April 16, 2014

parenting pet peeves

Two of my biggest pet peeves about parenting: arranged playdates and organized team snacks. There I said it. It’s out there. And, you can’t make me take it back. Just the mere mention of one of these topics makes my insides flop around and my mind start to spinning inside my skull.

Maybe two babies ago I would have been all over a playdate, this arranged appointment for children to get together to play, like friggin’ Martha Stewart on Styrofoam balls and a hot glue gun. I would have had that playdate arranged and on the calendar for weeks. I would have looked forward to it. I would have showered for it. I would hope the other parent invited me inside the house so I could engage in an adult conversation.
Now, it’s just another pull on my already overbooked schedule. Don’t get me wrong, my kids play with other kids for Pete’s sake. I just like it when it happens organically. Naturally. When the neighborhood hooligans stop in for some hide ‘n go seek or bike riding. Or when we are at the ball park for a little league game and all the little siblings run around with sticks and shout “you’re it!!” Or when the school friend calls out of the blue and asked for an impromptu sleep over. Or when some wood gets thrown in the fire pit and we skewer marshmallows to roast with friends that happen to be around. That’s what I enjoy. That’s what feels right.

Not too long ago I was victim of parenting peer pressure about my daughter’s playdate schedule. I was told that even though it was realized our family is busy with school and sports, her friends miss her. Talk about a guilt trip. I completely understand that I could be misinterpreting the conversation and I shouldn’t put feelings behind words written in emails. However, there is truth to “it’s not what you wrote, but how you wrote it”. Believe me. It’s true.

The one thing I’m not worried about regarding my children is their social skills. The three of them know how to make friends. Shy might be my middle name, but I was handed offspring who don’t understand the definition of the word.
Pet peeve numero dos: Do not e-v-e-n get me started on organized team snacks people. Such. A. Pain. I mean, I understand the concept. And I even understand the kids LOVE the team snacks almost more than actually playing the sport. Sometimes I think the kids endure the hour of t-ball just for the snack at the end of the game. If you have a child on an organized sport team, you are most likely familiar with a team of children gathering like a motley crew of misfit pirates with one clear ring leader yelling “SNACKS!!!!” as they run with a wild look in their eyes to parent standing on the side lines with the booty. And, just like that, the carefully arranged Gatorade bottles, orange slices, and rice krispy treats placed in cellophane bags tied with ribbons to match the team colors are wiped out in a matter of milliseconds. After which the snack parent looks dazed and wondering what actually happened in the blur of grubby hands, loud noises and dust flying. Did she just get groped by a first grader?!? And, never fear there is always that one sibling with puppy-dog eyes inquiring about any leftovers at the very end that the snack parent has to disappoint and watch run off crying because they didn’t get any.

Which brings me to my point…..Organized team snacks is spendy yo! It sounds good in theory. Nine to twelve kids on the team. Easy right? But don’t forget the half dozen to dozen siblings. Plus the random cousin or neighbor kid that tags along. And, that one kid from the other team who must have a snack beacon chip installed and comes snooping around as you wonder where his parents are but can never locate.
Let me tell you something. Juice boxes aren’t cheap! And, who has time to make wholesome snacks or cut up apples this day and age? Not me. The shear amount of food allergies and gluten intolerances is off the charts by the way. Never forget the teammates who have food allergies. They possess mothers who moonlight as food police. That’s a battle you never want to encounter. Never. My head is spinning just thinking about it.

April 14, 2014

be the heron

I'm not one to micro-manage my kids. I loathe reading charts that require my signature every day. I don't check the online grading rubric every hour. I'm not a fan of homework packets aka busy work. I don't need bedrooms to look like a Pottery Barn catalog. I shirk arranging play dates. I mean, how can parents teach their offspring to be forward thinkers and problem solvers if we are constantly doing everything for them. That's my philosophy anyway. I pat myself on the back for handing over the tools to be successful, but I struggle with "getting" my kids to be self starters (first grade buzz word right there).

When my son was in the fifth grade, his first male teacher seemed to share in my philosophy. He would supply all the information and then waited for the creativity and learning to begin. Some parents had issues with this educational curve and complained their children fell behind in certain subjects. Even my son's math grade dropped a tad. But this didn't make me worry.

I want my kids to learn about failing now when the cost is low, so they can gain and master the abilities of taking charge of their selves and their own educations. This way, when the cost is higher, say in high school and college, they will know what they need to do to get the job done.

Totally text book, right?! Sounds great in my head. Looks super on paper. And, for the most part, my non-helicopter-parenting style works. I deserve some positive reinforcement really. Go ahead, I'll wait.

That said, kids are innately LAZY. Mine are no exception. Especially my son. He rushes through things, often taking short cuts, he has to do just to get it over with. My middle has taken to hiding in her bedroom so that I forget I've asked her to help out. My youngest is currently the worse however. Unless it's fun or interesting, she finds every excuse under the sun to not do what has been asked or is required. I find myself trying to bribe and barter. When that doesn't work, I pull out the threats, mostly taking away things of value. This makes me angry, mostly at myself. Angry because I shouldn't have to threaten or remind my offspring how lucky they are every damn day just to get them to pick up their dirty socks. And, no, by picking up dirty socks, I don't mean stuffing them under the couch cushions.

I reminded myself of that fifth grade teacher this morning and a little pep talk he gave my son as the two of us sat across from him at conference time last year. He asked if we were familiar with herons, first looking at his student, my kid, and then meeting my eyes with his.  Of course, my child shrugged his shoulders being the spongy learner he is. And, then Mr. Teacher asked the same question but only directed it at me. All the sudden I felt my nerves swish around in my belly as if I was just handed a pop quiz. I replied ,and stuttered, that I knew it was a tall, long legged bird and one used to hang out at the swampy dairy farm I once lived on.

Mr.Teacher continued on about how fascinating herons are. And, if we ever get a chance to really observe one, we should. He explained how they aren't the most graceful and talented but they make up for that by being extremely patient and hard working. I began to catch onto the moral of the heron metaphor as he engaged my son in facts about herons' hunting techniques. Did you know herons will stand in one place, motionless, for hours waiting for the perfect opportunity to spear a meal?! And, not just any meal. The best meal. They will spread their wings out wide to create shade and a sense of safety for their prey. And, they will wait and wait and wait. As we know, waiting for that long is very hard work. He reminded my son that taking short cuts and rushing through things and not taking time to do our best work doesn't make for a big "meal" payoff in the end. Sloppy work only earns poor grades. He ended our conference with three words, "be the heron."

I've never, ever in all the years of attending (more school buzz words ahead) goal setting conferences, been brought to teary eyes as that one. That mild mannered, gentle voiced, unassuming fifth grade teacher inspired not only my kid to work harder, but me as well. Those three words have stuck with me in many situations since. And, sometimes I whisper them to my kids.

Be the heron.

April 8, 2014


Two things happened recently. My dear, sweet friend and neighbor asked me "What is going on with your blog?" And, a high school pal found our English teacher via cyber stalking and sent me her website deets. Both have inspired me to open my laptop and see if I remembered my password to log in.

I realized my last post was way back in September. After the kids went back to school, I feel like I was busy doing everything but nothing at all. Once again, my schedule became not my own and I've been tied down to managing the life of my family. Their schedule is my schedule. And their schedules are full.

Along with all that here and there and nowhere, I have been slowly creeping up on the middle of my life point. With every day passing, I'm beginning to put that young life I was living behind me. I feel like all the firsts (i.e. first kiss, first job, first house, first baby, first minivan) is behind me, behind us. Now we finish raising and continue working and basically circling the little slice of life we've carved off for ourselves. Protecting it, growing it, loving it. And, although I'm not digging in my heels and fighting forty to the bitter end, it has been on my mind quite a bit.


Mid life (adjective) See middle age.

Middle age (noun) The period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age, usually between the ages of 40 and 60.

Count down to my mid life: five months.


When I turned thirty-nine this last September, I had an entire list of things I was going to do to make turning forty better. Easier. Smoother. September is not only my birthday month, but also the month kids go back to school. And, this year, the kids started a new school year on my actual birthday. Yup, my thirty-ninth year was going to rock. I was going to LIVE. IT. UP. sister!! I was going to bust out of bed every morning like a Disney Princess all chipper and singing and stuff. I was going to organize the garage. I was going to de-clutter the house. I was going to make exercise a priority. I was going to pay off debt. And, I was going to be better to myself therefore making me a better wife and mom.

I was going to walk into forty with swagger, baby ... throwing my hands in the air ... "like I just don't care....heeeeyyy!, hhooo!".

I just aged myself with that one, didn't I?

So far I've succeeded in dying my hair platinum blonde, going to yoga twice a week and making a few trips to Goodwill. My house is still cluttered. My garage is still unorganized, although filled with less stuff. I still have debt. And, my booty isn't any smaller than it was seven months ago. At this point, mid life is winning. Because, let's face it. Every year right after the new school year starts, the holidays hit. And, the holidays usually kick my butt. It's the pressure to be jolly and make memories greater than last years. It's the spending of money on crap that usually breaks, needs returned or is unappreciated. It's the cold and dark gray days. It's the cookies and candies and alcoholic beverages too good to pass up. The holidays wear me out. My "we can do it" attitude turns into "yeah, whatever, bring mommy a blanket" nap fest.

But!! Do not fear, my friends, I'm not pushing the panic button just yet. I may look like I live in a trailer park beside the freeway all bleached blonde with roots showing hair right now, but I still have five months left. I haven't lost this mid life crises battle yet. I keep telling myself the act of turning 40 is probably much worse than actually turning 40.

With my head held high and the promise of blue skies and warmer weather around the bend, I keep on keeping on. I AM going to rock 40. I just don't know how right now. I still have five months to figure that out.

Oh, and about my last post? From what seems like forever ago. My youngest is surviving school and making progress. The behavior chart is a thing of the past and she is busy doing her thang, her way, as usual. As always, what seems to be true of everything.....this too shall pass.....and it did.