Apr 25, 2016

Book Talk

4/25/2016 — cori

Last night at dinner Bennett was trying to give a summary about something he heard earlier in the day and seemed to be having a very difficult time accomplishing this simple task. This concerned us enough to park there for a while and talk about it. You assume that if your kids are in school, they are being taught how to write, research, think critically, explain themselves verbally and in the written word. This is not always the case we found out. Or maybe it's happening, but the teachers need the parents to reinforce the message at home. The dinner table seems to be the perfect place for us.

We didn't let him off the hook so easily. He kept saying, "You know...it was something like that...I can't really explain it...it was just...well, you know....". No, Honey. We don't know. And we want to help you learn the how to summarize something you hear or read. You'll need this the rest of your life. Gavin felt the need to pitch in some brotherly advice: "Bennett. You seriously need to know this stuff in high school. You have ALOT of papers to write in Civics." After this admonition, Bennett accepted his fate.

Thus began The-Night-Of-Book-Summaries-At-The-Dinner-Table. Seriously - everyone was way too excited about this (minus Bennett - but he jumped on the bandwagon soon enough). The object was for each of us to take our most recent book and give either the main idea or a summary about it (both concepts were explained in detail). It was challenging. It was fun. We all enjoyed listening to one another (except Gavin was Mr. Interrupter, that's all I'll say about that).

Who doesn't love to talk about a good book?!

Everyone had so much fun the first go around, they begged to do another book. Oh no! What monster did we just create?!

My how times have changed. Used to be, the kids were impressed if we gave them coasters under their cups at the dinner table. Now it takes much more to impress these people and keep dinner interesting.

Would anyone like a side of interesting, intellectual, stimulation with their dinner? Just pull up a chair, you're bound to get one at this house.

Apr 18, 2016

Me and My Boy

4/18/2016 — cori

I just love that this crazy kid still loves to do stuff with his mom! He's been wanting to go on a bike ride lately and yesterday turned out to be the perfect day for a little 5 miles jaunt. Neither of us could get off the couch once we got home, however.

As the kids have been growing up, we've really emphasized to them that we must each take time to do things with each other, even if it's not something we enjoy. By doing something the other person enjoys, you show them you value them. 

This has led to Chloe spending hours by Gavin's side playing Minecraft and lots of outdoor time with Bennett and some type of ball. The boys often set up and sleep in forts with Chloe because they know that's special time for her. Chuck and Bennett are fixtures out in the front of our house forever playing game after game of basketball. 

Oftentimes, Gavin will go outside and bounce a ball while Bennett is out there practicing his free-throws. Although, Gavin is really using that time to think and talk to himself (out loud) about formulas and abstract ideas he feels that by just being out there with Bennett and bouncing a ball in his hands like his brother counts as time together. And I guess in Gavinworld it does. Bennett has spent years learning to like and play Gavin's games such as Yuh-gi-oh, League of Legends, Chess and Minecraft. 

Another thing I really appreciate about Gavin is that he will sit and listen to me ramble. I can talk to him about any idea I have floating in my brain and he'll listen and always give me his feedback. I love how his brain processes the world. It's so completely different from mine. I inevitably learn something from him every time. 

We also enjoy sending articles, TED Talks, and YouTube videos back and forth to each other. However, the older he gets, the more unfair it gets for me. I try to understand math, truly I do. I desperately want to so that I can keep talking to Gavin and he doesn't have to keep rephrasing things at an ever lower cognizance level. But the day he sent me the link to this TED Talk, I felt my heart drop to my stomach.

This is the description: "At TED2010, mathematics legend Benoit Mandelbrot develops a theme he first discussed at TED in 1984 — the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated." My immediate thought was: what's a fractal again?

But I'm so thankful he did! I watched it and learned so much that I never would have ever known. Gavin keeps my mind ever expanding, ever learning. The roles are reversing. Once, I was his teacher. Now, he is mine. I love that he sends me things of interest to him and he trusts that I'll watch them, read them, learn from them. He pushes me to keep learning. Then we talk about what we learned together. This is my ticket into Gavin's brain and his heart. This is what love looks like to Gavin.

Apr 11, 2016

Beginner ESL

4/11/2016 — cori

Since we've moved to Minnesota and the kids started going to public school, I found myself with a ton of extra time on my hands. I didn't see myself going back into my previous profession, so I started looking around for places to volunteer. The only place I was qualified for had this description: "Can you speak English? Then you can teach it. Call us." That looked like the place for me. I was hooked after the first class. 4 years later and I'm still loving it more than ever. I even went back to graduate school to earn a certificate to teach Adult ESL classes. This is just one more part of my journey in this wonderful life.

These are my people! I cannot tell you enough how much I adore them. Every Tuesday and Thursday I get to spend the morning helping them acquire a better grasp of the English language. They inspire me. They teach me. They humble me. I'm the lucky one. They LOVE to take selfies with me and each other. We laugh a lot in class. We encourage each other. We help each other. We respect each other.

Let me introduce you.

One gentleman is from Cambodia. He was a high-level government official. He already speaks Cambodian and French. He has his master's degree in Economics. He tries to ask me questions in French, but my French is only in the numbers and colors stage, so that doesn't work well. He is very good at reading English, so we communicate mostly through writing. He is improving daily on speaking English though. The older you are, the harder it is and I have the highest admiration for him. He is a man of great status, wealth and prestige who has voluntarily lowered himself to be in a beginning English class. That takes a person of deep character!

The other gentleman is a 69 year old Vietnamese man. He walks two miles to and from school every day in any type of weather. He is undeterred. This is his first time to learn English. He used to be a writing instructor in Vietnam. He has the most beautiful penmanship. He is so eager to learn. I keep a Vietnamese/English dictionary very close at hand because there is still a very large language barrier. But he is making excellent progress.

One of the Mexican ladies used to be a migrant farm worker in California picking all types of fruit and vegetables until she moved here 5 months ago. She is a single mom with 5 kids. She works 60 hours a week yet still makes time to come to class to improve her English. I don't think I would have that much dedication. And she is always happy. She never complains. She is one of the hardest workers I know. I understand quite a bit of Spanish, I just can't speak it well. She often asks me questions in Spanish and I find myself answering her in English. It's actually very funny if you were to see us talking to each other.

The other Hispanic lady is just pure joy. She is loud, happy and the best encourager. She brings our room to life. She lacks confidence in her speaking, but is actually quite good. I met her at the library the other day to help her get her own library card so she could go check out any books she wants. She was thrilled. She has a very supportive husband and three teenage boys. She's my cheerleader in class.

I had two other students most of the year who aren't in the picture. One was a lady from Afghanistan who had never been to school before she came to see me. She was 30 years old with 5 kids. We started at the very beginning...how to hold a pencil, draw straight lines, curved lines. I even went to her house in the summers to keep her up to speed. After two years of working with her she is now reading, answering questions in class out loud (which never happened before) and has gained oodles of confidence. She's a whiz at math. She is my friend.

Lastly, I had a Pakistani gentleman, in his mid-60s, who brought a smile to my face every single day. He had to leave school at the age of 7 (or 9, I can't remember) to go work for the family after his father was injured. He ended up a successful mechanic in Dubai for the same company for 30 years. He moved here to live with his eldest son's family. He loves Walmart since they gave him his first job in the States. He has a beautiful sing-song quality to his voice. He loves everyone. He greets everyone with a smile and bow. He was so proud of himself for learning to read that he would tear up whenever anyone asked him about his story. Now that he can read, he wants to read more and faster. He has a beautiful outlook on life. I'm thankful for the chance to know him and call him my friend.

Apr 7, 2016

It's Not Always Sunshine and Roses

4/07/2016 — cori

Believe it or not, sometimes things aren't always humorous, adventurous or crazy around here. Sometimes we have issues so to speak. And by "we" I mean the children, of course. See, this weird thing happened...they are all, like, teenagers now and the way we used to discipline them kinda quit working. All the sudden we find ourselves trying to talk to teenagers the way we talked to our big kids and they're all "no comprendo" on us. 

It only takes us walking into a wall before we realize we probably need to change our strategy. To be honest, change happens so slowly.  You don't see your kids morph into young adults. Yet one day you're talking eye to eye with a deep-voiced stranger and wonder where your little boy went. That day, my friends, is when you need to re-evaluate your parenting strategies. Cuz if you're still doing things like you always do...you're in for a rocky road.

Our sunshine and roses turned into snow and a thorn bush just the other day. Apparently, all it takes is waking up on the wrong side of the bed. But to be fair, sometimes my attitude gets a little salty on days that I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and I've been out of puberty for some time now. So, a little grace goes a long way.

But sometimes it's more than grace they need. Sometimes irresponsibility, egocentricity, laziness and/or attitude rears it's ugly head for days at a time. At that point, a different type of guidance is needed. If you're in "default parent mode" you're going to do what you've always done and react to your kid's mood/behavior/actions. Bad idea, especially during adolescence.

What I've learned is that I need to do the exact opposite of what I want to do. This book has saved me numerous times when I've had run-ins with the boys (and Chloe in a small part since she's on the cusp of adolescence). I tend to take their choices personally, react and pretty much do everything I'm not supposed to. Then in steps this book and voila...sunshine and roses return once more.

The other day Bennett had done 4 too many things "wrong". Not that I was counting. It wasn't necessarily the things but the lack of caring, the irresponsibility, not doing his best and doing what was right. He was not being who I know him to be. I immediately wanted to pull the parent card and state in my very serious tone of voice, "I've had enough of this young man. You are now grounded. You can give me your phone and oh ya, you get to do this chore an extra week longer." Boom. Done. Slam door in face and walk away. Point taken. I hope he knows how disappointed I am and hope he changes his attitude. Why? Just to make me happy? That's no reason for change. You would only change on the outside. That's completely performance-based.

Unfortunately, that would not lead to a changed heart in my sweet boy. It would actually squelch any relationship. I might get desired behavior (begrudgingly) but not a changed heart. Thankfully, I had a little time before he got back home to think hard about how to handle this situation. I went straight to my "Quotebook". I have this notebook where I write down all my favorite quotes from all my favorite books. I went to the section where I wrote down half the Love and Logic book and reread everything again.

I'm so glad I did!! It completely changed my approach with him. And in doing so, I showed him respect. He in turn reciprocated it. He learned to own his problems and how to fix them. I didn't take his bad choices personally. I asked him to tell me what we expect of him. He answered, proving he knows what is right and what the rules of our house are. I then asked him if he saw how these x,y,z actions didn't line up with our expectations. He acknowledged that they didn't. I asked him, "How are you going to fix this?" He gave ideas. I acknowledged him owning up to it and his solutions. Then I gave him a choice in either doing this particular chore for an extra week or giving up his phone privileges until he realizes that it is a privilege and comes only with maturity. 

"Take time and think about it and get back to me before bed time, Buddy. But I trust you. I know you are a very responsible guy who has just made some bad choices. But I know you can fix this. I love you honey." This is NOT how I would typically do things. But it worked! It dispelled any anger before it could even happen because I didn't attack him. I didn't put him on the defensive to begin with. He acknowledged his bad choices, owned it and came up with a solution to fix it and even apologized. And all this took only 15 minutes!

Let me just tell you....this is not how things have gone down in the past. Oftentimes we've needed an mediator between Bennett and myself when we get into it. Grudges and hurt feelings last hours if not days. Tone of voices are harsh. But not this time. This time we talked like two people who respected and love each other and wanted what was best for each other. 

Whoever came up with this is brilliant. 

We're back to sunshine and roses. Today. Tomorrow might be a different story. But it will be another beautiful story, no matter how it turns out cuz I get to live another day with my favorite people in this whole world. As parents we're always learning. So are our kids. Let's be humble, patient and kind to each other. Respect goes a long way. Playing the authoritarian card never works out well. All parties are sad. Relationships are strained. Heart connections lost.

Apr 5, 2016


4/05/2016 — cori

With eyes big and blue
Fine hair in a golden hue
And those adorable cheeks, too
Chloe, I'm so in love with you!

As a child of three
With immense curiosity
A little voice so squeaky
Always adoring her mommy.

Daddy's little girl
Love making your dresses swirl
Not a care in this world
As you dance in your pearls.

Always the little lady
Even though you're the baby
Of two brothers who are crazy
But truly love you greatly.

When you were young and very shy
It was amazing to watch as time slipped by
And you transformed into a social butterfly
Excited to learn, forever asking "why".

Your love of reading and books
Was evident from your very first look
You couldn't help but be hooked
In a house filled with volumes in every nook.

Ever the thoughtful and sensitive one
Your heart carries a heavy burden
For the injustice the world has done
On people and animals both old and young.

As time marches on
And your younger years are gone
The memories stay strong
Of who you've been all along.

You are the light in your Daddy's eyes
He treats you like a special prize
You can do no wrong, you can tell no lies
Listen to your Daddy, he will make you wise.

I love who you are, I like what you do
May twelve be a special year for you
May you grow in love, forgiveness, and grace too
Be who you are, love what you do!

Twelve looks good on you!

Apr 2, 2016

Jumping for Joy

4/02/2016 — cori

Because this sweet girl is turning TWELVE in just 3 days, we decided to take advantage of our last day of spring break and go jump our hearts out in a warehouse full of trampolines and small children. They were having a special deal and being as I can never pass up on a special deal, we chose to pay for 2 hours of jumping which, believe it or not, was cheaper than one hour. Now I know why. No human being can jump for 2 hours straight. It must have been a ploy to see what type of morons fall for a deal that ridiculous. 

As you can see, we adapted very well to our new environment (sorry, the picture quality is going to be pretty bad throughout the rest of this post). And for the first 15 minutes or so, we had the whole place to ourselves. 

This picture was taken well before we were all hot, sweaty and sore. We had yet to feel the effects of jumping like Tigger repeatedly. Apparently, Chuck and I forgot that our bodies were no longer comparable to that of children. Spine compression, stiff necks and general back pain plagued us from the first jump to the last. 

My very first foray into the Foam Pit. I folded in half under all those blue squares and couldn't get out. Gavin, ever my protector, jumped in to pull me back to the safety of the trampoline.

It looks like Chuck is hovering here. But he came down hard on the foam. It took him a good 5 minutes to crawl out of there. To put it in perspective, it took the kids like 30 seconds to jump in and out like it was just water, not foam.

Here's the gymnast showing off her skills. None of us dared try something so risky.

Except Gavin. He had the Parkour flip down pat. He never once landed on his head like his Dad.

This is what Chuck looked like after attempting the same move. Seriously, he thinks he's still 10. At least he was playing on the trampolines like he was. After landing on his shoulder after attempting the aforementioned flip, he crawled out on all fours and lay on the floor moaning because he couldn't feel his shoulder and his neck was tight. But don't worry, he was right back in there after a quick 5 minute time out.

The boys actually took turns in the Dodge Ball area. This was an intense game. It was all boy (for the most part - I only saw one girl and two dads). Balls were flying and hitting hard. 

Chloe and I decided to take turns doing air splits.

This is the one benefit I've received from doing yoga all these years.

After about an hour in to our jump-a-thon, me and the kids were sitting outside resting and trying to catch our breath. We found Chuck and asked him how much longer he was up for jumping. The kids and I already voted and we were just fine with not using the entire 2 hours allotted us. Chloe was ready to go in 5 minutes. You would have thought Chuck just found out they were out of his favorite ice cream, he so bummed. Even though he could no longer turn his neck side to side and his back was stiff and his shoulder barely functional, he was still hoping to play for the entire time. I love that about him! We compromised and stayed an extra 15 minutes. However, truth be told, he came straight home and took a nap by the fireplace. This seems to be our modus opperendi after doing hard, kid-like activities that wreak havoc on our older bodies (such as riding a ton of roller coasters on Bennett's b-day).

Apr 1, 2016

College Shopping

4/01/2016 — cori

I knew Spring was happening on our continent even though those of us dwelling in the nether regions of Minnesota weren't getting the chance to experience it yet. We had to drive down to Indiana before we saw the beauty that comes with Spring. Every flowering tree we passed by I gasped, "Oh, how lovely!" I wanted Chuck to stop the car so I could take pictures of each and every one of the beautiful blossoms. This particular one is a magnolia bloom. Fragrant and beautiful. 

We took the opportunity to travel out of state during the kids' Spring Break this year to go on two college visits for Gavin. We knew we were in for an amazing day when we looked out of the window on our first day in Indiana and were welcomed by this serene vista. Gavin told us the scientific reason for the the fog resting on the river and the atmospheric pressure causes blah, blah, blah...but I was too enthralled in the beauty to be concerned with the science in the moment. Not that I don't appreciate the science...I just appreciate the beauty more.

Our first stop was Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. We didn't have a clue about what to expect and were pleasantly surprised with how wonderful this campus was. We had the best experience during the entire 3 hour tour. Each guide was helpful and knowledgeable. But more than that we each picked up on the vibe of the students all around us. They had a very welcoming, inclusive, diverse culture that really appealed to Gavin. That and the fact that they are the only University to have their own airport on campus. He previously didn't know he wanted a pilot's license - but now he does. Interesting fact: 23 Purdue graduates have gone on to be astronauts - including Neil Armstrong. 

Another interesting fact: apparently, Chuck and I went to college in the Dark Ages. At least we have come to learn as much after this tour. All the cool perks that come with college now-a-days were so not available to us. Heck, we still didn't have phone-in registration during the mid-90's!!! We just found the internet in 1995.  And as for meal-plan options...we practically ate mush. Kids these days have Starbucks and multiple ethnic cusinies at their beck and call. Get this...they even have an app that tells you when your laundry is done and people don't steal it! The only way we could ensure this same standard was to sit on the floor in the hot, stinky, loud laundry room with our rolls of quarters and change out our own loads. For the love! 

The University of Illinois Champaigne-Urbana is only an hour and a half drive west of Purdue. So we decided to hit two birds with one stone (that's such a horribly sad euphemism). We decided to drive around the campus the evening we arrived just to check it out so we wouldn't get terribly lost the next day when we had a schedule to keep. We also had the foresight to take a picture because the weatherman was warning of rapidly approaching serious storm systems. This was not good news for us as our tour would be of the out-doors variety. Plus, we packed for high 60 degree weather - not rainy and cold.  

This was what our tour of U of I looked like. At this point it was only sprinkling. But it got much, much worse. We were at the back of the pack of at least 25 people. We couldn't hear a word of what was being said. We couldn't see anything due to all the umbrellas in our way. We had no idea where we were, what we were seeing or where we were headed. And to top it off, we were walking way too slow for my liking. When there are storm clouds, thunder and lightening looming ominously above and around me, I rather prefer to be cuddled up next to the fireplace or at the very least inside a safe structure with a roof! That was apparently not the plan for our tour guide. This tour was going down do or die.  Three miserable, soaking wet hours later, we were mercifully back in our car. We were starving, sopping wet and oh so disillusioned with the U of I. There were a few things Gavin liked about the school, but his list of cons out-weighed the few pros he was able to find. That's why it's important to go visit. Some things you just don't know until you go there and experience it for yourself.

After finally arriving at our destination, we found that Bennett had secretly left his mark on the back of our weather-beaten, highway-weary car. We can always count on him to add a sense of humor to any and all situations. 

This whole trip was surreal for Chuck and I. We kept thinking that we're not old enough for this. We just graduated from college ourselves, didn't we? It was equally thrilling and depressing. We will be sending our firstborn off to live on his own in a little over a year. I had no idea time would go this fast. I think I'm still slightly in shock. I have no doubt he'll do awesome wherever he goes and whatever he chooses to do. I just don't think I'll do as awesome without his daily presence in my life. 

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