For All the Slaves in Haiti

Feed My Starving ChildrenOn the drive home from school a couple of weeks ago, my 8-year-old daughter was nearly in tears. She had learned about Haiti and how many of the people live in extreme poverty. Being eight, she doesn’t always get things 100% right. Case in point, she told me that they have slaves and the slaves have to beg for food. Her class wrote letters to be sent to some Haitian children through a charity the school partners with. I still have no idea what my daughter actually wrote, but she told me what she “couldn’t” write about. Apparently she couldn’t tell them about any of our jobs because then they would think that we were slaves. She identifies her dad as being in the Army (despite the fact that he was only enlisted for 8-years, which ended about 9-years before she was born — no acknowledgement of his career for the past 17-years). The Army is too full of death and gore for her to write about. Her older brother works at a golf course, but telling them that he cleaned carts would certainly make them think we were slaves. Apparently I don’t work.  I find her logic amusing.

Two days later, we volunteered at Feed My Starving Children. This was planned before her story, but the timing was perfect. This organization sends food to various locations around the world where people don’t have enough to eat. As volunteers, we get to package the food to be shipped. It turns out that the food that we helped to package was going to Haiti!

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5 Reasons All Teenage Boys Should Play Golf

AB000212My oldest son is a golfer.  A pretty talented golfer.  He didn’t start out that way.  Starting when he was in 4th grade, I would take us to the driving range as a way to spend time together without spending much money.  It soon evolved into me purchasing Happenings Books for the Buy 1 Get 1 coupons for many of the local executive courses.  It was a great mother/son date!  Then he got better.  I didn’t.  We seldom play golf together anymore, but I am so happy to have introduced the game  to him!  Here’s why:

1. Dress Code:  Regardless of how he chooses to dress when off the course, he always wears shorts or pants that actually fit him in the waist on the course.  Plus a belt.  Plus a tucked in shirt.  He actually looks like a respectable young man!  And I think it helps him with his wardrobe choices outside of the golf course since he is so used to wearing clothing as it is meant to be worn.

2. Emotional Control:  On the golf course, it is not appropriate to lose control of your emotions.  No matter how frustrated you become, you don’t yell, swear or throw things.  You may mutter to yourself some, but it is expected that you control yourself.  He also plays Hockey — that sport encourages you to express your emotions in a physical manner.  Maybe boys need both.  But I think it’s natural for them to be physical, so using a sport to help them learn other ways to manage their emotions is wonderful.

3. Proper Introductions:  When playing in a golf tournament, the boys introduce themselves to each other at the beginning of the match.  They shake hands with each other.  Other sports do handshakes or fist bumps, but it’s very fast and in a line with no real communication happening.  These proper introductions become more natural so that they happen off the course as well.

4. Called Gentlemen: In tournament play, the boys are referred to as gentlemen (as in “Good Luck Gentlemen!” after the rules are reviewed and are given the OK to tee off).  I think that people have a tendency to internalize the names they are called and subconsciously act out accordingly.  Being called a gentleman implies certain behavior and maturity.  From what I’ve seen, the boys on the course rise to the occasion.

5. Meet people of all ages:  During High School tournaments, my son plays only with other High School kids.  But he loves the game.  So he goes to the course alone.  Sometimes they will place him with another group so he gets to talk with 1-3 other golfers and often times learns a great deal about golf and life from them.  Other times, he starts out alone but almost always gets asked to join a group he catches up to.  He learns to graciously accept their offer to join them and again talks with them the rest of the course.  He’s not an extrovert in any interpretation of the word.  Without golf, his circle of people he knows in the world would be very small.  Instead, he has a large group of golfer friends of all ages that he randomly meets up with all summer long.

What do you think?  Are there other life lessons to be learned on the course that nearly all teenage boys would benefit from?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

My 35-lb Appendage

DSC_1068When my workday is complete, I pick up my youngest 2 kids (4-year-old boy and 8-year-old girl).  My son wants to cuddle with me on the couch and watch a movie. Now he’s underfoot as I try to prepare some dinner.  He gets up on the counter so he can watch my every move.  Dad comes home.  I try to give him a hug and kiss but before I know it, our son is wedged in-between us ensuring that he is getting the majority (all if he can have it) of my attention.  My husband and I try to catch up, but questions and demands come flying out of our son’s mouth — clearly no one except him is allowed to talk to me.  It’s exhausting!

Not all days are like this though.  He can happily entertain himself and just check in every so often which is so very normal for his age.  The excessive clinging only happens if I’ve been gone too much.  As a mother that works full time with 3 kids ranging from 4 to 17, its easy to be gone too much.

Penelope Trunk’s latest post on her homeschooling blog talks about this exact thing.  Being more present with our kids makes them so much more secure and need us less.  This is exactly the opposite of what we are “expected” to do — leave our kids at daycare so they get used to being without us; leave our kids at preschool; send them on the bus; send them to school all day long.  This may build self-reliance in some, but it’s not the natural way to do it.  Being with your kids as much as they need it so that they feel secure is the way they build confidence.  Then they can willingly separate from you knowing that you will be there when they return.

I’m planning on homeschooling my 8-year-old next year, but the more I read about it and really evaluate my parenting I want to keep my son home too!  I can’t quit my job though so it’s out of the question for now.  He still has 1 more year before Kindergarten though — maybe I’ll be able to swing that.  It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

How Not to Jump-Start a Car

dashboardI’m sure many of you know how to jump-start a car, so I’ll spare you those details.  Instead, I’m going to share how not to jump-start a car.

On my recent PTO, my son, daughter and I were invited to a neighbor-girl’s last minute birthday party. Between my neighbor and I, we had 6 kids and 2 adults — too many for 1 car.  As we were leaving in our respective cars, her car wouldn’t start thanks to her husband leaving a GPS and laptop plugged in overnight.  No problem!  I have cables in my trunk and just jumped a car successfully 4-days prior.  I can do this.

I pull my mini-van into her garage, pop the hood, get out the cables and hook ’em up.  Meanwhile, she struggles a little with her hood which she finally gets popped.  Then she looks at her battery.  Only the negative hook-up is exposed and it appears we need to take a cover off the battery to expose the positive.  But it isn’t obvious how to do this.  We both try for a minute or 2 until she decides to grab her owners manual.  As she turns around, she tells me “you’re smoking”.

I whip around and see my cables smoking as I had hooked them up to my running car and laid the other end on the plastic bag that normally houses the cables.  I immediately unhook them from my car, but as I do that, they start on fire.  There is now fire running up the cables from the “unhooked” end traveling toward my engine.  I throw the previously hooked up end down into the pile of fire in her garage.

Now, to locate the fire extinguisher!  She finds it, but has no idea how to use it.  The cables are still burning, but nothing else has joined in yet.  I step toward her in my black coat to see if I can help just as she figures it out and covers me in white powder.  At last, the fire is out.

Defeated, we buckle 4-kids into the back of my van, 2 into the middle and the adults take our spots in front and head out to the Birthday party location.

School Choices

My sweet daughter will be finishing up 2nd grade in a couple weeks.  It wasn’t easy for her though — she struggles to get her work done.  I don’t know exactly what it is though as she tries hard and she seems to grasp subject matter.  She seems to always be behind though.

Her teacher at our small Christian, Classical school has been great.  But she isn’t convinced my daughter will succeed in 3rd grade.  But I think repeating 2nd grade will harm her because she understands the materials.  I honestly think my daughter is at grade level, but surrounded by peers that are far above grade level.  This is not helpful to her.

I love our school.  But I want what’s best for my girl.  I think I want to home school, but I work full-time.  Can this still be done?  That is the million dollar question.  Lord knows we could use the saved tuition money!  But can I teach her enough while still working?  If I wasn’t working, it’s a no-brainer.  But I am.

Today, I am unsure of what to do.  So, our plan is a little of everything.  I will do a trial run of home schooling as soon as the regular school year lets out.  However, we will not transfer her out of her school until July if we pull her at all.

But Will His Wife Thank Me?

Raising a respectful 16-year-old boy is tough…really tough.  He’s a good kid so my tendency is to let things slide.  I know that doesn’t do him any favors, so I try to remember to have humor and be creative but he needs to be punished sometimes.  Last night was one of those times (and warning – I don’t think I was creative or humorous in my punishment!).

So, his curfew is 11pm.  He knows that exceptions can be made if they are arranged sometime before curfew.  Well, he sent me a text message at 8:50pm.  I am notorious for NOT having my phone on me – a fact widely known in my family.  I did not see his text.  At 11:30pm, I finally call him to see where he is.   “Didn’t you see my text?” “Did you see a reply???? If not, you can assume no!” “I don’t see what the big deal is.” “Get home now!”  Then a few back and forth text messages as he can’t get a ride at nearly midnight so I decide to pick him up.  I refuse to let him have his way at this point since I put my stake in the ground earlier telling him he had to come home.  A warning text letting him know that I’m on my way and he had better not let me wait even 10-seconds in that driveway (15-miles away!) when I get there was sent.

Pull into the drive…one, two, three…nine, ten, eleven…fourteen, fifteen!  So, what do I do?  What any rational 37-year-old mother of 3 picking up her 16-year-old son at 12:30am would do.  I lay on the horn:-)  Not super proud.

No apology from him, no understanding that he needed to make sure a real person got his message and approved it.  Instead, he told me it wasn’t his fault I don’t carry my phone.  I tried, not very calmly, to explain how inconsiderate it was of him and that we have both a home phone and his dad has a cell phone, neither of which were tried.  His “you’re crazy” attitude is something I have no patience with and then I might become a little crazy (wow, I need to work on that!).  I decided that I should do something inconsiderate to him to help him understand….and I did.  As he watched, I withdrew him from his last golf tournament of the year.  Yikes!

Today I’m left wondering whether I’m helping to turn him into a strong, confident, thoughtful, kind, considerate man that any woman would want to call her husband or a spiteful, woman-hating man that will resent me for years to come….