Monday, September 17, 2012

Birthday Party Madness?

I should start at the end, that's how all the really good movies start.
This is my NOW five year old, absolutely zonked out on the couch after a morning full of birthday party fun. Seconds after taking this picture I looked exactly the same, minus the Tinker Bell!

It was a great day after months of planning, making gift bags. . .okay, trying really hard to be crafty, picking the menu, theme and all that party stuff that can drive a usually sane person to the edge!

For Lu's "theme" we went with Favorite Things at her favorite place, Tampa Creative Camps.  We stopped short at giving everyone a My Little Pony and a Disney cruise! Though  I agree with Lulu, it would be very, very nice.

I pictured these looking very different!

Instead we opted for face painting, a bounce house, ballon art, freeze dance, dress-up and "rock star;" topped off with a visit from an ice cream truck! Whoosh!  After a couple of days of rest, I've been thinking about how crazy birthday parties have become--how crazy I have become about them.  I've already started to plan her next one!

So when did this all happen? I plan events as part of my job, so it could be an occupational hazard; but this phenomenon goes well beyond me.  It seems to strike unsuspecting mothers of all ages, makes and creeds. When it comes to our kids, we might go a little overboard.  One could just point to the explosion of children's party planners and websites geared toward haute swag as an example.

Okay, the popsicle truck may have
been for Mom!
When I was little I grew up with at home birthday parties. I had friends over, games, cake and a clown! The clown was a big deal apparently and the kids loved it-- I hated clowns! Looking at all the old pictures I have a look of sheer terror on my face in ever single shot.  I think that clown came to my party for two or three years! Either my parents wanted to give me nightmares, or they were doing exactly what some of us (me!) do 40 years later; create birthday parties we wished we had when we were kids, instead of listening to our kids.  Please don't get me wrong I don't think it's intentional or that we even realize we're doing it. We just get caught up in this continuous  flow of nonstop birthday parties, Pineterest, and TLC design shows--who has the will power to resist?!

At the end of the day, I think Lulu had a great day that she will remember. Would she have had as much fun with a couple of her girlfriends, a cake and painting her fingernails? Probably. Would I have less grey hair and the money to cover them? Definitely!

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Other Girl

Super Lulu and her crime fighting side-kick, Foster

Even before I had a two-legged kid, I was the proud “mom” of four-legged, fur kids.  Yes, I am one of THOSE people.  As difficult as that may be for some folks to understand (I know it is for my mom), I just love dogs!  To me dogs’ have the characteristics I wish to have one day. 
For years, I volunteered with a breed rescue group, a shelter and a community animal welfare organization. I even worked at a shelter.   I saw the best of the best and the absolute worst of people. You might be familiar with that quote from Gandhi:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I am not really sure where Tampa would be on the scale.  Honestly, I try to block out of my mind those years spent in the shelter. But, I have four constant reminders at home of the decade I spent volunteering. 


 Last night, I came home from work and my girl “Foster” was a mess.  I won’t go into detail, because it was gross—but I will say we rushed to the vet: a panicked Mom (me), an 80 pound dog that couldn’t walk, and a terrified (almost) five year old.  What a sight it must have been for the neighbors!

The life of a dog in our house! 

Through all the prodding, poking, shots, vomiting—my girl, STILL wagged her tail.  Now if she was human, would that happen? I can tell you, not if it was me!  


When I finally got a chance to sit down with Foster, she put one very tired head in my lap, either looking for comfort, or to give me comfort, (knowing her, the latter)  it reminded me of a dog I met years ago, despite my best attempts to forget him.   


He was a Harlequin, Great Dane.  When I first saw him, it actually took my breath away and I just started crying.  There was no other reaction to have (except anger—which was my only emotion during the 90's).  You could see every (and I mean every) bone in his body.  Only his head remained somewhat normal.   I sat down, to make myself as small as possible, so I wouldn’t make him nervous.  He came over immediately and put his gigantic head in my lap and again, I just lost it!  After all he had suffered at the hands of humans, he trusted me. . .or was it, he wanted to comfort me? I know there is a danger to applying human feelings to animals, but they most certainly are aware of our emotions. 


St. Francis, Patron Saint of Animals

Pets add an intrinsic value to our lives and to our physical and emotional health. They instinctually seem to want to help us. Like the pets that save their families from fires; the k-9 units that protect their officers; the bomb sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq, that they now realize also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; sheep and cattle dogs that help our ranchers; therapy dogs and cats brought into hospitals, schools and nursing homes. . .


I know there are many different kinds of pets and different kinds of “jobs” making an impact on people everywhere. For me though, it’s all about dogs and their unbelievable trust, loyalty, tolerance and unconditional love.   I have another favorite quote: “Lord, help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.” 


Can you imagine what the world would look like if we loved as unconditionally as our dogs? That is what we are each called to do but often a struggle, for me at least.  Today I will try harder!






Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Finally Here! Can We Wait?

Lulu's Self-Portrait

Today was the day.  I spent the past month reading, researching and talking to other parents about preparing.  We spent the entire summer casually introducing the concept of a new school.  We shopped, we organized, we ironed and we said a special prayer—and finally the big day arrived this morning.  And I lost it!  Yup, I cried like a baby as soon as Lulu walked out the door lined up with her new fellow classmates.  I wish I was as brave as her, but seeing her little face just brought me to tears.  

“What if I get a bloody nose, will they know what to do?”  “Yes” I answer. “The teacher will help you and they have a nurse.”
Always the practical one, or just testing me to see IF they really do have a nurse, “What’s her name?” 

 “I don’t know, but I saw her once.  She seems really nice and she was helping someone with a bleeding ear, so she knows all about that stuff.” 

 “When will we go on a field trip?”  "Will we have art today?" “Is my PE teacher a boy or a girl?”  “Can I just go to my old school?”  Ahhhh, the root of the first day jitters!    

The thing is, at my advanced age---I feel the same way too!  I am nervous about meeting the new moms and making new friends.  Of course I can’t admit that. . .can I?  That even when you get older, things can be a bit intimidating, but that is okay!  Life is an adventure—whether it is your first day of kindergarten, or the first day dropping your first child off FOR kindergarten!  I pray my daughter has an adventurer’s spirit her entire life and for all the children who begin a new adventure this year (and for their parents and teachers!!). 

Now, when can I pick her up? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kindergarten or the End Times?

Why preparing for the first day of school seems like preparing for the apocalypse.  Well, the truth is I haven't really prepared for either but I am going on a hunch formulated after a summer of looking at blogs and articles related to all things kindergarten. Please bear with me as I explain:

1) Research what supplies will be needed.
This could go either way--End Times or Circle Time!

2) Prepare your list before you hit the stores! 
Have you seen a supply list for school kids recently? Seriously, short of a water filtration kit, it looks like a prepper's  list for a family of five! I remember when I was in school I had five notebooks, a pencil box and a Trapper Keeper (now that is bringing it old school!).  Last year when the kiddo was in EC-4, she actually had to bring paper plates at the beginning of the year!! Whaaaat?!

Photo  from Prepared LDS Family Blog
3) Prepare a 72-hour emergency kit for your child.
This "tip" just made me sad and wonder if it was really time to talk to the kiddo about emergencies (I'll wait till she's six to tell her about terrorist, nuclear threats, climate change, pandemics, Planet X. . . .). The whole idea something could happen and I couldn't get to her and she would have to fend for herself in a post-apocalyptic society formed on juice boxes and fruit roll-ups gives me goose bumps!

Lu and her buddy from her "old school." She has
grown up so much this summer!

Maybe I am a bad mom, but I'm just not ready for emergency kits; let alone the fact I may be implanting the idea in Lu's head that each day she heads off to school may be the last time she sees her family.  Holy panic attack!

But honestly, I am not sure I am even ready for the litany of play dates, orientation, welcome back events and everything else that comes with starting school. . .and my baby growing up!

How are you getting your kids ready for school? Do you have any family traditions you do before starting a new school year? Is this your child’s first year in “real” school? Share your thoughts on ways to start the new year on a positive note. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Here or There?

Lulu and her cousins in York, Maine

Do you live near your family or wish you did? We just got back from visiting family up in the Northeast and it was a reminder of how difficult it is sometimes to be so far away.  Not only difficult, but I wonder if we are doing a real disservice to our daughter by not raising her near her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?  

Growing up, I lived in 15 cities/states, three countries and don’t remember ever living close to any relatives.   My parents and in-laws tell stories of walking to their grandparents' houses after school or going to parties at their cousin's summer camp. . .all stuff I only saw on TV and my kid will only experience during short trips “home.” 

I wonder now if being so separated geographically from extended family has had anything to do with the type of person I am today.  Sometimes I can be aloof; maybe emotionally distant, independent--bordering on self-centered and solitary.  At our staff meeting yesterday it hit home that I may even have hermit tendencies (putting it nicely)!

Lulu and more cousins in Boston's North End

Yesterday, the boss man was talking about Sunday’s Mass readings (Jeremiah 23: 1-6 and Mark 6: 30-34) and about the message of “hope” one could find in the scripture. I knew the passages well—yet, I had an entirely different interpretation. I was stuck on the need to “come away by yourselves. . .and rest a while.”  The need to replenish, refresh and retreat!  Especially in the retreat part, (as in escape) that is where I find hope! Now is that nature or nurture?  I don’t know.  

I think people should learn how to be alone with themselves. It seems like a good skill to teach our children; yet I think it is something that many of us are uncomfortable with.  We fear silence.  We hate being still.  A lot of good can come from those quiet, still moments! And lets face it, we all do need to recharge our batteries from time to time.  This is the only way we can truly be present to others. 

BUT, we’re social beings.  I could go on for ever on all the research that has been done on the benefits of friendships, family relationships and eating dinner together as a family unit-- blah, blah, blah. . .my point is, as our society (and families) becomes more global—are we actually becoming more isolated?  As we focus on become more high tech are we forgetting about “high touch” because we are so far removed from our familiar—our family—who teach us about relationships?    

I had a great childhood.  I wouldn’t change it for the world-but to experience some of the things my in-laws and parents did as kids—big sigh-- that would be awesome! Like walking over to my grandfather’s house everyday after school and grabbing a snack at the Big Red’s lunch counter and just talking with him. Or going to parties at my aunt and uncle’s summer camp with all my cousins and oh yeah--U.S. Representative John F. Kennedy!

What do you remember most about growing up? Is it things or is it time spent with family?  Exactly. 

Tips to stay close with family—even when you are far away! 
Abbreviated from Kids Health from Nemours:
  • Visit often. Plan regular trips to see out-of-town grandmas and grandpas. Planning the next trip can help your child regard that time as special.
  • Stay in touch with technology. Use the telephone and email to talk, write, and send pictures and sound files of your kids to grandparents.
  • Say cheese. Post snapshots of grandparents in your home and point them out to your kids often.
  • Sound mail call. Kids love receiving mail. So send grandparents a box of stationery and postcards and some stamps and ask them to write regularly.
  • Pass it on. Many grandparents have hobbies or special skills — such as knitting, woodworking, or cooking — that they'd love to pass on to their grandchildren.
  • Chart a family tree. Both younger and older kids enjoy learning about their ancestors and relatives. Encourage grandparents to share stories of their families. You can even provide paper and drawing supplies so they can chart the family tree.
Do you have other tips?  Email Danielle

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Part of Me

I am so mad right now.  I know I will get over it so I don’t want to make too big of a deal about this, but right now I am M.A.D.--Mad! 

So here’s the thing:  the summer camp my daughter attends took all the kids on a field trip today to see the Katy Perry movie.  No permission slips went out asking parents for permission. No arrangements were made at the summer camp for the kids whose parents didn’t want their children to see the movie—so, you either had to take off one day from work, or you get to spend the next week explaining why your daughter can't wear a shirt that shoots ice cream from her chest!  

I am angry on so many levels right now.  I don’t mean to start a debt about whether it is/or isn’t appropriate for a four year old to see (or listen to) Katy Perry—but as the mom, I get to make that decision for my daughter. My VERY impressionable daughter who can’t decide if she wants to be Mermaidia, Snow White or Barbie when she grows-up! (ugh!). 

Do kids still ride bikes?

I am angry that I had to pull my kid out of camp as everyone was lining up to leave, all happy and excited to be going on this fantastic, life altering field trip--because everything is life altering when you are four!  I hate that my kid asked why she was the only one not going and all I could come up with was, “Your Dad and I don’t think it is appropriate for someone your age.”  To which she counter—“But So-and-So, who is also four is going.”  Ahhh, of course!  Now I am going to have to use the blasted “Well, if So-and-So jumped off a cliff would you?” Am I really just mad because I am turning into my parents?!

I had blue hair (and every other primary color!), before Katy Perry sang her first song.  I had my head shaved before she was even born!  I am not afraid of her brand of pop culture.  But there does seem a time and a place and four just seems too young, and I am not ready to explain some things yet (maybe ever!).   Are we exposing our children too soon and expecting them to have the emotional, intellectual and social maturity and capacity to process what they are experiencing?  Is this what the new four looks like?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Need a Guide!

I was on the web this morning, researching local children’s nonprofits and I noticed a listing of recommended parenting books.  As I looked through all the titles and descriptions, I was thinking to myself-I could use that!  It got me thinking, when you are new to parenting how do you know you need help?  I mean how do you know you don’t know what you are doing—short of an intervention or legal action?
I think there are some obvious Do and Don’t examples out there to definitely follow (or avoid) like the. . .over zealous parents who caused that one Easter egg hunt to be banned this year because they couldn’t stand the idea of their kids failing at finding an Easter egg.  An Easter egg!   

I know I am probably boarding on the edge of what they call a “Helicopter-Tiger Mom,” but I like to think I am somewhat reasonable.  Though I am sure there was at least one mom at the last Colorado Springs Easter Egg Hunt, knocking down other moms and any kid that made the mistake of getting in her way—thinking the exact same thing!

So how do you know when to intervene? When to know your kiddo needs to be pushed a little more and when to just give that mean kid on the playground the hairy eyeball? Just like the parenting books, I am sure there is a right answer for each kid/family out there!     For my daughter, right now it seems a delicate ballet of push, pull, hairy eyeball—and usually it’s her giving ME the hairy eyeball!