Friday, October 30, 2009

Introductions are in Order

Just wanted to alert everyone to a new blog I've linked mine to. A friend of mine who prefers to remain anonymous for now has just started her new blog. For all of you who are writers or enjoy writing or just want to read another blog so you won't have to go clean the litterbox or do the dishes right away, please stop by her place and honor her work at "Getting it Down." http://www.thisbooklife.wordpress.com

Marvelous Montessori


Lola's teachers rock.

Today is Historical Halloween. In her mixed-age (1st, 2nd & 3rd grade students) classroom, everyone was given the following assignment:

"Choose a world leader who is now deceased. Research this person's life using at least three distinct sources (we prefer books, but you may use one website if you must). On Friday, October 30th you will be asked to come to school dressed as this person and present a report on their life to your classmates. We want you to turn in a written report including a bibliography and use your imagination. Have fun!"

The writing requirements are different for the kids based on their grade level. First graders have to write 3-5 sentences, second graders 7-10, third graders 12-15. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important but they're graded on the written report, their oral presentation and the costume/props they put together. Every year is a different theme and in the past they've done artists (including writers and musicians - Eve was Coco Chanel that year), authors, and inventors.

This year, world leaders who showed up in Lola's classroom included Mother Theresa, Cleopatra, Princess Diana, Benjamin Franklin, Clara Barton, FDR and, for Lola, Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii. These kids knocked themselves out! To a child, every one of them came dressed in costumes they made or augmented themselves and all of them exceeded the minimum requirements for the written reports. Lola discovered that Queen Lil (as she has started to call her) was an accomplished composer and musician before her tenure as Queen and managed to find sheet music and learn a song on the piano to play for her class as part of her report.

Each and every one of these kids came to school, backpacks bulging with props, dressed exquisitely in costume and bursting with enthusiasm to tell their peers how they made a difference in our world today. Since it's too distracting for the parents to stay and watch, the teachers promised to videotape the entire day and play it back for us another time. I can't think of a better way for Lola to spend her day at school. She is so proud of her work on this project and I can't wait to hear how it went.

Hooray for teachers that think outside the box and see every day as an opportunity to provide their students with another reason to love learning! I feel so blessed today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thinking Like a Therapist


I wish I could. Think like a therapist, I mean. When Eve and I butt heads and I lose my patience with her (myself at that age), I know that I need to stop thinking like a mother (my father) and start thinking more objectively.

I wish I could.

Instead, I read parenting magazines. I talk with other mothers. I visit websites where I can chat about various strategies to use as a parent to change her behavior. To get her to act like I think she needs to. I worry that the lessons I'm trying so desperately to impart are getting lost in the arguments, the frustration, my impatience.

Weeks later, just when I've reached my wit's end, tried every method I can think of or dig up, a moment of clarity comes.

It's not for lack of trying that I couldn't place myself in her position. In fact, that's half the trouble - she is so much like I was at that age and I've inherited my father's lack of patience for "drama." It's crazy-making. For weeks I've scraped the inside of my skull for reasons why, inciting incidents, things I could have done to create this dilemma. Somehow, when I least expect it, insight strikes.

Too late for tonight. We've had the discussion - me the heavyweight pummeling her with "overreacting," "dramatic," "playing games," and she's cowering on the mat, handing me the win. There isn't any celebration. No handshake. No "good match." We both feel rotten.

Tomorrow, I can back off. Tomorrow, we will sit down and I can gently prod. I can ask the questions a therapist would ask. Tease out the answers that will give Eve some insight of her own.

I wish I had been able to do this before. I hope the damage doesn't prove to be un-fixable. If we haven't built too strong a wall, I can finally begin to think like a therapist instead of a mother and help her come to some conclusions. Give her a starting point. Show that I'm a partner in this instead of an adversary.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maybe Not All It's Cracked Up To Be...


Fixed


–adjective
1.fastened, attached, or placed so as to be firm and not readily movable; firmly implanted; stationary; rigid.
2.rendered stable or permanent, as color.
3.set or intent upon something; steadily directed: a fixed stare.
4.definitely and permanently placed: a fixed buoy; a fixed line of defense.
5.not fluctuating or varying; definite: a fixed purpose.
6.supplied with or having enough of something necessary or wanted, as money.
7.coming each year on the same calendar date: Christmas is a fixed holiday, but Easter is not.
8.put in order.



I am a fixer. The middle child. A peacemaker, the one who does her best to anticipate difficulties and prevent them before they come to fruition.

For the vast majority (if not the entirety) of my life, I have taken great pride in my ability to fix what is broken, right what is wrong, correct instability. You might say it has become an obsession. You might be right.

Inherent in this world view, unfortunately, is the notion that what is not perfect is broken and must be fixed, myself included. Fortunately for those imperfect human beings around me, perfection really only requires "better than me." As I look around me I cannot help but compare myself to others - the gorgeous 20-something newlyweds strolling by the pool, devoid of stretchmarks and cellulite, walking with an ease I can only aspire to. I try to measure up to my co-workers whose humor comes quickly and easily and who, I'm certain, are more devoted to and competent at their jobs than I.

Most often, these comparisons are an exaggeration and are hastily dispatched once I enter dialogue with others, realizing that nobody's life is free of worry or challenge. Generally, I am able to pop these silly thought bubbles with a gentle push and a hearty, "Ha!"

Delving deeper into the definition of the word "fixed," I am taken aback by the idea that it is anything to revere. Am I really hoping to render things stagnant? Cement them in place so that they no longer show any cracks or strain of wear? Is it that I am determined to fight change at all cost?

Nothing is static. The nature of energy and mass, indeed, our entire universe is toward change. Instead of visualizing myself as a boulder in a stream, impervious to all but the strongest outside forces, I ought to see that I am a grain of sand on the beach - ever moving and shifting in relationship to the other grains around me. In the morning I may be part of a tremendous sand castle, standing proud and strong in the sunlight, but as the tide changes and the waves push that castle down, it is not faulty or wrong to become once again a grain of sand lying on the beach. It just is part of the nature of being but one individual in this vast, connected universe. Wherever I am in one particular moment is not shameful or incorrect. I am not "broken" and in need of fixing. I simply am.

*definition courtesy of www.dictionary.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hello from Paradise

I've been in Hawaii for a week. Thus, the lack of new writing material here.

I will say, that while the weather has been glorious - warm, windless except for a slight cooling breeze now and then - and the company (my two lovely, water-loving girls and Bubba) stellar, the gluten-free dining has been hit and miss. I'd like to say that I have it down to a science by now, but every once in a while the hindsight hits me from the seat of the toilet. Hmmm, perhaps I shouldn't have chowed down on those salty, spicy roasted nuts in the bar. Methinks they probably contained some kind of spice-rub that had gluten - thus the prolonged introduction to the hotel bathroom when I ought to be out snorkeling.

I will say that most of the restaurants in the hotel itself (the Four Seasons) have well-trained staff who are more than diligent about making sure I don't come in contact with any gluten. Most of them, anyway. I don't expect anyone else to do my homework for me, but I am often shocked when most of them don't understand the vast range of foods that contain wheat and wheat flours. I vaccillate between feeling as though I'm teaching them something and feeling ridiculously high-maintenance.

I'm jonesing for my computer (which I didn't bring with me - mommy guilt), but I've nearly filled an entire lined notebook with thoughts I've had that will spur lots of writing when we get home.

So far, I've gotten most of my inspiration from a book I've been reading by Pico Iyer called "The Open Road" that investigates the life of the current Dalai Lama. The rest have come from my bouts of intestinal discomfort thanks to the mistakes I've made in my diet since we've been here.

For now, I'm off to get some more vacation time in. See you in a week!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

No Rest for the Weary


I want to carpet my bedroom with spike strips. I want to lock, double lock, triple lock, deadbolt my bedroom door from the inside.

I want to stretch duct tape across my daughter's small frame, pinning it to her mattress at 8:00 and come back to strip it away at 6:30 the next morning.

I want to slide my hands into quilted oven mitts to prevent my fists from clenching.

I want to spank her. I want to hear and feel the satisfying connection of...

A wave of self-hatred crests and I begin sobbing.

I don't want another wake-up call. Her bangs tickling my nose as she leans over me silently. I don't want to jerk awake again tonight. 11:45, 2:30, 4:30, 6:00.

I want to lay my head on my pillow and close my eyes; I don't want to open them again until morning. I want to dream, rest, replenish my mind and body.

Instead the nights stretch out before and behind me, pages of a calendar filled with dotted lines where the solid, bold stripe of black ought to be between Monday and Tuesday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It has been months since we slept. Months since we went to bed and didn't meet, me angry - her desperate, in the night.

During the day we apologize. Strategize. Argue. Regret.

We celebrate small victories. Two wake-ups instead of four.
We craft star charts. Promise ice cream sundae dates.

Before bed we meditate. Massages with lavendar lotion. Drink warm milk or chamomile tea. We read sweet stories and part with reassurances and words of love.

Somewhere between tucking in and 11:45, my daughter shape-shifts. She comes silently on feline feet and hovers. A vulture peering down at me. She nudges, trying to make space in my bed, turning into a wildcat when she's turned away. Clawing, screaming, kicking, fighting.

Sometimes when Bubba is away for the week I pretend not to notice that she has slipped in to his side of the bed. I am too tired to fight and she will sleep peacefully here.

I'm probably untying every loose end we've knotted until now by letting her sleep here. But she'll sleep and so will I. We need that. And waking up next to her blonde, cornsilk hair feathered across Bubba's pillow, sheet wrinkles pressed into her soft cheeks. This is much better than feeling a vulture above me who drives me to my own wildcat.


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