Category Archives: me and my thoughts

Serious Question

I’ve come to the realization that are 2 kinds of people in this world: those who love the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever and those who hate it.

Friends, I must know which side you’re on. But you can be anonymous about it and just answer here:

Thanks for answering this super-important question. ;)

In case you’re wondering what made me think of this, it was this episode of Friends:

Life Skills 101

“So, Mom, did you know that there was like a TOTAL CASCADING WATERFALL OF MILK off the counter this morning? Right here. My sock got some on it, but I still wore it all day.”

This was a conversation I had with Bennett this evening while he was working on making dinner for himself and his brothers. It came up because as he was making grilled pj&j, he dropped glob of jelly on his sock, and I told him to just take it off since it was almost time to shower anyway.

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And actually, I did not know about the milk waterfall. I was upstairs getting ready for the day, and B and Luke were eating breakfast together (Matt and Jack Henry were already on their way to baseball).

They’d done a pretty good job of cleaning it up, but you know, didn’t do it in a way that would truly pass Mom-inspection. So, I pulled out my newest trick: telling him I was going to teach him a Life Skill, instead of correcting what wasn’t done right.

—–

“Life Skill” has become a frequently-used phrase around here this summer. A couple of months ago, I realized that there are SO MANY THINGS – all the things – that a kid needs to know and know how to do. It’s not like you can just put them in a book and have them read it. It’s things that pop up in day-to-day life that make you think, “hey, a kid needs to know this.” Maybe I should make a list.

Like being able to take a few bucks into a Quik Trip and buy a bag of ice (don’t worry, I sent 2 of them in together). Or how to do a load of laundry start to finish, or use the dishwasher. Or how to go up to a concession stand with your water bottle and politely ask for a refill, and say thank you when they give it back to you. Or how to order in a restaurant, giving the waitress your attention.

Or, figuring out how to put the dishes away that you can’t reach.

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—–

So this evening, instead of correcting the cleanup that was done in the morning, I said, “Hey, buddy, I’ve got a Life Skill to teach you. Remember that little ant problem we’ve had in the kitchen? Well, ants like leftover food that’s on the floor. And if you don’t wipe up a spill like milk with a wet paper towel, they’ll find it.”

Easy peasy. Doesn’t sound judgmental. Problem solved.

WHY IN THE WORLD DID I NOT THINK OF THIS APPROACH BEFORE NOW?

—–

My favorite Life Skill teaching happened this morning though. Bennett, Luke and I were in the van on the way to Jack Henry’s last baseball game of the summer season. I had a bracelet I couldn’t put on myself, so I reached my arm behind me and told B what to do, then said, “You know, this a good skill for you to have when you’re older. Your girlfriend or wife might sometime need help with this.”

Bennett’s immediate response: “Well, the bracelet is on, but this is one skill I’m not going to need. Because I’m going to be single, and be a baseball player, and live with my dog.”

This has literally been his mantra all summer long. About not getting married, having his buddy Connor as a roommate since they’ll both be professional baseball players, and having a dog. (I’m all: “Life Skill: someone needs to take care of your dog while you’re on the road all the time with the MLB, cowboy. Maybe a wife would be a good idea. Also? I want grandchildren.”)

—–

So, help me out. What are some other things my boys need to know how to do on their own?

What 12 in ’12 Taught Us

2 years ago, in 2012, I pre-planned one date a month for Matt and me…it ended up being 11 dates in 2012 due to kid sickness, but oh well. All of the details and the dates were chronicled on the blog, and you can read about them here (also, in perfect me form, I did not blog the last date of the year, which was a fun overnight for New Year’s Eve, but whatever).

We LOVED it. It seemed weird to start 2013 without a plan in place for date nights. However, we realized that it refocused our attention to something we already knew, but had kind of shelved: we need to make time for each other.

Frankly, I didn’t think we were doing poorly at making time for dates pre-12 in ’12…and probably, compared to most American marriages, we weren’t. But that isn’t the standard we should be measuring ourselves by, really, is it?

Yes, it costs money. Just the babysitting, let alone the actual date, is expensive. I get it. But there are other things that get sacrificed to make this happen, and it’s worth it. And, a couple of times a year, we swap babysitting nights with my brother and his wife, which makes everyone happy: it’s free, there’s time with cousins, everyone wins. Also, we have some fantastic babysitters, and I love that the boys get excited to hear they’re coming over. It’s good for them, too.

We don’t get out monthly anymore, but we do get a sitter and go out for dinner, or meet friends out, when we can. Trying new restaurants is one of our favorites, so we do that whenever possible…which is slightly overwhelming in a city filled with amazing food where we already have so many favorite places to eat!

Several weeks ago, Matt took a half day on a Monday and let me sleep in while he got the boys ready and off to school (this is like winning the lottery to me). I slept late, he came with me to volunteer in Jack Henry’s classroom like I did every Monday (surprised JH, who loved it!), and we went out to brunch.

{Speaking of that: always a good idea to check if the place you’re wanting to have brunch is open on the day you’re going. Because for the record, Half and Half, the place I’d been dreaming of having breakfast since our cancelled Valentine’s breakfast date, is closed on Mondays. However, the cancelled V-Day date was to be on a Monday morning, too, so I would’ve been disappointed 2 months ago, too.

BUT: that place being closed led to an amazing breakfast at another place down the street from Half and Half that I’d never been, City Coffeehouse and Creperie. I ate so much that it was my only meal of the day…by late evening, I was hungry and had a small snack, but it was that good. And that worth the calories.}

I digress. I could talk about good food all the livelong day, and this was a place we ate weeks ago.

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We are in the thick of summer craziness right now…kid baseball nearly every night, and I’m not exaggerating. Getting a night at home is extremely rare, and when it happens, there’s SO much to do, and so many hours of sleep to catch up on, that a date night is not top priority. This isn’t a pity party; we signed up for this and for the most part, I love it. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t craving a quiet dinner with wine, at a table, with a server who isn’t in a t-shirt, since dinner recently is either some kind of sandwich I’ve made and brought with us or a pretzel with cheese at the ball diamonds.

So, we WILL celebrate Matt’s 39th birthday (which was yesterday) one of these days. It may be mid-July, but that’s okay, because then it can be my birthday celebration, too. :) And in the off-season, we’ll need some sitters. Regularly.

On Kids and Media.

Clearly, time is not standing still for me, keeping my boys young and innocent and not wanting to own technology. Those days are long gone.

For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to come up with a contract to use with the boys that spells out exactly what our rules for usage are. There have already been guidelines in place; now, I’m going to have them sign a contract. Using the internet, iPad and iPod are a privilege, and they’re going to have to follow our rules or not use them at all.

I fully realize that people are all over the place on kids and media, and that I fall under the extremely protective category…this will be too much for some of you. However, I know too much, from real-life situations of people I am close to, to let this be an area in which we’re lax. I haven’t yet, but will also be adding NetNanny or similar to our computer.

I attended a presentation by Jim Burns from HomeWord earlier this spring called “Creating a Media Safe Home” that was really informative. Sidenote: if Jim Burns is speaking near you, go listen to him. He’s a very engaging speaker, full of knowledge about parenting and marriage, and very enjoyable to listen to.

More than anything, though, it got me thinking about all the things that need to be addressed in terms of media usage, mostly regarding purity and honesty, and also giving Luke (the other 2 aren’t old enough for this yet) an understanding of the legal ramifications of his actions online. And yes, kids as young as Luke (11) are old enough to know this, because they’re old enough to be charged with a crime. A contract isn’t enough; kids need to know why these rules are to be followed, and unfortunately, that often means educating them on some of the darker truths about the internet. Some parts of parenting just totally suck.

I used a phone contract in the packet of information from the presentation (a colleague of Mr. Burns’, Doug Fields, came up with the contract, I believe) to guide me as I wrote, and then Matt and I just discussed a few other key points that we included. Here it is in list form, and here’s a PDF of what the boys are signing: Media Usage Contract

1. Mom/Dad can check the iPad/iPod at any time, read texts, and view anything you’ve searched, because they will always have all passwords. This is not a violation of your rights.
2. You may not use the iPad in your room…it may only be used in shared family spaces (kitchen, living room, office).
3. You are allowed to use your iPod in your room for listening to music only.
4. You are not allowed to join any social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, etc). We don’t care how many of your friends are allowed to.
5. Do not take inappropriate pictures or videos, or send them to anyone. Ever. If Mom/Dad wouldn’t approve, it’s not a picture/video you should take. Even if your brother dares you to do it.
6. Likewise, do not look at anything that you wouldn’t look at if Mom/Dad were sitting next to you.
7. Don’t just Google something you are curious about. Ask Mom/Dad. That’s what we’re here for.
8. We will discuss all songs and apps before downloading.
9. You are not allowed to play any games that allow for online interaction/chatting (ie Clash of Clans, etc). This is non-negotiable.
10. No YouTube videos without permission first.
11. Time limits given by Mom/Dad are to be obeyed…when the timer goes off, time’s up.

So, there it is! Thoughts?

Back on the Wagon

I’ve been sick for the past 8 days. Not stuck-in-bed sick, but feeling way worse than I have in years. It started with a sore throat unlike anything I can remember, and a bad cough got added on by the third day (plus, eventually, some cold symptoms and an eye infection. Hot.). I ended up at Urgent Care on Saturday for a steroid shot (seriously MIRACULOUS in taking care of my throat) and an antibiotic for whatever was causing days of sickness and a low-grade fever. It’s been a very slow recovery, mostly due to lack of sleep (I’m talking 4 hours-ish a night for several days, as I was coughing my head off all night long).

However, last night, I slept minus my weather app waking me like 7 times to give me a thunderstorm warning (yeah, thanks, I was aware due to the thunder and lightning). I woke up feeling more human than I have in days. I still need to sleep – A LOT – to catch up, but I’m getting there.

Through this whole week, the thing that has been killing me is that I can’t work out. Which is hilarious to me when I think about where I was 18 months ago…literally, the thought of working out never would have even crossed my mind while I was healthy, never mind sicker than a dog. Now, I’m not crazy, and I know it was just a week, but it has so become a part of my day and feeling good that I MISSED it. And I just have this fear of breaking a good habit and finding it hard to get back into the routine.

Plus, of course, I gained a couple of pounds while not working out and just eating what sounded good.

So today, I’m back at it, albeit slowly and with a not-intense workout (postscript: Um, that was hard. Even just a short workout). To get to the goal weight I’ve wanted to reach for a long time but never pushed hard enough to get there plus the LBs I recently added, I’ve got 10 pounds to lose. And I’m making it public so that you all can hold me accountable. My Fitness Pal friends? Ask me how it’s going if you aren’t seeing that weight loss counter move downward, ok?

Here we go…

End of the Year 2014

I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that the one year all three of my boys were in the same school building is already over.

The last several weeks have flown by in an absolute blur, and even though it’s the end of elementary school for Luke, I haven’t really been too sappy about it. He is SO READY for middle school, and I can see that. I’m excited for what next year has in store for him. Plus, I still have so many years in our elementary school that it doesn’t feel like too much of an end.

Jack Henry has been dreading the end of school. He couldn’t even make it down that rungs of his bunkbed ladder this morning before the tears started flowing. His teacher is an absolute gem, and he just hates to leave her.

Bennett has also had a fantastic teacher, one that Luke had for two years, and we like her so much we’re going to her wedding this summer! If I’m being honest, though, Bennett has been a bit of a stinker the last few weeks, and I am anxious to get him home and on our schedule. He just wants to be a baseball player, man. Sigh.

All of that to say, I’ve been doing fine. Barely any tears. Mainly just really, really excited for summer to be here. Pool. Baseball games. No crazy-early mornings. No lunch packing.

And then, this morning on my voicemail, a choked-up message from Jack Henry at school. I was actually in the school building for a couple of hours doing some work, but didn’t get the message until later. He had forgotten his yearbook; could I bring it up to school?

I ran home to get it, and had to fight back tears when I walked into the kindergarten pod. All four kindergarten classes were out in the pod having a dance party to the Frozen soundtrack. It was loud and fun and so full of joy. Kindergarten is such a happy place, and I just hate that it’s over.

However, I am so ready for a breaking routine. Bring on summer!

There is a Right and Wrong Way to Fold Towels.

AKA some things in your marriage are worth fighting for.

A long time ago in a land far away (er, 20 miles away in Maryland Heights), when I was just a child bride (seriously, the older I get, the more I realize just how young we were when we married) setting up a home with my new husband, we used to do the laundry together.

Awww. That’s cute, isn’t it?

Well, we did. We had to cart the baskets a couple of buildings over from ours to use the quarter machines that were always filled with someone else’s left-behind laundry (gag). We’d wash and dry and return to our cozy first-floor apartment to fold.

That’s where the trouble began.

Matt informed me that I was folding the towels wrong.

Ahem. What?

He showed me how he thought the towels should be folded. It became a lighthearted joke between the two of us, and just to be accommodating, I started folding towels his way. Start with the towel flat:

towel 1

Then you do these folds:

Towel 2

The way I always folded towels was like this:

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My way is one less step, and when you unfold it, it’s ready to put on the towel rack without having to refold it. However, his way folds up the towel more compactly, and it fits better on a bathroom shelf.

I just want to stop for a second and comment on how hilarious this is to me now, that he had an opinion about this. Read about his bachelor pad here for a bit of insight.

Anyway, over the years, Matt has helped less with the laundry. He still folds a load here and there, which I very much appreciate, but since I quit working, washing/drying/folding/sorting moved entirely into my jurisdiction, which seems fair. However, I was still folding towels “his” way.

Yesterday, as my hands were full of clean towels and I was trying one-handed to hang clean ones on the towel racks, they ended up like this:

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And it occurred to me: why in the world am I still folding towels his way? He rarely folds or puts away a towel; they just magically appear clean on his towel rack!

So now, nearly 15 years into our marriage, I’m taking it back. I can now one-handed put a towel on the rack like this, thanks to my revelation:

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This is all kind of sad, but it’s real, and it makes me laugh a little.

Bennett+Stitches, Take 1

As this blog is my children’s baby book, it’s only appropriate that this whole story be told here. With Bennett’s blessing, of course.

And that Take 1 is in the title because I’m certain this won’t be my last ER trip for stitches with this one. As it stood until Friday night, he was the only Diehl kid to require an ER visit for anything other than breathing problems, and that time (at age 2), the doctors were able to glue his little wound back together.

Not this time.

In true mom-blogger fashion, let me tell the story. This all went down Friday night. Luke and I were attending the Kids Night Out fundraiser (proceeds benefit the 5th grade end-of-year party) at school…of course, he was there to hang out with friends, and I was there to work the event. Matt was to have the other 2 boys with him for the evening, which included Bennett’s baseball practice.

5:25: Matt’s not home from work yet, but I need to be up at school. I send the boys to the van, and one of them, who shall remain nameless, thought it would be funny to fake drive the van and crank the steering wheel. When I go to start the van, I can’t get the key to turn in the ignition. I knew that I was supposed to turn the wheel while trying to turn the key, but I absolutely could not get it to turn. Guilty child feels VERY bad, is crying and apologizing profusely, and I am cursing under my breath and repeatedly trying to start the van. Finally, literally 8 minutes later, I’m able to get it started. Lesson learned for the child.

5:33: Matt pulls in the garage. B and JH exit the van, and stay home with Matt.

5:35: L and I arrive at school, and enjoy Kids Night Out until…

8:40: Matt calls me, and though he’s speaking calmly, I can hear the panic in his voice. “Bennett’s had a little accident, and he probably needs stitches.” I tell him that I’ll round up Luke, and wait for him to call me and let me know where he wants me to meet him: home or the hospital.

8:45: I’ve gathered my things, I’m searching the school for Luke, and I get a text that simply says, “Yes, stitches.” I find Luke, Matt calls me and tells me to meet him at home, and we head out of school.

8:50: Matt, the bleeding-from-the-head kid and Jack Henry arrive a couple of minutes after we do. Bennett gets out of the car and removes the ice pack/rag combo from his head, and I blurt out, “Yes, that needs stitches. Get in the van, Bennett.” At this, he starts to cry…Matt hadn’t told him yet that he needed to go the ER. I can’t say I blame him, since we both knew that Bennett would panic at this news.

8:55-9:15: Longest drive to Mercy Hospital ever, save the time I was in labor and it was freezing raining outside. Bennett has calmed down, and tells me the story of what happened. His practice is at a local elementary school, and after they finished practicing, the boys raced out of the gym to play a little tag. B looked behind him while he was running, and when he turned back to the front, ran headlong into a metal handrail. His teammates said he cried out and that they saw a lot of blood. Turns out, really, for a head injury especially, it didn’t bleed that much, and I heard from so many parents who were there that Bennett just stayed totally calm. Probably helped that he didn’t look in the mirror at all.

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telling the triage nurse his story.

9:35: B is seen by a triage nurse, asked the story of what happened the first of 5 times. It occurs to me at this point that it might be helpful to have each boy’s medical history in my phone; as she asked about his surgical/medical history, I stumbled over what was him and what was L or JH in my memory. And that kinda makes me feel like a bad mom.

9:45: brought to our room in the ER; B is given a new ice pack. Bleeding has slowed to a very slow seep.

10:45: We’ve watched a full hour of Ice Age when I decide to step outside the room and ask when we might be seen, since we’ve literally had no one even step in our room this whole time. Magically, they tell me his case has just been “claimed”, and lo and behold, less than 2 minutes later, the NP appears to assess. He tells us that he definitely needs stitches, both above and below the eye. This is very upsetting news to Bennett :(. I fall back on my training as a Child Life Specialist to talk him through what’s about to happen. *Outside of this wait, care here was exceptional, and I would totally use this children’s ER again.*

10:50: Nurse comes in to apply numbing gel (no shots needed – yeah!). We wait.

11:25: Nurse applies second round of numbing gel. We start watching Elf…distractions are good.

11:40: NP and nurse come in to start the procedure. Bennett has to lay flat on his back and has a towel draped around his injured eye, so he can’t really see the TV anymore, but he can hear it…and we know Elf by heart, so he continues to laugh while they get to work. 2 stitches in the tiny cut below the eye. 2 stitches inside and 7 outside in his eyebrow. NP apologizes for the stitches taking so long, as he said that stitching along the eyebrow is tricky due to trying to keep the hairs on the outside of the wound. Me: no apology needed. He’s doing a fantastic job.

12:25: Discharge notes and we’re out the door, on our way to picking up a late-night cheeseburger and fries for my little champ.

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this was sunday morning…definitely the day it looked the worst.

By Saturday morning, Bennett was pretty proud of the whole thing, and though I worried a little that he’d be self-conscious about how he looked, I shouldn’t have. This is a badge of honor. When I asked him if I could blog about this, he said, “Of course!”

—–

Slowing down is not something Bennett does on purpose, ever. Saturday he definitely took it easy, and Sunday, too. By Monday, though, I noticed that he was back to full speed, and that made me nervous with him at school by Tuesday (Monday was a snow day). The tape came off last night, and his stitches look good, so recovery is going well so far!

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tuesday night, after the tape came off

Snow Day Math

1. How many times will someone say “Who farted?” over the course of one day? There are 5 people in the house, and they will all be awake together for approximately 12 hours. It is important to note that the house is 4/5 male.

Round to the nearest 10.

2. Similar to question 1, how many times will one boy angrily say “Duuuuddde!” while playing the card game Ruckus, a game which involves making a subjective call on who spoke for or grabbed what card first?

Again, round to the nearest 10.

3. Multiply your two answers to determine the number of ounces of wine you should have available per supervising adult for after bedtime.

—-

Really, it was a fun day to be stuck at home. We decided this morning to let each family member pick a game to play, so we spent much of the day laughing and hanging out in front of the fireplace, watching it snow significantly less than expected, playing games.

I also managed to curl up on the couch for an hour-long nap, which just never happens, so that was glorious.

And just to record for posterity our one-for-the-record-books year, snow day #10 is tomorrow. We’re officially into the mercy-rule days where the kids only have to make up every other missed day of instruction. Incredible.

Reducing the Panic.

Last week, as my kids played outside after school, a little girl 3 hours from our home was snatched by a man in a truck as she walked down the street. Neighbors tried to stop her from getting in the truck, and they chased the abductor to be able to give the police a good description of who he was. (I seriously cannot imagine their heartbreak, knowing they were so close to saving her.) 3 hours later, when police found the man, the little girl was already dead, and her murderer had cleaned up the scene.

Of course, we didn’t know that last part at 6:45 that night, when the first Amber Alert came over our phones.

The sound is startling, and for good reason…it’s supposed to get your attention. I don’t mind it getting my attention. I do, however, mind it getting my kids’ attention.

Because that’s what happened that night. Luke and Bennett were sitting at the table eating dessert (Jack Henry had thankfully already gone upstairs), and asked what the noise was. I told them what it was, but immediately tried to assure them that this is very rare, and that a stranger kidnapping almost NEVER happens.

I went on to describe how many times, if there is a kidnapping, it’s a non-custodial parent or mentally ill or on-drugs friend/family member who has taken the children. Of course, this lead to a long discussion of how a parent can “kidnap” their own child, and explanations of what kinds of things make a parent unfit to care for their children, etc. We’ve talked about these things many times in regards to foster care and adoption, but not in the light of kidnapping.

In the morning, when I woke up, I realized that one of my kids had gotten up in the night and turned on the hallway light without coming in to wake me up. Only one kid does this in our family: Bennett. I asked him if he’d had a bad dream, and he said yes, but clarified that more than that, he just woke up a few times and couldn’t easily fall back asleep, thinking about being kidnapped.

Totally natural reaction to our conversation the night before (and thankfully, he’s slept fine since then).

That evening, as the 2 older boys and I drove home from JH’s baseball practice where we’d dropped him off with Matt, they had more questions about kidnappings and drug use and custody. Lots of comments from me about how an adult should never need to ask a kid for help with something (directions, finding a lost dog, etc), and that it’s not disrespectful to just scream/run away/into the house if that ever happened at our house or a friend’s.

All conversations that were informative and beneficial to them, I think. All meant to put their minds at ease, too, about the frequency with which stranger abduction occur.

However, I don’t need that phone Amber Alert freaking them out with regularity. Because the truth is, since last spring, I think I’ve gotten 4 Amber Alerts on my phone. And I’m telling them that it doesn’t happen frequently, but I’m thinking that in a kid’s head, that number might not seem infrequent.

I turned off the Amber Alert notification on my phone. I’m thankful to a lady I know from church who told me this was an option. I’m on my phone/Facebook/news sites frequently enough to see the news if something happens locally that I need to concerned about.

Some will call this being overprotective, and that’s fine. I don’t think it is; there’s plenty of bad in the world that kids are exposed to now and even more as they get older and can handle the information better. They’ve been exposed to plenty of tragedy for kids of their age. Just 2 years ago, they had to process the deaths of 2 schoolmates.

For more information on ways to talk to your kids about strangers, this post is good…not perfect, but lots of great concepts to try to teach your kids.

EDITED TO ADD: Please don’t read this as me not caring about someone else’s child who has gone missing. Like I said above, I’m plenty “plugged in” to get the alerts myself frequently without my boys having to worry about it.

If you’re interested, and have an iPhone, here are the instructions: settings>notification center>government alerts (all the way at the bottom of the page)>amber alerts. If you have an Android device, google the name of your phone and “turn off amber alerts.”