Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

This Mom gets it – embracing the new normal

I’ve spoken to numerous parents over the last few weeks about how they are managing their newfound profession of homeschooling.

Some are sitting smack in the middle of a see-saw with work and one end and homeschooling hanging off the other side, others are diving in structuring their school day one subject at a time and too many have little access to resources. They all say they are doing the best they can.

Amid all of the emails and phone calls, one mom’s profound message left me hoping all parents are able to relate to their new cadence with sanity and grace.

Here’s what she said:

“For a boy that needs his structure, he’s done well with the transition to home-based learning. We keep to a pretty good schedule-school starts here at 10am every day, and we try to be done with the bulk of the bookwork by noon. The afternoon is reserved for art, legos, creative play, reorganizing closets and cleaning, etc.

I certainly wouldn’t want to do this full time, but I think I can handle it through the rest of the school year if I had to (and honestly, that’s where I think this is heading).”

She goes onto say she and her husband both work from home…

“But we’re a flexible family, we understand that this craziness is temporary and that everyone has been thrust into the unknown. We’ll make it through. To be 100% honest, this has been a good thing for us. We are a family that is constantly on the go between soccer practices, basketball in the off-season, martial arts…so this forced stoppage is good. We’ve had homecooked dinners together every night, our house is the cleanest it’s ever been, and there have been tons of movies and old soccer games watched while snuggling up on the couch.

Who knows if we’ll ever get this time

together again.”

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Teenagers: 6 funny reasons for bad grades

40 Days of Lenten Reflections

Day #7

I’ve read numerous articles about why we should let our kids fail. So I gave it a try.

For a few months, I was the hands-off mom. The cool, “Study…um…or not…up to you” mom. Turns out, it worked. The failure part, that is. 

Some parents regard any failure by their children as a crisis. James Lehman, MSW with Empoweringparents.com said,

“In a crisis, parents see the danger part very clearly, but often don’t see the opportunity part. They don’t see that their child has the opportunity to learn an important lesson. The lesson might be about the true cost of cutting corners, what happens when he doesn’t do his best at something, or what the real consequences are for not being productive.”

Or in some cases, the lesson may be to craft clever reasons for why they failed. Here are some popular examples I compiled based on experience and research:

1.  “SHE didn’t give me a study guide.”

Typically teachers give students tools and strategies to study for tests, but there are those kids who think their teachers should hand deliver the said study guide to their home, place it on the kitchen table, and maybe even complete it for them.

Trust me, under the crumpled paper, broken pencils, and PE clothes in their backpack lie a study guide.

2.  “EVERYONE did bad on the test.”

To be executed correctly, this excuse should be said with backbone. Stress on the word EVERYONE while holding onto evvvvvvv——eryone should help their case. Teenager’s pre-frontal cortex has convinced them that if the masses failed, it clearly wasn’t their fault.

Maybe the class is full of slackers or maybe, well, nevermind.

3.  “He hasn’t put in the grades for the work I did REALLY WELL on yet and he takes FOREVER to grade!”

(except for tests, apparently)

This excuse is usually coupled with “There’s only one grade in the grade book, so that’s why it seems like such a bad grade.”

Nope. It’s actually a bad grade.

4.  “I had THREE OTHER tests to study for!”

Helping students develop good study habits is insanely hard. Teaching them to prioritize and manage their time is even worse. Ultimately it’s up to them what they study for first if at all, but if this is their excuse, make your follow-up the classic:

“Well, you should have started studying earlier.”

5.  “It’s not my fault the teacher doesn’t know how to teach!”

Once your kids get into the harder subjects, like AP Calculus and Physics, using the ignorance of the teachers bodes well as an excuse and is surprisingly convincing…I mean the reason for not doing well is coming from a child who qualified to be in the class, so…

NOPE! Don’t fall for it! They should have studied.

6.  “I THOUGHT I did well, but I didn’t.”

This is my son’s favorite. It’s the moment when parents have two choices: admit their child did not study enough or at all; or worry they don’t understand any of the content and cancel the family’s summer vacation.

So it turns out failing is an important ingredient in life, but learning from failure is a natural consequence we can all benefit from.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Are parental decisions laced with selfishness?

Our kids didn’t attend pre-school. There. I said it.

We did, however, visit one in Virginia back in 2006.

It was off of Columbia Pike, a big commuter thoroughfare in Falls Church. The fancy, stone building looked more like Hogwarts than a preschool. SUV’s and minivans loaded with all the latest screens and cushy car seats lined the parking lot. Once inside, children’s Picasso-inspired artwork lined the walls and kid-sized water fountains dotted the hallways. Outside each doorway stood joyful, young pre-school teachers greeting students and when we visited the classrooms, they were filled with building blocks, endless art supplies, and dress-up costumes so kids could pretend to be whatever they could imagine.

After the tour, we figured we had to do it. We couldn’t possibly deprive our children of the chance to play and learn with kids in this amazing setting.

Or could we?

Back then, the thought of packing up my three pumpkins in the car, driving in rush hour traffic, unloading all three, leaving one and turning around for pick up in a few hours sounded as fun as running barefoot over a lego laden floor.

Simply exhausting. For me.

But as parents, don’t we sometimes lace our decisions with a little selfishness?

For instance, the other day I bought ‘cheezy’ pretzels “for the kids”…but I secretly love them and could eat the entire bag. Another time I signed all of the kids up for year-round swim tryouts slyly knowing my daughter would be the only one who MIGHT want to join the team. Deep down, I knew there was no way she would have put one toe in the water unless her brothers were suffering alongside her. Now she’s on her way to the High School State Swim Meet. Yet another decision made for the good of the group. (Ha!)

Turned out before we had the chance to try the stone-covered kid sanctuary, we moved to Georgia and much like DC and Virginia, most kids attended preschool.

Not us. We were new in the suburbs and stuck together…at home, the library, book stores, museums and lots of parks. We kept our kids home until kindergarten so they could “bond” i.e: fight, cry, laugh, play, nap, sing, learn, grow, read and just be together. Was it always easy? Heck no. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Plus, I could barely find my way to the grocery store much less a preschool.

In retrospect, best decision ever. For ALL OF US.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

failure

You know when you get that slight tickle in the back of your throat and you’re certain it’s the precursor to a long sinus/cold/allergy situation? I get that same feeling when a stressful week for the kids is on the horizon, except there’s no tickle, it’s more like the sharp, piercing pain from stepping on stray legos. 

There’s a good chance every week is taxing and cumbersome when you’re a teenager these days, so I make it a routine to cross my fingers and pray for success…or failure…both foster growth, one just has more tears. 

I rejuvenated this post: Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail from a few years ago on how my kids mastered failure.

Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail

The folding. The flying. The fixing.

After each failed flight I taught them to tweak it. Adjust it. Change it.

To try again.

They used paper clips, tape, rubber bands, light paper, heavy paper, newspaper, tissue paper.

The INTENTION was to make the plane fly.

If it didn’t work, they made another plane.

They learned there’s no guarantee for success.

Sure it was small. But they tested, they measured.

They learned what each fold was for and why they made it.

No score was being kept.

They learned what uncertainty and failure felt like and danced with it.

They were invested in finding the flight.

They learned the worst that could happen was it wouldn’t work.

They still tweaked and fixed.

They learned when you care enough you will fail and fail and fail again.

It’s their airplane. Their flight. Their crash. Their landing. 

But they were curious and hungry.

Let them fold. Let them fail.

Let them create. 

After all…the creative mind who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.

Here’s a great article for more information on how to succeed by failing:

How to Help Kids Learn to Fail

Only through trial and error can children become resilient adults

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

The moment you realize you’re on your daughter’s group text…

As I sifted through my email today, unsubscribing from Groupon, Domino’s Pizza and DSW for the 37th time, I heard a ping on my phone. I glanced down and saw I was added to a group chat.

Let’s see…is it a bunch of moms from the PTA meeting last night? Uh oh, what did I volunteer for? Maybe it’s the 8th-grade dance committee.

Clearly, my choices are limited and telling.

Wait…the top of the text said APUSH…where have I heard that…APUSH…APUSH…APUSH.

Oh! AP United States History. That’s right, teenagers are “SO TIRED” they’ve given all their classes nicknames. APUSH, AP Psych, AP Calc, AP Bio, LIT.

Clever.

Suddenly, “APUSH me OVER A CLIFF!” with a smiley emoji lit up the screen.

Now that’s funny, I thought. Oh good, it’s a fun group.

Maybe I signed up for updates for Cora’s history class?

After a few minutes, I realized I didn’t recognize anyone on the list UNTIL I saw Cora’s name float across the screen.

Uh Oh. It turns out I was inadvertently added to the APUSH study group text. What happened was this, back in middle school, when Cora was “the only one in the ENTIRE world” without a phone, her friends used my phone number to call her. So she was listed as: “Cora’s Mom” which of course was my phone number.

Cora told me as she was laughing about this with her friends at school, another long-time friend who used to call me “Cora’s Mom” said, “don’t delete that number, she’s a good resource!”

I love being “Cora’s Mom”.

About 30 seconds later I received a message:

You have been removed from the group. 

Well I guess I was APUSHED out…good thing, that class is WAY too much work. 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Cokie Roberts: a mom & legend

A few years ago, I was volunteering at 90.1 WABE, in Atlanta, during an NPR spring fundraiser. I glanced up from my seat and spotted Cokie Roberts leaving after an interview. Without hesitation, I quickly placed my phone on unavailable, pulled off my headset and dashed over to say hello.

She was absolutely lovely.

We spoke for a moment about Washington, DC, and the coincidence that we were both members of Blessed Sacrament Church off Chevy Chase Circle. In fact, Father D’Silva, a tender-hearted priest who married Justin and I also married her children.

As she picked up her bags to go, I asked an elderly gentleman who was exiting the building, to take our picture. His hand wiggled when he held my phone WAY out in front of him pointing it more toward the sky than at us, but somehow he managed to get a nice blurry photo.

I was elated. 

It’s been almost four months since Cokie Roberts died from breast cancer complications, but the legend of her spirit, her unwavering support of women and her passion for politics still grace the halls of the U.S. Capitol. Equally valued was her voice on being a mother and raising children.

In her book, We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters she says,

Caretaking–that’s the common thread that runs through these stories. No matter what else women are doing, we are also “mothering” –taking care of somebody or something, and, for the most part, doing it joyously. That’s what women have been doing from the beginning and, I believe, will continue to do. I think we’ve been doing it awfully well for a very long time.”

Cokie: a mom and a legend.

I keep her picture on the desktop of my computer to remind me what a true model of poise, integrity, and professionalism looks like.

It was an honor to meet such a stellar woman and as a mom and “writer” I value what she stood for and cherish that brief moment she took to chat with me.

IN THE WORDS OF COKIE ROBERTS:

A lot of women have come to understand that you can’t just show up and say I’m unhappy, you have to then go out and do something.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Once the teenage years hit, there’s no pause button

It wasn’t long ago when I could still pick up Zavier, our youngest. He’d nestle his head in the cozy crook of my neck and we’d sway back and forth savoring the moment.

Then one sunny day after picking him up from baseball practice, I looked into the rearview mirror and there it was…adolescence.

Oh, you’ll know it when you see it.

It looks a lot like the top of a teenager’s head. Yes, all I could see in that little rectangular reflection was a blue screen shining up at my son’s face and the curved top of a baseball cap.

Where was my little guy who would yell out the make and model of every car that passed and guessed how long it would take for every light to turn green? Why wasn’t he singing loudly or recounting his practice play by play?

He was changing by the minute. One second we’re holding hands coming from the bus stop talking about recess triumphs and the next he can’t wait to start weight lifting class and drive to high school with his brother and sister. Ugh.

Honestly, Zavier is a teenager who is quite independent. But he’s still just a kid. I mean, out of habit (and my keen sense of smell), I still have to remind him showering is not optional. And like a broken record, I futilely encourage flossing and turning clothes right side out. Luckily his love of play supersedes all. He still asks me to be his quarterback, play Yahtzee and read together…I’ll hold onto those moments as long as possible.

Yet time just ticks by without even asking. So as I file the snuggly moments away in my heart, I remind myself to make every minute count. Zavier and I may see nose to nose now, but I still get my hugs — that’s usually when I whisper…”time to shower”. 

Here’s a great blurb I found from The Center for Resilient Leadership. I love the way it describes adolescence:

Adolescence is a period of transformation, not unlike a chrysalis changing into a butterfly. If you have never seen this process, it can be painstakingly difficult to watch. The butterfly gradually breaks free of his cocoon, pulling and pushing, stretching and contracting for what seems like an eternity before he finally emerges. If a benevolent onlooker decides to help the process along, the butterfly will likely die, because it is only through the struggle of metamorphosis that he gains the strength to survive on his own.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

4 Things I learned today

Sometimes we have to peek in between the lines in our life stories and learn from even the smallest moments. Here are my four life lessons for today…

LESSON 1: It’s true, I really do have to put on my glasses so I can hear better.

LESSON 2: If your child wants to change a class, never underestimate the power of self-advocacy:

Day three of the new semester and for the 37th time our son reminded me how much he REALLY wants to switch classes from Family and Consumer Science – (the souped-up name for Home Economics) to PE. As you may have read in The lost art of writing, my sage advice to him was to write a letter (email in the case). So he crafted a note to his counselor stating his case, succinctly saying, PE would give him a break from having seven academic classes and the respite, “would let me reset and do better in school.”

Bam! Self-advocacy in action.

LESSON 3:  Turn off the stove before you go outside to pick up dog poop and/or play with the dogs:

After taking my son to school, I pictured myself sitting down, having a cup of tea and writing for a stint. Ha! Then reality hit when I opened the door and our dogs barked incessantly pleading to go play fetch. Honing my ability to multi-task, I grabbed a few empty Target bags (best for home-made pooper scooper bags) and threw tennis balls for about 35 minutes, while the dogs zoomed back and forth. After they were both somewhat tired, they darted inside and I smelled that burning scent that presents itself one too many times in my kitchen. Thinking it was the rice I overcooked last night, ugh…I realized I had left the kettle on for the tea and the water inside had evaporated leaving our vibrant red teapot a smoky charcoal black. Not my best morning.

LESSON 4: Buy an OXO BREW Anniversary Edition Uplift Tea Kettle, Brushed Stainless Steel or any OXO teapot!

Following my not so bright moment, I decided to call the OXO Company and ask them about their warranty policy on the OXO reddish-black teapots. I let them know the paint was chipping off the due to it being on for too long. After sending them a picture of the blackened teapot, they said we would receive a new one in 7-10 days. What a great company. It pays to ask about warranties.

I hope you learn something from even the smallest, fleeting moments of your day.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

The lost art of writing

I recently watched an episode of Ellen with Henry Winkler as a guest. He’s a lovely man. Kind and soft-spoken. Simply said, he’s more Arthur than Fonzie in the “Arthur Fonzarelli” character he played on the TV show Happy Days. He’s the side of Fonzie on Happy Days who was sweet and bashful when he thanked “Mrs. C” for dinner, as she endearingly served him more mashed potatoes and called him Arthur. (For anyone born after the year 2000, Henry Winkler is “Barry” on Arrested Development).

What I learned in the quick interview with Henry Winkler is his love for writing fan mail. “I think if you see a performance like Sam Rockwell as Fosse [in ‘Fosse/Verdon’], you have to write a letter…if you see Patricia Arquette in ‘Escape From Dannemora’, you have to write a letter. I write fan letters.” Yes, he writes real-find a stamp and put the letter in the mailbox with the flag up- mail. And more importantly, he writes because he wants to let someone know he admires them. He’s just a good guy.

Back in the ’80s, I was a big fan of the TV show Silver Spoons, a time when goofy kids like me called Ricky Shroeder “The Ricker”. After unearthing the show’s coveted address in a

rick.jpg

Teen Beat magazine in our school library, I wrote my first piece of fan mail to Ricky. Months later, I received an autographed (stamped!) picture, which, when your 12, was life-changing. Unfortunately, if you google “The Ricker” today, as I just did you’ll realize he didn’t pan out to be an upstanding guy. Nonetheless, at the time, I wrote a letter.

I come from a generation of letter writers. Starting with my mom. Once, when I was about 11, the cashier at Sears was abrupt with my mom when she pulled out her coupons…so, mom asked the woman her name, went home and wrote a letter to Sears. When mom didn’t want to receive the ten donation envelopes every month from St. Anne’s Catholic Church, she put pen to paper and let them know she and my dad donate quarterly. If she enjoyed a restaurant? Letter. Strongly disagreed with the editorial in the Tribune? Letter. Even today, after reading an article in her Gluten-Free Magazine, she wrote a letter telling the editor about the gluten-free hosts she and her dear friend Toni make for their church so mom can receive communion every Sunday.

Writing a letter is most certainly a lost art. Receiving a letter (other than bills) is always a joy. Just yesterday I received a thank you note from our family friend Connie. She wrote the kindest note thanking us for our Christmas card and my detailed update on our family.

Connie just turned 87 and is faithful to the written word. She sends our kids birthday cards with crisp dollar bills inside and a handwritten message in cursive that throws their brains into shock. She’s a gem.

So whether you’re thanking someone for the Instapot you probably won’t use, wishing your parents a happy anniversary, or opining about an editorial in the newspaper, write a letter. If you don’t, not to worry, Henry Winkler and mom have their pens ready.

Thanks for reading, it means a lot to me. 🙂 

Need help getting started on your thank-you notes? Here’s a guide:  How to write a thank-you note in 5 easy steps.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Find a kitten, pick it up…

Sometimes it seems life is a blurry, distant event seen through the lens of an iPhone while the meaningful, real-time, share-with-my-parents-moments are the ones I commit to memory.

Here’s one of my favorite most recent memories with Zavier, the youngest in our sweet brood:

One summer day, Zavier and I went to Home Depot in pursuit of paint colors for the kid’s bedrooms. He was given the task of selecting a color for Cora’s room since she declared, “I have too many decisions to make! Someone just PLEASE pick a color for me!” Zavier obliged and was ready for the challenge.

As we walked past the pallets of ferns and rows of grills we suddenly saw a kitten dart directly in front of a huge pickup truck. “We have to…” I said. Zavier replied, “Of course we do…I’ll go look under the grills.” Two hours later, after wading through the perennials in search of those sweet green kitten eyes, we caught the little guy…and along with a few new friends, took him to the vet and found him a home. In true character, Zavier was patient, kind and loving. And now for some reason, he feels he needs to set out “at least an hour” to go to Home Depot.

Yes, this is just another moment. Not caught on video, just logged in our memories. We did, however, take a quick snapshot of the little guy and later picked out a trending gray color for Cora’s room.

So today, peek around the lens of your phone and celebrate the real world, it’s full of remarkable moments.