Friday, December 31, 2010

attention getter

ham it up, you cuties

Okay, I heard it again yesterday, a person complaining about another's bad behavior, "She's just doing it for attention. Ignore her."

I've heard this line a million times. Where did it ever even come from? It's shaming, insulting, a put-down.

No, no, no, no, no.

We could stop seeing wanting attention as a bad thing--because it is not.

Of course she wants attention! We all do. It's a basic human need, probably has a lot to do with survival. (If a baby can't attract the necessary attention, the survival rate is going to go way down.)

It's normal to want to be noticed--at any age. Everyone wants to be noticed.

And then we want to connect with other people. It doesn't have to be a lot or involved, just there.

When a kid is doing things that seem designed just to disrupt, to engage us with no real purpose otherwise, I don't blame them anymore. (It only took me like twenty years of parenting to figure this out. Dang, if only I'd known then what I know now.) They're just kids, trying to be noticed and connect.

Instead people told me, "Just ignore him whenever he does that." Well, sheeze, that's useless. That's not even half the story.

Yeah, don't buy into bad behavior, but see it for what it is: a message.

So do it--hear the message. Notice them. Seek them out when they're not pestering, just to say hi. Listen to their chirpy ramblng for a minute. Ask a few questions.

Watch the negative behavior disappear.

No, not right that second, but shortly. Within a week or two.

daring adorable stuntmen in matching pajamas, 1984

Try it on the adults in your life too--notice them. Make a bit of small talk. Tell them something trivial and foolish. Share a laugh. And watch the circle around yourself warm and brighten. Notice them reaching out to each other.

Here's the last part of an article I wrote at Christmas in 2001. Nothing changes, not even the good wishes for the new year. Ten dang years later we're still the same flawed goofballs making the same stupid mistakes, having the same predictable misunderstandings. But the same good wishes and love are there too. love, Val

"On the most important family birthday of all, our most heartfelt wish is an ordinary one: to be together. It turns out we’re not nearly as materialistic as we thought we were.

I'm telling you the same old thing: If you love someone, make sure you tell her. If you enjoy someone’s company, say so, no matter who he is. We whip through the span of our lives so rapidly, and a central part of our connection to heaven is about living those connections and that love.

We’d be fools to waste even a second. Blessings in the New Year. love, Val."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

a rainy thursday in december

A picture from this morning:

He's here today with just the big kids. John and Dannell took the little ones to an indoor amusement park for lunch. t.c. was so excited he was shrieking as he headed out the door, John fast behind him yelling, "Don't run! No running! It's icy and wet!" Good luck, my son.

I had to wake Tim and Julia up for this. Usually they wake up when they feel like it, but today no. Julia stretched over and over, trying to get her eyes to open. Finally she said, "Can you make me a piece of cinnamon toast and bring it here?"

I said no, not in the bed--too many crumbs.

She said, "Well, we've slept in crumbs before."

That cracked me up. No doubt it's true. I've seen the food wrappers in the bookcase headboard after Halloween.

Oh, rainy, dark day, seems perfect for a nap. love, Val

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

construction mama

I've heard of something called Cooking Mama.

This is our Construction Mama:

Tim took this thing as far as he could, which was impressively far, actually. But then it all got away from him and others had to help.

These Knex are much tinier than the other ones we've had before, the tiny drawings and the tiny parts, and it becomes a tiny little miniature nightmare. It was a gift from my parents and it cost a few bucks besides.

But it's so close. Jay put on the finishing touches and then the batteries were dead, so now it'll have to wait until we get new ones tomorrow. I sure hope it performs after the expense and time involved.

We'll see.

I found this picture on my camera tonight. This is how Heidi's dog currently spends her days--loafing around on MY bed with Julia in pajamas until the afternoon. It's a tough life, but she's managing.

I didn't take this picture either. It's Sidney, curled up on a couch pillow. She's a nine pound dog, the smallest member of the whole family, Maria's own baby, a tiny fluff of cotton and bitty bird bones.

You know, with all the other dogs in this family, she has trained them well: Nobody. Touches. The. Sidney. The other dogs may sniff her. She may engage them in a tiny bit of tug of war, but that's all. No physical contact ever.

I'm not sure how she accomplished this. She's the oldest one so the others entered as puppies, but it's all about her personal safety because she is very delicate. (Sam's over 140 pounds.) Even Heidi's dog is at least 40. Anyway, the dynamics are beyond me, but it's good.

The vet comes to the house. He's a house call vet. Last time he was here, he was in the kitchen trying to get a blood sample from Sam, and as he felt and poked and squeezed and poked, Sam never said anything, never moved. Sidney, however, sat in the next room, under the dining room table growling. The vet snickered, "Sheee's got a good memory."

We finally had Sid spayed because of her obnoxious false pregnancies. It got to the point where Maria couldn't deal with tending the imaginary new mother and it was all too damned absurd. So we had her spayed.

And then she had yet ANOTHER false pregnancy, triggered we're told, by the spaying itself. We didn't know this of course, so I called our poor vet and told him, "Terry, Maria says Sidney made her dump out a basket of beanie babies, and she picked out certain ones to be her babies."

He said, "Umm-hmm."

I said, "Now you tell me how a nine pound dog makes anyone do anything, and how did Maria know this is what she wanted?"

He and I laughed our heads off on the phone. He said, "Dogs and their owners have amazing communication."

But the grand finale false pregnancy? Not unusual. It's the last one, hallelujah.

Sam had a couple of those too, nested next to our bed with stuff. One morning I straightened up the room and tossed one of my flip-flops into the shoe basket. Later she'd fetched it from there back to the nest. Whoops, sorry! I had no idea it was a baby.

Oh yeah, fun times. Time for bed is what it is. love, Val

Monday, December 27, 2010

and a laid back christmas day

Jay's brother and his wife hosted the party at their house.

There was way too much food--even something called cooky salad which is whipped cream and cookies, mandarin oranges, and possibly even candy bars? I'm not sure. By any name, this is no salad, but it's hilariously decadent.

My sister in law is so much fun, so generous and honest, and down to earth, so nice to my kids and all of us. Plus she makes a mean cooky salad.

The kids are always happy to see their cousins, and it was a very laid back afternoon, just right after the busy weeks leading up to Christmas.

galloping with his new horse

b.g. did not want to come in from the screen porch, no matter how cold it was

it's my mother and father in law with john

Now it's onward into the new year. It could be a good one. love, Val

Friday, December 24, 2010

oh, in the middle of the night

All dressed up:

I only took a couple pictures at church because it feels impolite, for some unknown reason. We were there early because the guys were ushers, so I sneaked a couple without flash.

this is a friend's son lighting candles. (he's wearing his bell ringer gloves.)

The service was gorgeous--beautiful music, formal, elegant, and yet somehow also funny and happy and kind. The pastor said something about the Christmas story is where Jesus is still adorable and manageable, before he became confusing and difficult. Yeah, I get that, and the hilarious dinner prayer scene from Talladega Nights ran through my mind: "Dear 8 pound, 7 ounce Baby Jesus..."

Then it was time for the party at my parents.

m.c. and lydia in their new pajamas

I do so love my new camera. It's definitely slower on the click, but less errors on the flash.

We had fun tonight.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS. You can say it. Yell it if you want.

this is a terrible picture with heidi's head cut off, but an excellent view of the baby
like father, like son-in-law

a fine, handy hat for surviving a wisconsin winter, i think

my mom talking to t.c. about santa claus

him telling her what he knows

on the way home, we paused to take a picture of this spectacularly festive home. man, i would not want to clean that up or store all that crap.

And this is the stocking for our old dog, Spooner, which Heidi carefully labeled when she was small. This is going nowhere. I can hardly handle it on a number of levels. Sam cheerfully uses this stocking now. She's good natured like that, even though Julia said, "What does this say? There's no P in Sam." Yes, true. we're aware.

It was a peaceful, beautiful Christmas, better than I ever even hoped. Kirsten's sleeping over tonight. She says it's cold in her room at her house, so we went to JC Penney online and ordered her an electric blanket, just like Lydia has, and now I'm told we're going to put in a movie. Sounds perfect. love, Val

Thursday, December 23, 2010

a christmas party

Tonight was our 23rd of December family Christmas party.

It did not disappoint. The usual characters, the usual noise, torn up wrapping paper, giddy kids were there. We had the usual shrimp and meatballs, cheesy potatoes, and salads by both Alicia and Jay, the little weenies and the gingerbread.

There was a bottle of pinot grigio tossed in a snowbank out the back door, along with a box of old time Grain Belt beer. Cookies were everywhere, including some very rich ones our friends sent, and a big bowl of puppy chow treats Dannell brought.

It was fun.

As the gifts were being passed out, t.c. crouched on on the floor near the end table and yelled, "GRAMMAW! There are still presents down in the office! Are we opening those presents too?"

I didn't get it. I said, "Were you in the office? What were you doing down there?" We have a second refrigerator there, and also the Santa gifts are piled all over. Yikes. This could get complicated. The lies could, I mean.

He yelled back, rosy cheeks and red wool sweater, "I can see them in the hole!"
Oh yes, the hole.

There was once a radiator in that spot on the floor during the years this house was a duplex. A hole was drilled in the floor for a pipe to that radiator. The radiator is long moved, but the hole, about the size of fifty cent piece, remains. It's about three feet from the front door, two feet off the stairway wall.

Usually the hole looks down onto Jay's desk, and the kids drop crap in there to distract him when he's working--Polly Pocket dolls, crayons, stuff like that bounce off the blotter. But if you get your nose down at a sharper angle, the pile of Santa gifts in front of the fax machine comes into view.

Oh gosh.

Leave it to t.c. to spot a pile of gift through a hole.

I love him so much I can hardly stand it sometimes. He's busy, barely notices me, but that's okay, love is like beams of sunshine. He can't avoid it.

Here's this guy. I tried and tried to get a pic of him with my new camera, but he's faster than technology. When he needed a rest we watched some Curious George videos on the computer until he melted like butter against my shoulder. Then he realized he was dozing and jumped up. Oh yeah. Don't be sleeping! It's Christmas!

Julia was so happy with her gifts she posed for a picture with each one. Oh gosh, to be six.

Now it's the end of the night and it's cold here next to the window and a guy is softly snoring, body and long arms draped most invitingly across my side of the bed.

Good night.

Onward to tomorrow. love, Val

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

just walk away

john dancing with his great-grandma

Tim's in vision therapy these days, has been for a bit now.

I'm not normally around mainstream parents much. There's no special reason for that. I'm not around alternative parents much either. Life evolves, I guess.


Now I'm at vision therapy and in the waiting room a couple times a week, and I'm overhearing mainstream.

Arguing over homework. Arguing over vision therapy and the home exercises for that, over what the kid needs to do before the day is over. Honest to God, it's just... unbelievable.

I feel like I want to tell them to just walk away. Go home. Take your child home and forget all about school, about bedtime and assignments, and as an old friend Michael said, banish the word should from the language.

Just walk away.

They're spending like ten YEARS beating their head against a wall for nothing. They honestly could do pretty much nothing and achieve the same result.

We love homeschool, but this is not an ambitious smart-guy competition around here. Whatever. Smart guys is smart regardless, and people are intelligent in different ways, which is a very a good thing.

As Little Jay would say, "It's all good."

And homework, and arguments, and especially arguments ABOUT homework are not good things. They're terrible.

My mom said, "Even if you said this to them, they'd never believe it."


Oh gosh.

They're arguing about things and it's all a set up. The arguments aren't even about anything real, or anything of any value, anything about them--it's all bullshit piled on them by SCHOOL.

By other people. Who are stupid.

Forget about it.

The lady who runs the vision therapy lab turned to me after the other parent left, and I quipped, "Tim's peaceful. We haven't had an argument in years."

He was over to the side, hands in his pockets, checking out the eyeglass frames.

Her eyes flew open. She said, "I don't know if I can even HAVE children after this job, hearing what people go through--what raising kids is like!"

I told her it's different when they're your own kids--totally different.

Plus Tim is the ninth child of ten and he's a good man. We have no contentious conversations. He never does anything bad. We agree on everything,except the fact he's still wearing shorts in December, but they're his legs, and he's happy.

She laughed, and it was such a nice sound.

Plus there's this, and you know, the world used to be full of families who had a lot of kids. It wasn't a freakishly weird thing to have a big family when I was a child. People did. Families with five, six, eight, ten kids were not unheard of.

But now?

No way.

So culturally, there really are no more of those kids who are the eighth of ten or the fifth of seven--those youngest kids in a big family, who get those very relaxed (worn down), older (tired) parents.

(I could not have parented at the same intensity level I did in the beginning for now about thirty years. Not possible.)

But I'm thinking those younger kids in big families also are a subset of people who add a distinct life experience and world view to the rest of us, and we don't have them anymore.

Okay, have a lot of kids, people. And keep them around the house until they're bigger than you are, and they insist on leaving. There's a plan, eh?

I know, I know.

But always love, love, Val