Thanks to everyone who voted and provided me with feedback. I really do appreciate it and will take it into consideration as I move forward. Like I said, I generally have plenty to say, but sitting down to say it and/or picking what to say can be a challenge. Your opinions help. I spoke with K and he’s going to give me some links to good resources about what’s going on overseas (the ones we are allowed to see anyway) and he said he will try to check in here and comment with updates as he can. That, of course, will depend on how often he’ll be able to get online. There will be times his updates will come from me based on our emails during the week if he doesn’t have a chance to write. I’m sure we’ll figure out something a little more regular once he’s there and in a communication groove.
Life for the kids and me has been pretty good the last couple of weeks. We are almost into a regular routine. R and I had a mini board meeting last night (she’s my VP of Operations after all) to talk about responsibilities, allowance, helping out with Monkey so I can write once a week, and our twice-a-month girl’s night out. I spend plenty of one-on-one time with Monkey because he’s home with me half a day every day, but R doesn’t get much if any time alone with me, so I hired a sitter to come and hang with the boy which will now allow me to watch R during her sparring class and then take her to dinner and either the book store or the ceramic painting place. We are both looking forward to it quite a bit. R was a 3-year-old heartbroken maniac last deployment and our relationship was not the best (that’s an understatement). Thankfully, she’s of that age now where I can reason with her to get her to do most things, but by letting her help out more (she can make herself a fried egg sandwich all by herself and frequently does!) and making the time to be alone with her I think we will be more allies than adversaries. It has always been a top priority of mine for this deployment to make us closer, not drive us apart like last time.
Positive reinforcement is the phrase of the week for both kids. I’m working with Monkey’s team (his teacher, behavior specialist, and occupational & speech therapists) to come up with a reward system that bridges home and school. It is no easy task and I’m still thinking about how I’m going to put it all together here. He’s not ready for an allowance, but he loves tv, toys, and going places, so that’s my currency. Keeping him away from the tv until he earns the time is an uphill struggle, but thanks to a suggestion by his behavior specialist, a rice (and bean) bucket full of small plastic animals, wooden and crystal gem shapes, magnetic numbers, and little letter beads is now hours of fun (and clean up). He and R both will spend about an hour or more playing with everything in there as you can see…
The neat-freak in me is a little on edge at the thought of 15 pounds of rice ending up all over the place (whether in small increments or catastrophic deluge), but given how much he likes playing with it and how it’s not tv, I’m ignoring my inner Felix Unger for the moment and teaching Monkey how to vacuum. We are going to use a token system where he earns tokens at school for doing his work and he brings them home. From there, I get to figure out how big a deal to make (he loves praise and to make me smile) and what kind of reward to give him. I’m sure I’ll have this worked out before the week is over and hopefully it will facilitate him making even more progress.
With all the work going into a reward system for the kids, I’ve been contemplating using one myself to help meet my goals (writing, work, and weight-loss). Self-motivation and reinforcement has never been my strong suit, but it’s not too late to change that. I’ve got plenty of practice and knowledge of positive reinforcement training from my time working with dogs. I know it works and the results are long-lasting. So today, I’m going to think about what rewards I’d work hard for and what I’m going to have to do to earn them. I’ve already put together my writing schedule, my workout plan, my menu options, and figured out where my freelance work hours generally fit in. I’ve now worked out enough that I actually look forward to doing it and can pick it back up after missing it for a couple days. I can’t say that I’ve seen any physical results, but the habit is there and the dislike of exercise is fading. I guess that’s a good enough result for the moment. Hopefully if I can create and maintain the positive reinforcement, I’ll start to see changes that are more acceptable to me and my goals will start falling into place.
We’ve definitely had more hits than misses recently, although the missing has certainly begun. K and I missed our anniversary last week and we’ll be missing K’s birthday next week. The kids are starting to miss him out loud now, too. Monkey doesn’t usually say much when K travels (he spends 85% of his time with just me normally anyway), but the last few days he’s mentioned to all of us that he misses his Daddy. He did get some webcam time with K a couple of days ago, which is great, but I think it makes them both sad. R, on the other hand, loves webcamming and it doesn’t make her sad at all. I’m sure the novelty will wear off at some point, but right now, being able to email and chat with K on her own terms helps her with the missing part. Monkey just isn’t at that level and requires others to help him communicate with K. I am glad Monkey says anything at all because I’ve been unsure how he was going to deal with all this. His language is so far behind, that he’s not always able to get across what he’s feeling, but he’s getting there and him telling me he misses K is a huge improvement and it’s better than him acting out which is pretty typical of military kids during deployments.
K also missed the first really good snow of the season last week–the kind you can make snowmen out of. After I finished shoveling and the kids wrapped up sledding down the snow piles left from the plow guy, we got together and made a snowman on the front lawn. They each wanted something different (Monkey wanted a Frosty and R wanted to make K), so they each took a half and decorated. It worked out better than I thought it would and we all had fun doing it. It was just getting dark when we finished, but we were all amused with our Frosty Dad.