Sunday, February 27, 2011

Family Time

I was in the library the other day looking for book on Quickbooks, so I found myself in the computer section, and I saw the book 'Blogging for Dummies'.  That makes sense.  I mean, I am not very adept at the computer (no comments on that statement from my faithful following in France! ; ) so I can see how that would be a good book for someone who was new to blogging to check out.  But then, there were other books on blogging, and one of them was something like 1,000 idea for your blog.  That one I do not understand.  I mean I guess some people blog to make money or something, but for the most part, isn't a blog supposed to be where you can say what you want to say, express yourself and let other people who may be far away into your life?  My problem is that I often have so many ideas that I have to pick just one to write about on a day and then by the next day, I have other things I want to say so I can never catch up.  Why would one need ideas to write about?  If you don't have anything to write about, then why write?

The point of my blog here is not just to take up airspace.  I want to share things that are important, interesting or funny to me with people who are important, interesting or funny to me.  So, I will make a promise here and now to all of you out there:

I hereby promise that I will not write anything if I don't have anything to write about.

Ok.  That being out of the way, here's what I have to say today!

I think I have mentioned this before, but every Friday evening, or at least once a week if it can't be on Friday, we try to have family time.  We have a lot of time together as a family, but I feel like sometimes that even though we have a lot of time together, we don't really do much together.  We eat together every day, and we often cook together or clean together or garden together, but at least once a week, we try to do something fun together.  Nothing spectacular, just something out of our every day routine.

For example, the Friday after Jake passed away, we went to the city pound to donate his remaining dog food and just to visit the animals they have there.  Although Elizabeth was hopeful, we were in NO WAY going to bring an animal home, but it was interesting to see them all.  (Did you know that they do birthday parties there?  I was pretty amazed at that, but we saw one going on there.  Kinda weird.)

This is in the car on the way there.  Yes, all 3 of the kids fit in the back of our 2 door Ford Focus.  We only use the van when we have more people going than just our family.



The next week, we went to Elizabeth's school for a drama competition that Elizabeth was in.  It was really fun and the kids did great, but, of course, I forgot my camera, so I don't have any picture of that one.  Sorry.

Then, this weekend, we I decided that we should go to the National History Museum in DC.  Since it is black history month, there was a special exhibit on the American Girl Doll, Addy.  So, during the week, we read the Meet Addy book out loud and then we got ready to go to the museum.  Elizabeth's fried Annie went with us.

This is pancakes before we left...


...and lunch while we were there (do you see a theme of what we take pictures of here?)

And here's Gabriel because he wasn't in any of the other pictures.

And then Jimmy took a picture of Jo eating Gabriel's head...



And then Gabriel's crazy bed head hair.


And then Elizabeth's head getting taken off by a Ninja Turtle.

I had nothing to do with this one, either

And then this one, where Jimmy is watching soccer and Elizabeth is enjoying her book (I can't wait until the middle of March!  Then all those boxes and stuff will  be gone!)

And I realized that even though it's good to plan things to do together as a family, it hardly ever is the things that you plan that end up being the family time.

I ran across another blog that spoke about this very thing, and the way he said it was so good that I am going to link it at the end of this blog.  Take a look at it.  You'll like it.  Promise.

But wait...I have one picture that I forgot to put at the beginning of the blog.  This happened before the breakfast pancakes....


No pancakes for you, Little Mousey!

So the battle continues.  If I were a betting woman, I'd put my money on the kitties!

Anyway, here is the link to the other blog.  Check it out...but be sure to come back here!  ; )

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Right Tools

I thought of something interesting while I was cooking dinner tonight that I would like to share with you.

BUT...

I know that some of you are curious to find out what happened with Katherine and her school issue, so I would like to address that first.

She will be going to another school starting tomorrow.  She has been out of school all this week due to some issues in getting her enrolled.  I want to tell you the whole story, but I will wait until tomorrow when we will find out exactly how the enrollment in this new school goes.

SO...

I will let you in on what occurred to me tonight while I was cooking.

It all started with this:

Actually, it ENDED with this, but it started with my desire to COOK this.

I found this recipe on page 193 of the March 2011 issue of the magazine REAL SIMPLE.  It is called Asian Pork with Snow Peas, Red Peppers, and Soba Noodles.  It goes in the crock pot and can be done in 4.5 hours.  Of course, you can also do it on the stove in a covered pot.  (And I think it can work with a grass and sticks diet!  You know who you are!)  Now, that is nothing fancy, but you have to understand...

I never cook things like this.  Ever.  When I was little in my mom's house, we ate Hamburger Helper and all sorts of different things mixed in with fried rice and cooked up on the stove.  We didn't try new stuff, and we never ate ethnic food.  So, when I moved out of the house, you can guess what I cooked.  You got it!  Hamburger Helper and other foods that mostly came out of boxes or took minimal effort or skill to prepare.

I was always interested in cooking, and I knew my way around a kitchen, (I got Best Chef award in Home Ec!  Go me!) but I only had the basic stuff in my kitchen so I could really only make the basic recipes.  Then I started selling Pampered Chef, and I liked what I saw in the catalog and I began to earn some of that cool stuff to use in my own kitchen.

And I began to lose my fear of the unknown and to try new recipes because I had the know-how and the right tools for the job.  (For example, before I got some of the knives from Pampered Chef, all I had was a plastic handled job from the Dollar Spot at Target.  You can imagine trying to cut, slice and dice with THAT!)  Having the right tools for the job allowed me to make this, and other, new recipes that had a taste way different from anything that I have ever cooked before.  Not only that, but because I have been cooking more new and interesting meals, it has been easier to get everyone involved and cooking dinner has become more of a family event rather than me (or Elizabeth) slaving in the kitchen over something that really has the same taste as everything else we have eaten and that no one really wants.

***Disclaimer...we don't cook fun stuff every night, so don't go thinkin' I'm the next Rachel Ray!  :)  ***

Anyway, on to my point (and yes, my mind does work in little loops like this pretty much all the time):

You can't do a job right if you don't have the right tools!  

I know.  That's simple.  But wait!  Let me apply it!

We expect our kids to be smart, fun, kind, good people with great futures.  But, if any of  you out there are anything like me, your days can often be filled with no's or reprimands to your kids without the backup of what they are SUPPOSED to do.  I was thinking about this even more since tomorrow is Friday which means that Jo doesn't have school so she will be home with us all day, but Jimmy and I have to be working and she needs to entertain herself.  She's only 3.  So, I have to ask myself...have I given Jo the tools she needs to do her 'job' tomorrow right?  Or will my day just be filled with 'Jo, stop whining!  Jo, go play!  Jo, Mommy needs to work right now!....

If I want Jo to do the right thing, I have to provide her with the right tools...workbooks, coloring books, blocks, puzzles, a certain time when we will play together...things like that.

But what about our lives as Christians?  In order for us to do our job right, we have to have the right tools, too.  What are our tools?  Well, the Bible, of course, and prayer, but what about the other tools that are not so obvious?  Time is a tool.  Do we use it wisely?  I know I don't.  What about money?  Are we good stewards?  And food?  Do we eat right to keep ourselves healthy?

But the main thing is this:  Are we passing down these 'tools' to our children so that they are fully equipped for the life path that God has planned for them?  And are we showing them the right way to use these tools?

I don't know about you, but it made me stop and think a bit.   Do Elizabeth, Jo and Gabriel see Jimmy and I using the 'tools' that God has given us every day?  Are we passing down these tools...prayer, stewardship, good health choices, good time management...along with showing them how to use them so that our kids will feel ready and capable when it's time for them to move out from under our wings?  I can see some areas where I certainly need some work.

I don't know.  Maybe because of the situation with Katherine, I have been thinking a lot about the kids I come in contact with them and what they learn or don't learn from me during the time that I get to spend with them.

Anyway...since I know that Asian Pork dish looks so yummy sitting on my plate (it's now sitting comfortably in my tummy!), I will share the recipe.  I must say, though, that I rarely follow a recipe to the letter.  So, for your edification, I will put here the modifications that I made.  If you want the original recipe, you can find it in REAL SIMPLE.

1/2 c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (next time I would use less...it was a little on the sweet side for me)
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (I used olive oil because I don't have sesame oil)
3 large mushroom, sliced
1 1-in piece fresh ginger peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2.5 lbs pork shoulder trimmed and cut into 2 in pieces (or you could use chicken or whatever meat you want)
12 oz Chinese noodles (it calls for soba noodles but I don't know what that it)
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
frozen peas, carrots, green beans or snow peas
chopped roasted peanuts, for serving

In the crock pot stir together the first 7 ingredients.  Add the pork and toss to combine.  Cover and cook until pork is tender 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low (or you can cook it on the stove top until the pork is tender.)

15 minutes before serving, cook the noodles according to the package.  Add the bell peppers and frozen vegetables to the water during the last minute of cooking.

Meanwhile, transfer the pork to a medium bowl and set aside.  Pour the cooking liquid into a large skillet and boil until slightly thickened, 4-5 mins.  Add the pork and toss to combine.  Serve the pork over the noodles and vegetables.  Top with chopped roasted peanuts.

Here's how it looks:

All the good stuff ready for the pot.



The easiest way to slice mushrooms!


 In the crockpot (that my friend Doralyn gave me as a gift 14 years ago!!!)


 Cookin' the noodles


Lots of veggies in this one!


I think I might be hungry again...but this was such a hit, there's no leftovers!

Elizabeth shelled the peanuts and I chopped them in the food chopper.  I wasn't paying attention so I almost pulverized some of them!


Now, for some free, shameless advertising, here's my website if you want some of the 'right' tools for your kitchen!  www.pamperedchef.biz/hellokitchen  :)

And, if you happen to try this recipe, let me know how it turns out!


I've linked to somewhat simple today.

somewhat simple button

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You're Beautiful

This is a photo story that Elizabeth made for her English class.  I was very proud of her for being brave enough to put her name to this in a public school.

Turn on your speakers, and turn them up LOUD!!!




video

Ode Little Mousey

Oh, Little Mousey
I know you're still there
Stealing my marshmallows
As if I would not care



You have stolen our cat food,
Dog food and our cornflakes, too
You think you are sneaky,
But we saw you.

With cornflakes in your mouth
Into that hole you did scurry
You were little and gray
And yes, you were furry.

But furry or not,
These snacks aren't for you!
They are for Elizabeth, Jo
And Gabriel, too.

Around my house
On stinky feet you do creep
Looking for something;
Hoping for a treat.

But I am not worried
Oh, no!  I will not fret
'Cause I know in my heart
My kitties will find you yet!

Oh, Little Mousey
You've had a good time
All through our house
Every night you did climb

But your scavenger days
Will soon be done
Because after you
My hungry cats will run

Ask me if I feel
An ounce of regret
And No! I will tell you
Not one little speck!

You decided to ignore
My gentle pleas for relief
You stayed and you snacked
Much to my disbelief

So on little kitties!
Georgie, Little Boy, Dixie and Half-Cat, too
Get up from your slumber
You've got work to do!






Monday, February 21, 2011

No Child Left Behind?

This is a  long post.  It has no pictures.  But I have to share this story because it is very near to my heart:

Many of you know Katherine, my 9 year old charge.  (And those of you who do know her and will see her again, I ask that you treat the information in this posting respectfully.)  Her mother came to me at the beginning of the summer 2 years ago.  Katherine had not passed the 2nd grade and her mother and her father were not doing well together and her mom was looking for a safe place for Katherine to stay and go to school.  I have known Katherine since she was born, so I said, sure, she can stay with us and we can enroll her in the school that is right behind our house.  So we did just that and Katherine came to our house every day at 7:00AM and stayed all day with us often until 6PM or later, and sometimes spending the night here.  

That summer, Katherine and I got to know each other again since we had been out of touch for a few years, and when school started and she was enrolled in the 2nd grade at her new school, I went to meet her teacher and we worked on her reading and comprehension and together Katherine, her teacher and I pulled Katherine up from where she was to a passing level.  Katherine's mother does not speak English, so it was a struggle for Katherine to learn to read and then to catch up on all the vocabulary that she was missing, but she made huge strides during her first year here with us.  We kept the TV off, went to the library often and checked her homework every day.  She also went with us to church on Wednesday nights where she met with other kids and learned how to memorize Bible verses, which is a very good learning tool, too.  Not only because of the verses she was learning, but also because it helped her learn to study.

Also, Katherine was...shall we say...a bit un-athletic.  So, that first fall, we enrolled her in soccer, then in basketball for the winter season, soccer again for the spring and got her on the swim team for the summer.  Now THAT was a feat!  Our swimming team is VERY competitive, and Katherine could not put her head under the water let alone swim the length of the pool to pass the swim test.  So, a month before swim team started, we got her lessons from a friend and she went every week and learned to manage herself in the water.  I prayed so hard that she would get on the team, and by a miracle, she did!  We were so excited, and so was she!

During this time, her mom and dad were in and out of their relationship, and Katherine's mother found out that she was pregnant in April of 2010.  The baby was due in December.  But Katherine was still doing well.  She started school again in the fall and was passed to the 3rd grade!  She is still not fully up to speed, but we kept working with her and her teacher and kept her in books and checking homework, and she was slowly inching her way up the reading ladder.  Her teacher said that there was a slight concern that Katherine might have a learning disability, but that with continued effort on all of our parts, she should be able to catch up and stay on course.

Then her little sister was born right after Christmas.  So, Katherine's mom took maternity leave and started taking Katherine to school and picking her up instead of Katherine coming here to our house.  This was great for Katherine to have some quality time with her mom and new sister, but unfortunately, her mother has Maryland tags on her car. 

Last Thursday, as Katherine was getting out of her mother's car at school, the drop off line attendant asked Katherine who dropped her off.  Katherine said that it was her mom who brought her to school that day.  Then the lady asked if she came across a bridge to get to school, so Katherine said that yes, she did.  Later that day, they pulled Katherine out of school and took her to the office to quiz her more.  They asked her where she lived and she said that she lived in Maryland.

So, the school called Katherine's mom and told her that she needed to take Katherine out of school and that Friday would be Katherine's last day in that school.  Katherine's mom called me crying to try to fix it.  I called in to see what was going on and said that Katherine stayed with us and had been for 2 years but that her mother had just had a baby and that Katherine was staying with her for the maternity leave and that the following Monday, Katherine would be back with us.  They said it didn't matter.  We needed to adopt Katherine in order to keep her in the school or her mother needed to live here and that they would send the police to our house today to check to see if her mother lived with us if we persisted in sending Katherine to school.

Then, I got a call from Elizabeth's elementary school from last year saying that I was being investigated concerning fraud and allowing other people to use my address to attend schools in the area.  So basically, if I push this, I will be in a lot of trouble.  My hands are tied.

So, Katherine, who is an at risk student in so many ways, both in her home life and her school life, is being yanked from her school and from the safe environment that is our house.   She will be put into another school in the middle of the year.  She will end up staying with her aunt who has learning disabilities and does not speak English and did not finish high school.  She will probably not play sports any more since she is being moved out of this district, and she will probably not be able to participate in swimming, either, since her school is now far away from us and the pool and swim starts before the school year is over. 

How is this really fair?  Because of tax dollars, a 9 year old child's entire school career and very possibly her life's direction is completely changed.  This child stays with us every day.  We take care of her.  We are involved in her education.  We are trying to help her be her best and yet, while there are whole other families who just come directly from over the bridge and dump their children off at school, Katherine has been picked out to be pushed out. 

I sad and disappointed.  I feel like the dreams and goals that Katherine and I were building together have been dashed to the ground.  She and I often talked about how she could be the first one in her family to go to college.  How she wanted to play the trumpet and how she was so excited with every reading level she passed.

I know that changing a school does not make all these things disappear.  But I also know that without a strong advocate, she is very likely to get lost and just be another name and number in the crowd of kids.

I also know that I can go to her new school and be involved there, but do I have the time to do that?  How much of my own family can I sacrifice for this?  It will not be the same.

Maybe this will be a good thing.  Maybe it will push her father to be more active in her life.  Maybe I can still pick her up on Wednesdays for church, and maybe her cousins can come, too.  There can be good things that come out of this, but honestly, I can say that I am just disappointed.

I am disappointed in a system that looks so much at the 'rules' without looking at the heart of the matter.

And I am sad for Katherine, a child who is being left behind.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ancient Artifacts

My mother-in-law, whose name is Yolanda, Jimmy and I have decided to have a vegetable garden this summer.  Well, to be honest, my mother-in-law and I decided to have a vegetable garden this summer, and so we decided that Jimmy would make us one.  Being the 2 women in the house, he decided that if he wanted to continue to live and eat happily, he would make us happy and comply.

I have had gardens in the past, in fact I usually throw a few tomatoes and cukes in the ground every year and then aim the hose at them occasionally and hope for the best and harvest a few veggies before the weeds take over.  But last summer, Yolanda and I went to pick out the seedlings, and then we planted them, like usual.  But then, Yolanda actually watered them daily and kept them weeded, so we had a pretty good crop of tomatoes before they got too crowded and before something weird happened to the cukes (but that is another story).  So, after enjoying the bounty for almost the whole summer, we decided to actually do things right this year and expand the plot.

This is all we have had in the past years:




As you can see, it is a pretty small plot to support a family of 7.  So, Saturday morning, since it was unseasonably warm around here, Jimmy got up bright and early and started hoeing the sod off the top of the area we have decided to garden.




Of course, Elizabeth and Jo wanted to help, so chaos ensued (and yes, Jimmy was 'posed' in this picture.  He did not actually swing the hoe that high and in the direction of the girls' heads!  Jo, however, has her wild hair naturally.)

I know that this is not that big of a space, either, but the problem is that our yard is not really that big and we spend a lot of time playing in the front yard, and this is the only space that doesn't get used.  The back yard has the swing set in it, but when we are going to play together as a family, unless it is around a campfire, we are in the front yard because it is bigger, flatter and unobstructed by stuff like the swing set, the clothes line and dog poo.



While they were digging, I was mixing up the compost.  We have a bio-orb where we dump all our compost-able kitchen garbage.



First, I got Jimmy to roll it to get the preliminary mix going,



and then I used the hoe to mix it some more.  I think we need to wait a little longer before it is ready, but it is really starting to look good!  The problem is that we keep adding to it.  I think that I need to get another one and use them on a rotation.

You can see the raspberry bushes growing in from the side in this picture.  I am hoping to actually get some raspberries off it this year.  In the fall of 2009 someone (who will remain nameless but whose name starts with a J) cut all the stalks off down to the ground.  Raspberries only grow on 2 year old stalks, so you can guess how many berries we got off our bush last summer! (Hint:  x <1)

Anyway, while Jimmy was digging out front, he came across these things buried in the dirt:






I thought this was fascinating.  I have lived in this house for 13 years, so most of these things are ours, but I was thinking about how in 100's of years, someone could be excavating here and find these things.  What would they think they are?  I mean the fork and the straw are pretty self explanatory, unless in 100's of years people no longer eat.  But what about the bottle caps and the pop tab?  I am sure that someone will come up with a better way to handle packaging drinks.  The nail polish still has a label on it so far, but what about the knife handle (which I am not sure how that got out there.  It was one of my better knives and it disappeared one day about 7 years ago when we were living in Hawaii.) and the bottom half of the pacifier?  The rubber part is missing, so what would someone think that was?  I don't even know what some of the other things are.

You know, it got me to thinking on 2 things.  First, we make assumptions on who people were and how they lived when we look at the ancient remains of their trash and bones and what-not.  But what if we have it all wrong and and we are only looking at the handle of the knife or the bottom of the pacifier and never figure out what the other end looked like?  I know that there are experts in this stuff, but it just got me to wonder about that.

But the other part that I started to think about was our lives as Christians.  When we leave somewhere are we leaving the whole picture?  Can people look at what we leave behind and know our whole selves and see the story of God in what we do?  Or do we just leave old rusty parts behind as we go through life?  Work with me on this one a little bit.  Like I said, I've been in this house for 13 years.  When I leave this house, what am I leaving behind?  Will the neighbors be able to say, 'Yep, that was a Christian family' or will they say, 'Well, they went to church every Sunday, but I don't know beyond that.'?  As I do life, am I leaving behind a whole shiny knife or a whole pacifier or am I leaving behind pieces that don't work, aren't any good and you can't really tell what they were unless you are familiar with them. 

My prayer is that I step out everyday and show through my actions and through love for those around me that God dwells here in me and in my house.  I pray that even though I may not get to talk to everyone, people around me can see God hand working through me.

Anyway, that was just a thought that I had.

Here is the garden so far:

All that's left is to add some soil conditioner, till it up and get it planted.  I'm so excited!  With both gardens together, we may actually be able to do some real growing!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Of Mice and Men and Other Loose Ends

We live in a transient neighborhood.  A lot of the houses are rented, which makes for high turnover.  The houses are small and great rentals or starter homes.  The house next to ours is one of those.  It has changed hands at least 4 times in the 12 years that we have been here.  The last owners did not take care of it at all and finally lost it to foreclosure.

So, it sat empty for a while and the weeds grew and the trash built up in the yard until it was purchased by an agent who wanted to flip it.  That meant that they came in and quickly cleaned out the weeds and took away the trash and turned the sad house into a happy house that sold quickly.

And that meant that all the mice that had been living there came here to look for a new home!  And they all came into the laundry room.  This posed a problem because that is where the dog was, so we couldn't set traps or put out poison and the cats would not go there.  We were able to catch them one by one in the cat food bags, but it wasn't enough and they started to take over the house through the walls.  It was horrible!  You could hear them in the ducts and in the vents.  I really didn't know what to do.  But, as you know, our dog passed away last week, so we could now take care of the problem.

I know that they are mice, and I know that I do not want them in my house, but I also know that if we use poison, then an infected mouse could get eaten by a cat and infect the cat, and anyway, I don't really like to think of the mice suffering.  That is why I didn't really want to use the snap traps, either.  So, I went to the hardware store and I got some of the humane traps.  These did not work at all.  I toyed with the idea of putting the cats in the vents, but common sense vetoed that idea.

But FINALLY!  The cats caught on and we started to see this everywhere!

At last I can justify all that money in cat food!  The cats are earning their keep!  And as much as I don't want to trap the mice and kill them, I figure that if the cats catch them, then it is nature and they have their fair chance.   Besides the fact that I have repeatedly told the mice to go elsewhere and even asked politely.  They had their chance.

The only problem is that we find them everywhere.  Apparently the cats think that it is a nice gift to leave us dead mice where we will most likely step on them in the dark.

But, after a few days of mice bodies EVERYWHERE, I think that they are gone, and I think that the cats are disappointed.   It was really funny, by the way, to see the 2 outdoor cats walk up each one carrying a mouse in its mouth.  I think the younger, more agile cat caught an extra one a just let the older cat carry it around for a while.  I can't imagine that my 15 year old cat can still catch a mouse!

As for old business, those of you who were wondering whatever happened to Elizabeth and her desire to become a vegetarian, well, here's how it went: 

At our last family meeting, we decided together that being a vegetarian is not really what she wants to do right now, nor what will really fit in with the rest of the family.  So, we decided that we would eat less red meat, which we hardly ever eat anyway, and as our budget allows, we will work toward eating more organic and free range chickens and turkeys so that we know that even though we are eating them, they had a good life while they were here.  This seemed to be a good compromise that made everyone happy.

Of course, we could just eat all these mice...they are free range, after all!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Word-full Wednesday

Well, so it's supposed to be Wordless Wednesday again.  But, this is my blog, so I can do what I want with it, and by golly, I've got some words this Wednesday.  But first, here are some pictures I gathered during this week that I really wanted to share:


This is 'graffiti' written in the snow on the wall outside the library.  This made my day!  Only outside of a library will the 'bad boys' write e=mc(squared)!




Gabriel and Jo are actually starting to play together.  It is so great to watch their relationship start to unfold.  Jo is such a wonderful big sister.  She has much more patience with baby Gabe than her big sister does!




Elizabeth's Valentine's earrings.  Yes, she finally got her ears pierced.  My mother-in-law did it on Christmas eve...in the dining room...with a sharp point.  Yeah.  I would have remained un-pierced.


Ummm....yeah.  So this potato just looked really cool.
 Like a dinosaur foot or something.

So, about those words I have...I will start with one word:  HUGS

Now, this word in general is an up-beat, happy word.  It makes you feel good to think about it and it makes you feel good to get and to give one.  So why am I feeling anxiety over this word?  I will tell you.

This is why.  This is my very hug-able 12 year old daughter.  I do not remember this happening when I was a teenager.  I do not remember the irresistible urge to run around and hug people and be hugged back.  Maybe that was because I am not a big hugging person or maybe that was because I went to a small private school where hugs were outlawed.  Either way, I am having a hard time with all this hugging!

It started out as a few passive hugs in church.  Hello hugs between teenage friends.  They grated on my nerves...the limp arms being held out waiting for someone to slip into them and allow themselves to be draped with these limp arms, but then it progressed.  For some, it turned into a squeal and a run across the room to slam into a friend and squeeze the life out of them, but the more 'mature' crowd began to use the hugs as a form of acceptance,  (He won't hug me.  He must not like me anymore), or a form of possession (I am hugging him and hanging on his arm.  Now no one else can hug him.).  And this started to really bother me.  As the year has progressed, and all of our children have begun to mature and grow more into their adult bodies, I began to think more about the significance of these hugs.  Who was giving them?  Who was receiving them?  What was the purpose behind them?

So I asked Elizabeth those questions one night as we were relaxing before bed.  This conversation was sparked because Elizabeth informed me that she had finally gotten someone to hug her.  So, I thought, this has turned into a conquest!

I am an organizer.  I like to sort and rationalize.  I like to solve puzzles and put every piece in its place.  (Not that my house is organized...I am much better at smaller projects, like my sock drawer.  Yeah, buddy, it's a rainbow in there.  I'm the sock MASTER!)  So, true to my personality, I began to disect the anatomy of the hug with Elizabeth.

Now, most of you who are reading this post either are teenagers now (or close to it) or have been one in the past.  So, bear with me and think about what is going through the minds of typical teenage boys and girls.  A hug starts with a desire.  You do not see teens running around and hugging people that they don't like.  So, you have to start with a desire.  That can be a simple, innocent desire:  Girl to girl: You are my friend.  I am human and like human touch.  Let's hug.  Or, it can be more planned:  You are not my friend.  I want you to be my friend.  You hug your friends.  If I can get you to hug me, then you will be my friend.  Or, it can be devious:  I do not like you, but I don't want you to know that because I can use you.  I will hug you so you think I am your friend and I can maintain control over you.

But the part that really bothers me is the girl to guy thing.  Please, tell me if I am wrong, but guys don't really just go around and hug, guy to guy.  Handshakes, yes.  A slap on the back, I get it.  But hugs?  Frontal contact hugs?  Yeah.  Right.  So, why would any guy want to hug a girl?  I don't think  you have to search too far to find the answer to THAT one.

So, what is the TRUE purpose behind these hugs?  To say 'hello'?  So, say it!  To be sure of friendship?  It takes more than a hug to be a friend.

In Youth Group tonight, they were talking about this, among other things, and Mr Kevin's comments on it (as told to me by Elizabeth) were that hello hugs were fine, but there was a line that shouldn't be crossed.  And I fully agree.  100%  But how do we know where that line is?  How does a teenager, who hugs for so many different reasons, step back and say, well now, that hug crossed the line.  Let's try it again.  And for some teens, it is hard for them to say to a girl, you know, I really don't like you that way.  Can you please give me some space?

My bottom line on this for right now until our teens gain a little more maturity and practice in friend and 'romantic' relationships is this:  Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten:

Keep your hands to yourself!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

I am not one to really like holidays.  I mean, I like the holidays where we can get off work, but those are rather few and far between, so I guess I have come to see holidays like Valentine's Day as just another way that the stores market to us and take our money and get people to buy their kids candy and useless stuff that ends up in the rubbish or in the donation bag almost as soon as it comes in the house.

But, now that our family is expanding or perhaps because our Elizabeth is growing up so fast and I have started to realize that she only has 5 years after this school year before she goes off to college, we have began to make a concentrated effort to spend more time together as a family creating traditions and memories that will stick with the kids as they grow.  It is actually interesting to me that this concept has only recently hit me.  Perhaps it is because Elizabeth was born when I was so young and then there were so many years between her and Jo.  During those years we were a very nontraditional family and she was my awesome sidekick that explored the world with me.  Perhaps that is why it did not really hit me until recently to try to establish some some of traditions that the kids can hold on to when they are older.

So, I decided that it would be a great idea if we would make the Valentine's cards for Jo's class.  There are only 10 cards to be made, so I thought that this would be a great thing to do together. And ultimately, it was!

 It started reluctantly for some.....

 ...but Gabriel and Jo dove right in.


Elizabeth took a little longer to warm up to the idea...Mom, how long do we have to do this?
                                            Of course, our cat Georgie was included.

                       And while Jo was nicely decorating her construction paper,


Gabriel tried to eat the glitter glue.  I guess he wanted to leave me a special
Valentine in his diaper.  That's sweet, but no thanks, Gabe.  I'll pass.





Then the serious work began while I took Gabe off to bathe him.


Yay!  All clean and wrapped in his bunny towel.


I am still kind of new at this whole documenting the production of something, so I forgot to take a picture of all the finished cards!  They were really cute, though, and a big hit in Jo's class.



                                          I did get a picture of this, though....
                                                                         My Valentine