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It’s a Good Thing He’s So Freaking Cute

Should write a new post. Too weary for much. This family day just about did me in. More accurately, it was the attempt to go to a movie this afternoon–Where the Wild Things Are–en famille. As we were gathering our debris and getting everyone into snow clothes afterward, Fooey declared, “That was the best family day ever!” Kevin and I just looked at each other in amused disbelief. Down in the lobby, I said, “Hey, how about we go out to a nice restaurant now and torment some more paying customers,” and we both got the giggles. So did a pleasant-looking couple who was happening by. I think perhaps my worst moment during the movie was when CJ spilled a bag of cookies and then crawled around eating them off the floor AND THEN discovered that he could fit under the seats and headed off to the row behind us–and made it. Oh, there was some shushing going on all around us. That was when I gave up and headed for the bathroom, which is where we spent the rest of the movie. Was there a movie? Was it good? Fooey summed up the best parts for me over leftovers at home (we declined to hit up a restaurant on the way home). Now I can’t recall what she said, but it was funny. “He left because he wasn’t the king. Nobody was!” Oh, yes. I’m recalling it now. Apparently one of the monsters gets his arms ripped off (that happened while I was in the bathroom; sounded traumatic, but no one seemed perturbed). “And it was his favourite arm!” said Fooey. “Why would he have a favourite arm?” And then she tried to pick which of hers was the favourite; but she couldn’t.
And now I need a nice glass of red wine to recover my sanity. The holiday is definitely over. And these Olympics are inflicting serious sleep deprivation upon me. I keep staying up late so as not to miss any must-not-miss moments. Boy. Was I glad I stayed up last night for the gold medal run.
Another blog has posted a review of Hair Hat. Pretty fine. I’m amazed and gratified to find that this dear little book of mine has found new life, six years on. Six years? Yes. It’s really been that long.
And here’s the other thing we did today: we made a music video in honour of Canada’s first gold medal. The homemade music is a bit lacking, but you would not believe the chaos in which it was recorded. Oh, wait. You just read my account of the movie above. So you’d believe it. Anyway. We tried. And it was a genuine all-family-project, just like Kevin and I had hoped to accomplish today. Phew.

Break-Through Family Meeting!

Wow, that was pretty awesome. Must blog while it’s fresh, even though I have swimsuits to rinse and laundry to start and toys to tidy. Because tonight’s family meeting was something else. On a small scale, you understand. But something else nevertheless.
It started off with the kids asking when the meeting could start (hint, hint: ice cream snack!). But their enthusiasm went deeper than that. Once we’d established who would be secretary (AppleApple), and that everyone else who wanted to could draw pictures during the meeting (Fooey was disappointed that her inability to write prevented her from being the secretary), the kids leapt right in: Why were we writing things down and then not really talking about them?
So. First item on the minutes: family meetings.
As the kids started talking over each other, I suddenly saw the point of the talking stick. I grabbed a crayon. “This can be our talking stick.” The kids LOVED it. No, seriously. They loved it. Whoever held the talking crayon was listened to with complete seriousness. And there was something about holding the talking crayon that made people think more about what they wanted to say.
AppleApple held the crayon and said she thought we should spend at least one minute on every item. Albus agreed, and added that everyone should get a chance to talk about it.
Huh. I guess as chairperson I’d been doing a lot of talking and whipping through items. So we passed the crayon, and everyone had a chance to say something, and then I decided to go all out. Have I mentioned that I’m not a committee person? Well, I’ve reformed. I asked for a show of hands to pass the item. It was unanimous. Apparently all they wanted was an equal voice for everyone, and ample discussion time.
For the next item, we opened the floor, and Albus took the crayon. “Lego!” he announced. AppleApple wrote it down, and we passed the crayon. No one had much to say, though Albus got the chance to tell us a fact about a Star Wars Lego ship. Item passed.
Next item was my baby. This came about following Monday’s yoga distress. I was suddenly completely done with stepping in and solving my children’s conflicts for them. It occurred to me like a whack to the head that this was just another form of triangulation; I really don’t want to use it as a form of communication in my adult relationships, and try not to–and yet here I was doing it every single day–not every single time that a conflict arose, but definitely anytime someone shrieked loudly enough (usually the smaller of the two children involved).
How to throw such a turnaround at the children? Well, I started by just trying it out on Tuesday morning. With mixed results. And a fair bit of resistance. And a lot of: “It’s not fair!”
So my item was: conflict resolution. Started by defining “conflict,” and “resolution.” Then I put it to them: “When you are having an argument with someone else, I want you to work to resolve it yourselves.”
Albus took the crayon, and pointed out that when we’d tried this yesterday morning, Fooey had refused to answer him and then he had to leave for school–and he felt that she’d “won” and that it wasn’t fair. Well, it wasn’t fair, was it? So I said, “Maybe we need some rules for this to work.” Everyone agreed. AppleApple took the floor. Rule number one, she suggested, would be that everyone had to answer each other. This was generally agreed upon, but then Albus asked for the talking crayon. “I think the person shouldn’t always have to …” and then he trailed off as his idea sank in for him. “No,” he said. “I changed my mind. The person should always have to answer.”
So rule number one had unanimous agreement, even from Fooey (who I must remind myself is only four, and who will be more challenged by this experiment than the older kids, I think). Kevin added the rule that there be no yelling. And I said that if they needed help, Kevin and I would be happy to make suggestions about what they could say to or ask each other to work toward a solution. “That actually makes sense,” Albus said, sounding slightly surprised by the fact that he kind of liked the idea. We passed this item with an agreement to revisit it next week and talk about how it had worked and what we might want to change or add.
This sounds almost like a family utopia as I write it down, but I swear, I’m not making this up, this really happened! I should add that this was our fourth meeting. The first was quite informal, during supper. We started with minutes and ice cream at our second meeting. Talking stick by the fourth. So we’re evolving.
Next item was Kevin’s suggestion: ice cream flavour suggestions for the next meeting. By this point, Fooey was willingly taking the talking crayon and adding her two cents. Which was adding up to about five or six cents.
Last item: Family Day. Brainstorming possible ideas for activities. The three oldest kids wanted to go to the Children’s Museum “because they have a dead body there.” I think this is actually true–one (or more) of those preserved bodies that show the human muscular system, internal organs, and etc.
At this point, Fooey got hold of the crayon and started making points about what she’d like to do for her birthday (a favourite subject all day today–her birthday is in August–and she was especially keen to “sleep in,” and “eat breakfast in bed”). That was the point at which I reminded myself that Fooey is only four. Albus got the talking crayon back and said he could see the point of keeping the meetings short.
Kevin and I exchanged a grin.
(And if need be, we could put a time limit on how long any one person can hold the talking crayon; though I hope not to have to.) We finished with an evaluation of the penny jars, and handed out allowances. By that point, everyone was happy to put the meeting to bed, and it felt like we’d really accomplished something. It really did.

Family Meeting

AppleApple took photos. We’ve chosen Thursday evenings as our regular meeting time. Ice cream has been incorporated into the event.
But Kevin and I are not committee people. That’s an understatement. Our impatience with committees knows no bounds. Nevertheless, we’ve named our family meetings: The S-C Family Committee Meeting.
Albus volunteered to be secretary for this last one. This is quite extraordinary, as he greatly dislikes any task that requires writing. He perfected his short-form. We went over the minutes from last week’s meeting, and added some new items to this week’s minutes. I think the children were a bit disappointed by what happens (ie. very little) at the meetings. We introduce a subject, briefly discuss it, then move on to another one. The two older children kept reading and re-reading the minutes. “But we haven’t really DONE Dad’s friend party,” they would say. And we would say, “Well, is there something you’d like to add to what we’ve already talked about?” And they’d say, “No, but we haven’t really DONE it!”
Proposed item for next meeting: figuring out what it would take for any item to be DONE.
Kevin and I are so far mostly chairing the meetings ourselves, though I can actually imagine one of the older children taking over down the road. We are not using a “talking stick,” or other very formal organizational devices, but already found the children more responsive to the phrase: “Let’s let [insert sibling’s name] take a turn to talk, and then you can have your turn.” It’s definitely been a fun addition to the week. So far, everyone seems to look forward to it.
My most difficult task is clearing time and space for the meeting. There can be no multi-tasking. I can’t be doing the dishes or making tomorrow’s lunches while participating in the meeting. But we can all eat ice cream.

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