Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Poppers!

I wrote this for my Dad a couple years ago, but today seemed like a perfect day to post it and remind him just how special he is...

Top 10 things I learned from my Dad....

1. Giving is always better than getting. My whole life, I remember hearing the joy in your voice and seeing the sparkle in your eye whenever you thought of a great gift idea for someone. Spending time shopping with you and watching the generosity you display toward needy people has always inspired me to want to give to others the way that you do.

2. If it’s Irish, It’s Good! I appreciate being taught about my Irish heritage. So many people just see themselves as “caucasian” but you always taught me that I have a rich Irish lineage with a great deal of culture and history. Even if the food does taste blah!
3. The Louder the Music the Better! I have so many memories of riding in the car with Carmen blasting on the radio and you clapping, singing and banging on the steering wheel. You enjoy music so much that it encourages me to spend time enjoying it too.
4. Go the Extra Mile to Make something Special. This lesson really illustrates who you are. So many times, I have noticed that you take the time to really add special little touches to things. From your amazing breakfasts in the morning to your beautiful garden pinwheels to a surprise flower delivery on St. Patrick’s Day half way across the country.
5. Have Fun! Wow, I thought the last one was the one that really described you but this one might have to beat it! I have so many incredibly memories that it’s hard to pick just a few. You are always the one to come up with some crazy, last minute idea that makes a day. Sometimes when I tell stories to people about my childhood, they just stare at me in awe. You and Mom always included Matt and me in the things you did and I appreciate that so much. I don’t know if you know how rare that is. When you would encourage us to check the “candy tree” outside and delight in our excitement to frosting covered brownies made into Halloween pumpkins and taking all of my friends in the back of the truck trick or treating all over town to river rafting to Leavenworth at Christmas time, I can’t think of any fun activity you didn’t spearhead.
6. Treat others Well Your kindness and generosity are evident in everything you do. Your friends and your family benefit so much from your sweet thoughtfulness. I learned to surprise the people around me with kindness when I see you bring in a beautiful flower for me or Mom when you come in from working in the yard or when you bring home an unexpected latte.
7. Enjoy Nature and Appreciate Beauty You were always the one to rush inside and encourage me to come outside and see an amazing sunset or smell the fresh aroma of the rain in a flowerbed. I have always been touched by your connection to nature and your devotion to our land. I often think about the story of the tree that had to be cut to build our house but that stands in the same place in our home and every time I am so blessed by your unique gentle loving spirit.
8. Work Hard at Something that Matters You and Mom have worked so hard to create a safe, loving, warm environment for your family. I am so thankful for both of you and I know it hasn’t been easy. You put your all into things and I learned that you can make a difference in the world if you just keep trying. A couple of years ago, you called me in tears to tell me that a man in your cursillo group had just adopted a child from China. (My eyes are tearing up as I write this) You said, “I am just so proud that you help people feel the way he was feeling today.” I don’t know if I ever told you how much that meant to me, but it was amazing. I want so much for you to be proud of me and I am so thankful that you were able to share that with me.
9. Love animals So many parents don’t let their kids have pets. That was never an issue we had. I don’t remember a time that I ever wanted any kind of animal and you and Mom said “No”. We had dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, peacocks, horses, cows, rabbits, fish, turtles and we probably could add a few species to that list. You have always had such a tenderness for animals that we learned to value and care for them as well. What a richness they add to life.
10. Love God and Serve His Humanity I still remember the day you came home from Cursillo and told us that you had met your best friend and his name is Jesus. That has always touched me and helped me to remember that God is the one that I can always lean on. You have such a servant’s heart and I am blessed and honored to have been able to learn from your willingness to serve others at home, at work or in church.

Dad, Thank you for being the amazing father you are to me. I recently read a book that said that your impression of God is based on your experience with your father. What a powerful message. I thank God for giving me you every day and I am so grateful that he chose to bless me with a Dad that taught me that God is loving, kind, amazingly thoughtful and full of surprises.

I love you, Dad, and I hope you have a wonderful time this weekend.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. ~Robert Fulghum

It is amazing to me to see these two amazing little boys pick up my habits and mannerisms. Terrifying and incredible all at once. I watched tonight as M picked all of the toppings off of his pizza and ate them first and then was so impressed as J strolled around the backyard checking on the plants and called several by name. They are so wonderful, I don't even have words to describe it. They challenge me to the full extent of my ability and potential and I am loving every single second. I am so incredibly thankful for my job right now. I am able to focus on things that will make me a better social worker and a better parent. All of the things I'm interested in are wrapped up in both my career and my personal life. It's so great! I'm going to a second training tomorrow on the "Nurtured Heart Approach" to parenting. I went to the first one the night before the boys moved in and I'm so excited to get a refresher. I'm not the type of person who picks one style of anything but I've really been able to incorporate alot from this philosophy. The main focus is helping kids to build their sense that they can succeed. The founder of the approach uses the example of how trainers trained the amazing Shamu to jump out of the water-----training Shamu to jump over a rope suspended above the water was relatively easy -- once they found the right approach: Make it easy for the Shamu to succeed
In the beginning, reward success, no matter how small. To make it easy for Shamu to succeed, instead of putting the rope above the water and trying to persuade the Shamu whale to jump over it, the trainers started by laying the rope on the bottom of the tank.
Then they watched Shamu very carefully. When they saw Shamu cross over the line (or even get near it in the beginning), they gave him a reward. Rather quickly, Shamu learned that if he swam over the rope, he would often received a reward. Then they raised the rope off the bottom of the tank, rewarding Shamu only when he swam over it . Eventually, they raised the rope above of the water. By that point, Shamu "knew" he would often receive a reward when he had to cross over the line, so quite naturally he began jumping over the rope. Simple, right? It makes a huge difference with kids when you put all your focus on praising and rewarding their successes and allowing natural consequences to deal with their challenges. I use a lot of attachment parenting tools as well; we practice a lot of eye contact and I use "the thinking spot" or "taking a seat" which is basically a quick timeout right next to me. It does nobody any good to use a separation to discipline kids who are traumatized by too many separations. Love and Logic has also had a huge impact on the way I interact with the kids. It also leads to some of the funniest moments... In the midst of a tantrum, J (2) said to me, "No, you're the bummer!", M was trying to get me to give him chocolate milk and when I said "No", his response was "I love you to much to argue".

I think my favorite thing that has happened over the last month is watching the development of empathy in both boys. I easedropped yesterday as they were outside playing near their little swimming pool and they were upset to see the bugs that had landed in the water. Both boys were gently picking up each bug and transferring it carefully to a nearby sunflower leaf. It was amazing to hear them use the words they have heard me say to cheer on the little bugs who were struggling..."You be ok. I know this is hawd" and Good Job! You awe weally twying".
The second most exciting thing is that they are telling on themselves! When a cup of milk spills, I now get an "oops, I spilled the milk" instead of blank stares and blatent refusals to take responsibility. Soooo sooo amazing to watch.

I found this poem and I'm going to print it out and put it on my fridge. Whether this is for another month or forever, I don't want to look back later and think...

If I had my child to raise all over again,I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.I would do less correcting and more connecting.I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.I'd do more hugging and less tugging.-- Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"