May 29, 2015

Reading Material

5/29/2015 — cori
Gavin and I hit Half Price Books the other day to look for some reading material for him to bring on the plane for his upcoming trip to Germany.  This is the light reading material he chose to consume:

He said he decided on the Quantum book because when you read the flap it says, "Quantum mechanics is the most fundamental and important theory known to man." He told me, "If this is the most important, fundamental thing known to man and I don't know anything about it, I better get started reading."  I don't think he'll be able to wait another two weeks to read this book.

The Hawking book came about from his love for cosmology as well as his personal interest in the life of Stephen Hawking, especially after watching "The Theory of Everything".  I'm glad he's only reading a 'brief' history because I don't think there's a plane ride long enough to read a 'detailed' history.

Run, Chloe, Run

5/29/2015 — cori

For the past six weeks Chloe tried (and loved) a new sport - Track.  
Of course its much more fun when you get to do it with your best friend.

She heaved the shot put.

She ran the 100 meter dash.

She scaled the high jump bar.

She also enjoyed running hurdles and doing the long jump (neither of which I got good pictures of). It was fun watching her move out of her comfort zone and try something new.  However, running is nothing new to her since she does it every day.  We'll just call this 'controlled running'. 

Teens and Screen Time

5/29/2015 — cori
There are a lot of things I don't know.  Being a parent is the world's best Continuing Education Class. As the kids grow, their boundaries are supposed to become bigger and bigger yielding ever more freedom. As parents, it's hard to reconcile that with the way you've always done things.  It means you're forever changing your rules/guidelines/boundaries/expectations.  I feel as though I live in a constant state of "are you sure we did/said the right thing?".

I personally feel that the more rigid and strict you are as your children grow and mature into teenagers, the less they will listen to you. They need/crave/desire your respect. They want to prove to you that everything you taught them through your words and actions when they were little sunk in and now is the time they get to show you. If you start 'tightening the reigns' at this stage of the game, you've lost them.

I recently read two very good blogs on the subject of screen time and teenagers - especially over the summer. It inspired me to talk to my kids about the whole thing and just see where it leads.

We had a wonderful conversation.  I started off by telling them that I don't want to give them any more rules. I know they don't need that. A confession of that sort always perks up their ears and they are very ready to hear whatever follows. I explained that my goal for them was that they learn how to manage their own time. If I'm always bugging them and nagging them about what to do next and reminding them of what they have to do - I'm ultimately doing them a huge disservice. I want them to grow up to be independent adults who know how to make smart, responsible, loving, considerate choices.  Once you teach a lesson, you have to let them 'practice'. Life (and specifically summer) is that practice time.

The school calendar dictates so much of our schedule during the course of the year. Summer is a time for freedom - for both them and me.  I don't want to squelch that joy in them because I've decided every activity for them through-out the course of the summer and the rules for that freedom are so oppressive.

So I started off by asking them what they think reasonable screen time looks like. Bennett did his typical, "Wait.....what do you mean, 'screen time'?". I thought that was a pretty straight forward question, but I went ahead and spelled it out for him: time to play games on the computer, you know, like Minecraft. Now that we were all on the same page, he could delve into the depths of his cerebral cortex and do a little calculating and come up with 'reasonable' and 'time'.  He chose 30 minutes a day or maybe 1 hour every other day. Chloe concurred. I looked to Gavin and asked his opinion. His thought processes always take longer since he actually thinks before he speaks.  He decided that one hour and 27 minutes a day was reasonable.

These revelations actually surprised me. Last year I gave Gavin a maximum of 4 hours a day on the computer because he had a Youtube channel and was making videos most of the summer and that required time.  He was also teaching himself coding by using online classes. To get good at anything, you need time to practice.  I felt it was only fair that he have time to devote to what he loved just as Bennett devotes hours to the basketball court. I don't think he once spent 4 hours on the computer all summer long.

The kicker here is this:  screen time is allowed any time of the day, your choice, as long as you do what you have to do before you do what you want to do. We adopted this philosophy after watching The Great Debaters, an amazing movie.  The father in this movie taught his son responsibility by using this phrase.  He also instilled trust in the relationship.  We thought it was genius and have been implementing this in our family (even Chuck and I follow this guideline) ever since.

This keeps me and my nagging out of the equation. This instills self-government in my children. This reciprocates trust and respect. This allows us to focus on our heart connection and not rules. My children are great rule followers. But I want them to be more than rule followers, I want them to know why some rules are important and others are not (i.e. - Corrie Ten Boom). I want them to be able to think and reason. We follow rules out of respect, but rules never change hearts. I care more about their hearts than my rules.

At this age, they know that every guideline we set is for their good, not to hinder them, upset them, keep them in the dark, stifle them. They know that our ultimate goal is to guard their hearts while they are with us. If we make a lasting impression on their hearts, following the rules just comes naturally - they will want to out of love.

I have a feeling there will be many days that the computer never even gets turned on. They've lived years with only playing video games for one hour on Saturdays and Sundays without complaint. They know how to occupy their minds. We read for many more hours than we play video games. We hike and swim and hangout together many more hours than they will devote to the computer. They know I don't listen to complaining. They don't need to be entertained. I find that if we focus all our attention on video games and screen time it makes it seem more important than it is.

This is just how our family works. What works for us doesn't work for every family. There is no 'right' way. It's very personal. It's very relational. There is no 'one size fits all' rule. What works for one of my children isn't necessarily right for my other children. To be honest, my children are so inundated with technology at school that they are looking forward to having a break from it (well, maybe not Gavin). This is the world they live in, we need to embrace it, show what balance looks like and teach them to control/govern themselves (in relation to everything, not just computer time).

I think that's why we were never given a parenting handbook when we had our first kid (much to my dismay). You have to learn to listen to your child, your heart and God to see what they need. The world and your kids change as fast as the new iOS updates - you just can't keep up with them.  And when you finally do get the new version, you find out it's almost obsolete and need to update again or your device is too old to even upgrade to the new version and you're out of luck unless you buy a new device. Thus is the story of parenthood.

image courtesy of:

May 18, 2015

When It Rains It Pours

5/18/2015 — cori

Where do I begin? know how (bad) things usually come in threes?  We definitely got hammered with three things - all at the same exact time (give or take 5 minutes).

We originally were supposed to take a trip out west to visit Aunt Lou yesterday.  But the threat of tornados and severe thunderstorms caused us to rethink that plan.  We rescheduled our visit and now had a free day ahead of us.  Since we haven't yet completed the bathroom renovation, it made complete sense to work on that.  All we have left to do (we naively thought) is finish putting up the hardiplank (mildew resistant drywall) on the walls and floor so we can tile.  Easy.

But then Chuck thought to check out the new plumbing hardware that we were going to use to replace the old shower nozzle and handle.  What do you know?  They need to be soldered on as well. Chuck thought he was finished with that nightmare after his bathtub fiasco.  When I called out thru the house to find out where he was he replied, "I'm in hell right now."  Somehow I knew that meant the bathroom and oddly enough it also meant he was going to have to solder something.

After spending an hour at Home Depot gathering all necessary supplies, he comes home ready to use his blowtorch - the only fun part of the whole ordeal.  I put on my 'Helper Extraordinaire' hat and we both get to work.  I get to hand him important things like ice, and pieces of copper and wet towels.  I also get to run up and down 21 stairs multiple times throughout the afternoon and evening turning on and off the water main.

He might look like he's smiling...but he's crying on the inside.

Despite our best efforts and long hours of hard work, we still have one tiny leak that doesn't want to get plugged.  We break for dinner (crepes with eggs and sausage) and get back to the nitty-gritty.  We are right in the middle of soldering when the kids run up to tell us that Ninja puked all of the carpet (two separate places).  They become comatose and have no clue what to do or how to help.  We drop everything and run and clean up the space (without any water since the water main is still turned off). We've been without water most of the day by this point.  I can't scrub the floors with the cleaner until we have water, but we can't have water until we plug the hole.  It's an endless circle.

After that little smelly interruption, Chuck heads back up to the bathroom and I run down to the basement in the 14th attempt to turn the water back on only to find out it's still leaking. Again, the kids come running to each of us informing us that our neighbor is at the door.  What in the world does a neighbor need right now?  We both run out there to hear our neighbor breathlessly tell us that one of the branches from one of our huge trees fell into her yard just two minutes ago and would we come look at it.

It's severe weather outside.  The winds are raging at 50 mile an hour wind gusts.  There is a small break in the rain when we run out to check on the damage.  Thank God it missed her shed, but there is indeed a huge branch hanging on for dear life to the tree yet also cracked and precariously hanging into her backyard.

The boys grab the saws, another neighbor grabs his chainsaw and we start hacking away at the huge part laying on the ground.  There's nothing more we can do until we talk to our Tree Guy.  I have him on speed dial on my phone since we call him so much.

We all typically shower at night so the kids are beside themselves not taking their showers at bedtime.  We turn the water on for 1 minute so everyone can brush their teeth and flush the toilet. What a huge convenience running water is!  I love you water.  I promise never to take you for granted again.

We wake up to the same problems we had yesterday.  It feels like the movie, "Groundhog's Day." However, our Tree Guy was able to come checkout our mess and informed us it would cost a small fortune to take down the tree.  We figured.  Thankfully, Chuck stayed home from work to finish the soldering which never got finished.  We actually even came up with 4 plans.  Seriously.  We are about to implement Plan D at this stage of the game.

Plan A - do it right the first time.  Fail
Plan B - go to Home Depot at 6am and get parts necessary to start over again.  Redo soldering. Fail
Plan C - cut out the entire unit and cap off the hot/cold water pipes so we can at least shower and brush out teeth like normal humans again.  Check
Plan D - call in a neighbor who has a tool we might be able to borrow and some experience that might help out.

I'd like to add my own personal Plan E - forget we ever had a shower and convert that into something else.  We'll see where this goes.  After our tree problem, we can't afford to call a plumber. So....there's that.  It appears that the easiest problem to fix was Ninja.  After she puked, she put herself in her kennel and didn't show her face the rest of the night.  Smart dog.  The carpet is as good as new.  The water main is back on.  I haven't had time to take a shower but I did get the entire counter and sink full of dishes washed as well as my first load of laundry.  I can hear the lovely sound of chainsaws hacking up the tree in our backyard as I sit here typing.  So things are looking up here.  

May 15, 2015

Water Problems

5/15/2015 — cori

The other day it was actually warm here, believe it or not.  We had sun, heat and sweaty.  I was working so hard around the house that I kept having to run to the fridge to refill my glass with water. Thus, the lovely quality photo of the water dispenser in my super clean fridge.  Unfortunately for me, the last time I went to refill my water, nothing came out.  Zilch.  Nada.  

I was like, on no! I'm really thirsty too.  I might have to break down and drink water from the tap. But I won't text Chuck about it just yet.  He can't fix it from work anyways, so no need to worry him.

Of course when you have ample water, you don't want/need it.  But now that my water wasn't working my mouth was as dry as cotton.  I needed water.  I even considered going up to the store to buy some bottled water to hold us over until Chuck could figure out how to fix it.  But I didn't have enough time before the kids came home.  Of course they usually come home and immediately fill up an entire glass with water to gulp down their afternoon snack with.  I would need to be gentle in breaking this devastating news to them. 

The dreaded time arrives...I have to tell them about the water dispenser breaking.  In all honesty, we weren't all that surprised.  The ice maker hasn't worked for over a year now.  It was just a matter of time, I guess, before the whole thing bit the dust.  As expected, the kids are as disappointed and dry mouthed as I was.

Then Gavin comes home.  I announce the grave news to him as well.  He doesn't like it when things in his world aren't always as they usually are.  This wasn't going to be easy for him to take.  However, he took it like a man.  Then a few seconds later he calls me up to the kitchen.  "Mom, what do you mean the water in the fridge doesn't work?  It seems to work just fine...look."  And he proceeds to show me his sopping wet hand.

I'm like, "What happened?  Are you trying to trick me or something?"  

He was like, "No.  I went to put my ice pack from my lunch bag away and my arm veered up and hit the water dispenser somehow and it squirted all over me.  I must have hit the 'unlock' button with my elbow.  It was on 'lock' this whole time.  That's why you weren't getting any water.  It's not broken."

"Wha?" confusion reigning all over my face.  

"Looks like it was just locked Mom.  It's not broken."

How can that be?!  I thought I checked all those little buttons.  I have been dying of thirst for hours all for naught?  Apparently it helps to pay attention to all the little details.  Scanning the buttons is not enough, you must actually read each button before you pronounce the water dispenser broken.

The even funnier thing is: everyone believed me.  No one else checked to see if the 'lock' button was pressed (thus disallowing any water to flow) until Gavin accidentally hit it.  How long would we have gone on like this?  That would have been the very first thing Mr. Details would have checked when he got home before he broke out any of his tools. 

I guess the moral of the story is, I'm more of a Big Picture kinda girl.  Thank God I married a Mr. Detailed kinda guy and have very trusting and helpful children - especially ones that read signs for me when I'm too busy (or thirsty) to check them carefully.

May 12, 2015


5/12/2015 — cori

I. Love. This!!  But I must confess, I'm equally guilty of interrupting as I am of being interrupted.  So when I laugh at this, I'm laughing at myself.  From one interrupter to the next, let me explain the phenomenon of interrupting.  Most often it happens because you are so excited to relate to the person talking you have a hard time holding back. You desperately want them to know that you can relate, sympathize, empathize.  Apparently, vigorously shaking your head doesn't convey the depth of relate-ability enough, you must insert your own words over theirs.  On the other hand, when I'm the one being interrupted, I could really care less how much the other person relates, I just want to tell my story. I don't want to be one-upped by their more important story.  I guess the moral of the story here is that being a good listener is a character trait we shouldn't take for granted.  

May 10, 2015

Almost Done Remodeling

5/10/2015 — cori

I smile super big every time I walk into this glorious space.  It makes me so happy, I can't help but smile. Chuck has worked so hard.  I'm so proud of him.  We have made so much progress.  We've been in a holding pattern for 3 weeks now since we've had such little free time on the weekends.  But that doesn't bother me.  For all intents and purposes, the bathroom is finished, we're just waiting for the icing on the cake - the shower.  

The view as you walk into the bathroom from our room. 

I love this toilet.  It is eco-friendly and adult-sized (our last one was smaller than normal).  Those towel hooks just got hung up today.  The art, shelf and hooks were like the 4th plan...we nixed 3 other ideas since none of them worked.  First we were going to do a towel warmer over the toilet - didn't work.  Second idea was a hotel style towel rack with a shelf on top - didn't work, the towels hung out over the toilet too much.  Plan C was to do a smaller towel rack with only two bars - again, same towel issues.  I prefer not to move a towel out of the way before using the toilet.  So, lastly, we came up with the hooks that ended up using the space better and gave us an opportunity to incorporate some art as well.

This smaller table is my make-up station and also used for additional storage.  Since there is no way to add an additional sink we had to get creative.  We can't both stand at the sink and get ready at the same time so I came up with a separate area that works just as well and keeps us both happy.

This is the icing on the cake - the unfinished shower stall.  We originally planned to take out that 2x4 and make it a seamless glass shower.  However, when we looked up in the attic, we noticed that this seemingly unimportant piece of wood is actually load bearing.  This project has been filled with multiple Plan B's, C's and D's.  So Plan B is to tile around the wood and attach the glass to it.  Either way we still get a much more open space than we had before.

It's such an amazing feeling of accomplishment to make a plan and do all the work and see it through to completion.  I really appreciate this room much more having done the work ourselves and problem solved so many issues.  However, that being said, I will definitely appreciate my kitchen (our next project) when we pay someone else to do it and problem solve for us.  We own our limitations and we know we would never make it through a kitchen renovation.  Time is of the essence in the kitchen. It's worth whatever it costs to have someone else do it and do it quickly. 

May 7, 2015

The Theater

5/07/2015 — cori

Last Tuesday evening Gavin and I donned our 'We Are Cultured' hats and went on a date to the Guthrie theater.  It makes its home on the banks of the Mississippi River.  This is an iconic Minneapolis venue, from it's sleek modern architecture to it's renowned performances.  Come to find out Minneapolis has the most theater seats per capita after New York city.  Who knew?

This is the view from the elevated deck at the Guthrie - the famed Stone Arch Bridge.  As we quickly learned, Tuesday evenings are a great night for the theater.  There were no crowds and the setting was very intimate.  We were lost in the play for 3 hours straight and didn't even realize it - it was that good. 

Gavin had recently read "The Crucible" in his Literature class.  And what do you know, it just happened to come to town at the Guthrie right afterward.   I would have gotten an 'F' in parenting if I didn't take advantage of this opportunity of epic proportions.  The cast brought this book to life in the most amazing way.  It gave me a much greater appreciation for theater actors.  

I also learned a lot about Arthur Miller, the playwright.  The Crucible was written in 1952 as an allegory of McCarthyism and was not well received on Broadway.  Miller felt like the government was hunting Communists the same way society hunted witches in Salem in seventeenth century America.  Very few people were willing to stand up to the government and their anti-communist fears during this time of history, thus blacklisting him in the eyes of many.   He was even indicted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities because one of his liberal friends gave the committee his name.   

I think I might start wearing my 'We Are Cultured' hat more often.  This was way fun!

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