Monday, February 24, 2014

A Quick Thaw

The boys and I had a wonderful time thawing out in Florida last week. My parents are spending their third winter down there, and it is the second time we have traveled down to see them. They found a great place to rent during the three worst months of northern wintery unhappiness and are having a lot of fun jet-setting all over the state visiting other retired types at their warm weather getaways. The boys were great little travelers. We had no problems getting there or coming home (many flights were canceled due to the huge east coast storm). During our stay we explored several beautiful beaches and collected an insane amount of shells and shark teeth. Okay, really just a few sandwich bags worth, but it seemed like a lot when they were being stuffed into pockets during every beach outing. The boys worked on their swimming skills at the neighborhood pool, and I worked on my social skills by making small talk with other temporary residents and their visitors. We opted to skip Disney this year as it is over two hours away from where my parents are staying, and CJ is hoping to take a full fledged Disney resort vacation when the boys get a little older. Instead we ventured to Legoland. It is a great park for little kids, and the boys had a blast building with Legos and riding the rides. Sadly, I couldn't convince P to ride a roller coaster, even though he was tall enough to ride with me on all of them. He said he "didn't want to get sick going upside down" which was silly because none of the rides went upside down. CJ was disappointed to hear about the lack of roller coaster riding (he stayed home due to no accumulated vacation days at the new job) and has promised to force P onto every roller coaster once he hits the magical height of 48". Which probably won't be for another two summers at his current rate of growth. Facing one's fear of roller coasters is a bit of a rite of passage with my husband. He forced me to do it, laughing hysterically at my high-pitched screams. He forced our nephew to do it, and we were all rewarded with his enthusiastic shout of "THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!" on the most feared coaster. When the day comes, hopefully P will be thankful his father made him face his fear rather than filing away the experience as yet another thing he will discuss in therapy someday.
Back home, we immediately began to re-freeze, with temperatures plummeting into the single digits again later this week. I know I am not alone when I say that this winter has been brutal. But the small dose of sun helped me gain back some energy, and I am very much looking forward to the warm happiness of spring.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Positive Effects of Wallpaper Removal

While my parents are down in Florida soaking up the sun, I have been fixing up their living and dining rooms. They decided to get the hardwood floors professionally redone and offered to pay me if I stripped wallpaper and painted both rooms first. The wallpaper stripping was a lot of work and took me several days, but it did something rather amazing. My creative juices had been stuck at a slow drip, but once I started spending my afternoons scraping and peeling, peeling and scraping, my mind cleared and opened up a steady flow of creative goodness. I cranked on my WIP (work in progress - a young adult novel), making more progress in a handful of weeks than I had in months. After the wallpaper was down and the walls fixed and washed, I started painting. The creativity is still flowing, but it has slowed from the original gush. Maybe it's because painting is slightly more creative and takes extra concentration. Maybe it's because I am at the halfway point in my book and am starting to feel the pressure that my characters are feeling. Maybe the paint fumes are killing my brain cells. Yeah, that's probably it.
As of this morning, the job is nearly done. We need to go back tomorrow and do some cleanup work, but the walls are painted and the room is cleared for the floor guy. Hopefully my parents will like the color and not want me to paint it again when they return. Although that could be a good thing if the juices get clogged. In the meantime, I need to keep plugging away at my book and seek out other forms of manual labor. Perhaps a closet clean-out project will do the trick.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Voice in Our Head

As part of the requirements for this year's cub scout badge, P needed to talk with a parent about courage and the challenge of doing the "right thing" when it wasn't easy. There were multiple scenarios in his handbook, but we only had to pick four and write his response to each. I handed the book over, let him read each one and decide on the four we would discuss. They were mostly about peer pressure; your friends want you to steal candy from the store/whistle at a blind person's guide dog/pick on the new kid/etc., and I was curious to see what he would say. My boy is a born leader. I see it on the playground and at school. People follow him, not usually the other way around. I would hope that given any of the above situations, he would rise above. His answers were textbook "I wouldn't do it", thanks in part to all of the anti-bullying messages at school and (hopefully) our modeling at home. But I wanted to dig a little deeper. When I asked him why he wouldn't steal the candy, he answered that he didn't want to get arrested. When I asked what he could do instead of picking on the new kid (who, in this situation also had a physical disability), it took a lot of prompting before he said he would ask the kid to sit near him and strike up a conversation. I started thinking. Are we hard-wired to be compassionate toward others, or is that something we learn through observation and living? We talk a lot about following the rules and doing the right thing, but will my boy only follow through with that message when he is worried about the consequences? As a child, I was always afraid to do anything wrong because my parents had put the fear of God in me. Sin and you will be punished. To this day mom will say things like, "See. That's what happens." when I stub my toe after mouthing off. (On the flip side, she also believes that the key to success and the prevention of illness is thinking positively.) So what drives us to "do the right thing" and be compassionate? Is it God? The law? Some sort of internal compass? Your mother? Whenever P gets in trouble for making bad choices, I tell him to imagine me on his shoulder saying, "Do you think this is a good idea?" I hope that as he gets older and the choices go from picking on the new kid to experimenting with drugs and alcohol or other teenage stuff I'm completely not ready for, that he will find that voice inside his head. And it is loud and screechy, just like mine.