Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Turning Nine

Birthday celebrations should last for weeks.
Marissa and her friend, Erika, at the American Girl Doll bistro.
Marissa's began the weekend before her birthday, with a small gathering at the American Girl Doll store for a birthday luncheon. Our party was made to feel special, like we were the only people in the place celebrating something as wonderful as a birthday.  Marissa felt like a princess.

She spent a day with me at home six days before her birthday, just Marissa and mom time. We went for a long bike ride with a stop at the Linden Hills library to pick up a book, and a stop at Great Harvest bread for a cinnamon twist.

Marissa can make a trip to Ikea feel special, like walking through a magical universe where everything is fascinating and fun, even though we were really just shopping for a work desk for me. We took the time to stop in many display areas, checking out the kids bedroom sets, the kitchen drawers that close themselves, the pantries that have built-in shelving. They all became fun play areas to her, and we took the time to pretend.

Then, as she's done many other birthdays, she spent time by herself, singing songs, dancing, playing with her dolls and making up stories.  It was so sweet to eavesdrop on.

On her actual birthday we were in Tracy, MN, for her grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. We drove home that morning and let her open her gifts right away. The unasked for karaoke machine which I thought she might like has been her favorite plaything. The bubble gum machine is already half empty.

We celebrated dinner at her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden, with Aunt Kristi, who gave her a beautiful charm necklace.

When the server said, "Happy birthday" to her, she said "Thank you" with such charm that he had to tell her happy birthday again, just to hear her say "thank you" once more.

She smiled the entire day.

Like previous birthdays, the day was punctuated with exclamations of, "This is the best day ever!"

She is sweet and kind, funny and carefree, she is our 9-year-old Marissa.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Society Creating Helicopter Parents?

I found this post in my drafts folder, originally written in the spring of 2012. I don't know why I didn't post it but the topic is still relevant, even though two years have gone by since originally written. So I'm posting it now, complete with pictures from two years ago. Hard to believe that much time has already flown by.

Lindsey working on an art project. By herself.
One morning this past week I went to Lindsey's school to help her get a form from her locker. While walking along the hallway in front of the 3rd grade classrooms I saw other students' research projects that had already been turned in lined up along the windows. (See previous post on my lack of sewing abilities in assisting on this project.) While most projects were dioramas, as Lindsey predicted, a few had chosen the sewing projects.

After looking at the quality of the craftsmanship of the sewing projects, I can guarantee you that there was significant parent involvement in the final products. I thought one of the projects was a store-bought stuffed animal, until I saw the tell-tale seam where the animal had been stuffed and then sewn shut. For real? How does a teacher grade that, it so obviously isn't the child's own work?

Marissa proudly shows off her 1st grade writing project.
This same week, Lindsey's running club, Girls on the Run, has decided that their service project will be to hold a bake sale with proceeds going to the Animal Humane Society. The GOTR coordinator sent an email home to parents, explaining the group's chosen service project and informing us all that the girls would be planning the event after school on Thursday. Instructions would be coming home to the parents on what the girl would be bringing to the bake sale.

Before you could say "peanut butter chocolate chip," emails were flying around from all of the moms volunteering to bring various baked goods, cups, signs or what have you.

The coordinator emailed the group again and kindly but firmly said, "Thanks for all your enthusiasm for this service project. This is a girl-led project. Your child will be telling you what she would like to bring to the bake sale."

In other words, butt out. Such a good reminder.

Yet at the same time, in order to keep parents involved in their children's education, kids are assigned projects that in my opinion are beyond the child's ability to complete on their own. As a parent it becomes difficult to know where to start and stop with helping with the projects.

Lindsey's recent research paper and project had a great guide for parents to help with the writing piece. It reminded parents that the paper was to be the child's own writing, and that the parent's role was only to suggest edits or revisions, not to re-write the paper. There was a list of questions parents could use to help in that process.

This part is confusing to me. How can you make that clearer? You use this word a lot of times. Is there another word you can use that means the same thing? 

Those questions were extremely helpful to make sure I didn't take over writing the paper, yet could provide good feedback. But then the actual project portion of it clearly needed parent involvement to complete.

As a parent I am in disbelief at how quickly my girls are growing. It is easy to keep doing what I've done for them when they were pre-schoolers or toddlers, because I forget that they are now nearly 7 and 9, and can and should do many things for themselves. "Mom, may I have some water?" is now met with, "Sure. You know where the cups are. The faucet still works, right?"

I do not want to be a helicopter parent but I want to be involved in our children's education and lives. I am learning that it is an easy line to cross.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Week

I've been between jobs for one week now. Only the unemployed and retired know this feeling. There is nothing waiting for me at the office. No one needing an answer...on anything. No projects on my plate. Pure and utter blankness.

My project list at home, on a different note, has been tackled with gusto. I feel great about all the things I've done there, yet still found time to enjoy myself.

I am truly a believer that the universe works in mysterious ways, and that if we are simply patient and quiet, things will work out the way they were meant to, even if that's not how we planned them.

This job change was meant to happen, and this week between was, too.

I spent the first part of the week with my sister, who was also enjoying her final week of unemployment before starting her new job as a nurse at a hospital 2 miles from her house. We went to her apartment and hung pictures. We went for a bike ride/skate and enjoyed lovely afternoons on the patio until Wayne got home from work. We hung pictures at our house and cleaned out our front closet. Being silly sisters, we had fun every step of the way.
Artwork by Marissa (top) and Lindsey (bottom)

Then Kristi started her job and Wayne flew to Denver for a business trip. Marissa asked to stay home with me one day and so I said, "Why not?" She and I went for a bike ride to the local library and bakery. We went shopping for ideas for a home office for me, which was loads of fun for her because we were in the Ikea showroom.  Ideas galore!

Marissa enjoys a cinnimon twist from Great Harvest.
The egg! Meant for pre-schoolers, though.

The next day Lindsey asked to stay home with me and, of course, I said, "Why not?" Her idea of fun, though, was entirely different from Marissa's. She tackled the junk drawer in our kitchen because "it's the first thing on your list and it isn't done yet." While organizing,  she asked if we could organize her clothes in her drawers next, or maybe her closet, which had become the dumping ground for everything that's on her floor whenever I tell her to clean her room. Instead we went grocery shopping which she also loved doing because she loves doing the self-service checkout at Cub Foods, pretending to be a checkout girl.

My organizer. Extra allowance for this girl!

The three of us spend our mornings on the patio, I drinking my coffee and the girls watching their Kindles or playing games.  I don't have to hurry anyone out of the house to be anywhere by any time.

My first day on the job wil be a rude awakening. And yet it won't, because I don't need to drive anywhere for it. It's right here in my house. On a regular basis I do not need to spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the road, getting to and from my place of work. It's going to be challenging, for sure. I'm looking forward to having clients again, and to getting to know a whole new team of people.

Today's my last day of non-working status. I'm going to finally get those other items checked off my list: a massage. A skating loop around the trails. A shopping excursion (for me, thank you very much).  Then time to dive in.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Interlude...and A Dream

I don't believe I've ever taken a hiatus from this blog before of this length. It has been nearly 3 months since I last posted. So not typical of me.

So much has happened, I do not know where to begin. So I will begin by saying that it was a needed interlude.

A week after my last post I flew to Indiana and helped my sister Kristi move to Minnesota. Already in the few months she has been here she has become a part of the fabric of our family. She is getting accustomed to the area, the climate, the social and natural offerings and having family close by. Weekly meals at our home are typical. The kids are disappointed when Aunt Kristi *doesn't* come for dinner. We plan outings together, we don't plan outings together but they happen spontaneously anyway. It's been an amazing, wonderful change. As wonderful as it is, it is still change, which can be hard and takes a lot of energy to process.

It is now summer, which means I am waking early in the morning to go skating, instead of staying up late at night to blog. I have committed to appreciating each morning that I do that, and not feeling guilty for the mornings that I intend to, but don't.

Lake Harriet, 6 a.m., June 30, 2014
Even though I haven't written a blog post for quite some time, my phone is still filled with random pictures I take with the beginnings of blog posts in mind. So I still think like a blogger, though I don't write like one.

And then, last night, I had a dream. Sometimes my dreams are just nonsensical, but most of the time they are a reflection of what is going on in my life, so much so that I had to write about it. 

I dreamt that I was driving a car through a construction zone. I was following the car ahead of me as people do in construction zones, keeping a close eye on its bumper as it navigated cones and signs saying to curve this way and that. It drove along a stretch of road that appeared to be an overpass with only a temporary railing of 2x4's nailed up in place along the roadway. The 2x4's had obviously been there for some time and were in some disrepair; they were not going to keep a car on the road if the car ran into them.

We were up in the air now, in an area that was clearly going to be part of some kind of cloverleaf or connection with another highway. Suddenly the car in front of me took an abrupt left, just behind a huge cement pillar, and I couldn't see the turn. I froze. What if it had just driven off the edge and was falling back to earth? What if the signage had told it to turn left but the work wasn't done yet and there was no road? There was no way for me to know if I should follow that car.

I stopped my own car, frozen. Traffic backed up behind me and drivers grew upset. In my dream I was having a full-out panic attack, sobbing and unable to make a move, frozen with fear. Finally someone put their arms around my shoulder and said, "It's okay, just trust. Trust." And suddenly, everything was okay. The honking, the yelling, the noise and the paralyzing fear stopped, and everything was okay.

I never saw a resolution in my dream, but when I awoke I knew that I drove my car around that blind corner, and that everything was fine.

I recently put in my notice at Gillette. I love the people I work with, I have a great passion for what I do and the mission is inspiring and incredible. But signs were telling me that it was time to start considering other opportunities, so I began talking to people in my industry and asking them to keep me in mind. I recently accepted a job on the vendor side of fundraising, working with clients to raise money through telemarketing.
This was left on my desk by a co-worker the day I gave my notice.
It feels like an abrupt left. But I don't think it is.

I think that it will lead me to new skills, new co-workers whom I will enjoy working with as much as I enjoyed my old ones, to learning new things and taking on new challenges. But...it is change. And change is hard and takes a lot of energy. Even the good ones.

So there you have it. The end of the interlude...and a dream.