Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why can't we all just get along?

Parenting is not a competition.  We all have the same goal, raising children who will grow in to happy healthy adults who make us proud in whatever path they choose and the way the represent themselves.  True there are awards for parent of the year etc, but that's really not the point is it?

I am an avid Facebook user and for a while was following Parents magazine as I figured it might be a good source for ideas for my kids.  For a while it was, but the comments that people posted were unreal.  And the worst was prompted by a post by one of their bloggers regarding a bad day she had had.

I read it, and didn't really see what the big deal was.  Admittedly she was going through a very busy time with work and children and was having a hard time balancing it, and felt that because of that her children suffered.  We've all had those days.  I personally didn't think her day was that bad, but again it's not a competition, if she felt she had a bad day and felt guilty for how she treated her children, then that is what is relevant.

A few of the comments had a tone of understanding or sympathy, but most were along the lines of, you think you have it bad, well listen to my sob story.  And some were just down right mean.  Saying things like what did the author have to complain about, she has a successful career and a nanny while some of us (and this is the poster talking not my personal feelings) have to actually take care of our kids, and then went on to list all the ways their life was worse than hers.  

As our mothers probably told all of us, and we will probably say to our own children, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Only a couple of the comments got listed to the actual website. The ones on FB were far snarkier, with the mean girls conversing between their posts on how easy Allison has it and who is she to complain. And then of course the whole SAHM vs Working Mom debate flared up. This is not the first time, these kind of articles have garnered these kinds of comments, so I'm defriending Parents magazine. Not because of the publication which I still subscribe to, but because of their readers who I am ashamed of.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fight the mushy vacation brain - READ!!

On the last day of school, my daughter's first grade teacher asked all of her students to make sure they don't get "vacation mushy brain".  Summer vacation is great as it let's kids play and be outdoors more, have more unstructured time to be creative and also just relax.  However, too much play and no work over the next almost 3 months of vacation makes it tough to get back up to speed when the school year starts up again - vacation mushy brain. 

She gave the students a packet of book report sheets.  The assignment is to read at least 10 books and answer questions on at least 5 of them.  The kids need to turn in their packets when school starts up again in August and then the teacher is going to have a pizza party for all the kids who participated.  What a great idea!

From the time they were newborns, we have read to our kids.  It's true in the beginning they didn't pay much attention but we kept with it, and have been reading bedtime stories every night for the past 7 years.  The great thing is that now our kids read to each other. Even our 5 year old (who isn't starting Kindergarten til the fall but is already reading) loves to snuggle up with her little brother and read to him.  My 7 year old goes through chapter books faster than I can bring them home.  Thank goodness for the library and the $1 section at Target. I just got her 3 books from Target this morning.  She started Little Women around 1, I bet she'll be done before her brother wakes up from his nap. 

This summer we are participating in multiple reading clubs.  The library has one for all ages.  Even an adult one (yes I enrolled).  The kids mark off every 20 minutes they read and for every 100 minutes they get prizes (usually coupons for free stuff from local businesses), and raffle tickets towards bigger prizes.  For the grown up one, if I read 4 books in the next 6 weeks, I'll get some local coupons as well as raffles towards theatre tickets, gift cards for restaurants etc.

There is also the Borders reading club aka the Double Dog Dare Challenge, where if they read 10 books, kids 12 and under get to pick a free book (from a pre-selected bunch).  It started June 1st and my oldest has already completed that one. We haven't had a chance to pick out the free book yet so I don't what they are, but last year I think she got a Beverly Cleary book, and there were other good options.

Then this morning I read about the Children's Book Club of the Month Summer Reading Series on Sassy Moms in the City.  They are holding a contest where the prize is as follows:

One lucky winner will win over $750 worth of prizing:

  • Beach Reading selections for mom ($150 value)
  • $100 gift certificate
  • 25 assorted children’s books for the children in your life ($450 value)
  • $50 package of selected books for your child
    (All books included in this prize package will be selected by CBOMC) 
How awesome is that?  We're planning a road trip this summer for about a week (but about 30 hours of driving split among that time).  It would be great to have a whole bunch of new books to take with us on that trip.  My favorite part is that they included "Beach Reading selections for mom".  It can't all be about the kids right?

There are a few different ways to enter, either blog posts, Tweeting, or Facebook.  Check out the link above for all the details.  

Happy reading!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Oldest child guilt

My oldest child is 7, and as I've said before she's a great kid.  She plays well with her brother and sister most of the time, makes friends easily, is a great student and an inquisitive kid.  Now that she's getting older I really do enjoy spending time with her, unfortunately with two younger kids, it is rare that I get to spend time with just her.

I try to balance my time with the three of them, but it's tough especially since she is in school all day, her younger sister was in half day preschool 3 days a week this year, and her 2 year old brother is basically forced to tag along with me whatever I do. She gets jealous that her brother and sister are little buddies since they get to spend so much more time together.  She has asked me on more than one occasion if I can get her sister away so she can play with her brother.

She started playing piano this year and I have made a point of not bringing her siblings to her performances.  Partly I doubt they would sit still for all the performances given their age, but also it is an easy way to give her our undivided attention.  Although I have to admit at the last recital last week, I guess I hadn't planned enough time.  As we were leaving her teacher's house, she asked if we could go somewhere before we went home.  I asked her where and we ended up going to a playground for a little while before going home.  In hindsight I probably should have had the sitter stay longer and have taken her out for a early dinner, but given that the recital ended mid afternoon I hadn't even thought of it and it wouldn't really have made sense.

For the next couple of weeks I will be picking her sister up at camp about an hour and a half later than her, so am trying to figure out how best to use that time.  Hard to make it true quality time since it's right during lunch time and her little brother will be with us too, but it's worth a try.

I also feel bad cause some of the things that she wants to do, we can't always do because her siblings aren't old enough to behave appropriately or appreciate it.  Having said that I don't want to put her life on hold until they grow up, that's not fair to her.

Every since preschool she was asking me to come and read to her class.  I was finally able to do it this past December (after about 3 years of her asking).  And the sad part is by the time her brother is at that point in life it'll be really easy for me to do stuff like that for him, because the older ones will be in school.  I know she'll make me feel guilty about that.

Our middle daughter and son wake up pretty much the same time every day regardless of weekday/weekend.  On the weekends, they'll snuggle in our bed for a bit before breakfast.  Our oldest usually sleeps in and then if she misses snuggle time, she'll come down to the kitchen in a funk because she missed it.  I try to make up for it with more hugs throughout the day but because she tends to brood on anything that upsets her, it doesn't always work.  

Her Girl Scout troop had a pretend sleepover at the school that was supposed to be a mother daughter event a couple of months ago.  I already had a commitment I couldn't get out of so she wasn't able to go.

Now I just found out that my high school reunion is the same weekend as her first Brownie campout.  I can't do both obviously.  I'm hoping that since she has an Indian Princess campout the scheduled the following weekend we can justify that she probably shouldn't do both, as she is usually exhausted after the campouts.  Luckily she seems to be better friends with the Indian Princess girls than the Brownie group, so this justification may just work.  I would have liked to have done the campout as it would have been a good way to get to know those Moms. They are a nice bunch but with older kids don't always come for pickup/dropoff since their older kids are old enough to bring their first grade siblings to/from school.  Although I was told by one of the troop leaders that they are considering doing a museum sleepover later in the year which would be fun.  I'll just have to keep my other weekends clear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I was born in Europe and have a name that is recognizable in most Western languages, but is often mispronounced.  When we first moved to the US I was in preschool, and my name was pronounced in many different ways, but at that point I didn't speak English and was pretty shy about that so did not correct people.  As time went on, some friends pronounced y name one way, some another, but I didn't fight it. 

Then in high school my Dad got transferred back to Europe and I went to an international school in my home country. Being with kids from all over the world just added to the number of pronunciations.  The locals pronounced my name properly, the Americans pronounced it what had now become the "American" way, and then people from other countries pronounced it differently. 

By the time I got to college I made a point of introducing myself with the pronunciation I wanted, and it worked for a while. Then as I started working I got lazy.  I would meet people and if they were someone who I knew I would have frequent contact with I would make sure they would use the correct pronounciation, but sometimes I would meet someone and then fail to correct them not realizing that the wrong pronunciation would go on and on.  It's only gotten worse since we moved out to the burbs and had kids.  I meet people all the time, and sometimes, they know my name as it is written before we actually meet (from a school directory, or email) so they think they know the correct pronunciation, and by the time we finally meet face to face, it may be a couple of times before they actually use my name.   At that point it almost seems too late to change it. Or I meet someone and they mispronounce it and I think I probably won't meet them again, so it doesn't really matter any more so I don't bother to correct them. And then there are others who I have corrected but they still forget and then it gets awkward to try and correct them again.  I have neighbors I have known for over 8 years now, who mispronounce my name.  I know I should have set them straight ages ago, but now it's way too late. If they do finally realize that they've been pronouncing it wrong for a long time and show any form of embarrassment, I usually just let them know that my name has been mispronounced for so long I answer to most possible versions of it, but that doesn't help either.  They just continue mispronouncing it as they had been. 

Headband Fatwah

I read another blog recently of another Mom who had instituted a "Croc Fatwah" in her household.  I completely agree with her on those and despite my kids asking for them on a couple of occasions, I gave them a definitive no from the beginning, so they stopped asking.

Now it's time to lay down the law one more time, but not on footwear, but hair accessories.  My middle daughter is 5 years old. When she eats her hair tends to fall in her face.  I've never liked bangs since they are so hard to keep looking good, and a real pain to outgrow when you want to - which inevitably everyone does.  Early on when it was time to eat, I would tell her to grab a headband to keep the hair out of her face.  It worked for a while, but unfortunately her hair still flops in her face and I am constantly telling her to fix the headband.  We are both getting tired of it - me of bugging her, and her being bugged. 

Her little brother also has a habit of grabbing them off her head and tossing them across the room.  I tried to tell her if she wore barrettes or hair elastics, he wouldn't be able to do that, but that didn't convince her.  I have finally told her that when she starts kindergarten in the fall, the headbands must go.  Hair must be neat and out of her face.  This is not the school's rule but mine.  I tell her what I told my now 7 year old when she started Kindergarten, the teachers need to be able to see your face, so they can be sure that you're paying attention and understand what they are saying.  She is willing to give them up, but when I tried to suggest that she give them up now, she refused.  Oh well, it was worth a try.  Can't wait for the first day of school.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friends and Drugs

Let me start by saying I don't do drugs, never have, never will.  I do drink, but that's it as far as chemicals that mess with your head. I just never had any interest in pot (or anything stronger). Through the years, some of my friends have used it, and offered me, but I never accepted and they never pushed. I never used to judge my friends who smoked, I figured it was their business and not mine. I mean their smoking wasn't effecting me in any way. But now we all have kids and they still do it. My oldest daughter is the oldest kid in our group and the other kids ages range from 6 years down to 6 months old. A couple weeks ago we were at the birthday party of one of these kids and while the kids were still up and running around some of the parents started sneaking into to one of the closets to get high.

When we were getting ready to leave my kids were looking for the Moms to say goodbye.  We found 3 of them sitting on the porch smoking pot with the front door locked so the kids couldn't come out. Their children were all running around in the backyard with the Dads. It was a windowed door, so my kids could see them out there, and the Moms waved through the door, but that didn't seem sufficient to my kids. They wanted to say goodbye properly, thank the hostess, give hugs goodbye etc. One of the Moms (not the hostess) finally realized this and came back inside to give everyone hugs and we went on our way. I have to say at first I was a bit annoyed. Again I don't care if they choose to smoke, but it seems inappropriate for them to do it in front of the kids. I do drink in front of my kids, but not to the point of getting drunk, and I feel like getting high is on the same level as getting drunk in front of your kids. It just sets a bad example. As we were driving home, I asked my husband if he thought I was being too judgmental but he agreed with me that he thought it was inappropriate of them. I was annoyed for a few days and considered how I would broach the subject next time I saw these women.

Then I changed my mind, and figured when it happens again, if my kids ask about it, I'll use it as a teaching moment.  My oldest has already had the beginnings of the "Say No to Drugs" lesson in school, and we've tried to reinforce it at home. We've talked about peer pressure and I figured if our kids ever ask what our friends are doing, I'll just tell them, but point out that just cause our friends do it, their Dad and I don't. We can still be friends and respect each persons right to do what they want, without pushing each other one way or the other. I am still a bit conflicted though that they will think doing drugs is ok, because these are people my kids know well (as we've all been friends before the kids were born) and like and respect.  I guess it comes back to our family, our rules.

I do wonder how those parents are going to handle drugs when their kids are teenagers. It's not that any of them are addicts. It really does seem to be a social thing for them. Will they keep smoking until their kids reach a certain age, and then quit?  I mean what is the line in the sand for them, or do they never plan on stopping?  And if not are they going to smoke with their kids, or allow them to do it?  I do believe in teaching kids how to drink responsibly so they learn not to drink and drive and also they don't go off to college never having tried it, and then end up going crazy there as some of my friends did, but drugs are different.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Golden Rule

Not long ago I taught my kids the concept of the golden rule.  I was getting tired of their complaining and arguing about what one had done to the other, not sharing, being rude, kicking, etc.  Unfortunately my oldest, who normally has a very kind heart took those words and to my surprise twisted them around to say that if her sister did something mean to her she was allowed to do the same back to her.  Absolutely not.  Then she actually told me that it was true because her teacher had said so in class.  I have spent the past couple of weeks fighting her on this.  Admittedly I was not in the classroom when the teacher said it, but I'm sure my daughter misinterpreted her words.  As much as I tried to explain this to my daughter the more she insisted that she was right.  Darn stubborn gene - not sure where she gets that from.  Finally I reminded her of what I used to say before she would go to a friend's house unsupervised - the rules that her father and I set for them, trump the rules of anyone else.  Teacher, friend's parent, babysitter, whoever.  So even if she truly believes that her teacher said that if someone is mean to you, you can be mean back, be the better kid and either ignore what the other kid is doing (if it's just a little annoying), or talk about the problem if someone hurt her feelings or hurt her physically.  I think she has finally accepted that concept, which given her usual adherence to rules means she will probably follow it.

I have to say this whole thing hurt me because it showed that my smart and normally very sweet girl was being mean on purpose and thought she was justified in doing so.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bucket List

A while back a check list style bucket list was sent around on Facebook.  I don't know if it was the exact list from the movie, or if someone had made it up themselves.  Either way, I thought it a pretty pointless exercise.  A true bucket list should reflect who you are, not what other people think you should achieve.  I know a few people have skydiving and running marathons on their lists, which is fine, but I have no interest in either of those. So for what it's worth, here is mine.  Some are very general - like number 7.  Once I know that trip is really going to happen I'll get more detailed about the planning

1. Go on an African safari
2. Go on a transatlantic crossing
3. See all 50 US states (have been to 33 incl DC)
4. Pet a tiger cub
5. Go hot air ballooning
6. See the polar bears in Canada
7. Go to Australia
8. Walk on the Great Wall
9. Read the Bible cover to cover
10. Learn to drive stickshift and then get a fun sports car
11. Skate on the ice at the United Center (or any other NHL ice)
12. Ride an elephant
13. Go to Greenland and the Faroe Islands (they're part of Denmark, I'm curious to see what's there)
14. Go to the Olympics - I'd prefer the winter ones
15. See the pyramids
16. See my grandchildren get married
17. And if Richard Branson or NASA manages to make it possible for regular people to go to the moon in my lifetime, would love to see an "earthrise"