Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crime & Punishment

You know that old saying, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you"? Yes,... well, I'm feelin' the pain.

Let me rewind a little with some backstory. The three youngest in our family are extremely high-spirited boys. Lovely, smart, funny, energetic boys. They are also competitive boys. And, sometimes, angry boys. When the latter happens (mostly with Jack and Charlie, the two 9-year-olds), I've discovered we're now in the troubled waters of actual physical fighting. But it isn't limited to a little nudge or slap here or there. We're talking full-on mortal combat -- it usually begins with a verbal altercation, followed by chasing. When the chaser catches up with the chasee ... all holy hell breaks loose. We're talking headlocks, clinches, fistfuls of hair being pulled, scratching, etc. It's disgusting and it completely breaks my heart as I see my two precious babies beat each other silly. I used to routinely step in and literally pull them apart, thus stopping the fight. Now, as they are growing stronger and taller, it isn't quite that easy. Case in point: last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. The kids had the day off school, so I was being all Suzie Homemaker and thought I'd scramble eggs for breakfast. In the 45-seconds between leaving them in the den and going to the kitchen to begin cooking some sort of problem erupted. Before I knew what was happening, they had completed one lap around the first floor (the chase, remember?) and ended their parade, literally, at my feet in the kitchen. It was a blur of grunting, punching and tumbling to the floor. I instinctively stepped in, grabbed the first child I could lay my hands on and pulled. Nothing. I pulled harder. Still nothing. At some point, I found a weak spot and managed to get the boys separated. In the process, managed to injure myself. Throughout the day, one of my fingers proceeded to swell and ache. By 10pm, I was convinced it was broken. Nice. See what I get for trying to keep my kids from injuring each other? And being six months pregnant, it now seems a bit more dangerous to put myself between them as they roll around like bear cubs.

Then, like clockwork, we had a similar altercation within the week. I'd had it. Once again, I managed to break up the fight, but I'd had it. I consulted my husband (who happened to be working at the time) on the situation and possible punishments. We came up with a one-day mega grounding: yesterday, when the boys came home from school, one went to their bedroom and the other to the den. There they sat quietly reading for about two hours until dinner. After eating, they were allowed to swap spots, and quietly read for another 45 minutes until we went to church for Advent service. Following our arrival home, they immediately took showers and went to their beds. Any remaining time before lights out (about 30 min.) was spent -- you guessed it -- quietly reading. There was no television, xBox, GameBoys, puzzles, drawing, etc. Just sitting and reading. Granted there may be some parents who feel this is a bit extreme. And there may be others who think it was too "cushy." Whatever. I'm not looking for approval. The point of the matter is that they hated it. These boys are very social creatures, and the constant reminder of their punishment as their younger brother strolled at will about the house, watched SpongeBob Squarepants and even went next door to play with a friend was enough.

The new rule: If you physically fight and hit anyone in any way, shape or form, you WILL be sequestered to the house to do absolutely nothing (except read, if you wish) for a day.

So, going back to the old phrase, how exactly does this hurt me? I hate punishing the kids. Plain and simple. Yes, life would be much easier and pleasant if I didn't have to be handing out punishments for breaches in civil behavior. But, as our much-loved pediatrician pointed out, "Children do not need a friend at this age... they need a parent. You have the rest of their lives to be their friend." It is truly sage advice that I've repeated to myself over and over again, after disciplining one of the kids and hearing them voice their displeasure. I even told the boys last night how much I absolutely hate (and we don't use that word often) punishing them. I told them flat out that I hate it because then we can't go do fun things if they're grounded. (They lost out on "Waffle Cone Wednesday" at TCBY last night because of their punishment.) And if they're in the house serving time, I have to be there to monitor them, unless I'm OK with the child nearest the den sneaking into the pantry to snack at will -- and I'm not OK with that.

Unfortunately, we're repeating the mega-grounding again today. This time it's Jack and Sam. Seems there was a slight problem getting buckled in the car last night, resulting in Sam hitting Jack and Jack returning the favor with a powerful slug to Sam's arm.

Ugh. This Christmas, if we can't have peace on Earth, I'd settle for peace in our house. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guilt Money

It's the news on everyone's lips: the recession. Or at least the "official announcement" that came yesterday, telling us the country is, indeed, in a recession. Call me crazy... but I'm pretty sure we all knew that factoid before the economists put their blessing on the news. Since this is the latest buzz, it isn't surprising that the related news articles are everywhere. One in particular caught my eye this morning titled, "Luxury shame: Why even the very rich are cutting back on conspicuous consumption" (by Johnnie L. Roberts, published in the current Newsweek). Intrigued, I read on -- then found myself fuming mad.

The whole article detailed how those with wealth well into the vulgar range are reigning in their spending because they feel a little guilty about said wealth. It began with some multimillionaire who collects high-end properties like Hallmark ornaments. "I collect homes because I enjoy it," he was quoted as saying. This is a man who has just one piece of property valued at $27 million. One property. ONE! And he does this because he enjoys it. The article went on to document (among other specifics) the fact that Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld was raked over the hot coals at a Congressional hearing for his post-bankruptcy half-billion dollar compensation, owning several multi-, multi, MULTI-million dollar estates AND an art collection which was valued at $200 million. The article said all Fuld could muster was "sheepishness," and went on to state he had recently auctioned off $20 million worth of art. Unless I am missing something here, if he auctioned off part of his art collection, didn't that basically just liquidate an asset? I mean, it never said he donated the proceeds to a charity, or some other philanthropic move. So, did he pocket the cash, or what? And then there's AIG, who reportedly treated top-level employees to a $440,000 spa retreat AFTER THE GOVERNMENT BAILED THEM OUT, COSTING THE TAXPAYERS $150 BILLION. Ummm, excuse me. Where's my day at the spa?

Then, in what appeared to be an effort to show how the wealthy are trying to dumb things down and not be as showy, Roberts reported future First Lady Michelle Obama recently appeared on a late night talk show in a "$400 J. Crew ensemble, rather than a designer dress." With all due respect to Mrs. Obama, is that statement supposed to make the rest of us feel better? You've got to be kidding me. No one I know would/could drop $400 on an "ensemble" from J. Crew. Not long ago I was so proud to tell anyone who would listen that I spent a whole $75 dollars on a lot of 13 maternity outfits off eBay -- apparently "going cheap" to some people consists of shelling out $400 at J. Crew. (But for the rest of us who have seen --and choked on--the retail prices of maternity clothes, isn't that a STEAL?!) But I digress...

You know, with Christmas just a little over three weeks away many of us would rather not hear about how the wealthy are feeling guilty about having sooooooo much money. I'd love to say they deserve to feel guilty, when there are countless American families who are in tears trying to figure out how to buy gifts for their kids this year. However, it is not my place to judge. For those elite wealthy who are crying the "too much money" blues, at this point it isn't about the fact that you have all that money, but rather, what are you going to do with it? No matter how they came into the astronomical sums of money in the bank -- earn, gift, steal, etc. -- it is what it is now. You have it, and what you choose to do with it is up to you.

Just don't insult the rest of us by publicly airing how "guilty" you feel.

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Tis the Season... Officially

We got an early "Welcome to December" present yesterday with about an inch of snow on the ground. Despite it falling on November 30, I will take it for December 1, and officially herald in the holiday season. I'm not one of those early birds who readily accepts stores putting up Christmas decorations in mid-October. No way. With the calendar reading December and snow on the ground, I'm ready to begin shopping and assorted holiday planning.

The one thing I will try to tackle early is a New Year's resolution -- which would be to write more often, including blog entries. I have no idea if anyone (besides the three "followers" I have... THANK YOU, JENNY, ETHAN AND LINDY!) regularly reads this blog, but it sure is fun to write. When I write, that is. I've even given the page a little face lift. I like the color scheme much better than the old one... although I haven't yet figured out how the little "tool" icons popped up. Not that I'm opposed to being handy, but the wrench and screwdriver combo doesn't quite keep with my overall theme. (If I can even claim an "overall theme," that is.) Regardless, I like the fresh, new look. Maybe it will entice me back to post more often. :)

We have so much going on this time of year, and in our lives in general. Now we begin thinking of gifts to share with others. True, it's the season of giving to others, but it seems like a necessity to take a few minutes every day and recount the little blessings of the day -- it's like a little gift for yourself. It's a perfect chance to pause and be grateful for every last one of the day's moments. And I am grateful... beyond grateful most days. In fact, I was recently asked, "Are you happy?" At the time, I simply answered "yes," with a smile. The truth of the matter is that I am happier right now in my life than I have ever been... and happier than I ever thought I could be. Happy, content and eager to see what each day will bring -- good and bad. I have a wonderful family (both immediate and extended), and a few really close, true friends with whom I can share the good times, and find love and support during the bad times.

And what a priceless gift that is, too.