Thursday, August 14, 2014

30 years? What the???

This is it, my old stomping grounds! Who is that funny guy there?
Here I am, well into the second leg of our return trip from my home town of Santa Barbara CA. It had been 15 years since I was able to spend any good amount of time visiting, reminiscing, and making new memories in that beautiful coastal city. There was that time, last December, when the Schulze clan stopped for half a day and a motel room to visit my sister and rest our travel weary bones. While we did get to enjoy the local zoo with my big sis, that was about it. For your information you know your brood is big when it is cheaper to buy a Zoo Membership for the fam than to pay entry fees for each individual person. Just sayin'. That pass did come in handy for this long weekend trip as the Hubster and I were able  to experience the animals without our minions. Yes, the two of us were on a well needed mini vacation to rest, recharge and ready ourselves for what ever God has in store for us. 

Senior photo. Can you say "Braces?"
Actually we probably wouldn't have made the trip if I hadn't paid for the nonrefundable hotel rate. I felt a tad bit guilty leaving just as the first week of school was wrapping up. The fact that Allie's 11th birthday was the actual day of the reunion didn't relieve my mom stress any either. Thankfully, Eric and Emily are more than capable of taking care of their younger siblings. Emily is one incredible big sister too. She made it her goal for Allie's big day to be something special. So I pushed the guilt aside and, with the much needed support of the Hubster, made the trip to relive those awkward days of high school.

The experience, though, really began inside of my closet. The outfit choices seemed so limited as I stared at the rainbow that is my wardrobe. To relieve my mind I began to recite this mantra "We are ALL almost 50. We are ALL almost 50." I tried to stalk some old classmate Facebook pages to reassure myself that mine was not the only post-birth, nonathletic, bread loving body that would be in attendance. I asked what to expect the attire of the main event would be. Then I came to the realization, there are only two of us going, I can pack what ever I want. So I did. I made sure the outfits would be ones my comfort level would be high in while camouflaging a few less flattering traits I carry around 24/7. Around midnight my head was hitting my pillow awaiting the 4AM alarm to sound for our 8 to 9 hour drive.

Photo booth fun with the Hubster!
We drove and my anxieties arose periodically. Those feelings of meeting new people whom knew of me at a time that was not my best. A couple of my core group would be attending but I was the only one going for all three events. A new message was playing over and over in my mind. "They aren't the same as they were in school." "Thirty years tends to mature people." "Don't put my own insecurities on others." I needed to assume the best. Unfortunately, my mind was listing toward preparing for the worst.

Walking in to the almost historic restaurant / bar I had done my best to appear like I belonged there.  Looking around, I did not recognize a single soul. The stools were filled with many patrons but how was I to know which ones had graduated from SMHS in 1984? Honestly, the thought of leaving was forefront in my mind. Then we spotted them, four people looking at others in the same manner I had been. Sneaking a peak at their faces, I had NO IDEA who in the world they were. Then, I heard it, ".....class of '84?" I found some courage and spoke to them.

We introduced ourselves. It was the men I had walked the halls of my Alma mater with for years. After we revealed our identities the veil began to lift. Though not people I hung out with, I certainly had classes with each. Their wives were sweet and talk of an eight hour drive soon flowed into family and career choices. A few more classmates showed up and then more. Before I knew it the poor wait staff was losing dinner tables to those there for drinks and appetizers. I  have to admit I mistook a fellow Royal for someone else. Commenting on his amazing trumpet skills.  Oops, right first name, wrong last. Oh well chalk that one up to experience. I did love the way he laughed, it warmed my heart.

Second from the left, that's me!
A star football player came up and introductions were had. I don't think he ever spoke two words to me 30 some years ago but this was pleasant. Then he mentioned seeing my family on Facebook. "How many kids do you have?" was soon asked. Talk about a conversation starter. The mention of parenting six children seems to take people aback. Following up with foster care, adoptions and Down syndrome, their jaws almost hit the floor. All of a sudden the man I would have never thought of carrying on a conversation with was all ears. He mentions overseeing the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program as well as his appreciation of what foster families need to experience to be successful. I was blessed by his attentiveness. I do believe he used the word "halo" a couple of times also.

That night a few of my classmates recognized me, I saw a few appear to say "Who is she?" A few of them approached me and I approached a few of them. I was even able to use what little ASL I have gleaned from my years with "Signing Time." From locals to those from out of state, we all began to reintroduce ourselves. Soon, our eight and a half hour drive on four hours of sleep began to take it's toll. We finished our sodas and said goodbye until tomorrow. First event down and it wasn't that painful.

Not so suave but he sure makes me laugh!
The next night was the big event. The key words for this evening were "Taco Bar" that screams jeans to me. I put the dress and supportive undergarments to the side and pulled out the "tall" jeans to go with my heels. As we were getting ready the Hubster and I replayed our morning. We were driving down the main drag, contemplating the morning meal location when the phone rang. Answering it over the rental car's sound system the voice of a dear friend resonated from the speakers. He had driven in with his wife and child from Vegas. Remembering him more as the lovable comedian than the suave, international spy he is named after, I was eager to visit. He told us where they were waiting to have breakfast and the old Cindy appeared. "We should eat with you guys!" came out of my mouth instead of the polite, "Hey, would you mind if we joined you?" Soon the five of us  were sitting around the table the laughter slowly but surely emerging from our group. Then the memories and the "have you heard froms" began. The plan was formed to all go to the zoo, disguising his daughter as a Schulze for the day so we could take a little more advantage of our zoo membership. The old friendship became more and more comfortable. Animals, memories and jokes filled our conversation. We moved to another location and enjoyed our loved ones' experiencing what we had lived many times throughout our early lives. This is what I was looking forward to, uniting seasons of my life.

My friends put up with me!
Anxiety was only lingering when it came to arriving at the evening's venue. The Hubster, loaded down with my sophomore, junior and senior yearbooks. (class of "84 never had the "freshman"experience as we came in as sophomores and brought an entire freshman class with us) Our hostess for the weekend was amazing and so sweet. She helped me feel more and more comfortable every time I saw her. I have to admit, her encouraging others to read this blog brought on some confidence I hadn't packed at home.  Another old friend appeared like a cozy blanket. With sodas in hand, the three of us appropriated  an outside picnic table shrouded in scarlet red. Life's joys and sorrows were shared as we spent a short amount of time together. Unfortunately, he had to leave early due to health reasons. That left the Hubster and I to venture out. The yearbooks helped and boy were they popular. My "other half" found someone to discuss cars and racing with so I took that as a cue to head out on my own. Tonight, we all had much needed name tags fastened onto our chests. (It was entertaining to watch people stare at the Hubster's and try to remember him) The newest phrases "I remember you", "You haven't changed." (ha ha) and "I would have totally recognized you!" were music to my ears. The fears had dissipated and memories abounded. Watching future stories unfold made me laugh. The best part for me was getting to share our amazing family experience and encourage a couple of new friends in their amazing family. We headed back to the hotel after the Hubster witnessed a lady swinging around a pole resulting in a classmate's beverage laying on the dance floor void of it's contents. By that time the eagerness to join in on the next day's BBQ had set in.

The next morning consisted of a walk on a beach I spent much of my childhood on, breakfast with old friends, exploring the art vendors along a popular walk, and driving through neighborhoods I hadn't seen in decades. Our sweet weekend ended with a casual BBQ, more ASL and more friends.

Making more memories!
That brings me back to this moment. As I am typing away, hoping I don't lose everything due to my lack of Internet, tears stream down my cheeks. I spent most of the drive reflecting on what God was doing in my heart. The emotions were confusing me. Why now? I had enjoyed high school for the most part. Why would seeing these people cause such intense feelings? Sure there were those who didn't even look my way. Sure, one or two cut the conversation short finding various reasons to walk away. I realize now, it had nothing to do with who I am and everything to do with who they are. No, it was the much needed affirmation from those who inhabited a very vulnerable time in my life that brought this reaction. Those who saw something in this mom-of-six that interested them. Knowing it isn't the college degree, the labels on my clothes, the places we go, nor the things we own that make my life valuable to others. It is what I do with what my Lord has given me. He has given me children. I am a mom. A mom who doesn't fit into those size fives anymore. A mom who feels anguish over missing a birthday. A mom who needed this weekend to reflect on what is my life and the miracles that result.

Maybe at our 35th I will have another opportunity to explore the lives of those who were more distant. Until then, hopes of flourishing friendships, various visitors, and promising posts are beginning to fill my heart.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Close Call!

The broken bone... or not?

We had a concern, was it fractured or sprained? In all of our 18 years of parenting, this experience had yet to cross our paths. Sure, we have had our fair share of bumps and bruises. Sure, we have had a child or two whom have had to be on the receiving end of a needle and sutures. The best was when one boy, at 18 months, decided to stick his finger in the sprocket of an exercise bicycle while his sister was peddling it. Our oldest even seemed to approach any church youth event as a challenge to come home with some type of injury. Now, even as a "legal" adult, that objective still remains. Up until this point, though, we had never waited upon the return of an x-ray and a doctor to interpret it.

The siblings involved (Joe is not that tall)
During this short stint of waiting, I began to ponder the result of my son's evening game of tag in the church parking lot with his junior high youth group, his tumble down the hill and his nonchalant, tough guy attitude that resulted. Well, that's one less hand for chores and complaints from others whom have to pick up the slack. I was already hearing the whining while the rest of the fam was enjoying our local pool, it is June in Arizona don't you know? Thank goodness we are on summer break, we have time for his writing hand to heal before schoolwork reoccurs. Oh man, and then there are the showers! Who is going to deal with that?

As I was contemplating the effects at home of a child in a cast, a small miracle materialized.  My ears weren't fooling me when they heard, "May I help you?" float effortlessly out of my middle girls lips as her older brother struggled with the dishes. "I'll tie your shoes for you!" said my youngest son who has an aversion to footwear with laces. These three, whom seem to battle continually, were willing to serve one another! I began looking forward to the possibility of "plaster" encompassing their brother's wrist. The revelation of the lesson that was on the cusp of understanding in my children's hearts, to serve and to be served graciously, excited me. The bliss I was about to experience as a mom enticed me!  

Then the much anticipated phone call rang through. What? A bad sprain? Ice it 20 minutes twice a day? Oh the whining and complaining that will be my life!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Open Letter of Thankfulness to the Teachers Whom Have Touched Our Lives

1st Day of School
Here I am, the end of yet another school year.  I have done this thirteen times now and each year seems to become shorter the more I experience my children growing.  This year, though, is different.  It differs in a few ways. This year was the first that all six of my kids were sitting in a classroom funded by taxpayer dollars. We spanned kindergarten through senior in high school with quite a few grades in between. This year would be the last for Eric. Graduating in just a few days, he will be venturing into the university world in the fall. This year would be my last (I think) year in kindergarten and all of the firsts that encompass it. This year, would be the thirteenth and  final year spent at our little charter school that we have watched grow during our tenure. You see, next year, my final four children will be moving on to an education under a different roof.

Kindergarten here we come!
As I ponder the letter I need to write to our long time principal for the reasons we are making this change, my heart settles on the people who have altered not only my children's lives but the Hubster's and my lives also. How do I tell them how much they mean to me. I wanted to write a personal note to each and every one of them but, after the time we have spent under their roof, we are talking a lot of letters and not enough time to put my heart into each one. So, here I am, writing, what I hope will be received as a heart felt note filled with appreciation and memories.

To you, the teacher of my child,

I am sure you have heard this quote from me, "We believe that you are our partner in parenting." During the school year, it is you who has the attention of my child for the majority of their day. It is you who has the opportunity to mold my child in a way few do. It is you who revels in my child's success as well as laments in their failures. Over the years each of you has touched our family in your own unique way. That is why this letter is so painful to write. You see, this year will be the final year our family graces your hallways. I want you to know our departure has nothing to do with you nor the effort you have applied to my family. The years spent under your tutelage is priceless and greatly appreciated. No, the motivation for our departure has absolutely nothing to do with the love you have poured out upon my children.

Science Fair Projects are all about family
So, I want to say "thank you". Thank you for the many years of devotion to making parts of my family successful, thus strengthening the rest of it. Thank you for the long hours of questions without answers and answers without questions. Thank you for the hours of personal time you have dedicated to my child. Thank you for the noses wiped, tears dried and scrapes cleaned. Thank you for an ear that listens to not only my child but to me. I know I get excited about things and, at times, forget you have thirty little minions to keep an eye on. I don't think you know just how important your support is to me. Over the years, I have shed tears upon your shoulder and I thank you for your compassion.

Most of all, I want to thank you for the memories...

Sneetches, some with stars and some with none
The day I handed my crying first born over to you on his first day of kindergarten. Tears streamed down my face as the Hubster and I walked through the parking lot to our car, all along my little girl skipped singing, "Next year I get to go to school!" prompting more tears.

Teaming up with me to cure my little socialite of the need to chat during class.

Sticking with our family for 4 years, including summers, and still loving us.

Taking my 2 1/2 year old, strong willed, child number 5 and doing the potty training for me.
Our Graduate!

Allowing me to sit in class all day and make dinner menus for weeks to come, while my 13 year old swears I am staring at the back of his head.

Loving on my kindergartner even when she has hidden your cell phone in the tank behind the toilet.

Letting our very big family take over your classroom on "Book Night" and smiling all the way through.

"Encouraging" our picky eater to try everything on her lunch plate. (even if she cried)

Telling me of the time one of our most challenging children was doing classwork and began, quietly singing "The Rainbow Connection" while one by one his classmates joined in.

Enjoying my loud, boisterous, busy, boy who has no sense of personal space and still being steadfast in your sweet gentle nature.

Granting my young teen daughter the opportunity to assist in the "planning" of your wedding to keep her busy while her siblings were in Homework Club.

Embracing my most precious of children and brushing up on your American Sign Language to do so.

Student of the week shows off her bronze medal
There are so many more I could write about and so many more that I will remember later. Some moments will be spoken of at graduations and weddings. Some will simply bring a tear to my eye. One thing is for sure, without you, none of these precious gifts would be part of our family's history. With out you, our family would not be the same.

Please know that even though our time with you is drawing to an end, you will always, always be held dear to our hearts.

Me and one of your students

With much love and respect,

The mother of your student.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Therapy Thursday: Mirror, mirror on the ????

Needs to be on her knees.
I don't know about yours, but my kids, don't always want to do as they are told.  I know, I know, my kids disobey me? As shocking as it sounds, at any time of the day you can probably find one of my brood of six relishing in rebellion.  Whether it is wake-up time, get-ready-for-school time, get-in-in-the-car time, homework time, chore time, meal time,  bed time, or any time in between, you can be sure a resistance is brewing. Therapy time is when our youngest, chromosomally gifted, girl will most definitely be displaying her defiance.  Finding ways to afford her some independence and yet still get the job done is one of the most imposing facets of my masterpiece called "parenting".

Just because Jillie has an overabundance in the DNA department doesn't mean she is lacking in intelligence. In fact, her sibling she seems to be following intellectually is her 18 year old brother who has been accepted to one of the sought after colleges to study aeronautical engineering. He was also a very independent thinker at her age.  Some days, making her do therapy is just a big, frustrating waste of time.  So, I need to be creative when her therapist "friends" come for a visit.

Now, for a while there, Jillie would not speak to her speech therapist. Her physical therapist was a different story though.  We often joked about combining the two. Before we had to result to that solution we discovered her reflection.  Actually, we discovered that she had discovered her reflection and would sign and speak to it whenever it was available. She found her image everywhere, mirrors, windows, refrigerators, bathtub faucets (as well as that little round piece right below), taillights and, even pizza cutters. So, I took her infatuation for her girlish good looks and applied it to her speech. Thus, I bought a full length mirror and mounted it upon the wall just above the baseboards. That way she could get some good tummy time also.  As she grew I raised the mirror.  When she was learning to stand, I raised the mirror. She loved that mirror so much we were able to take care of physical therapy at the same time.

Years have passed since she first detected her likeness, yet the attraction is still irresistable. As we were getting ready for bed in our hotel room this past weekend, she discovered the mirrored closet door.  After a few pirouettes, karate kicks, and funky dance moves we were able to finally turn out the lights and turn in for the night.

Singing and Signing away

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How do you measure success?

Amazingly, Awesome Travelers
Here I am, about two thirds of my way to our 12 hour destination, riding in the "Party Van" complete with 12 seat belts and hand crank window winders. The Hubster and I are accompanied by our four youngest as well as a trailer full of racing, rowing shells (boats). We hit the road at 3:30 this morning when it was so dark in my hometown that the stars were beaming.  As we belted the children in, it was difficult not to feel a little sorry for myself because the duration of time my head rested on my pillow was only about three hours.  Why so late to bed?  We had to finish packing after returning from the Academic Award ceremony at the biggles high school. There our oldest was decorated with tassels, sashes and cords because of his achievements throughout his four year tenure. The Hubster and I were rewarded by receiving a plaque as a result of our contributions. Don't be mistaken, this was not due to us providing our 200 student charter school with some financial windfall. No, it was because of the time we have spent, as a family making sure the school's rowing crew was operational. 

Sitting on the metal bleachers, my mind wandered as I wondered, "How do I measure success?"   Is it in the trophies and gifts on the wall from those whom are appreciative of our efforts?  Is it in the in the accolades of others whom look at our family and ponder "Just how do they do it?" Is it in a paycheck we receive (if you knew what we live off of the answer to that question would be obvious) or possessions we own, or people we know? As much as these things are all well and good, the Hubster and I base our success upon what we do with what God has given us.  Whether it is children, chores, change or championships our goal is to do our best with what the Lord has provided. 

Our best often consists of late nights comforting friends, confronting people on behalf of a child, spending time listening to the youth both inside and outside of our home encouraging them to rise to the occasion. It consists of wiping noses as well as bottoms, tying shoes and hair.  It means last minute schedule changes and unexpected visitors, driving friends home as well as dropping kids off. Whether it is cold dinners or hot, cold toes or hot foreheads, at any moment we are to be  shining as best as possible. What we don't realize while in the midst of the job entrusted to us, is others are watching. Our children's friends, coworkers and even strangers are able to observe our every move. It is then that our success shines for us. All too often it is our failures can make us look dim. It is then, though, that God, if we allow, takes the difficult and turns it into the glorious.

Now I have about an hour left of my journey and, once again, I have attempted to put forth my best. I have missed blogging so much these past few months but my Lord has given me the subjects of many future posts. I leave you, today, with one final thought.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come."
Proverbs 31:25
My Biggles getting set to row together for one last time!  (sniff, sniff)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tailor Made

All of the AMAZING photos are by the Beautiful Brooke of Brooke Photography
I don't know about you but the most difficult parenting skill to learn for me is consistency.  I am not necessarily aiming to make everything fair or even for each child, nor do I always respond to an action with the same reaction.  What I do mean is consistently providing for each child what he or she needs at the time.  That could range from standing outside, in 32 degree weather, making sure those laps being run up and down the street are finished appropriately, to stopping cooking dinner for a family of eight, and  kneeling down to explain for the 20th time that she will be eating with in the hour, so a snack is not a wise choice right now.  Meeting a child where they are at and personalizing our parenting according to the specific situation and need is way easier said than done.

As I am sure you have figured out by now, the Hubster and I have had a wide array of parenting experiences.  We have children who would oppose correction with every fiber of their beings, children who quake in their shoes when a voice is raised slightly, and quite a variety in between.  Within our parental hearts and minds, being consistent is often confronted with guilt, impatience, as well as exhaustion.  Too often, I try to avoid the effort it takes to do the job right the first time, only to pay for it in the end.  (Ironically, I have had that talk with quite a few of my kiddos, some more recently and frequently than others) So far, five out of my six kids have brought me to tears because of my fatigue due to the repetition and tenaciousness of a situation with them.  The reluctance to follow through with consequences such as returning gifts or canceling birthday parties hinders many opportunities to train our children.   I can't count how many times I have witnessed an infraction that I "didn't have the time" to deal with, only to be presented, sooner than later, with another opportunity to follow through and sharpen my parenting skills.  This time though, I have to take on the previous groundwork my lack of effort had inadvertently laid.  Still, it is the Hubster's and my job to do what we signed up for, raise responsible, respectful, and reachable children.

Schulze Girls
So, how do we do it?  To be honest, I am not fully sure myself.  I do know we depend a lot upon God's wisdom, hoping we hear His Spirit speaking to our hearts. Our parenting consists a lot of fixing our mistakes and admitting we were misguided in our child rearing blunders.  Our kids learn about humility, how to handle mistakes as well as apologies.  Although, in certain situations, we need to stick to our guns no matter what.  At the tender age of five we could have sworn that our first born child was on the road to law school. We often could be found succumbing to his logic, only to shake ourselves and remind us and him just who the parent was.  Other children of ours are quite convincing with their untruths (OK, lies).  Our solution was to present the consequence to all six siblings in hopes the true offender would fess up.  One child in particular would stand her ground while her brothers and sisters joined her in the discipline du jour.  Although, Usually, the peer pressure helps the guilty party to cave. Occasionally, we have had to switch gears and confront our child with the blind faith that what our parental instincts were telling us was true.  

 Many times, the Hubster and I are not on the same exact page in a certain discipline matter, that is when we use the "fall back" method.  We usually move to neutral ground (our bedroom) and discuss our game plan.  After some agreeing and conceding has been accomplished we move forward in what ever plan has been generated.  We actually put this tactic into practice just a few hours ago.  I loved that we listened to one another, called the child into our headquarters, listened to him, dismissed him, constructed our plan, called said child to return, and laid the prospective program out for him.  No chaotic emotions at all.

One of my favorite tools is the "self created discipline".  One child, in particular had this "making things bigger thing" mastered.  For instance, trying to avert a massive breakdown, I instructed my son to go to his room, calm down, and then he could return to the rest of us.  As he STOMPED to his room he was easily heard shouting, "I DON'T WANT TO GO TO BED WITHOUT DINNER!"  To which I stated, "Hmmm, I hadn't thought of that. What a great idea!!! OK, when you are in your room put your jammies on.  You will be going to bed soon after."  Another of my children tried this tactic and realized, rather quickly, it wasn't for her.
Schulze Boys

The old, "Peanut butter sandwich and water" treatment works for three of our kids, but not for the other three.  I don't cook for people who are disrespectful to me so, someone else makes the necessary meal.  For half of my kids missing out on the regular meal is detrimental.  My oldest daughter would prefer that fare more often than not.  Her big brother is allergic, and her youngest sister could care less. 

Singing, hugs, hands on noses, foreheads on walls, holding hands, happy hats, sitting in on classes, random dancing, chores, writing, exercise, repetition, missing out, are all items we use to encourage our children to do the right thing.  

Preventative maintenance, though, tends to help all of the above be fewer and farther between.  Taking the time to listen to, snuggle with, and attend to my child minimizes his or her demand upon me and/or the Hubster.  Nightly dinners around our table are imperative.  We catch up on each other's days, reminisce, plan and bond.  Just by eating meals together we express how important our kids' thoughts and ideas are to us.  The kiddos' individuality blossoms around the table.  I don't know of a better place to get to know your family let alone anyone else.

With all of our strengths and weaknesses, successes and mistakes, similarities and differences, it just goes to show parenting is not a "one size fits all" venture. Good parenting needs to be "tailor made".