Posts Tagged ‘daughters’

A Messy Situation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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I absolutely despise the phrase “I told you so.”

But then, I can’t imagine anyone actually likes hearing words that generally follow a bad decision, a poor choice or some unfortunate situation.

Sometimes, even when they remain unspoken, I know I deserve to hear them.

And sometimes, I am saying them to myself.

Now that I have two teenagers living under my roof, I find myself saying those words to myself over and over again, just as a friend warned me years ago.

At the time, one of my many job responsibilities was teaching adolescent development and parenting. I thought I was an expert as I spouted facts about concrete versus abstract thinking, risky behavior and setting boundaries.

In reality, all I knew was what I had read and what I had been taught, neither of which can replace genuine experience when it comes to human behavior or raising kids.

A friend tried to point this out to me when my son was just a toddler. I had been quoted in a newspaper article about carefully picking battles with teenagers. I specifically told parents not to waste time and energy fighting over messy bedrooms as teenagers should be allowed to be in control of some parts of their lives, including personal space.

“You are going to look back at that article some day and laugh at yourself,” my friend said.

I told her I wouldn’t.

I was wrong.

When my son turned 13 and his bedroom began to resemble destruction left in wake of a tornado, he came up with his own solution to my constant griping. He asked if he could move into the bedroom in the basement, which we already called the kid cave. His dad and I agreed, and I thought the bedroom battle was resolved.

I was wrong again.

My daughter, who once took pride in keeping her room neat and organized, has apparently been taking notes from her brother. As her room grows messier and more chaotic by the day and the contents of her room are now spilling out into the hallway, my complaints have grown louder and more frequent. They’ve also fallen on deaf ears.

Even as I tell myself I am fortunate to be battling with my daughter over such a minor issue, I am also aware that I’m not following my own naive yet somehow sensible advice: pick your battles so you have the time and energy to deal with the major issues.

Since I haven’t listened,  the battle is starting to wear me down. I have also become convinced that my daughter is simply laying the groundwork to take over the basement as soon as her brother graduates from high school.

I’m telling myself that will never happen, but something tells me I may also be wrong.

Which means I will once again be telling myself “I told you so.”

In Defense of a Little Drama

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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I spent lat week immersed in drama.theater mask

The drama became so all-consuming  that I actually had to take a couple of days off work to deal with dysfunctional family dynamics, jealousy and romance. And I enjoyed every minute.

That’s because the drama was on stage, where drama belongs.

My daughter was in a youth summer production of Cinderella, and her involvement required parental involvement. I supervised, ushered, sold gifts, stayed up past midnight several nights in a row and made food for the cast party.

But, as my husband so eloquently said, since I’m the one who got my daughter interested in drama, I’m responsible for all that involves.

What he doesn’t realize is that, for such a generally pragmatic person, I crave drama. I grew up with a dad who performed in local theater, and I loved going to plays, especially musicals. But even at a young age, I knew there was more to theater than the story the audience sees on stage.

In reality, the audience members actually get the short end of the deal. That’s because the genuine magic of theater doesn’t happen on the stage. Sometimes, it doesn’t even happen backstage.

It happens with the voice teachers who encourage their students to take a risk and audition for a part in a musical.

It happens with artists who can envision a set and the carpenters and painters who can build it.

It happens in the pit with musicians who can pick up an instrument and learn a piece of music instantly.

And most of all, it occurs in the relationships that are built not with the intent of beating another team or winning a championship. but on making people smile, think, cry, imagine and relate to others.

When a team is focused entirely on that, they can only encourage each other and cheer each other on.

Last week, an adult (make that this adult) made a comment about an actor’s off-key performance. My daughter didn’t even let me finish the sentence.

“He’s nervous, Mom,” she said harshly. “Don’t be critical.”

Last week, I heard parents debating why some youth always get a speaking part while others don’t (yes, this parent was involved in that conversation.) My daughter told me that being part of a cast is fun no matter what the role is.

Last week, I tolerated mothers who worried over hairstyles and costumes. At the same time, I witnessed kids who are generally labeled as misfits being included, hugged and encouraged by their peers.

Last week, I saw adults bringing in large bouquets of fresh flowers to bestow upon the actresses, musicians, directors and producers. At the same time, I sold four plastic  flowers to a member of the cast who spent a great deal of time deliberating over just the right message to send to four girls in the chorus: girls who didn’t have any lines.  According to the notes the actor finally wrote, all four girls were “amazing stars.”

And he was right.

Everyone involved in the production was contributing his or her unique gifts to make the show a success. Every parent who lost sleep and hauled kids to performances and fundraisers made the show possible. And each person who bought a ticket was telling our young people that theater is important.

I never had that opportunity. For whatever reason, the theater department at my high school was defunct when I graduated. The football, basketball, baseball, track and volleyball programs were all fully supported, but I never heard one person complain that my class never put on a school play.

That saddens me as much today as it did when I was a teenager.

I know the odds of anyone becoming a Hollywood star are just as astronomical as the odds of  someone becoming a star athlete. But the odds of a person using the skills they learned in theater – confidence, positive relationships, public speaking and public relationships are extremely good.

And if we support local and youth theater – and the drama that comes with it – the odds are even better.

It’s time we play those odds.

Fuzzy Truths, Fake Beards and Imaginary Poison Ivy

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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I’ve come to realize that  being a parent sometimes requires creating your own version of the truth.

I should have caught on at least 45 years ago, but I can sometimes be a slow learner.poison ivy

When I was a little girl, my dad provided a running commentary about the dangers of my behavior.  He said my skin would turn green if I ate too much pea soup. If I swallowed a watermelon seed, he informed me that it might take root in my stomach and start to grow there.  He warned me of that dangers of crossing my eyes in the car because if we hit a  bump, my eyes would stay crossed forever. And, according to him, if I didn’t go to the bathroom when the urge hit, I would suffer some miserable but unnamed disease as an adult.

I listened to him with a cautious ear. I didn’t necessarily believe that everything he said was entirely true, but neither did I want to test the veracity. By the age of five, I’d  decided to err on the side of caution by avoiding anything potentially harmful. Generally, that wasn’t a bad thing, but there were times my fear interfered with my quality of life.

I feared eating any mushrooms because my dad had told me some mushrooms were poisonous. I refused to even try  jerky because Dad said if people didn’t prepare it properly, it could cause food poisoning. And I looked at all greens suspiciously because I had been warned on multiple occasions to never eat rhubarb leaves.

But nothing scared me more than a warning that came not from my father but from another man – a complete stranger who pretended he was worried about my well-being. In reality, he was worried about his store. I don’t remember the name of the store, but I do remember it was a large one in another town and that my entire family was there. For some reason, my brother Sean and I were alone when we spotted the larger the life-sized fake Santa Claus, and Sean dared me to touch its beard. I took on the challenge, reached up and ran my fingers through St Nick’s most famous feature. I was surprised that it wasn’t soft at all. Instead, it was stiff, wiry and apparently off-limits to children.

At least that’s what the store manager told me when he marched over and ordered me to take my hands off Santa’s beard. His tone of voice intimidated me, but his words were downright scary. “That beard is made out of poison ivy,”  he said. “It’s made out of poison ivy so people won’t touch it.”

I had no idea what poison ivy looked like, but I knew it made a person itch. And for months, I itched everywhere and was convinced that I had a case of poison ivy. By the time I realized that there was absolutely no way that poison ivy would ever be used as material for a fake Santa Claus beard, the incident was well in my past and I had realized that people sometimes manipulate the truth.

Sometimes, they do it to protect their children and sometimes they do it to protect family and holiday traditions like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And sometimes they do it to protect themselves.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who lie to protect themselves, but apparently I am.

I’ve always prided myself with being open about any topic with my children. But a few weeks ago, my daughter Kendall and I were having a meaningful conversation about tough issues when she asked me a question that I couldn’t honestly answer. Telling her the truth would open the door to so many more questions - how could I be such a hypocrite? How could I set different expectations for my kids than I did for myself?

And so, on the spur of the moment, I lied.

Now I wish I hadn’t, and I’ve battled with myself over the decision. During this same time, I’ve also managed to get a  real case of poison ivy because I refused to let the plant take over my rhododendron bush.

Since I will forever associate poison ivy with lies that adults tell kids, I can’t help but note the irony of the situation.

My daughter, who is oblivious of my lie or my subsequent internal turmoil, thinks I made way too big an issue over the poison ivy. According to her, I if had  just left it alone, I wouldn’t be so miserable.

She’s probably right.

But like I said, I can be a slow learner.

Roughing It

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
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A few days ago, my daughter approached me with her hands on her hips, her head cocked and her voice dripping with exasperation.

“Well, mom,” she said. “Your great experiment failed.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, and I said so.

“This whole not using the dryer thing,” she explained. “It’s not working.”

I still didn’t understand what she meant, so she slowed her words and paused between each one.

“The      towels      are     rough      and    my     t-shirts    are     stiff,” she explained.

“That’s because they weren’t dried in the dryer,” I said. “The dryer fluffs things.”

“Exactly,” she said.

I understood her perspective, but she didn’t understand mine – which was that dryer needed a replacement part and running it would break it completely. Besides, dryers use a great deal of electricity, and electricity costs a great deal of money. I’m all for saving electricity.

Our brief and pointless conversation was ironic.

Just days earlier, I’d had a conversation with co-workers about the benefits of drying laundry on a clothesline. I expressed the intense embarrassment I’d experienced as an adolescent when my mom had hung all of our laundry, including underwear, on clotheslines and drying racks in our backyard for the neighbors to see. A colleague, who is younger than me but grew up in the country, said everyone dried their clothes outside when he was growing up.  Another, who is older than me but who grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., said she had tried drying clothes outside once but her sheets were full of bugs.  The only consensus we reached about line-drying clothes is that is much cheaper.

And then my dryer started making a funny noise and I decided that cheaper is sometimes better, and we don’t need technology as much as society tries to tell us we do.  Humans survived for hundreds of years without it, and even my own generation once made do with much less.

I remember my family’s first color television, first microwave oven, first electric typewriter, first answering machine and  first touch-tone phone. And I most definitely remember our first computer, which required us to insert a floppy disc with the operating system. I never dreamed of voice mail, cell phones, the internet, laptop computers or being able to rewind live television.

My children can’t remember a world when they didn’t have all of that technology at their fingertips.

Their disbelief reminds me of trying to understand how my grandparents had lived without television, telephones or running water. It also reminds me of a moment in my own childhood, when my grandparents had traveled from Michigan to Oregon to visit my family.

My grandmother was helping my brother Sean clean his pet hamster’s cage. “You need to use elbow grease,” she said.

My brother looked at her and said, “I don’t think Mom buys that. Should I ask her to go to the store?”

My grandmother laughed and explained that elbow grease is something that comes from within. It is the effort each person uses to get the job done.

I am thinking about that moment as I sit on my back porch in the dark. I am fortunate that there is still a battery in my laptop computer so I can write. My son is sitting at the picnic table at the other end of the deck reading a book to the glow of a lantern.

A storm blew through my town a few hours ago, and there was a fire at the local substation. The power has been out for hours.

I can’t say I’m pleased with this turn of events. The slight inconvenience of drying laundry on a clothesline is nothing compared to the worry about the food in our refrigerator going bad, the temperature in the house getting too hot, our lack of internet and television or, most important to my kids, our inability to charge our mobile devices.

And yet, as I write this on a laptop with a depleting battery, I am enjoying the gentle breeze blowing through the leaves of the oak tree that rules the backyard and the dance of the fireflies against the dark sky. I am enjoying the fact that the only noise I hear is the sound of crickets. And I am enjoying the fact that, just for a moment, I can understand a world that used to exist. A world that depended less on electricity and more on imagination and personal relationships.

A world in which kids accepted rough towels and the need for elbow grease.

Unforgettable Fun

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
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I made a huge mistake last Friday. I asked my daughter if she wanted to do something fun with me on Saturday.

I had forgotten that, in Kendall’s almost 13-year-old mind, there is only one situation that involves both mom and fun: shopping.

But she didn’t just want to go to the nearby mall where we usually shop. She requested we go to a much larger mall in the D.C. suburbs, and she only wanted to shop in stores that have clothes fashionable enough for nearly 13-year old girls. For the record, these are the exact same stores where she shops at the nearby mall and, from what I could tell, the clothes were exactly the same too.

The day was hard on pocketbook, hard on my feet and hard on my patience.

But I tolerated the shopping trip knowing that the next day we would be having real fun.

We were going hiking.hiking - Copy

But in Kendall’s almost 13-year-old mind, there is absolutely no situation that involves fun and hiking.

At first, I think she forgot that. As we were getting ready to go, she asked what she should wear. (For some reason, she asks me this every day. When I make a suggestion, she rolls her eyes and tells me what she thinks of my suggestion. Then, she wears what she wants and we repeat the routine the next day.)

I advised her to wear a t-shirt and sturdy shoes.  Per usual, she ignored my advice and wore  a newly purchased floral top, matching shoes and new prescription glasses she wears to see long distances. She asked if I liked the look.

This time, I rolled my eyes.

By the time we actually arrived in Harper’s Ferry, she was already complaining that she didn’t want to waste her whole day on a trail.

While my son forged ahead, she was demanding an explanation about the purpose of the hike. When my husband told her that someday she would appreciate it, she scoffed at the idea. IMG_3502When we joined up with a large pack of Boy Scouts at the overlook, she stopped complaining and seemed to enjoy the view and the company.

Then I made the mistake of suggesting we complete the hike along the ridge, which added additional hours to our time  in the woods and on the mountain. While I enjoyed the challenge, nobody else in the family did, especially my daughter. The only solace I could provide was the promise of a hot dog and ice cream at the end of the trail.

The hike, and subsequent meal out, were hard on my pocketbook, hard on my feet and hard on my patience.

But despite my daughter’s complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the memories we made. Something tells me my daughter will also remember the hike long after she forgets the trip to the mall. I’m also fairly confident that those memories will be good ones.

That’s how life works.

Despite our disagreements and dislikes, stepping outside our comfort zones and testing our endurance always builds our confidence. When we do it with people we love, it’s even more meaningful.

And when we do it together with family, it’s unforgettable.

Lovesick

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
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My daughter, who is in seventh grade, joined Facebook on Saturday.lovesick

On Tuesday, an eighth grade boy was messaging her with professions of love. (No, they didn’t meet on Facebook. They are in show choir together and he apparently “fell in love” with her during auditions .)

Instead of calling or texting her friends, she turned me for advice. I couldn’t have felt more important, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was probably the last person who could help her. No boy was professing his love for me in seventh grade, or eighth grade or even ninth grade, so I didn’t have a frame of reference regarding love before age 13.

Kendall must have figured that out fairly quickly because she came up with her own plan. She told the boy that her parents didn’t allow her to date. He responded that he would explain his intentions to us. (Really? He’s in eighth grade!!!)  Then she said that she was glad they were friends and she didn’t want to lose that. He responded that maybe they could sit together at lunch, and she agreed.

All was right with the world until I sent a Facebook message about the situation to the guy I’m in love with. The guy who happens be my daughter’s father.

He was not happy. In fact, he freaked out. He even told me he’d checked out her Facebook page and found the boy. He then jokingly threatened to send the boy a message about leaving Kendall alone.

I should have known better. This had happened before.

When Kendall was attending her sixth grade orientation, I overheard a boy in her enrichment class tell his dad “she’s really cute.” He subsequently hounded her to “go out.”

She regularly told him she wasn’t allowed, but he was persistent. At least, he was persistent until my husband met him.

Then his interest waned.

I may not entirely understand my husband’s concern with my daughter’s love life because, well, I’m not a guy.

But I can understand his love for his only daughter and his desire to protect her. I also understand he wants exactly what I want for my daughter: a partner who cares more about who she is as person than what she looks like; a partner who recognizes all of her potential and her desire for independence; a partner who celebrates how smart and witty and rebellious she is. And, most of all, a partner who supports her being the person she is rather than the person other people think she should be.

I understand that because my daughter’s father has provided exactly that for me. And I also know without a doubt that is the standard my daughter will set for anyone she dates.

Which is exactly why my husband has absolutely no reason to worry.

Mean Girls Redux

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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I may be 47 years old, but I can still remember the pain of adolescence very, very distinctly. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t overly eager to have a children. I just wasn’t sure I could live through the drama all over again.Isurvivedthemeangirls-button

Thankfully, I did have children and discovered that surviving life between the ages of 13 and 15 not only made me stronger, it also provided extremely valuable lessons about life.

Take, for example, the lessons  I learned from the mean girls of my youth – the “pretty people” who took great pleasure from doing all they could to promote themselves and their social status while belittling others.

As a friend recently told me, “those mean girls just grow up and become mean women.”

I only partially agreed with her. Some change. Some don’t.

I still have to deal with the ones who didn’t, and my daughter is having to deal with the new crop of mean girls.

Sometimes we have to tolerate them because they have more power than we do. Sometimes we have to confront them because we aren’t the only one being hurt.  And sometimes we simply need to talk about them with our friends.

My daughter and I were both doing that last week.

I was angry about the adult versions of  the mean girls.  My daughter is still trying to understand the mean girls at her middle school.

I was venting to friends about how unbelievably selfish some women can be. My daughter was giggling with friends about how ridiculous burn books are. Yes, the mean girls at her school actually have a burn book in which they write hurtful comments about others.

I was ranting about women who are more concerned about their social status than helping meet the needs of the less fortunate. My daughter was making fun of how the mean girls at her school named their clique, demand special privileges and are  proud that they exclude others.

And that’s when it struck me.

I was wasting my time and energy complaining about women who will probably never change. My daughter wasn’t wasting her emotional energy but was simply viewing the mean girls as characters in a book or play. She finds them entertaining but not really relevant.

Since my daughter has a wide circle of diverse friends, she doesn’t care about a few superficial girls who want to exclude her. She’s much more interested in the people who do include her and how they enrich her life.

My daughter hasn’t yet turned 13, but she has already learned some valuable life lessons – ones that I’m still learning.  I like to think my own experiences have helped guide her, but I also know that she’s teaching me as well.

And she’s a very good educator.

She (Didn’t) Love to Vacuum

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
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A few years ago, my friend Vicki developed the unhealthy habit of reading obituaries of people she never knew.vacuum cleaner

The habit wasn’t unhealthy because of any preoccupation with death. It was unhealthy because she was comparing her life to  portraits that others chose to paint of their recently deceased loved ones.

One particular obituary really bothered her. “I’m afraid,” she said, “that when I die, my obituary will read she loved to vacuum.” That phrase was actually used in an obituary Vicki read.

I couldn’t relate to Vicki’s concern. I will never be accused of loving to vacuum – or clean, cook, sew or make crafts.

Being a domestic goddess isn’t in my nature, and it’s not how I want to spend my time. I’m incredibly fortunate that people who really know me recognize this and try to make appropriate accommodations.

Take, for example, Thanksgiving.

Due to a variety of circumstances, this will be the first year I’ll host the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. And even though my family has agreed my house is the best option, the decision wasn’t without comments such as “We don’t have to cook a traditional meal. Maybe Trina can pick up a prepared meal. And, “We can even just eat Subway. The holiday is really about family and spending time together.”

The hints weren’t lost on me, but for the record, they have nothing to do with my ability to cook. When I have to cook, I do. And, generally, people like what I prepare.

The issue had more to do with my family respecting who I am.

They know I’m starting a new job the week before Thanksgiving, and it will be demanding and time-consuming. They also know that I choose to spend my non-work time doing things that are important to me, and whenever possible, things I enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t clean my house or cook, but it does mean I have dust bunnies under my bed, dog nose prints on my windows and hand prints on my light switches.

My house may not be perfect, but it is a reflection of who I am:  someone who loves to ride her bike and walk her dog; someone who loves to volunteer in the community and participate in activities that involve her children; and someone who loves to write and spend time with friends and neighbors.

Simply put,  I love allowing myself to be who I am and not who society sometimes dictates I should be.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. I was raised in a house that was meticulous and spotless, and I used to feel guilty that I was a disappointment to my mother, who took hours teaching me the right way to fold sheets and clean windows.

But I’ve come to realize that my mother, like my friend Vicki, actually likes cleaning, and she enjoyed sharing her skills with me. In turn, she’s realized that my “chaotic life” (a label from one of my former interns) doesn’t mean I am turning my back on how I was raised. Instead, it means the exact opposite.

I am making use of the best lesson my parents taught me: be true to yourself.

And this self will never love to vacuum.

Trick or treat, smell my feet

Monday, October 14, 2013
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Halloween 2008

With my bee and lamb, when times were easier.

Some time ago, students didn’t leave their sheltering elementary schools for the exploration of junior high until seventh grade. Kids were usually 12 years of age by September, learning combinations to lockers and lugging rented instruments to last period band class.  I remember those liberating days at Horace Mann in Kanawha City — a school that looked like a college campus and felt like a new world.

But while I was off being a grown up, I missed the decision to move sixth graders to a scary place called middle school.  And now that I’m a parent of a daughter on the verge of changing schools, this graduation has wiped out everything I thought I knew about advanced childhood. Since she’s going to this scary place called middle school at age 11, I’m going to be forced to loosen my protective grip.  This frightens me.

I’ve spent the last few months of parenting telling Ava “NO” to cell phones, social networking, cosmetics and high heel shoes.  “No, you can’t have that/do that/wear that/say that,” I lecture.  “It’s too soon.”

Yet, what is age appropriate behavior for a tween? For instance…

  • Do middle school girls, age 11, still play with American Girl dolls?
  • Do they still visit the cartoon parks at Walt Disney World?
  • Do they continue to shop at Justice or Crazy 8 (if sizes go up to age 12)?
  • Do they still have to sit in the backseat of a car, or can they call shotgun?
  • Do they ride scooters or bikes? If so, where do they do this? At the park or in the street?

Because of these uncertainties, I’ve changed the wording of my standard question.  Instead of Don’t you think it’s a little early for that? — I find myself asking Don’t you think you’re getting a little old for that?

Meaning, do middle school kids go trick or treating on Halloween? If not, this will be Ava’s last parade around the block.

Aha.  All Hallows’ Eve.  This weekend, I got up before the sun to read the latest issue of Southern Living in peace and quiet. I found myself locked in Allison Glock’s family column.  This month, she writes about preserving modesty in the modern era of Halloween. The horror isn’t in the section of the store dedicated to Walking Dead garb.  The real scare comes in the form of “Twerkin’ Teddy”, “Bad Habit Nun” and “Skeleton Catsuit”.  Yes, these costumes are made in youth sizes.

I cherished Ava’s first Halloween.  She was a baby sunflower from the Anne Geddes collection.  The next year, she was Thumper the rabbit, then a bumblebee, and the following year, she was “JoJo” the circus clown.  When she turned four, she made a darling Tinkerbell, and when she went to kindergarten, she was a fancy cheetah. After that, she became a cupcake, then a Crayola crayon, and then a 1950′s girl. Last fall, she transformed into a WVU cheerleader.

Ava and I were on the same team for a decade.  This season, however, we’re rivals.

It all started when Ava asked if she could dress as a One Direction fan.  Do we even need to buy a costume for that? She presented a wrinkled catalog.

“This, ” Ava announced, pointing to the girl in the picture.  “I want to wear what she has on.”

I leaned down to get a closer look.  BRITISH INVASION?!

Bloody hell no!

The Union Jack dress hit the juvenile model well above the knee.  It was a sleeveless sheath made from the thinnest material the manufacturers could get away with. Shower curtains are constructed of heavier fabric.

“I need the shoes, too,” she stated.  GOGO BOOTS?!

In my wicked little mind, I heard the theme song from Austin Powers.  YEAH, BABY, YEAH!

“No, Ava, no…” I whined.  “Find something else.  Here!” I pointed to another picture.  “How about this cute outfit?”

Ava screamed.  “A WATERMELON FAIRY?”

It’s different! It’s unique!

“All right…then we’ll all dress up,” I suggested.  “Maryn can be Scooby Doo, I’ll dress up as Velma, Daddy can be Fred, and you can be Daphne.”

On second thought, Fred wore an ascot. Mike would choke me with it.

“British, huh?” I pondered.  “The Beatles! We’ll go as the Fab Four! Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!” I squealed.  “But I get to be Paul.”

Ava was getting tired.

“Please, Mom,” she sighed.  “It’ll be fine.”

I slammed the catalog closed.  “Ok, but if you look even the slightest bit cheap, the costume will be returned.”

Ava shook hands on the terms of our agreement and waited by the mailbox at 4:00 p.m. for the next nine business days.  Unfortunately, the ensemble arrived.  She pulled the dress over her head and immediately reached for her knees.  It was…short. Mini-skirt short. Twiggy stood before me.

“No.  It’s too old for you.”

She protested.  “Please, Mom! Look! I’ll wear a tee-shirt under it.”

That was a slight improvement.

“And tights,” I added.  “With biking shorts on top of the tights.”

She flashed a smiled and pulled on the white boots with the stacked heel.

OH, BEHAVE!

“Can I keep them, Mom?” she begged.  I looked at Ava and then down at Maryn.  My youngest daughter was wearing a witch’s hat and dusting the floor with a broom missing 90% of its bristles.

“What do you think?” I asked Maryn.  She peered into her crystal ball.

“She’s gonna get blisters and then Daddy’s gonna hafta carry her home,” she warned.  What a wise ol’ witch.

“All right.  You can keep them,” I told Ava.  “But you will not wear those boots outside of Halloween.”

“Didn’t you wear these boots when you were a majorette?” Ava asked, marching in place.

I answered too quickly.  “Sure, I did.  But I was in….”

“Junior high?”

 

The Three R’s: Reading, Reporting and Relationships

Monday, June 20, 2011
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Parenting by the book.

I’ve been asked by a number of people how I became a blogger for the Daily Mail.  I was invited, yes, but I also auditioned for the role without realizing it.  Before The Mommyhood, I maintained my own site, “Wilbur & Charlotte“, a children’s literature blog.  I wrote about the themes in children’s books that applied to adult life…most of which covered issues in parenting.  A few friends posted my entries on Facebook (catching the attention of the newspaper’s managing editor), and well, there you have it.  Here I am.

Relationships and connections are what matter most.  As a former law firm marketer, I used to (literally) buy in to full-page, front-page advertisements and pull-out inserts that stamped the credos of  attorneys and their services.  I believed in the big splash — making a mountain out of a molehill — and hoarding every square inch of print real estate to tell the firm’s story. Since that time — nearly 10 years ago — I’ve changed my tune.  It is who you know…or better yet, who seems to know you.  Social media has delivered more business to my small writing and editing shop than any other form of marketing. And, I’m mighty grateful that it’s still free.

Once one blog led to another blog and readership and name recognition expanded, I was contacted about serving on the board of directors of Read Aloud, WV.  My career as a writer, life as a parent, and love of books made me a candidate to help spread the word about the organization, which was created to motivate children to want to read.  Read Aloud, WV encourages parents and other adults to read to children early in life, to build lifetime memories through interaction, and to encourage comprehension skills to strengthen academic and professional success.  During my pre-board involvement research, I discovered a new book that has become my own source of motivation — a book that became my daughters’ gift to their dad for Father’s Day.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, is lovingly written by Alice Ozma (named for two literary characters — “Alice” from Lewis Carroll and “Ozma” from L. Frank Baum). The daughter of a Philadelphia-area elementary school librarian, Ozma and her dad  embarked on a streak of reading-out-loud sessions every night as she was growing up. Originally, the father-daughter literary duo decided on 100 nights straight of reading before bed—a minimum 10 minutes, no excuses, but then it stretched to 1,000.

To keep the streak alive, there were some days when their reading date started at 12:00 midnight and some days when it began at dawn.  They would wake each other from deep sleep to read; to keep their commitment to one another.  “Once started,” Ozma’s father writes, “a reading streak can be a hard thing to stop.  The only thing that stopped us was when she moved away from home…almost nine years after we began.”

Ozma’s father goes on to stress that the greatest gift parents can bestow upon their children is time and undivided attention.  “No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was, ‘I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young’,” he writes.

Ozma approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her. Some of those titles included in the Streak were: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens,  Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Shakespeare’s plays, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, and those written by famed children’s author, Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing).

At the end of The Reading Promise, the author has included a contract that parents and their children can fill out, commiting themselves to a lifetime of reading: out loud for all to hear, silently for no one to hear, in a bedroom or on a couch, at the beach or in the park.  Readers will promise to laugh uncontrollably or to sob inconsolably, to look up unfamiliar words, and most importantly…to lose track of time.

Which I have done.  So, I’m going to stop typing and start reading.  My girls have new books to crack — Ava has a small stack of birthday books to dive into — and Maryn will be reading on her own this time next year.  But, I think I’ll take Mr. Ozma’s advice to read to them as long as I can; to make this the one thing they’ll never outgrow.