

The next morning we all awoke early, ready to start the day. We ate pancakes and bananas for breakfast, fresh brewed coffee, lots of that for the adults, and bikes and racing for the kids. Around 10:00 AM we decided it was time to head off for a real hike, the men chose the valley peak trail, and it started easily enough with a gentle downward slope. Soon all you could hear were the warnings of "don't touch that bush, it is poison oak." Or look out for the poison oak in the middle of the trail. Margo was a trooper; she trailed directly behind me, using my fanny pack for her stabilizing grip. Sometimes I think I was something of a pack horse for her, or mule to be more exact. Do you recall the movie where the heroin is trudging up a mountain pass holding the tail of the pack mule to make it to the top? I was the pack mule for little Margo. Linsey was the Sherpa for Ava, and carried her upon her back for most of the trek. Mark my beloved, would push Margo up the steep parts while she would try and pull me back down. In the end we all made it to the top! It took us about 2 hours to walk all the way over to the top of Fremont Peak. The views were amazing in every way. It seemed we walked through lush jungle, (with lots of poison oak), up through the golden hills of brush, rocks and few trees. At one point, Margo and Ben ended up chasing two large alligator lizards up the path. Boy did those two little lizards fly up the path, and eventually leaped into the brush off the side of the path. But so amazing to me, was that, the one chasing them with gusto had only a second before declared she was unable to go a step further. I learned, there just needs to be the right motivation.

Motivation would become very important before this story is complete. As we were getting closer to the peak, Margo was determined this was to be her last step. We urged her over the bridge, but that was about it. Between my husband and myself, I was the healthiest in regards to joints as such. So it was my job, to become Margo's pack mule one more time. She was placed lightly upon my back and then we walked forward. I even walked up the steps carved into the hillside with her on my back. I was pleased I could do this without too much fatigue; I guess all those days at the gym were paying off! We were left with about 50 yards more of trail which quickly became a spot of rock climbing for the last 100 feet. There were four adults and four children, all wanted to climb the rocks to make it to the top of the peak, and reach the flag pole, that marked the spot of General Fremont and his troops back in the 1800's. Ben and Lily were very good climbers, so Jeff was able to help them up to the top with some ease. Ava being three needed a simpler way, and Linsey took care of these needs, they too made it to the top with fair ease. I decided to send Mark and little Margo up together, I would stay down and take pictures and watch the packs. Really I was too concerned she might grab on to me and I would twist my back, so I did not want to risk the climb. Mark would lift her to a spot, or coach her to the hand and foot holds that they saw before them. Jeff, Linsey and the kids would tell her there is food for her at the top. Aha, motivation, the right motivation, and she would not talk about her fears, but about the need for food. My daughter, who even three months ago would not climb much of anything, was climbing these rocks. Once at the top, I was told she was really looking to eat the food. So the apple was delivered and her hunger quenched.

It was time to climb down, how were we going to get all the kids down? One by one, they each created a path down the rocks of the peak. I was amazed to watch them pick the best way down with a little coaching from us. Even Margo could make it down...her new motivation? 10 minutes till the rain arrives, oh oh, 9 minutes till the rain arrives...and so she counted down while she was climbing. No time to worry about how to climb down, she just kept focused and moving on the task set before her. I was proud of little Margo, she later said she was afraid, but kept climbing anyway...I told her that was courage.

Linsey and I looked at each other while speaking out the same thoughts. What were we thinking letting our little one's climb to the top of that peak! We decided once back at camp we would drink more wine that night by the campfire as well as eat the deserved smore's. Ben, the little son of Linsey expressed to me later, how he was scaring his mom, when he was climbing, but he assured me he was totally safe and knew not to fall off the edge. Did you catch that Linsey, he knew to be careful, not bad for a 5 year old. We decided to walk back via the surface roads and that took us all of 30 minutes.

Back at camp we enjoyed a well deserved dinner with wine and smore's for desert. The night was clear, and Ben told us a spooky story around the campfire and then the kids retired to bed. The adults, what about us, we continued to drink wine and discuss life. Oh yes, we checked out the sounds of animals walking on the slope behind our tent. Never did see the beady eyes, but I am sure something was there. Linsey moved to our side of the campfire. Hey who wants to be licked by a wild deer or "petted" by a raccoon? All in all this day truly defined our camping, it was about the hiking, the adventure and the team work.