March 28, 2011

26 Weeks

Tymon is home and we are so glad to see him. He got hugs and kisses from me and Jocelyn. Elliott sleepily acknowledged him. Jett was indifferent and Graeden spanked him and moved on. Tymon  brought us back a few cool things from Ghana. I expected some souvenirs like a tribal mask or wood carvings...but he got me a dress. Really?! I never expected that and am so glad that he did. I love it. But don't call me a pumpkin. I may get offended. Ha ha. Only three more months to go...

March 26, 2011

Slave Driver

March 5, 2011 - Jocelyn, Graeden, Jett, Elliott and Ammon overlooking the Sound at Birch Bay, WA
It wasn't until I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua this past week that I realized how similar and how different our parenting styles are or were or whatever because they are constantly evolving. I highly recommend this book. I've read a couple on attachment parenting and others from "experts" who may or may not have children. I've listened to the Total Transformation CDs and find that all of these methods contain some useful advice for child rearing. Does any one way work for every child? Nope. That's the beauty of parenting. You don't know what will work until you are in the trenches trying it out. Turns out you may just need a portion of each style. I appreciated Amy Chua's experiences and how she grew as a mother learning this valuable lesson.

Would I do everything that she does? No. I don't have the time, effort or will power to do what she did. But I probably would if I did. Or if I only had two children. I loved that she was so persistent with her daughter's musical training and that she made her practice for 6 hours to get a difficult portion of the piece learned. The sense of accomplishment at the conclusion of that day was immense. It seemed extreme...until I checked in with my reality.

While I do not make my children practice instruments, I do make Jett sit at the sink and do the dishes until they are done. And that has lasted on one or two occasions for the magical number of hours. Yes, on his worst day, that meant 6 long hellish hours. I'm unsure how many times I need to teach the same lesson. Obviously more than once. As much as I hate getting on him about sorting like items, filling the dishwasher to maximize what gets washed and checking off his "finished" work, I'm not going to give up on him or allow him to quit. There was an incredible sense of accomplishment when he finished. And a few days later when it was his turn again, he exclaimed to me, "I'm getting good at this Mom!" Yes, you are. Amazingly enough, it doesn't take more than 15-20 minutes if he focuses.

I don't believe we're done learning this lesson though. It often takes him 1-2 hours to get the job done. He puts his head on the counter to rest when he gets tired of looking at the sink full of dishes. He sneaks out when I'm distracted with other children. When he can't get the dishes done before dinner then he doesn't get to eat until the chore is done. It's really a nightmare. And the only thing that keeps me from thinking I'm a little extreme is comparing myself to Amy Chua. Then I feel better.

I'm not like this with just Jett, either. I had to sit with Graeden in his room yesterday for an hour sorting through his vast pile of clothes and sort clean/dirty/too small ones from the ones he actually wears. I sneaked out some of his favorite shirts (size 5) into a bag for Jett to inherit next fall, so overall it was a success.

The car stunk today. Like something had died in there. Yesterday I smelled a little something but thought it was Jett's bagged up, barfed on clothes he left in the car on Thursday. I left the car doors open all day/night to clear the smell. It didn't work, which led me to believe it wasn't the clothes.

My gracious father helped me for about half an hour sort through toys, garbage, papers, etc this morning and he couldn't find the source of the stink. On the way home we stopped off at the car wash vacuum and finished up the job. I thought we'd be out of there in 15 minutes...since the vacuum turns off after one minute. Nope. Forty-five minutes later, after I've been on them to get EVERYTHING out from under the seats, the boys admitted to knowing the source of the smell. I didn't believe what I was hearing at first. I thought they were talking about some other time a year or so ago when something similar had sweet, innocent Elliott has a knack for instigating trouble. As always, Jett was his accomplice.

It happened on Wednesday ... three days ago. The two boys decided to pee in the cubby next to the cup holders in the back seat. What?! Yes. Disgusting. I didn't recognize the urine smell because I was thinking urine smelled like peed in pants or sheets. This was still very liquid. Still collecting an increasing-beyond-recognition-stank each day it sat.

My name is Bridget. And I'm a slave driver. Making Elliott and Jett clean out the car. Trying not to gag while I supervise. Failure is not an option. We will be successful. I sincerely hope they got it all and Tymon won't ever smell this. We pick him up tonight. Once he's rested and ready to talk, I am going to suggest that he read Amy's book. Perhaps after his final quarter of grad school. Then we can figure out what Tiger Parenting techniques will work best for our individual children. Elliott needs some help getting his creative side in line.

March 24, 2011

Hard Things II

Two weeks ago, today, I became a single mom Tymon went to Ghana with a group of MBA students from the University of Washington. They are studying business in Africa and Tymon's group is focused on micro-finance. It's been rough. And hard. And exhausting not having him around...even if he usually gets home late on school nights and does homework and has group projects every weekend. Not having him home at all, even if he sometimes gets home after all the kids are in bed is different. Different meaning that being the sole person responsible for our children can be overwhelming.

I'm not complaining. This has been an incredible opportunity for Tymon. And if I'd been in the same position, I would have gone, too. I have experienced a valuable recurring life lesson these past couple of weeks though: I can do hard things.

Leaving the house with 4 small children can be rewarding and the pits at the same time. I've taken the kids to the Children's Hospital Health Fair, church, and to the office. There were plenty of activities at the fair and the only meltdowns toward the end (and the rest of the day for that matter), friends and family to help with the boys when Little Miss had meltdowns at church, and my brother to entertain the kids while I had a meeting and then meltdowns all the way home. When the meltdowns assault my ears at high decibels, I lose my amazingly kind and fun-loving personality...and it's all I can do to prevent myself from also having a meltdown. Hard to imagine, I know. Ha ha.

I am very grateful for the assistance I receive from friends and family. Thank you for all of you who have stepped in with a helping hand or invited us to dinner. What I don't know is how well I would've handled life if this were longer than short term. Single parenting is hard. I've thought often about a woman I know at church who had 6 kids in 7 years. When the youngest was 18 months old, she and her husband got divorced and she didn't get any child support. I'm sure she only survived those incredibly difficult years through a lot of prayer and by the kindness of others. I can only begin to imagine how challenging that must have been. She told me on Sunday that she was very grateful that she was able to work to support her family. Being able to work is a true blessing.

Not all single moms are so lucky. Her comment reminded me of a family I knew 20+ years ago. They had 7 children and one on the way. The father died in a tragic accident and the mother wasn't able to get a good job because she lacked the education/technical skills to do so. Baby #8 was then born with Down Syndrome. This family struggled on so many fronts and it took years to get the education and job needed to support the family. I know my parents tried to help and I'm sure many others did, too. I remember dropping Christmas presents on their doorstep, ringing the bell and running. But as I think back to how life must have been like for this mother, I am underwhelmed at my sacrifice for Tymon these past couple of weeks. No, my life is not so difficult. Challenging? Yes. But soon Tymon will be home and I'll be on to other challenges.

If you are a single parent, I am praying for you tonight. If you're not a single parent, please join me. And in the next week or two, let's do something to bring a smile to the face of at least one single parent. We can all do hard things together.

March 18, 2011

I Don't Buy It

Last night my sister-in-law and I, while my brother watched our kids, went to the movies. I don't go to very many...maybe just one or two a year, so you won't get many reviews out of me but you will tonight because I've been thinking about this one all day. I enjoyed seeing The Adjustment Bureau.

Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he's ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)-a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself-the men of The Adjustment Bureau-who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path... Written by Universal Pictures  
Here are my laugh out loud lines:
Elise Sellas: Were you just looking at my legs while I slept? 
David Norris: I was helpless against the dress. 
Elise Sellas: It's a skirt. 
David Norris: It's a belt! 

Despite great acting and cinematography, I had a few issues with the film. First, I didn't like the Adjustment Bureau guys. If they were supposed to be like God's angels, they did a crappy job of it. Angels are likable and helpful. Not controlling and manipulative. God granted us free will and I just don't buy the whole "you can't change your fate" line. It's garbage.

The second and greater issue I had with the film has to do with the romance of the main characters. They barely know each other and fall madly in love. That's not love. It's being in love with the idea of being in love. Those are simply two very different situations.

But what I hate even more is that I wish I had the same type of passionate fairy tale relationship. My brain tells me that this kind of "love" isn't real while at the same time my heart longs for some exciting wild adventure with someone who worships my every move. I'm not knocking Tymon here. It's just that he knows that in addition to all of my fabulous qualities that there are some not so nice things...sometimes I'm cranky and yell at the kids or even get frustrated with him. Only my inner circle knows that I can flatulate with the best of them ... and occasionally blame it on my kids. Quite honestly, I wouldn't even be happy trying to keep up an image of perfection. Yet a part of me wants to and wonders if this illusion of love can be real.

I don't believe I'm alone in my desires. Hollywood wouldn't make any money if this all too common story line didn't sell. And it wouldn't sell if everyone had a wonderful happily ever after relationship. (Case in point, compare the difference in profits between documentary and blockbuster films.) All new relationships age, some flat-line and revive. Others fail. Rather than always needing a new relationship it's far healthier to work on and appreciate the ones we already have.

I'm grateful for a loving husband who works diligently to provide a good life for our family. We have been blessed with several children, great friends and neighbors, good health, a nice home and a comfortable life. Tymon and I hold common religious and political views and practices, come together on financial concerns and enjoy spending time with one another. Though not always perfect, we have a solid relationship.

So, thank you Adjustment Bureau for reminding me that I have a ton of blessings. Today I choose not to fall prey to your deceptive view on love. I just don't buy it.

March 12, 2011

Health Fair

I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to go out this morning with my kids to Children's Hospital in Seattle. They had a Health Fair going on that I really wanted to attend...not just because they were giving away bicycle helmets (that Graeden really wanted...but I could care less about) and high back booster seats were $15 but mainly I wanted to see their facilities. We toured an operating room and saw some of the high tech equipment they have and also got some information on their NICU and pediatric cardiologists. We're praying we don't actually need those services...but just in case we do, it was a great day to introduce the kids to Children's. Elliott had a soft cast put on his Lamby's foot and tagged her belly with a wrist name band. Jocelyn checked her Baby's heartbeat and looked inside her ears. They loved it. And though I was nervous about being pregnant and not feeling like doing much of anything, I did it. And it was good.

Going out to teriyaki this afternoon was another story. Let's just call it a hellish nightmare. And the rest of the evening was more of the same. My children are wild. Seriously. I don't even recognize them sometimes. The weirdest thing though is that Jett was good today. He didn't get one spanking and I never raised my voice to him. Usually he's the first to start whining. Nope, today it was Bully Graeden who started it. I'm glad they are finally all in bed. And by all, I mean all of the boys. Jocelyn won't sleep until I do. But she's busy playing with hospital gloves and other paraphernalia from today.

March 11, 2011

Top Shelf

I finally did it. I took my box of maternity clothes down from the top shelf of my closet this morning. I had forgotten that I actually like some of my clothes in there...mostly the ones I got when I was pregnant with Jocelyn and a fabulous sales clerk turned into my personal shopper. I really wanted to put on some pants that I could button up.

I was so surprised that near the top was a pair of jeans. Cute ones. Full length and not capris. Score! After 2 minutes I discovered that these were the dreaded pants that have a lousy waistband that slip down and take my undies with them. Eek.

I'm now wearing a pair of maternity jeans I got 8 years ago. Not as cute, but at least they have belt loops so they stay up. I did come across a product today that would solve my problem with the first looks like a glorified pair of suspenders. So the real question is whether or not I'll really buy some.

Belly Ups

March 9, 2011

Tricks and Giggles

This afternoon, when the nurse told me that they were planning on doing a transvaginal ultrasound to check on my marginal placenta previa, I was quite surprised. And horrified really. Talk about invasive! The sonographer did the regular belly one first and found that in fact the placenta had moved up. Here's Baby Girl laughing hard at her neat trick. No placenta previa for me. I think she moved it right before. Ha ha. Funny funny. I'm so grateful to be clear of this hurdle.

Thank you all for your prayers on Baby Girl's behalf. Her pulmonary artery branches are growing. Not tons. But enough for now. Instead of being 2.5 to 3 standard deviations below normal, now she's only 2 below normal. We are still praying that over the next couple of months that they will continue to grow. Her blood flow looks good and there don't seem to be any blockages or pent up flow. I find myself now daring to hope that she won't need a heart surgery after all. And just maybe this is a blessing Heavenly Father wants to grant her.

March 8, 2011

Dimitry* (not his real name)

Just over a month ago, I read Tiffany Taylor Wines' article about Dimitry, a 10 year old boy from Russia she hosted in her home last summer. And my heart went out to this boy. Seriously. I talked to the agency about him last week. They prefer adopted children be a year younger than the youngest child in the home ... which doesn't fit our family but maybe we could get an exception ... I talked with the boys about it one night. Graeden was especially excited about the prospect of having an older brother.

It turns out the main issue preventing us from adopting Dimitry is not the ages of our children, its that Baby Girl will also be joining our family this summer...and we'd have to be available to travel to Russia 2-3 times in the next 4-8 months to complete an adoption. Eek. Unfortunately that won't work for us, especially considering we may have some hospital stays in our future.

But maybe I'm just supposed to be a messenger and advocate for Dimitry. Maybe he's actually supposed to be in your family. Seriously read the article. Look at this boy. Is he yours? 
If he is, we will do what we can to help you adopt him.
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