Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Little Things Part 2

Just a few more things that I am thankful for (the "little things" in life)...

  • my elliptical. It is the main way I can exercise. I often find a cooking show (ironic I know) to watch while I move on the elliptical.
  • Quarters. I don't know why. I just like having them.
  • Finding a five dollar bill in your pocket and not having any idea where it came from.
  • Newly changed sheets on the bed
  • My heated throw (I am often cold this time of year)
  • My Target pajamas
  • Remote controls
  • Playing Words with Friends (keeps my mind young :)
  • Organizing even one small area of our house
  • The apple corer/slicer
  • Suitcases that roll
  • Migraine Excedrin
  • Pizza and movie nights at home with the family
  • Sunsets
  • My digital camera
  • Blogging (the only way I would ever be able to keep track of our family events
  • Bubbles
  • Redbox (the easiest way for us to rent a movie)
  • Take out. It is sometimes the best way for us to have a "date" but still be at home.
  • A clean garage (or is that a myth???)
  • You!

I could go on and on, but I need to stop and start enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday. (I may be MIA for a couple days...did I mention I like eating? :)

So, what are the little things you are thankful for?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's the Little Things...Part 1

This time of year, we cannot help but think about how thankful we are for the many blessings in our life. I think if you have read my blog long enough, you can figure out pretty quick what I am thankful for. God. Family. My job. Church. This country. I cannot deny; I have much to be thankful for.

However, these are the "majors". Just as in baseball, there are the "minors"...the little things in life that I am thankful for (totally not serious nor with any depth :)...things like...
  • warm clothes fresh out of the dryer
  • a brand new magazine and a hot bath
  • the 8 ounce cans of Mtn. me a good little taste without adding too much to my waistline
  • fabric softener
  • leftover Halloween candy
  • pumpkin muffins (what on earth would we eat for breakfast every week without them?)
  • pistachios (what on earth would I eat with my breakfast every day???)
  • the cooling pad I have for my laptop. For whatever bright reason, hp decided to put the fan for my laptop on the bottom of the computer. So for a long time, no matter what surface I used, it overheated and would just shut down right in the middle of my work. Now, I have this very thin cooling pad with actual fans inside. My computer hasn't overheated since.
  • the wireless mouse
  • finding a matching set of socks in the dryer (as opposed to the large basket of single socks sitting in the laundry room)
  • the beach
  • DVR...what did I do without that?
  • paperless statements/bills
  • newspapers. Say what you will, but when I am enjoying breakfast or lunch, I want a hard copy of a newspaper to read!
  • Facebook. Where else could I reconnect with a friend from elementary school as well as someone I met last week at a church service?
  • self-stick stamps. I love that I don't have to lick the yucky stamp anymore!
  • Dry erase crayon/marker...produces a lot less dust than chalk! (I still appreciate chalk though because it is important in the development of writing skills)
  • shopping on-line
  • fabric grocery bags (they hold more and are good for the environment)
  • the colors of fall.
  • DVD players for the car for long trips (must be over two hours in our vehicle)
  • olive oil (one of my favorite things to dip bread into)
  • no homework on a Monday night!
  • an empty sink

I know I can come up with more. And I will. But not tonight. I need to hit the hay so I can be ready for our Thanksgiving program (it's a kindergarten thing...) tomorrow.

More later,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dear Dr. Dobson...

Here is my (open) letter to Dr. Dobson...

Dear Dr. Dobson,

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Have I said it enough yet?

Thank you.

I sometimes watch other families and wonder, "Why?" I see these children, prim and proper, following their parents' directions without even a syllable of complaint coming from their lips. I watch them in school, sitting so nicely, shining as the teacher's pet. I notice that these are the children always selected as the stars of the play, held up as "leaders" of the school, and that they come home with a birthday party invitation weekly. I also watch those families watch mine with their mouths open in disbelief.

Dr. Dobson, I have felt like for some time, we are doing the things we should for our kids. We taught them to fall asleep independently at a young age. We limit their t.v. watching and don't even let them have caffeine (if you met them, you would understand why). We sit down for dinner almost nightly together (just like the statistics support) and share many family bonding times together, such as hikes, travels, and athletic events. We are loving but very firm, and even more importantly, we are consistent. Consistent in pretty much all we do. We have been determined from the very beginning to not let children run our household.

I guess I didn't think to be determined that they didn't run my emotions.

This is a hard job.

Some people have those compliant children I mentioned above. I imagine they are the ones sitting around, smiling proudly that their children are doing the things they are told, being the people they want them to be.

I am not one of them.

After some soul searching and emotional wrestling with children of mine, I borrowed a copy of your book, The "New" Strong Willed Child. I haven't gotten very far YET. But just the few pages I have read make one thing clear.

Every stinking one of them is a strong willed child in their own way...some more than others. They are very comfortable in their own skin and believe in their own independence. And while I wish I could influence their thoughts, their words, their actions, in the end, they make their own choices.


Don't get me wrong, Dr. Dobson. We love our kids. And we are proud of who they are. After all, they were uniquely designed by God just for our family. We know that these "leadership" qualities will serve them well one day, once they learn how to channel their personalities for good, not for evil. (Not really "evil", it just flowed with the sentence :) Don't get me wrong. It isn't that every moment is a bad moment or filled with strong will.

It is just that more of them are than not. :)

As I read the first few pages, I found myself alternating between laughing and crying. Crying because I could understand. Laughing because I could understand.

More than anything, your book has reminded me that I am not alone. That maybe, just maybe, I am not failing like I often feel. And that families who have only the "compliant" child will never truly understand what our life is like.

Every day I wake up prepared for battle. I am learning to choose my battles carefully. I am also learning that my children do make their own choices (much like we do with God), and that ultimately their choices rest upon them. They are not always a reflection of me or my values.

Yes, there will always be those who judge. "What kind of parent would let their child act like that?" I am guessing those would be the ones with compliant children, not "children who have moments of compliance".

To them I say, try living our life. I say, "Don't judge us unless you have spent a week, a day, or even an hour with a strong willed child." I also say, "Just wait. Your children may be compliant. Or maybe, just maybe, there is a strong will child within who will emerge when you least expect it. Or it could be that your future grandchildren will give you a run for your money, leaving your head spinning.

Know that while our life is not an easy requires decision making and structure and discipline/behavior management all day long...we are stronger people because of it. And our children will hopefully emerge in the end victorious.

So, dear Dr. Dobson, thank you. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone.

The Cloud family

PS Okay, maybe a little bit written in tongue and cheek. Please know that much of the time our children are delightful little people with huge potential in life. But some days, I do go to bed feeling defeated. Okay, many days. In the end, we will just be using a lot of prayer to get through each day. :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bah, Humbug!

Please Note: If you are one of those "early Christmas" people, please know I am not judging you in any way. This is one of MY quirks. :) Feel free to decorate or sing carols to your hearts' content.

Back to our originally scheduled program...

It seems like just a few years ago, I would hear complaints about this time of year. "Did you see that _____ (insert name of store of your choice here) already has their Christmas decorations up?" "I was shopping the other day and actually heard Christmas music over the loudspeaker." "What happened to fall? It sounds like Christmas is here already." And yet every year, the stores continue to put up their Christmas decorations before Halloween is over, there are some Christmas lights not only hanging our area but already lit (including a local town hall), and every day I see comments on Facebook asking if it is too early to put up the Christmas tree, who has finished Christmas shopping, etc. And what do I have to say to all of that?

Bah, Humbug!

Don't get me wrong. Christmas is a special time of year. But it has its place. Late December. It isn't even quite mid-November.

What happened to fall? (My favorite time of year) Has Thanksgiving lost its appeal to people? Or have we just become brainwashed by the stores? (Reminds me of the story of how to cook a frog. Put it in water, and slowly...very slowly...turn up the heat. He will get used to it, and never realize he is cooking. Have we done that with Christmas too? Each year it gets earlier and earlier and now we don't even remember when it really is...)

I am holding on to fall with clenched fists. I love this time of year, as the leaves fall from the tree, football games are playing on Friday nights, and the air cools off ever so slightly. I love Thanksgiving. Just thinking about the word brings to mind family, food, friends. That and a few days of lounging.

After Thanksgiving...then I can think about what comes next.

Maybe I have become jaded. The last two Christmases we have dealt with theft...once in our house and the other when our Christmas cards (complete with kid pictures) that had arrived via Fed Ex were swiped from our front porch. (Don't feel bad if you didn't get a car...we ended up not sending them after all of that) Or maybe it is the financial aspect. We are coming off a couple of major spending incidents (neither which we would have chosen), so the thought of spending more makes me a bit queasy. Or maybe it is because I am just tired and living day by day in my Mommy role.

I just know that I am not ready for Christmas. Other than working on some lists and buying a few things (they were on sale), I am just not ready to think that far ahead. There will be no tree up at our house for a few weeks. No Christmas music playing in the background. And the Christmas decorations...well, I still have my fall foliage out. I am just not ready yet. I will be though.

Just let me eat my turkey first.

Gobble, gobble.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pay It Forward

Yesterday one of my co-workers shared about her lunch experience. She and her husband had gone to a local sushi restaurant for lunch. They ordered their food. At some point in the meal, they were told that their meal had been paid for by someone they didn't know...a very pleasant surprise, to say the least. As she was telling her story, we all marveled at the kindness of a stranger.

My first thought was, "Wow, those things really do happen to people!" Yet, when I really think about it, they have happened to us, just in different ways. There was the year that I was rather pregnant with Hunter. I had just come home (newly moved into our first home) from my first baby shower, all excited about our new baby goodies. I could tell by the look on Mark's face that something was wrong. He had just found out that his position at his company had been eliminated without any warning. We didn't panic, or at least he didn't. I am sure I did. That is my personality. He just started looking for a new job right away. Still, I couldn't help but wonder what we were going to do. One night, there was a knock on our door. We answered it, but nobody was there. However, there was an envelope. It contained 100 dollars. We still to this day have NO idea where that money came from, but it was such a sweet gift and much appreciated at a difficult time. (Mark found a job a few days later)

Or there was the day a couple years ago that our t.v. just decided it was done. I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that it was VERY old and probably used way too much. :) One night I was home alone with the kiddos when I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door to find a t.v. on our front porch. Again, a very generous gesture. (We won the Panasonic Living in HD contest shortly afterwards and got a brand new t.v.)

We also had a couple of donations during our adoption of Maria, both unexpected and both much appreciated. We tried to not ask for money, feeling like it was our decision to adopt. Yet, it was a very expensive process, and any bit of help did not go unnoticed.

All were "pay it forward" moments, someone kindly giving of themselves or their resources to show love and kindness toward us.

We have participated in "pay it forward" moments too. While receiving the gift is very special indeed, giving the gift is an even more precious memory. Giving feels good, especially when done from the heart.

That being said, our "pay it forward" moments (that we initiate) are fairly limited right now. We have just had some extra expenses this past month, expenses that weren't anticipated and unfortunately were not welcome. I would love to give, love to do more right now for some needs I see, but we are going to have to be wise too. (I don't want to sound like we are destitute or stir up some pity...just one of those "leaner" months in the roller coaster ride of finances/life :)

So fast forward a bit. We decided to go out to eat last night at one of my favorite places, Catfish Hole. We haven't eaten there in some time, and I will admit, I wasn't sure we really should go since we have been cutting back a little on spending. But in the end, we decided it was an expense we would budget for. So we went. (I will admit, I had been thinking about it all week after finding out that it suffered a minor fire earlier in the week.)

We ordered our food and talked with the kids, enjoying the hush puppies. Mmm, mmm, those hush puppies.

One of the servers passed by our table and smiled at us. She put our ticket down on our table and said something to the effect that we must be special. I glanced at the ticket. "Be blessed, Cloud family." The server then told us that someone had paid for our meal already.

Even as I type it, I cry.

Totally unexpected.

No, we don't know who it was. The server motioned to the other side of the room and said they had already left. The thing is I usually do a quick scan to see if we know anyone. (It is a pretty popular place, and between the two of us, we usually know fact, we ran into one of our neighbors at one point) I hadn't seen anyone. Yet it was someone who knew us since our name was on the ticket.

(I do hope that whoever was so kind knew that I always get crab legs there :)

One little gesture. One very touched heart. Actually, six touched hearts.

Thanks to someone out there who shared with us last night by paying it forward. We will pay it forward ourselves.

PS Speaking of Paying It Forward, as I typed this post, I thought about Ms. Carol, whom I mentioned the other day. She did pass away earlier this week, and many hearts are missing her. Yet, even before she died, she "paid it forward" by donating her organs and tissues. It is estimated that 7-9 lives were saved with her organs, and up to 100 people will receive her tissue donations. You can read a little more about her by clicking on her name above. What a special example of "paying it forward", both in life and in death. We miss you, Ms. Carol.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The (Not So) Serious Questions of Life

I could be serious. Could. It has been a humdinger of a day. One sick child. Another one who is pushing all of mamma's buttons right now. Still reeling from the news of Ms. Carol. Piles and piles of laundry. And unexpected bills. Blech. Instead, I am going to be not so serious. Just because I can.

  • Why do my children insist on painting or playing with play dough on the day that we have a clean floor (which will never stay clean during painting or playing with play dough)?
  • How does thirty minutes of exercise sometimes feel like hours to me?
  • Why do I walk into MY bedroom and find children's toys, shoes, clothing in there?
  • When did I stop having my bathroom sink to myself? (And why don't they ever hang out at Daddy's sink?)
  • Did we decide to skip Thanksgiving this year? I hear all about Christmas, see Christmas, etc. Don't we have another holiday to celebrate first?
  • Why are most discipline techniques more work for the parents than the kids?
  • Why do we have Daylight Savings Time anyway? All it does is mess up the sleep patterns AND the shining personalities of my little ones. That and I really dislike it getting dark mid-afternoon!
  • How does God make such amazing sunsets every night? They are different yet all beautiful in their own way.
  • Why do I check my Words with Friends games and not have any that I need to play, then five minutes later I check and all of a sudden I have 14 that are "my turn"? How does that happen?
  • Why is Mtn. Dew not good for you?
  • Can one ever truly be caught up on laundry?
  • Will our spring/summer clothing ever truly be put away? A.k.a. Will I ever see my dining room again?
  • Why does it seem like everyone else's life is a bit more exciting and adventurous? (And full of a lot of things we can't afford to do...)
  • How can I tone down Christmas without looking like I am toning it down?
  • Why do I have all of these blogging ideas but when I lay down at night with the computer sitting on my lap, I fall asleep?

Okay, I better stop for now. I probably need to be up and around and getting ready for school. What are your not so serious questions about life?

Have a good one.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mourning in Joy

I have been a bit ill this weekend. Seems like I caught whatever tummy bug my boys have had. It started Friday night (notice no posts for a couple of days) The good news is that it was the weekend, so I didn't have to miss any school. The bad news is that my weekend is now over, and I have nothing to show for it except some organized digital photos (which you can do in a reclined position) and a smaller e-mail list (cleaning out). We are making very little headway on this mountain of laundry, and my dining room is filled with summer clothes that need to be sorted and put away or given away. Sigh. (Sidenote: I actually started a post yesterday about giving thanks in light of some of the frustrations of life but found myself wallowing in a pity party instead and didn't finish it :)

So this morning, we slept in our extra hour. Or most of us did. Joshua was ready to be awake because I guess to him sunshine (which shines in his darn window) means bedtime is over. Darn time change. Before I jumped up to release him, I rolled over to glance at my e-mail which is something I can do half asleep. However, the first e-mail I read woke me completely up.

It was a prayer request sent out through our church asking for prayer for Mrs. Carol who had suffered a major brain bleed last night and was being taken to ICU. My heart just sank. Mrs. Carol has been a faithful attender at our church for many years. She has a servant's heart. She has taught three of our four in their younger years (like 2 and 3) in Sunday School with patience, humor, and love. I am sure it is just a coincidence that she and her husband "retired" from that position after Maria was in their class. :) I do remember feeling sad that J-man wouldn't get the sweet experience of time with Mrs. Carol.

Just last week, Mrs. Carol organized a crew to clean the mission house in preparation for a missionary family coming for a while. I was so tempted to go (ironic since my own house isn't really that clean :), if anything, just to spend some time with Mrs. Carol. I didn't really get to talk to her often beyond the greetings when I dropped off kids or picked them up, but she is just one of those ladies full of God's love and life's wisdom. In the end, I chose not to go (Lauren's basketball practice rules my schedule right now). Now I regret it. I regret that I didn't go, didn't learn all I could from Mrs. Carol, didn't take the time to tell her how much she has meant to each of us and how thankful we are for her serving heart.

The last report I "heard" was that Mrs. Carol would be meeting Jesus sometime in the next hours, after she fulfilled one last mission in her life...organ donor. Some lives around the country will be changed forever because of one last act of generosity. Even in her death, she is serving her Lord and sharing His love.

And even at our house, her legacy continues.

I am again reminded how fleeting life is. There are NO guarantees of tomorrow. Just yesterday, Mrs. Carol was attending the wedding of a sweet couple from our church. In the blink of an eye, life can be over. I have no doubt she was ready to meet her Maker. I can just picture Him saying to her, "Well done, good and faithful servant." All day I have been pondering, "What would He say to me?"

Tonight at supper, I asked the kids if they remembered Ms. Carol. I got out our church directory (a very old version...Hunter was just a baby in it) and pointed her out. They did remember her; she often sat near us in church. I explained gently the circumstances and asked them to pray for her family. I reminded them that while Ms. Carol will be full of joy crossing over to Heaven, her family here will be very sad and will miss her.

The floodgates opened up. Questions started pouring out, mainly from the two girls. "What is heaven like?" "How do her organs help other people?" "How do you know if you aren't going to heaven?" We had discussions about organ donation, heaven, people we will see in heaven, hell, Christ's return, death, and salvation. I sure don't know all of the answers, and I am not afraid to say that. But I was thankful for that opportunity to share our faith, our beliefs. And I found myself once again thinking, "Thank you, Mrs. Carol, for what you have done for our family."

Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Perfect Parent...

I was the perfect parent...

Until I had kids.

I remember. I remember watching kids in the store. You know the ones. The ones throwing themselves on the floor in a temper tantrum. And in my head, that perfect parent voice said, "I am SO glad that my children will not act like that..."

Until I had kids. And I learned that sometimes kids have meltdowns...often they have meltdowns...and I have no control over when or where they happen. All I can control is how I react to them. Usually with a red face, wanting to sink into the ground, as I grit my teeth and mutter chastising words under my breath (that mean nothing when a child is in that state).

I remember seeing kids come to school without a jacket or a backpack or having empty lunch accounts. And I wondered, "How could those parents let that happen?"

Until I had kids. Sometimes you have all of their things laid out for them and they still walk out of the house without any of it. Or your daughter may just decide she doesn't think it is the slightest bit cold outside, so she ignores your commands to take her jacket. Or she leaves her backpack (and all of her homework) in her daddy's car. Or he doesn't turn in a newsletter that you signed and specifically said, "Turn this in tomorrow" as his head bobbed up and down like a bobblehead.

I remember cringing when I heard parents barking orders at their older children to help with the younger children. I remember thinking, "I will NOT do that."

And I will say, most of the time I don't...totally. I try not to bark. And I am thankful for kids who are more than willing to help. But sometimes I do have to ask for help. Sometimes. Because sometimes I cannot be in more than one place at one time. Usually.

I remember using "Fashion Plates" to draw pictures of myself as a mom. Remember those things? I really liked playing with them. I would create myself this thin, cute little tennis player with my hair in a ponytail.

Then I had kids. Who am I kidding? I wasn't thin before I had kids. Nor really that cute. And who has time to mess with long hair?

I watched children make really poor choices at school. And I would think, "I bet this kid runs their house...where is the parent?"

Then I had kids. Sometimes you give all of the tools, all of the lessons about life and making good choices. And sometimes they don't. And they aren't running our house. We keep a fairly tight rein over here. But they are still their own people, in charge of their own decisions. I have said before, here I am with a perfect God, and I sometimes make really poor decisions. Why do I think my children with imperfect parents are going to make better ones?

I was the perfect parent. I read lots of books. I studied child development. I know the "right things" to do. I keep up on the latest research. We started reading to Hunter in utero. He was going to be this genius. All of our kids would...

Then I had kids. And they are all their own way. Hunter was slow to talk, even after all of the talking we did with him. (I know, you would NEVER know that now) While at least two have become wonderful readers (who truly love reading), none have been early readers by any means. We give them all of these tools and resources and experiences, but honestly...they develop at their own rate.

I just knew that once I had kids, I would have it all "together". We would have this organized house. The kids' friends would hang out at our house because I would be the "cool" mom.

Then I had kids. Let's be honest. I wasn't cool before I was a mom. Not sure why I thought being a mom would suddenly make me "cooler". Or whatever the proper word is these days. Organized? Hmmm...I don't think I ever thought about exactly how much stuff six people could have to keep up with! Right now my dining room is filled with clothes I need to organize as we switch out the seasons. And I do want to be the house where kids hang out, but right now, I am doing good to keep our family and the house up, much less add many people to the mix.

I was the perfect parent. In my mind, I was. I talked in a quiet voice. I handled discipline appropriately every time. I knew exactly what to do in any situation, sharing the wisdom I have gathered in life. I laughed easily. I gave "Rudy" kind of speeches to encourage them in becoming all they can be.

Then I had children. Nobody told me. I didn't know about Mommy guilt. And that this would be the hardest job I would ever do. That some days I would raise my voice and say all of the wrong things. That often I feel absolutely UNWISE, totally unsure how to handle situations that arise. That some days I would go to bed (most days) feeling like a complete failure. That I would look at these faces and wonder why God thought I was the one for the job.

I was the perfect parent once upon a time.

Then I had kids.