Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Punishment to fit the crime?\


C made a bad choice with a friend last night.

She was duly punished. And then some. But how far is too far? What is appropriate?

When she was a toddler I went to a forum run by early childhood educators about punishment. Their message was that all punishment should have a direct correlation to the crime at hand and should not involve shame. When I said that my cousins have a naughty chair that works very well, and that their kids are very well behaved, I was told that this is the wrong philosophy. What are they learning other than shame? She asked. I tried to explain that they will have a cause-effect. She said that it has to be related: e.g. if a child is caught steeling candy from your snack stash, then the kid doesn't get sweets for a while. (There is a similar debate about the use of a Traffic Light in the early grades at BRRSD. I must admit that I am not a fan - that there are plenty of other ways to punish/praise a child's behavior.) In my punishments I always seem to include a Tablespoon of shame.

I have never been able to learn "the experts'"lessons very well. I can be scary and mean. I truly believe that C and N's friends are afraid of me when I get mad. Even my father commented on my behavior when I got the call while walking around the bookstore. "I wasn't as worried about what C was doing, but how loudly you were yelling into your cell phone. People were staring!"

There are always consequences for mistakes. C will learn that this week. I can't put her in a naughty chair (after that lecture, I have struggled to link punishment to crime) but I like the idea of community service. Making amends. She's already grounded - my MIL and FIL leave tomorrow (we won't see them again until July, and maybe not here until 2010) and they had plans with her today. Am I fair in punishing them too? They promised to take her 2 places today.

I always fear that other Moms will judge me as being a bad Mom (that's what parents do in BW) so I came down extra hard. The other mother will learn that C is paying for her mistakes.

I just have to remember that it isn't about me judging me, it's about developing her character and guiding her to make good choices.

I need guidance in making good choices too.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mugs


Several years ago my dad gave me something I was completely surprised to get: a set of Christmas serving bowls and dishes. They are beautiful and I use them every year, but I hadn't asked for them.

This year he gave me a set of 8 coffee mugs, a coffee (tea?) pot, creamer and sugar dish to complete the set. They are just as beautiful. What was really funny was his comment: "you should have more company!"

Is he joking???

This year in overnight guests alone (off the top of my head, forgive me if I forgot anyone) we had my brother and sister-in-law, my friend TL and her husband and 2 kids stayed for a week, my mother-in-law and niece were here for 10 days last June, my Dad for the entire month of May, we had 2 families stay with us for labor day weekend (and a promise of 2 more in 2009!!!!!), plus my Dad and my cousin (cousin only stayed for 2 nights in mid- November, Dad is still here). Now my in-laws are just finishing up a 2 week stay.

We also had a large gathering of kids and parents for Halloween, countless sleep overs, I had a small tea, I hosted a partylite/usborne party and I can't remember what else. Lunches for friends, ladies' nights... etc. etc. etc.

I love having company! I love showing guests around NYC, I love nice dinners around our big kitchen table. It always forces me to clean up - which the house always needs. When T goes away, the first thing I do is take out evite for a girls' night.

But that I "should have more company", even said half in jest, gives me heart palpitations!

He must have been joking!

At least...

I hope he was.....

Bookings are already coming in for our "B&B" for 2009. Labor Day weekend is currently reserved. Call early for the best availability. If you come in December you'll get Starbucks Christmas Coffee served in beautiful mugs.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A rock star!

My family always discussed politics when I was growing up. My in-laws don't as much. I think my father-in-law was pretty shocked last night when he found out how politically liberal I am. Last night with my Dad and my in-laws together, Dad called Obama "a rock star". I was thinking about this today while watching one of my favorite movies "Love Actually".

How much more of a star can you get running a country than Hugh Grant? I remember watching this scene in the theater 5 years ago, and wishing that someone would say these things to the US.

I'm not expecting miracle cures for the economy or rampant changes next month in the educational system. I am hoping for a new sense of hope in the coming months that will lead to gradual change.

And a touch of Hugh Grant can't hurt!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas readers, family and friends,

Even though these days Christmas is still about being with family, eating traditional foods and exchanging gifts, when I grew up we attended midnight mass. After Communion the lights would lower in the church and by candlelight we would sing Silent Night. While I am not sure what I believe anymore, I do miss the music of my Christmases past. As I write my Dad and I are enjoying Lessons and Carols broadcast live from England.

This is my favorite Christmas Carol.

Angels we have on heard high
Sweetly singing ore the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria in excelsis Deo
Gloria in excelsis Deo

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord the newborn King

Gloria in excelsis Deo
Gloria in excelsis Deo

See him in a manger laid
Whom the choirs of angels praise
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid
While our hearts in love we raise

Gloria in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria in excelsis Deo

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Keeping sanity at the Craziness

My favorite "new" (meaning since we moved to NJ 5 years ago) traditions are done. We've seen the Christmas Show at Radio City and the Tree at Rockerfeller Center, baked Gingerbread Houses (from scratch!) with T's boss's family, attended T's company's party and, of course, my annual dinner with 2 girlfriends.

I have been stressed out the past weeks. I still have 6 Christmas cards to send and I never sent my sister's family's gifts (UPS overnight?). I just had to change my kids' advent calendar gift because I just couldn't handle what I was going to give them ("sleep overs" tonight), but I had to nix that. I just don't have the energy!

Last night I thought I was going to fall into a spiral of angst and stress when a girlfriend heard in my panicked voice that I just needed a little while to relax. A place of refuge... just a few blocks away. 9:45pm wasn't too late! That's a friend!!

It did the trick. I wake up today with a feeling that I can manage what I have left. Another friend reminded me that this will all be over before I know it. Although she was too polite to say so I could hear myself say "so don't blow it".

Yes, I still need one more gift and I forgot several small things (something for James the mailman, etc.), and, of course, I have to shop for Christmas day dinner, but it's the light, not the tunnel that I'll keep my eye on for the next few days.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Glad to be a mom

T's company had its annual holiday party. Families flew in from all over the country (well, many of them couldn't make it because of the weather and flight cancellations). We brought my Dad and in-laws along. How many companies let you bring your extended family. We weren't the only family with three generations - there were several!

It was a great party! You could tell how much fun the kids were having when they couldn't be bothered to spend 10 minutes eating!

C and her friend SB (daughter of T's boss) were the hip pre-teens in their Christmas outfits, gorgeous hair and matching silver sparkle clutch bags. N was somewhere between the bigger 10 year olds and JB, though only 5 is as tall as N. MB said that the girls were teasing him, as they are known to do, but he said it with a smile. In a few years I'll have to keep an eye out to make sure that C behaves like a lady around this cute boy! But for now they are all very innocent and sweet.

When Santa came and all the kids -even those who no longer believe - were mesmerized! It was so touching to see how excited N was, jumping around, an ear-to-ear smile, seemed to believe. Sentimental Mom started to tear up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No BOE for me...

I had goals for today:

Have a perfect house with my perfect family and a perfect meal for my perfect in-laws, then head to the Board of Ed meeting tonight to give my well-received opinion and be told Yes, Mrs. L. We'd LOVE to hear your opinion and we will change our policies accordingly.

DREAM ON!
House is still messy (my room at least is a disaster). The perfect family? Well, we can't even eat together since the kids have TKD - they have testing this weekend.

My perfect in-laws. Well, they are!

And the boe - well, it is a dream I'll have to pursue another Tuesday. I can't bail on the in-laws to hear next year's budget presentation.

Just don't fool reduce the libraries - or any other academic resource for things like security, sports or administration!

We haven't forgotten 2007!!!!

Off to clean up. Good daughters-in-law have a clean kitchen!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Think positively!

It was a great day today. It's the little things:

N's teacher, Miss Teacher, keeps her superstar status in my book! She called me in to speak with her about something relating to N's personality. Maybe it's something to be worried about (his physician is on vacation, so I'll wait until next week to follow up), maybe it's nothing. Either way, she noticed when few others have. Just she and his kindergarten teacher have ever mentioned this trait to me. Miss Teacher even followed up with last year's teacher. She had never noticed it (I couldn't help myself - my reply was "well, then she wasn't paying very good attention, because he does it all the time!"). Miss Teacher was concerned that maybe N gets teased about it - but he says that when kids ask him about it, he just says "it's just something I do". I'll also keep an eye on the teasing.

She really is compassionate!

My tax dollars at work? I'd say they were very well spent this year!

The rest of the day has been the typical busy craze, and my in-laws arrive tomorrow. Normally I am a stressed out nut the night before they show up, but today I keep taking a deep breath and saying, "it doesn't matter if the house is perfect!"

And it doesn't! (Nor will it ever be perfect enough for my in-laws anyway!)

The B&B is full through the end of the year. We're taking reservations for 2009... book early for the best deals!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In progress

I am not sure what to do! N is still able to memorize increasingly difficult words (this week's list included the days of the week), but not able to remember to incorporate them into his regular writing. I keep hoping an answer will appear out of the sky!

With the holidays approaching and my focus turning to my incoming guests (arriving Tuesday and staying til 12/31/08), I am hoping that N's school issues don't get forgotten. Last week I forgot to write in his reading log every single day! (He did read, but God Knows what/how many pages!) Now I am not sure even where his reading log is!!! Hopefully/probably in his desk. Miss Teacher has called me in for a meeting on Monday morning at 8:15. That cannot be good, otherwise it would have been over the phone or e-mail!

I've been in such a bad mental state the past few weeks that I am making a concerted effort not to think about it.

So for now, I will put on music while I wash windows, do laundry, decorate (we have even MORE Christmas elves to put out) and clean. If I can sing to the music, my mind won't wander into enemy territory. This worked well yesterday.

Then later tonight N will write a few sentences for me. Probably kicking and screaming, but I can't ignore it forever! Works in progress require work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A mini vacation...


Once a year I treat myself - whatever I want for dinner at one of my favorite places, I say YES to a 2nd cocktail and talk about taboo things with two girlfriends. Then we shop - sometimes finishing our Christmas shopping, other times getting new digs for a special event (I needed something hip a few years ago to hear a band). No new outfit for me this year, but it's still a night out. A night out with these two friends is a once a year event, so I really enjoy it! Imagine - the kids only having one outing per year with a certain friend.

I hope a mojito and the fabulous coconut shrimp appetizer do magic with my soul. But the real medicine is time with my friends. My kids get time planned for them with friends as a matter of course. I need to plan a more play dates for myself!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Still learning the same lessons

Every day for several weeks I've been feeling like I'm getting worse, making more mistakes and in general not doing a very good job here in this space I call life. Just when I thought I was figuring out how to be an adult - wham-oh! I make a series of mistakes that I can't seem to forgive myself for. Small stupid things. Every day it's something new and unexpected!

When I reprimand my children, punish, yell or just want to alert them to behavior I would like them to change, I need to look in the mirror first. Remember how it feels to be reprimanded, punished (even self punishment) or alerted of my own mistakes.

It hurts to be reprimanded, so it is best to learn how to alter behavior in other ways.

If I treat my kids with respect - even when I need to work on their behavior - maybe they treat others with respect? Would they treat me with respect? Or will it make them spoiled rotten as I fear? I don't know. It would mean that *I* would have to seriously alter *my* own nature (yell first, investigate later).

Maybe I need to just relax a bit. Take it easy so I am less stressed? Maybe then I won't yell?

Hardly! But it would be nice to be a more patient parent! And a more patient, forgiving person!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Timed test

N came home with a timed test with a note from his teacher saying that he had continued on after the test was over, even though she asked him not to.

He was clearly ashamed when I asked him about it. He said he was jealous of the other kids who could finish on time. He said he was one of the only kids who wasn't able to finish on time. T said he was proud of N for wanting to finish it, something N hasn't always been interested in doing.

The most poignant thing for me was when N asked why I didn't yell at him. When you yell as hard and as often as I do, I guess it throws kids for a loop when you talk to them normally.

It made me sad that I yell so often that N expects it.

N may need to work on his math, but I need to work on my parenting skills!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December 6th

23 years ago today, my brother died.

My family life growing up was never "normal" but this put us well into the dysfunctional category.

When he died my Mom, sister grandmother and I were in New York City. At the same show I saw just yesterday with my children and some friends.

My mother, queen of all secrets, did not want my grandmother to know the extent of his illness. My father, I'm not sure whether he was overcome be grief or out of allegiance to Mom, refused to tell us that he died, even when asked directly multiple times. (My Mom had immediately flown west to be with his widow). My Aunt, who hadn't been in the loop on how sick D was, broke the news to us, with my grandmother's wails coming from the living room, where my Uncle was informing her.

I don't think I ever forgave my mother for putting my sister and me in such a terrible position of knowing all about D's illness, without being allowed to mention it to family, especially my grandmother. Mom claimed it was because she couldn't handle my grandmother's sorrow and worries on top of her own. My belief is that it was a combination of a power trip and shame.

I'll never really know if this is true, but his death seems to have been the subconscious trigger of many subsequent life choice. At 15 I was at an impressionable age. How/why does any of this really matter to me now - a 38 year old mother of 2 in suburbia? I have now outlived him by 5 years. He lived in a different world from me. But it does.

I am still working out in my head all this old anger. For one, I hate secrets of any kind! Nothing makes me more angry than when people hide things from me.

Let's just hope that this residual anger and fear of loss doesn't dominate my relationship with my two (thankfully) healthy and fantastic kids. My greatest fear is losing them! It is built upon seeing my mother's devastation 23 years ago today.

Yesterday I was in NYC at the same theater that I was at 23 years ago. We take our kids to the Radio City Christmas Show every year. Every year I remember that I had been there when D was dying. I still go. It is proof that life goes on. But I still cry - just little - during every performance, and yesterday was no exception.

I wish you were here, D! You'd be 56... but instead you are forever young to those who remember you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pillow talk????

A co-worker who has a daughter the same grade as C (in another district nearby) came into work upset yesterday. Her daughter CT couldn't sleep Sunday night. She had been to a sleep-over on Saturday night where one of the girls read a forwarded text message on her cell phone.

It was about convicted rapists living in the area (presumably info from Megan's law). CT was traumatized - she apparently had been told what rape is and that it is happening in her town.

Mom was pretty upset, too.

I wondered: is this what 10 and 11 year olds talk about at sleepovers at my house too?

And, is this something we are supposed to be proactively discussing with 10 year olds???!!!

What a world we live in!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Losing the balancing act

I am losing it. I am not doing well enough at work and things are slipping on the home front. I forgot to get a replacement string for my daughter's violin (who knew they break so easily!), so she can't play in orchestra tomorrow morning. I look like a bad mom!

Tonight I went to book club (forgetting to bring the book that my friend will return to the library with the "book club bag"). I enjoyed it until I got home and my husband reminded me that I had missed a family tradition and the kids waited and waited for me to come home.

Must be the first time I ever forgot my cell phone!

He also informed me that the exercise club keeps billing my old credit card and then charging a fee for non-payment. More to fix.

Wish I could snap my fingers and fix this all. This blog started as a commentary on BRRSD school programs - when do I have time to even pay attention to these issues? What kind of activist am I?

A tired one.

Good night.