Thanksgiving is always spent at Dad D’s family’s home. It is lovingly called “The Compound”. It is a home on about 10 acres in a rural area. It was Dad D’s childhood home. His parents still live there with his sister and her family (husband and 5 kids). It is quite expansive with a huge great room with cathedral ceilings and 8-10 bedrooms and lots of bathrooms and a kitchen that can serve the 40-50 people that show up for celebrations like Thanksgiving. The whole extended family comes for the holiday, some from more than 200 miles away.
One of the most amazing things about this group is there ability to adapt and accept whatever comes their way. Dad D showing up several years ago with Dad B and Pepper and me and all our kids barely seemed to make them blink. Both our exchange students were just welcomed in as well. Wanna bring wine? Wanna bring a giant slushy maker? Got 4 or 5 friends because each of the kids want to show up with someone… not a problem. They just roll with everything.
The kids love to go there. The whole lowest level is a kids paradise. It is like going into Santa’s workshop. There are toys, video games and all kinds of different and new things each time they go there. Outside there are always four wheeled ATV’s and a paint ball field. The adults have all kinds of foods to sample and taste throughout the day and there is football on in one room, drum sets and board games in another room for the teens and little pockets of people everywhere to visit with.
One of the tasks after dinner is to plan for Black Friday shopping. Getting up and out to the mall by 4 AM is a tradition. The guys stay home and watch all the kids while the rest of us head out for great deals. We looked through all the ads and discussed where everyone wanted to go. My favorite part of shopping is going out to lunch when we are all done. We shop for HOURS and meet up at a small restaurant… we all get lunch even though it is only about 9:30 in the morning!
I look forward to spending time at the compound with Dad D’s family. What a great group. We all decided not to do the Black Friday early morning shopping trip this year. Going out in the cold at 4 AM is always exhausting.. even though there is an amazing excitement at getting to a good sale. There just did not seem to be any deals good enough this year to get us out of bed so early. I did miss getting to go out to lunch with everyone… I’ll hope for good, can’t pass up deals next year. BTW... we still left all the kids at the compound over night and let the guys watch them all... we don't want to break ALL the traditions!! ☺
I confess I am a helicopter parent. According to Jim Fay, that is the type of parent that “hovers” and rescues and worries. Actually, I am a helicopter person. I know this about myself but cannot help it. For example, I know that I should have let my children start cutting their own meat much earlier than I did. My 16 year old rarely needs to cut her own even now… it is just a habit. I do think it is easier to have everything cut up and nicely arranged on the plate before we start eating…I don’t even let Pepper cut her own usually…
I am also a champion worrier. I glance at my friends and family and can usually tell when something is bothering them. I predict when things will be a problem and try to head it off for them and save them from pain and hurt. I do not think these are necessarily bad traits… although the fact that the people in my life do not seem to possess this skill towards me is occasionally irksome.
This morning was a challenge for this helicopter person. Dori is struggling in English. It is an AP class and not easy. Believe it or not, because we have 5 kids we went to 23 conferences in the last 2 days. Our ratio: 22 good ones to one bad one is pretty good. But it is really hard to just let the one slide when I know Dori could be doing well in the class. Her teacher told us that she had a “major paper” due in class on Wednesday. He had assigned it a good month ago and it would help or hurt her grade tremendously. Dori started writing it at 4 PM on Tuesday afternoon. This behavior stresses me. Pepper and I bite our tongues trying to let her do things her way. Amazingly, she completed the entire paper (with only a few frustrating incidents) by 10 PM. She made two copies and asked me to read it over. I thought it looked pretty darn good. Before she shut the computer off I told her she should email a copy of it to herself as a back-up. She looked like she was going to tell me that was unnecessary, but she did it anyway.
Dori does not take long to get ready for the school bus. The other kids start trying to get her up 30 minutes or so before the bus comes. She usually gets up 25 minutes later and comes flying downstairs to grab her phone with about 30 seconds to spare. To her credit, she made the bus this morning… without the paper. She called and text me several times during her bus ride trying to convince me to drive her paper to the school. Pepper and I talked about how easy it would be to just take her the paper… but she has not been taking responsibility for her actions and is not treating her family in a very loving manner right now. We decided she had the ability to solve this problem on her own.
She had her emailed copy of the paper that would prove she had done the work. She could get to a computer in the lab or library to print the paper again. Formatting would be a bit off (one of her biggest concerns) but she could do it.
According to the other kids, she was pretty mad at me on the bus. I am sure I am no where near the top of her ‘faves’ list at this point. There may be a bit of the silent treatment over this Thanksgiving break… but I think knowing she can handle a stressful situation, take responsibility and problem solve on her own is important. She will probably never know how much stress I was feeling not caving in and just taking the paper to her. Do you think next time she will start working on her paper a little sooner? Do you think she will take responsibility and be prepared? Do you think she learned that she is so capable and so smart she does not need her helicopter Mom every step of the way? 'sigh' Me either…
A couple years ago I bought a game called Travel Bingo. I thought it would be a great way to make family time in the car go by quickly. The idea is that everyone gets a game board with things that can be seen out a car window. The items are things such as: bird on a wire, flag, a church, water tower, bridge, tree, mailbox, cow, stop sign, etc. As we drive past things and the kids see these items they cross them out on their card and the first one to get a row filled out on their card yells “Bingo!!” I thought it looked great!
Recently the kids found the game and decided to give it a try. I overlooked a couple things…. First Dill likes to play “Imagination Bingo” This is a great game when Pepper and Dill play alone because Pepper just laughs at his creative finds… his siblings however, are much less tolerant of Dill yelling out “Bingo” because he just saw a cow and a water tower in a church parking lot!!
When all the kids play there is also the ‘sneaky’ factor. No one wants anyone else to know where they saw a Flag or a RV parked behind trees. This is fine until someone yells “Bingo” and cannot PROVE that they saw the items they crossed off!
Now remember, through all these games, I am driving. So now my idea of a peaceful family game has really all but vanished. I am scanning the horizon and out the side windows so that I can either verify or contradict the actual presence of birds on wires, cows in fields and yield signs on side roads. I am referee for the kids all saying, “You did not really see such-and-such!!” and I love the phrase, “You can’t count that, cuz I found it first!!”
But all this is NOT the worst thing about this game. The worst thing I could never have predicted when I first purchased this game. The worst thing is when Pepper plays. I had no idea how ‘into’ this game Pepper would get. When Pepper sees something on her Bingo card she gets all excited. She does this great intake of breath because she is happy that she found an item. This would be fine, except she makes the same sound when I am about to run into something. So there I am driving along and not really paying attention to her playing with the kids and all of a sudden she makes this great intake of breath and I think I am about to hit Bambi! The sound scares the heck outta me!! I practically have a heart attack because she saw something like a railroad crossing sign!! Dill thinks it is hilarious and wants to play the game even more often!!!
The only saving grace is that they all love this game so much we should run out of Bingo cards soon…. I think there was 300 in the box…. I only have about 212 games to go!! ☺
There is an excitement in the air around my house. It is the countdown to Thanksgiving and the countdown until Christmas and the countdown to the New Year. It will also be a celebration of many days in a row without school. This brings joy to all of us especially since even Pepper and I work for the schools. So the thought of this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend brings a little smile to my face.
The problem is, as I walk around my school building I see many kids that are not looking forward to the school break. One little girl I work with was very disappointed that during conferences when she found out that the kids had two half days. She asked me, “Can I still get lunch before I go home?” If she did not have lunch at school, she would not have lunch at all.
There is another little boy that has been having escalating behavior problems for a couple weeks now. The classroom teacher is being as patient and kind as she can be but the behaviors (like cutting other children’s coats and kicking adults in the room) are escalating to the point that they cannot be dealt with as minor offenses. We are trying to piece together what is going on. He looks so sickly and small. He reminds me of what the children must have looked like in that V.C. Andrews series called “Flowers in the Attic”. He eats two breakfasts and two lunches while he is at school. His mother says he does not really eat much at home…. Hmmm. We are noticing that his behaviors get worse toward the end of the day. Is he tired? Is he telling us he wants to leave school? Is he saying he doesn’t?
How will the long breaks from the consistency of school affect this little girl and this little boy?
I am thankful for the upcoming break. I will enjoy my Thanksgiving meal and the time I spend with family and friends. Sleeping in and hanging out with my kids are blessings that I truly love. But these children... the ones that I know of and others I don’t... ones who will not have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep and loving arms to hold them during this season will definitely be in my thoughts and prayers.
I have waited 10 years to give you this letter. Your teen years were rough on both of us. I felt like I was in a tight spot sometimes because you were the first, so I had no experience and I did not have my Mom to talk to about what I was like at 15… 16… 17 and so on. I do remember my mother telling her friends that I was worst at 15 and I know by 23 we were the best of friends, so I have had hope for you and I.
I was so different then you as a teen. I was quiet and shy and did a lot of sulking and suffering in quiet desperation. You are so boisterous about every injustice and thing that you perceive as an unfair action. I think teen perception is definitely cloudy, it is like a superhero cape that makes a person feel invincible, super smart and all knowing, yet does not allow the feelings or needs of others to penetrate it.
Teens have it rough. Going from childhood to adulthood is not easy. As a parent, sometimes it is painful to just witness it. Just like all babies hurt when they are teething…. There just is not a way to get around it. Parents can just be there and watch it happen. It is a part of growing up.
In 2009, when you were 16, the economy was horrible. People all around us were losing their jobs and their livelihood. Foreclosures and bankruptcies were on the news daily. Pepper and I were pretty confident that we had enough seniority and jobs that were high enough in demand that we would not lose everything, but medical costs, groceries and gas prices made just day to day living challenging.
It was a never-ending fiscal battle with you in those days. First, everyone but you had a cell phone, then texting capabilities, then contacts, then a school jacket. There were also the yearbooks, school pictures, fund raisers, new shoes for gym and new swim suits to match your swim team. There was money for the movies, date nights and dances. There were gifts for friend’s birthdays and “Secret swimmer buddies”. There were school trips and instruments… then instrument reeds. There were summer overnight camps and a flight to California with your church youth group. There was two parts of driver’s ed…each with their own fee and going to the Secretary of State to get a license. Then there were all the times I would finally get to drive my car… only to find the gas tank drained. Then we bought a third car, and thought there would be peace.
You came home one day in early November telling us not to worry about the “F” you have in English and that asking you to empty the dishwasher was really more than we should ask. You mentioned you needed a laptop and a $500 Fastskin swim suit for your state swim meet. You also said we never compliment you or do anything for you. You said how no one understood how hard your life was… and that we did not care. You were angry that we paid for a housekeeper but refused to support your swimming by buying you the new suit. You stated loudly and repeatedly, “What do you want from me?! I am never good enough for you!!” You ran up to your room saying you hated your life and no one cared.
I am so glad those days are long past us, daughter. I am so glad that we meet once a month for lunch and talk on the phone every Saturday and you tell me all about your life and loves and the things that make you happy. I am so glad that it is so easy to be together and that everyone can tell how comfortable we are with each other and that I love you and you love me. Those teen years were so hard…. I am glad it is not 2009 anymore!
…. Of course, in 2009, your little brother Dill was 7. So he is 17 now. I am probably writing a letter to him “To my youngest son in the year 2029” ☺
I keep checking on Baby M. to see how he progressing here at kindergarten. The first week was definitely the roughest. The second day of school was better than the first… until about 1:30 in the afternoon. At that point, he decided he’d had enough. He simply walked over to me and said, “I am going home!”
I said, “No one is here to get you. There is just a little bit of time left.” I tried to redirect him, but he would have none of that. He shook his head, stood his ground and would not budge. I decided to give him a little time to think about what activity he wanted to do next, so I walked over to a table with kids all hard at work.
In a flash, Baby M opened the classroom door and yelled, “I am walking home!” as he flew out the door. I ran out right after him… feeling like I was back at my old job, chasing kids down the hall. He almost made it to the exit when I caught him. He dropped to the ground and started kicking and crying loudly. This brought the Occupational Therapist and the Social Worker to my aid and we tried to talk Baby M into walking nicely back to class. He decided to kick and thrash about even more and was absolutely opposed to the idea of going back to his classroom. The three of us decided that we needed to move Baby M to a better place (not the busy entry way to the school) to deal with this young boy, so we picked him up and carried him to a near by empty classroom.
The principal walked past us as we were moving Baby M. I am sure it was quite a sight. She did have the good sense to just walk on by. Baby M was shocked. His arms and legs were held (mainly to stop the kicking and hitting) as we “flew” him down the hall. I had to make the comment that kindergarten children came in a much more convenient travel size then upper elementary school age kids.
Each day after that has gotten better. At this point, he has been moved for half of the day to a smaller classroom where he can work on specific skills development at his level and the routine is very structured. He was a little nervous the first day, but that is already improving. Baby M is not on my caseload at this point, so I won’t be keeping tabs on him, but he does have a little piece of my heart… and all my hope. Any day that I feel overwhelmed and just want to walk out the door at 1:30 in the afternoon will remind me of Baby Mohammed Ali. ☺