Friday, September 5, 2014

That's my girl, and she really can fly

My daughter started high school two weeks ago. And last night, we had our first argument.

In middle school, it wouldn't have taken that long. Every morning when I'd go in her room to wake her up, she'd open her eyes with a scowl on her face, sometimes telling me to stop talking or to leave her alone. She'd complain about having nothing to wear. Her homework wouldn't be done. Her teachers were awful, she'd say. I'd remind her five times to brush her teeth. And then still sometimes she would forget. 

But for the last two weeks, I had seen a different girl. A more mature girl. Setting her alarm and waking up on her own. Wearing cute outfits she picked out - and often bought - by herself. Spending time on her hair and brushing her teeth, without being asked. Doing her homework, also without prompting. Making her own lunch. 

Yes, we were off to a great start. 


"I hate my math teacher," she said.

That had been her way the last few years. If she didn't like a teacher, I knew what was to come. Fighting over homework, doing poorly in class. I didn't want this to be the way. It was high school, after all. And something had to change. This counts now.

"If you are having trouble with math we can help. We can get you a tutor," I offered, my voice stern but calm. I told her if there was a problem, that we wanted to know now, instead of finding out too late that she wasn't doing well. I told her that just getting by wasn't going to work anymore.

She became defensive. She got angry. It was the way he teaches. And she doesn't like math anyway. And then...

"It's because I'm stupid."

She used that "s" word over and over, talking about how others were in calculus while she was in geometry and that she'd never be the valedictorian or get straight As. That we needed to lower our expectations. And each time she spoke, my heart broke. She wasn't stupid, I told her. Over and over. She wasn't. Why would she think such a thing? But more importantly, how could I convince her she wasn't?

She's not. I know she's not. She's bright, creative and funny and has always been a little too grown for her own good. Her kindergarten teacher said it best when she labeled her a "free spirit" - a little blonde hair, blue eyed beauty who seemed to flutter like a butterfly from thing to thing, never stopping too long. 

To me, she is extraordinary, possessing the fearlessness I never had. 

Yet, in this one thing - this hugely important thing called school - she lacks confidence. And I can't let that be. I can't let that be what she thinks. As a family, we can't let that be. It's our job to find that mirror into her soul so that she can see what we see. 

Because we all see it. The girl that's the valedictorian. Or the straight A student. Or whatever she really wants to be. Anything at all. And she needs to see it.


The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, 
but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there - John Buchan

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What little boys are made of

Warning: this post contains lots of references to flatulence. Also known as passing gas. Or, more commonly, farting. After all, I'm talking about spending an entire day hanging out with my 6-year-old son. And when you talk about little boys, inevitably you talk about, well, a lot of hot air. Coming from your behind. Because little boys think that's funny. And admittedly, sometimes so do moms.

So it all began one day this week when I worked from home, my son literally by my side all day like an extra appendage. Despite having two couches and a comfy recliner in the family room, it seems no matter where I sat he snuggled right up next to me playing his video games, or watched a movie perched on my lap.

"You know," I'd say,"there's a big empty couch over there."

"Yeah, I know," he'd say. "But I like you."

Well, can't argue with that now, can I?

So there was sat, intertwined all day long while I worked on the computer and made a few phone calls, and he puttered on his electronics playing golf or destroying evil villains. He found a movie on TV at one point, and we laughed together at the silly parts. Later, he accompanied me to the dentist, the only time he wasn't physically at my side, but still intent on being as he says "up in my business" as much as possible. He sat quietly in a chair in the corner of the dentist's office, and out of the corner of my eye - with my mouth wide open and metal tools scraping my teeth - I could see him once in a while stand up to peer around the hygienist and get a better view of the excavation taking place.

Back at home, he helped me do a few loads of laundry. I tried to make a game of it, convincing him to pick up dirty clothes and throw them in the washing machine as if he was dunking a basketball. Laughter ensued. Inspired, he decided to make his own game, too.

"So every time we fart, we get a point," he said.

"That's the game?" I asked.

"Yes, that's the game. The first one to 20 wins."

Hmmmm. OK. I had never played this game before, but I was certain I could be a contender. So we went about our business - me working on the computer and he playing video games. Every once in a while out of the quiet, he'd say:

"Two.... No, I think that was three."

Sometimes it was obvious. Other times, not so much. And believe me, the latter was fine by me.

We went about the rest of our day. My husband came home. We had dinner. I did the dishes and checked the laundry. We all watched TV.

At bedtime, I went upstairs to lay down and there came Matt, laying next to me. I put on one of his favorite TV shows and we laid down in silence, both of us tired from a long day. No one said a word. Eventually, when his eyelids started to fall, I turned the TV off, shut off the light and closed my eyes. And then, I let something slip. Out of the dark, quiet room, I heard a tiny voice.

"You win."

Monday, August 18, 2014


We planned a little surprise room makeover for our daughter.
And it all started with some dusty $1 picture frames

and a thrift store lamp

and a few cans of gray paint and some elbow grease.

And after a weekend of work, we ended up with this...

And it all started with a thrift store lamp...

and some dusty $1 picture frames.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A little face in the window

Lately, I've felt kind of blah. I feel stuck at a job where I can't advance and can't make anymore money. I feel frustrated at home where I feel like I'm always trying to keep up with everything from the bills to the laundry. And I've been feeling bad about myself. Just blah, blah, blah. And when you feel that low, it's easy to find all sorts of reasons to pile on the misery. Like checking Facebook and seeing everyone on vacations you aren't on. Or getting to work and being surprised (in a bad way) about something you forgot to put on your calendar. Or opening the mail and seeing another late notice. They are all reasons to keep feeling crappy.

So that's what I did. I piled on, making myself feel as miserable as possible. And it was a Monday - the perfect day of the week for misery. I sat on the train on my ride home from work just sulking, all these real and perceived things weighing me down. My plan was to get home, do as little as possible to get the family fed, and then go to bed. Just lay in bed and wallow in what I couldn't change.

At home, I parked in the driveway and slumped out of the car. Above me, I heard a rapping at the window. I looked up and there was my son, knocking and waving. And smiling. It was a smile that was so wide and infectious that it made me smile back. And for that night, that was all it took. It didn't change anything that was wrong. It didn't fix the things I want to fix. It was just a smile, that lit up my night. And changed my mind about my plans that night.

Instead of going to bed, I played games with my son. We cuddled. And later that night, as he lay beside me in bed watching TV he said, "Mom, I wish my legs were longer."

"Why?" I asked. "So you could be taller?"

"No, so I could do this," he said as he extended out his legs, then tried to fold them back behind his head. 

I looked at him and we both laughed. Hysterical, silly laughter. And it's just what I needed. That little face in the window. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cooking In...

I invited some friends over for a cookout on Saturday to christen my new deck and celebrate summer. So of course this happened...

Yes, it rained. All day long. A slow, steady, misty annoying rain. So instead of a cookout, we had a cook-in.

I borrowed my brother's margarita maker to help us get in the summertime mood. I only overflowed it once or twice before realizing I was filling it up too much. It was worth a few spills, though.

And yes, that says "Write yo name" on it. Guess who was the only person who forgot to write their name on their cup and kept losing it all night long? Yes, that would be me. I should have followed my own directions - or maybe drank fewer margaritas.

And this. This was a huge hit. A s'mores trifle with layers of brownies, graham crackers, chocolate pudding, whipped topping and marshmallow cream. And I served fruit salad in individual waffle cone-bowls. And cooked corn on the cob in the crockpot. Blame Pinterest for all that creativity.

And of course, like clockwork, the next day looked like this. Sunny, dry. Not a cloud in the sky. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Parenting 101

School is ending this week. And as I stood in line to get a salad for lunch today at Subway and looked up at the TV hanging from the ceiling there showing CNN's live coverage of yet another school shooting, I was elated thinking about that last day.

I don't usually rant about the news on here. I prefer to talk about parenting, or crafts, or anything but the news. But as scenes emerged of students running out of schools with their hands on their heads and scared parents in tears searching for news of their sons and daughters, I couldn't help but think about my kids. And the schools they go to. Everyday. And I couldn't help but think about the relief I feel with school ending for the year. Because every morning, as I drop my son off at kindergarten, I tell him I love him. And he tells me he loves me. And I ask for a kiss. And he says he doesn't want to get lipstick on him. And then I watch him excitedly pop out of the car, shut the door and run to the large doors that he heaves open with both hands. And everyday I hope he's going to have the best day ever.

And I also hope he'll be coming home.

I'm among a generation of parents that has no idea what it's like to just send your kids off to school and not worry about some sort of mass violence. My entire adult life has been marked by one school shooting after another. I wonder what it must have been like for my stay-at-home mother in the 1970s and 1980s, as we walked up the street on our three-block walk to school. Her biggest fear likely came on our way home, as many of us would cross a busy road to get to a small convenience store near school that sold cheap candy. But I doubt there was ever any real fear for us while we were in school. It was a safe place, far from the busy traffic outside or the break-ins that may have plagued my suburban neighborhood. Shootings? They didn't happen at school.

But today, they happen. All the time. At schools. Everywhere in the country. And that's frightening. My kids and their schools are no more immune to this than anywhere else. It's that fear that it could happen anywhere. Even here.

And I don't mean to sound alarmist. I know as parents we worry about everything our kids do. It could be a car accident. A rare disease. A kidnapper. Or anything. But now it's also school shootings. It never before was school shootings. But now, it is.

So each day, I tell my daughter I love her, even if she's too teenager-in-the-morning grumpy to answer me back. And I tell her to have a great day. And I swoon inside when I walk in the door after work and know that she is there, chatting with friends on her phone or doing her homework. Because I feel like we've made it another day. And that's an awful awful thing for us as American parents to have to do. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When parenting is tough...

Parenting is hard. Not all the time. There are some times when it's just silly, like Sunday morning dance parties while making pancakes. Or summer trips for ice cream and rainbow sprinkles. And lazy afternoons kicking a soccer ball around the back deck.

Then there are the other times. The times when your daughter cries for three hours straight because she didn't make the cheerleading team, and most of her friends did. Or the times when a little boy on your son's first baseball team is hogging the ball and not playing by the rules. And when you see your child's friendships fracturing for reasons they won't disclose.

Those are the tough times. It's when you carefully weigh what you say and how you react. Because when these things happen, you can almost feel it, too. You can remember being that teenager who was cut from the volleyball team. Or the elementary schooler who remembers watching others get away with things while you were obedient, and stayed behind. Or the pre-teen whose fight and subsequent loss of a best friend affected friendships for years to come. You know that heart tug of feeling like things will never get better.

So what's a parent to do in the tough times? Maybe make more trips for ice cream. And make sure there are plenty of silly times and lazy days. Because deep down you know it will get better. And somehow you've got to convince them of that, too.