* Long live the weekend

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. Ours was perfect, much too perfect for me to sneak away and be an antisocial blogger, so I’m sorry I wasn’t here to wish everyone well for the holiday. Though I may not be a very punctual or devoted blogger, I am most certainly thankful for my devoted readers. It’s nice to know there’s someone else out there, paying attention. Thanks:)

We didn’t have the kids on Thanksgiving Day, so it was the three of us plus three friends. Unfortunately, none of the three friends brought children along, so Hercules was a bit disappointed. All the same, he behaved himself well all day. It was relaxing and pleasant, and it was great to play hostess to good friends. I noticed that I’m finally beginning to feel at home in my home. I know that sounds strange, but home is the center of my universe, and having a home that I feel good about means a great deal to me. It’s taken a while to make this house feel like home, but I’m starting to feel it lately. When I have that, I love to share my home with friends. No big party crowds, mind you. I don’t care for crowds, especially in my home. But add a handful of fun folks to our household and the entertainment just comes naturally.

I should also mention that the biggest reason that I was so relaxed and content on Thanksgiving was because my husband did ALL THE COOKING. Did you know that I’ve never cooked a turkey? Or roasted, fried, basted, or whatever it is you do to turkeys these days, I’ve never done any of it. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 10 years now, and somehow I managed to avoid preparing a Thanksgiving dinner in all that time. I’ve been spoiled by my mother, my sister-in-law, and now my husband.

My husband! That man of mine single-handedly served a smoked turkey, shrimp jambolaya, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn muffins, a decadent relish tray consisting of marinated olives, roasted bell peppers, baby corn, gerkins, pickled white asparagus and cauliflower, and finally for dessert, chocolate bread pudding. Does he ROCK or what?

Technically I’m actually a flexitarian anymore, not strictly vegetarian at all. I eat fish and seafood regularly, and I will eat poultry on special occasions, like Turkey Day for instance. I’m hoping next year we’ll be able to afford an organic bird, so I can partake entirely guilt-free.

As for my meditation routine, it’s working out nicely so far. Today is the first day that I haven’t done it at all, and Hercules has done it with me twice so far. The first time he was more resistant than I anticipated, but he went along with it however reluctantly. The second time he was much more complacent about it, and remained very quiet throughout. The past 2 days all the kids have been here so I haven’t tried to force it when there’s so much activity in the house. Yesterday morning I was meditating in my room while Hercules played an infinite loop of “WE WILL ROCK YOU” on my computer, enhanced by our new and improved speakers, by the way. Not exactly soothing music to still the mind by, but surely I gleaned something productive from several minutes of deep breathing.

Judging by the quality of my weekend with a houseful of kids, I’d say it’s the best medicine. Tonight I promised everyone a dance party, so I need to get going on a bootilicious playlist in iTunes.

Until next time, rock on earthlings. May the groove be with you.

* Zen Parenting

Thanks to a recommendation from Buddha Mama, I've been reading Zen Parenting: The Art of Learning What You Already Know. Rather, I just barely started reading this book and I'm already reaping the benefits. In my case, the "learning what you already know" part really hits home. The introduction alone has served to remind me that I need to be present in each moment, and that a few minutes of quiet meditation every day will help me do that.

I definitely have a tendency to obsess about my plans - what's going to happen, what could happen, what should happen, how I can make it happen and what I will do if it doesn't happen. This is the opposite of being in the moment, or mindful awareness. Clearly, I need to devote more time to meditation. Because it is also clear that my bad habits are taking a toll on my peace of mind. I've been stressed out and emotionally frazzled and I swear I haven't always been this way! And I can't blame it on motherhood or stepparenting or marriage anymore. I am responsible for my own happiness, or lack thereof. I gotta get a grip!!

So. Starting yesterday, I've been spending just 5 or 10 minutes each morning in quiet meditation. Mornings are usually a bit rushed for Hercules and I, but this week is different. This week I don't have to drop him off at school before I leave for work, because the before/after-school program is closed for Thanksgiving break. Luckily, Pa is off all week so he's been transporting the warrior for me. This gives me quite a bit more time in the morning, and allows Hercules to sleep in just a little longer. So for the past couple of days it has been possible for me to set aside those extra 10 minutes. After this week, though, I'm going to have to be more diligent in order to make that happen. However, I also want to include Hercules, in which case I will start with 3 minutes of quiet meditation before we leave the house. Three minutes is a realistic goal for him, and I really believe that he will benefit from it for the entire day. More importantly, I think that establishing that as part of his daily routine will yield great benefits for him for the rest of his life.

Hercules has been exposed to the idea of meditation before, so I think he will be receptive to it. It is something that they talk about in Tae Kwon Do. At the beginning and end of each class, the instructor has all the students sit on the mat and close their eyes and reflect on what they've learned and what they want to learn. This moment of quiet only lasts about a minute or so, but it's sufficient for his age group.

Also, Hercules and I have talked about meditation before, when we take our Sunday hikes. We were following the Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents, and Sunday is the day in which we delight in the wonders and beauty of nature, remind ourselves that with God anything is possible, and take some time for quiet meditation. Hercules asked me about what meditation means, and I told him that it's like praying, except that when you pray, you are talking to God. When you meditate, you listen quietly so you can hear God talking to you.

I haven't been following my own advice. I haven't been paying attention. But it's never too late to change:)

* Mutiny in the Classroom

Rockin' 3
Late last week it was parent-teacher conference night, and I spoke with all of Hercules' teachers. Everyone remarked on how much his behavior has improved since last year, and that was encouraging! We talked about the areas that he still needs to work on, but overall it was a very positive and productive conference. Hurray for Hercules!

I also got some more details on what went down during the 2 days that Hercules' teacher was out and they had substitutes. I knew that Hercules had been implicated in multiple offenses, but what I did not know was that the list of kids who were NOT implicated was very, very short. Basically, neither sub was able to command any order in the classroom on either day, and it was an all-out mutiny. In which case we can hardly expect our little Hercules to be the one sitting quietly in his chair. On the contrary, under such circumstances I would only expect Hercules to be leading the rebellion.

I mean, imagine a room full of small children in which the balance between order and chaos is always rather delicate, and only to be tipped in favor of order by the most skilled professional. Then, imagine what happens when a less capable adult attempts to lead this small, unpredictable army of squirming youngsters, but her ineptitude is detected early and exploited mercilessly by the young army. And there in the midst of it all is one budding young warrior with boundless energy who finds himself repeatedly condemned because he simply cannot sit still in his chair. He earnestly tries to explain to the new general that he's always been allowed to stand up and move around the room at will, but the frowning new general is suspicious and orders him to remain silent. Of course the young warrior will feel indignant and unfairly condemned, and woe, woe to the new general! She has sealed her fate, for mutiny is inevitable once the wrath of Hercules has been unleashed.

Future substitute teachers, choose your battles!

This week will be a short week for everyone, and we're looking forward to a quiet, restful Thanksgiving holiday. I look forward to Thanksgiving just as much as I dread the over-hyped commercial frenzy that is Christmas. If it weren't for the children, I would opt out of the whole thing and organize protests at the mall or something.

*Sigh.* I must really love those kids.

* It's all in the family

Hercules, with a mouth full of half-chewed pizza: Can I have a sip of your root beer?

Alemena: Sure you can, after you swallow your food!

Hercules: What difference does that make?

Alemena: I don't want your backwash.

Hercules: But we're eating the same thing!

Alemena: What difference does that make? I don't want your backwash.

Hercules: I don't get it.

* Hercules turns Seven!

Hercules & Elsa
Here is one of the only photos I took of Hercules on his birthday. No photos of him blowing out his candles on his oh-so-chocolate cake, no photos of him opening his presents (because then everyone would see that I, um, don't wrap presents). This is it! I did, however, take lots of photos of my stepchildren in the midst of all the fun. Because I don't need to prove to anyone that Hercules had a good birthday. But some people need proof that my stepchildren weren't locked in a closet somewhere, being force fed head lice. Or something.

So rest assured that it was a grand birthday and fun was had by all! We went to the pool, we ate pizza, we made sugary treats and dressed up like puppy dogs! See! Fun!

Among the whole crowd, the most popular gifts were the skateboard, the punching bag, and the metal detector. The inflatable punching bag sprung a leak in the first 24 hours of its life, from all the abuse inflicted on it by all 6 kids. I think it's good therapy, though, so I'll be sure to patch it up before they come again next weekend.

I also had a hard time convincing Hercules that he couldn't skateboard and metal-detect at the same time, due to the potential for injury to himself and the shiny new metal detector. Hercules was not convinced. He really thinks I'm just trying to ruin all his fun. He forgave me today, though, when I told him we'd be riding our bikes to the daycare. Because there's no school today! It was a fine, brisk morning for a bike ride and we both enjoyed it mightily, but once I got to work it wasn't long before the sky darkened and the wind picked up, so we may forego the bikes this afternoon.

With that, I'll end this post with Pink Floyd's most righteous ode to the most efficient form of transportation known to man, the bicycle:

I've got a bike
You can ride it if you like
It's got a basket
A bell that rings
And things to make it look good
I'd give it to you if I could
But I borrowed it.

* When the little warrior is The Big Dog

I'm running on a sugar buzz right now, thanks to the chocolate frosting I snarfed from my cupcake-baking adventure. Which I can do without guilt because I'm a hedon and that's what hedons do - they lick chocolate frosting out of the can in pure ecstasy. So I thought I'd channel all that fructose into something productive, like a blog post. Which I can do without guilt because I washed the dishes and put Hercules to bed already. Ha!

So I took Hercules to Tae Kwon Do tonight, as usual, and I was embarrassed for him, he was so rude. He continually voiced his annoyance over having to repeat the same patterns over and over again. His instructors have more patience with him than I do, I know that much. I would have had him on the floor doing push-ups for most of the class.

So I talked to his instructor near the end of the class, and we talked about moving Hercules up to a class with bigger, older kids. The problem right now is that Hercules is the biggest, strongest kid in his class and he has the highest belt rank. And that Hercules, he's getting cocky. Oh lord, it's shameful to watch. We both agreed that he needs to be humbled just a little, and that he would really learn more if he were in a class with kids who are mostly older and more advanced than he is. Not to mention that he is also just plain bored, since he's well ahead of the other kids (who are mostly younger than him, or much less coordinated). Boredom is a very dangerous thing with young warriors. It brings out their worst mischief.

What Hercules needs are good role models, and right now, he is the role model for his class. This is a potentially volatile situation, because emulating Hercules is sure to produce utter chaos.

For instance, during their practice Hercules made it a point to shuffle closer and closer to the little girl in the row in front of him, so that by the end of each exercise he was practically on top of her. After class, I had a discussion with him about annoying people. Because, ironically, Hercules has precious little patience for other kids who aggravate him. You might even say that he has a tendency to violently overreact to even the most benign pranks played on him. This has, in fact, been the primary reason for most of his problems in school of late - one kid does something silly somewhere in his vicinity and Hercules flips his shit. So I pointed this out to him tonight, and he actually admitted that if another kid had done what he did to that little girl, he would've been pissed. Well, in so many words. I'm paraphrasing!

That admission was a big step for Hercules. Now let's hope that he can remember that the next time some unsuspecting child starts singing the Barney song too loud for his taste.

* Turn that frown upside down

Rockin' Hercules
Things seem to be getting back to normal for Hercules this week. By that I mean he was suspended from Adventure Club for 2 days. His offense was pretty serious, and the punishment was appropriate. In addition, he's had a substitute teacher for the past 2 days as well. As you may have guessed, Hercules and subs don't mix well. Which just goes to show how much of a difference his amazingly gifted and infinitely patient teacher makes in his daily life. Bless her.

I just hope that neither of those subs ever becomes a full-time teacher. On both days I had to pick up Hercules from school (being suspended from the after-school program and all), and both times I came to the classroom, each sub frowned at me and declared, "Hercules had very bad day today!"

Thanks for that! That's just so helpful and informative. Makes we want to frown in return and say, "And I suppose YOU didn't have anything to do with that?"

Which of course I do not, I just sigh and walk away. I really have no desire to get more information from them. I know exactly what a Bad Hercules Day looks like, thank you very much. And chronically frowning adults certainly aren't going to make a bad day any better, wench. Not to mention that their solution is to take away his recess. They might as well just put the warrior in a padded room for a day if they're going to deny him recess! It's like keeping a puppy in a cage all day and being indignant when he can't sit still. Fools!

The recess issue is one that his teacher, Mrs. B, and I have spoken about in the past. She agrees that recess is pretty critical for Hercules, but unfortunately, when Hercules is with his other teachers - art, music, PE - that is generally their only prescription for bad behavior. She's in a position where's she obliged to carry out their sentence. But since she's so wise and wonderful, rather than make Hercules sit out his recess (or the length of time, usually 10 minutes, that he is expected to give up), she has him walk up and down a line painted on the blacktop. So at least he's moving around for that time.

Mrs. B called me after her first day out to talk about Hercules' day, as well as to prepare him for the fact that she would be out again the following day. Isn't she wonderful?? I love her! I mentioned that the sub had taken away both his recesses, and asked if there was something else that could be done. Although she was completely sympathetic, apparently she doesn't have much of say in how discipline is administered in her absence. She did say that she has raised this issue at meetings, because Hercules isn't the only high-energy kid who suffers from this policy. Basically, when you deny recess for any high-energy kid, you're just shooting herself in the foot because it just makes that kid even rowdier in the classroom. Duh. It sounds like the school is somewhat stuck on this problem, so she has improvised with her walking-the-line solution (here's to Johnny!). Maybe she can pass that on to her sub? I wasn't too clear on that.

So although it's been a rocky week for the little warrior, I've been trying to keep his spirits up. He tends to fall into despair very easily when he gets into this kind of trouble, and I don't want to see his self-confidence plummet after we've worked so hard to rebuild it since his Kindergarten ordeal. It's a delicate balancing act - trying to administer appropriate discipline without making him feel worse than he already does. But this past year has given me lots of practice, and I feel as though I've succeeded quite well this week. And even though I started off this post with a rather cynical statement about what is "normal" for Hercules, I have to say that this week is a milestone precisely because he hasn't been in this much trouble all year. So really, this is a reminder to me that although Hercules is still a warrior child, he's also grown up a lot and made some huge strides in just the last few months, and I really couldn't be more pleased.

Now, I've got to plan to some fun and surprises for young Hercules, because his birthday is this Saturday. Weeeee!

* Better News!

Trevor's home! He responded very well to his treatment and now he's out of the hospital and doing great. Hurray Trevor!

Here's a photo of Hercules at Halloween, as promised. We did the bulk of our trick-or-treating downtown, where the local businesses hand out candy. The best part every year is at the store shown here, My Secret Garden. The always stage elaborate skits for the kids, and this year it was Little Shop of Horrors. They had a giant carnivorous plant, and at the end when it howled "Feed me, Seymour!" the kids were told to toss candy into his mouth and run for their lives! And of course they got some candy to keep, too.

Meanwhile, Pa stayed home to hand out candy, when in fact he frightened away most of the neighborhood kiddies with his spooky antics. He put his PA system in the front window and plugged in his mic, and proceeded to taunt anyone who came near with the house with promises of "Treats! Come, my pretties! I have treats for you! MwaaHaaaHaaHaHa!"

It was awesome! I love Halloween:)

* The Good News

I have a beautiful new nephew! This is Trevor Harley, and he was born on Saturday to my brother and sister-in-law. Welcome to the family, little Trevor!

Here's the bad news: Trevor is in the hospital today for internal bleeding. They suspect a possible vitamin K deficiency, and let's hope they're right because that is treatable and he'll be back in action in no time. But we are all very concerned about the little guy, and his poor mom and dad are pretty heart-broken to see their new baby boy in rather dire condition. So please, if you would, pray to whichever entity you see fit and send some blessings to Trevor. He wants to come home.