Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Licensed Driver!

We officially have a third licensed driver in our house!  Maryna passed her road test on Tuesday!

This was her second try.  Two weeks ago she had a test appointment here in 'Cuse and she failed before she even finished half of the test.  It was a stressful ugly day that happened to also be Rob's 40th birthday.

In the end, I'm glad she failed, though.  As I wrote in a note to her later that week, we learn more about a person (including ourselves) by how we handle a setback than we can ever learn from a list of that person's successes. Here's what I saw that day and shared with her:

First, she was willing to try. That alone is a huge accomplishment. For months and years she has been hesistant to try new things, try hard things, or just try at all. These days, she's not as afraid of failure and she sees the joy of success enough to know it will be worth it. She also knows she's safe, and that failure isn't the end of any story.

Second, she not only tried, but she was hopeful. She was optimistic. She didn't go in with a fatalistic attitude ("shoot me and get it over with")...she had confidence that it might work out. Daring to get your hopes up is a risky platform to stand on; the fall is much harder. She hoped anyway, and that's awesome.

Third, she was resilient. She took that hit and faced it: she cried, she got angry, she curled up in her bed for awhile...but when I told her a few hours later that we had a new appointment booked for the next available test that I could find anywhere in western or central NY (in a tiny town over 200 miles away since the next one in our neighborhood or anywhere near it was 3 months away..) she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin and said thank you. She didn't get washed down the drain with this set-back.

Fourth, she trusted us enough to let us help her through her disappointment. She let me see her sadness and hurt. She let me rub her back and cluck over her tears. We yelled and shook our fists at the ceiling for awhile together about how rude the examiner guy had been for no reason.  She let her team rally around her and she accepted that support.

Finally, (fifth), she set it aside for her dad's birthday. I had told her when we got home that I knew she was angry and upset and that she was totally allowed and expected to be mad and sad. But..that we were also still planning on going out to dinner as a family in about 3 hours so I'd like her to find a way to join us. By the time our dinner plans started, she had showered and perked up and (while understandably a little subdued and tired) she smiled, helped me sneak the waiter a birthday dessert surprise, and played along with the dinner conversation.  Awesome.

So while she was sad and upset, I was super proud of the kid I brought to that test two weeks ago, and I was even more proud of the young woman I saw handling the setback of a failure.

Yesterday we drove 3.5 hours to a tiny rural town in SW New York. We drove around that tiny one-stoplight-town for 2 hours learning the hidden streets, parks, and elementary schools. We laid on a park bench in the warm sun and I prayed over her while I combed through her hair with my fingers and just breathed with her. She aced her test and I got the incredible joy of being the first person she told: face beaming, grinning, arms up in victory. She drove off for a victory lap, and when she picked me up a few minutes later we both screamed for joy and hugged and cheered and high-fived and stomped our feet and drummed on the dash. We sang--loudly and badly--to every song we heard on the radio for the 3.5 hour drive home. We were a team and we were proud of her success just as we shared her setback: together.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SO I remember how to do it in 5 years...

I taught Maryna to parallel park yestereday in anticipation of her road test sometime this week or next. Maybe she's just a fast learner, but she had it nearly perfect from her 2nd try onward. If it helps anyone else, here's what worked for us:

1. Read this before hand (f-bomb warning in the last paragraph or so)…. Have it open on your phone or print it out. Also watch the long-ish video in the comments here.  And watch this.

2. Go to a mostly empty parking lot and pull through into a space so you are facing out. "Parallel park" into the open space to your back right, imaginging that there's a car to your right.

I had Maryna read ME the step by step directions while I did the first parking. We talked about where those 45* marks to the front left and rear right would be as well as the middle of the windshield and rear window.  For me in the driver's seat, it meant whatever I saw directly over the side mirror (front right) or whatever was in the back passenger mini-window.  FInd a reference point. (Bringing a small post-it note to mark those spots on the windows would have helped a lot!!!)

You're going to do that first step (crank and reverse) until that thing that was 45* to your front left or back right is right in the middle of the front or back window.  You are now at 45 degrees. DONE.  Then back up to clear, then crank the other way and back up until you're in the spot.

3. After she "taught" me, we switched spots and she did a few in the empty parking lot, working our way zig-zagging down a row of parking spaces.

4. Then we went to a parking lot with a few cars and practiced pulling up next to a parked car and then parallel parking into the space behind it, following these directions.  This let her practice getting that ideal starting spot: parallel to (not wonky), and about 3 feet away (not too close, not to far) with th back of the cars lined up.

5. Then we hit the streets and parked behind a few cars**. 

6. Eventuallly we found some spaces to try that had just one open place between two parked cars.

**We'd watched a video where the instructor pointed out that a road tests will almost never ask you to park in a single space between two cars...usually just behind one with at least 2 spaces clear behind it, so it was a good place to start our practice.

That was it. In about 90 minutes of practice, she nailed it consistently. Of the 20 or so times we practiced following those steps, she only had 1 that was a total wonky job b/c she started out too close to the reference car and 2 times (both early on) where she was a little far away from the curb but we could easily see that it was because she started out too far away from the reference car. Once she got the approach perfected, she got it right every single time. WAY easier than either of us had anticipated. I hope this is helpful to anyone else teaching their kid!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Bragging on a kid day:

One of the best best things about the vacation last week (Luquillo, PR) was spending a few hours alone doing a "walk-and-talk" with each kid. The grocery with one, the beach with another... it was un-interrupted time connecting with the kids and Rob that is just so hard to carve out at home.

Katie is my "first" (despite no longer being my oldest) and is the kid I have the most intuitive understanding for. In some ways this is bad--I tend to assume I know what she's thinking or feeling and when I'm wrong that's a mess! But most of the time I can just tell what's going on with her and what she needs in return.

She's incredibly strong in her convictions, brave and curious in her questions, kind and generous and compassionate with everyone she meets, clever but easily frustrated and discouraged when it's hard or less than perfect until she manages to push through, and always anxious and worried about something. And a voracious reader and craft-dabbler.

(In other words, she's all the good things I try to be and all the things I try to overcome in myself).

Friday, February 10, 2017

Random Aug-isms

"Mom, what date is today?"...
**some counting to self after he gets the answer**
"Hey mom?  Do you want to know what my countdown is for...?"
Sure, buddy.
"..  It's none of your business."

Mom? Can I snuggle with you in your bed? ...
Mom? Can I get on top of the covers? It's too warm.
Mom? Can you take your arm off of me? It's too heavy.
Mom? Can you get this arm out from under me? It's distracting.
Mom? Can you just...move a little further away from me...?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Jorge is 10!

Celebrating Jorgie-bear turning 10 today! He's passionate and determined, creative, funny, and smart. He's the source of most of my gray hair, but someday all of that passion will be better channeled and won't mean daily arguments (right!?)(RIGHT???) He's a loyal brother and the most confident and outgoing kid I know. Happy Birthday, Captain!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

48 hours...

We're 48 hours into Christmas break and I'm ready to ship all three littles off to a relative for the rest of it.  My gracious they are loud and annoying and break things quickly. There is never a break from someone whining, someone demanding more.  More time, more interaction, more referree-ing, more help, more attention, more reassurance, more rounds of the game, more space next to one of us, more more more.

I'm all out of more, guys.  I'm exhausted and burnt out and grumpy.  I'm poured out and empty. I have nothing left to give.  And yet there they are.  Take. Take take take.

I have worked so insanely hard and constantly for 4 straight months with no breaks and now everytime I peek my head up, there's a child (or four) ready to suck whatever little bit of energy I had ready to offer. I love them so much but oh my gosh I need a real actual break.  Grades are due for the undergraduates this week and graduates January 4 and I will be grading stuff a few hours each day until then.  Coincidentally the kids go back to school January 3.  I'm eyeing January fifth for a full-fledged guilt-free nap-day.