Friday, October 31, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

... all of a sudden, our peaceful existence came to a crashing halt and full blown crisis mode and uncertainty ensued.

Looking back, I feel that we are so much stronger because of what happened that I can actually feel very thankful for the stable situation that we're in right now. The greatest gift is undoubtedly the residency. With it, came the decision not to return to Brazil, and, possibly, live for several more more years here in the Philadelphia area.

We still have the house, it's mostly renovated -- brand new siding and roof, new and uncovered floors, brand new bathroom (still unfinished) -- and we're making enough money to pay the mortgage. We have some significant credit card debt from the home renovations, but we can slowly pay it off, I'm sure. We have decided to remain here for a while, at least for a few years, unless K (or I, who knows!) is offered a TT job (he's thinking of applying, perhaps not this year, but next year for sure).

And I'm also glad that what happened last year is not happening now when the financial crisis is in full force. Moreover, I think we're going to stick with being academics... in spite of the horrible competition for jobs, people are still going to need to get an education, even in recession or depression, or whatever may come. Having been in the bottom of the well nothing is too scary or dark right now, any situation seems better by comparison. That's the gift that tough experiences bring and I am thankful for having gone through it all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 700th Post!!!

I just wanted to register my 700th post into the "blogosphere." And, if you hadn't already noticed that I started posting daily lately, I'm getting ready to exercise my "blogging muscles" by participating once more of the National Blog Posting Month, the infamous NaBloPoMo (which is a rip off the more distinguished NaNoWriMo). I hope some of my blogging friends join me again this November.

Before I go, a photo of some of my cosmos before their demise:

The First Tooth

Continuing our milestones series... :-D

These were Kelvin's first teeth in, six years ago:
(I just had to share this one too -- these were taken at very low resolution with our camcorder and with natural light on 2/9/03):Wasn't he just adorable? ;-)

A few weeks ago (Saturday night, 10/11) , the tooth on the left came out, and the one on the right is already loose!!! Here's how he looked a few days later:We don't do imaginary creatures here at our house (except in TV shows and literary texts ;-), so there was no Tooth Fairy gift or anything. We celebrated the boy with the funny "windowy" smile by being very proud of how easily he got the tooth out (more on that on another occasion) and telling everyone we met about the big news! The grandparents, aunts and uncles were all very happy too. It was a bittersweet milestone for me, the beginning of the end of my firstborn's "babyhood" :-(

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

68 Years Ago

Edited to add one more photo.
I just wanted to mention, I guess for the first time in this blog, that today is my mom's birthday. Happy Birthday Mami! I love you!
That's what she looked like around 1 or 2 years old:At 3-4 years old:
And maybe 10:
Everyone says that I look just like her!
Look at us!

Getting Connected, An Unexpected Milestone

So, after Kelvin's fascination with yesterday's impromptu "lecture" given by his dad about how the internet works and how one can access email and other things available online (such as episodes of Word Girl or Peep and the Big Wide World**) from almost anywhere in the world, and also how we can get online in different ways -- plugged to the cable connection in the desktop and wirelessly with the laptop and ipod touch...

... today I finally got him an email account and he has already emailed his maternal grandparents. Tomorrow I'll have him send an email to his aunts and uncles and the paternal grandparents. I think he'll enjoy emailing, particularly after he learns to type and gets better in spelling, both in English and Portuguese (for the record, he can read in Portuguese too, without ever being taught, just from knowing how to read in English -- YAY to bilingualism!!). So, the milestones are growing exponentially here!

** if you have young children and haven't checked Peep out, you should, it's AWESOME! Loaded with child friendly, and yet, enjoyable to adults, science discussions. And it's extremely cute too!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey Doris! A Spot on Female Icon Quiz

I saw this first at M, but then also at Prof. Mama and Libby's. What surprised me was that this quiz couldn't be more spot on! (and it only has two questions!)

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Doris!


You are a Doris -- "I must help others."

Dorises are warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to other people's needs.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Tell me that you appreciate me. Be specific.

  • * Share fun times with me.

  • * Take an interest in my problems, though I will probably try to focus on yours.

  • * Let me know that I am important and special to you.

  • * Be gentle if you decide to criticize me.

In Intimate Relationships

  • * Reassure me that I am interesting to you.

  • * Reassure me often that you love me.

  • * Tell me I'm attractive and that you're glad to be seen with me.

What I Like About Being a Doris

  • * being able to relate easily to people and to make friends

  • * knowing what people need and being able to make their lives better

  • * being generous, caring, and warm

  • * being sensitive to and perceptive about others' feelings

  • * being enthusiastic and fun-loving, and having a good sense of humor

What's Hard About Being a Doris

  • * not being able to say no

  • * having low self-esteem

  • * feeling drained from overdoing for others

  • * not doing things I really like to do for myself for fear of being selfish

  • * criticizing myself for not feeling as loving as I think I should

  • * being upset that others don't tune in to me as much as I tume in to them

  • * working so hard to be tactful and considerate that I suppress my real feelings

Dorises as Children Often

  • * are very sensitive to disapproval and criticism

  • * try hard to please their parents by being helpful and understanding

  • * are outwardly compliant

  • * are popular or try to be popular with other children

  • * act coy, precocious, or dramatic in order to get attention

  • * are clowns and jokers (the more extroverted Dorises), or quiet and shy (the more introverted Dorises)

Dorises as Parents

  • * are good listeners, love their children unconditionally, and are warm and encouraging (or suffer guilt if they aren't)

  • * are often playful with their children

  • * wonder: "Am I doing it right?" "Am I giving enough?" "Have I caused irreparable damage?"

  • * can become fiercely protective

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Boring and Unfun Milestone

(I just deleted this whole post as I was about to publish it, by accidentally selecting the whole thing and replacing it by the letter "n" -- GRRRRR, most definitely NOT boring, and certainly VERY UNFUN :-( ). 19 minutes wasted...

So, this is not really a milestone, but I thought it would be fun to record it in the blog for future reference... ;-D

You probably know that my oldest son is 6.5 years old, but to me, right now, he's sounding more like a pre-adolescent boy... Today he began to say that things are boring and "unfun" and, that certain things (such as the playground at the outlet) are "for babies." The worst part for me is to be aware that this is the beginning.


I have to admit that he was a bit contrary, bored, tired and hungry when I went with him, his brother and my two nephews to the local outlet stores where his uncle and aunt (who were visiting from MD for the day - YAY!) could do some shopping this afternoon/evening. In spite of that and the fact that he can be quite whiny at times, I don't recall that he had ever had this kind of attitude before, saying that the whole day (and even the evening before) had not been fun and enumerating all the things that were "unfun" or boring, and the reasons why. I was hoping to be able to enjoy my sweet boy for a few more years ;-), but maybe this is just a passing phase and not a trend that will take over his life from now on.

I guess part of it is that he is becoming much more "sophisticated," reading at beyond 2nd great level, with great expression and speed, and "wiser" in certain things. He's amazingly good with gadgets, e.g. computers, cell phones, ipods, ipod touch, and even our cordless phones, and he's obsessed with copying and printing stuff on our computer printers. He actually spent the past two weeks pestering me all the time to let him do it. I guess I need to be more proactive and simply order lots of cheap ink cartridges online (do you do that? Which generic brand do you use? I can already see the spam comments coming ;-) as well as softwares and other things that will be interesting to him.

And, a quick digression (one that should be put in the category of "Kids say the darndest things"). In July, when we were in Boston, I was telling him that he would probably enjoy the Science museum because there were lots of machines there, so he exclaimed:

"Oh mama, you know how I feel about machines!"

That's my dear geeky boy! ;-)

Well, I have to report that while writing this post (and I've totally forgotten how I'd planned to end it originally), I have already ordered this software for him and I'm sure he'll enjoy learning to type. I'll let you know how boring and unfun it's going to be ;-)

(23 more minutes to write this -- I'm geeky too, of course!)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bike Riding -- Milestone I

So, over two years earlier than his brother, who was six last April when he rode the very same bike without the training wheels (I blogged about it here), Linton was only 4 years and 2 months old when he managed to do it too! The first time he did it was on 8/7, but I only caught it (badly) on tape on 8/21. The quality of these videos is extremely bad (they were taken with the photo camera), but I hope you can catch a glimpse of the boys riding their bikes, particularly Linton... You can hear me in the background...

This first one is just a quick take of him driving up the driveway, still a bit wobbly:

In the next two you can see how good he is riding speedily down the driveway. (in the first one Kelvin screams in the background and in Portuguese: "Don't forget to film me!").

So, in this next one you get to see Kelvin, riding a bike much too big for him very expertly (he even goes on the grass not to bump into his brother.

I know it's a worn cliché, but very true -- they do grow up way too fast these boys... but it's a joy to see them develop so well and so early.

Milestones - An Overdue Series, Coming Up!

I just wanted to announce, with pomp and circumstance, that in the past months we (ok, mostly the boys, but they were still significant for the whole family) reached some milestones that need to be noted and celebrated, so each will get an individual post. So, watch for them... I may, or may not, get the first one out tonight (and I realize the previous post is more or less a milestone, but not a real "first").

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a "bonus picture" of some flowers in my garden, now killed by the frost (we've had frost every. single. morning. this past week, beginning on Tuesday -- yikes!).

Friday, October 24, 2008

First Pay Check in Over 4 Years!

Oh, it feels so good to be back in the workforce, particularly when $ is sorely needed in the family budget (not that we have a proper budget, mind you :-) ! I guess that feeling useless in the monetary department was part of the reason I felt so depressed at times over the summer. I do feel much more optimistic about life now and in a month I will have another paycheck from the online job. It's not much, but it's something.

Now, as for the previous post, in the end I didn't even finish my main idea, which was that teaching K-2 has been an enormously enriching cultural experience for me. It's giving me an inside view of how children learn to read, write, and basic math in this country and I'm happy with what I see. I particularly like the way math is taught (this is the publisher of the book we use, looking at their website I just found out they have a new math series and I wish the school could get that one, of course!)... I love it how the same things are taught gradually in more and more complex ways both within each grade and from one grade to the next (i.e. the 1st and 2nd grade books follow the same pattern, just increasing in complexity).

Of course I don't have recent experience (luckily, my SIL does, she taught 2nd grade and was a school counselor until 7 years ago), but I know that math is taught very differently in Brazil. It's much more intense (like children learning their first multiplication tables in first to second grade), but it doesn't teach the students to think as much. I love it how here they learn algebra (the reasoning behind it) from the very beginning.

Well, anyway... I do have some bad news too, associated with the previous post. As it turns out, the school cannot pay me the rate they had previously promised (although in the first pay check they did, of course), it'll be 1.50 less/h. Moreover, they can only afford to have me be working there three days a week, which further reduces my income, so I may be looking into adjuncting for the Spring... wish me luck! I'm ok with this, though, because it will be easier to juggle work and home with Thursday and Fridays at home (I have to say that my mom was extremely relieved to hear that because she was worried about us coping with my full time work). It will be good for Linton too, I can take him to the park, or elsewhere, and he can play as he pleases at home. So, it's all good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Call Me Pollyanna If You'd Like...

So... it's been ten days! I'm sorry for the posting hiatus, but it was for a very good cause, or, several good causes.

Last week started with me having a colonoscopy (everything is fine, I guess now I can firmly say that I have IBS) on Monday (thankfully I didn't have class that day), then, I pulled two all-nighters (or almost), going to bed at 5 am on Tuesday morning and 3:50 on Wednesday, to mail an application for a fellowship on the last day it could be postmarked. I'll write about that soon, perhaps even today... Then... we went to Massachusetts this weekend for a wedding (and also a visit to my in-laws, who baby-sat for the very first time EVER -- discounting the two days my MIL looked after Kelvin when he was 9 months old and I skied for the first and last time in my life, back in 2002 -- I know, I have to go skiing again!!). The wedding was lovely! At this amazing location... and although it was tough to drive there and back, we did it very smoothly in a bit over 5 hours each way (Friday night, Sunday night).

OK... and what about that silly title there? [DIGRESSION AHEAD] Well, first of all, if you're a longtime reader you may remember that I can't stand references to Pollyanna, and being "Pollyannish" because nobody (OK, maybe one person in over 100) who says this has actually read the two original Eleanor Porter books... as a fan since childhood, I hate it how these lovely and extremely popular early 20th century novels have become synonymous with stupid, misjudged optimism.

Anyway... what I really want to write about is the fact that now that I'm getting used to the routine, and getting better and more confident at what I'm doing as a K-2 teacher, I feel pretty happy about it. I don't ever stop and think negative thoughts like: "Oh, what am I doing here? I have a Ph.D., how come I'm stuck in this time and energy consuming job?" I don't even think about it idealistically in terms of "making a difference in these young people's lives" as one of my lovely readers put it (sorry, can't remember who), I just feel happy to be busy and productive. Working feels good. I might change my mind a bit if they don't get to pay me what they said they would (I was very depressed for a couple of days last week about this -- I still don't know exactly how that's going to play out, I'll keep you posted), but otherwise I'm delighted to be back at work!

This situation I'm in right now reminds me of how I felt about doing house cleaning in our first two years here in the U.S. I never felt bad that I had a college degree from a prestigious university in Brazil and could speak English fluently and without an accent and was doing that kind of work (I could not work otherwise with the Visa I had). I saw it instead as a unique and unmatched cultural opportunity to have an inside view of the "inner workings" of several "typically American" households. Of course I do have some bad memories of those times, particularly putting fliers on people's doors (over a thousand -- we lived in a "bad area" for this), answering the phone and setting up interviews and I felt humiliated a few times, but, overall, it was an extremely enriching cultural experience! Some of my memories of those times:

... Judy, my first client, the divorced woman with the messy house (many birds, two cats, a big dog) and the two red-headed daughters who sometimes came to visit. I loved to pet the orange cats and I was very sad when one of them was struck by a car and died. The other was broken-hearted. I loved to look at her photos in the basement (she'd even been to Brazil in the late 80s!). [30]

... Mrs. Rodman, the prim and proper retired Jewish lady whose house was spotless and who insisted that I clean her kitchen vinyl floor on all fours with only water and ammonia. She and her husband had their own rooms. And it was the first time that I learned about the existence of "dens." [30]

... The other retired and widowed teacher (I forget her name!) whose recently divorced daughter and two grandchildren lived in her large house. I'll never forget cleaning the living room while the morning shows like Jerry Springer, Geraldo, and others were on in the background -- talk about a cultural experience! And also, the dining room table, chock-full of mail and junk mail. [50]

... The messy studio of Jim, an episcopal priest, a friend of Judy's, an older British guy who used to have oatmeal in the morning (I'd see it in the sink). I had to watch for coins everywhere when I vacuumed. [20]

And later in Western MA, the two nice sisters I worked for:

... Deborah, whose husband had had a stroke and had to sleep in the ground floor and use special equipment in the bathroom. She also had three dogs, one of whom was really old and almost blind and crippled. The house was very large (good think she had an Oreck vacuum) and I dog sat for three weeks once (right when I started being a T.A. -- it was crazy!) and made almost 1K (she was very happy -- the lame dog was much better than when she'd stayed at a kennel earlier). [60 or 70, can't remember]

... Regina and her husband Dan. They paid me 12 an hour (4h/week), the same they paid the "college girls" who came to help them in their lovely home business of making marbled paper. I did the most diverse things: cleaned a whole bedroom, closet and all, after their youngest son went to college. Used packaging tape (cheaper than those rolls used for these purposes) to clean their huge fluffy sofa that got covered with hair from an ailing cat (who later died). Organized the linen closet -- I sneezed a lot, but that was great fun! [old readers will know that I dig linen closets ;-)], and also, several times, cleaning their fridge (lots of double or triple things, such as mayonnaise, were found... lots of spoiled food).

I don't even think it's ironic or sad that the hourly wage is the same in this old job (1997) and my new one (with some rounding up every day)... I just hope it's not less than that... since I do need to help pay the mortgage, and I also want to be paid a fairly reasonable amount.

so, there you go... several of my readers have remarked in the past that I'm a happy blogger and I am. I do have an optimistic take on life and I hope I can remain that way for years to come. You can even call my Pollyanna.* ;-)

* Although that may sound funny because that happens to be my SIL's name.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Of Births, Dreams, and Donations

My mom called from Brazil not too long ago to tell me that my dearest cousin's daughter was born today around noon and that everything is going well. I wish I could be there in Brazil to see him, his wife, and my new little cousin.

Over a year ago I had a very vivid dream one night. I dreamed that I was in a hospital in Curitiba, the city where my cousin JC and many other members of my extended family, both in my dad's and my mom's side, live. I was there because JC's wife had just given birth. JC's sister, who lives in Arizona and has never been back to Brazil since she came to live in the U.S. back in 1990, was also there and that, in and of itself was amazing. Being with both of them felt lovely and is actually something that may not get to ever happen again (I really wish it would)... Most of all, though, I remember this feeling of wonder, that my dear cousin was now a father. He was telling me all about his child (I don't remember if it was a girl or boy), and, strangely enough, we were talking on the roof of the hospital. He was going to take me down to see the baby, and then I woke up...

I had this dream months before JC's wife got pregnant and I was able to tell him the dream when I saw him last year in June. I really wish I could look into his beautiful blue eyes right now and see the magic and the wonder of new parenthood gleaming in them. I know he is going to be the most wonderful father and I can't wait to get to meet his beautiful baby daughter.

~ ~ ~ ~
On the other hand, I've just been reading about Annika's third liver transplant (I'm linking to the whole month of October, go back to October 9, the day of the transplant to read from the beginning) (thanks for the heads up, Jody!). I've read Moreena's blog once in a while for several years now, and as a mother it's always painful to read about someone's sick child, especially with a chronic liver illness like Anika has. I was particularly moved when Moreena talked about the donor, also a child, and how his heart and some other organ were also donated to other children at the same Children's hospital.

I think organ donation is a beautiful and altruistic gift and I am registered to do it. If anything were to happen to my boys, I think I would also donate their organs. It is very moving to see how Moreena is thinking constantly of this other child who unfortunately lost his life, but who, in the process, is giving a new chance at living for other children.

~ ~ ~ ~
This brings me to the latest link that I offer today, which is related to the previous story because it also has to do with donation, but this time donating money to people in need even though some of the money might be used for drugs or something. Dooce wrote this post yesterday and it really nearly moved me to tears. I really hope I can be more compassionate in the future and that I can teach my sons to be compassionate towards people in need.

Old time readers may remember this sad experience that I posteda about two years ago around Thanksgiving... We have to pay more attention to people around us and to think less of ourselves. I often think of how fortunate I am to have all that I have and I wonder how I could help others more. We always freely give things we no longer need to friends (instead of simply selling them on eBay) and people we know (right now I need to donate a beautiful crib and I just don't know anyone who is about to have a baby), but I think that is not enough. This holiday season I wanted to be able to get involved in a hands on philantropic experience with my sons, instead of showering them with presents that they don't need and won't use. Perhaps we should contact Philabundance or some other local organization. Any thoughts?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Life is precious and the birth of a new baby brings that awareness to the forefront. Organ donation also highlights the fleetness and preciousness of life. We must not forget, however, that some people are alive, but can hardly enjoy life because they lack some of its most basic necessities. We must not forget those folks either. They're precious too, although most people think that they're worthless...

I guess that some people are taking those thoughts to heart and deciding to go a different route this election season. I hope it really does come true.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

For the Record...

(regarding the previous post)

... I did not drive down yesterday because it was too late, we're going this morning.

... In my defense, I do always enforce general rules with the boys, and when I say "no" to something, I never give in, even when they whine for an hour afterward.

... The best part of staying was that I got to talk to K on the phone, even though it was 1 a.m. for me and 2 for him there in Brazil. We never have time to talk enough... :-( (BTW, one of my expatriate mamas blogging pals, Dinka, wrote a wonderful post about this, how hard it is to spend time with one's life partner when we have young children. You should check it out. Dinka is a most thoughtful and sensitive writer, as well being amazing at sewing -- if you have a daughter who loves dolls, you have to check this out -- it's home made!).

... Obviously, writing the previous post was one of the reasons why we couldn't leave yesterday, and blogging or being at the computer is definitely not good for disciplining and maintaining a consistent routine or supervision on the boys.

... I don't want this post to prevent us from traveling in a timely manner again, so I'll come back to this issue later. Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks to those who already responded, my SIL and Alissa.

... Last, but not least, I have a tantrumimg four year old right now. In the last 12 hous he threw three tantrums -- yes, one of them was in the middle of the night. And he's witholding stool too (control issues, I know), after a miraculous three times using the actual potty. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

... K will be back Monday night (phew!).

... We're leaving soon.

Friday, October 03, 2008

One of the Hardest of the Hard Parenting and Teaching Issues

Well, at least that's my opinion about discipline. :(

And the worst part for me is that I've always known that I suck at it.

[Here, finally, is one of my "Issues" post, the "cheap therapy" kind of post. Bear with me if you're so inclined.]

Lately, I've been blaming my problems on my self-diagnosed borderline "ADD" (I'll explain in a minute), but there's a long history to my shortcomings in this area. My awareness of this is the reason I never taught English to 5th-8th grade kids in Brazil, and didn't even consider teaching high school (my two months as a substitute teacher went well, though). It was easier teaching my 45 minute English classes for the 2nd-4th graders, but my difficulties increased with the older children in 4th grade (good thing I'm only teaching K-2, right? hmmm...). I also didn't have many problems teaching English to small groups (4-6) of children. Finally, I obviously knew that I would have problems with disciplining my own kids, but it hasn't been that bad. Teaching, though, has brought this issue back to center stage in my life, both in the classroom and at home. Of course my children are with me in the classroom, and that makes it all the more complicated. I assure you that you don't want to be me right now.

OK, let's backtrack. Why do I think it has to do with my supposed "ADD"? Because I cannot be consistent with anything in my own life, I cannot be "present," focused, concentrating enough to do even the simplest things in a daily "routine." I can't stand routine, actually and I think I've mentioned before here that I'm a "habit adverse" person. Other than taking off my contact lenses and brushing my teeth before bed, I don't really have any regular habits, ever (not even for eating/cooking). This inconsistency and flightiness makes it impossible to enforce all the smallest necessary rules all the time, consistently, the way one is supposed to do in effective disciplining, both at home in the classroom.

Of course in the classroom I don't have as many distractions as I have at home, but teaching seven children, each one doing a different thing is beyond overwhelming, at times. I have one kindergartner, four first graders, one repeating some parts of first grade, and a second grader, but even my four first graders started their books at different times or are in different levels, so it's quite chaotic. And it doesn't help that I was thrown into this not knowing what to do at all. Now I got the hang of things, so I can start streamlining a bit: I will start all first graders on spelling together next week, and I'll have three of them do math together (Kelvin happens to be almost done with 1st grade math -- he's really good at math, like his dad and uncles).

Another problem that I have with discipline is that I'm a very insecure person, I cannot really "impose myself" [not the correct words, oh, I got it:], I'm not assertive enough, particularly not about teaching and my abilities. I don't feel very confident -- at least I didn't when I was teaching atn the university level, I always felt that I was not prepared enough, didn't really know what I was doing, etc. Of course I'm pretty confident that I can teach the kids, but it's hard to find the patience to do it sometimes.

The other part of my "history" with disciplining has to do with the profound differences between my upbringing and my husband's. We've talked about these issues since we started dating back in 1990, so it's been a long conversation that is over 18 years in the making and which won't end any time soon, if ever. In his family, it was like we say in Portuguese "falou, acabou" -- the parents say it and it's done, period, in an "authoritarian" and highly effective way. In mine, my parents punished and everything, but my mom nagged at us and my dad was not very firm, so things were more lax. K never liked the way things functioned at our house, how we talked back to our parents, how things were more "democratic." And I guess these early influences never really leave us. I've tried to be more strict, but it doesn't come naturally to me, and my other issues don't help much. I could go on and on, but I'm running out of time here...

And, regardless, I can talk all I want, but it all boils down to a very straightforward question:
How can a fundamentally undisciplined person (not in the sense of unruliness, but in the sense of orderliness and consistency) discipline others?

So, why am I blogging this instead of being on my way to Maryland right now as I should, going to my BIL's house? (K flew to Brazil today, BTW...)
And the answer is that it's because I'll spend the weekend there and I cannot talk about this subject with them. I just can't. It's a weakness that I feel I have to kind of "mask" and pretend it's not there with K's family, and do my best to be as firm as possible with my sons when I am with them. Because I know that it's an unbearable flaw in their eyes. I just know it because it's one of the issues in which K and we've had our biggest differences in our relationship... OK, I really have to go now, if we want to get there tonight.

Question: Do you think (and that's been my gut feeling for most of my life) that certain people, certain personality types or people with certain upbringing, just are not "disciplinarian"types while for other people it just comes naturally? How do you see yourself in this matter? How can someone get better at this? I some times feel I'm a hopeless case... :-(

I'll probably come back to this topic soon.