Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Body Image

I have heard that a girl's body image/self esteem is raised when she participates in athletics and has a greater appreciation for what her body can DO, not just what it looks like. I have experienced this first hand, having always been into sports and had pretty good self esteem. But lately, this has been taken to a whole new level. It's is uncanny how my body image has changed since I started work at UPS. I don't think I fully understand it, but I think it has a lot to do with this theory. Now that I go to work every day, lift heavy boxes and fill tractor trailers from beginning to end all by myself, I'm feeling more and more comfortable with my body. True I lost 5 pounds, but that isn't all that much. I still have stretch marks and a little mommy-pouch. But I don't care so much about them any more. I wonder if it also has something to do with the casual clothes I wear to work. For five days a week no one is judging me on my looks anymore. I wear (mandatory) work boots, jeans, and whatever shirt I happen to pull out of the closet. Sometimes I wear makeup and sometimes I don't. My boss doesn't care what I look like. All he wants to know is "can I work?".

On a similar subject, as much as I LOVE being a girl, there have been several times in my life when I've despised my lot in life as a female: 6th grade when I wanted to play basketball with the boys, 8th grade when I wanted to play baseball with the boys, as an adult when I wanted to play football with the boys, etc. Well, here at work I'm finally even with the boys. I have the chance to work just as hard as them and they expect it of me. I appreciate that. I enjoy it.

So here is to UPS for increasing my self esteem. Cheers.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The best summer retreat ever

I know, I know. It's fall. But I wanted to tell you about the best summer retreat ever...

Every August we pack our bags, load up the truck and head to New Hampshire for the annual church retreat. It is particularly special for me because growing up we never took vacations so I relish it even more than other people do.

The tradition begins a week or so before, when I write endless lists of things to pack, snacks and flashlights batteries to buy. The countdown gets closer and I get more excited. Finally Wednesday has come. We spend the morning leisurely loading the truck, giving friends last minute instructions on how to care for the pets, and finally we’re off. The first couple of years we went we got lost. But I’m an old pro now and I know the way quite well. It’s a two hour trip. We end up deep in the mountains. If it’s nightfall when we arrive the roads can be creepy; no lighting, just endless miles of trees.

Our church friends greet us warmly. It’s actually my parent’s church, but I grew up with nearly everyone. They serve us a bite to eat. We anxiously await the announcement of our cabin. Some of them are quite rustic, but because we usually have one of the youngest babies we often get one of the nicer ones with bathroom and electric lighting. After unpacking we head to bed. The best part of this vacation is being able to forget the troubles of modern life for a little while. This first night, however, our head is still swarming with “modern life” thoughts. We all lay in our beds, listening to the strange sounds of nature, sleep eluding us for a little while.

In the morning the camp bell loudly calls us to wake up. We’re not morning people so this is never a pleasant thing. But the excitement of what the day holds for us gets me out of bed. We quickly dress and make our way to the dining hall where breakfast has been made. Meals are my favorite time. We get to sit with church friends, often people we’ve never met before, and eat delicious food and have deep conversations.

After breakfast we have some time to ourselves. I usually head back to the cabin to get ready for the day or (shh don’t tell) take a nap. When the bell rings again we all meet for a time of worship and a mini-sermon. This is like church how it was meant to be. Sometimes I am disillusioned with church. The worship is always so rehearsed, like a performance. The Sermon is so long and tiresome for the children. Here at the retreat every morning starts with the ideal church service, in my mind. The worship songs are picked spontaneously. The sermon is short and entertaining and applicable to adults and children. Family pet dogs sit contentedly with children enjoying the music. When the service concludes the activities for the day are announced. Usually there are choices of hikes and maybe an adult-only canoe trip.

We always do at least one hike as a family during the retreat. We pack our lunch, put the baby in the hiking back-pack and join the group. As we trod up the mountain talking to people about everything from philosophy to catching up on who just got married or had a baby. The boys are excited to be walking with the dogs and all their new friends. The baby starts to nod off to sleep from the gentle bouncing. When we reach the top of the mountain we enjoy a feeling that sometimes comes only once a year. It’s the feeling of pride at an accomplishment worthy of pride. On top of that, God presents a beautiful landscape that is the backdrop to our lunch.

The afternoon always brings a trip to the lake. All the families gather for a swim. There is diving off the docks, sliding down the water slide, canoeing, perhaps a game involving a beach ball or a football, and more conversations in the sand. I love the water. I love to dive off the docks and even swim the mile across the lake and back again. This is where community really shows. I can ask anyone, “Will you watch the baby? I’m going for a swim”. Even people I don’t know will gladly say “yes”. It’s the kind of community you can’t find any more. To me, that’s what real Christianity is all about, serving one another like Jesus instructed, not fake charity, real giving of yourself. Whenever I go to the church retreat I think “why don’t we live our life like this year round?” Then I remember that others (like the Alcott’s of literary fame) have already tried it unsuccessfully. I also remind myself that this piece of heaven couldn’t really be maintained because we can’t go on forever without doing laundry or money –earning work.

Everyone takes a turn either serving a meal or cleaning up afterwards. Last year I ended up washing dishes for a couple of hours with an elderly man who appeared to have nothing in common with me. I couldn't have been more wrong. We talked excitedly the whole time. He said he had campaigned to get the Armenian Holocaust onto the MCAS test. "NO WAY!" I said. "I saw a PBS special about your campaign. I even blogged about it!!" I got to know him well. That was a perfect example of how everyone at camp gets along, regardless of age or class or race. For a little while none of that matters.

Evenings are spent playing board games, more worship, flashlight tag, roasting marshmallows. There’s no curfew as long as you can drag yourself out of bed in the morning. (If not they will bang pots and pans to wake you). When Friday comes the last of the church members arrive. This group usually includes my parents. My kids warmly greet their grandparents and gorge themselves on the snacks they packed.

Saturday nights is the highlight of the weekend - the talent show. There are entertaining performances ranging from comic skits to songs and poetry. I like how this night encourages the development of talent in the community.

By the end of the retreat there are no “strangers”. I know nearly everyone, having spent several days serving and loving one another other, like the Bible calls us to do. Sunday wraps up with a special church service at the lake where some people choose to get baptized. This ceremony represents the public acknowledgement that you accept Christ as your savior. It is a perfect way to end a heavenly retreat.

Then we pack up the truck and leave. We were only there 4 ½ days but it was plenty enough to last until next year. For now we are slightly sleep deprived, the kids cranky, the hard bed and mosquitoes becoming annoying, the wet clothes in need of a wash, and a bunny and cat at home who miss us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Potty Trained Infants

There's a new trend in parenting called "elimination communication". Supposedly you can potty train a young baby by learning to read the signs that he/she has "to go". Of course this isn't really new. It's been practiced around the world since the beginning of time. In fact, years ago my childless friend was raving about it.

As for me, I've been able to tell that Dimitri has to go since for a long time now. In fact we used to race him to the toilet when he started to pee. But then he would stare at the toilet in awe and fascination and stop peeing. The same thing would happen if we did it today. So I guess you could say I've tried E.C. and it didn't work for me. So if others want to practice it then great, so long as they don't give the rest of us a guilt trip for not being able to do it. :)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Want to be a teacher?

I know several people who went to school to become elementary teachers and when they graduated they found they couldn't get a job. It's like a dirty little secret. Everyone knows there is a teacher shortage, but what they don't know is that that doesn't apply to grades K-3. We certainly need more math and science teachers, but the "teacher shortage" doesn't apply everywhere.

This makes me mad because my friend has tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and now has to apply at a temp agency for any job she can get her hands on. My son's kindergarten teacher revealed to me in a conversation that even though she got a Masters degree she was shocked to find that she couldn't find a job. The only way she eventually did was by taking over for another teacher midway through the year. That seems to be the secret for getting in anywhere. Believe it or not, this is in a "combat zone" district (read: inner-city), so this does not just apply to the suburbs.

Anyway, I just wanted to blog this as a warning to other people considering this field. I'm not saying don't do it; I'm just saying go into it with your eyes open.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sick all weekend

I was sick with strep this weekend. The sad thing is that I had a strep test last week because my throat hurt and it came out negative. So I suffered with it all week and then on Friday my body just collapsed. I got a 104 fever, body aches, throwing up, headache, the works. When I went to the doctor again they said "oh, it is strep". So I finally got some medicine.

I have very bad tonsils. I figured out that I've spent about one twelfth of my life sick with strep. (About a month a year). Also I spend about six days a year extrememly ill like I was this weekend because of it. I CAN'T WAIT until January when my UPS insurance kicks in and I can finally get my tonsils out.

My husband did a heroic effort of keeping the house clean, balacing his own job, taking care of the kids and taking care of me. Yet, when I rolled out of bed I found signs that this house could not function without me... the cat and the bunny had no food or water, there had been no shampoo in the shower all weekend (there was more in the cabinet), the litter box was in bad need of a change, the wet laundry was still in the washer... ah yes, I am needed.

Friday, October 14, 2005

My Pandemic Plan

Not to be alarming, but rather to be prepared, I have created a family plan in case of a flu pandemic. There are three points of action. The first is a list of things to do now. The second is a list of things to do when the virus mutates and the third is a list of things to do when the first American contracts the virus. Governor Romney has issued a statement asking Massachusetts citizens to buy an extra days supply of food when they grocery shop. This was a very smart thing to do as the economy (and food supply) may temporarily shut down during an epidemic.

Find God-parents for the children who could take them in case we die
Write a will
Buy: face masks, hand sanitizer

Stock up on: rice, chicken, fish, rice, canned fruit and vegetables, oatmeal, diapers, toilet paper, soap
Begin practicing extra cautious hygiene including wearing a face mask outside of the house, using hand sanitizer before touching your face, washing hands frequently.

Give my two week notice (Timmy can keep working, tee hee. My job is probably a lot riskier since I work with packages from EVERYWHERE).
Start homeschooling the kids

Monday, October 10, 2005

Baby's first phrase

Dimitri is 16 months and today he uttered his first phrase. Timmy asked him where his keys were and Dimitri pointed and said "over there"!! This was witnessed by Uncle David too. They were both incredulous. I'm proud. He's been babbling a lot lately so he's very much ready to talk.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hodge-podge of topics

Supreme Court nomination: I never commented the first time around, but let me just say how happy I am with John Roberts as our new head Supreme Court Justice. As for Harriet Miers, many of the conservative leaders I admire are split on her. There just isn't much information about her available. So in this case I feel like I just have to trust George W. Bush. After all, going with the obvious conservative candidate backfired for George H. W. Bush when his nominee Justice David H. Souter turned out to be a lot more liberal than previously thought. And there won't be any filibusters over this one. Whatever happens, this will be Bush's legacy. This is the main reason conservatives like me voted for Bush. Eventually we will find out if we got what we elected.

The Avian Flu: It's finally getting some news worthy attention. I told you so.
I heard President Bush say that in case of a pandemic we could have the military quarantine areas. Unfortunately he is misinformed because the flu virus is not like small pox in that quarantines are not really effective. By the time you get them in place it has already spread. Based on the governments response to Katrina I'm not counting on them to be much help in a flu pandemic.

Dr. Phil on breastfeeding: Yesterdays show contained a debate on public breastfeeding. Dr. Phil's attitude was "can't we all just get along?" Dr. Phil has no qualms about speaking his opinion about any other topic. He obviously has no strong opinions on this subject. Unfortunately he is wrong. Babies have the right to eat at all times. As a formula feeding mother could tell you, they wouldn't dream of leaving the house without a bottle. Babies need to eat constantly, it's not something you can just put off. Breastfeeding in the bathroom (which I have done on more than one occasion) is gross and humiliating. Obviously breastfeeding moms need to be somewhat discreet and if you have a problem with it then look away. In general, our society needs to realize that the breast is not just a sexual object. Its primary purpose is to feed babies and making breastfeeding mothers leave public places is not appropriate.

Oprah on working moms: Oprah was speaking of working moms yesterday. She came very close to getting in hot water with stay at home moms. But good ole - diplomatic Oprah threw a bone to at home moms and saved herself. She took a "can't we all just get along" stand like Dr. Phil did. As much as I'd like to agree with her I must say there is a moral reason to continue this debate and that reason is children who are being shuffled around to daycare. Daycare is no place for a child to be raised and some children are spending their entire days there. Many working mom's (like me) juggle their lives heroically around their children. But others treat their children like pets. There is some pettiness to the debate - some jealousy on both sides. If that's all there was too it then I would say "can't we all just get along". But unfortunately there is more to it than that. Here's a website you should check out. Keep in mind that that I have tons of respect for day care workers. (Like my dear sister in law Jenny). You guys do a difficult job for not enough pay. I'm just saying that small children need their mommys.

Public school: After all the debate I've had with my son's teacher over the math lessons I am amused by the notice sent home yesterday. It said that because the MCAS math scores were so abysmal last year we parents have the right, under the "no child left behind act" to transfer our children to another school. Ha ha. I won't be transferring my children but I knew about this problem long before the other parents.

Brandon said he "hates art" the other day. This breaks my heart. No child should ever utter those two words in the same sentence. If I were homeschooling I can assure you that my children would "love art". My son says the teacher only lets them paint with primary colors. Only lets them paint certain ways. I understand teaching them about primary colors, but RESTRICTING their creativity? That's ridiculous.

There was a "visit your child at school day" the other week. I was the only parent in both classes to come. That's pathetic. Parents need to get way more involved in their kid's life. I also came to Wolfie's show and tell time yesterday, which we parents are always invited to. The kids did a lot of breakdancing. Some good, some not. All very cute. Wolfie didn't show and tell anything but next week we are going to bring our bunny for the kids to pet. I can't wait.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Holloween Costumes

The highlight of our weekend was buying holloween costumes. We always buy early before the good stuff runs out. My kids and I are very excited about this as usual. I like to say, I have 20-something years of not celebrating Holloween to make up for. No offense Mom and Dad. I totally understand why you did it. But I'm happy to trick or treat with my kids for the first time. I feel like I have found a healthy balance between enjoying a good family tradition and not celebrating a satanic holiday.

Anyway, the boys are Power Rangers as usual. (They are always some form of a Ninja). I got the little guy a really cute dragon costume. I spent a fortune on Timmy's costume, Mr. Incredible. But it's SOOO cute, I just had to get it. Finally, I am a princess. I was tempted to shell out a fortune on a cinderella costume but then I realized I just wanted to be a princess. I didn't care which one. So I bought a $12 tiara. I'll wear one of my gowns. Now I just have to talk to my boss about coming to work a little late that day.
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