Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parental Venting, Katie style

My parenting is being attacked from all sides. I'm down in the trenches, and I'm winding which side my kids are actually on...
sometimes they seem like the enemy!

If I have to hear the latest Taylor Swift song (a death march, written for 'Hunger Games') one more time I will scream and fire will come out my ears....and frankly as amazing as Adelle's voice truly is I can only hear about Fire in the Rain so many times before it just sounds like blah blah blah. I thought I was sick of all the 'little kid music' we used to listen to; Remember Raffie? But teenagers keep their tunes on replay 24/7 and they feel the entire household is better off for hearing their ballads.

Bryn has decided she is 'old enough' to 'enjoy' the Twilight series. I called the books 'poopie' trying to make light of their stupidity (I know some of you loved these books, but seriously...this heroine is so pathetically weak ; who could want their young daughter feeding her brain with that??). She very maturely asked me to let her make up her own mind about what she reads and allow her to 'be entertained' as she chooses...she was very articulate and mature. I basically told her "I'll tell you what I think whether you like it or not, but thank you for being so reasonable with me" which caused her to cry...what a bad mom I am not to stand by while my daughter reads her way through a soap operah...sigh.

Mason left this morning for 6 days in CA with his choir homies. His teacher has moved these tours away from spring break 'because parents don't want family vacations interrupted.' Instead, we had to hound other teachers to let him take his finals early and turn in projects early because the term ends while he is gone. One teacher said he could take a test yesterday and then was not at school yesterday to administer the test (he was sick, could't help it). Now Mason's grade will show as a D until he takes the test and goes through the hoops to get the grade changed on his transcripts. This is only one of the many glitches Mason has run into in order to participate in this choir tour. And all this so families won't be interrupted over the legitimate break from school. Since when do we as parents decide we really need our vacation time more than our children need their time IN CLASS?! Never mind that these are the grades that make or break college applications, never mind that we are a society that says that education is paramount (aren't we? or is that just in my family society?). No, we really need to hit the beach or get down to St. George so our kids can't possibly have 'significant away from home experiences' when it is inconvenient for us but works well with their EDUCATIONAL FUTURE...

And finally, my Porter has decided he feels very comfortable sneaking to the next door neighbors' house to play with the boys who live there. he goes downstairs as if to read his book and then when I leave the kitchen sneaks back up the stairs and comando crawls across the back yard or tiptoes through the front yard in order to get across my enemy lines and into the safe haven of the neighbor's house. I found today a very intricate stepping stone system of the outdoor ladder and a tupperware bin located just so against the back fence so he can hurdle himself across the gate without my hearing it open or close. And when he was found out and now is caught (as we speak he is writing a paper on integrity) he told me that I am an awful mother for not letting him 'play with the only people who really care about him'. Wow. Its my fault he decided to lie his way to a playdate.

OK, that's enough. All of this has been stewing over the past 36 hours and I just had to get it out. I'm feeling like a lone gunman in the trenches with rogue playdates, poorly constructed literature, shallow parental peers and just plain tired music all coming at me like zombie soldiers trying to eat me up and then go after the children I'm trying to raise. Funny thing is, I think the kids are rooting for the zombies.

I'll keep shooting anyway, I guess.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Bringing on the Happy

These little giraffes have been popping up all over our house lately. They make me happy, with all the detail and the careful cutting of the tiny tails and long skinny legs. Molly and Lucy are equally responsible for the long necked one dimensional wonders. I usually find a new giraffe lying on our studio table or on the girls' art table down stairs. Sometimes they appear on my pillow at night, because the girls know that I giggle and gawk over their sweet creations.

These giraffes are like snowflakes; no two alike. And also like snowflakes, their beauty and the fascination surrounding them will melt away quickly for my daughters. In days these mammals will be forgotten and new artistic creations appear instead; maybe fairies or puppies or flower gardens will be the next constructed creation, and giraffes will be history.

But for now, they bring me happiness, reminding me my girls are still little and full of creativity and imagination.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Right this very minute

it is 8:21 a.m. and the kids left about 40 minutes ago to get to their early morning Foreign language classes taught at our school. My plan has been to rush to the gym as soon as they leave but I found myself today in front of the computer. So I thought I'd just procrastinate a little longer and post a 'verbal snapshot' of this very moment in my life.

My kitchen counter is a mess. At this moment I have a pile of clean dishes that John washed on Tuesday night while I sat huddled in my bedroom finishing "The Hunger Games" (did you like that book? did you hate it? Children being forced to hurt other children? Disturbing, and riveting, and sad, and interesting...she is not the most incredible writer but she did have a good story). If you put your eyes level with the counter, you can see the crumbs from last nights grilled cheese sandwiches still scattered all over the granite surface. We had 20 minutes from the time we stepped into the front door from Molly's dance class to the time we needed to step out the door for Brynley's musical performance. Grilled cheese and left over chicken noodle soup. Thank goodness I didn't break down and buy hamburgers on the way home from dance; this was less expensive and better for our bodies :) But now I have crumbs to show for our hurry to get out the door and see Bryn.

There are wrappers on the counter, wadded up Hershey kiss wrappers from the chocolate bites Brynley stole after school yesterday. She is a skinny little thing, but her diet wouldn't be the reason! Chocolate kisses and chocolate mint balls were her after school snack, and I think her dinner was white bread with butter (I had purchased the white bakery bread as a way to get her to eat a grilled cheese sandwich; but since she had to be ready and gone before I got home from dance, I could gather that the bread never got grilled with the cheese, and she wouldn't touch leftovers with a ten foot pole so no soup made it into her stomach).

Also on the counter, a hairbrush and a book; "Mercy Watson" to be exact. We tend to like books about pigs around here. Poppleton is a standard favorite, and now Mercy has entered the scene. Madi loves pigs; she has since she was tiny. She won't eat ham or pig in any form with the very important exception of bacon. Madi will eat bacon. Mercy Watson is not bacon, so Madi won't eat that; which brings me to wonder why Mercy Watson is on our kitchen counter? Oh, because one of the little girls wanted to read while I was brushing their hair (thus the hairbrush nearby).

Two cups of breakfast smoothie, one with a straw and one without, are standing near the sink. And I've found two pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and either honey or jam on the counter this morning as well. Breakfast had been started by a couple of the kids but forgotten or left so they'd be on time for school. The smoothie? One of them is mine; filled with kale and frozen banana and berries and some yogurt. It churned from green to purple this morning as the children watched the berries camouflage the kale in the blend tech mixer (which is also still on the counter). They'll eat the smoothies if they are purple. They will gag if they are green. But the wrong child watched the color turn this morning; the disguise was not made complete because the green was seen before the purple overcame it and so it goes uneaten.

And finally, along with scattered dirty dishes and a few perhaps but not likely clean dish towels there are some old fashioned ice cream sundae cups stacked and waiting to be put away. They were used to hold toppings for a frozen yogurt bar we spread out for some out of town friends last weekend. The kids don't know where I stash all of our serving items, so it is common when I come to see how they've unloaded the dishwasher to find stacks of things on the counter but not put in their proper places. It seems that even when I show them where and how to settle in those clean items they don't register this new information, and again and again they must be shown until finally they will put those things away instead of stacking them to wait for me.

Now I will go clean up the counters. Then I will read my scriptures. From there I'll put on my exercise clothes and make my way to the gym.

This morning, as you can surmise from the description of my counter, has been a difficult one. Though I've been awake since 5:30 a.m. I have little to show for it. Rousting our children from sleep to scripture study was a monumental task today, and one that involved a lengthy disciplinary experience with Molly (she sometimes wets the bed. In her incredible embarrassment she likes to insist it hasn't happened. Sometimes I find I am forcing her into a bath or shower completely against her will. It becomes painful and frustrating for both of us. Until the girl is clean. Somehow the warm water is the wake up call to the reality that being clean is necessary. Then there are tearful apologies-sometimes from both of us-and the bed is stripped and we go on with life. But it takes time away from dutiful counter cleaning and dish washing to wash the little girl who is more important than sandwich crumbs or any amount of mess).

The day is young, and yet I've already had 'a day' and now must muscle up the gumption to go onward and upward, through the many more hours that come between me and tomorrow. And much to manage as well. Two birthdays next week, a short out of town trip for a family gathering this weekend, and the school muscial, a swim meet, a rugby game and a church party all happening while I am away. It will be a race from now until sleep tonight. And another race all through tomorrow to have things organized and ready for me to be away from the family for the third Saturday in a Row. (Last week Bryn danced in a competition while I watched and the week before I learned about photography; a fantastic gift from John to me last Christmas. I can hardly remember what I learned from that day, it feels like a year ago. But I have my notes and intend to practice at the family gathering this weekend).

Here's to clean counters, a sweaty work out, and a smile on my kids' faces when they come home from school this afternoon. Here's to our only 'sit at the table' dinner of the week-happening tonight after swimming and rugby and before the school play. Here's to the rest of my Thursday.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Grandma Retired...

John's mom has opened up a whole new chapter in her life. No longer bound by monthly payroll and year end bonus checks to cut at the Law Firm where she ran the financials for several years, she has taken to other pursuits. Not that she hadn't been following those pursuits despite her career ;)

To celebrate we all went snow shoe-ing. our family of 8, Mom Graham, and the other Graham family; John's brother, sister in law and their baby Lincoln.

We didn't last as long as Grandma. She can out snow shoe us.

When we came home we had a big breakfast. And we gave her a basket full of little things we knew she'd need now that she has retired;

yarn for her knitting
brushes for her painting
a flashlight for her early morning miles long walks near her home
a walking stick for hiking
some flies for fishing
some beads for jewelry making
some seeds for planting in her back yard garden
and bike socks for cycling
we didn't get her anything for the nights she volunteers in the Bountiful Temple.

Grandma will enjoy all of these, we know, because she has already been following these fun hobbies even without the retirement. Now that she has the time to match the interests, we know she will be very busy-and happy-for years to come.

Congratulations Mom Graham! We love you so much Grandma!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Why we play the Piano in our Family

Dear Kids,
When we were a 'young family' a man in Daddy's Dallas office gifted us his old piano. The ivory keys (keys aren't made of ivory any more, did you know that?) were chipping a little and the black paint was scratched a little but it was still a wonderful musical instrument and he was so generous to share it with us. He knew I wanted you to be able to learn to play. He understood that developing a skill like the piano could not only bring you personal joy, but could enrich the lives of others.

As a 'young mother' I was touched beyond words to have the gift of our piano.

So you began taking lessons. I waited until you could read, and I tried hard to find teachers who would come to our house so I could hear what you were being taught and so I could still manage your brothers and sisters who were tiny and new. At first you were obedient students. You listened in your lessons and you practiced during the week. Then we moved. Then we tried again. Then we moved again. And tried again. And moved again see the pattern here. Once established with a teacher and a practice routine we would uproot, and you'd start again. It has been our pattern. It has been inconsistent and difficult.

but we have always started again. Always found the new teacher, established the new routine. I have not yet given up on having you play piano.

As a girl my parents sacrificed for me to have piano lessons. And I complained. And because it was such a sacrifice and I was so ungrateful they let me quit. I had learned how to read music-at least some, but I was no musician.

It is a painful regret of my youth that I quit playing piano. And dad was never given the opportunity in the first place.

In all of those moves and with all of the change that we have had as our family's constant, so many people could have been blessed if I could have played for them.

People like you, and me.

So now, We make you play. We require it. And you complain and kick and scream over it.
And we will not give in.

We want you to have, when you are old enough to know you need it, a skill that can be a blessing to others.

Something you can do to serve. Some way you can help sooth troubled hearts, and calm busy minds, knowing that sometimes those minds and hearts will be your own.