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November 18, 2010
So, last week was all about me trying to reclaim my sass. I’m happy to report that I did exactly that during our anniversary weekend, no thanks to the lame BorNOTTa. (Tee hee – I just made that up. Like it? Me too.)
In lieu of telling you what went WRONG with what was supposed to be a luxurious weekend in a Borgata Suite enjoying the tastes of Borgata at their event, Savor Borgata, I’ll share with you a little from my complaint e-mail to them, to which I have yet to receive a response:
“My husband and I chose the Borgata for a much-needed getaway (without our three children) to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary. As I am 6 months pregnant, the Savor Borgata event seemed like a perfect choice, as it boasted offering tastings of the finest Borgata chefs, including the world-famous Wolfgang Puck. The price tag to stay in a suite was high, but as it was a special occasion, we decided to splurge. Pregnant, I was looking forward to being treated like a “VIP.” We were more than slightly disappointed to discover that the extra $450 we spent on the room would not even entitle us to free Internet or use of the fitness facility, let alone the bathrobe, slippers and turn-down service we were used to at other hotels for which we are frequent-stay customers (e.g., the Hilton, the Marriott).
While we did enjoy the somewhat pricey buffet – we were encouraged by how good the food was and really looked even more forward to the Savor Borgata event. Upon checkin, we had not been told we would have to wait in line for entry so it was a good thing I thought to check with the concierge 20 minutes before our “reservation.” Of course, there was a line for the Box Office, where we had to go pick up tickets (again – how difficult would it have been to make us feel like special guests by delivering the tickets to our room or having them ready for us upon check in?), and then stand in line to wait for entry. When we entered the event was when things began to get really bad. To make a long story short, there was nowhere for me to sit, even after I complained to management that it would be painful for me to stand the entire two or three hours of the event. (When I got back to my room, my feet were swollen and sore.) It was impossible for us eat and have a drink in our hand at the same time, and we waited in lines that took us 30-40 minutes to get through, only to be rewarded with a tiny plate of appetizer-size food. Further, there was NOTHING for me to drink besides water – they only offered WINE, BEER and water! I was so unhappy and disappointed at what was supposed to be our big celebration, I was near tears by the time we got back to our room at close to 10 PM.
After the event, we tried to salvage our evening by finally getting the VIP treatment that was promised us if we went to one of the two nightclubs. Despite my aching feet, I was determined to feel like a VIP. We had spent close to $1500 on two nights’ stay! That is a lot for us, with three kids and one on the way. How disappointing to find that, yet again, if we didn’t order “bottle service,” we would again have nowhere to sit.
I know Atlantic City caters to gamblers and young people, but I have to say, I had counted on the Borgata, with its reputation for class and elegance, to know how to treat people who were willing to pay for VIP treatment. Instead, we were not only treated like every other clientele, we were constantly encountering folks who were being comped for meals or entertainment, and were given not even the most basic accommodations during a very expensive, supposedly world-class event.”
Anyhoo…what I learned from that weekend was that my sass has nothing to do with hanging out in a smoky nightclub or luxuriating in a fancy suite in 4-inch heels and la Perla lingerie. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…) I felt absolutely beautiful, sexy and SASSY all weekend long, and it had more to do with the romantic moments I shared with my husband than anything the lame Borgata had to offer. The most fun moment of the weekend was when I woke up from a luxurious 2-hour nap and immediately broke the silence in the room by chattering about nothing, then had a sudden “aha” moment that I am responsible for the fact that my three girls rarely stop talking unless it’s to breathe or eat. As soon as I realized it (and my amused husband confirmed it), I could not stop laughing, even as the tears streamed down my face.
So, maybe the money was well spent after all. Because what I got from last weekend was realizing that the blessings I already have in my life are worth more than any amount of money could ever buy.
November 17, 2010
I came upon a post on Facebook from a friend last week that brought up a topic that elicited quite a few comments…most of them pretty intense.
The gist of the post was that teachers don’t see children as individuals. (This coming from a teacher, no less!!) We already know how I feel regarding my son’s teacher (see last week’s blog
), but here was a thread of responses mirroring the very issue I brought up last week.
My friend did not express that ALL teachers present themselves in this manner. She did, however, give an example of how the teachers in a particular situation in my son’s school, completely disregarded a child’s needs because it went against their agenda. This frustrated the child and caused a huge scene. Many angry Moms related similar stories or validated the posts that were written.
So I asked myself, if this is going on with children other than my son, (and yes, it could just be our particular school, even though the school district is listed as one of the top 25 in the nation), what is going on in other schools? And how can teachers see their students as individuals? When I explained to a cousin that there were only 17 children in my son’s class, her response was, “Seventeen!!! When my daughter was in 2nd Grade (10 years ago), she had close to 30! How can children in a class of 17 NOT get more individualized attention?!” Good question!
So I investigated how teachers can see their students as individuals, and came up with this list:
Activity Level: This is the child’s “idle speed” or how active the child is generally. Is the child always on the go? Or, does the child prefer sedentary quiet activities? Highly active children may channel such extra energy into success in sports; may perform well in high-energy careers and may be able to keep up with many different responsibilities.
Distractibility: The degree of concentration and paying attention displayed when a child is not particularly interested in an activity. This trait refers to the ease with which external stimuli interfere with ongoing behavior. Does the child become sidetracked easily when attempting to follow routine or working on some activity? High distractibility is seen as positive when it is easy to divert a child from an undesirable behavior but seen as negative when it prevents the child from finishing school work.
Intensity: The energy level of a response whether positive or negative. Does the child show pleasure or upset strongly and dramatically? Or does the child just get quiet when upset? Intense children are more likely to have their needs met and may have depth and delight of emotion rarely experienced by others. These children may be gifted in dramatic arts. Intense children tend to be exhausting to live with.
Regularity: The trait refers to the predictability of biological functions like appetite and sleep. Does the child get hungry or tired at predictable times? Or, is the child unpredictable in terms of hunger and tiredness? As grown-ups irregular individuals may do better than others with traveling as well as be likely to adapt to careers with unusual working hours.
Sensory Threshold: Related to how sensitive this child is to physical stimuli. It is the amount of stimulation (sounds, tastes, touch, temperature changes) needed to produce a response in the child. Does the child react positively or negatively to particular sounds? Does the child startle easily to sounds? Is the child a picky eater or will he eat almost anything? Does the child respond positively or negatively to the feel of clothing? Highly sensitive individuals are more likely to be artistic and creative.
Approach/Withdrawal: Refers to the child’s characteristic response to a new situation or strangers. Does the child eagerly approach new situations or people? Or does the child seem hesitant and resistant when faced with new situations, people or things? Slow-to-warm up children tend to think before they act. They are less likely to act impulsively during adolescence.
Needless to say, my son falls high in every one of these categories. But does that make him a “bad” child? Not at all. In fact, if you channel these traits in positive directions, you can help a child reach even more than their potential. And these temperamental traits are not only helpful for teachers. Parents can use the same information to help see their children as the individuals their children are and channel their attributes appropriately.
I feel that both teachers and parents need to work together when a child has high needs in each of these temperamental traits. It CAN be done. But both sides must be willing to work together for the sake of the child! Ignoring or demeaning a child with high temperamental traits just leads to a combustible situation, as my Facebook friend relayed. Wouldn’t it be far easier and less stressful to use these traits and apply them to the children teachers are working with, so that a positive outcome or resolution of a problem can be quietly resolved?
Is this really too much to ask of a teacher?
Is this really too much to ask of us all?
November 16, 2010
One of the best interpersonal advantages of having children is how your brain rewires itself and processes information. External family situations that would normally upset you no longer throw you off balance. Something inside of you creates an emotional algorithm that takes the data you’ve received, analyzes it, determines your energy level at that particular moment in time, and then spits out a diagram on to handle the situation effectively. It’s a remarkable feat because it happens so quickly, automatically and fluidly you hardly have to think.
Let me tell you a story with an example:
I returned home to visit my family during an emotional time. My father is quite ill, and my family is naturally stressed about it. Realistically, this may be the last time I see him, so I wanted to maximize my time with him. I also wanted my 18-month old sons to meet him, curl up on his lap, and collect lots of photos from their visit with one of the finest human beings on the planet.
But on our second day there Lyle was sick. He woke us up screaming at least six times during the night. When he threw up at 5:00am, we were officially up for the day. We bathed him, changed him, changed ourselves, and decided to go in search of food because everyone was hungry. But Lyle puked again before we could get out the door, so we repeated the process. Now we needed to do laundry since we only brought three changes of clothes for ourselves, and all of Lyle’s pajamas were stinky.
It was 6:00am and we could not stay in our room because Lyle was crying so loudly he could be heard from the hallway. My plan for the day was head to my sister’s house, and spend the day with her, but I don’t think I would be welcome there so early, so I called my mom and headed over there. Dave dropped me off and kept the car, expecting to return at 11:00am after his meetings to help with Lyle.
Alas, my mother’s washing machine was broken, but she assured me the repairman was on his way. In the mean time, I tried to get Lyle to eat something and go back to sleep. I thought he had reflux from all of the activity and the inconsistent feeding times, and I was sure it would pass if I could get him some rest. The repairman finally came and announced my mom needed a new washing machine, so my mom left to go to Sears, and I stayed to watch my father, my boys and my nephew.
11:00 came and went and my husband was still downtown at the hotel in meetings, my mom was still at Sears, the laundry wasn’t done, and Lyle was still fussy. I managed to get Wyatt to take a nap while my sister-in-law pushed Lyle around in the stroller so he could sleep. So I called my sister to tell her I was having some problems and was going to be very late. Here is what she said to me in a condensed format:
“Obviously I am not a priority for you. Your friends are more important than your family. You schedule time to have breakfast with your friends, you don’t invite me, and you can’t be anywhere you say you are going to be.”
I have to interject here and say that up until this particular morning, I had been right on time for everything, and if you have ever traveled with toddlers – twins no less – you know what a remarkable accomplishment this is. Timeliness is one of my strengths. Also, I had not even been in town 48 hours, and I still had three days to go, so there was plenty of time to see her. This was running across my mind in the form of a ticker tape. It wasn’t adding up. There was something more wrong here than my tardiness.
“Do you know how it feels to be such a low priority on your list? You say you are going to be somewhere and you’re not. You come home only once every two years, and the last time you came home you did not even give me a hug goodbye.”
I have to interject again to say that I did, in fact, give her a hug goodbye, and if you look on her Facebook page, you can see a photo of two very pregnant sisters giving each other a hug in the restaurant before we parted ways, but I did not contest it because my filter was on. Instead what I said this:
“You’re right. I have not made enough time for you, and I am trying. I’m in a bad position right now, and I can’t get there. I don’t have a car. Lyle is sick. I am sorry.”
She continued to say some unkind things about me, but through my filter what I heard was that she was really hurt and upset. She obviously loves me and had been looking forward to spending time with me for a very long time. Before my family filter was installed, I never would have heard this. I would have been arguing with her by now and engaging on the wrong things. What I felt at that moment was a touch of sweetness and compassion for my sister. I was moved that she was mad at me for not being there because, hey, it showed she cared. My sister and I have had a rough time of repairing our relationship. There has been coldness between us. This is the same woman who did not congratulate me when I told her I was pregnant. Instead, she went back to reading her paper. I think we were making progress here because she was not reading the paper. She was yelling at me. It was a gesture of love and endearment.
I apologized several times and stayed very calm and sincere. My father, who had heard my side of the phone conversation, immediately became upset because he felt it was his fault we were fighting. So I had to soothe him and explain it was not his fault that I could not leave. I called my husband and scolded him for not being back to pick me up. I also told him Lyle was really sick because I knew this would hurry him. And when Dave finally arrived, we had to take Lyle to the clinic. He was really suffering. Lo and behold, the poor guy had a double ear infection.
Now the day was really shot. It was about 4:30. Dave wanted to go back to the hotel with Lyle, but I said no way. Sitting in a hotel room with a screaming kid was not going to be pleasant for anyone, so we turned around and drove to my sister’s. When we arrived, she acted as if nothing had happened, and I figured her family filter was working, too.
The week went like that. Emotional hurricanes blew in. Angry little twisters of sibling rivalry skirted across the dining room table. It didn’t concern me. I had a well calculated, well built, emotional shelter. I took note of the storms and moved on. And I was able to do so because all of my energy goes to my family now. They deserve it. I deserve it. It’s one of the most freeing feelings I have ever had as a parent. And the funny thing is, I knew that when I became a parent this would happen to me. The small things can’t get through, and the big things you take a run at with a new perspective: “How am I going to look and sound to my kids when I approach and handle this?” It’ll make you think. It makes you want to shine.
In some ways being a parent automatically makes you a better person. That filter cuts out a lot of the crap that watered down your life before. If you use it regularly, only the real stuff, the important stuff, and the good stuff get through. You’ll find it easy to relinquish control, which you don’t really have anyway. And you find it easy to hear the real message through the yelling. There are a lot of hurt people out there. You don’t want to take on any of it lest you transfer it to your loved ones. So keep that filter on. Run it on high. Own your own emotional crap. And be happy. Always.
November 15, 2010
Lately, I’ve been immersed in the task of finalizing my personal statement for graduate school; at the premise of my essay is the fact that I’ve always relied on the power of communication to thrive. Not only did I major in Communication as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, but I’ve been a writer throughout my life, and have always cherished the value of words. I’m also rather loquacious—all of my friends can attest to the fact that I rarely shut up—and, as most of you know, the focus of all of my school work thus far has been on speech therapy, which I intend to make my future career. It seems pretty clear that I know how to communicate…or do I?
Recently, Library Guy, the man I’ve been dating, started reading my blogs and acknowledged the fact that it’s cathartic for me to write down all my thoughts, but complained that I seem to be having all of these complex conversations with myself—and it would be nice if he was included in them. He also remarked that I am, indeed, great at chatting…but that doesn’t make me a great communicator. And you know what? When it comes to relationship-talk, he’s right.
I haven’t been in a relationship for a long time; for the past several years, my focus has been on Jayda and I thought that was enough for me. Maybe it just felt safer. Prior to Jayda’s birth, the relationships I was in were pretty unfulfilling. I made a lot of poor choices in men—and tried to hold onto quite a few of them who were wrong for me. As a 30-something woman whose “clock was ticking,” I think I was relationship-desperate—though at the time, I never would have admitted that to anyone. And ultimately, I tried too hard to turn nothing into something with a lot of guys whom I dated. I learned to keep my guard up, and my emotions hidden; sometimes I even pretended to be someone I wasn’t. The thought of actually talking to a guy about how I felt (especially about that guy!) scared me to death…especially when I thought it might scare him away.
Intellectually, I’ve always known that if any one thing I say to a guy “scares him away,” then he never really was mine—and he certainly isn’t someone whom I should be wasting my time with. But that never made it easier for me to share my feelings and speak my mind. It’s still not easy for me…but at least now, I’m trying. I love spending time with Library Guy—and I tell him that; when I’m thinking about him, I also let him know. In the past, it felt torturous for me to play games and to hold back my feelings from men I really liked, but I did; friends advised me that men needed to chase me, and I thought it would keep guys more interested in me if I wasn’t effusive with my emotions. But in my heart I’ve always known that I gotta be me—and I’m a sappy, affectionate, heart-on-my-sleeve kinda gal. Library Guy is getting to know the “real” me in that sense, and it feels good.
I keep telling myself—and Library Guy, too—that wherever this goes, I just want to enjoy the ride; and I genuinely am. I’m also learning a lot about myself and what I really need to feel complete with someone: I need total trust; I need to be challenged; I need to feel cared for and needed; and, most of all, I need to always be true to myself. From the very beginning, Library Guy told me that you have to take risks to reap rewards and I know he’s right. I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life—from literally jumping out of an airplane to having a baby on my own, to embarking on a new career at 40 years old; it’s about time I took a chance on a guy. And no matter how things turn out, at the very least, I’m hoping to become a better communicator.