Jun 15, 2012

The Canoe Trip

6/15/2012 — cori

I shall describe this adventure using mostly pictures and few words since it is the pictures that tell the story best:
 We arrive at the beautiful, calm St. Croix river and secure two canoes for our 7 mile trek.

These are the beginnings of the bluffs we pass.

 Such beautiful rock formations all along this river.

Could there be a more beautiful backdrop?

This was my crew.  Lucky for us, Gavin was the one "steering the ship". 
He had the audacity to tell me I was being a "backseat driver".  However, I must point out, my beloved son has never before "steered" anything and needed many, many pointers in the fine art of how to move a boat and use an oar.  Plus, I was in the front seat.

The was Chuck's crew.  He got "The Chloe's".  Our sweet neighbor girl joined us to even out the boy to girl ratio.  They kept their eyes peeled for all the awesome wildlife we saw throughout the day.  We actually saw a beaver and he even hit his tail against the water.

Chuck and I had a chance to ride together for a bit while the kids were playing on the sand dune.  
This picture shows the perspective of how huge some of the bluffs were.

And this picture shows that we obviously don't know how to steer.  We rammed right into the cliff.  Lucky for us, neither the cliff, nor our canoe sustained any damages.  Thankfully, Gavin chose to take this picture at just the right time to document our canoeing prowess.

My husband the Oarist.  He fancies himself an excellent 'oarer'.  But we didn't feel that word actually summed up the entirety of his skill set.  So we deemed him a professional oarist instead.  Remember, this is the same one who drove us directly in to the cliff face in the above picture....I'm just sayin...

The sand dune.

An example of the fun you can have while on a sand dune.

The only one of us to come out of the water with a leach attached.
What is it with the blood sucking animal life in Minnesota?  

Such a peaceful way to spend the day.

Reflecting on our fun time exploring the St. Croix by canoe.

Jun 10, 2012

Debate Update

6/10/2012 — cori

Amazingly, debate night is still going strong.  We added yet a new recruit to our ever expanding line-up of debaters this past week.  Another neighbor (12 year old girl) had strong opinions on our topic and couldn't wait to join the fray.

Our topic this week was, "School Lunches".  It was more of an opinion forum instead of a debate since it was such a generic topic.  We all agreed that school lunches suck and are not nutritious.   My goal was to see if anyone would come up with a solution.

I came up with what I thought was a whopper of a solution.  I thought it would be great if chefs in each city adopted a school, trained it's lunch ladies how to make fresh food and encouraged the schools to all start their own gardens.  Many people in my debate circle thought that was way too idealistic.

Then one bright person had the ingenious idea of googling the subject to see what, if anything, was being done about school lunches in the real world.  Excellent idea!  Let's see how what we are talking about translates into the real world.  Well, what do you know.  It just so happens Michelle Obama, our very own First Lady, has the EXACT SAME IDEA as me.

Would any one like to rethink my idea as "too far fetched" now?

Sadly, I do have to say I received some pretty harsh feedback during this past debate.  And it wasn't even from the judge.  It was from all the other debaters.  Apparently, in my effort to look like I'm paying attention and trying to relate to the speaker, I come across as a little too intense.  My fellow debaters all confessed that they can't stand looking at me when they talk because I look them right in the eye and nod and smile in agreement and horrible things such as this. I guess this is a tactic that causes others to forget what they were going to say. They're lucky I'm not clapping and yelling, "Preach it Sister!".    So I guess I need to work on grunting, averting eye contact and not smiling so much while listening to others.  In essence, I need to revert back to teenagehood.

Interestingly enough, the 12 year old confessed, "I don't think I can do this.  I have really strong opinions and I don't like it when other's don't agree with me."  Perfect!  Then this is the place for you.  This is a safe place to learn to give your opinion without trying to convince me you're right.  This is where you can hear an opposing view point and learn to disagree agreeably and maybe even learn something.  This is the place where you can learn not to let those passionate emotions on a subject control you or isolate you from others with differing opinions.  We're all friends here.  We respect each other.  We learn from one another.  We appreciate each opinion because we value each person.

If we can achieve this in this small setting, maybe one day these same people can take the things they learn in our family room and transpose them into real world scenarios.  Oh happy day.

Jun 7, 2012

Parenting Graduate Course

6/07/2012 — cori

I decided I needed to enroll my self in some graduate level studies on the topic of parenting.  It seems that overnight my world has turned upside down.  Even though this handsome young man in the above picture turned 13 six months ago, it apparently hasn't dawned on my until just this week.  I'm realizing that everything I thought I knew about parenting and have experienced as a parent thus far is ancient history.  I can no longer parent this blossoming adult like I did when he was a child.  Apparently I walked into a wall.  Or I've had headphones on with my music up too loud to hear his deep voice.  Or I must be wearing magic glasses that make me see him as the 8 year old he just was last week.  Does time really go by that fast?  Because all the sudden, one day I woke up and my firstborn is taller than me, bigger than me, can lift me off the ground, is stronger than me and probably smarter than me.

Time to reevaluate.

We had been butting heads quite a lot lately.  Which is rather strange cuz Gavin is an awesome kid.  Very well mannered, considerate, polite, obedient and intelligent.  So why are we getting our wires crossed?  Why aren't we able to talk like we used to?

That would be because of me.  I haven't grown with him.  Not cool.

After some hard core studying and evaluating my current parental practices, I have come to learn that I need to change with my sweet boy.  When I want to tighten the reigns, I need to loosen them instead.  When I want to give an order, I ask a question instead.  When I want to protect him from failure, I back off and let him fail and learn on his own.  Such control only pushes them away from you.

You see, I found I was actually doing him a disservice by always giving him a suggestion (very helpful ones I might add!) or reminding him to do this or that or hovering around to make sure something was done the way I wanted.  Me. That's what it all came down to.  I wanted things done my way.  And because of that, I wasn't allowing him to fail and learn and think through situations on his own.  If he just would listen to me and do things my way (or by my suggestion) the first time, he (and me) can avoid the awful inconvenience of wasted time and have everything done right.  The problem with that is, he doesn't learn.

In order to learn he has to make the decisions, own the problem, own the solution, own the responsibility and own the failure or success that comes from it.  That way he his packing his mental bag with tools on how to handle problems on his own so he can be a healthy adult.

The problem is, I've never been a parent to a teenager before.  I'm a first time mom here.  I'm scared to mess up...mess him up...scared to fail.  Sounds an awful lot like fear based parenting to me.  Fear causes you to want to control, not trust.

By not letting him fail, I've hurt both of us.  But at what magic point does the parent go from being the one to own the problems of their children and fixing things to passing the ownership over to their teen? That day in history would have been nice to know or anticipate.  We could have planned a lovely ceremony.

But as with all things, life is the teacher.  If I want Gavin to learn from his mistakes and mess ups, that means he has to see me learn from mine.  So, I chalk all my parental failures up to an awesome learning curve and go forward thanking God for his grace and patience in my life.  Because that's what I want to see him do.

Yesterday when he came home from school I told him, "Honey, I need to apologize to you."


"Because I have been disrespectful to you."


"Remember when I told you that if you were going to act 5 years old I'd have to treat you like a 5 year old.  And then I started getting more rigid and putting more rules out there for you and taking away your privileges."


"Well.  That was wrong of me.  I should have done the exact opposite.  I should have given you more opportunities to show me you do know what you're doing.  I should have given you more chances to mess up and learn.  But instead, I got mad at you when you messed up and it didn't make learning very fun.  And I bet it made you want to do the opposite of what I was asking of you."

"It sure did."

"I'm sorry.  I've learned my lesson.  Now I promise to let you learn yours."

You would have thought I just told him, "Honey, I just deposited a million dollars in your bank account.  Feel free to use it as you wish."

I think I floored him that I actually understood what he was thinking and feeling.  I'm learning, slowly, but surely.  That makes two of us now (acutally 3 because Chuck is on this path with us).  We learn from our mistakes, move on, and show love to each other no matter what.  No more manipulating his choices with our disapproval or anger, no more nagging or reminding, no more trying to control him.

After all, that's not how God parents me.

I recently played this song for him and told him I hope he hears us encouraging him through these words as he grows into adulthood:

Jun 3, 2012

A Tale of Woe

6/03/2012 — cori

I caution you, this post might gross you out.

I now live in a part of the country where I have the threat of ticks all around me.  I never before experienced this in Dallas.  We only had fire ant mounds to maneuver around or black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders to fear or the on-slaught of wasps each spring/summer/fall.   Ticks were a nuisance for other people, not me.

No more.  Now I take every precaution when venturing outside.  We always wear hats when walking through the woods.  We do 'tick-checks' after the kids come in from playing outside.  We spray ample amounts of 'OFF!' around our personages to create a choking haze that will discourage any insect from biting our precious skin.  We do not want to be tick bait.

But none of these offensive tactics worked the other day.  And the victim was me.  Grossed out does not even begin to describe the way I felt.  I discovered the tick by accident when I went potty.  I was just sitting there and thought I saw a black speck near my belly button that resembled an Orea cookie-crumb.  I knew I had not been eating oreos (plus, I'm not that messy of an eater).  I started trying to brush it away.  When it didn't respond to the brushing, I examined it closer.  When I saw mini legs, I officially freaked out.

Then I had some instant decisions to make.  1.)  Do I finish my business (remember, I was going potty)?  Who can be expected to concentrate on peeing when some foreign object is trying to burrow itself inside your skin?  2.)  Do I scream and have Chuck come to my rescue?  But that would be rather embarrassing. 3.)  How do I express my extreme concern to Chuck about my imminent peril when I run downstairs and accost him with my problem?  Will he take me seriously?

Do you know it never once crossed my mind to pull the thing out myself.  I was that paralyzed by fear.  What if I pulled it out wrong and left it's legs still under my skin?  What if I started throwing up and then there would be a bigger mess to clean up?  Oh, it's so hard to be me!

I finished with lightening speed and ran downstairs to where Chuck and Bennett were talking.  I make the most dramatic entrance of my career and proclaim, rather forcefully, while lifting my shirt to reveal my belly button to make the impact of my words that much greater, "CHUCK.  YOU MUST HELP ME!  I HAVE A TICK IN MY BELLY BUTTON THAT I NEED YOU TO REMOVE IMMEDIATELY!"  I think my emphasis and fear came through adequately.

We all crowded into my bathroom (minus Chloe who was already in bed but could hear all the commotion) while I lifted my shirt so Chuck could remove the monster.  For this very delicate process he uses tweezers that he heats using a lighter.  Supposedly, the heat draws out the insect intact.  However, I'm a tad bit self conscious about sticking my tummy out for all to see, so I decide to make the announcement, "I just want you all to know that I'm sticking my tummy out so that Daddy can get a good view of this tick and my belly button.  It is not normally this fat."  I then proceed to cover my eyes  with both hands while Chuck extracts the vermin.  It takes all my internal strength not to gag or start visibly shaking.

After about 5 minutes of this torture, I am finally free of my nemesis.  I'm sure Chloe was beyond curious, so I went into her room and informed her that I am still alive, not to worry.  I just have a giant case of the hee-bee-jee-bees.

Chuck said, "I'm surprised you didn't feel it crawling on you, that you didn't notice until it embedded itself into your belly-button."  Nice.  Now I have the words "crawling" and "embedded" coursing through my brain right at bed time.  You can guess what I dreamed about.

I now do a belly button check 50 times a day.

Jun 1, 2012

The Great Debate Club

6/01/2012 — cori
You guessed it...another tradition.  And, keeping with custom, we stumbled upon this one as well.

At dinner one night, Gavin was trying  to convince all of us that he would make a great lawyer and could persuade anyone toward his opinion.  Of course nobody agreed with him.  Before we knew it, we were talking about having a real debate.  The kids couldn't have been more excited.  They asked if we could do it every week (please?!).

We set the date for the next night, right before pizza and movie night ('movie' being a loose term to describe either "The Next Food Network Star" or "HGTV's Design Star).  We also set some ground rules:

1.  You only have 5 minutes to present your case
2.  Give each person a chance to speak without interrupting
3.  Speak clearly and look people in the eyes when you talk
4.  Disagree agreeably (during rebuttal)
5.  Really listen to what each person says
6.  Research and record what you learn. Print it up to use as notes

We couldn't have been more thrilled!  Aren't these life lessons we desperately want to instil into our kids anyways?  They orchestrated the best teaching/lesson plan for us.  All we did was make the logo.
Of course we have a logo!  To be honest, that's probably the first thing Chuck and I thought about (after all the wonderful life lessons this was going to teach our precious offspring, of course).  Afterall, we are going to have a binder full of everyone's notes and assessment rubrics and that binder can't just have a blank face.  We need to know what's in it.  This is what happens when two designers live under one roof.

Guess who got to be the first judge?  Me.  Believe it or not, it's much harder than you'd think.  You don't have to get up and talk, but you do have to really listen, give positive and constructive feedback and everyone is scared of you.  I'm actually looking forward to not being the judge next time.  The person with the highest score on their rubric becomes next week's judge.  Gavin will be judging tonight's debate.

If you're curious,  lasts week's topic was: The Most Dangerous Animal.  Gavin's most dangerous animal was the mosquito.  He had excellent research notes and facts.  However, Bennett's speech held me captive and won me over out of everyone.  He was arguing that the Black Mamba was the most dangerous.  Chloe chose the Polar Bear and looked like she wanted to cry the whole time.  Chuck picked the Hippo as the most dangerous animal, but didn't speak with as much conviction as either Bennett or Gavin, thus dropping his points down on his rubric.

Tonight's topic:  The Pros and Cons of Video Games (we all have to vote on the topic).  We drew from a hat to find out what side of the argument we were on.  This week we are doing teams.  Believe it or not, both Chloe and I randomly picked the "cons" and Chuck and Bennett picked the "pros".

Chloe is pumped about it.  She already printed out her two page research paper (done in a lovely 36pt font) and has it memorized!  She highly encouraged me to spend the day memorizing my research as well.  I've been trying desperately to recite each paragraph as I'm vacuuming and dusting and cleaning the bathroom.  I would so much rather turn in my research paper and declare, "this is what the whales are saying" compared to trying to take something that is already well written and have to say it aloud.  Not cool!  This is definitely going outside my comfort zone.  I prefer to write over speak any day.  I guess if the kids can learn from this, so can I.

What's the worst that can happen?  I fail?  Everyone laughs at me?  But I have to remember that these are the people who love me the most in the world.  If I fail, I just learn what not to do for next time.  If they laugh at me, I laugh too because I don't want to take myself so seriously that I can't laugh at myself.  This is just a win/win situation.

I rest my case.


We ended up having a guest debater join us on this fine night.  A neighbor who got wind of what we were doing said, "I have got to be a part of that!".  Just so happens he's a 15 year old boy who has great interest in the "pros" of gaming.  He wanted his side heard.   So, we gave him the basic rules and gave him time to research (which he said he didn't need-he already knew all the good stuff about video games).

I have to say, I was very impressed by the "pros" side of the argument.  They presented their case well. Everything in moderation seemed to be key; which I agree with whole-heartedly.  Then Chloe and I presented our side.  She did so well!   However, Gavin, the judge, gave me feedback that said my presentation came across more like a seminar, a boring one.  Live and learn.

During the rebuttals, an interesting point was brought against me.  I kept giving disparaging facts abount violent video games.  Our neighbor told me all video games aren't violent.  Good point.  I should have titled mine, "The Negative Impact of Violent Video Games" not just 'video games'.  He also consented that many boys do it out of boredom and that he does have friends who admittedly spend way too much time playing them, but if they had other interests to keep them busy they wouldn't.

I asked him if parents have anything to do with it.  If parents don't teach kids how to make responsible choices when they're younger, they won't make responsible choices when they're older - especially in relation to video games.  He said he agreed completely - parents are key to everything.  An interesting admission from a 15 year old boy.  It was a delight to have his point of view and for the kids to see that we are not against video games but that we are for responsible choices if you chose to play them.

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