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Parenting Inspiration From the White Haired Man Singing “Elmo”

So I’m having a very happy heart moment right now, but I’m struggling to not seem like a crazy stalker woman, luckily the mom next to me is in the same boat.

So, I’m sitting in the waiting room at my daughter’s physical therapy appointment, which is usually for me an hour of grading papers or reading, but tonight, I’m moved to tears by the love between a distinguished white haired gentleman & a sweet spunky little boy of about 2 years old.

While the rest of the adults were politely occupying themselves, this gentleman began singing to his little boy. The boys eyes lit up, he removed his pacifier and started to sing along. The love between them was obvious and endearing. I felt a little less stalkerish when the mom next to me whispered “I just can’t look away!” I replied, ” Neither can I!” It was just that sweet.

The first thing that struck me was the diversity. See, the man was a white man with stately white hair. He was dressed in khaki pants, a nicely pressed shirt, and an argyle sweater. The boy was the sweetest African American toddler with a truck pacifier and a great big smile. By appearance, you would expect this man to be the one politely occupying himself, and one of us yoga pant clad moms to be the one belting out the theme song to “Elmo’s World”. But that was not the case. He was the one in tune to his child. He was the one who didn’t care whether his singing voice was fit for public display. He was the one living in the moment.

So now, I, the mom politely occupying herself, want to be more present and engaged. I am making a resolution to try to emulate his engagement and not fall into the quiet mindlessness that surrounds me. I want to be this kind of parent. This will continue to make my heart happy. Now I just have to think of how I will do this, because I’m pretty sure my 9 year old does not want to hear me sing toddler show tunes for the whole drive home…

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8

Raising Different Daughters

Sometimes I like to take a break from cooking to write about my experience as a mom, so please indulge me once again. I have three daughters. Each one of my girls is distinctly different, and I find that pretty awesome. My oldest is creative and artistic. She is demanding and particular. She is brave and determined. My youngest is happy and loving. She is silly and smart. She is a compassionate friend and a typical little sister. I adore this picture because I believe that it is the perfect embodiment of their individual personalities.

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But I have another daughter, my middle. She has the sweetest soul. She cares deeply, and takes things to heart. She wounds easily, yet heals quickly, and forgives completely. I am frequently in awe of her compassion. So, it comes as no surprise that she caught my attention this week with her concern for those around her. Monday was Martin Luther King Day. Her teacher has been educating the class this week about the work of Dr. King and the struggles that many Americans face. My middle, of course, took this to heart. She came to me right away, knowing that I teach a civil rights unit. She wanted to know more. She wanted to understand and see what strife others faced. Tonight she won my heart, yet again, when she settled in with my work computer to watch a Discovery Channel documentary that I use in my own teaching. She was mesmerized. She asked questions and marked chapters that she wanted her class to see and understand.

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As a mom, I felt so proud, and it occurred to me that I need to be deliberate in how I cultivate these personality traits in my children, to ensure that they continue into adulthood. I need to remind myself what really matters when I measure my daughters. It’s not the quantity of accolades, but, to quote Dr. King, it’s “the content of their character”. I once read a parenting book that warned parents to be careful of the traits they break down in their children, because they are usually the traits we want them to have as adults. I plan to really take inventory of my daughters and look for the traits that will empower them. My oldest may drive me crazy with her determination, but that is exactly what she is going to need to persevere when the path is rough. My little may be silly, but that sense of humor is what will keep her balanced when the path is rigorous and dull. My middle may be sensitive, but that is what she will need to spread kindness and compassion when the path is dark.

I have no doubt that my girls will find success in life, and it sure is fun to watch them learn and evolve into their own kind of person. I think it is cool that they can grow up in the same house, with the same parents, yet become such unique individuals. I am reminded to cherish what really matters in life, raising good people. That is my job as a mom. I will try my hardest everyday to teach them and encourage them to be true to themselves and kind to others.

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8

The Blessing of 3

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I have always wanted three kids, but my husband was set on two. I remember bringing my second daughter home from the hospital, and in the car, I told my husband, “You know, we are not done. I just have this feeling that this is not the last time we will do this.”

His response was, “Can we just get THIS ONE home before we even think about more?”

Well, a few years later,  the day came that I found out that a third little one was on the way (a little sooner than imagined, and by surprise), and a strange anxiety set in. I was thrilled with the blessing, and certainly excited that fate had decided just how many kids we would have, but I was flooded with questions, so I did what any girl would do, I called my one of my best friends, Steph, and she was there for me when I needed her. I was happy to return the favor a few years later.

So, when Steph posted a picture on Facebook the other day, I was reminded of where we were just a few years ago, unknowingly on the cusp of something great. For some reason, that simple picture was a small funny moment in her life, but to me, it was such a symbol of our friendship and the journey we have taken together. The picture popped up in my news feed again today, and after standing at the sink in my kitchen, thinking about how it touched me, I decided to write her a letter.

 

Dear Steph,

Do you remember when I called you and told you I was pregnant, again, for the third time?

Do you remember when I was nervous, and scared because I had just moved into a new house, the bills were bigger, the budget was tight, and I wasn’t sure how I could take an unpaid leave from work?

Do you remember when I was stressed because I feared that I couldn’t juggle three kids, my oldest starting school, my middle being the worst sleeper on the planet, and juggling a full-time teaching job with a new principal?

Do you remember how I relied on you to keep me calm?

And a few years later, do you remember when you called me, as I was driving home from work, to tell me that you were miraculously and surprisingly pregnant with your third?

Do you remember that you were nervous, and scared because you had just moved into a new house, the bills were bigger, the budget was tight, and you weren’t sure how you were going to do it?

Do you remember how you asked me all kinds of questions about being a mom of three?

Do you remember that I told you I wouldn’t trade it for anything?

Well sister, we did it, didn’t we? Deep down inside, we both saw this as a gift and found great joy in the blessing of 3! I couldn’t imagine life without our littles.

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“Things found in the dishwasher when the 2 year old helps do the dishes.”

 

When I saw this picture the other day, I was flooded with a whole new set of realizations:

Someday, they will be grown.

Someday, our houses will be clean, and will stay clean for more than 20 minutes.

Someday, we will drink a whole cup of coffee while it is still warm, and finish a margarita while it’s still cold!

Someday, our phone conversations will be seamless without sporadic interruptions, correcting our children, assisting with homework, or the start of car line.

Someday, they will be too big to carry off to bed, while sound asleep, wrapped around us like little monkeys with their tiny breath ticking our necks.

There will not be fingerprints on our sliding glass doors, crumbs on our floor, or pink shovels in our dishwasher, and we will be the tiniest bit sad.

While this journey started with nervousness and apprehension, we are better as a result.

I want to say thank you for posting that picture. It reminded me of the journey we are on, and the importance of living in the moment. Our littles will grow up way too fast, and someday we will look back and smile, for the gifts we have been given, and we will ask ourselves, “Do you remember when…?”

Thank you for being on this journey with me and the reminder to cherish our blessings!

Love,

Kelly

As parents, it’s important to keep our perspective. So, What do you consider your blessings? Is there anything that you will miss when they’re grown? Post a comment and let us know what you think. Perhaps it will help us keep a firmer grip on what really matters.

 

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When Recipes Fail: A Commentary on Sucking in the Kitchen and Stumbling in Life

20130704-134110.jpgOver the past 24 hours, I have sucked in the kitchen! There is no fairy magic here. I have just plain sucked. It started yesterday when I botched a double batch of Trix Crispy Treats. I had to bring a dessert to my daughters’ swim team banquet for 180 people. Clearly, these would be the perfect choice, and it was all well and fine, until 5 minutes before we had to leave, I attempted to pop them out of the pan and slice them in to neat rectangles. I was eager to pile them artfully on my fancy cake plate and present the perfect fairy-style wonder.

Only, it was not very magical. The treats stuck to the pan (which I greased) and the marshmallow never solidified! Not to worry. I figured I’d just pop these suckers in to the fridge and firm them up real quick!

UUUHHH…NO!

They remained gooey, but we had to leave, so I hacked off the presentable parts, wrapped the hopelessly gooey ones up and off we went. Well, the car was very warm; it was EXTREMELY HOT & HUMID outside, so by the time they were placed on the table, even the good ones had morphed into a rainbow glob resembling a pile of unicorn poop!

Excuses were plentiful. This had to be the result of the weather, or the cheap generic brand marshmallows that my husband got “a great deal on”. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep over the past two nights. Night #1 was consumed by an over-excited, sleepless 8 year old who just couldn’t wait for the Taylor Swift concert, and night # 2 was consumed by the concert itself. Add on very early morning swimming championships, and no wonder these were not a huge success.

OK, move on, not a big deal. There is more to life than Trix Treats.

Yup, there’s plenty more to life, like horrible chicken.

Onto failed recipe # 2. This afternoon, I was perusing the handy dandy internet when I stumbled across a recipe for the best barbeque chicken, like…ever. (Sorry, Taylor Swift is still fresh on my mind) The only problem was that the first step involved a dry rub, but the idiot who wrote the guide, egotistically refused to give his rub recipe. No worries. I thought, let’s improvise and make our own, ya know…a little bit of this & a little dash of that… OK?

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NO! Not OK!

My rub recipe was way too strong, resulting in the most beautiful but awful tasting chicken on the planet. Really? Who screws up barbeque chicken? Certainly not the Fabulous Fairy! WRONG! I am shamefully raising my hand and owning my defeat. It was horrible and inedible. We ate green beans and roasted potatoes for dinner followed by a bowl of consolation mint chocolate chip ice cream instead. AWESOME!

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Wow! At this point I accepted defeat, blamed a searing sinus headache and retreated to bed, only to lie there awake. Thoughts just came racing into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, about one of my daughters and some upcoming meetings about her school program next year. The next thing I knew, I was wide awake and in tears. Not wanting to wake up my husband, I crept back down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and sort things out. After all, I am a teacher in real life. I have a master’s degree in education plus a gazillion credits past that, and I have taught almost every subject. She’s going into middle school. I teach middle school. It should be a no brainer! Right?

Super Awesome! In all of my mental processing, I burnt the frozen waffle that I popped in the toaster. Clearly, my cooking skills have now regressed to those of a 4 year old.

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So here I found myself holding a cup of tea and a burnt waffle, strike # 3, all while shedding tears of frustration over a meeting that is not even firmly scheduled yet. This is where my moment of clarity came.

My kitchen disasters had nothing to do with the weather, cheap marshmallows, egotistical cooks, or sinus headaches. They were a result of my lack of a recipe in life. My thoughts, fears, critical points to be made, test scores, and witty remarks were all mixed around in my mind like a bad meal. I realized that I need a real plan to move forward with my daughter’s meetings and educational needs. Here I am, The Fabulous Fairy, who can pull out a recipe for almost anything (except a barbecue rub), but trying to tip-toe through a touchy situation without a recipe for success and progress when it came to my own child. Whew!

Lesson learned, tears over.

So, here I sit, at the counter in my kitchen, my recipe central, hacking at the pathetic pile of second string unicorn poop, crafting a recipe for my daughter. I am confident that I will find a plan, and eventually some sleep, but I am going to approach my hurdles with a bit more foresight, organization, and personal forgiveness.

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I guess sometimes we have to remember that we need to nourish our hearts and minds as well as we nourish our bodies.

Good night. Here’s to hoping dinner is more successful tomorrow.

~Kelly, “The Not Always Fabulous Fairy”

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Dinner Sanity Through DOJO!

Hallelujah!! I have found a new weapon for my mom arsenal. While I am a firm believer in family dinners, and we strive to sit down together as much as possible, I also realize that the dinner table can be a source of parental stress for me. From the start, my kids have been raised with an expectation of polite manners and conversation at the dinner table. I expect them to remain seated, behave like normal human beings, and ACTUALLY EAT THE FOOD!

Lately, my kids have left a lot to be desired. Some nights I feel like I am playing “Whack a Mole”, with all 3 of my kids randomly popping out of their seats. Other nights, it’s the “I don’t like this” chorus. (This is a whole other blog post in itself!) As a working mom with little time, energy, and patience, I was at my wit’s end…until I discovered one of the greatest educational/parental tools on the planet!

CLASS DOJO!

If you are not aware of this web based tool, allow me to introduce you. Class Dojo is a free website for teachers and school professionals to create behavior tracking plans though interactive media. I was first introduced to the dojo plan through my daughter’s second grade teacher. My daughter is delighted by her little monster avatar and the tally of points she is accumulating. As a mom, I am delighted by the weekly report that I receive via e-mail.

So, here we were, happily progressing, watching Amelia’s dojo points grow, when the light bulb went off. I am a teacher. I have a master’s degree in education, and I have extensive experience with behavior modification. Why can’t I use this at home to improve my kids’ dinner behavior?

Feeling like a rock star, I set out on my quest for dinner sanity. I went to www.classdojo.com to create an account. I first set one up for my real classes, as it is an awesome educational tool. Then I registered as my kids “teacher”, and I used the very easy interface to develop my “dinner dojo”.  Each of my kids were assigned a little monster avatar (the symbolism is much appreciated). Then I customized the behaviors to suit my dinner needs.

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Positive Behaviors:  helpful, good manners, cleaned up, stayed seated, positive conversation, ate well, tried new foods, made healthy choices.

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Negative Behaviors: disrespect, out of seat, rude behavior, wasted time, not eating, negative language, made a mess, not a helper.

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This site is so easy to use. Once you set up your account on a computer, there is an app, so you can control it from your smart phone or tablet! Yup, that’s right. This momma broke the “No Technology at the Dinner Table” rule and plunked the iPad right in the center of the table. What resulted was one of the nicest dinners we have had in months. Not only did everyone eat, stay seated, and clean up after themselves, but we were able to have meaningful conversations that felt like real connections. I hope that this new tool can help us get back on track to peaceful dining.

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If you think that this app can save your sanity too, here are my tips:

  1. Go to www.classdojo.com
  2. Set up an account as a teacher. The parent option only allows you to see your child’s progress in a specific classroom.
  3. Use the great tutorials to help you navigate and create on the site.
  4. If you have tech savvy kids, give them the student code so that they can check their own progress with their own account.
  5. You can also share the parent reports with other meaningful adults (the other parent, a grandparent, or babysitter)
  6. Expand past dinner. I also have a general expectations dojo for my kids. I chose to separate the two because they have to earn good dinner dojo to get fast food or other less nutritional treats.

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I really urge you to try this tool. If you do, please report back and let us know how it works for you. Hopefully we can restore peace and sanity one dinner table at a time J