Thursday, September 29, 2011

Six Flags over Jesus

One of the most unlikely phrases to come out of my mouth lately has been, "I'm getting up early on Sunday to make the first service at church." Even stranger, "I'm going to church for this thing this coming Saturday night." Yes, come again the words CHURCH and SATURDAY night in the same sentence.

Back last fall I put on my Mondo list that finding a church was important. As much as I would like to find somewhere that Bill is also comfortable, I know that if I feel at home the boys and Bill (maybe) will follow. In the past couple of months I've been regularly attending a church near our new home.

A super short history of my feelings about religion:

Raised in a fairly strict Southern Baptist home. Went to church on Sunday morning for Sunday school and again in the afternoon for choir followed by Sunday night services. I went on Wednesdays for handbells and Bible Drill (in elementary school), and later youth group on Wednesday nights. I also was involved in a bible study in friends' homes on Tuesday night. Needless to say I spend a lot of time at church.

While I wouldn't say that I lived in a Footloose-esque, "dancing will get you into Hell" household, my parents (mom especially) expected that I conform to what they felt was living a moral life influence by church attendance and also participation. My mom at one point even paid me to go to week long church camp.

I'll be honest, being involved with a church anchored me, my friends were also members, at times it was something I fell back on as a safety net. I don't regret that it was as big as part of my life as it was at the time. But, I also had a growing mistrust and openly disagreed with some of what I saw then and also now as hypocrisy of what I was being taught and my life outside the church.

My parents wanted me to go to a southern Baptist college and insisted that if they were helping pay any portion, that I would "consider" at least a handful of schools affiliated with the church. My mom, grandmother, and aunts had all attended Furman University in Greenville, SC.

At the time around Sophomore year I was looking at pre-med programs and began to look at what med schools were even the slightest bit attainable. Big ol' pipe dream in hindsight. I looked at the University of Texas with Baylor University as undergrad and also Samford University with University of Alabama as a possibility. I got into both undergrad schools and in the end not only got out of premed when I couldn't pass organic chemistry after 3 times and had also met my now husband. The crazy thing is Bill and never really fit at Samford. I often say that within 12 months I managed to find the biggest sinner (or fellow sinner) on campus and then moved in with him (a serious values violation at a school with closed dorms).

You have to understand that the campus was completely dry, you could be issued values violations, had to attend convocation weekly, and did I mention that many people dated by attending the area mega Churches (aka...Six Flags over Jesus) on a Friday night. I met some wonderful, very spiritual people who I know that the school was a perfect fit, but I also know that it wasn't for either of us. Only after going to UNC-Chapel Hill for grade school did I feel like I got an authentic college experience, not a sanitized, artificial college experience.

We attended churches as a married couple and have in the 10 years that we have lived here. We even joined a church and Ben was baptized at a church that we frequently attended Sunday services. But it always felt as an adult that I am doing this because I think I am suppose to. I'm not really getting anything out of it, in fact it's been a really long time since I felt like faith and spiritually really ment anything to me.

With the move I made it a priority to start church shopping and have found a church that I actually want to go to, make it on my weekend to-do, like the format of the service, like the fact that every week I have gone I find myself thinking about something in the message long after it's over.

I like the informality, the kids like the childcare, I like that they have a strong teenage program. I like that there are no hymns or ceremony to the service. I like that these are some of the friendliest people I have ever met without feeling like they are one step away from drinking some Jonestown Kool-aid. I like that there is no pressure to participate.

I like that one of the co-ministers look like he might moonlight as tattoo artist. It's been a really long time since I felt like I was being invited to be a part of something bigger than myself instead of being preached at by a punitive parental figure.

Maybe it's because in the weeks after my mom's death I'm looking for a still, quiet place to be alone with the ick is still very much just under the surface.


It's really ironic that the first time I visited here was the day before she died. In my final phone conversation, I almost mentioned to her that I was had been visiting churches but then didn't. My going to church as well as why the boys didn't go regularly was a continual source of contention. It was just easier not to say anything, so I stayed mum.

Regardless, it's something that I'm making time for right now. It's something that I'm making a priority. It's something that helps center and start the week in a positive place.

ps... traveling to SC this weekend for a meeting with the estate probate attorney and to start on the house clean out. I could use some good thoughts, support, whatever you want to throw my way. While I haven't been super public in the weeks after either publically or in writing, I'm still very much working through some really hard stuff gradually.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy to report...

a good report from Ben's teacher at pick up. "He's trying, and while he does backslide during points of the day, I'm seeing him making an effort consistently every day."

I asked her to say it again in front of him with Ben repeating what he heard. He was beaming. We high-fived and did the Ben cheer in the parking lot.

At home we have been rewarding good behavior with extra books at bedtime, getting his one 30 min show back after dinner, extra time alone with a parent on the weekend. Last weekend Bill took him to the Lowes kid's clinic. This was the first time he had signed up for the make it/take it craft (a firetruck.)

A friend has offered to come do some special cooking with him if he keeps up the good behavior. Tonight he was demonstrating his karate moves and I asked him if he would like to maybe take some classes. Maybe, let's see how the next month goes.

Since poor Ian seems to be barely mentioned, he is thriving at daycare. He has made the transition well, loves his teachers and seems to be his normal happy self everyday. Being the miracle workers they are, he is taking a consistent 2 hour nap each day. He seems thoroughly worn out and ready to crash once we put him down.

I called today to make flu shot appointments and also asked if we should go ahead and been seen about ongoing concerns with his few words (still only 3 on a good day) from the summer 15 month appointment. So now we are waiting to hear if we need to go ahead with a referral, so we can discuss results at his upcoming 18 month appointment, or just need to wait until the normal appointment.

In my heart I'm not concerned, he babbles continually, points, hears normally and seems to be hitting his targets for everything else. I think this is more a case of male, 2nd kid, gross motor over linguistic ability. Still it was worth the call and in an age of early interventions if we need to investigate speech intervention therapy for him then we will.

Even though we are in the throws of 18 months toddler antics, Ian also greets us everyday with laughing, smiles, and lots and lots of squealing. He eats blueberries, really any fruit you put in front of him, like candy. He loves playing outside and almost always can be seen in his cozy coupe or pushing his play lawn mower along side the bike riding in the cul de sac. He is a bundle of sweetness (and energy) and is looking more and more like a little boy over any signs of a baby with each passing day.

I feel like a poster child for suburban life. A good life, indeed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Friday Post on Monday

I had planned to update my ongoing house (ok, like I post one picture then stopped) of the different rooms in our new(er) house.

Friday turned into Saturday and then well, you know.

Here was the planned post but with some editing since the weekend was a quiet, much needed weekend to get some stuff done.

I've loving looking out the back door to see double parking on tap almost every night by 6:30. For our entire married life we have always lived a minimum 30 mins from work, friends, Target.

Target alone was grounds for moving.

We now are under 15 mins for Bill, 20 mins for me, 5 mins for school, 10 for daycare and most importantly: 5 for Target.

For the first time ever as a family we are able to eat dinner as a family, split bedtime and next day prep, and in general just be able to see the boys for a longer part of each day.

While not the most attractive picture but we also for the first time have room for both cars, all the bikes under the stairs, a growing collection of sports equipment, and best of all an extra fridge and my beloved freezer.

We are investigating putting storage shelving along the walls to get stuff up off the floor.

Not the most exciting weekends on tap but plans for time alone with each kid, time to get caught up for a busy week ahead and planned SC run next weekend.

*** Weekend Update***
Nice and quiet weekend. While not completely finished with grading, I did make a dent and should have an easier week, sorted and washed fall clothes for the boys, usual shopping and errands, Sat am spin class + core work, dog walking, church, plans for my MIL to come up in Dec finalized, big freeze ahead session to split between us and my brother, successful meal out with both boys, dinner meet up with a friend resulting in us both determined to be more involved with the Obama 2012 campaign than just monetarily, and then GOOD WIFE premiere last night.

Not watching Good Wife? Shame on you.

So, So, good and a 20 year crush on Josh Charles doesn't hurt :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Fall Line Up

We have been working over the last month to figure out how to make the AM rush work. So far Bill and I are partnering to divide and conquer. As two chronically late people this has been challenging, and yes Ben has been introduced to the dreaded tardy slip already.

School Days look something like this:

5:30/45- Heather up
6:00- Bill up
6:20- Kids up

We try to have lunches, clothes, backpacks ready to go the night before. Bill gets the boys ready while I take care of the dog, deal with last minute stuff, and lay out everything to go out the door.

6:30- Heather (should be) leaving
6:50- Bill takes Ben to the bus then Ian into daycare.

By 7:30 everyone is at school or work. Pick up is by 5pm if at all possible earlier everyday.

From 5- 6pm Ben rides his bike or plays hockey/baseball/football in our front yard. We have 3 families with young kids within a couple of houses so there is usually a masse of testerone outside.

I get dinner going and then take Ian out and let him play while I help supervise the kids. With the super early wake up, bedtime/bath starts at 7pm.

Most notable in this new fall schedule is my ability to say No.

My new phrase for all concerned is, "Sorry but NO"

Want to sponsor a club-No
Want to take on a leadership roll within your department-No
Want to serve on this committee/meeting/chance to better yourself-NO
Want to fix this copier using only a ball point pin and your wits- NO

I am super protective of any and all things that suck time away from getting home, getting the boys, spending time with them, taking care of the house, getting online work finished at a reasonable hour and going to bed.

We are intentionally not doing a fall extracurricular activity with Ben but rather are swapping Saturday mornings for a breakfast date to do something alone with him. It's too busy to keep up a date night during the school week and the kids need the extra sleep. This also gives Ian some much needed curse of the forgotten 2nd child time with one parent. We may consider karate later this winter as a posssible good behavior reward.

Being so much closer to life was a major selling point for us. So far while there are still kinks to work out, the new fall line up is working most days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Like the Preacher's Daughter

I'm on a first name basis with Ben's kindergarten teacher. He's been in school just over 3 weeks. Yes, this sucks like you can't imagine to have to do the walk of parent shame every day at pickup.

As a teacher myself I can tell you that when I know a student's name by the end of the first day, it's not good. So I can tell you that Ben's teacher most likely had already moved his seat after the first day.

Ben was very excited to be starting kindergarten. We talked it up in the weeks leading up the the big day. He had a great staggered entry day back on the 30th of August and started full time later that week.

On the first day, really the FIRST DAY of his public education I was met at pick up with a Come to Jesus meeting about behavior in class. It went a little something like this:

Me- "I hope he had a good day"

Teacher-" Can we talk just a minute, and I want you to know that I appreciate the note you sent about the recent events (moving, grandparent death). I think it's always important to know what is going on at home and how it impacts what happening in the classroom." Ben had a really rough day with behavior.

Me- "Can you give me some insight? Examples? What did he do today so that I can talk to him tonight"

Teacher- Examples given. Tons o examples including shouting out answers, getting up during circle time, telling the teacher, "I'm not going to do that", "I don't hear you" and turning his back to her. Also included lots of talking, horse playing in the hall, lunchroom, bathroom basically anywhere they were expected to be in a line". He even tried to pull a 5th grader to the ground over some paper airplane. Really Ben, a 5th grader? It's almost like he never went to preschool and was socialized.

Me- Biggest SIGH ever. I go on to say that I'm not surprised and elaborate that we have seen all of that at home at different times but that overall he had a good summer. I go on to talk about what we do at home for discipline, the ground rules in our house and also go on to say that Ben needs someone on him like a hawk due to a recent development of lying.

I think at one point I may have said he's acting like a 5 year old tool. Maybe. I hope I didn't say anything worse in my total embarrassment. I did say as the conversation got around to what I teach and that my freshman may be easier to handle than a manipulative five year old.

I at some point make the statement, "You will see him more than I will Monday-Friday for the next 10 months" I want us to be on the same page and we will do whatever it takes to reel this in and shut this down.

And we have. Most of the last weeks I have been in almost daily communication in email with his teacher. I like her. She's old school and doesn't put up with anything. She's the taskmaster that Ben needs over a touch-feely "honey don't do that kinda teacher." Ben's best preschool teachers were those that loved him but did so with an iron fist to shut down behavior. Remember the teacher that help get him potty trained. I owe her big time.

In the past weeks behavior has gotten better, but it almost is 2 steps forward and one back. For the time we are in the car alone before picking up Ian we talk about his day. Some days Ben tells me, "I am not going to talk to you." Big clue to wait until later, maybe have Bill ask. But for sure to check in with his teacher in the next 24 hours as most likely he got into trouble.

I hate this. I hate that my kid is the problem child, the one she is having to spend what time I know she doesn't have to communicate with me. If this was last summer I would take responsibility for some checked out parenting contributing to this mess.

Overall we had a good summer, even in the weeks after dealing with the stress of my mom's death and all the stuff of going back to school I swore that I was going to not check out on parenting with him. I can honestly say that where I've faltered in other areas, I've been sticking to my guns with him.

The good news is that Bill and I are on the same page. At home we are in lockdown mode on the worst days including no tv, bins of toys that are locked in my car that have been taken away, dinner in his room following by early bedtime. We are using a progression of discipline where we go over what will happen, which punishments will occur if I talk to his teacher or the after school director and have a bad report. I greet him with a big hug everyday but he also seeing me talking to the adults before we leave. Believe me, after a really long day this the last thing I need before starting the dinner and bedtime dance.

We have had some improvement and ever so slowly Ben is getting back privileges and his beloved Legos/cars/action figures. The one thing we will not take away is bedtime book and nighttime routine. We are using that time to also reiterate that he is a good boy and needs to be the "Best Ben he can be at home and at school." Since he is obsessed with superheros we have a cheer and hand gestures to go along with this daily mantra.

In the meantime I expected some type of adjustment to new school, new schedules, new friends, but holly hell child, there's nothing like you showing yourself on the first day. The teacher's kid is just like the preacher's daughter being the biggest sinner in church. For real this SO sucks.

I want Ben to like school. I want him to be a good student, even if he's ultimate C or God forbid worse student. If that's the best he can do, then that's all I can ask. I was the most average of students who played school well and gave it only what I had to get by. No amount of punishment from my parents made me any smarter or try any harder. I want lay the starting school groundwork carefully and not turn Ben off now or make him feel that he is a bad kid who can do nothing right.

I don't want Ben to be the kid that the teacher looks at and counts how many more years 'til retirement. I have this fear that Ben is the 5 year old version of my checked out, totally disinterested, waiting to get out of the house freshmen. I find myself thinking what else can I do to turn this around and am trying really hard not to second guess how we have parented in the last 5 years.

So far our strategy is to partner with Bill and his teacher on a daily basis and be consistent with discipline and consequences from school to home. I have asked his teacher how we can best help support what she is doing at home. We are all staying on Ben even when it would be easy to parent from another room or another floor or let him do something because it's easier on us. We are trying to be a united front and we are both just drained already with this fall schedule, so this is just adding to our stress.

So not the most happy of starting school reports. I know that on some level he likes going, loved this first homework project of creating a life-sized Ben complete with a rainbow shirt, camo shorts, and tattoos of a race car and a cement mixer. We sing Chica Chica Boom Boom in the car. We come up with a list of 5 good things that happen every day.

I love him too much not to fight for him and rather against him. I know that Bill and what is proving to be a divine intervention of teacher placement, Mrs. S, do too.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good-bye Summer 2011

The recent cool fall weather ushered in autumn and the end of a memorable summer.

A much longer post in the works but to sum up our summer in my favorite pictures.

June- FL trip to see family, a big 5th birthday, preschool graduation, and packing, packing, packing up the old house.

July- Family vacation to the Outer Banks, trips to see old high school and college friends, and then Moving, Moving, Moving into our perfect family home

August- Trading day-camp for kindergarten, daycare start, return to full time work, goodbyes, and learning new schedules

Welcome Fall with cool days and nights, trading shorts for jackets, walks in the neighborhood to collect leaves and other treasures, Halloween excitment build-up, pumpkin carving, and my favorite month and day of the year.

Good bye summer 2011. Even though the list of fun didn't get anywhere near accomplished it was a great, great run.

Looking forward to many more days with my favorite V-boys. My sweet Ben and Ian who love (and fight) like brothers only can.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back (not really), but a tiny check in

Still here. I've been laying low intentionally, protecting the time I have once home to what absolutely has to be done for work and to keep us in dinner and clean clothes. Frankly with the return to work and adjustments with school and schedule it's been a big adjustment for me too. There's some long post I'm sure coming about the last month, but not today.

So... I am still here, all Vinsons are doing ok or better, and everyone is getting used to a fall routine that involves super early wake ups.

We are in the middle of the 18 month Ian craziness/crankiness period. He's currently cutting 2 teeth and while finally sleeping at school, appears to being giving his teachers a workout. Bill is convinced Ben never acted like this and I just laugh and laugh and laugh.

Ben has been on secret double probation of late for some really nasty school behavior. Including a 1st day of school Come to Jesus meeting for being disrespectful to his teacher. Yeah, DAY ONE of his public education. Nothing like him pulling some preacher's daughter action to feel embarrassed in front of another teacher for my kid.

Thanks Ben, like life needed a little more stress right now. In all seriousness, we are clamping down and have removed all toys from his room, no tv, and as of tomorrow will be instituting eating dinner in his room with only bath and bed to look forward to once home. We've been in contact with his teacher and feel there is a conference on the horizon.

Yesterday started with my dropping an entire cup of coffee in a file box of freshly sorted work before 7 am and ended with me bailing on calling students in place of falling asleep to the Miss Universe pageant because I was too lazy to find the remote that Ian had hidden. Did I mention that 18 months is a one way ticket to crazytown.

Open house at school tonight and just got home after 9pm. Thought (seriously) about striking up a convo with the bevy (try <10 families that finally found me with my traveling classroom schedule) about how my homegirl of Miss Brazil really flubbed up her do or die question about saving the children while pursuing a broadcast journalism degree.

Think I got home early?

Nope. Plus I still don't know who won Dammit.

Back later with more pressing news. Maybe.