Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Days in LaPorte and Long-distance Parenting

A couple weeks ago we found out that Major Man's best friend's mom was dying. A major stroke and they removed the feeding tube... and we waited.

It felt horrible and morbid and so much like last year when we were waiting for Major Man's dad to pass away.

Do we book flights? Do we tell work? Do we go before they die or after? How can we get the best flight price so we don't go into debt? Can we get childcare?

Thankfully we live in the same neighborhood as my mom and she came through (again).

After I'd been here in LaPorte just one day, my son had a rough day at school. So we texted and phoned and tried to understand what was going on and help the principal arrange for my mom to get him - he was angry and throwing a tantrum and using swear words. He couldn't be in the classroom and I couldn't do anything about it.

It's a helpless feeling - like something is just happening to you and you can't do anything about it. I wonder if it's the same feeling my son experiences when he is having this trouble. My mind races and all I can think is "make it better, make it better, make it better". It's hard for me to put the responsibility on my son. He's eight. He needs to be responsible for his actions. He needs to make his own choices and maybe it's best when I'm not able to help him. Not able to make excuses.

I try to deconstruct what happened. What was said, who heard it, is it he-said-she-said or legitimate? Is he lying? Are they lying? I try separate what happened and his behavior.... try to tell him over the phone that even though he says he's not lying and even though he's mad and even if he's completely righteously angry... he's still responsible for his own behavior. Using swear words and ripping up paper is not the way to go.

At one point he had written two swear words about another child in his notebook and this little voice inside my head started whispering (don't make a big deal about it... shhhhhh). Because I wait for the day that a teacher says my son *can't* write something. Because - helloooo - I'm a writer. Unfortunately I haven't figured out in my own mind how (if) the freedom of expression should be limited in the classroom when it comes to writing. Speaking, yeah... writing? I'm not sure.

As my son gets older, I have to curb my instinct to protect him, to allow him to fall and fail more often when it's within his own power to make his own decisions. But it's so hard. I half expect the teachers to protect him but I know it's not possible in a classroom with 17 other students.

My son (8 years old) gets a long with girls quite well - he is an emotional kid at the best of times and when two girls started whispering and leaving him out of a conversation he reacted poorly. I try to tell him that it's ok if they don't want to play at that moment and it's ok for them to have a private conversation... and the school tells all three of them that it's important not to let others feel left out.

Major Man is good at this sort of thing. He can separate and evaluate what happens at school and identify where a kid should be responsible for his own behavior and when the school needs to step in. Maybe it's because this is his step-son, I don't know... all I know is that all my logical behavior seems to go out the window and Mama Bear takes over and I have to rein her in. It's more frustrating but easier to do when I'm thousands of miles away in another country... and phone calls cost a dollar a minute!

But the funny thing is - I feel the distance whether I'm right there or far away. I feel that there's nothing I can do to cross the chasm between Mother Protector and supporting my son's independence by making him responsible for his own actions. Either way it's parenting from a distance.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hey, Kid, Are You OK?

I'm really enjoying my Standard First Aid Course this weekend. Weird, I know, but I think in another life I could be an EMT or something... Now I'm a coiled spring, waiting for someone to drop so I can practice my mad life saving skillz.

When I came home I figured I'd pass on my knowledge. Witness my kids' mad life saving skills.

M practices "hey, kid, are you ok?"

Then it's 'chin lift' and look, listen, feel...then Airway check and Breathing check...

CPR or Circulation
I have to admit, he's got some good skillz... he even knew what to do (I'm not sure where he learned them!) and how quick you are supposed to do the chest compressions... and he knew (and made sure to tell me) that when you practice on another person you aren't supposed to do it FOR REALS. Smart kid that one. 

E had a different technique. 

"Hey kid, are you ok? Let me maul you, just to check."

Airway check... can you breath when I cover up your face? How about poke you in your eyes?

Circulation via the popular "wrestling" technique:

Makes sense though... usually we're performing some kind of first aid on Miss E. In fact, in my class today I realized I had first hand experience with multiple scenarios... thanks to my no-holds-barred daughter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nature & Child Reunion Part 3

The Motherhood Muse literary magazine is celebrating the publication of its second issue by going on a blog tour during the month of April. Bloggers who host The Motherhood Muse will receive a free subscription to the 2010 issues as well as one free subscription to give away to one random winner who comments on their blog the day of The Motherhood Muse post. We hope everyone will enjoy both the post and magazine! The Motherhood Muse blog tour schedule can be found at and

Nature & Child Reunion Part 3
Reconnecting Children With the Natural World
Written by Jodi Hiland of Happy Trails Family Nature Club

The Nature and Child Reunion

While the issue of kids not spending as much time in nature seems like a huge one, the exciting news is that there is a strong Children and Nature Movement building, around the world.  Countries everywhere are experiencing the same issues, and they are collaborating in different ways to create a new reality.

Since there are many barriers to children's outdoor play, the answers will have to be met where those barriers originate.  It will take efforts at all levels of society to make change.  For example, a housing developer in Woodbury, MN purposely included natural spaces for children in his development.  However, children still aren't using these areas.  What will it take for those children to go out?  Possibly a change in the family, such as loosening family schedules, parents working through some of their fears/dislikes abut the outdoors, etc. Or perhaps policy change at the governmental level will bring more balance to the homework situation.  It's probably many things.

Many organizations exist that already are in the business of children and nature, and they need more support.  These include Scouting groups, 4-H clubs, nature centers, state parks, etc.  I didn't realize how little time Scouting groups actually spend in nature these days, including camping!

We need to make our views known to city planners and developers about how we want our natural spaces to look, and how to redevelop other areas.

Homeowners and renters can push for looser restrictions on covenants that prohibit natural play.

We can ask parks commissions to naturalize current and new parks.

Our society needs protection against rediculous lawsuits.

There are many types of organizations who are in a position to educate, and call for change.  Faith-based groups, non-profit organizations, corporations and more, can all make a big difference.

Since school is where the majority of kids spend their whole day, reforms need to happen there.  We can support educators who are already trying to work within the system to bring nature to children.  Schoolyards need to include green space, and natural play areas.  We can support our local nature-based schools, like Dodge Nature Preschool and Garlough Elementary in West St. Paul, the preschool at Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake, and the Michael Frome Academy in Woodbury.

The study of Natural History is vanishing from college course offerings.  These need to be re-established soon, as the nature experts we have benefitted from across the country are retiring.

Health care providers of all types are an important influence in how much nature time kids experience.  This can actually be prescribed to complement, or even replace, other types of therapies or medications.

Let us honor and learn from the indiginous cultures with whom we are fortunate to share the Earth.  May we restore what is theirs, and not remove any more.

I believe the best thing we can all do right now is to... go outside!  I know I feel nature's restorative quality the minute I get "out there".  Let's work together as a culture, within our own families, and in our own hearts, to "go back to the land".

May the future lives of our world's kids be always full of "loose parts" with which to play!

Thank you for reading this post today. Please leave a comment here and the blog hostess will choose one person to receive a free subscription to the 2010 issues! We hope you’ll also sign up for our free e-newsletter, so you can receive the first issue of the magazine free! Stop by for more information!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Just Some PTA Propaganda

If you have a child in a public school, then you have probably had some glancing interaction with the PTA, even if it was to avoid making eye contact lest they suck you into their cult and wind up the room parent for the whole year. At least that's how I felt about it. I used to see groups of moms gathering on the playground and think "yeah, those are the PTA moms". Except, since I didn't attend any meetings, I didn't know which moms were actually "PTA moms".

So I went to a couple meetings and found out that the population was much smaller than I had originally thought. The entire PTA was less than 10 people. And that included teachers. I attended a few meetings and next thing you know, I was sucked in. Except I wasn't a room parent, I was PTA Chairperson. I think it was due to my past board experience and the fact that I had two legs and a heartbeat.

We have not only helped fund $60,000+ in school resources (field trip buses, math carts, swimming lessons, laptops, etc...) but we have been able give direction to the school in how we want to volunteer and how we feel about non-scholastic issues like security and community involvement.

But the real story is not what has happened in the school. It's what happened in the moms.

Well, I can't speak for all the moms, but I can speak for myself.

In the last year I went from a mom with a kid at school, to a mom who had other mom friends who could read my thoughts with the roll of an eye or the tilt of a head. Mom friends who would ask me if I was OK on the bad days and would actually care about the answer. Mom friends who actually liked my kid and would go out of their way during the rough weeks to tell me good stories about my kid at school. Mom friends who would look me in the eye and say "I don't believe you that you are ok, I think you need to see a doctor" when no one else would stand up and say it.

They sang karaoke at "meeting B" and organized a community garden for 20+ families. They shared wine and martinis and we helped each other through rough points and watched movies together and watched each others' kids (the only moms I'd trust!).

And this past week those mom friends organized a beautiful conspiracy.

They knew about the miscarriage and the dog and they brought me dinner three nights in a row. The first time I thought it was just a one-of. Chicken and Rice that was super yummy and a homemade cherry pie. Day two I didn't realize the conspiracy so I made dinner, but I got apple pie and ice cream for dessert. And tonight I got homemade organic chicken soup and biscuits.

I mean, I love my husband but even he hadn't offered to cook me dinner! (He did have wine ready for me when I came home from the hospital.)

One of the moms is a dog trainer and not only did she take on the burden of  actually picking Finn up and returning him to the shelter, but she brought me chocolate and magazines for my days off work, to ensure I'd keep myself on the couch and relaxing instead of what I was inclined to do: Clean the house! Catch up on laundry! Oooh Yard Work!

Now, could I have met these women if I hadn't volunteered with the PTA? Yes, sure. But we wouldn't have spent so much time together, we wouldn't have had so much to talk about (because you know as well as I do that you can only talk about your kids so much...) because we had problems to sort out, budgets and volunteer shifts and BBQs and field trips and plenty of time to get to know one another in a non-judgmental environment. (Because the playground feels judgmental, thanks to our personal experiences with it as kids!)

With all that is going on in my life, I may not be volunteering as much next year and that's ok... because PTA is not a life sentence. I can't take time off and volunteer later... it really isn't a cult that doesn't let you go.

But it does allow you to make friends who won't let you go. And I look forward to many, many more years with them.

Friday, April 09, 2010

I miss the dog

I miss that darn dog so much that I can't think about him without crying. I know he's just a substitute since I lost the baby on the same day the dog left. I know that my grief isn't just for the dog so I keep trying to remember all the bad things he did. You know, chewing shoes and waking me at 5 am because he thinks it's time to get up and, well, that was about it.

But I keep remembering his eyes when he'd lay his head on my lap. How he'd press his head down on my lap and wrap his paw around my leg. How my daughter would laugh and giggle while she'd try to wrestle with him.

I know it was the right choice to let him go, so my family could be whole and my husband could trust that I'd listen to him.

I know that what I miss is holding a baby. Writing down names. Feeling the kick in my belly. Spending my days with my family and not going to work. Smelling baby breath. Choosing cute outfits. Nursing.

But I can`t miss that because it didn`t happen. It was too early, it was too small.

But I do miss the dog.

Tiger's Remorse

The first time I saw this ad I had the sound turned off and it still moved me.

There was something about how he flinched at the camera flashes. Something vulnerable.

Now the cynical side of me says he knows what he's doing and it's a ploy. But he's using his father's words for a reason. I just cannot believe that he had been so close to his father and he's just using those words to further himself financially. He may be using them as a lifeline. And I think that's ok.

What do you think?

All I can think is - I hope he cleared this with his wife and that he's sought her forgiveness completely before seeking the forgiveness of his fans and supporters. I would not know what to do if I were his wife and I saw him making amends and being forgiven when I hadn't done it yet myself. Because there really truly is only one person he wronged - his wife.

(well, and his kids, but they are still young.)

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Everyone says I need to deal with it in my own way. I am, I think. When I actually deal with it, it's in my own way. Most of the time I avoid dealing with it. I focus on other things. Look! We need wee little fences around the plants so the dirt doesn't get on the patio. Look! I need a haircut. Look! I need to watch every movie I've PVR'd. Look! I need to buy a de-thatching rake.


I went to get my hair cut today and after she washed my hair she asked, "did you just have a baby?" I knew right away why she'd asked, my hair was falling out in clumps. Usually that happens about 3 months after I have a kid, the hormone levels drop and my body lets go of lots of hair. But with the miscarriage and the surgery, all hormone production seems to have stopped. It actually started about a week ago and I thought "hmmm, this is hormonal. this is probably not a good sign."

I stammered a bit and then just blurted out "um, no, but I had a miscarriage and so it's kind of the same, you know, with hormones". I felt bad even saying it to her because she was just making small talk and I don't know her from Eve. She said sorry, I said "no no it's ok" and then she gave me a cool haircut that I like very much.


We went bowling together. The family. I had told Major Man last week I was unhappy with the amount (or lack of) family activities. So when I suggested it he was up for it. My three year old daughter legitimately beat me at one game.


The power went out tonight as our city experienced a lovely little storm. For about an hour we hung out around candles and read our books and I put the kids to bed. It was starting to get a bit chilly in the house and I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn't watch TV, sad, sad, sad. But I wasn't tired and I didn't want to read my book by candlelight.

Most of the candles I have are smelly ones. So my house smelled like Gingerbread-Apple Pie-Strawberry-Fresh Meadow all mixed into one. It was actually pleasing.

And I'm glad we drink ourselves a bottle or two of wine. Otherwise we'd have no place to put the un-smelly candles.

And don't ask me why santa is still up on my wall four months after Christmas. It was snowing you know.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

If ever I wanted a Mulligan Week....

Prologue: I've had a few weeks of depressing posts. Anger, bad times, grumpiness. Permit me one more please and then things will start looking up around here. I promise. Because I don't give up. I look UP. 

I guess it started last week. Hubby admitted to me (through much arguing and yelling) that he did not WANT the dog. That he felt I had ignored his wishes. That I bowled him over and just did what I wanted. I had to admit that part of that was true. He seemed ambivalent. I should have realized that ambivalence would lead to problems if we got the dog. But we got the dog.

I didn't want to get rid of the dog because we were already bonding, he was good with the kids and I had made a commitment. But my husband had not, it was causing problems. We'd basically gotten the dog and found out we were pregnant in the same week and he'd tried to stop the dog purchase but I pushed on.

But over the weekend I agreed that we'd take the dog back. I spoke to the kids and they actually handled it better then I thought they would. I explained that family was more important than a dog and our commitment to each other was also more important. As a friend of mine said:

Look, to me, pets are like MATES. You can’t just have any old cat or dog in the pet slot----a good pet is a part of the family and they need a personality and temperament and yes, even stage of life, that fits in with yours. There's this sort of DEMONIZING of people who give up pets... like YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU WERE NOT READY FOR A DOG NOW YOU ARE GOING TO HELL AND YOU MUST WRECK YOUR MARRIAGE OVER A CANINE. I think that’s crap and shows a lack of empathy for HUMAN circumstances. Sometimes a dog is the wrong dog, are you supposed to live with the wrong dog for 13 years, unhappy and stressed, because he looked cute to you when you met?  Please, we do not do that with dates.

I was having a rough week and a dear, beautiful friend (who happens to be a dog trainer) offered to take the dog back for me. I was not strong enough to do it myself and hubby would have given them the Cole's Notes version of why when they needed to know how amazing the dog is and how he's crate trained and sweet with children and waves and loves cats (but not to eat) and hardly barks.

That happened today.

What else happened today?

Surgery. Yesterday I started bleeding, not just spotting. I was in the late stages of the first trimester with #3.


I had a miscarriage and they had to do surgery yesterday to finish the job. Just a procedure, painless and simple. Painful and complicated. My husband had not been happy about the pregnancy. He didn't want any more. But unlike a dog, he couldn't give it back.

At first I didn't tell him. He was sleeping after his night shift so I went to the Emergency Room myself. After tests and ultrasounds and being briefly forgotten by the staff and shuttled from room to room to await results, a nice doctor (who met me for the first time as he) told me that the pregnancy was no longer viable.

There was the question of what to do, wait it out and risk infection, finish the job or finish the job somewhere else. I called my husband. Now, as upset as I'd been about the dog and our lack of communication and knowing he had not wanted the baby in the first place, I have to give him the credit he deserves. He was there for me because I needed him to be. Just like he was supposed to be. He didn't promise me we'd try again, he didn't say much at all. He was just quietly there. Which was all I needed.

I wondered if I should post on Facebook or Twitter or something, but as a writer I needed to process things first and then write it out. But Facebook proved to offer some wonderful words of wisdom. A friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer and she said:

God has a plan for my life and now it just happens to include breast cancer. Our experiences in life mold us into what God wants us to be, teach us lessons and how to cope, and most importantly to be a witness of His grace and mercy. Bad comes to everyone, whether they are good or not--and no one is good, not one. The... difference in someone with faith in God is that they have HIM to lean during the tough times.

I could say the same thing. God has a plan for my life and it just happens to include no dog and two kids instead of three. That is not such a bad thing.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Which Came First, the Victim or the Anger?

It is no shock to most of my family that both my son and I have what we shall call "anger management" issues. Heck my daughter may have them too but at three years old, the state of being outraged at the world seems pretty normal. Like, Oh My Gosh My Pony Tail Is Falling Down!! The future looks bleak for my calm, mellow, introverted hubby.

Again, if you asked my family, they would probably regale you with stories of Heather's Temper. I remember it too, but probably not as well since anger tends to boil up your memories into a pot of remembered injustices and the sneaky voice that tells you how horrible your life is and how wholly unfair the world can be. It took me a long, long time to get my temper under control. I masked it for a while. I could seethe and rage quietly and then stalk off and deal with it in whichever way I felt necessary. There was a pattern of self destructive behaviours that repeated themselves all the way through my teenagehood and into my early twenties.

But I've dealt. There has been a lot of prayer. A lot of grace. A lot of starting over. Thankfully my husband is still along for the ride... it will be five years of wedded blitz this September.

Earlier I spoke about the fact that I started taking Cipralex, medication for anxiety/depression to treat Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Well, then there was that little WHOOPS called baby #3. And the Lord Sayeth No More Cipralex. I know there are other options, but I'm not ready to try them and deal with the side effects while dealing with morning sickness and the (really, truly called) hundred day cough.

But I had an epiphany this week. One that has left me reeling - in a good way. I read an article about Ladakh: A Society with No Bullies and I found this line:

What few people understand is that anger is a victim feeling. We only get angry when people do things against us.

I had never though of anger that way before. I mean, with all my son's social skills issues I'd said to him "when you get mad like that, you let someone control your reactions" but they were words. I didn't get it. I didn't understand.

Of course it is! Of course it is! I can't believe I've never connected the dots.

(You may be thinking I'm a simpleton right about now, but let me explain...)

My anger has been a defensive mechanism, a way to prove that I cannot be hurt, that I will win, that I'm tougher and stronger and super woman/mom/wife and a way to reassure myself that I'm still in control. When a neighbour makes a judgement about me, I get angry because Who Does She Think She Is and I Should Show Her and I rant to my husband... but it wasn't about the crazy neighbour lady... it was about me. It was about proving to myself that I was still ok, I was still a good person, I was still whole. The anger was the wall that went up so I could take my own inventory and think "yep, we're all good in here".

I was acting like a victim. Someone Has Done Something To Me. WTH. Life Isn't Cool. I Have Been Angered!

I don't like being a victim. That feels weak. That feels powerless. That feels life fear.

(I'm going to go a little religious on you all now, bear with me!)

I'm a new creation. I'm saved. I'm forgiven so that I can forgive. The same power that raised Christ, resides in me. The spirit of Christ, lives in me. I can't harbour the feelings of fear and powerlessness because the spirit of Christ cancels that crap out. It's incompatible.

And plus, being a victim doesn't help anyone. It simply identifies the wronged party. And even if I'm legitimately wronged, living like a victim (living with anger) doesn't do anyone a bit of good. It doesn't even bring justice. It brings pain and hurt and multiplies it. Exponentially sometimes.

Before, I could justify being angry. I could weigh the wrong against my reaction and think, yeah, I'm the one who is RIGHT here.

Now, I can't justify being a victim.

And I can look my son in the eye and tell him that he's not a victim either.

(Now, there is a thing called righteous anger. See Temple, Moneychangers, Jesus. But that topic is for another day.)