Monthly Archives: December 2008

Christmas Review, Abridged

This Christmas, Wonderfriends?  This Christmas has been indescribable.  There have been parties big and small at our house, a fire in the fireplace almost every day, grandparents visiting (and even overlapping for one lovely dinner), three different kinds of delicious homemade soup and umpteen Christmas cookies baked and consumed.  And so much more.  Too much, really.

In fact, I won’t even try to tell you all about it because its day-after-day shimmering fabulousness might make you a little bit ill and you might never return, and that’s worse than not sharing my magical Christmas.  I know that not all Christmases are like this.  Not all of mine have been or will be, and some of you didn’t have the Christmas you were wishing for this year.  But this was a really, really remarkable one for the Wonderfamily, and that’s all there is to it.  The only things I will say are that a) staying home for Christmas makes a huge difference in one’s stress level and enjoyment of the holiday, and b) making absolutely no plans during a 4-day visit with one’s parents is highly recommended.  My kids have been in their pajamas all day for 80% of the winter break so far.  So much of the fun for our clan comes out of reduced expectations and plans.  But there I go saying too much.

So I’ll drop in a few photos here and tell you that there is a full set here, but if you had a lousy holiday, skip ’em  or you’ll wind up feeling like you just ate eleventy million sugar cookies what with all the sweetness.

   

  

   

   

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Why They’re Called ‘See’s’

Thanks to my very generous aunt and her husband in California, my parents brought along a lovely, 2-lb. box of See’s Chocolates for Christmas.  If you’ve ever had See’s, you know how fortunate we are and you will probably also send cash for larger pants for all of us. [Please?]

Now, as you might imagine,  a closed box of chocolates is incredibly tempting to a small child, never mind that it’s on the sideboard with dozens of visible homemade cookies and a snowman cake.  It’s closed and therefore forbidden, and that’s all that matters when you’re four.

On Christmas night, Lyle, ignoring my increasingly annoyed requests to quit [the hell] playing with the box, knocked it to the floor during dinner.  Somehow it made perfect sense that my father would take this as his cue to play the kindly grandparent who immediately opens the box and allows the little one to choose a chocolate.  Curses!  Foiled again! [And I’d just like to point out that if I’d thrown a box of chocolates to the floor when I was four, the same man would have probably at least suggested that I deserved a wallop to the rear end and sent me from the room, but such is the progression from parent to grandparent, and you gotta respect that.]

Lyle asked at breakfast today if he could have a chocolate.  Between hidden mouthfuls of illicit gingerbread cookie and sips of coffee, I (ever the hypocritical parent) said, “No, let’s wait until after lunch.”

I left the room to use the bathroom a while later and when I returned I immediately noticed that the top of the See’s box was halfway off.  The next time I saw Lyle I inspected his hands and face for signs of chocolate; there was none, but he couldn’t suppress his smirk.

“I was just checking to see if you had eaten chocolate this morning, Lyle.  I was surprised to see the top of the box halfway off.”

He smiled bigger, and because he is getting sneaky but continues to be honest at all times, said,  “Well, I was gonna sneak some, Mommy, but then I heard a creaky door!”

“Ah, I see.  So you didn’t want to get caught, hmm?”

“Yes,” he said, still flashing me his sweetest grin and looking at me with his big brown imploring eyes.”Can I have one?”

I laughed.  “Listen,” I said, “come over here.” I opened the box and found the smallest one that seemed easy enough to break in half.  “We’ll share one.”  His joy knew no bounds as we shared an ooey gooey caramel chocolate at 7:30 AM.

After a bit he looked at the box and pointed to the word ‘See’s’.  “Mommy?” he said sweetly, “Now I know why they’re called ‘See’s’.  It’s because you should just see if you could have one, and not try to sneak one!”

I left the table thankful that some kind of moral had come out of that exchange, because I was pretty certain that I had just been a major Christmas pushover.

 

Repost: Surviving the Holidays with Sensitive Kids

About a year ago, I wrote a post here called “Surviving the Holidays with Sensitive Kids” and it was a popular one.  I heard from readers throughout the year that they were going back and reading those particular suggestions often.  So I thought I’d put it up again – a little late, as there are only a couple of days before Christmas, after which the excitement starts to abate, but maybe it’ll help anyway.

I will note that, a year later, many of these strategies are not as necessary for Lyle to get through the holiday season, but I do complete a calendar for him during any periods with lots of celebrations, days off, and transitions (e.g., November, December, and June, when school ends). He uses this tool a lot, going to the refrigerator to check the date and announcing what is going on today, tomorrow, and next week.  I have noted an interesting side effect, which is that he has a better understanding of time concepts because of it, as well.  The calendar is very regulating for him, and I keep it posted on the fridge at 4-year old eye level.

Here’s the piece, originally posted here on December 14, 2007:

Both of my boys are sensitive guys. I believe that, in the long-term, this is a good quality in the males of our species, I really do. In the short-term it can be a bit tough, however. Among other things, it means that Baxter cries easily and was afraid of segments on Sesame Street until he was about 6 years old. I mean, truly, there is never any doubt about how that boy is feeling and it’s been relatively easy to help him learn to manage his emotions.

But Lyle, though probably even more sensitive and finely-tuned than his big brother, has been much harder to read. Rather than crying when he’s scared or his feelings have been hurt, he is likely to feel confused and hide behind what I think of as his “wacky” behaviors: moodiness, hitting, sudden shrieking, twirling in circles, and jumping on top of his brother.

I see children through an uncommon lens, because of my training. I’m sure this has pros and cons for my family. In my book, children’s behavior is highly meaningful – they are communicating something with their actions, and our job is to watch, listen, and interpret the message in order to respond appropriately.

So when Lyle’s “wacky” behaviors began to escalate in the past week, I took it very seriously and watched carefully. In addition to the usuals – which were significantly heightened – he began to bite his shirt collar or jacket a lot – and a couple of times even bit his own hand earlier this week.

Now, listen up: if you are my child and you want me to go into Full Alert Mode, just start biting your hand. I’m all yours.

I watched. I listened. I talked to Matt. I thought about it a lot.

Let’s see, what’s going on for this shy little guy…Christmas is coming (exciting)…Santa is coming (scary and exciting)…he was invited to his first school friend’s birthday party (scary and exciting)…my work party is this Saturday, complete with a live Santa (scary and exciting)…Mommy was a stress case the last two weeks (scary)…there are new decorations all over the house – and everywhere else, for that matter (exciting but different from the norm)…we’ll be going to California in less than two weeks (exciting). And on and on. No wonder the child is completely dysregulated. That’s a lot for a small boy to handle.

So here’s what I’ve done.

First of all, I quickly gave him a substitute to bite. Because think about it – oral input is the most primitive source of comfort and self-regulation we’ve got. Consider breast-feeding, sucking on a pacifier or a thumb. Many adults use food or cigarettes to satisfy that need. If we say, “Stop biting” but give the child nothing to substitute with, we are probably causing him more discomfort and then what’s going to happen? Probably more biting.

I have a collection of oral motor tools that are safe and durable, and I offered Lyle an assortment. He took to one of them. I encouraged him to get all the oral input he wanted with that – while we read stories, when he watched a video, or when he was starting to experience heightened emotions. It helped. Forty-eight hours later he isn’t biting anything else and isn’t even using the tool much.

Second, I worked extra hard with him to identify what he was feeling. When he began to bite his shirt or shout, I slowed him down and asked, “What are you feeling right now?”, helping him to differentiate between excitement and nervousness so that we could identify other ways to deal with those feelings. This worked very well. Tuesday afternoon I took the boys over to Starbucks for hot cocoa in the afternoon. Lyle was starting to get really wired, and I raised my voice to get his attention before he bumped into someone. He immediately bit his shirt – but then stopped and said to me, “I was surprised because you spoke sharply to me.” He then climbed on my lap and allowed me to comfort him and explain why I spoke sharply. This self-awareness led to an immediate decrease in the undesirable behaviors in that environment.

Third, I slowed down his world as much as I could. I started to speak slower and more quietly to him, and kept our schedule as calm as possible. I made an extra effort to sit down and focus on pretend playing with him more often, which always gives us more opportunities to connect emotionally and play out difficult situations.

Fourth, I made life more predictable. I drew a calendar of the next few weeks for the kids. On each day, I drew simple pictures to identify Lyle’s school days, days with the nanny, when exactly the parties are, when we go to California, etc. When life is busy and routines change all of a sudden, many kids (and probably adults) need some extra predictability and external organization. Both of the boys are checking their calendar multiple times a day; it’s posted on the refrigerator.

This is an exciting time of year. That’s as it should be. It’s fun to dance in the kitchen to Frosty the Snowman, treat the kids to some holiday fun, and enjoy the season.

But for kids who are not so sure yet about how to express their feelings, ’tis also the season for some extra support.

The Joy of Big Kids

Snow Angels

The boys and I had such a fabulous time playing in the snow in the front yard this morning that I suggested we go down and have some fun at our beach.  Here are some of my favorite photos – the rest of the set is here.

 

Christmas Has Arrived

 

 

 

 

Fo Yeas Old

From the backseat of the car the other day, Lyle – the child who as of yet has no final ‘r’ sound in his speech said, “Mommy?  Do you know what ‘F-O-O’ spells?”

I said, “Hmm, well, I’m not sure.  Maybe ‘Foo’?”

“No!” he exclaimed.  “It’s ‘foh’!”

“Oh!  I see.  What’s ‘foh’?”

“You know,” he said, “like three and five!”

“Ahh, right.  Four.  That’s right.  You’ll probably be surprised to know that ‘four’ ends in an ‘r’, Lyle!”

After thinking about this new information for a while, he said, surprised, “That’s funny that there’s a silent ‘r’ in the word ‘foh’.”

Someday he’ll figure out that it’s not silent.

Smell My Toot (and Other Dinnertime Stories)

Ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner with the Wonderfamily?  No?  Then run away!  Yes?  Well, then, read on, because I am here to share Real Scenes (patent pending) from tonight’s dinner table.

Jordan and Matt talking.

Lyle: Excuse me, Daddy, but do you smell something?

Matt, wary: Yes, I smell these yummy tacos.

Lyle, smirking: No!  I wanted to see if you smelled my TOOT!

Matt, admonishing: Lyle, that’s not something we talk about at the table.

Lyle, ever worried about what the elves are seeing, slaps his forehead and says dramatically, OH, NO!  I’M DOOMED!

 *****

Baxter: May I be excused and then come back for dessert?

Matt: No, we’re going to sit together at the table.  This is the only time of the day when all four of us are together and can talk.

Baxter, grumpy:  But I’d rather go look at my new book order book than just sit here.

Jordan, irritated:  Well, there are things I’d rather do, too, but we’re staying here! 

…and then realizes that Matt has simultaneously said, Well, I’d really like to spend time with my family.

Jordan, mortified, mutters:  Right.  That’s what I meant.

Ouch, I’ve Meme’d Myself!

Perusing the web tonight, I came across this meme at our friend Christopher’s blog over here and got it into my head to tag my own crazy self because it a) looks like fun, b) is something I want to pass on to you all, and c) will really assist me in procrastinating on the rest of my work tonight.  So here goes…

1. Five names you go by
a) Jordan
b) Jordie
c) Mommy
d) Scruffy
e) Jody

2. Three things you are wearing right now:
a) pink flannel Garnet Hill pj pants with red and white stars on them
b) fuzzy blue socks
c) a 10-year old dark green waffle weave pj shirt (I am of the opinion that sleepwear does not follow the same matching rules as daywear.)

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
a) a new car that requires no work and no monthly payments
b) big, warm Ugg boots

4. Three people whom I would like to see fill this out:

Anyone who is in the mood!

5. Two things you did last night
a) sent invoices to clients
b) lit Christmas candles on the dinner table for the first time this season

6. Two things you ate today:
a) corn and roasted red pepper soup

b) a handful of mini-marshamallows
7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:
a) a neighbor calling about the roof repairs
b) a new parent referred to my practice

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
a) attend a workshop on auditory processing at Erikson Institute
b) go out for dinner with Matt (the boys are out of town for the weekend!)

9. Two longest car rides (I’m interpreting this as road trips):
a)  Minneapolis to Boston (1390 miles in a U-Haul)

b) Minneapolis to Seattle  (1662 miles)

10. Two of your favorite beverages:
a) a really good latte
b) a strong cup of coffee

AND ANOTHER:
Pick a color for the things that you have done. Mine are in red letters.
I have…

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world

8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Skied a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (documentary)

56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (by my mother!)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

100. Ridden an elephant

Lifting the Fabric

 My connections with friends are important to me and I have held onto as many of them as I can, despite the number of times I have moved over the past twenty years.  I thought I was in touch with most of the really important people from my past already.  However, joining Facebook last month has brought surprising results.  It has allowed me to connect more easily and quickly with a great number of people, including – but certainly not limited to – all of the people I’ve kept in sporadic touch with over the years.

Through blogging, I have found a wonderful group of friends – I know a lot about their lives, what’s going on with their kids, what they’re reading, what they think politically – and even what they’re having for dinner, if they happen to be on Twitter.  I know them well enough that when I meet them, they are who I expect them to be.  But this is different; now on Facebook I am seeing the small children of people I have known intimately in real life, reading about the lives of people I knew briefly at one job or another, and amazed to see photos of my childhood friends’ parents showing up in their Thanksgiving pictures – parents I remember so well but haven’t seen since I left my hometown in 1989.

It goes even deeper than that.  Through the network of Facebook I reconnected with a group of friends I went to camp with in New Hampshire during my last three summers of high school.   We were together for one week each summer, and it would be too difficult to describe fully what that experience was like, but it was unlike any other camp I’ve known.  It was a family camp, but we teenagers had a girls’ cabin and a boys’ cabin, which were right next to each other.  (And if you’re imagining that we had counselors or any type of supervision, think again!)  I think I saw my parents at meals – not that I ate with them, I don’t think, but we checked in.  We hung out on the beach of Lake Winnepesaukee until all hours of the night, but only after the nightly all-ages folk dancing in the barn.  We had classes each morning – of which I remember absolutely nothing – but I do remember a lot of freedom, laughter, incredible friendships, and a great deal of music and theatrics. Our parents, too, had themselves a good time, staying up late with their friends by the fire in front of their cabins, having a few (or more) drinks and telling stories.  We went with a big group of families from my hometown, but people came from everywhere, and so although I knew some of the kids really well already, I met many more there.

I hadn’t thought about camp in a very, very long time until these familiar faces started to appear on my Facebook friend list.  What shocked me initially was how many of them live in San Francisco; I probably pushed the stroller right past their houses when I was there or waved them by at an intersection without recognizing them.  What hit me next was that I saw current pictures of the “little kids”, the ones who were 10 years old and dancing crazily around the barn every night, who appear to be adults now, too, posting notes about their jobs and weddings.

So much is coming back to me now that we have started posting pictures and commenting on them, and I realize that this was a whole part of my childhood that I had lost for at least fifteen years.  Completely lost.  I left and moved on, even as some of my old friends grew up and continued to go to the camp year after year and still go today, even by themselves, no matter where they live.  And it was an important part of my childhood.  I can look back now and see how those years at camp changed me and contributed to my development.  But how eerie that I had simply lost touch with those memories.

Tonight I went to the group page we created for ourselves on Facebook, and found that one member had uncovered and linked to sound files on the web of two of the folk songs we danced to each night in the barn.  They were the last two songs of the night, I believe, and I was always disappointed when they were played because it meant that the dancing was winding down.  As I listened tonight, I was taken aback by the intensity of the memories that were provoked, and found myself with unexpected tears in my eyes.  I was hearing one of the songs as if I was walking in the meadow in front of the barn, hurrying towards it with my best friend, trying to catch a bit of the last dance before it ended.  I was wearing my hippie-dippie Indian print wrap skirt, and smelled of bug repellent.  My flashlight wasn’t necessary to get to the barn, but would be later when we made our way down the narrow path through the woods to the beach.  Perhaps it was the night when I stayed up until sunrise with a couple of friends out on the raft in the water, watching shooting stars and laughing for hours.  I can’t see or hear about a shooting star as an adult without picturing that particular night sky.  Possibly it was the night before our annual early morning swim across the lake and back.  Or maybe it was the night when a guy asked me to dance and ended up becoming my first boyfriend, at least for a few months until the distance of my college from where he lived in New England became just a little too great.

I only spent a total of three weeks out of my thirty-seven years at that camp, and yet reconnecting with those friends and memories has been intense and satisfying.   I am seriously considering taking Matt and the boys back to New Hampshire one of these summers to go to camp now, an idea that had never before occurred to me.

All this leaves me a little stunned: what other parts of my life have I left behind?  What have I lost? But it also helps me to remember that every single experience of our lives – forgotten or not – is folded into the fabric of our adult lives.  It’s a part of who we are, whether or not we are conscious of or can articulate its impact.

I am so grateful to have this chance to lift a corner of the fabric of my life and take a peek at such a wonderful time again.  We should all be so lucky.