Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Kids-eye View

What most of us see:

a pile of weeds just removed from our overgrown flower bed

From a child’s perspective (E):

the perfect ingredients to make a giant bird’s nest (E's vision, but S helped and is pictured here as the bird)

 

 

What most of us see:

A hole in the yard, created with plastic shovels, made muddy with a cup of water, and likely to cause a twisted ankle next time we’re playing out back.

From a child’s perspective (S):

a pool for the caterpillars, (this time it was S' vision, but E helped, and the pool included small leaf boats in case any caterpillars didn't want to get wet

 

 

What most of us see:

a tree at the playground (stock photo, because I didn't have my camera at the park yesterday, but this is exactly what the base of the tree looked like)

From a child’s perspective (T):

a tunnel for a choo choo train (T doesn’t know that many words at this point, but “tunnel” and “choo choo” are among them…credit to my friend A who saw him all excited about the discovery of this particular tree at the park and called me over to provide T-to-English translation and enjoy the moment. T just kept saying, in his 1 year old dialect, "Tunnel! Tunnel, for choo choo!")

 

 

What most of us see:

my messy kitchen after snack time

What I hope my family sees & remembers:

a mama who took them outside to play instead of cleaning up! (what?!? some mothers do both?!? don't tell my husband...)

Kite Photos/ Day Brighteners/ Capturing a Moment in Time

I’m just posting these because it makes me happy to look at them, and I thought it might make you happy too : )

A favorite photo, because, well, how could it not be?!?! Click to enlarge and just look at the joy on that face. The picture also captures so much about S at age 4: so PLAYFUL and PASSIONATE (that's a twinkle AND a fire in those eyes; don't limit her to just one, folks), in her outfit of choice (a dress paired with sneakers), that little arm up as high as she can get it (so determined to be big and already so powerful that I have to keep reminding myself how little she still is), and a smile so beautiful it almost distracts you from that WILL OF STEEL that makes her almost unstoppable once she decides something (she was going to get that kite up RIGHT THEN, despite the fact that there was NO wind at all at that particular moment - and by golly, by running fast enough, she did!)

and E …

A favorite photo because, again, joy joy, joy, and also because it typifies E at age 5... a JOYFUL (it bears repeating and capitalizing here, folks), LIFE-LOVING, running, leaping, twirling, bouncing little lady, who is here flying a kite she made herself by cutting Sunday School coloring pages into heart shapes, stapling them together to make a butterfly shape, and adding some ribbon so it could fly. A creative, captivating, carefree spirit that oscillates between (1) celebrating the wind (that hair is always down and blowing) and (2) creating ways to harness it to make the world (and even the wind, it seems) happier and more beautiful (homemade kites or ever-blowing dandelion gardens, anyone?)

Just moments in time, of course (i.e. not pigeonholing either personality and eager to emphasize they both have all the elements I listed for the other…be whoever you want to be, ladies and don’t let anyone – even/especially your mama limit you with images or captions!)

But in the spirit of celebrating who they happened to be last weekend, I had to share.

And isn’t capturing that brief, precious, will-this-last-or-pass? (and-let-me-declare-now-that-I-will-love-them-regardless-and-forever) moment what makes photos so fantastic?

Thank goodness this question wasn’t on the exams for my teaching certification…

So I taught middle and high school, but am unable to help my five year old with her Kindergarten homework because the questions are clearly beyond what my intellect can handle.

This past week, E was assigned to visit two businesses and answer 5 questions about each.  The first question on the list was “Does this business provide a good or a service?”

Well, since we were going to Burger King for the free St. Patrick’s Day fries anyway, I thought that would be a great place to begin our research.

Of course, while we were there, it occurred to me that I have no idea whether Burger King provides a good or a service.

Fortunately, it also occurred to me that this was not my homework assignment.  So I asked E, “Burger King…good or service?  What do you think?”

Without batting an eyelash, she told me it depended on whether you went the drive-through (and left with a good) or ate inside (enjoying the service).

Booyah!  (Does saying that make me an obnoxious parent?  Do I seem less obnoxious if I admit that I don’t know if I spelled it correctly?  Maybe I should just say it differently…Here it goes…E came up with that answer all by herself while her mother stood in the corner trying to get the cobwebs off her cognitive brain function, and I think it was an excellent answer.  I admittedly know nothing, but it seemed thoughtful and it was hers, and I was very impressed!)

Anyway, since E’s response essentially turned a multiple-choice question into an essay, and she is just now learning how to write, she still faced additional challenges while completing the assignment.

Until she decided to step back and simplify.  Her answer to the question, “Did the business provide a good or a service?”  now simply reads, “Both”.

Whew.

Then onto the next business and its set of questions, which involved a special trip to Hallmark, where E and I chatted and toured with a wonderful employee while S & T had a fabulous time destroying the displays.  I wanted E to see Hallmark in particular since in the project’s final presentation, E has been assigned to “work” in a mock card store (while her classmates man other storefronts in their creative community and the parents use pretend money to purchase goods and services from the kids).   This occurs five days from today.

I am in so much trouble, because apparently the “real work” starts next year, when E enters first grade.

Notice that I said I’m in trouble, because clearly, E will be fine.

P.S.  I do realize that this post makes me seem like a bit of an idiot, but just to prove that I’m not completely brain-fried, know that this social studies website doesn’t know whether restaurants are providing goods or services either, listing “food” as an example of a good and “fixing you dinner” as an example of a service.  And yes, I do realize that posting this now makes me appear like an idiot and a nerd, but I’m over it.  I actually think this stuff is interesting and looked it up for my own edification, NOT for any conversations with E!

“Martyrmom”

So I have realized recently that I have a daily mothering M.O. that – while appearing selfless on the surface – is actually not good for me or for my family.

The M.O. is presenting myself as the mommy martyr. In practice this means putting someone else’s needs before my own, (possibly announcing to the family that I’ve done so…though not always), sighing, and then internally celebrating what a selfless mother I am.

Examples:

We’re having dinner, and after I’ve hopped up for the 15th time to get something for someone, a child asks for more milk. My response: “Yes, I’ll get you more milk, but I want you to realize that I haven’t even gotten to eat a bite of my own dinner yet”. Sigh. Steps to the fridge, pour the milk, martyr, martyr, martyr.

Or

“Yes, I’ll get out the tea set for you, but I want you to notice that I am cleaning up the whole house while you’re doing that, so I want no arguing about who gets which cup. Sigh. Clean. Martyr, martyr, martyr.

Or this could also apply in more adult situations.

At 5am, internally thinking, “I am exhausted, but I’ll get the baby, again.” Martyr, martyr, martyr.

I could list about 100 other examples: Sigh…I have too many family demands to go out tonight…I’m always taking the burnt piece of toast (I always just do this one, never announcing it)…etc, etc, etc, martyr, martyr, martyr…

I’m not saying all of these actions are bad. I love my family, and I love doing things for them. Also, I do think sacrifice is an important element of parenthood and that generosity is an important character trait. I also want to emphasize that my family is amazing: they appreciate and respect me, do their share (and more!) around the house, make sacrifices, and encourage me to live and follow dreams big and small. This is not about them.

Instead it is about recognizing that my own mentality and some of my words – at the dinner table, during cleaning hour, when I’m invited to do things outside the house, etc. – need an adjustment.

This recognition struck recently when I read a story that made me think about what I’m really doing when I continually present myself as a martyr to the family.

I haven’t been able to find the story since (I’ll post an update if I find it…) but it goes something like this…

There is a mother on her deathbed who realizes that she has sacrificed everything about herself to devote herself to her husband and children. Instead of the expected celebration of the selfless mother content with her life of service and devotion, the story presents the mother as one overwhelmed with regret. Paraphrasing as best I can remember, the mother laments that by always putting herself last she “made myself resentful, taught my daughters they weren’t worthy of respect and taught my sons to treat their wives badly”.

Again, I am NOT in that situation (my family is too fantastic for that, and I’m not nearly that selfless), but I think as mothers, there is real danger here.

I mean, if I’m being honest about why I’m denying myself, it is often to

(1) make my own life easier (it’s just easier to deny yourself that to deny someone else in the family, or to make another piece of toast to replace the burned one, etc…) or

(2) to create some ridiculous “bank of chips” that aren’t necessary (no one in the family is keeping count) and that I’ll never cash in anyway (i.e. the mentality of “once I’ve taken a girls weekend once, I’ve cashed those chips and may never get to go again!” so I’ll sit here and bemoan the fact that life just doesn’t allow that…martyr, martyr, martyr…)

So I have been consciously trying, for the last few weeks, to drop the martyr mentality.

I have actually told the children: “I’d be happy to get you more milk, after I’ve eaten my own dinner. Please wait.”

And guess what? Everybody’s fine. My kids learn to wait. I get to eat, and I’m forced to drop that “woe is me” mentality. Win, win, win.

I have actually said, “No tea party right now. We can’t get out more toys when the house is already a mess. Let’s clean up together, and when we’re done, we can play whatever you want.” There is often whining, the clean up takes longer, and the result is not “adult-did-it-perfect”, but the kids learn to pitch in, and again, I am forced to drop that “Must I do everything?” mentality that is unhealthy for me and a bad example for my kids. Bonus: tea party together…

And guess what? I have the ability to say to my husband, “The baby was up so early this morning. Can you take the kids for an hour this Saturday so I can take a nap”, and he’s happy to do it. I go from martyr, martyr, to an appreciative (and rested) wife. And my husband feels good about being my afternoon hero. How’s that for a good transition?

I feel like someone could read this and think I am dumb for missing something so simple, but honestly, it is really hard for me to find the balance. I am a mother. My family comes first. It’s easier to clean the room myself. It’s easier to eat the burnt toast. It’s less of a battle to hop up and get the milk. Sometimes getting away for a girls’ night is honestly just too much work for me, and too hard for the kids. Those things are legit… but if I cross the line, and

– become too proud of those sacrifices,
– or become resentful,
– or start to enjoy the power that giving bestows (as opposed to being the one to receive and express gratitude or even feel indebted)
– or let my family take the sacrifices I do make for granted,
– or make them feel guilty about something I’m doing for them, when in reality they should know that true sacrifices come from love without emotional price tags,
– or deny my family a chance to feel the pride they earn when they do things for me,
– or deny my children the praise they earn when they patiently wait,

then I’ve gotten out of balance.

I don’t want to be a martyr. I want to let go of all the self-importance that title provides me and I want to share an attitude of “let’s take care of each other”. It’s going to be hard work, and I will miss the peace that came with kids who are momentarily satisfied (because mom got that milk right when they wanted it!) and the ego of one who “must always be the one who [insert task here]”.

But there’s a chance that if I made a few choices differently, the inflated sense of self-importance that “martyrmom” provides me with could be replaced with a sense of appreciation for my family (who are so happy when they do something for mom) and some important lessons about how things work best when we all practice patience, generosity, and tell each other what we need to be happy.

I want to stop the sighs, have the sacrifices I do make come from a place of love (not martyrdom), and trade that sense of self-importance for a sense of gratitude, because there are two truths here:

(1) My family is fantastic, and will do what I ask them to.

And

(2) I don’t want to be a martyr. That attitude doesn’t actually make me feel good or help my family. The truth is, I just want to be a good mom.

P.S. This was a hard post to write and I’m worried it won’t say what I mean it to. I hope it conveys that (1) my family is wonderful and (2) I have found a(nother!) flaw in myself that needs my attention.

For some reason, as I write this, I also feel the need to admit that the dishes are piled in the sink, the laundry is overflowing the hamper, and that I lost my patience more than once today with the kids. I think I feel the need to admit all that because I’m worried the post could be misinterpreted to read that I have erred on the side of being the always-at-attention, ready-to-serve, never-neglectful mother, when what I’m trying to say is that I was aiming for that, and even in the midst of falling short, am beginning to think that the martyr mentality that sometimes (for me) accompanies that outlook is bad for both me and the kids.

P.P.S. I wrote this post, and the P.S. above, over a week ago and have just hesitated to hit publish until now. Can you tell I am nervous about how it will come across?! I should also include – as an emphasis on how blessed I am – that last night I went to bed early because I was too tired to deal with the house and planned to tackle it this morning. I woke up this morning to find a pristine kitchen and most of the laundry done – all a nice surprise from my husband who just thought I might appreciate a break. Pretty amazing, that one…

Free Fries at Burger King March 17 & 18

Just a quick FYI that Burger King is offering free fries while supplies last, March 17 & 18, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  No additional purchase required.  We enjoyed ours with their holiday green ketchup…a fun, free outing with the kids!

Here’s the link:

http://www.bk.com/en/us/company-info/press/press-release2536.html

Enjoy your free fries!

Update: March Madness, the real version

You may have read about our extended family’s March Madness pool in this post.

Well, I just had to let everyone know that 20 month old T, who picked the winning teams for his bracket by always choosing the team that had the most T’s in its name, is currently doing better overall than his mother.

Using this method, he also became one of the few people in the country who predicted that Norfolk State would beat Missouri.

I don’t know whether to be humiliated that my predictions are being upstaged by this alphabet-based strategy, or proud that my son is doing so well in such an important arena (March Madness!) so early in life.

Maybe, as a Tar Heel, I’ll just focus on how happy I am about the early dismissal of Duke…  : )

St. Patrick’s Day ideas for fun with the kids

Absolutely by chance, our playgroup was at the park on St. Patrick’s Day two years ago, and we stumbled across a leprechaun stash that some kind soul had left there for the kids.  You have never seen such excitement over some glitter and a pile of pennies!  The kids were ecstatic!  (Thank you, to whoever that kind stranger was!)  The kids celebrated their treasure, fingered every penny, and the playgroup adults scoured their wallets (and car consoles) to replace the penny treasure trove before we left so that the next lucky group would also have something to find.

It led to a conversation about St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday I had never thought of as particularly kid-festive.  I mean, I’m not going to deny that I celebrated with some green beer in college, but it hadn’t occurred to me to do anything for my preschool-aged kids.

Oh my goodness, was I missing an opportunity!  As I talked with the other parents, I discovered that leprechauns visited their homes and left surprises for the kids to discover on St. Patrick’s Day morning.  Not presents, mind you…but surprises.  Green pee in the toilet, green milk in the fridge, glitter trails on the porch leading to piles of pennies, and havoc among the normal placement of things wreaked by those tricky leprauchans (imagine a 3 year old’s face when she discovers dad’s ties hanging from the chandeliers, for example, and how much fun she could have showing daddy what those leprauchans had done!  Something she would never dare to do, which makes is so extra fun!  Also chairs tipped over, etc.)

So maybe I was the only one not doing this?!  On the chance that others were unaware of the fun too, know that if you have a little green food coloring for the toilet and milk (consider whether you really want to tint a whole gallon, since the kids may not drink it!), or a little extra glitter (I don’t have a glitter stash, but we have plenty of preschool artwork that we can scrape a little off of), consider letting the leprechauns leave some surprises for the family tonight, in preparation for a giggly St. Patrick’s Day morning tomorrow.  It really is lots of fun!

And – for those who really want to go crazy – know that Ella’s homework last weekend was to make a leprechaun trap, which her teacher will use today to try to catch a leprechaun at school.  (S made one too…it was too much fun to let big sister do alone.)  So at our house, while we won’t trap any, we are going to set up them up as houses for the leprechauns to play in.  Here they are, E’s made out of the box the garbage bags came in…

complete with a garden path, a chimney, and a green trampoline and with these words written on the back "Dr al Lcs You wl hv a good hose. Love, E" which translates "Dear all Leprechauns, You will have a good house. Love, E"

And S’ made out of a shoebox…

A house in S' favorite color - pink - covered in roses and feathers with a pudding box chimney, a blue pool and several toilets. By the way, it was actually S' idea to accessorize the houses. We discovered her raiding the recycling bin to find bottle tops to use as toilets. She also asked for the empty blue paint bottle (which I had previously cut in half to get the last bit of paint out), telling us it would be a perfect pool in case leprechauns wanted to swim. This sparked E’s imagination and soon she was making trampolines for them to jump on, etc.)

St. Patrick’s Day…what an opportunity for fun!

(And if I posted this too late for anyone…my apologies…but unless your kids are really calendar savvy, you could probably do it a few days later and have just as much fun?!)

Meet Mr. Arizona

This week, we have been working to adjust the family to the new Daylight Savings Time.  This has meant herding kids to bed before they actually get sleepy, waking them up so we can be on time for school, and all the bumps that go along with a change in schedule.

But in our family, there is one person who is our exception to the Daylight Savings adjustment.

Meet Mr. Arizona, otherwise known as 20 month old T.

We have decided that, like the state of Arizona, T will not be participating in Daylight Savings Time this year.  That means while the rest of the family will go by the clock, adjusting to make everything fit into the new time frame, T will defy the clock and stick to his old schedule.  On a practical level, this means he will stay up an hour later than his older sisters, and (hopefully) wake up an hour later than his regular 5am routine.

I credit my friend K for suggesting the delayed bedtime as a solution to our “T as an uber-early riser” problem, and I credit Daylight Savings Time for providing me with a good opportunity to fully take the plunge.

So far it has worked out well, with the exception of slight grumblings from the older kids who want to know why “the baby” gets to stay up later than them.

Mom’s response:  “T takes a nap every afternoon.  Anyone would like to nap every afternoon may stay up late also!”

No one has taken me up on it yet…

March Madness, the real version

You may have already read about our surreal version of March Madness in this post.

But I had to include a picture of the real March Madness too.

Here’s my husband helping E & S fill out their tournament brackets.

It took three 15 minute sessions with the kids to get the brackets filled out...not a quick process, and my husband gets 100% of the credit! By the way, someone needs to make a preschool friendly bracket that has pictures of the mascots and just 1-2 letters to represent the team name...

They had a great time explaining their choices to dad and watching him write them in the brackets, and it will get even more fun once we enter them into the ESPN website tonight for the extended family pool.

As far as my entertainment goes, what could be more fun for me than giving my adult siblings a hard time because my 5 year old is beating some of them in the brackets?  What fun to point out that she made her picks based on mascot preference and team colors!  (and picked Cincinnati to win three games because she thought “Cincinnati” sounded kind of like “Addie”, the really nice girl in her class!)

Of course, if she starts beating her mom that will be a whole ‘nother story…

: )

Let the Madness (and family banter!) begin!

Kids these days… (alternate title: three sweet stories)

Three sweet stories from the last 48 hours:

Story 1:

I always try to put a note in E’s lunchbox.  Something simple like: “Mom, Dad, S & T love E” with a picture of a smiley face or heart.

Yesterday, hours after lunch (i.e. I have no idea what prompted this), E disappeared into her room with paper, scissors and markers, then re-emerged holding a note for me.  It said: “Dad, E, S & T love Mom”.

She told me I could keep it to read during lunch.

How awesome is that from a 5 year old?

Story 2:

S is fine now, but was very sick Sunday evening, throwing up twice.  After the first round, during which her favorite doll Angie miraculously managed to remain clean, I helped S take a bath and then moved her into a different room on a portable mattress.   When I went to get Angie for her, as moral support for the next round, S refused to let me bring her in the room.  She knew she was going to get sick again, and didn’t want Angie to get dirty.  She continued to refuse, even when I reminded her Angie was washable.

Anyone who has seen S and Angie together knows how much love there is there, and how much comfort S would have derived from snuggling her dolly.  To add some visual evidence, here’s an attempt of me trying to photograph Angie (something we do for all the favorites, in case they ever get lost and we need visuals to obtain replacements) when S was about 18 months old.

S was so attached to Angie that I never could get a picture without S’ hand.

Still, on Sunday, S refused to bring Angie into the bed for the doll’s own protection.  How’s that for unselfish love from a 4 year old?

Story 3:

With S and T recovering from illnesses yesterday, we spent most of the day in bed, venturing only as far as our swingset in the late afternoon.  At one point, I began swinging with T on my lap and the little guy (who LOVES to swing) started yelling, “No. No!”  When I stopped the swing to see what was wrong, he took both his baby hands and used them to brush back my hair; he had been upset that the wind had blown it  across my face while we were swinging.   Such a sweet moment, having my toddler trying to help me, and using those chubby little fingers to clumsily try to brush the hair out of my eyes.

 

 

I could tell other stories.  We have meltdowns and tantrums, just like everybody else.  Kids are going to have “passionate moments”; that’s just part of it.

But this sweetness is the bulk of childhood.  And the next time someone sighs and says to me, “Kids these days…”, I’m going to smile and say:

“I know…aren’t they fantastic?!”