Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pruning and Growing

This won't be an easy blog post for me to write.  It is hard to write about your weaknesses, your worries, and your mistakes.  In general, I approach my life in a happy and positive way.  At a time I was considering a new job and I confessed to a coworker/friend that I feared leaving a work environment that was so happy and fun. My coworker told me that I will bring happy and fun to any work environment.  What a sweet compliment and one I hold in my back pocket for times like these.  These are the times that it is harder to be fun and optimistic.  I call these times, pruning.

Everyone who takes care of plants knows that pruning is a necessary part for allowing growth.  It is interesting that I choose this analogy since I can successful kill any plant in less than one week.  I can't say that I have ever pruned a plant because that would mean it lived long enough to require it.  Alas, the analogy still stands.  The problem with pruning is that it hurts.  It cuts deeply and it often removes a part of us with it.  Many times those parts are dead and dying but often, it is a branch filled with life that just gets caught in the process.

We all have moments of pruning.  A harsh word from a friend or family member, that hits close to home because you know that it was deserved.  A suggestion for improvement on a job performance evaluation.  A customer complaint about the way you handled a situation.  Or even your own personal reflection on your day - mine is often reflecting on how I could have been a better mama. 

I seem to have landed in a season of pruning.  I liken it to a fall clean up that you might do to your yard.  You know, the one that results in 3-5 yard waste bags at the end of your driveway.  The problem with that - is at the end of the day, the landscaping looks bare, and you start to wonder if it will ever grow again come Spring time.  And there is that harsh winter to contend with in the meantime.  This season of pruning is not a lot different than the moments of pruning - except that the moments keep coming and it covers so many different aspects of life. 

So here I sit - feeling cut and shorn.  Feeling the inadequacy that comes with trying to balance work and family life.  Knowing that I am never enough - not at home and not at work.  Hearing the compliments that never come without qualifiers - "You are doing such a great job, for someone with four kids at home" or "You were such a huge help, for a mom who works full time".  Before we jump to conclusions that these people saying these things to me are awful - they aren't!  These are wonderful people who intend to build me up and let me know they appreciate the exact struggle I am feeling above.  The problem is - it lets me know - the struggle is real.  :)  That I haven't found the balance yet and that it may be ever elusive.  I can't say that these feelings are new to this season - but it certainly has been highlighted extensively.  Having a sick kiddo, plenty of sick time, but having to go to work anyway.  Having that sick kiddo plead with you to stay with them, having your heart break at the thought of leaving them, spending your day on the brink of tears, and summing it up with a poorly timed comment from someone you care what they think about not being where you belong.  The guilt - the all encompassing guilt.  But it goes both ways, the day the sick kiddo is home, you stay home with the kiddo, you spend the first several hours making sure that all the things you should have been doing are getting done, knowing others are doing work that people were counting on you to do, knowing there is other work that is falling behind that will keep you from picking something else up, and getting that comment that was intended to be supportive but somehow gets received in other ways, "you are where you need to be today, let us know how to support you." Even worse is the comment, "you are gone again?" - it is a fair comment but it still cuts deep.  And that is just the sick kid example - not the school project/field trip example or the "can't we just come home after school" example, etc.

This struggle for balance isn't new.  But there are rough waters - that I start to wonder if it is because I fail to find this balance.  Comments from family members about what parenting things you are not strict enough on, overheard conversations of other parents that think you are too strict on things, and, perhaps hardest of all, the struggles your kiddos are having, the heart breaks, the hard work that doesn't get the results they want; the hard lessons that come with poor choices (and having a mom that usually won't save them - but makes them find their way through).  Don't forget all the beginning of the year stuff, PTA things to volunteer for, time in the classrooms (and my children begging me to be the parent that gives spelling tests this year), and the activities that need volunteer leaders and coaches.  Before I worked full time, I was more than willing to volunteer for all of the above - but there just isn't space - and again, my kiddos are disappointed.  It leaves me wondering - am I failing my kids.  Not because I didn't volunteer - but because there is so little space.  Am I not here when they need me most?  Does my work life create a cramped enough environment that I am not able to be consistent on the things my family tells me I am doing wrong?   Do I try to exert control on our world by being too strict on some of the kid's exposures to things?  And the worst question of all - the question that haunts me on a regular basis, will I regret having spent this time of my life working instead of being home with my kids?  (Thank goodness I have my husband who reassures me and compliments my parenting.  Sometimes I wonder if he can read my mind).

In the work world, there is always plenty of opportunity for pruning.  I mean, come on - I teach - which means student evaluations - which could prune a forest into a group of saplings.  Fortunately, despite my high expectations, my evaluations are usually quite good.  However, when a negative comment comes in, I somehow forget all the good comments. But student evaluations are not the problem for this round of pruning.  In the last few months, I have had to face mistakes that I have made, teach a class that is new and a bit uncomfortable (and I am just not sure I am doing it justice - no matter the extensive work I am putting into it), missed opportunities to build up my fellow co-workers, expressed some opinions I would like to take back and a had slew of dismissive, occasionally embarrassing, and probably unintentional comments made about me.  Each day, I put on my brave face - ready to tackle the day's challenges - and each day finds its way to be its own pruning comments or moments.  The first questions these things raise are always, am I good at my job?  Am I working hard and being the best that I can be?  But closely following comes the question, is the sacrifice that I make at home so that I can be here worth it?  (Thank goodness I work with amazing and fun people to keep me going!)

And then there is the internal struggle - always my greatest battle.  I am grateful for insight into my weaknesses and downfalls - as I would be even more insufferable if I wasn't. ;)  But it does make me painfully aware during pruning time the things that are just going to have to change.  It creates almost an obsession to find the "fix" to the bumps in the road.  Over time, my health habits have begun to change - my daily exercise has slowly become more of  an after thought and therefore less consistent.  Nothing makes me crave chocolate like stress, so my diet isn't what it should be.  And I spend my nights analyzing what I could have done better, what I should do differently, what words would have been better chosen, and make promises to exercise and eat well too.  The leads to lack of sleep. Then the next day comes - the struggles remain - and my list of broken promises to myself grows. 

Now - to be clear - I am not complaining, per se.  Struggling, yes. . . but not complaining.  I appreciate that this season is necessary and clearly something I must need.  I believe that God has his hand in this shaping.  I also realize it is temporary and will hopefully result in a better version of me.  I know so many that are struggling with mountains compared to this mole hill.  But I find myself wondering - with so much going on at once - is God trying to prepare my heart for a big change.  Is He putting up some sort of neon flashing sign that I am just too dense to see or read?  Or is he just trying desperately to smooth out a few of my rough edges?  Or maybe, just maybe - if looking inward is this unpleasant, looking outward into the world - seeing the things that are bigger than me - and putting some energy into volunteering there, to giving back - maybe that is the answer.  Whatever the answer may be - I look forward to getting some growth out of these hurts.  And hopefully - when my spring does come - and the harsh winter ends - my kids, my hubby, my work, and I will reap the benefits of this time of molding.  That they will get to appreciate the best me that I can be and hopefully - that me will be enough for everyone.

But for now - I am emotional.  I am frustrated.  I am hurt.  I am exhausted.

**I hesitate to share this post because I am not looking for validation or positive strokes.  I share this because I know this is a common struggle for working moms.  I know there are others that work through these issues.  Because sometimes - knowing you are not alone is enough.**

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The LAST 2014 DPP Post - 22, 23, 24, and 25.

I had come to the conclusion that I just wasn't going to do the last few days of the project.  My time with my family was more important to me that keeping up here.  But today, as I was unloading the camera of pictures - I realized that I took a few pictures with the intention of sharing them here.  And I thought, now that things have calmed down why not finish things up.  It was such a wonderful holiday season for the Hoffman family.  We had lots of fun and many memories were made. 

DPP Day 22 -

In an effort to keep the little kiddos reminded of their regular routine and to allow me to work from home for the day (spring semester is coming whether I am ready for it or not), Brandon and Katherine went to school today.  Elizabeth and Benjamin spent the day playing together well - which was such a nice treat for me to listen to while I worked the day away.  We are blessed that our kiddos get along pretty well most of the time but if there is fighting to be had, it is usually Elizabeth and Benjamin.  They can show an ugly side of each that we, fortunately, don't see any other time.  I can remember having a special kind of ugly side that I saved for Kevin growing up. . .and he certainly did the same.  And in case you are wondering - clearly, he started it.  Every. time.  :)

The kiddos were busy creating all evening - which is typically Brandon's favorite thing to do.  He loves to color and lately, he will sit for hours writing his letters.  He takes after his big sister in that way.  But tonight, after a week of being sick, a day at school really took it out of a guy.  So while he is happy, he is exhausted.  And when Brandon is tired, angry, or sad - the rocking chair is where you will find him.  Always rocking, sometimes singing, sometimes sleeping, and sometimes yelling.  I LOVE the sweet expression on his face.  This kid is a funny balance of LOUD but sweet - he is a hugger.  A balance of wild and crazy but able to calm for activities.  His director at his school always says he is going to rule the world - because he is also a balance of bossy yet charming.  He has a special talent for getting people to do what he wants them to.  :)
Here you can see all the creating going on.  Elizabeth worked hours and hours to make a hot pads for everyone in the family.  Benjamin is making cards for the family.  And they both wrapped their gifts up and mysteriously, buying wrapping paper will need to be on the top of next year's Christmas to do list.  :)  What you can also see is that someone else is worn out from her day at school.  Instead of dealing with that quietly like her brother, she felt the need to tell us all about it. . . .for hours.  Seriously. . .hours.  There was NOTHING we could do to help a sister out.  So we put her in her high chair and listened - while we did other things.  If we as Hoffmans have no other talents, tuning out noise will always be a gift we share.
DPP Day 23 - the beginning of the celebration. . .
I don't know where the day time went on this day.  It was a mix of work prep, Christmas prep, and managing kiddos so excited they don't know what to do with themselves.  But the evening was spent with one of our favorite of Christmas traditions.  We go to Rich's moms house a couple to several days before Christmas to celebrate with each other and open the gifts we have selected.  Rich's mom is always incredibly generous despite our continued attempts to have her cut back.  If you know Marilyn - you know that she is as stubborn as she is sweet and generous.  If you ever want to see both sides at once - try to pay for dinner.  :)  What I love about this time is that it is never rushed.  It stands outside the typical "holiday" time and allows for time together without having to worry about going anywhere else or missing anything else.  Perhaps the hardest part of being blessed with family close by is balancing time and negotiating where we will be and when.  Leaves room for a lot of guilt and stress during the holidays.  We are fortunate that the guilt is self driven as our family has always been gracious in giving us latitude to try and figure out what works best.  THAT might be the best Christmas gift they give Rich and me each year. 
Here is Barb and Billie giving "little Richie" a big kiss.  Anyone that knew Rich at age 4, knows that Brandon looks almost identical.  He is also equally ornery and charming.

Here is my "big kid" getting his favorite Christmas gift.  I knew this would be his favorite so it seemed only fair to let is mama get it for him.  We have over/under odds on whether he gets it built before next Christmas.  Let me know if you want in.... ha!  ;)

Just liked this picture of mother and son chatting while dishing up leftovers.  Makes me happy. 

Here are the girls playing. . . .

Here are the boys playing.
DPP Day 24 - Christmas Eve
Christmas eve is always full of traditions that my parents started years ago.  All three of us kids love them and our kids are learning to love them too.  Rich (and many others) favorite part is the beef tenderloin with béarnaise sauce that my mom makes for dinner.  Our family is getting big enough - we may have to start taking out loans just to get enough meat purchased!  We make and decorate cookies - for Santa - but truth be told it is really so there is something to snitch on Christmas morning.  We sing Christmas carols always ending with Silent Night and a reminder of what we are truly celebrating.  
One of my favorite memories from this Christmas eve was sitting quietly in the boys room with the three older kiddos and telling the story of Jesus' birth together.  They threw in any parts that they felt I had missed.  They shouted out the parts they knew were coming next.  It was cute and fun and meaningful.
A rare treat of getting to have a can of soda.  Looks like he thinks he is getting away with something, doesn't it?

Did I forget to mention the traditional light saber battles?  Is it just me or is this good guy vs good guy?  Where is the red light saber?  I love Ben's form here.  He goes big or goes home.  Mikey - well he is more laid back in his approach.

 Singing carols while I attempt to dust off my piano playing skills.

A little Jingle Bells with cello accompaniment.  Both Ben and Elizabeth also played a carol on the piano. . .the torch is in the passing process.  Always makes me miss Mamo at carol time.  She was the best.

This picture serves as a reminder that this was NOT Omom and Pawee's best Christmas.  They powered through (despite my constant recommendations to postpone) but they were both exhausted and miserable.  I am pretty sure by the end, they wish they would have listened to me.  But let's face it, isn't that how everyone feels when they don't listen to me?!?!  Ha!  Honestly - this was the only time I even saw my dad that night.  And I think I only heard him say about 5 words and only ate one cookie.  Now THAT is how you know he is sick!

DPP Day 25 - The Final Day!   Merry Christmas to ALL!

As the last day and my last picture. . .we wish all our friends and family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I can't look at this picture without hearing the Holderness family Christmas Jammies rap in my head.  Go Here if you haven't seen it.
I had delusions of getting a Christmas or New Year's card out to all our 100 closest friends and family - but that just doesn't seem likely.  So please accept these DPP posts as our holiday greetings to you and yours. 
May 2015 be your best year yet!  It just might be ours. . .we will do everything we can to make it so.
Love, The Hoffmans

Monday, December 22, 2014

Catching UP! Day 18, 19, 20 and 21

Day 18 - Because I am not up to date with my posting - I am a little blurry as to what happened on each day.  So I will have to share the stories that my pictures tell - for the rest of the days have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle.   Because I am so far behind - I will likely only post the 21st picture to the actual December Photo Project site.

This first picture was a very sweet gift I received from one of my co-workers.  She is a joy to work with as she always works hard to approach the world with a positive attitude.  She has heard me say things to the effect that I don't believe in perfect moms.  The mom that believes she is perfect or hears the outside world telling her so has lost the ability to learn and grow.  And it is my belief that it is in embracing our imperfections, the daily cataloging of our mistakes, and the actions to make the next day better are exactly what makes us the best moms we can be.  I am intentional in analyzing my parenting each day and there is always plenty to critique.  I am also not shy about sharing my short comings with others.  I always appreciate it when I can learn from someone else's mistakes.  So my friend has heard my failings that I have shared and she brought me this book.  I am looking forward to what gems it holds inside. 

 This is the picture that taught me the lesson that it is impossible to catch someone working naturally.  Something about someone walking into your office with a big honkin' camera up to their face tends to draw attention.  Who woulda thunk it?  But this is my friend, Jill.  She is one of the newest of my coworkers and she is a lot of fun.  We spend a lot of time being really jealous of her clean desk and her coordinated decorations. But sorry, Jill - you made a good effort at looking like you are working. . . but I think people may be onto our staging on this picture. 

 The coworker selfie.  This will likely go viral that like Oscar's one that Ellen took. . .because that is how cool the people are in this picture.  This was at the graduation dinner for the PA Students.  We feel privileged to get invited to their senior dinner and we look forward to being able to celebrate with them.  They work so hard to get to this point and we work hard too!  :)  In case you were wondering - I work with really fun people. 
That handsome bald guy is someone pretty special too but not one of my coworkers.  But we have discussed his greatness many times and I am sure we will discuss it again.  He is the best.

And finally - the very first Team Hoffman.  I am so proud of all the PA students but I have a special pride in these 5.  The best part of my job is watching these students come into our program bright eyed and naïve and then helping them so they leave polished, competent professionals.  Wishing them fantastic and fulfilling careers.

Day 19 --  NEWS of the Day!  Brandon is finally feeling better!  What a hard week for the little man.

Today was graduation day!  Once I was home from graduation - I spent all evening looking for a dress for Rich's work Christmas party. . . .that is on Day 20.  Way to plan ahead, Hoffman.
Here are a few pictures from today.

So excited that Tami came!  We miss her tremendously!  What a huge loss her leaving was. 

We missed Darwin and Steph!  So we took this picture for them.  Do mortar boards look good on anyone?!?!

Day 20 - A trip to KC for Rich's work party.  All I know is that we don't do this type of thing enough.  We had so much fun.  Rich works with great people who were so kind to me.  I had missed the last two years because of kids (usually sick ones) keeping me home.  I was made to feel welcome and missed.  I heard so many compliments about Rich -- but the kind of compliments that let me know that they truly do know Rich and his greatest strengths.  One of his coworkers called him "incredibly endearing to clients".  What a perfect choice of words.  Rich will never be the most polished or perfected -- but it turns out that is one of his best qualities.  Because Rich is real, incredibly friendly, and completely disarming.  Endearing - what a perfect word for him.  I am a bit biased -- but I have yet to meet someone that has spent any time with the guy who doesn't think he is the best.  I quite agree.  Here we are ready for our party. 

*Sigh* - Love that guy!

Day 21 -  Today was a great day.  We awakened rested - having no one waking us with leg pains, headaches, bad dreams, or separation anxiety.  We had a lovely breakfast and were able to sip our coffee leisurely.  Knowing that our sweet babysitter (Rich's mom) would likely be ready for our arrival -- as four kids is a lot no matter how fantastic they are-- we packed and headed home.  We enjoyed our three hours of chat time.  It is clear that we both very much enjoy laughing -- and it might be picking on each other that makes us laugh the most.

Arriving home was a rude awakening - Ben was tired from a sleepover, Brandon missed his nap, Katherine didn't want Mommy to stop holding her, and Elizabeth had become deluded into thinking she was in charge.  This was a recipe for operation - get bedtime here!  We wrapped some presents - trying to involve the children as much as possible.  Distraction is a good thing.  We fed them dinner and immediately began the bedtime routine.  They all crashed and burned quickly.  They just needed some sleep. 

By the time it occurred to me that I hadn't take any pictures today - I went and took a picture of my favorite subjects.  It was the kind of day that needed a moment to see their sweetness when they sleep.  Sometimes on those days - it is hard to see their sweetness when they are awake.

Sleepovers wear a guy out.  He was so excited for his sleepover that started at 4pm yesterday - that he spent the entire Saturday waiting by the front door.
 He fought bedtime the hardest.  He had passed that point when they are so tired - all they do is cry and thrash. . . until they crash and burn.  You'd never know it now. . .so peaceful.
Katherine seems to love stuffed animals.  It seems like everyday there is another one that /has/ to be in her bed.  You will note that not only does HER Mickey need to be in there but Brandon's as well.
 I couldn't resist this shot through her crib slats.  Those itty bitty toes.  Too cute!  It also makes me so painfully aware that our crib days are numbered.  I know that the next stages hold so much joy but there is a part of me that just doesn't want to let go of the baby stage.  *sniff*. 

 She is growing up so fast.  Every day I look at her and marvel at her growing maturity (and heighth for that matter). Every. Day.   And she might kill me for posting this picture.  So let's all keep it quiet, shall we? 

Whether she likes it or not, she is just as sweet and irresistible as her younger siblings.  How could I not include her?

This is where Rich usually catches his first two or three hours of sleep.  I need to wrap this blog up so that I can go tell him it is time to go to bed.  I am exhausted too.  We had a fun weekend - but driving 6 hours in two days for a few hours of party takes it out of a pair of old goats, like us. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DPP2014 - Day 17

Things are trucking along here at the Hoffman House.  Feeling blessed by being surrounded by family and friends tonight - for so many reasons.  Rich and I are completely surrounded by really fabulous people in our lives.  But today - our hats go off to the grandmas.  We have only survived this week because of their sacrifice and support.  Monday, Rich was out of town and I had a work day that was going to go from 6:30a-6:30p.  Like most people, we don't have child care options that support that kind of day.  Marilyn (Rich's mom) rescheduled an appointment, came and stayed the night, and babysat most of the day.  My mom, Omom, came and relieved her so that she could get to our niece, Sydney's, Christmas program and I could finish my work day.  Today, Marilyn saved the day again.  My busy Tuesday that I took to be with Brandon - was all moved into an already busy Wednesday.  Rich is rarely able to take sick days as his work is pretty inflexible.  Marilyn, sweetly, came again to be with Brandon and Katherine.  You will note in the pictures that they are in their same sleepers -- this is a no judgment zone - so don't judge.  Rich and I /may/ have missed that tiny little item on our to do list this morning.  :)  Since there are finals and graduation this week - tomorrow and Friday are not any better.  Omom saves the day tomorrow and is missing something to spend the day with Brandon.  Fingers crossed that he stops running fever soon so that he can go back to school on Friday - if not, anyone wanna babysit?!?!  We are lucky to have such great family. 

And if that wasn't enough - Pawee, Kevin, and Omom dropped by tonight with an early Christmas present.  It was this year's Hallmark singing snowman toy.  We have several and they are the kids favorite Christmas decorations.  Needless to say - it was a hit.  This picture was my favorite today - and I am calling it "Good buddies."   These two have become fast friends lately.  Katherine used to break Kevin's heart on a regular basis by crying any time Kevin spoke to her or looked at her.  He won her over with a YouTube video of Beaker from the Muppets singing Ode To Joy.  Now she loves Kevin dearly and she sings "Mee mee mee mee mee" to something that sounds a little like Ode To Joy on a daily basis. 

Here are some more pics of the early present.  The presentation:

During this same visit - Elizabeth snuggled up to Omom - ever so sweetly.  One might think this was a sign of affection but it was not.  While E loves her grandparents dearly, she was working Omom over on this one.  She had a certain set of pastels she wanted for her art work and I had told her that we were all done shopping for her. I could hear her saying to Omom, "I knew I should ask you because you are the only one who would know exactly what I was talking about.  Everyone else would probably get it wrong."  Smart play, Elizabeth, smart play.
Another fun little gem from this snuggle time was after Omom asked Elizabeth how basketball practice went.  Somehow that questioned turned into to Elizabeth stating quite matter-of-factly, "Yea, I am going to be really good someday and probably play basketball in the NFL."  I would say she would have to be exceptionally good to get to play basketball in the NFL.  We all wished her the best of luck.

Here is our sick little man - looking slightly less pathetic than yesterday.   He is giving me a smile today - so that is good!  :)  Omom was doing her part to cheer him up.

Ben was all about being with his Daddy tonight (see the picture above too) and was proud to be "handy" like Daddy tonight.  We are having our basement painted and Rich and Ben went to fill in cracks and holes.  

And here are a few other fun ones of my silly and crazy boy. 

Who needs toys when you have a bag?!?!

He styled his own hair after bath.  Does this say Ace Ventura to anyone else?!?!

Off to prepare the teacher gifts for tomorrow.  We have a busy day and night tomorrow and I need some sleep!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DPP2014 Day 16 - The Best Laid Plans

Rich will tell you that I am a planner to a fault.  My coworkers would say so also as my work calendar (which is shared amongst my fellow faculty) practically reads like a diary.  Rich, on the other hand, truly takes life by the moment.  If it isn't happening tomorrow, odds are, he has no idea it is even happening.  It is a refreshing point of view and one I often envy - that is until tomorrow is my birthday or our anniversary.  Every. Year.  It is that same look of panic in his eyes when he realizes what the next day will bring.  I digress.  We both appreciate the outlook on life the other has and the balance it brings to have us doing this life together. 

Today, I had my day planned - appointments sometimes as often as every 20 minutes.  It was going to be a busy work day without a lot of free space.  But life has a way of making free space sometimes - whether you want it or not.  It was about 2 am when I realized that life was sending me a curve ball.  Poor little Brandon was quietly rocking in the recliner in our room saying with each rock, "mom, wake up, I threw up."  I am not sure how many times he rocked before I finally registered his words.  We got all cleaned up and got him tucked back in bed.  It was clear he had a fever and I knew that he wasn't going anywhere the next morning.  He spent the day in a chair, rocking, sleeping, watching movies.  He is so quiet and never complains when he is sick.  He ran a fever all day and felt miserable.  With Rich out of town, my mom preparing for company, and Marilyn having some commitments as well, I was a one man show.  It took some shuffling by my gracious coworkers and students - but the day was rearranged.

 This is how he felt about being sick.  Or he wasn't amused by my photojournalism.  Come to think of it - it might be the latter.

But nothing a little frozen can't fix!

I kept Katherine at home - for a couple reasons.  One - Brandon didn't roll out of bed this morning until almost noon.  The other is - I felt like we should keep her exposed to the germs she has already been living with rather than introducing new germs.  One thing I have noted with having four kiddos - is that sometimes it feels like someone is always down for the count.  So much so, when one kiddo turns up sick - Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" starts rolling through my head.  There are shoes all over the place here lining up and waiting to drop.  :)  Since she was home, she also enjoyed Frozen.  I am particularly fond of how she chooses to "lounge."

Once the "bigs" got home, I attempted to avoid issues with responsibilities by promising they could help me decorate the last of the sugar cookies if they had all their things done.  Piano got practiced, spelling rehearsed, social studies test review done, worksheets completed, and math facts done by quizzing each other.  Ben always gets done before Elizabeth - so he busied himself with Legos. . .he loves Legos. 
This is the one I will post for today - and I will call it "Off building in his own world." 

Elizabeth got busy with her favorite evening pass time, spending time with Katherine.  I think Lucky got jealous.  While there is a lot of movement in this photo - I love it.  The sister snuggles with the dog wanting so badly to be in the mix.  You will notice that Katherine does not react to Lucky.  This would be because Lucky tries to get as close as possible anytime any of us get down onto the floor - so she is used to it.  It is really bad when Rich and I get down to play with the kids.  Nice to have a little photographic evidence of this adorable yet very annoying habit of our dog.  Man - you can see the crazy in her eyes. 

Finally, Daddy returned home with dinner (yay for no cooking!).  He got home 4 hours earlier than expected which is about the happiest news this mama could have received today.  :)  He got the littles put to bed while we decorated cookies.  Their classroom teachers are going to have some very special cookies that have no shortage of sprinkles on them.  While the abundance of sprinkles may make the otherwise soft and delectable sugar cookies a bit crunchy, it was sweet to see them work so hard on the ones that they had picked out for their school teachers.  It is clear to me they have a lot of respect and affection for those women.  I am grateful every day for the teachers in my kiddos life - both the formal and the informal. 


A day that started with stress and frustration turned out to be a lovely day filled with free space.  Lots of life and love fits into free space.  Don't we all need a little more of it?

DPP2014 Day 15

Let's see if I have one more day of blogging in me.  I only took one picture today - so it was easy to make a selection.  And if the truth is being told - I grabbed my camera and looked around for something to catch my eye.  I didn't stage this.  The two items are displayed on my file cabinet in our main family room.  I love them both and I love that you can see the top of Katherine's kicky boots.  The Santa Claus was painted in 1976 in the basement of my grandparent's house where they ran a ceramics shop and gave classes.  I have many fond memories or going to Grandpa and Grandma's house and getting to pick something to paint.  Oh the big plans I would have for that item - but considering the fact that I have no artistic ability - it never turned out quite as my mind's eye had seen it.  This Santa Clause had center stage on the mantle when I was growing up - and so I am happy to have him in our home.  Once we can return plants to the floor, he will sit upon our mantle.  (Plants must remain high on the mantle or risk their dirt being removed one toddler handful at a time).  The second item is the canvas that E made as a Thank you for our trip to Florida.  Quite the contrast from my memory of the ceramic shop.  I am completely devoid of artistic talent but E seems to have a knack for it!  She is always creating amazing things.  So, since all of my usual subjects are in bed - here is today's selection. 
A fun story from today:
            It has been a bit trying around the Hoffman house since our trip to Florida.  The children are reluctantly settling back into routine - but not without a bit of a struggle.  Anyone with kiddos will know the days I am talking about.  When a simple, "let's work on your spelling" won't do the trick like it usually does.  On these days, it usually takes 5 or 6 requests and perhaps the threat of a consequence before they consider it worthy of their attention.  Today, I had hit my limit.  A few days I can work with while they return to normalcy but we are nearly a week out - so I have decided they may have some bad habits.  Now, most days, I approach my children with firm boundaries in a very matter of fact but loving way.  Today, I opted to play the Santa card instead of utilizing some reasonable parenting strategies.  Just in case any one was considering me for mom of the year, they can be assured that I am not worthy.  I came home to the children (for five days running now) having ignored their homework - it was time to go to piano lessons so there was no time for it now.  It was time to leave and despite the leaving countdown and requests for shoes on, still no one had complied.  So in my infinite wisdom (i.e. pathetic desperation), I approached our Elf on the Shelf.  Knowing he would head to report to Santa tonight - I requested that he have Santa cancel the Hoffman family stop as surely the children were on the naughty list at this point.  Now - this passive aggressive maneuver is not only unattractive but maybe just down right mean.  So I should regret it. . . but I don't.  It was amazing - those kiddos got their shoes on and jump in the car within 2 minutes.  That, my friends, is what we call positive reinforcement for the unattractive maneuver and another reminder as to why Santa /HAS/ a naughty and nice list.
             As an added benefit, once I reached the car with Katherine, I received apologies from all three "bigs".  And not the reluctant, "Sorry, mom" accompanied by the eye roll but the "Mom, I am so sorry" accompanied by the hug.  The drive to piano was serenaded by Ben and Brandon composing their own Christmas Carol.  Here are the lyrics that I can remember,  "You better listen to your parents, be nice, and tell your mom you are sorry.  Be kind to your brothers and sisters, do your responsibilities, and put your shoes on the first time you are asked.  OOOOOOOOORRRRR Santa won't come."  What started as a frustrating arrival home, turned into laughter and fun.  Don't tell them just yet - but they really are good kids.   :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

DPP 2014 - Days 11, 13, and 14 (Day 12 was a pictureless day)

Day 11 - This was our first full day back to reality with everyone returning to work and school.  Finding time to be intentional with photos was a bit of a challenge.  After a lengthy work day, I got to go for my haircut.  I love when they massage your head during the shampoo!  Bliss!  So by the time I got home, it was chaos getting homework done, bedtime rolling, and sneaking in a bit of time to chat.  That might be my least favorite thing about evening night activities.  It makes things feel so rushed that I miss hearing the details of my kiddos days.  Ben was at Cub Scouts all evening so I didn't snag a picture of him.

Today's selection was Elizabeth working on her homework.  The faster she moves her pencil, the easier it is to think.  :)

Here is my little charmer.  He might run the world someday.  He has quite the ability to wrap someone around his little finger and then boss them around.  Don't tell the Bigs - but he owns them on a regular basis.

 This was a spontaneous little play time that happened.  It was very short lived though.  See those little characters are Katherine's souvenirs.  It took about 5 minutes before her toddler showed.  Grabbing and shouting "MINE!" commenced.

As bedtime was announced, you can see the level of concern that she had.  Once her siblings didn't want them any more - neither did she.  If I had a nickel for each little pile of treasures that I pick up each night, we would be a very wealthy family.  With four kids, it takes quite awhile to make it around to all the corners of the house to do the quick before bed pick up.

Day 12 - Interview days at work mean early mornings and late nights.  I didn't leave work until nearly 6:15 (still catching up from vacation) and then I met Rich and the kiddos at a Christmas party downtown.  I had to take Ben and K from there to Ben's basketball practice and then home for bed.  I should have snagged a picture at the Christmas party!

Day 13 - A busy Saturday got much less busy with a sick Ben Boy.  He had a very short lived ailment but it took him out for the weekend.  So we stayed in.  Baked cookies, decorated for Christmas (finally), did some Christmas shopping, and enjoyed our day together. 

Today's selection occurred while I was getting decorations out.  I just loved that Elizabeth sat with Katherine and taught her about our Advent calendar.  She also began telling her the Christmas story.  It was so sweet.  So I titled it, "Telling the Story."

 This one is actually a picture of Katherine telling me "No, no" - a current favorite phrase.  Isn't that a rite of toddler passage?  But I think it is funny because it makes me imagine her saying, "Excuse me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"  Something pretentious in her sweet face. 

And here is my sweet boy.  A headache sufferer - so it is hard to know if he had a bad headache that cause him to be sick or being sick caused him headaches.  Either way - he spent the day in bed and didn't eat anything.  Anyone who knows Ben - knows that means he was sick.  He is like his Daddy and loves to snack and he doesn't like to hold still!

Day 14 -

Another busy day.  Somewhere along the line, I thought it would be a good idea to be a Girl Scout troop leader for Elizabeth's Girl Scouts.  I really enjoy working with the girls - they are a great group of girls.  Why I thought I had time for that, I will never know.  Ultimately, I would do it again to keep this troop going.  The preparations for Christmas continued.  More cookies baked, more shopping done, and a great Girl Scout outing as well.  I even had time to fluff and buff my Christmas carols on the piano.  Sometimes I am glad that no one lingers outside my windows because I was singing at the top of my lungs.  It wasn't pretty - but I had a lovely time.

Today's selection just made me laugh.  He was perking up a bit on Sunday.  His trip down to the main floor was short but he wanted to count his money.  Only Ben would separate things out quite like this. . .