Monday, November 30, 2009

I Did It!!!

Back at the end of October, I decided to participate in National Blog Posting Month for November -- the goal was to post a blog entry every day.

I decided to challenge myself to a month of daily blogging because my previous blog posts had been somewhat haphazard.

My goal has always been to find some kind of semi-regular (and reasonably frequent) blogging schedule, but I've let myself get away with excuses -- too much to do, no great ideas, too stressed/tired/etc. This seemed a good way to get myself in the habit of regular blogging.

It does feel more like a habit now. While I probably won't keep up with daily blogging, I'm planning to post a few times a week. (Hopefully about things that are at least somewhat interesting, LOL.)

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

JIngle Bells

This may become my favorite version of Jingle Bells :-)

We've had a great start to the holiday season with musical entertainment from Ashley and Luke!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Celebrating Spiritedness

"Settle down."

"Please lower your voice."

"Stop it, now."

"Take a breath and calm down."

Somedays I feel like I spend my entire day uttering phrases such as these.

(And, admittedly, sometimes, I utter things that -- in the words of a friend of mine -- venture into the "dark side" -- you know when you say things or yell in ways that you swore you never would, and that you're not very proud of later.)

Usually these are said to Ashley, my spirited, energetic child.

Is it any wonder then that today when I gave them a snack and handed it to Luke first that she asked me if Luke gets things first "because he behaves better"?

Well, no, I explained to her, Luke got his snack first today because he was the one who originally asked for it. And sometimes he gets things first because he's younger and so it can be harder for him to wait. And, I said to her, Luke doesn't always behave better.

But, her comment is an echo of ones she has made before -- that Luke is the calm child and she is the wild child.

And, yes, Luke is in general calmer. But, I don't want Ashley to assume that means she is somehow "second best" because of it.

It's a good reminder to me that I need to celebrate the things that make Ashley uniquely who she is -- and tell her more often how much I value:
  • Her energy and excitement at the world.
  • Her ability to make friends with anyone.
  • Her fearlessness and willingness to try new things.
  • Her persistence and confidence.
  • Her sense of self and her willingness to chart her own path.
While some of those things make parenting her frustrating, and a challenge at time, they are all traits that I know will serve her well as she goes through life.

My job (and ongoing challenge) is to accept all of those sides of Ashley so that she can celebrate and embrace them.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Traditions

I've been thinking a lot about holiday traditions recently.

Because we live far enough away from our families, holiday celebrations are usually just the four of us. For better or worse, that means we get to create our own traditions.

Sometimes it's tempting to take a shortcut, not worry about a big meal or the fuss of holidays. After all, our kids are small. They won't really know the difference.

But then, I do want my children to have some things that the inevitably associate with the holidays, and so we do go to the effort of big meals and a certain amount of fuss -- decorating the house, using my great grandmother's china for meals, remembering to do the advent calendar, lighing advent candles at dinner.

I wonder out of all the traditions we create what it will be that will someday come to represent the essence of the holidays to my children.

I don't think I ever realized what it was to me until long after I was grown.

The first holiday season after I moved to New England, I spent Thanksgiving here. I went with a friend to her mom's home for Thanksgiving with her family, and it was wonderful -- well except, they didn't have my mom's dressing.

And that's when I realized how much that one part of our holiday meals somehow said "Thanksgiving" or "Christmas" to me.

That realization was reinforced when I flew home to Texas for Christmas. My mother -- who has always been so predictable with the exact same meal every Christmas -- decided to make ham instead of chicken and dressing for Christmas dinner.

My sense of disappointment was, I suspect, about far more than missing out on one of my favorite foods. It was, I suspect, about the sense of continuity, the memories of countless family dinners, the security of tradition that my mom's dressing represented.

I now make my mother's dressing (well at least her recipe -- mine is almost as good, but not quite "mom's") for Thanksgiving dinner.

I'm not sure that it will become my kid's signature Thanksgiving food, but anytime I'm tempted to take a shortcut in our holiday celebrations, I remember my mom's dressing. I know that somewhere in our holiday traditions, there will be something that will carry the same symbolic importance to them.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

In Gratitude

For sticky fingers
     that grab my hand
     and leave their mark throughout the house.

For little giggles,
     Silly dances,
     And impromptu songs.

For the stamped foot,
     a demonstration of independence,

For patience . . .
     . . . and unwavering forgiveness
     when patience fails.

For the sounds of play,
     hugs & snuggles,
     and I love yous from little voices.

This post inspired by the Writer's Workshop at Mama's Losin' It.
(Assignment -- Write a poem about something you're thankful for.)

This post is shared on the Adoption Carnival over at Grown In My Heart.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alternative Holiday Celebrations

The Christmas season has definitely arrived -- even if Thanksgiving isn't quite finished yet.

My email box is full of Black Friday promos and stores trying to entice me into more and more buying.

And, while we'll do a certain amount of buying, I'm hoping to find some more meaningful ways to give -- to my family and to others -- this Christmas.

I haven't decided quite what to do yet, but I thought I'd share a couple of online resources that have me pondering some more meaningful ways of celebrating this year.

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has put together a Guide to Commercial-Free Holidays filled with ideas for eliminating or at least minimizing the commercialization of the holiday. The site also includes a link with tips from other CCFC members.

I've also recently found ChristmasChange, which is devoted to the idea of spending less and giving more to those in need as a way of honoring the real meaning of the Christmas season.

live the gospel

All interesting ideas -- and things to ponder as all the retailers vie for my attention (and $$) this year.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Someday My Prince Will Come . . . Or Maybe Not

"You are Prince Charming," Ashley tells Luke. And then she gives him very specific instructions on how he is supposed to rescue her.

For a while they play out the standard storyline. Ashley is trapped in a castle and Luke must rescue her.

But as I listen to them play, I hear Ashley hesitate as she gives Luke directions, struggling with being the passive victim in this story.

Passive is not a part of Ashley's make up. And so, soon, she is taking a more active role in her "rescue."

And pretty soon, she comes up with a story in which she and Luke are trapped together in the castle and must escape together.

I'm glad she isn't waiting for someone to rescue her. And, I hope as she grows older, she'll hold onto her desire for independence and equality in her relationships with males.

It's hard to buck traditional stereotypes. But if anyone can do it, it's Ashley.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adoption Talk

Adoption is confusing when you're 5.

Ashley knows she's adopted, but she doesn't know quite what that means.

She knows she has an adoption story, and she likes to hear it, but she doesn't understand why everyone else doesn't have an adoption story, too.

She knows that her little brother was born in Phoenix and that we had to fly there to bring him home, and she knows that her friend Abby only had to go the local hospital to bring her baby sister home, but she doesn't understand the difference between the ways that her family and Abby's family were created.

She knows her birth mother's name, and sometimes will ask about her or express an interest in drawing her a picture, but she doesn't really understand the concept of having a birth mother.

She knows that her birth mother is somehow an important person, but I'm not sure she makes any distinction between her birthmother and all of our many relatives and friends she has never met because they live far away.

Adoption, at this point, is really just a word to her.

We are a family that isn't forced to acknowledge adoption.

Our children share our race, and because they are biologically half siblings, they look alike. Even though they don't particularly look like either me or their father, most people who don't know assume that we're a family created by birth.

Because we don't have to acknowledge adoption in the same ways that families who adopt transracially do, adoption talk in house ebbs and flows.

With Ashley, the converstation is often based on her interest or on questions that she has. With Luke, we bring it up occasionally, but he doesn't seem really interested yet.

Ashley and I went to an Adoption Family Night last night. The local adoption consortium sponsors a couple of family events every year. This is the first time we've gone because we've always felt the kids were really too young.

And, even when we decided to go this year, we thought the kids would have fun, but didn't really expect it to mean much to them other than a family outing.

But almost as soon as we told Ashley, she understood that this was somehow special. In fact, while we were out shopping on Saturday, she told practically anyone who would listen that "today's a special day" and then she would tell them we were going to an adoption family night.

But even though she knew it was special, she still struggled to figure out exactly how it was special. At first she thought that some baby was going to be born. Then she thought that someone was getting adopted.

When we arrived and I told her that the other kids there were also adopted, she just looked around and said, "oh" in a somewhat uninterested way and then asked who was getting adopted today.

Yes, adoption is very confusing when you're 5. And, I suspect that it may be confusing -- in new and different ways -- for a very long time.

But we'll keep talking, and perhaps one of these days, she'll figure out all the pieces of her story.

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You can learn more about our adoption story here.

November is National Adoption Month. Learn more about adoption from these great resources:
Adoptive Families
Adoption Today
National Council for Adoption

Related Posts
Real Families
The Start of the Hard Questions

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mysteries of Parenthood

There are some things I think I will never understand, no matter how long I do this parent thing.

Just a few examples:

Why is the same child who will pick up frogs and lizards and sneak them into her room so terrified of a Daddy Longlegs that she can't walk up the porch steps if she sees one crawling up the side of the house (far away from where she needs to walk)?

How is it that my daughter can always find things that she claims are hopelessly lost the minute she finds I'm unavailable to come find them for her?

How exactly does the 2-year-old know exactly what to say to send his sister into tears? (And why does she fall for it every single time?)

Why is the same child who can spot a piece of candy all the way across the room when it's hidden under things totally unable to find the pair of shoes that are right in front of the TV she is standing next to?

Why do both my children walk right past my husband who is standing in the kitchen to find me in the shower to ask for something to eat?

Why does the smallest person in the house take up the largest portion of the bed? (And how, exactly is it that he manages to nudge two grown ups over so he has an entire half of the bed to himself?)

Why is it that the  more tired children become the more hyped up they get? (And where is it they get their energy to start with?)

How exactly did I spend my time before I had children? I'm pretty sure I had a fairly busy life and that at least some of what I did was important -- but I'm certainly not doing it now (and the world does not seem to have fallen apart because it's left undone -- thank God!).

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: One of My Favorite Posts

Today I'm participating in Flashback Friday today and sharing one of my favorite posts -- from the day that Luke first learned to walk.

I think it's one of my favorite posts because it deals with one of those ever present struggles of parenthood -- celebrating your children's growth and accomplishments while sometimes wishing you could slow things down just a little.

I've been thinking about this struggle a lot lately because it seems both my children have reached new levels of maturity.

Ashley -- always independent -- is becoming more capable in her independence. She makes her own breakfast most mornings, and helps Luke with his. She will sometimes pitch in to set or clear the table, load the dishwasher, or fold socks.

Luke's vocabulary is impressive. He now speaks in full sentences and can communicate pretty much anything he wants. He's able to describe what happened at daycare and he can express what he wants to do. He's had a really great week on the toilet training front with only a couple of accidents -- and has been quite proud to tell me that he is a big boy.

Yes, they are growing up. And while I enjoy the fact that they now sometimes play independently, I also miss my babies. So, while the examples may be different, I think the sentiment in my "Flashback Friday" post is really reflective of what I've been feeling lately.


Letting Go (Originally Published August 25, 2008)

Luke walked by himself today – his first tentative steps. And as I clapped and cheered, I couldn't help but be a little sad too at his first halting steps to independence. This isn't the first time I've felt this way – proud and happy at my children's accomplishments, and a little sad at new evidence of their growing up.

There was the day I took Ashley to the first day of a new session of gymnastics only to learn she had been moved into the next class up – the one where she didn't need a parent to accompany her. I was sure my distractible, energetic child would never make it through class without me there to keep her on track. But as I watched from the observation area, she did fine without me.

And then this summer, I took her into her first day of camp, certain that this experience of being left in a room with strangers – even if only for a few hours – would be difficult. And it was – for me. After we met a couple of the counselors and put away her backpack and lunch, Ashley was off to explore with a very distracted wave goodbye.

Parenting is ultimately about preparing your children to make it in the world without you around. It is, as I am learning, an ongoing process of letting go.

On those days when both kids are clinging to me and demanding more time and energy than I feel I have at that particular moment, I think I'm ready to let go, let them grow up and be more independent. But then there are days like today, when one of them takes a step toward that more independent world.

For every time that I long for just a few grown up moments by myself, there is a time when Luke's chubby fingers grab my hand, when Ashley curls up in my lap and throws her arms fiercely around my neck, or when one of them snuggles against me as they fall asleep. And those make letting go one of the hardest parts of parenting.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Kindnesses

Among all the lessons I hope to teach my children, empathy and kindness are pretty high on the list.

It's hard sometimes to know how successful I'm being. After all, I know that I sometimes fall short in offering good examples to them.

And while I do think they are generally good kids who care about others, the reality is that at 2 and 5 all kids pretty much think the world revolves around them, and so sometimes it's hard to judge how well they're learning the lessons of empathy and compassion.

But over the last few weeks, I've gotten to experience several instances of kindness from my little ones.

I've spent much of the last month fighting off one kind of bug or another.

It started with a nasty tummy bug that I actually caught from my daughter.

The first morning I was sick, Ashley came downstairs, saw me on the sofa and asked what was wrong.

When I told her that I had caught what she had, she instantly said, "Oh, no, Mommy. Can I make you feel better?" (She gets far more points than my husband, whose first words were "Oh, God, don't breathe on me.")

I got many very sweet snuggles that weekend and several inquiries about how I felt. (Of course, they'll get more points in the empathy category when they learn that waking a sick person up to ask how they feel really isn't the best way to show your concern.)

Soon after I recovered from the tummy bug, I ended up with a cold/flu/ongoing cough thing that seemed like it was going away until it returned full force this week.

I wrote earlier this week about Luke's offer to read to me on a night when my voice and cough just wouldn't let me do the typical bedtime story. It was a very sweet way to spend our snuggle time before he went to bed.

And then last night, he walked over to where I was sitting and said, "You still feel sick?" When I said yes, he made a very sad face and said "oh." Then he said "I rub your back" as he gently rubbed my shoulders. Ashley has also treated me to several back rubs during the last week.

While I've certainly enjoyed their kindness, I'm also proud to see how easily and naturally it has seemed to come to them.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bedtime Stories

There was a time when I worried that my son wouldn't love books.

We went through a long period where he absolutely refused to allow me to read to him. He would hold the book tightly and scream if I tried to open it.

I spent many nights talking about the covers of many books -- something that calls for a fair amount of creativity, let me tell you.

But then, one night, he actually let me open a book and talk about a few pages. And, soon he began letting me read part of the book. And before long we were reading (an entire book) every night before bed.

Tonight I had to tell him that I couldn't read to him. I've been sick, have very little voice left, and if I talk too long, I cough ... a lot.

When I explained to him that Mommy couldn't read to him tonight, he looked at me and said "I read to you."

He took his book, pointed to various pictures, telling me about the bears and the water and the flowers. And, there was lots of growling (because of the bear.)

After a few kisses and snuggles, I left his room glad that he has learned to love books -- and thankful that tonight he shared that love of books with me.

This post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped, a weekly blogging event hosted by Emily
about slowing down to enjoy and celebrate the small moments in our lives.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

School Days

I always thought the school part of parenting would be pretty easy.

After all, I was (and usually still am) a quick learner. Granted I haven't been playing Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? lately, but I made As and Bs with minimal effort (and actually still remember much of what I learned).

But then Ashley came home from her Pre-K program today. They're learning about space exploration.

She quickly rattled off most of the planets (not in order, but still pretty impressive when you consider that she didn't even know about them until today.)

Then she said to me, "Mommy, did you know that scientists discovered that Pluto is not really a planet?"

Now, I didn't miss this news flash the first time it came around, but hearing it today made me think: Being good at helping with the homework depends in part on the world as we knew it not changing. And, of course, that's not really the world works.

So tonight it occurs to me that there is probably much I don't know about the things my daughter will learn as she moves on to school.

While I know the Soviet Union no longer exists, I'm not sure exactly what replaced it other than Russia and a bunch of smaller states. I know we tore down the Berlin Wall, but I'm not sure what that really means in terms of the structure of Germany today. I know there's a European Union and they have a common currency, but I'm not really sure what that means in terms of geopolitical relations in Europe.

I'm sure there are many scientific advances that I'm clueless about. And, I'm guessing there may even be a few new words or grammar exceptions that I might not be quite up on. (Scary since I'm a writer and work with teenagers -- but I suspect it may be true.)

And I fear that I may be the mom who hopelessly confuses my children in math because I'm using some antiquated formula that might as well be some ancient hieroglyphic scribblings.

Oh, well, I guess I'll have to settle for teaching them how to be flexible, learn new stuff, and find their own answers!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Best Friends & Worst Enemies

This is one of my favorite pictures of my kids.

I always think it looks so sweet and innocent.

What you don't know from looking at the picture is that just moments before the picture was taken, Luke was crying because Ashley pushed him down.

And that's how our day has gone today.

They've hit each other, pushed each other, taken things away from each other and called each other names.

And then, they've played cars together. Ashley helped Luke with an art project. Luke offered to share his water with Ashley.

I actually feel quite lucky. They usually get along better than I would expect. They play together often and the fights, when they occur, are usually short-lived.

I hope it will always be that way -- that despite whatever disagreements may come their way, they will always know that they have each other.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Real Families

The headline jumped out at me from the trashy tabloid at the grocery store checkout: "First Lady Can't Get Pregnant," and then below the somewhat unflattering picture of Michelle Obama, the subhead: "President and First Lady To Adopt Baby Boy."

It was a reminder that much of the rest of the world views adoptive families as somehow second best, not quite as "real" as families created by birth.

Granted for most of us, adoption was a second choice, made because the traditional "have sex, get pregnant" route didn't quite work out. But second choice is not the same as second rate. And once that choice is made, adoptive families are as real, as loving, as stressed, and as connected as any other family.

But those of us who have chosen adoption are used to offhand comments from family, friends, even strangers (sometimes even the headline writer at the trashy tabloid).

There are the "too bad you couldn't get pregnant/have your own child/had to adopt" comments. I"m not really sure whether I could have gotten pregnant with the right intervention. We chose adoption over in vitro fertilization.

We opted for an emotional roller coast that we knew would result in a baby at the end rather than one that might, or might not, result in a pregnancy. We wanted to parent, and the biology of our child really didn't matter that much to us.

There are times that I am sad not to have had the chance to be pregnant. But it's not those unborn biological children I mourn during those times.

Rather, it's the oppotunity to have had nine months to get to know my children before they came into this world. I miss that I didn't have the chance to be pregnant with Ashley and Luke. (I am not, however, sad to have missed morning sickness, labor, or back aches.)

And then there are all those comments about "real" parents. I know what people mean when they say this, but it is, at heart, a bias that somehow biology trumps all. And, as anyone who has ever been raised by a really great stepparent after having been abandoned by a biological parent can attest, parenting is about much more than just biology.

My children have "real" birthparents and "real" adoptive parents.

From their birthmom, they got their beautiful eyes and lively smiles. Ashley got her long hands and fingers from her birthmother.

Perhaps Luke got his love of music and his sense of rhythm from one of his birthparents. Perhaps they are also responsible for his quirky sense of humor just as Ashley's birthparents may be responsible for her boundless energy and ability to make friends with anyone.

My children's birthparents shaped who they are in real and profound ways.

From their father and me, my children have learned a love of books. From Andy, Ashley has learned to appreciate jazz and swing music. They have learned how to count, the words to countless songs, and how to be gentle with the dogs. They've learned rules and boundaries, and a sense of security in the world.

We have also shaped (and will continue to shape) who they are in real and profound ways.

But at the end of the day, when my children think about "mommy" and "daddy," it is me and and Andy that they think about. And that will always be true.

I don't know what relationship they might someday cultivate with their birthparents. I do know it won't be a parent-child relationship.

I know that because parenting is about who is there when you wake up with a nightmare in the middle of the night. It's about who holds you when you're sick or scared or sad. It's about who cheers you on when you need encouragement and who celebrates your accomplishments with you.

The very difficult and painful choice that my children's birthmother made was to create an adoption plan and let go of that parent-child relationship.

And for that, she is the subject of one of the comments I hate the most: "What kind of person gives up their own child?" Ask yourself this, if you knew in your heart of hearts that your children would be better off with someone else, would you let them go? I'd like to say I'd be able to, but I'm not so sure.

Our children's birthmother -- like most birthmothers -- had many reasons that she felt she couldn't parent in the way she wanted, and in the way that Luke and Ashley deserved, at the times they were born. As a mom, I admire the courage it took for her to say to herself and the world: "it might be better if someone else is able to parent them."

To all those people who would say that we are "saints" for adopting or that our children are "lucky" we were there to adopt them, I'll tell you that neither is true. We are no better or worse than any other parents. Some days we do a pretty good job at this parenting thing, other days we struggle.

And, if anyone is "lucky," it's us -- because Ashley and Luke are a part of our lives.

Or, perhaps, it is our family who is lucky because we love each other and we're there for each other -- just like every other family, whether the bonds of love are created by adoption or by birth.

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You can learn more about our adoption story here.

November is National Adoption Month. Learn more about adoption from these great resources:
Adoptive Families
Adoption Today
National Council for Adoption

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flashback Friday and A Preview of Upcoming Stuff

Today I'm participating in Flashback Friday, so you're going to be treated to (or subjected to, depending on your viewpoint) one of my older posts.

I'll be back to original posts tomorrow (you may have noticed the significant increase in blog posts this month -- I'm participating in National Blog Posting Month, so my goal is to post every day in November). I attended an adoption conference today and am still thinking about lots of the issues discussed there, but I definitely have the beginnings of several new posts (in honor of National Adoption Month).


Modern Magic (originally posted on August 19, 2008)
My daughter has reached the princess phase – she loves princesses and wands and all the other stuff that goes with storybook royalty.

And so, on Saturday afternoon, we sat down to watch Enchanted, which tells the story of Giselle, a would-be princess banished from storybook land to the real world of New York City. Midway through the movie, the world of princesses, fairy godmothers and magic came face to face with modern consumerism. When Giselle needs to get ready for the ball, she turns not to her fairy godmother, but instead to a credit card.

In a culture where instant gratification is sometimes taken as a right and where wants and needs are often viewed as interchangeable, the swipe of a credit card can indeed seem equivalent to the wave of a fairy godmother’s wand. But I’m not really ready for my daughter to learn about that kind of magic just yet.

I realize that she’s not likely to have understood much about that scene; and even if she did, one scene in one movie isn’t likely to shape her lifelong values. But these messages underlie so much of our culture. After all, Mastercard tells us that credit cards are the key to having all those experiences in life that are “priceless.” And, I do believe that the media subtly influence and shape our views in ways in which we are seldom aware.

And my daughter – like most kids, I suspect – is an eager student of media lessons. At three and a half, she knows about Indiana Jones from the Happy Meals at McDonalds and about Hannah Montana, in part, because of Disney channel commercials she sees while watching preschool programming.

I like Indiana Jones, but it’s not a movie I want my 3½-year-old to be asking about. And, while I’ve never seen Hannah Montana, I understand it’s a relatively benign show – for the preteen set. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to market their products. And, I fully believe that it’s my job as a parent to set the boundaries around what entertainment is and is not acceptable for my children. At the same time, when toys from PG-13 movies make it into Happy Meals and preteen angst invades preschool innocence, it makes that parenting job harder.

I guess I wasn’t quite ready to begin battling cultural messages yet, but for us the challenge has begun. Ashley recently asked for “hair colors like Hannah Montana.” There was no way I was allowing her to dye her hair, but then in the toy section at Walmart, we found Hannah Montana hair color – wands of pink and purple hair color that was reasonably subtle and that combed and washed out easily. Is this the modern version of dress up? Or, is my little girl trying to grow up too fast?

In the end, I bought the Hannah Montana hair color. And Ashley was enthralled with it for a week or so, and has since lost interest. I’m still not sure how I feel about her foray into the world of preteen primping. But, I know this is but the first of many such dilemmas we’ll face – someday it will be clothes, or makeup, or piercings, or the co-ed sleepover that “everyone else’s mother” is letting them go to. I don’t expect the choices will be easy.

Somehow I have to figure out how to balance the knowledge that today’s world is different than the world I grew up in and the belief that some values are timeless. Maybe I’ll wish for a fairy godmother to help me determine the difference.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holiday Mail For Heroes

The holiday season has definitely begun with Christmas decorations everywhere.

Both my kids are excited. Ashley is eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa and the chance to open gifts. I think Luke is excited just because he figures anything that excites Ashley this much must be good.

It's fun to watch their excitement, but I'm also looking for ways to help them learn a little bit about what the holidays really mean -- and to give them the opportunity to enjoy the satisfaction of giving to others.

In my email today, I received a message from the Red Cross about their "Holiday Mail for Heroes," an opportunity to send a holiday card to U.S. service members and veterans. I'm thinking this might be a good opportunity for Ashley and I to work on a project.

The program is pretty simple. You send a card (or cards -- up to 15 per person or up to 50 for a school class or business group), address them to Dear Service Member, Family or Veteran, and sign them. I think Ashley might get a real kick out of it.

If you're interested in participating, cards must be received by December 7 and should be mailed to 
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Respect Is a Two-Way Street

Ever have one of those "uh-oh" moments?

This morning I had asked Ashley to get dressed a few times. She had told me she was eating breakfast.

Once again, I asked her, "Ashley, are you getting dressed?"

"How many times do I have to tell you I'm eating breakfast?" (And, yes, there was plenty of attitude in that statement.)

"Is that how you talk to grown ups?" I asked her.

She took a breath. "No, it's how grown ups talk to kids." (And, there was no attitude in that statement. It was simply, to her, a statement of fact.)


Wish I could say I've never talked to her that way, but I have (and probably with almost as much attitude as she gave me).

I did tell her that I don't think it's okay for grown ups to talk to kids that way either. And I made a mental note to be a little more mindful in how I respond to her -- especially when I'm frustrated.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

My Little Dancer

Luke is my little dancer . . . . full of music in his head . . . .  and with almost perfect rhythm.

Here's a sample from our vacation this summer.

Tonight, he began dancing around the living room, and boy, has he gotten even better! Now he's got jumps and twirls.

We tried to record tonight's performance, but it came out pretty dark. (Perhaps we can get him to recreate his efforts in better light.)

When he looked at the recording we made tonight, he giggled and then turned to me and said, "I like me." Now, isn't that the purpose of dancing?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Little Things

Each night I begin my children's goodnight routine by asking "What are you thankful for?"

They always come up with an answer, and the simplicity of those answers reminds me how much it really is the little things that matter most.

Luke usually has the same answer: "Popcorn." This isn't a totally random response -- Luke loves popcorn.

Ashley is more thoughtful -- or at least more diverse -- in her replies.

Sometimes it's the type of things you'd expect: "going trick or treating," "my birthday," or "candy."

But, often, the replies are "cooking with you" or "watching Tom and Jerry with Daddy." Yesterday it was "going with Daddy" (because she had spent the day running errands with him). Today it was "snuggling with you when we took a nap."

At this time of year when I struggle with what (and how much) to buy my kids for Christmas, Ashley's responses serve as a good reminder that the things that matter most really are pretty simple: time and attention from her father and me, time spent together, a few minutes when she is reminded that she is special to the people who matter most to her.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Skipping The Fast Forward Button

"Can you get rid of the commercials?" Ashley asks the second a commercial interupts Scooby Doo.
Because Ashley is often watching a cartoon that has been recorded on the DVR, it is usually possible to get rid of the commercials. But I have to admit I often have mixed feelings when she makes this request.

On the one hand, I'm not eager for her to be exposed to rampant commercialism. And I've seen far too often how a commercial can instantly create a desire for some toy that she didn't even know existed 30 seconds before.

At the same time, I can't help but think that her desire to fast forward through the commercials is a symptom of a world where we all want what we want NOW, and even a couple of minutes of delayed gratifiction seems an impossible wait.

While patience isn't always something I'm great at, I think it's important. I want my daughter to learn that some things are worth waiting for. (And, okay, perhaps Scooby Doo isn't the greatest example -- but we've got to start somewhere.)

Most importantly, I want my always-on-the-go daughter to learn that it's okay to slow down and take things as they come without always looking ahead for the next great thing.

I do fast forward through the commercials for her most of the time (that dislike of commercialism often wins out), but every now and then, I tell her to just wait until her show comes back on.

I figure it's a start in teaching patience and delayed gratification. I'm not sure she agrees, but she's learning to tolerate it.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Growing Human Potential

I recently heard parenting defined as the art of growing human potential.

I think it’s a beautiful definition.

And it’s pretty intimidating. In the midst of a two-year-old exploring his growing independence, a feisty and precocious five-year-old, and all the demands of daily life, I’m not sure I’m up to growing human potential.

But whether I feel ready or not, that is the job we parents have. When we do it well, we help our children learn both boundaries and a sense of confidence in their ability to control their world.

I hope I do it well.

When I think about my job as “growing human potential,” it reminds me to be more mindful of what I really hope my children learn from me.

Yes, I want them to learn to put away their toys, use their manners, and to not torture one another. But more importantly, I want them to learn to be good people.

I hope they learn – by my words, but more so by my actions – to value and respect all people, even those with whom they disagree, even those whom they dislike.

I hope I teach my children to solve problems and to negotiate the complexity of human relationships.

I hope I give them a foundation of values and security while also giving them the self-confidence and critical thinking skills to learn to make up their own minds.

I hope I nurture their souls so they have the opportunity and the courage to find the things in life that bring them joy, that inspire them. (And I hope I get out of their way and let them follow those things – even if I don’t always understand them.)

But most importantly, I hope I teach them that success in life – real, long-lasting success – is not about what you are, but rather about who you are.

This post shared on Your Life, Your Blog.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Underwater Exploring

No photo editing here . . . . 
just a really neat fish tank

We spent a couple of hours exploring
wind & water,
earth & space,
fish & frogs
(and, yes, turtles, too).

For more great photos, visit:

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