07 October 2011

What exactly is normal and who gets to decide?

Nor⋄mal - conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. 

     Ok, but what does that mean?  I'm pretty sure that what passes for normal in Hollywood, wouldn't pass for normal in, let's say, suburban New England or Amish Country.  So then aren't there different definitions of normal?  What is normal for one person, may not be normal for the next.  I don't see a problem with that.

     That then begs the question, "Who gets to decide what's normal?"  Who decides that what is normal for one person is abnormal for everyone else?  Who comes up with 'societal norms'?  This is where I start to have a problem.  A BIG problem.  I don't fancy myself a rabble-rouser, but don't tell me I'm wrong or abnormal, just because I don't fit into your (probably narrow) view of normal.  Don't tell me my child is not normal because he's quirky and does things differently than would you.  Don't tell me I'm not normal because I choose to rock the mom jeans and eschew those jeans that "sit below the natural waist."  Or because I (fill in the blank) and you don't.

For a country that fancies itself as embracing diversity, the US seems hell bent on having everyone the same.  If anyone falls outside of what is 'normal' ̽, instead of being celebrated they are looked at askance.  This is a problem.  There will always be people who do thing differently, who are smarter, more attractive, more athletic, richer, faster, taller, thinner, quirkier, practice a different religion, fill in superlative here, than others.  So what?  Embrace the differences.

Let's face it, not everyone wants to, can or should go to college.  Not everyone can be valedictorian or captain of the sports team.  Not everyone wants to work a hundred hours a week.  Not everyone places importance on a butt load of money. Not everyone will be a super model.  Not everyone wants to fit into the little box known as standard.  And not everyone should.

Is the issue fear or jealousy?  Maybe a little of both.  Fear of what we don't understand?  Fear that maybe we're the abnormal one?  Jealousy of what we don't have?  Jealous of what we are not?  Maybe even a little jealousy of people who take a different path because we are too afraid to try.  Is there anything we can do about this?  Who knows.  I do know that I fully embrace my own sense of normality and that of my family.  I like thinking and living outside the box.  It is certainly not boring and, I think, totally normal!  I really don't give a rat's patootie on how other people live their lives.  It is not my business.  And it is certainly not for me to judge.  I don't know who gets to decide what and who are normal, but it sure as heck isn't me.

̽̽I'm still not sure who dictates what is normal in the US.

21 May 2011

The Highs and Lows of Parenting

     This is what they should teach during sex ed classes.  Not abstinence vs safe sex, but what becoming a parent really means.  Then no kid in their right mind would bump uglies!  Never mind those young girls who have a baby so that someone will love them.  I'm pretty sure there are times that my kids JUST DON'T LOVE ME.  Today, however, is not one of those days.  Today is a day when both kids really seem to love me AND like me.  Go figure.

     The other day, The Boy received a Certificate of Academic Achievement from the K12 iCademy.  He has worked really hard this past semester.  Working really hard for him is even harder than for some other kids because in addition to being on the spectrum, he also has a non-verbal learning disability.  But he has soldiered on through tantrums, melt-downs and fits of hyper activity to get it done.  And it shows.  And it is not just me noticing.  I think the fact that someone other than Mom/Teacher is noticing his hard work makes him feel good.  Heck, I don't think it, I know it.  He's been walking a little taller since receiving the Certificate.  And he is a little nicer to his sister.  This is one of the highs of parenting.  Seeing your child feel proud of accomplishing something.  Seeing your child stand a little straighter, walk a little taller, smile a little wider, and feel a little bit better about himself, that makes all the other stuff seem insignificant.

     Today though, Princess is not feeling particularly good about herself because her feelings were hurt by her only neighborhood friend who speaks English.  A small group of girls, most of whom Princess knows and plays soccer with, are playing together and excluded Princess because she doesn't know Norwegian, they don't know much English, and the one bilingual girls doesn't feel like translating.  While I can fully understand the desire to play rather than "work" at translating, it doesn't lessen the sting of seeing your child left out.  It doesn't help that Princess doesn't understand that it is "work" to constantly translate back and forth.  Especially when the translator is only nine years old.  These types of slights are certainly one of the lows of parenting.  I know they are a part of life and that Princess will get past it - I think to some degree she has already - but it still sucks.  I also know it won't be the last time she's excluded from something or another, but it still sucks.  It doesn't suck any less when you're an adult.  But as a parent it seems to suck twice as much.

     These highs and lows are part of life and certainly part of parenting.  But they don't tell you this while you're in the hospital having just given birth!  Oh, they teach you how to diaper and bathe your baby. Big whoop!  They don't tell you that you'll end up reliving all your own childhood highs and lows all over again as your own children go through theirs.

20 April 2011

April in Paris

     Last week, Princess and I had our First Annual Mother/Daughter Weekend.  When I broached the subject with her a while back and asked where she wanted to go, I was expecting something along the lines of Disney or the beach.  Nope, not Princess.  Her one -  and only choice -  was Paris.  I think this bodes ill of my future financial stability!  Either way, she and I headed to Paris and what a trip it was!

     We were able to combine the Mother/Daughter weekend with a reunion of some of our dear A-100 friends who were running the Paris Marathon.  This was the perfect combination.  Princess was able to have some kid time and not be all adult-like the entire time.  I got to have some adult-time and not be all Mothery all the time.

     There were, of course, some things we just HAD to do, and so we did.  Our hotel was just a hop, skip and jump away from the Eiffel Tower so we headed there our first night.  Did you know that it sparkles for five minutes every hour at night?  I didn't.  We were just standing there looking at how beautiful and huge it is and then it started sparkling.  Amazing!  It made the Tower even more beautiful.

Fire Power!
Thanks to Night at the Museum: Smithsonian, Princess wanted to see The Thinker and Venus d'Milo.  There was no way Princess was going to Paris and not seeing these two statues.  If you've seen the movie, you won't be disappointed to hear that she did the "Boom!  Boom! Fire Power!" line standing in front of The Thinker.  If you've not seen the movie, you have no idea what I'm talking about and you've missed a fairly funny movie!  What was really great, is that once we were in the Louvre and the Musée Rodin, she was captivated by all the other works of art.  She was a bit disappointed at the size of the Mona Lisa, but was glad the eyes didn't follow her around.

     Having studied Napoleon, we also had to see his tomb.  As you would expect from such a small man - a HUGE tomb.
Napoleon's Tomb - total compensator!

Main Street - Disney Paris
     And in a nod to the children in the group, we did a day trip to Disney Paris.  I love me a good amusement park, and Disney Paris did not disappoint.  But my recovery time for those rides that include "360〫inversions" (as described on the rides' signs) is not what it used to be.  Man I consumed a whole lot of ibuprofen that day!

     As you would expect, we ate like champs during this vacation.  I swear I needed a second seat on the way home, but it would not have been a successful trip otherwise.  Thankfully, Princess is not a picky eater.  Her nickname is the Seagull if that gives you any indication of just how unpicky she is.  We ate copious amounts of cheese, pork (for our Saudi posted friends), escargot, pasta, and steak.  And you cannot go to Paris and not have croissants, chocolate and, of course, crepes!  And oh, the Crème Brûlée.  The best meal of the trip (and there were a LOT of good meals on this trip) was our last night.  We found this cozy restaurant (Chez Plumeau) tucked away on Montmartre and we were set.  The food was pure perfection, the service sublime.  All in all, it was the best way to end the trip.

Our last supper.

Just past the 27 km mark and still smiling!
     I must say, and Princess concurred, it was a very successful trip.  The weather cooperated, we were able to get around easily, we saw the things we wanted to see, caught up with some really great friends, and we were able to see two of them run.  Princess is already compiling a list for next year's trip.  I had better start saving now - I heard her mention Rome.

14 March 2011

London Calling

Tower Bridge
     The Boy and I went on our First Annual Mother-Son weekend the first weekend in March.  Why London?  It was close.  It was relatively inexpensive.  We got to visit with some good friends (who were phenomenal hosts) .  Why just Mother-Son?  Well I really think it is important for parents to have 1:1 time with their kids.  PFF and I have special time with the kids each week.  One week it's the boys and the girls, the next week its boy/girl and boy/girl.  The kids feel special, hence the "special" time, and they really open up and talk.  I think THAT is great.  Now that they are a bit older, I wanted to have some extended time with each of them.

Running out of steam. He fell asleep at dinner.
London Eye
     So anyway, The Boy and I went to London and had a blast!  We walked, bused and tubed all over London.  And we rented bikes and rode around Hyde Park too!  On the Friday, as we walked towards the London Eye, The Boy said "Mommy, this has been a really great day."  You can't pay enough money for a comment like that one!  

   We also saw Stomp at the Ambassador Theatre.  What an amazing show!  The performers are in such incredible shape!  After each routine, The Boy would turn to me and give two thumbs up.  Again, a priceless experience.

     One thing I experienced for the first time was the weekend food market.  I'd never been to one before, but I will be sure to go again.  The sights, the sounds, and oh the smells!  The Boy was surprised, pleasantly, that you could sample some of the food.  We had a variety of curries, olives, mulled wine (me not him), cheeses, tea, cookies, brownies, hams, and so many more goodies to eat I felt like the Mr. Creosote!
Cheese!  I felt like Wallace!
Turkish Delight.  The Boy was in love with this stall.
Making Duck Confit - the smell made my mouth water!
The smell of fresh made bread was insane!
Meringues bigger than my fist!

     Just looking at these pictures and writing this post puts a smile on my face at the memories.  The Boy really had fun, as did I, and is already talking about what we should do next year.  I can't wait!

An exhausted Boy on the way home.

11 March 2011

So what are you afraid will happen?

     My heart is pounding a blue streak in my chest right about now.  It is so bad I had to call my own mother and have her talk me off the ledge!  What's the big deal?  The Boy's at his first play date here.  Ok, maybe at 11 "play date" is the wrong choice of words.  Maybe at 11 I shouldn't be so anxious, but I am.  Those who know us may understand my angst.  Those who don't are probably thinking I'm some sort of nut job or wildly over protective.  I'll cop to being a bit crazy, after all I do have children.  What is driving my angst is that one of my children, The Boy to be exact, is on the spectrum. 

     So what's the big deal?  Well the big deal is not his, it is mine.  It is all the hopes and fears of any mother who only wants what is best for her children.  It is all the experiences of growing up that a mom has, and wants to protect her child from having to experience.  It is all the pain and hurt and tears and bruised feelings that as a mom, you know are coming but, want to prevent.  I know that the pain, hurt, tears and bruised feelings are a necessary part of life and will make him the adult he is to become.  But I remember all too well the less than idyllic childhood experiences that have made me who I am.

     Is being on the spectrum a big deal?  Well I guess that depends on what you consider a "big deal."  It does not change who The Boy is.   It does not change how we feel about him.  It does not change what he can do.  It does change how he does some things though, and this is where I get nervous.  The Boy is a bright kid with a good heart, a great sense of humor and a fun personality (ok I'll also cop to being biased.)  He is also a bit socially awkward with kids his age.  He does very well with adults and younger kids, but kids his age?  Not so well.  My fear is that kids won't take the time to understand that The Boy does things just a bit differently.  That he's quirky instead of "that weird kid."  That he's worth taking the time to get to know.

     So, what am I afraid will happen today?  I guess nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that I can protect him from forever.  I will tuck him in to bed tonight like every other night and we'll go through the best, worst, and funniest parts of the day.  I'm sure parts of the play date will be discusses at this point.  I'm just not sure into which category they will fall.

10 March 2011

This will come back to haunt him...

I'm saving this little nugget for those teenage days when I embarrass him!

24 February 2011

I'm sure one day...

     I'll look back on these past couple of months and laugh.  At the same time, I'm sure one day, when they have their own families, Princess and The Boy will look back and realize the sacrifices I've made to stay home with them and to home school them.  That day is not today though!  No, I don't regret the choices I've made in the best interest of my kids and my family.  Sometimes I just regret that my skin is not a little bit thicker...

     I understand, on an intellectual level, that moving thousands of miles away from our family, our friends and the only home they've ever known was difficult for them.  I also understand that taking them out of public school and teaching them at home created a gap with their friends.  But I am human.  I may be "just a mother", but I'm not without feelings.  I understand that Princess and The Boy say and do what they say and do because they are comfortable in the knowledge that they are loved by me.  Sometimes I just wish they were a little less sure and held back on some of the really hurtful comments.  Yes, yes.  I know this is part of parenting and that the looming years of puberty will probably pale in comparison, but that doesn't make it any easier.  And quite frankly "an intellectual level" has no place in parenting!  Really! "Intellectual level" and kids?  I must be mad!

     One thing the past few months have made me realize is that I have to honestly apologize to my mother for the hateful comments I can remember hurling at her through the slammed door.  I should also apologize for the hurtful comments I don't remember making, but I'm sure she does.  Mom, I am really, truly sorry.

     Why is it that people view women who have children as "moms", but the human element of the person is some how lost?  It's not like I can bifurcate myself.  I may be a little (?) bit crazy, but I'm not Sybil.  At what point do we as daughters and sons start seeing our parents as humans and not just Mom and Dad?  I'm not sure when it happened for me or if it has completely.  I can't wait for the day Princess and The Boy reach that point.  Until that day, or at least until puberty passes, these tears of a clown will have to suffice.

22 February 2011

Death by Chocolate

     A few years back we started having dinner and movie night once a week.  Each week a different family member picks the menu (and cooks it) and also the movie.  There have been some breaks in this tradition, but we recently resurrected the idea and began again this past Saturday.  Princess, always the sous chef, claimed the first night and all I can say is that I hope she becomes a professional chef!

     Appetizers were homemade guacamole with salsa and chips and crab stuffed mushrooms (she let her dad help out a little).  Then we had potato-leek soup, which I have to say in my unbiased... opinion, was fabulous!  But what is still making my mouth water was dessert - Oreo Brownies.  OMG!  If you love chocolate, you would LOVE these brownies.  You must love chocolate.  Not that whimpy, has-more-milk-than-cocoa, stuff that passes for chocolate, but the real, deep, smack-you-up-side-the-head, rich chocolate experience.  Princess found the recipe on the Internet, which always makes me a bit nervous, but what the heck!  How can you go wrong with Oreos?  Well they were so good and so chocolately, that I have to share the recipe!

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoons vanilla
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped Oreo cookies (25 cookies)*Don't chop the Oreos too small, they will get lost in the brownies.

1.  Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9"x13" baking pan.

2.  In a heatproof medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, heat butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Blend chocolate mixture into egg mixture; cool to room temperature.

4.  In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture. In a small bowl, stir Oreos and remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Add Oreo mixture to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into baking pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula.

5.  Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted 3 inches from center comes out clean; do not overbake. Allow to cool. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, until cold; cut into squares.  *They are also just as yummy still warm with melting vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.

     There is nothing - nada, zilch, zero, nihil, nichts, Méiyǒu, ekkert, ingenting - healthy about these brownies.  You could save yourself a step and just shmear the batter all over your thighs and butt, since it's all going there anyway!  By doing that, however, you would lose out on the the most incredible mouthwatering, flavorful, scrumptious, finger-licking, lip-smacking, orgasm-inducing chocolate experience ever!  While I have been known to hyperbolize, this description is nothing more than God's honest truth.  The brownies really are that good.  They are so flavorful that a cold glass of milk is all you really need to go with them.  That and a good gym membership!

04 February 2011

My Road to Hell

     If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then I'm the proud owner of a multi-laned highway!

     I, like many people, have all these grand plans which are all in various states of completeness.  Heck I have an entire notebook dedicated just to some of my ideas!  But reality always seems to get in the way.  It is totally frustrating that at times I can't seem to get things finished.  And if it is frustrating to me, I can only imagine how hair-pulling it is to PFF (and he married me anyway - sucker!!!)  Yes, I know that I can set goals and work towards them in order to get something accomplished - why do you think I have the dang notebook!?!  But the realities of being a home schooling mom of two children, one with special needs, and the wife of an FSO tend to trump some of my grand plans.  I knew they would and I still encouraged PFF in his pursuit of the FS and decided to home school (ok so who's the sucker???), but that doesn't make me feel better when I view yet another unfinished project as a failure.

     There is a voice in the back of my mind.  Sometimes it is a loud voice and sometimes just a whisper, but the message is always the same - patience Lauren.  Patience.  The rational me knows that in time some of my plans will reach completion and some of them just won't.  That the pursuit of the idea is part of the fun. That my kids will be on their own sooner than I want to acknowledge.  Then there is the completely irrational, sometimes petulant, side of me that wants to do what I want to do when I want to do it!  Hey, I deserve it right?  I've worked hard.  I've paid my dues!  Whine!  Whine!  Whine!  Me! Me! Me!

    And then I laugh at just how ridiculous I sound!  I would (and do) laugh at Princess and The Boy whenever they act like that!   As I tell my kids, "suck it up and deal with it!"  At my age I know better and the rational side wins out again.  I have, to a degree, accepted my multi-lane highway and know that I'll be in good company on my journey.  Hey that gives me an idea!  If there will be others on the road to Hell with me, I should set up a toll-booth or something!  Where's my notebook?

25 January 2011

How'd I get so lucky?

     I mean really.

     I'm married to a wonderful man who loves me for me.  He gets my humor and laughs at my jokes.  Ok, so sometimes he's laughing AT me instead of with me...  And I still get butterflies when we kiss!  Even better, he loves to cook and iron.  Ok, so maybe that's not better, but really, what more could a girl want?

     I have two healthy kids who are certainly not boring (see Out of the Mouth of Babes...).  They both have a keen sense of humor and have quickly learned not only what sarcasm is, but how to use it.  Like all children they try my patience, but they say "Please" and "Thank You",  they still want to spend time with me, they are NOT picky eaters, and they are willing to admit (grudgingly) when they've messed up.  Oh, and they make me LAUGH!!!!!

     Due to PFF's FS job, I'm in a position where I can stay home with the kids.  This is especially good since I homeschool.  I get to actively participate in their education and there is no feeling like watching the pieces click in their minds!

     I have very loving and supportive parents and brother.  There aren't enough words to express how much I love them.  I only hope I can be the type of parent to The Boy and Princess as my parents have been, and continue to be, to me.  I also hope that The Boy and Princess are able to have the type of friendship that my brother and I have grown into.

     I have amazing friends.  Some friends I've had going on 44 years now.  That is a LONG time.  While we may not talk frequently, it's like we spoke just yesterday when we do.  Some friends I just met during PFF's A-100, and while we have not known each other long, I feel as if I've known these women for ever.  This FS life-style has created my own world wide web of friends and I think that's pretty neat.

     I have the best in-laws.  They don't tolerate BS, they will put me on the spot in a heart beat, they keep me on my toes and they can take back what they dish out!!!!  They welcomed me into the fold.  They are good to my husband & children and they get along very well with my family.  Plus they have my back.

     After all of this, the rest is just cake.  Really rich, filling, exotic, tasty cake.  I think I'll have another piece!

15 January 2011

Out of the mouth of babes...

"Mommy, what's a lap dance?" asked by my 11 year old son while watching TV.  Guess we'll be monitoring TV viewing a little more closely...

"She's dressed like a common street whore."  said by my 10 year old daughter while we were people watching.  Again, TV viewing will be monitored...

"Yes I know what a prostitute is.  No I don't want to go there.  And you think I don't learn anything from the TV." again by the 10 year old.  Again the TV...

"I'll give anything to get the DS working again.  I'll even give up my kidney!" by the 11 year old after he learns that throwing your DS will result in it not working!

"It was not a pick, it was a scratch!"  by one of the kids, but I will protect them from further embarrassment.

"Give me my passport woman!  I am running away!" by the 11 year old.  At least he is smart enough to realize he needs his passport.

"What do you mean I'll have to do chores when I'm a grown up?!" said by both children on chore day!

"I know he wants to mate with us.  I do watch the Animal Channel." by the 10 year old when our newly adopted rabbit became rather amorous...

"So if I can't say sex, how do I count to 10 in Icelandic?" (6 = sex)  by the 10 year old (she was 6 at the time, figures!)

"Why are her nickels brown, but her's are pink" by the 10 year old (when she was 6) in the locker room at the local pool in Iceland.  Yes, in her best stage whisper (but at least she wasn't pointing).  I'll let you figure out what nickels are.

"How come some have hair, some have no hair and some have hair in funny shapes?" same visit to the locker room with the 10 year old.  It was a busy night at the pool.  Again, I'll let you figure out what she was talking about.

"I love being at the top of the food chain." by the 10 year old after eating Mr. Ed.

"I'm never going to college.  I want to live with you forever!" by the 11 year old, after I told him he would not always be living with me.

"Ok, so I think we should go to Fiji for the weekend." by the 11 year old when asked what we should do for the weekend.  Still doesn't understand that it is really not a weekend trip from here.

"I miss Amiee!" 11 year old while eating a cookie, which reminded him of our friend.  Amiee's nickname is Cookie!

"Seriously!?" by the 10 year old.  Man I am dreading puberty!

"I'm smarter than you because you don't know everything and sometimes you make mistakes." by the 10 year old.  She was 5 when she said this.  She should be happy she made it to 10.

"So do I have any hair under my arms?" by the 11 year old just today.  Keeping track of his "man hairs" because he is 11 you know.

"This was a great night!" by the 10 year old.  Tonight on the way home from Special Time.

"I need a hug.  I love you Mommy." by the 11 year old.  Today.  After a complete and utter meltdown.  I needed one too.

13 January 2011

My View of the World

      I'm blessed to say that I have an amazing view!  Our house faces south so I get to see great sunrises.  The sunsets are a bit hidden, but Mother Nature turned it ON to send 2010 out on 31 December.  I want to share a bit of what I get to see when the weather cooperates!

31 December 2010

1 December 2010 - Sunrise

1 December 2010 - Sunrise

1 December 2010 - sunrise - I love how the clouds just hang in the air!

10 December 2010 - sunrise - the sky was so pink it changed the color of the water!
9 December 2010 - sunrise - Or is it moon set?

December 2010 - sunrise - and the clouds just hang there.

     I will cherish this view!  Norway is a great way to start out our FS experience.  Keep it in mind for your future tours!