Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Close Call

One of my favorite blogs is One Minute Writer, which challenges people to write on a daily basis. To help with this, a prompt is posted each day encouraging readers to spend one minute writing on that specific topic. Since writing is something I enjoy, but don't often have time for, I have been trying to participate at least two days a week, depending on the topic. I found this prompt yesterday to be particularly relevant - writing about a close call you've had in your life. I didn't have to think very long to come up with my close call, as it is something that I think about frequently.

Eleven years ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon right around Valentine's Day, I was loading my car after a big grocery shopping trip at my local Meijer. I had loaded some of the stuff into the trunk and had just finished putting some stuff in the passenger side when a car approached, blocking me into my parking spot. I remember being annoyed at first, thinking I'd be stuck there for a while. Then a man got out of the car and approached me. I was a little taken aback, but actually talked myself out of being scared. After all, it was the middle of a Sunday afternoon, and I was in broad daylight in a busy parking lot. What could really happen anyway?

The man approached and asked for directions. I can't remember now the detail of the directions he asked, but I do remember that it didn't make sense, and I remember trying to clarify what he was asking. Then the next thing I know, he had grabbed me and was trying to take me towards his car. I screamed and he tried to cover my mouth, but I managed to get a few very loud "help me" cries before he did. As I struggled and tried to get away, I remember thinking "Don't let him take me! Don't let him hurt me please!" I saw out of the corner of my eye a person come running and the next thing I know, my attacker threw me to the ground, jumped in his car and ran. The person running towards me and another passerby, both tried to chase him down and managed to get a license plate number. Before I knew it, I was in a room at the store with security and police giving a statement. Later, my fiance came and picked me up as I was a little too shaken up to drive home.

Later we would discover this same man attacked at least four other women that same day, all in broad daylight, and all of us matching the same description, right down to the color of clothing we were wearing! This man was also suspected in other attacks, including a rape of a teenage girl. Eventually they did catch the man and the last I knew, he was in a mental institution.

I wonder sometimes what might have happened if this man had succeeded, how my life may have changed if I had been kidnapped, raped or worse. I consider myself so lucky because so many women in my same situation aren't so fortunate.

While this experience traumatized me for a while, it has also made me do something every person should learn to do. Trust my instincts. That day, my instincts told me that something was not right. Yet I ignored that, dismissing them, and told myself everything was fine when it wasn't. I was lucky. Could have been more than a close call for me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interview of a Mommy Blogger

Recently one of my favorite "Internet" friends, Liz from Eternal Lizdom, asked if any of her readers would be willing to be interviewed and post it on their blogs. I thought this was a great idea and gladly threw my name into the pot, so as to give my readers a little insight into who I am and my motivation for starting my blog. If you want to play along and be interviewed by me, please post a comment on my blog and I will email you some questions! Or if you'd rather learn more about me, feel free to post your questions and I will answer them in a future post.

The fun begins. . .

1. I know you through the Internet even though we live in the same city/area. How Internet savvy are you?
Thanks to my brother introducing me to computers way back in the 80's, I have basically spent the second half of my life around these ever changing machines. I also managed to marry a "techie" so I am always introduced to the latest technology as soon as he knows about it, which is often before the general public does.

Do you get online a lot? I spend probably way too much time on online, but as a stay at home mom, the Internet is my main way to communicate with the adult world; without it days would be much longer and lonelier.

Favorite online things to do? I love reading blogs and started my own back in May when my baby graduated from preschool. I love to write and this blog has been a great outlet for all of the thoughts clogging up my head on a daily basis. I only wish I had more time to write as I have so much more to say (which won't surprise those of you that have known me a while.) I also enjoy chatting with other Indy moms on Moms Like Me, a social networking website, which is where I "met" Liz! I hope to meet many of the other moms I interact with some day! I am also a Facebook addict (no joke!) and have connected with so many friends from high school and college since I joined. I swear if I did not have access to the Internet I'd lose my mind! I treasure my time with my kids (and they inspire me everyday!) but I feel I need these adult interactions to keep me sane! : )

2. Your daughters are beautiful. What is your greatest wish(es) for them? What are your goals as a parent?
Thank you! I love having two girls, which is funny because before I had kids, I always said I wanted boys. Amazing how things change as you get older! My greatest wish for my girls is that they grow up happy and healthy, well rounded, and confident. I had a low self esteem growing up (still do) and I don't want them to ever feel that way. I want them to feel proud of any of their accomplishments and be happy with who they are, no matter what. As a parent I hope that I can teach them to be as open minded, loving, and respectful of others, as my parents taught me to be. I also encourage them to always share how they are feeling and not be afraid of their emotions. I encourage them to tell me everything, even if they think they will get in trouble. I really want to keep the lines of communication open as I know that will come in during the teen years!

3. Describe a regular day for you. Every detail. I want to feel what it's like to be in your shoes!
Oh boy are you ever in for it! Ha ha! I usually get up early, around six, so I can take care of Laci (the pup) and myself before I get the girls up. I have to get Kiki up first, as she gets on the bus a little after eight. Boo usually wakes up just before her sister leaves for school. So the first couple of hours I am awake is devoted to getting myself and the girls ready for the day. After things get settled, I try to spend one on one time with Boo. We cuddle on the couch and watch TV or read, play games, etc. Sometimes if she has a friend over or is happy playing by herself, I will sneak some time on the computer. After lunch it is time to get her off to Kindergarten for the afternoon and then it is Me Time! I use this quiet time to get things done in the house or run errands. Nothing too exciting. Some days I am very productive and accomplish many tasks. Other days I am tired and unmotivated and spend time "goofing off" on the computer. I try to use the quieter times of the day to write my blog. When I've gone a long time without posting it is usually because I am having trouble finding a quiet time when my brain isn't absolutely fried. After the girls get home from school the craziness begins! Some days we have after school activities, and of course there is homework, snack, taking care of the dog, making dinner, bedtime, etc. I usually end the day by reading books with the girls on our bed. This is truly one of my favorite times of the day as we are relaxing and cuddling together, talking about the day and what we will be doing the next day. After the girls are in bed, then it is time to hang out with my husband and the puppy. We usually are so tired we watch TV, but we also use this time to talk and have uninterrupted time together. I often stay up too late, but I think that is because I know when I wake in the morning, the craziness starts all over again. Two days a week I work part time, so those days tend to be a little more hectic.

4. Tell me the story of how you met your husband and started a family.
I lived in Ohio for about six years after I graduated from college, and met my husband, Bill, when we were both working at a restaurant. We were friends for a long time before dating and spent a few years dating on and off before we got serious. He proposed to me during a vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, up in the mountains and under the stars. It was very romantic and completely caught me off guard. Just that same day we were chased by a very protective and angry mommy Black Bear while we were taking pictures of her cubs. Little did I know, Bill was carrying a ring around in his pocket that day. He told me much later that when the bear incident happened, he kept thinking of this headline: "Couple Mauled by Bear. Ring found in Man's Pocket." Definitely a story we will share with our kids someday! We moved to Indiana just a few short months after getting married and have lived here for ten years now. We were married just over two years before having our first daughter, Kiki, and then two years later we had her little sister, Boo.

5. Think about your life before you had kids and your life now. What's different about you? Growing up, I was quite shy and only had a friend or two. As I got older, I became more relaxed and social and made friends everywhere I went. Before I had kids, I went out with friends and/or my husband all of the time. I'd say what is different now is that while I am still a very social person, I almost never go out with friends. I'd also say that is what I miss most - having friends and a social life. My husband commutes so we both have long days and it is hard to go out. I don't like to leave my family and often feel guilty when I do, even though I know it is good for me to be out with friends. And even though I consider myself an outgoing friendly person, I am definitely shyer about calling people and setting up play dates and other social activities than I was before I had my children.

What do you wish you could reconnect with?
I wish I could reconnect with the adult world! I started working part time this year and that has helped some, but I so miss having adult friendships! I also would love to reconnect with some of my long lost friends. I recently reconnected with one of them and found out her son has cancer. I wish we lived closer so I could be there physically to provide support for her, but I do what I can via the Internet!

Or do you feel like you are fulfilled with life now? I don't feel completely fulfilled. I wanted more than anything to be a mom and be able to stay home with my kids. I got my wish, yet I feel like something is still missing and I am not sure what that is. I am rewarded everyday by having a wonderful family but somehow that is not enough. I never thought at 40 I'd still be trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Surely I should know by now? I do know that I have this calling to work with sick children, especially those with cancer. I would love to be a Child Life Specialist someday but have a mountain to climb to get there. Meanwhile, I just have to tell myself to be happy with all I've accomplished and not worry the rest!

Thanks for interviewing me, Liz!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reading is for the Dogs

One of the biggest challenges for Kiki in school has been learning to read. She's always LOVED books, and could sit on her own for hours and look at them. When she was younger, she'd often sit and "read" the books, looking at the pictures and making up her own story to go with them.

When she was only three, she started reading many words on her own. Most were simple words like cat, dog, etc. But she even could read some color words, such as red, blue, green and yellow. She'd point to words she recognized out the car window and shout them out as I was driving, beaming with pride that she could read. So I figured reading would be a piece of cake, no? WRONG!

While she was in pre-kindergarten, her teachers introduced some reading and even sent books home to read for "homework." These books mostly had 2-3 words per page, or were really familiar books the kids basically memorized, such as "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" Some were photocopied with blank pages in them and the kids could actually draw their own characters to match the story. We were encouraged to read these books each night. Kiki loved doing this and wanted to read more. So I bought a set of Bob books, which are basically little simple readers, similar to the Dick and Jane series we used when I was a kid. She liked them, but the stories were BORING and just didn't hold her attention and she lost interest.

So we tried some I Can Read Books, which are much harder books to read for a not-yet Kindergartner. She couldn't read most of the stories and immediately she wanted NOTHING to do with learning to read. I encouraged her, helped her sound out words, gave her all of the gentle, positive reinforcement needed, but she dug in her heels and refused. I didn't want to push, she was just getting ready to start Kindergarten after all, so I let it go. Why rush? After all, I didn't learn to read until first grade!

I also assumed that when she started Kindergarten, the interest would be renewed, but it wasn't. She loved Kindergarten, but reading was definitely not her favorite part. Instead, she loved math, doing science type projects, and of course the typical favorite of most school aged children, recess. Granted, she still loved books at this age, but she preferred to be read to instead of reading to us. When she did read to us, she quickly became frustrated and fussed and that was the end of it for the day. So I just didn't push and we read the readers sent home from school but did not attempt to read much else, unless she wanted to.

Eventually first grade rolled around and the reading thing became even more of a nightmare. The kids were tested and put in reading groups and this cycle of learning and frustration started all over again. We continued reading the books sent home from school, I found all kinds of wonderful websites focused on reading online, we did reading scavenger hunts, ANYTHING to motivate her to want to read and hopefully ease her frustration. We struggled the first several months of school and I thought she would be stuck at the same reading level forever. We encouraged her, at her teacher's suggestion, to read to other people besides us, like her sister, or a friend. And if she really wanted to, she could get a favorite stuffed animal or doll and read to it.

Finally, in January, it all clicked for her. Kiki began getting more comfortable as she learned more words. She started having spelling tests at school and I really think that helped her get over the hump. After it all came together for her, she took off with the reading. Suddenly she realized she could read regular books and even words in chapter books and her interest was renewed. She once again loved reading to us and that continued through the summer and now through second grade.

After many tries at this reading thing, we figured out the big source of the problem. Kiki has always been the type that wants everything to be easy , and expects to know everything right away. When it doesn't work out that way, she becomes frustrated and shuts down. I've learned this is the case with everything, not just reading. When learning something new, whether it be tying her shoes, riding her bike, even learning to play a new game, if it was at all a challenge, she balked and wanted nothing to do with that particular thing for a long time. Once she figures it out, her confidence builds and then she realizes she can do whatever it is and masters the skill.

I am so happy because Kiki now LOVES to read and is now reading chapter books and learning the joy of absorbing herself in a book. I am amazed at the detail she retains while reading. She can often relate an entire chapter, right down to the exact words in the story.

One of her new favorite subjects to read to is her puppy, Laci. Kiki started reading books to Laci last week, and the puppy has proven to be quite the attentive audience. I really think this will just help boost Kiki's confidence more. While she enjoys reading to us, she knows she can read to Laci without worrying about being corrected, which she absolutely hates. Laci seems to enjoy this routine as well, often lying next to her when she's reading and cuddling with her.

I've recently learned that there are special programs where kids are paired with dogs to practice their reading skills, and that such programs greatly improved the confidence of these struggling readers. The dogs are trained to sit and listen attentively to the child read. Since I have seen this work right before my eyes, I am inclined to believe it is a highly rewarding and effective experience!