Monthly Archives: February 2012

“Help me… Help you… Help ME help YOU!”

There are so many moments when – as a parent – I am desperately trying to help my kids do something that is good for them (i.e. get into a carseat, put on shoes, change into a clean diaper, etc.),  and they are resisting with all their might.

In one of these moments today, I actually said the words, “Help me help you.  Help ME help YOU!”

As soon as I said it, I realized I had just quoted a movie.

Anyone recognize it?

Anyone?

That’s right.

In my moments of greatest parenting desperation, I inadvertantly channel (not Dr. Phil, not any of the great mothers I know, but the one and only…) Jerry Maguire.

I thought that was very odd of me, so I went to youtube and watched that whole scene of the movie (1 minute, 2 seconds).  To my amazement, it actually sums up the worst emotions of a parent quite well.

Imagine yourself eliciting stares in the parking lot of the pediatrician’s office because your child is screaming at the top of her lungs that she “will not ride in a carseat!”  Or in the bathroom at Target completely covered in poop because your 1 year old won’t quit squirming on the changing table.

While all of you is loving your children (as I do mine, always, even – and especially when they need it – in those hard moments!), wouldn’t a tiny part of you be thinking this?

Jerry Maguire:

“I am OUT HERE for YOU.

YOU don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU.

It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about.

OK?”

[Jerry attempts to pull his own hair out, then continues…]

“Help me…”

“Help me!”

“Help me…Help you…”

“Help ME Help YOU!”

The best part is that after this rant by Jerry, Rod sums up what my family would absolutely be thinking if I were ever to say all of this out loud.

Rod:   “You are hanging on by a very thin thread.”

(He then adds, “…and I dig that about you”, but I don’t know if my whole family would agree with that part : )

Here’s the youtube clip if you want to see the whole scene.  You just have to (1) mentally replace Jerry Maguire with me, and Rod with one of my children, (2) remember that the “Help me Help you!” was the only part I actually said out loud, and (3) remain non-judgmental by recalling that I am either being screamed at in a parking lot or being smeared with poop or had just taken newly shooed foot to the face when this internal “help me help you!” rant started.

In that spirit, here’s the link (And yes, my kids make that same facial expression sometimes!).

“Help ME help YOU!”

Ha!

(At least next time I’m in one of these positions, I will chuckle to myself remembering the movie!  My kids – who I love always! – are going to wonder why – in these moments – I start calling them “Rod”…)

OK, I won’t send the photo…but I’m going to have it in my backpack during the next teacher conference (you know, just in case…)

I volunteered in E’s class today, helping the Kindergarteners during their “writer’s workshop”.

In a variation from my normal volunteer routine, I was instructed “not to help E” during the first half of the class, as she was completing “an important writing assessment”.

I was able, however, to catch a glimpse of her work and overhear part of her conversation with the teacher as I helped a few other kids.

E’s assignment was to write and illustrate two sentences about a real-life event.

Of course, E wrote (in her Kindergarten phonics), that just last week her sister rode on a swing that did loops around a clock in a big mouse’s house.

And then she drew exactly that in the space designated for the illustration.

I have decided NOT send the teacher this picture (of E’s sister, taken at Chuck-E-Cheese, exactly one week ago this evening…not pictured: the mouse mascot…).

I think sending it (while intended to convince the teacher that E does have a grasp of reality), might have the opposite effect of convincing her the whole family is nuts!

Unique experiences; equal love (Alternate title: seriously, why do the roses hate me?)

Our church hosts a Daddy-daughter Valentine’s Day dance for girls ages 5 and up.  That meant that this year, E (age 5) was able to attend with her dad.  So fun…

Unless you’re S, who (turning 4 less than a week after the dance) was both too young to attend and too little to grasp the concept of “be happy for your sister; your time will come”.

So with a goal of “let’s create a special event for both girls and encourage them to celebrate each other’s good fortune” – my husband and I came up with the following plan:

(1)  Thursday night: Dad would take S to a Valentine’s event at a local kids’ museum.

(2)  Friday night: Dad would take E to the church Valentine’s dance

Two great events, positioned back-to-back… a perfect way to celebrate each girl in a way that would be unique and fun.

To perfect the plan, we used info from friends who had attended the events in previous years to make the nights match as much as we could in terms of tangible experience. For example, since E was getting a rose from the church on her date night, I took S to a flower shop and let her pick out any one flower she wanted for her date with dad.  As it turns out, the woman who ran the flower shop so appreciated what we were trying to do that she gave S a whole little bunch of lavender flowers for her special date.  And the man at the ice cream store next door caught wind of it and gave everyone with us a free miniature cone.

Have I set the stage completely enough?  Is everyone ready for the disaster to unfold?

On Thursday night, S – who loves her dates with dad more than anything in the world – cried at the ice cream shop because she wanted mom to come on the date too.

Mom explained that she could come too, but that she couldn’t leave E & T, so it would be a whole family event.  That was fine with S.  In fact, she was thrilled.

I was suspicious, because I know S is smart.  She is usually about 10 steps ahead of me in the emotional game.  But I am learning, so on this occasion, I recognized what was coming, and made sure to carefully explain that while it was fine for the whole family to go to the museum if that was what S really wanted, that would not mean the whole family was going to the church dance the next night.  The invitation had only been for kids 5 and older; it was not up to us.

S said she understood.

The whole family had a wonderful time at the museum (although mom had only packed dinner for S since everyone else was supposed to be traveling home, which meant we all had museum-served yogurt-covered pretzels for dinner.  Oh well.)

The next night was dad’s date with E.

As anticipated, the wonderful S (who is really still so very little…) cried when dad left for the dance with E and reminded all of us that she had included everyone on her special evening.  Mom decided to cushion the blow by offering dinner in a bowl with popcorn and a movie.  (And may I say, “whatever” with regards to the rapid decline in my mealtime offerings that week.  I decided in that moment that the whole concept of good nutritional choices on any days near a holiday – including Valentine’s Day –  is overrated and bunk.)

While at the dance Friday, E sweetly (unprompted by any adults) put the director of the event on the spot by asking if she could take home an extra rose for her sister.

(I hope the sensitivity and niceness of my children is coming through here…S making every effort to be all-inclusive; E doing everything in her 5 year old power to include S in the fun.)

The director of the event (who is God’s gift to children and families, in my honest opinion…I just love her…) commended E on her thoughtful nature and selected the two most beautiful roses – and I mean absolutely equally gorgeous – one for E to keep and one to surprise S with at home.

But here’s what those equally gorgeous roses looked like after a few days.

Can you tell from the image that one rose is blooming beautifully and one is totally dark and shriveled?  Fortunately, neither girl is focused on which rose is whose.  (Thank goodness I put all the flowers in the same vase without even thinking.)

But seriously, what are the chances?

We did everything we could – not to treat the girls the same… but to make them both feel as loved as possible in unique ways.

My final attempt at conveying a positive message to the girls is posting this story so that if someday, they ever feel like someone is being favored, they can see how – from the very beginning (I mean they are too young to even remember these events!) – we were working very hard to celebrate them individually, in different ways but with equal vigor!

Even when the roses fail us, we will never give up on that effort!

(I may give up on the roses, though.  Can I ask again… what are the chances of that after everything that was done?!)

Oh well.

Love you, S.  Love you, E.  (Both of you, so much.)

(And T, so you will know you are equally loved and were not forgotten in this post, I will reveal that you enjoyed the yogurt-covered pretzels and popcorn more than anyone, and were the only member of the family who rolled through the whole week wondering what on earth all the fuss was about.  Ah, the joys of being one!)

Lots of Birds (and two chick-flicks)

Note to self and husband: Do not park under the tree at the northeast corner of the church parking lot.


If you can't see the image clearly, know that the car is covered in approximately 5 billion bird turds.

I decided to torture you with a close-up.

Additional note to self and husband: Next time, if the car looks like the pictures above, one of us should keep the children at a safe distance while the other moves the car to a safer space to load all the kids.  (Dibs on staying with the children, by the way.)

Note to dry cleaner: Our apologies.  Clearly, these were not healthy birds.

Note to Birds:  I believe my husband is in danger of going all “Steel Magnolias” on your tail feathers, should you leave the sanctuary of the church parking lot.

And a final note, to readers (because I can’t resist): When I asked my husband if he felt “going all ‘Steel Magnolia’ ” on the birds was too feminine a reference for his intended actions (despite the guns and firecrackers involved in that scene of the film), he said, “Isn’t ‘Steel Magnolias’ a movie?  The only part I’ve ever watched is the scene where Kathy Bates rams that convertible over and over again in the parking lot.  I didn’t even know about the birds.”  (Extra point to anyone who can name that non-Steel Magnolias movie!)

Clearly I can use whatever reference I like, as this man is in absolutely no danger of being too closely associated with chick-flicks.

These birds, on the other hand, are in more danger than they know.

Preparing for Lent

Lent is coming, and with it our family goal of growing closer to God through prayer, fasting and giving.

With the Lenten season approaching, I have really been thinking about what obstacles create distance between us and God, and how a focus on these three areas could help us remove those obstacles.

Here are my thoughts about our family commitments, arranged by element.

(1)  prayer: We’ve had problems with family prayer time this year.  The kids used to do a rhyming type of prayer at bedtime, then pray for family members at the end (i.e. God Bless Grammy and Grandpa, Aunt A, etc…).  It was good in theory, but  honestly, the whole prayer became a lyric the kids didn’t really understand followed by an exercise in remembering family names, and then an argument over who would say the girls’ names vs. the boys’.  At some point, all meaning was lost and I threw up my hands in frustration.  This Lent, I am committed to finding a format for kids bedtime prayers that works better for us.  I am begging for suggestions!  Particularly for a prayer that kids can really understand (or I can explain)…  I also need to get better at my own, grown-up prayer life, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post.

(2)  fasting: One of the barriers between our family and Christ is the way my general level of business and fatigue distracts/prevents me from spiritual time with the kids.  This year, to the best of my ability, I am going to empty our minds of everything for 5-10 minutes a day except a focus on a family devotional.

Here’s my confession:  Last year, I had a Lenten goal of doing one devotional a day with the kids, in hopes that 40 days would be long enough to make it a real family habit.  Although I managed to purchase the devotional book I wanted to use, I absolutely failed at making it part of our daily routine.  I think part of the problem was that I envisioned doing it at night, but it required enthusiasm and energy I just didn’t always have at that time of day.  This year, with my husband’s support, I am going to do it during our after school story time.  He will still be at work, but I think it will work better for the kids and me, and we can reinforce the devotional message by taking turns telling dad about it over dinner.  This may seem like an odd form of “fasting”, but the reality is that our afternoon quiet time begins right after stories, and prioritizing a devotional will delay or cut into that quiet time on some days.  The kids and I both need that time, but we need this devotional to become a part of “what we do” more.  So we’re going to*try* to alter or give up whatever we need to make a family devotional happen during this Lenten season.

(3)  giving: We are embracing the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  The basic idea is to move 40 bags out of your house, whether it is to a good will, a dump, or wherever else.  For me, this challenge is important for three reasons:

  1. I feel at peace and free (and believe I will be better able to focus on the two Lenten elements above) when the house is decluttered and organized.  This is just an element of my personality, I think.  I don’t care if a surface is mopped, dusted, etc. but if it’s covered in stuff, I feel like I’m suffocating, and it’s hard for me to focus on anything.
  2. Decluttering is a great way to think about “want vs. need”.  Not that we will get rid of everything that’s a want (or even close), but we will get rid of some, and it will put the “wants” we keep in the proper perspective and us in the right frame of mind: gratitude for what we have instead of stinginess about the things we need to let go of.
  3. This exercise is going to challenge me to truly live in the present, which requires perspective and faith.  I think we currently have too many things that are about the past (some nostalgia is great, but we don’t need to hang onto everything…I am planning to take photos of some items then let them go), or things that are “stored up in barns” for the future (to cover all those “but what if this happens?”).  There are plenty of people who could – in this present moment – be served by the things we are hanging onto because of a past attachment or a possible future need.   And we would be well served by (a) a less cluttered environment, (b) the reduction in effort needed to care for or clean those things, and (c) the peace of mind (i.e. sane mama) that results when the house has less stuff and more empty space.

I am still working on all the details, but these are the general thoughts at this point.  I also have one other Lenten goal that is less about the family and more about me (at least at this point), but it’s private…I will likely share at some point, but need to think more about what it means.

Finally, I want to share some of the ideas that my friend Queen B posted last year that I find absolutely inspirational.  I’m not sure if we’ll get to these this year or not, but they are on my mind for future years, and definitely worth passing along in case anyone else is looking for ideas.

(1)  prayer: having the kids add a link to a prayer chain each day during Lent

(2)  fasting: in addition to abstaining from meat on Fridays, the kids would select one item from the pantry to be placed in a box that would go to a food pantry

(3)  giving: a jar of dried beans placed next to a small empty easter basket, and each time a family member does a good deed or something especially nice, they move a bean into the basket.  She then explained to the kids that “on Easter morning, when Jesus Is Risen, the dried beans will be replaced with jellybeans, representing the new creation we become through Christ: the old is gone and the new has come!  (2 Cor 5:17)”.  I must also say that Queen B has one of the best posts about love and justice I have ever read, and she credits reflecting on this jellybean activity with providing those insights.  Inspirational, especially since I can imagine this activity is somewhat difficult to manage with kids.

I’ll end by reminding you that we are struggling with regards to kids’ bedtime prayers, and would love suggestions via e-mail or comments.  Is there a childhood prayer that is particularly meaningful for you?

Here’s wishing you a meaningful Lenten season that brings you and yours closer to God.

A valid excuse?

My husband was out of town Wednesday through Friday of last week, which meant after a fun but tiring stretch of Valentine and Birthday celebrations, I was on tap to load up all three kids every morning to drop E off at school.  To get her there on time, everyone needed to be in the car by 7:30am.   This is generally not a huge deal, since T – my human alarm clock – always gives me a head start by waking up at 5am.

Well, this week, on my husband’s first day out of town, my alarm didn’t go off quite that early.

In fact, when the morning light first hit my bedroom, I rolled over and looked at the quiet monitors (all kids still sleeping!) and then at the clock (Egads, T!  It’s 7am!)

At that point, my choices were:

(1) panic, wake up all the kids (I want you to pause here and appreciate that statement:  I would have to wake up all the kids), prep E, get everyone in the car and sprint to the elementary school in my pajamas, or

(2) recognize that we were all exhausted from the festivities, stretch, roll over and go back to sleep.

Choosing option 2 would mean writing a note later that said,

“Today, for the first time in the history of our family, E and her siblings all slept past 7am.  I decided there had to be a rule somewhere about NOT waking my 5, 4, & 1 year old during their “once-every-five-year-simultaneous-post-sunrise-slumber” that trumped any rule about being late to Kindergarten.  Please excuse her tardy.  Or don’t.  Honestly, I am so happily well-rested that I don’t really care.”

Unfortunately, I did not have my wits about me (so startled was I that my children had suddenly discovered sleeping), so it didn’t occur to me that option 2 even existed until I had already awakened, prepped and loaded the children in a frenzy of chaos.

But should the stars align twice, that note is ready.  I am a former teacher, and appreciate the need to get kids in their classrooms.  But I also appreciate the rarity of all my kids being in their beds past sunrise.

How bad is it that I really wished, on that rare morning when we all needed it (especially mama), I had just let everyone sleep in?!

Love (in a note) and logic (in a conversation)…alternate title: Happy Valentine’s Day!

While S’ birthday has been the big focus for us this week, Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal too!  The girls gave character cards & Hersheys kisses to their classmates, and made some adorable hand-crafted Valentine’s for us.  (I do love their writing at this age.)

Here’s a card from E to the family:

Adorable, and hanging on our window

Here’s a card from S to the family

Love is at it's cutest when the "L" is written upside down, I think!

And here’s one from S to “dada” and “NON” (i.e. MOM…we’re still working on “M’s”!)

Having S refer to us in print as "dada" and "non" reminds me of that old TV show with the family of dinosaurs where the baby referred to his parents as "mama" and "not-the-mama". Please tell me someone else remembers that show!

And here’s an actual Valentine’s exchange between myself and the girls.  I have to admit, I love this conversation because it revealed appreciation, and that is a pretty great gift for a mama on Valentine’s Day!  Maybe we’ll work on the selfless part of love next year?! : )

Actual exchange:

E: Mom, for Valentine’s Day, I am giving you two minutes of not having to do any work.

Mom:  Thank you, E!  That’s so nice!  Is there a certain kind of work that you think I should take a break from?

E: Well, your work is helping kids.  So for two minutes, you don’t have to help any kids.

S (thinking about this): I’m not giving you that.  I’m giving you love instead.

E (also thinking):  And it would probably be better if you did your two minute break while I’m at school.

(How can you not love it…and them?!?!?!  Lack of breaks notwithstanding, I do have the best job in the world.)

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Happy Birthday, S!

Happy Birthday S!

S turned 4 this week!  She woke up on her special day, and immediately announced, “I think my legs are longer!” I have to admit, she did look bigger to me. She is acting bigger too, all of a sudden – more grown up.  (That’s all good, of course, as long as she doesn’t grow up too fast :  )  We love you, S.  You have been our sweet S since you were born on Valentine’s Day 4 years ago, and you always will be.

Here are a few images from the celebrations this week!

The cake (actually a collection of cupcakes): a “pink pony”

(I did my absolute best, but will admit that it looks a little like what you might get if you crossed a pig with a horse!)

The special birthday activity (You are currently a little horse obsessed, so there was a bit of a birthday theme this week!)

The night of the birthday. (S wanted a Chuck-E-Cheese family celebration, so here Dad & S are playing games there on the birthday/Valentine’s Day.  There is quite a cast of characters that spends their Valentine’s night at Chuck-E-Cheese, by the way… and our whole crew was happily right in the middle of them all!  Rock on Chuck-E…)

And of course, a few special surprises including a chance for S to pick her own fun activity (thank you Grammy and Grandpa…S loves the opportunity to choose an adventure!), her own fishing gear (thank you Nana…S insisted on “fishing” the day after her birthday…thank goodness for a warm day in February…we’ve already caught a minnow in the net!),

testing out the fishing net at Chuck-E-Cheese, before using it to catch a minnow the next day

and finally – a “make-up” kit from my husband and I that lets you draw make up on “paper faces”, which has been a huge hit with S, E, and mom.

(The reason mom likes this present is that this - and similar looks - end up on paper instead of on S' face. Seriously, am I the only one that thinks this look is a tiny bit scary?!)

Our precious S soaked up every minute of all the festivities, activities and treats.  My girl does love a celebration!

We love you, S!  You have been a sweetheart from the beginning and forever will be.  Having your birthday on Valentine’s Day just makes it that much more official.  Happy, happy birthday!

Love, Mom

Laundry Day

Here are some photos of S & T “helping” me on laundry day.

Seriously, there is no point in sorting when receiving this type of "assistance" from the children.

This is the point when a better mother would probably have put the camera away and corralled the children.

T looks more comfortable there in the laundry basket than he ever does in his crib, by the way. And very few toys inspire the kind of glee S is exhibiting.

I will let you decide for yourself whether you think they are playing in the clean laundry we’ll all be wearing tomorrow or the dirty laundry we wore yesterday.

Choose whichever option you think is least disgusting.

Happy Chinese New Year, indeed

E’s class celebrated the Chinese New Year recently by learning about Chinese culture and eating a Chinese lunch.   Dessert was a fortune cookie for each child.

So tell me…

…if your oldest (and one of the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy) came home with this fortune in her backpack, wouldn’t you be just the slightest bit disturbed?

In case you have trouble seeing the image, it says "You will inherit a large sum of money" and has creepy smiley faces on it.

(At first I was comforted by the fact that we don’t actually have “a large sum of money” for her to inherit, but then I remembered about the life insurance and was reminded that to E, “a large sum of money” is anything more than a penny.  Ah, the joys of being 5 and alive.)

Happy Chinese New Year, indeed.