Monday, January 31, 2011

My High Horse: What Are YOU Teaching Your Kids

Although I'm not a gainfully employed teacher at the moment, that was my pre-SAHM profession. I feel thankful to have found a niche of the world that I enjoyed so much and I definitely felt an immediate connection as soon as I entered teacher training.

I taught grades 7,8 and 9 English and Journalism. Then I moved to Canada and took my Montessori teacher training and degree for pre school ages 3-6. I am a bit of a jack of all trades, I enjoy all age groups, but especially love pre school and junior high because it is such a time of transition.

In pre school, a lot of the kids are leaving mom and dad for the first time. They have to navigate a new landscape on their own and figure out how this new world works. Junior high kids are the same--they have to figure out who they are separate from their parents. They start to make tough decisions that challenge their thoughts and ideas.

It really is a fascinating process to witness. That is one of my favorite things about Maria Montessori's philosophy--to observe and not always interfere. My other favorite saying from my Montessori teacher training is "Trust the child."

How often do we not "trust the child?" We rush in. We pre-empt any situation that looks like it could cause pain.

Example: While standing outside the 3rd grade class years ago, a mother approached me close to tears. Her son had not been invited to a birthday party. I told her my son hadn't been invited either. She was all over the emotional board: furious, fretful, sad, incredulous... She was bound and determined to call that mother and give her a piece of her mind, right after she complained to the principal of the school.

What? Here is the skinny. You are not invited to everything in this life. There will be parties, you will hear about them, you'll see pictures on facebook, your feelings will be hurt--but that doesn't change the way of the world. If you teach your kid to wheedle their way in and invite themselves, what are you teaching them? What are you setting them up for later?

I am not invited to stuff all of the time. Of course, sometimes I feel sad about this and left out. However, in the real world, invitations don't always have to do with someone liking you or not liking you. Sometimes, you are standing in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, there are only 8 place settings of china. Sometimes, your friends want to enjoy a different group of people.

I try to tell my kids early on, life is not a popularity contest. What you really have to do, is enjoy your own company. There are so many people that can't even stand themselves that they must fill every moment with a social event or obligation. If you can be happy reading a book or renting a movie, then you can be happy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

One Foot On Land, One Foot In The Swamp: Two Things

Thing 1:
Swamp House is looking pretty good. It is getting comfier and cozier every day. It may not even be able to be called "Swamp House" anymore. It is actually better than my own house at this point. Better views. Better appliances. Better finishes. No one ever said that life is fair.

Well, and it is technically our place, but a place is not the same as a home. It's kind of turned into our mini vacation home. We go as a family. The kids play games. I can avoid the mess that is naturally generated in the home of a family of five.

Thing 2:
We have new neighbors renting across the street...again. The homeowners are living on the east coast, so they've been renting out their home for about 3 years. We've had three different families move in and out.

The first time I baked brownies, wrote a little card, knocked on the door and introduced myself. The second time, I introduced myself--gave the family a little card with our contact info.

The first two families we invited to our parties, went out as couples and spent some time together. They were very nice people. Then they all moved and sincerely, we will never see them again.

Now, I'm on the third time around, and I'm tired. Do I need to bake brownies? Show up on the doorstep? I'm generally very welcoming, but for now I'm lazy and crabby and they only are going to live there for 5 months. Can I just smile and wave?

If you know me, sigh, we will bake the brownies and do the whole thing all over again. That's just the way that we are, or I am anyways.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kicking Coffee To The Curb...Again

At one point during the holidays, I realized that I was on my 5th cup of coffee for the day. To be truthful, I don't even like the taste of coffee, but I sure was liking the added energy it was giving me. My caffeine driven state perked me up enough to get all of the items on the holiday check list checked off.

Many people look forward to the quietude of the New Year, but January is never boring and dull for our household. There is the De-Christmas factor, The Back to School Routine Factor, The Brother and Sister In Law's Birthday Factor, and most of all, The Husband's Birthday Factor.

I am well into 2011 and I was still sucking back the coffee like there's no tomorrow. Sometimes, it was the only thing propping me up and propelling me to the next activity.

On Saturday, I made a conscious decision. I put the coffee machine away. Well, I actually moved it out to the ark. I moved three modes of coffee making out to the ark. I left myself with a kettle and my Raspberry Earl Grey Tea.

I'll let you know how that works out for me, my family, and a thousand little volunteer things that I'm responsible for. I'm optimistic...but I also know it's only a matter of time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chivalry Is Not Dead:Thank You Random Stranger

I try to teach my kids the mechanics of being nice and living in a world where they treat others as they wish to be treated.

I teach them to hold the door, even if you have to wait an extra 10 seconds for the person who is coming behind you. I teach them to really think about what they say and how they say it. I also teach them to NOT cut in line at the grocery store and to sometimes let that person behind you with one container of milk go ahead of you.

All of these things are dying arts as far as I can tell. People are rude, more often than not. The door slams in my face. People push their way in front of me in line and pretend not to see me. If a new check stand opens, instead of letting the person waiting the longest go to the new line, people race as if chased by tigers to get there first.

Today, I was loading two rather large folder chairs into my car. They were heavy and awkward, but I was making progress. Along came an old man. OK, I wish there was a better way to say that, but he was elderly. He was shuffling along and looked like he might need a walker.

He shuffled right up to me and said, "Miss, can I help you with that?" I can tell you right now, it was I who felt like I should help him cross the street.

I politely declined, but was secretly delighted that some people still just have good old fashioned manners. My husband is that kind of guy. He will pull the car over and help you change your tire, he will get your kitten out of the tree, and he will wait an extra 10 seconds and hold the door for you.

I hope to teach my kids to do the same. Thank you very nice man wherever you are, you made my day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Guest List: Add Your Name to the Ark Roster Now!

The Ark, or Swamp House, is almost finished with its construction odyssey. I've been an errant bloggeress, life is doing it's usually January undertow and I'm going under.

We are setting up camp, so we need to figure out what kind of things we need. You sure think about necessity when you have to drag your worldly possessions out a boardwalk by hand or in a little cart.

The project has turned out beautifully. If you are on the potential guest list, get your request in early... I have this feeling that once someone stays here it's going to be hella hard to get them to leave.

It's better than my it might be me that you'll have to boot out!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Three Kids, Two Adults, One Ski Week

Guess what Midwest folks, Northern Californians are taking a whole extra week of holidays. They call it Ski Week.

Maybe it's stupidly simple, but it is just what is sounds like--a week off to go skiing. Michigan? Are you having Ski Week? Ohio? Let me know, because I did not grow up with this holiday, and every time it comes around, I feel disbelief that there is a whole week off of school devoted to skiing.

Maybe this holiday was created to boost Tahoe tourism? I don't know, but I can tell you, most people I know are headed to the slopes in search of fresh powder.

Anyone out there know how Ski Week became a holiday?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Guest Blogger Ruth's Poem, "I AM"


I am from cherry pie
and from deep woods exploring
I am from swimming
and two wheeled bikes
I'm from tossing and turning and lat night snacks

I am from Debra and Chris
and from chocolate and hammock
I am from "are you scared?" and "you're so brave!"
I am from "I love you" and "Kiki, dust bust!"
I am from maple syrup and Canada

I am from Barbara and Jerry
I am from coke cans and paint cans
I am also from John and Shirley
from "tough it" and "rough it."
I'm from cats and dogs

I am from walks with dogs
I am from lakes and pools
I am from forests
I am from Earth
I am from...LIFE

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smoke, No Mirrors: The Ulitmate Culture Shock

During our winter holidays, we spent 2 weeks at our almost finished Cot Taj. It is out in the middle of no where, hours from civilization in the deep woods. Everything is coming along beautifully, but, as I said, it is still not complete. One of the things on the to do list is to get mirrors for the bathrooms.

As a contact lens wearer, I kind of need a mirror. As a woman, I definitely need a mirror! I dug through some boxes in the basement and found a 7 inch diameter, magnifying cosmetic mirror. That was our only mirror for two weeks.

After a while, you get used to not looking at yourself. There was no hair stying, no make up, no nothing. A blissful ignorance crept in and became comfortable.

Now that I'm back at home, that's another story. I can see myself in all directions. Every pimple. Every wrinkle. Every hair out of place and mismatched outfit. Hmmmmmmmmm. This is the ultimate culture shock.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolution? No, Thanks, I've Got My New Year's Diet to Attend To

Every year, I find myself sitting in my kitchen in early January surrounded by the leftover spoils of the holidays. It varies slightly from year to year, but thankfully not all that much. It is from this pool my diet plan begins.

My New Year's Diet (NYD) plan is an easy one. How does it work? Let me tell ya:

1. Eat at least one piece of leftover holiday candy each meal. Quietly work your way through the remaining chocolates first, stale truffles aren't good for anyone.

2. Candy canes are especially good in lattes and hot chocolates. Have at least one of each a day. An added benefit to sugar and coffee is an extra surge of energy to put the Christmas decorations away or face opening bills.

3. Cookies can make a meal. A special shout out to my friend Wendy for sending my the Cherry Republic Boomchunkas. These cookies are packaged in twos. If you eat just one, the other goes a bit crunchy. These cookies are so good that they are even good crunchy, but why would you do that to yourself? Go ahead, eat two. I just did. These also pair excellently with the candy cane hot cocoa mentioned in step 2.

4. Fudge. If you can, hide this early on in the season--that leaves more for you to enjoy in your NYD plan. If the fudge pieces are cut smallish, eat about four. This can be repeated throughout the day. It is especially comforting when you need a pick me up after the bills are opened and spread before you in a sea of hopelessness.

5. Order pizza. After the holidays, pizza is the perfect food. I usually don't get to have it for a couple of weeks. After your complete sugar crash at the end of the day, you don't feel much like cooking anyway. Go ahead. Also, forget trying to provide a vegetable with the pizza. Come on, there is at least tomatoes in the tomato sauce. Baby carrots aren't going to save anyone at this point.

6. Repeat any of the steps several times daily. If you order enough pizza, it could last you for many meals and many days.

7. Also, drink all of the gift wine and champagne that you have left over. Not all at once. Spread it out over the course of your diet with the evening meal.

Good luck. I'm off to have my second candy cane latte, or, oops, make that my third. Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Biggest Blog Vacation Ever!

Well, I haven't touched a computer in over 2 weeks. I haven't had access to email for a week and a half. Cold turkey. No TV, either. I'm sitting here with my iPhone in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, finally reconnecting with the cyber world.

Did I miss it? Did I suffer withdrawal? The short answer is yes and no. I missed writing, I missed chatting with friends, but I did not feel a massive void in my day.

I read a book. I cooked. I still had the renovation chaos swirling around me to keep my stress level occasionally spiking. I even had a mild case of the flu.

I've been blogging for over 3 years now. I'm not a daily poster, but I've been writing regularly for quite some time. Once I get home, get ready for more news from the Canadian Chronicles. Vacation over.