Lesson Learned: Spend time with your family

My son, an EOD journeyman with the Air Force is home visiting between bases. He left Korea and will be heading to Germany. He has his list of favorite foods that I’ll make, places he’d like to go, and different events he’d like to do. Last night we went bowling in River Falls. After 9:00 p.m. the bowling alley had $1.00 games, beer, drinks, and food. Can’t beat that. Today we took a paddleboat down the Mississippi. Tomorrow we may take a trip to Eau Claire. I took off this week to spend time with him. Visits with my son may be once or twice a year. Each day we have together is precious. On that note, my blog will be short as tonight is family time.

Lesson Learned: Right Place, Wrong Time

On Saturday I went to Ikea with my daughter. As I drove out of the neighborhood I saw that a frog, the size of a Ping-Pong ball, was still perched on the hood of my vehicle. We wondered how long the frog would last before the wind took him away. Would it be 45 MPH or 65 MPH? Being nice, I decided to pull over before the experiment began, and I poked the frog with my finger until he hopped off. Once in my car, I hoped that the frog didn’t jump into the way of my tire. I didn’t see any dark spots in the road behind me as I drove off so that was a good sign. He was in the right place soaking up the sun but at the wrong time.

On Sunday I went hiking with my husband at a county park. We walked the trail near the river, and I felt something hit my leg. I thought maybe a stick since I stumbled. Nope, it was a frog about the size of a baseball. I saw him hop off the trail and into the tall grass. I’m surprised the frog wasn’t dazed by the hit. He went on his merry way. He was in the right place at the wrong time. But wouldn’t you have thought he’d avoid me? Not hit me?

The frog that ran into my leg reminded me of a friend who once told me that when you damage your car after being hit by an animal, you should tell your insurance agent that it was the animal’s fault. Example:  Don’t say, “I hit a deer.” You want to say “A deer came out and hit my car.” You are telling the agent that you were not at fault. You were in the right place at the wrong time.

Now this made me think of my son. I remember way back when he was little and we were getting ready to leave the house. We lived in a split-level home, and I went to get my purse. Next thing I knew, my daughter was crying at the landing after she had fallen down the stairs. My son, so innocent-looking, stood at the top of the stairs. I asked him what happened. He said, “I don’t know. I closed my eyes,” he proceeded to close his eyes, “I fell asleep,” he demonstrated his light snoring ability, “and when I woke up,” he popped his eyes open, “she was down there.” He pointed at her and shrugged his shoulders. So like the frogs or the deer, my son was telling me that he wasn’t at fault. I still have to admit that was pretty clever on his part since I still remember this twenty years later. I guess he was in the right place just at the wrong time too…or maybe that was my daughter.

Lesson Learned: Bittersweet Appreciation

This past Friday and Saturday were tough days for me. On August 11, 2011, my brother died of lung cancer. He was alert one minute and the next gone. I wonder if he knew what was happening to him. Did he decide to go or was the choice made for him? Was he aware of what was going on?

He had been looped up on drugs to keep him pain-free. He knew who we were when we came to visit, but he’d repeat a sentence five times and not realize it. His hands shook when he poured creamer into his coffee cup. He’d take a sip, only to spill on himself. He was too stubborn to let us help. That was Mike.

Now, I look back and remember how much pain he’d been in. How the cancer ate at his spine and left him paralyzed from the waist down. We were selfish to want him to stay with us and to fight. We were guilty for wanting him to go so he wouldn’t have to suffer.

My brother Mike wasn’t perfect by any means. He was stubborn like a bent, rusty nail stuck in a board. No matter how hard you tried to pull on him, he’d stick to his way or no way. He was weathered in both looks and demeanor. Life had been hard for him, but he always found time to laugh or joke around. He could talk your ear off, and you were lucky if you completed one sentence. And then when he finished talking, the conversation was over.

I had days when I got along with him and days when I didn’t. I still remember both. Those memories are what made my brother, and I will keep both good and bad in my heart. I tell myself that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to grieve. And it’s okay to laugh at his idiosyncrasies and to cherish the times when he was a true brother. In fact, I bet wherever he is right now, he’s got a fishing rod in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and laughing at us, wondering why it took us so long.

Here’s to you, Mike. I love and miss you.

Lesson Learned: Little Tykes and Ice

My daughter is a lead teacher at a day care. She is responsible for the little tykes – ages nine months to about 18 months. The other day she sent us one of the weekly emails that the parents get each Friday. She tells them what her classroom did for the week and what to expect for the next week. The theme for last week in her classroom was Summer Fun and Summer Safety. Here is an example of what they did for Wednesday:

We began our day by making a collage of bandages and explained how they are used when you get hurt and want to protect that area. During the day we focused on our creative expressions. We used different materials and toys around the room to paint with water. We stirred sand into paint to add texture and then we painted beach scenes with it using ice cubes. We ended our day by reading a book about fire safety.

My daughter builds her curriculum based on different themes. Her next theme is Nature Escapes, hoppers, buzzers, and more. Even infants at her center have planned activities for the day. For some readers, if you have children in daycare, you may know or expect this from your center. Me – I’m floored. Little tykes? Infants?

I’m pretty darn sure that my mom wasn’t thinking about language and emerging literacy skills, mathematics and science exploration, or physical health and development when I was a little tyke. As a child, my daycare was a field. One summer, my friend Nancy and I made a fort out of rolled-up wire stuffed with hay and called it Beartrof. We played in that fort for hours. I knew when to go home for lunch and when to go home for dinner (that had to be instinct or my stomach growled like clockwork because we didn’t have watches or phones.)

Which way is better? To let your kids develop an imagination and play on their own or have structured days, to learn while playing? I turned out okay….but could I have turned out better? Smarter?  One thing that I do know, as a child, I would have loved being in my daughter’s class. I never painted with an ice cube before. How creative is that? 🙂