This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Honest Christmas Update

I have been receiving Christmas letters since the weekend after Thanksgiving.  My friends are all overachievers.  Now, they aren't all pretentious -- no, really, they aren't.  Some of them are very down-to-Earth updates of the past year.  But there are those that make my cynical and jaded side snicker. 

You know the one's that I'm talking about because you all get them too.  Generally, they are from those people that you don't know all that well.  All of these letters have the typical holiday photo of the shiny, happy, family followed by a 2-3 page recap of the awesomeness that occurred in their lives over the past year.  Things like raises, promotions, championship games, and awards that they have all earned are highlighted with humbled gloating.  There is nothing wrong with a yearly update letter.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of your family's accomplishments.  There is nothing wrong with any of it. 

But it still hits me wrong every year.

When I see the letters like that I wonder how I am friends with these people and then I realize that I am not.  Not really.  My friends send the cards that are simply signed "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" and may or may not include brief update letters that may or may not include a picture.  These people are those faux friends that I never interact with beyond this yearly update or liking a post on Facebook.  I mean, they obviously don't read my blog or they'd know that such a letter sent to me sets them up to be blog fodder.

I want to see an HONEST Christmas letter.  One that includes the good with the bad.  One that is fun to read because I can relate to it.  So, I'm going to write my family's honest Christmas letter.  I won't send it out -- not because I am ashamed or because it isn't true, but if I publish it here everyone will have the option to read it anyway and I won't have to pay postage.

Greetings from the Caballero Clan! 
2012 is drawing to a close and I must say that I am glad to see it go.  This year has been extremely stressful and although it is ending on a relatively positive note, I am just thankful that it is ending. 

We started the year off with the threat of unemployment looming large on the horizon, but we were fortunate enough to find the husband another job in our hometown.  So naturally, we all got pneumonia while we were moving 750 miles across country.  Also, the short notice of the move meant that we spent the first 8 weeks living with our parents.  Talk about stress. We're in our house now and hopefully will close on it in the Spring provided there are no more surprises.
The oldest boy passed 4th grade.  This was a shock to us all considering that none of the tests were given on a Wii or a Nintendo DS.  Seriously, his video game addiction is troubling, but he does make decent grades.  Since starting 5th grade, he also seems to be discovering girls.  This is very good news because it is evidence that video games may not be the love of his life after all.  
Our oldest girl spent the first of the year recovering from knee surgery and following it up with a broken arm. Needless to say, our orthopedist had a very good year. Luckily, she hasn't injured herself anymore since then because one more "accident" would have likely resulted in a visit from CPS.
The youngest girl is making her mark on the world in kindergarten.  Her teacher agrees with us that she is very unique and very smart.  She seems to have great mathematical ability as she constantly answers math questions in class without even pausing to raise her hand.  However, she still hasn't mastered details like writing her name all on the same line (she often writes it vertically down the side of the page).  Luckily she is very cute.

As for our youngest, well, he's a liar.  He tells some great stories but not one of them is true.  He's also lazy and absolutely hates to go to preschool, but we make him go anyway in the hopes that he will get some preparation for kindergarten next year.  He is plenty capable, but has no motivation.  His teacher and I have tried all year to get him to write his name, but so far all he will write is a J.  He says that he doesn't need to write the rest because with the J we will know that it is his.  Sigh. 
All in all, this has been a stressful year (which is why there is no family photo) and we are looking forward to a better 2013.  We know that we are blessed and anymore details of our lives can be found on Ginger's blog.
 See?  Good and bad, all truth, and less than a page.  Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My 11 Year Old has a Girlfriend??!

I'm sick with an evil stomach virus.  My oldest girl is also sick with something that resembles the black plague.  So today we are watching Christmas specials by the fire and trying to one up one another with our illnesses -- she tells me that she can't breathe through her nose and I counter with I can't eat.  Through all of this bonding I have been trying to answer emails and take care of things like washing the germs out of our laundry. 

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that my oldest son just had a birthday and when we asked him if he wanted to invite someone from school to celebrate with us, he chose A GIRL.  This was big news.  He is ELEVEN.  So when he told us this, it triggered the inquisition.  Who was she?  Is she just a friend who is a girl or was she a girlfriend?  You get the idea.  He said she was "sorta his girlfriend" and that she was really nice.  He didn't know her last name, but was able to get her phone number so that I could call her parents to invite her to come over.  It was an awkward phone call. 

When I called the mom of this mystery 11 year old, I was pretty cautious.  I had no idea who this woman was, what the family dynamic was, how they felt about this budding "relationship" etc.  I mean, we thought that the idea of an 11 year old "dating" was amusing, but we certainly weren't encouraging it.  After all, they are 11 years old.  We definitely don't want it going beyond the occasional note in class or a birthday invitation, but I had no idea what this woman was thinking.  A few minutes into the conversation, I learned that while I had just learned about their daughter this week, they had been hearing about my son for months.  I told her that I was hoping that their daughter could come to our house to celebrate with us and that they were welcome to join us as well.  I stressed that this was a very informal "party" and that most everything we did was laid back.  I was pleased to discover that both she and her husband were approaching this whole relationship thing with the same attitude that we were -- the crush is cute as long as that's all it is.  It was a relief to know that they weren't picking out china patterns or anything.

The day of the party, she and her family came to our house and spent the evening with us and the rest of our crazy extended family.  They were remarkably normal (by our standards) and they got along well with everyone there.  And the little girl gave my son a Barnes and Noble gift card which scored major points with me as I am always trying to get him to read more. 

Any fears I had about my son meddling in things like dating were squashed by the conversations overheard between him and his little sister.  We learned that he thinks that holding hands is "weird" and when she asked him if he had kissed her, he fake gagged.  I just hope that he can maintain that attitude for a few more years.  At least.  I want him to date eventually (as long as I can pre-approve any possible girlfriends and their families), but not until he is older. 

This experience has prompted a discussion about when our kids can "date" and what that involves.  I was thrilled to find that my husband and I are on the same page.  We have 2 boys and 2 girls.  It is important to both of us that the dating rules in this house be universal -- no difference between boys and girls.  So these are our basic rules:
1)  Group dates (as in going to the movies with a group of people where you happen to be in mutual "like" with another member of the group) will be allowed as young as 14 if and only if we are accquainted with all members of the party and we (or another parent that we know) drives you to and from the "date."

2)  Double dating (where you are allowed to go off with the person that you are in mutual "like" with provided that you are with another couple) will be allowed as young as 15, if and only if we are accquainted with both couples, and transportation is provided by us or another responsible adult.

3)  Individual, one-on-one dating will not be allowed until 16.  You will not be allowed to get into the car with anyone that we have not met.    
4)  You will not respond to honked horns from the edge of the driveway (nor will you ever honk your horn for your date).  Boys will introduce themselves to their date's parents, girls will introduce their dates to us.  More than one date with a girl requires that the boys bring the girl to meet us.  Prolonged relationships, boys or girls, will result in me contacting the parents of the date.  This is not to embarrass you, but to insure that we are all on the same page as far as the dating rules and expectations go.
 These rules are not just to protect my kids, but also to make certain that they date the kind of kids that would potentially make good life partners.  I know that they are going to hate these rules.  But I need them to understand the respect that is communicated to their dates when they are followed.  Anyone that they date will know that my kids have respect for them and that they demand repsect from them.  I do not expect them to marry the first person that they date, but they need to understand from the get-go that you DO marry who you date, so treat your dating life as an audition or interview.  If I give them the impression that dating doesn't matter, then they could end up very unhappy in life. 

And the one thing that I want for my kids above all else is for them to be happy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The brothers Grimm Method

If you are a mom, you know that one of the rare joys in life is getting to go to the bathroom by yourself without being interupted 50 times. Usually, the interuptions are annoyingly benign things like "Mom? What are you doing?" or "Mom? How much longer are you gonna be in there?" or "Mom? You're in the bathroom??!" -- like they can't believe that mom's need to pee. Depending on how long the bathroom business takes, a fight may break out requiring a trial to take place right outside the bathroom door that the kids expect you proceed over as they all try to tell their version of what happened so that you can deliver your verdict before you even flush. And every once in a while, something happens that requires you to rush or leave before you are finished. This was the case last night.

Dinner was done, homework was finished, and the kids were distracted by a rare weekday occurance of desert. I figured it was the best chance I would have before bedtime to go to the bathroom by myself so I snuck upstairs and locked the bathroom door. As I was sitting there, I heard the back screen door open and close right beneath me. And then again. And then a third time. And I heard lots of screaming and laughing. Seriously, I'd been gone all of 42 seconds and they were running outside into the cold and dark for some reason that only they and God knew. I knew that they were in their pajamas and probably didn't have shoes on, but I also knew that the gates to the backyard were closed, so I decided to hurry up but not to worry too much.

About 14 seconds after hearing the laughing screams, something changed. The back door slammed again and I heard the ear piercing screams of my 6 year old from outside. I rushed. I ran downstairs to find that her older brother and sister had left her outside in the dark in 40 degree weather in her pajamas with no shoes and no jacket. She was standing there holding her stuffed cat and screaming. The door wasn't locked, but she was screaming and they weren't doing anything to help her. After I got her inside and calmed her down, I laid into the nearly 9 and 11 year olds. They weren't taking me seriously. I had to do something to get them to realize that this wasn't just about my 90 seconds of "me time" being interrupted.

So I employed a little technique that I like to call "The Brothers Grimm Method." This is where you take something real (or at least rumored to be real) and exaggerate it into something scary to teach a moral lesson to your kids. Civilazations have done this with their young for centuries, and while I didn't tell them that there was a werewolf or chupacabra or a Lady in White that would come and steal them from me, I used the modern day version of all those things -- CPS. I told them that if our neighbors heard a child screaming outside in the cold and in the dark, they could and probably should call Child Protective Services. I told them that IF Child Protective Services came to the house, that they could decide to take them away from me and their dad and make them go live with strangers and send me and their dad to jail. NOW they were listening. I went on to explain that they needed to take care of each other and that I expected them, as the oldest, to do better than leaving their little sister outside by herself in the dark like that. I also stressed that it was pretty pathetic that I couldn't have 5 minutes to go to the bathroom without them getting into trouble.

I may have misrepresented the CPS, but I don't really care. I got them to see my point and they felt bad about what had happened. They apologized to their sister (and she promptly forgave them like she always does) and I made everyone go to bed early.

After all, I STILL had to go to the bathroom!