Thanksgiving wishes….

Last week, I was reading to one of my daycare groups.  I had chosen a Thanksgiving themed book to read.  It was about cats making and eating Thanksgiving foods… pies, corn, etc — it ended with the cats and kittens snoozing with very full bellies.  True to life… we are supposed to have full bellies at Thanksgiving aren’t we?    As cliched as it may sound, it did remind me to be thankful that I will get the opportunity to have a very full belly at Thanksgiving, and really each and every day.  I do wage an almost daily battle with  my children, my youngest in particular, about eating what I have cooked, just trying one bite of a new food, and eating a vegetable…  too many cravings for goldfish crackers, cheese puffs and a sweet treat!   I am not always certain on how to impress the importance of gratitude of food to my children….  just lead by example, and continue to offer the food….

I am so grateful for many necessities that I am blessed to have, and the luxuries that aren’t necessary…  my family and friends…. 

I am grateful for the feel of clean sheets, for the smell of bubbles in my children’s baths, the tail wiggling our pup gives me every single time I open the garage door and see her, the faces of the children I read to when I am reading an excellent book that captivates them, and I am grateful for the looks of love and thanksgiving my husband gives me every day. 

I will work on being grateful for the pleas for goldfish crackers and treats….  in hopes that my children will learn to be grateful for the goldfish crackers and treats.


book review

Food–25 Amazing Projects Investigate the History and Science of What We Eat

By: Kathleen M. Reilly
Published by: Nomad Press    Date:   2010
ISBN: 978-1-934670-59-0
Price: $15.95
Ages: 9-12 years
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by: Kris Quinn Christopherson
Synopsis: Did you know that the first popcorn dates back about 5,500 years?  The Aztecs used popcorn in their dance ceremonies in the 1500’s!  Kids will enjoy learning this and many, many more fascinating facts about food. 
Food: 25 Amazing Projects Investigate the History and Science of What We Eat provides kids (and adults) with a comprehensive look at the history, science, and culture of what they eat.  The book covers ancient methods of growing and preserving food, the role of modern technology in food production and packaging, and the future of food.  The book encourages young readers to make healthy and sustainable food choices in their everyday lives.   
Overall thoughts:  In reading this book, I learned things about food I did not know before….who knew that marshmallows were first made by the Egyptians about 4,000 years ago!  The projects are very creative and promote delving into hands-on learning experiences. Complete with supply lists and step by step directions, each project is clear and concise.  The projects cover a wide variety of investigations into food, from making fried dandelion blossoms to conducting a bean gravity experiment to creating protective food packaging. 
The subject matter is broad, but the author is able to provide valuable information in an entertaining and meaningful way.  The book is filled with appropriate illustrations, ‘words to know’ glossary lists, and delightful ‘did you know’ factoids.  Overall, an educational and engaging journey with food awaits you with this book. 

Advanced MotherWords exercise

I recently completed an excellent writing class, Advanced MotherWords, taught by Kate Hopper. One of the exercises was to write about “where is your mind?” I chose to write about my lists… I am a list-writer, and my mind is on my lists quite a bit. I wrote about a list I was making earlier in the year. I was fortunate to accompany my husband on a work trip for him, but a glorious non-work trip for me!

  • On Monday, Shelby has dance at 6pm. She will need to wear her black leotard and pink tights. Her dance shoes should be in her dance bag.
  • The bus has been coming two precious minutes earlier than it normally does.
  • Jakob needs to write his spelling words twice on Monday night. Look closely at his a’s, so that he closes them completely..they can look like u’s.
  • Ellie will want to have lunch on preschool on Wednesday, but make sure the crusts are not on the peanut butter sandwich, and she will remind you to put her lunch bag in the school’s refrigerator.

I sit at the computer typing up the kids’ schedules. Typing rapidly, I attempt to get the words down before they leave my mind. I have lists in my head, in the green covered notebook I like to carry everywhere, and in my calendar. And, yet, I am making a new list, a list for my mother in law. For the next ten days, I will be on a trip with my husband. Easily reachable, but I will not be in charge of every detail that I know by heart.

Crossing off a completed task on my lists produces a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, I use a simple line through the task, and at times, I scribble or color the words out fully so that you can barely read what was once written. My lists are hardly ever far from me, but never on my cell phone, I value my calendar, my handwritten lists with the notes in the margins, the physical proof I am getting things done. I will even write a completed task on the list that I had not previously put on the list, just so I can mark it off.

I will not be marking off this list, however. The list will hang on the fridge with the medical consent forms, the birthday invitations, and the school lunch menu, a black clip with the local power company’s logo on it will neatly hold the papers together so they can easily be accessed. When I return, no tasks will be crossed off, they will remain clipped on the fridge, but probably in a different order than they were originally placed. My mother in law is more than capable, extremely loving, and so very gracious to me and my family, but we are different in our organizational skills. Her calendar sits on the fridge, most of the squares remain white save a few appointments written on the occasional box. There are no lists in the margins.

My list swells into tips and thoughts on how I do pick up on Wednesdays, the day that also includes speech therapy, dance lessons, and sometimes, baseball fundamentals. I have drinks and snacks ready, knowing that Ellie doesn’t care for goldfish crackers, but will eat pretzel goldfish, and who can just walk into his/her appointment on his/her own, but who needs help with the bulky door and wants a hand held.

Is it that I know my children so well, want my absence to not be felt deeply, or do not want their schedules disrupted, or is that I have a difficult time knowing that their worlds do go on without me?

Back to the list….

  • On Thursday, Jakob has a field trip. The permission slip has already been turned in, but he will need a snack and a sweatshirt.
  • Ellie sometimes falls asleep in the car on the way home from preschool.
  • Shelby will need to return the school library books on Friday. They are in the basket by the front door.

A letter to my children-

Summer is coming!
Jakob, soon I will not have to coax you out of bed, and agree that it definitely would be great if school started a few hours later. You will be able to bound up the stairs when you wake up on your own. Of course, you will still have a bedtime, but I will not have to insist that you put the book down, turn off the light and go to bed because you have school in the morning!

Shelby, you will be able to wear shorts, flirty (within the limits of a 7 year old) skirts, sparkling sandals and the tank tops that you have been asking to wear all spring long. Although, the bright and sassy bikini you want is still in negotiation; the colorful and “this-mom-is-more comfortable- with” tankini is probably still in your future.

Ellie, the dandelions are in full bloom and they will be ready for you to pick with the wild abandon and enjoyment you demonstrate, as your dad and I are not the best at lawn care. There will be many days that you will be able to stay in your pajamas all day, but I am confident that the sunshine and the play set will call you to get dressed and scurry outside. Your backpack awaits you — it is not yet filled with the rocks that I continually ask you to stop putting in there.

Adventures are in store for us, I am sure, but there will be days where I want you to be bored. I do not want the whining that comes with being bored, but I want you to be bored. I want you to have no agenda for a time, go outside and explore, make your own fun without the television, Wii or computer. You need to have a lemonade stand – we will work on doing it in town, as these country roads we live on aren’t too conducive to lemonade stands – but a hot, summer day requires a lemonade stand from time to time with a homemade sign, paper cups and a sweaty pitcher filled with the sweet and tart drink. The thrill of having a bag full of earned quarters is a feeling I wish for you. Being bored will not hurt you, it can inspire you to build blanket forts, to create sidewalk chalk masterpieces, and find the perfect tree to climb and find a bird’s nest.

I wish for sunshiny days where your noses get a little brown, and your freckles that disappear in the winter pop out in the summer. I wish for park days, pool days, lake days, and maybe beach days if we head down south. I wish for fireflies to twinkle at dusk for you to chase and capture. S’mores and popsicles and just-picked sweet corn. And, I wish for very few mosquito bites to scratch, and for the fish to bite soon after getting the squishy worms on the hooks.

When the too much togetherness gets to you, which it will, I expect you all to take a deep breath and not drive each other crazy… or drive me so crazy that I want to pull my hair out. Being together day in and day out with no school to break up the sibling love will be tough at times, but I respectfully demand the tattletaling, the “she is sitting in my chair when I got out just for a minute” shrieking, the “he started it” decrees, and the endless “why does he/she get to do that, and I don’t” questions be kept to a minimum. I know you love each other, even when some days you can barely tolerate each other… as I always say, you are lucky to have each other and one day you will realize it, honest. When in public, can you please act like you like each other?

It will be nice to have a break from the frantic mornings trying to catch the bus that is coming 5 minutes earlier than at the beginning of the year. Your backpacks are grungy and the zippers are sticking. The days are longer, and it gets more difficult to coax you to bed when the sun is still gracing us. Make sure you are still giving your teachers your attention these last few weeks..they are probably getting excited for summer as well, but they are still patient with you.

And, yeah, I love you each of you. More than anything. But, when school comes around again, I will be ready, and you will be ready, too. We will be yearning for the structure, the routines, and for the yellow bus to come and pick you up. I will send you off with kisses and then watch you climb onto the bus and pull out of sight. With a sigh, I will be happy for school, but realize that time marches on and I will be waiting for summer soon enough.

All my love-

I am not always a good sport.

I grew up in the South where college football reigns supreme. Your team’s colors adorned your onsies, your bibs, and you probably wore the favored team’s cheerleader outfit or football jersey before you could even sit up. When your team wins, you are ecstatic and so proud, and feel like you were on the field yourself with all of the cheering, fight-song singing, and yelling you have done throughout the game, and of course, while wearing your team’s colors. When your team does not come out on top, you are still so proud of your team, although deeply disappointed, and still feel like you were out on the field with the cheering, the feverishly hoping, and the draining disappointment that has descended upon you, in your team’s colors. I am not always gracious to the opposing team, but do have respect for a well-played football game.

On game days, I am filled with anticipation of the big game (each and every game is a big game), and my children and I are dressed in my team’s colors – blue and orange. All three of my children have grown accustomed to my cheering… or screaming… during the games. My youngest will happily chant, “go Auburn”, even when she catches a glimpse of hockey on the television… during the Winter Olympics, many a time I had to explain that this was not Auburn football, or even Viking football — I have added a NFL team to my list.

I want my children to be good winners, and good losers. I want them to experience the exhilaration of winning a hard fought game, and yes, even the agony of defeat (although not too many times). I want them to sincerely congratulate the other team’s players when on the losing side, and I want them to be proud of their successes, but not boastful. Although I cannot offer too much in athletic advice, I do want them to focus and practice at a sport that they enjoy. I want them to have team spirit, and I want them to put forth their best effort, and I genuinely want them to have a great time while playing the sport.

As my children grow and become more involved in organized sports, and compete to win, I realize I need to lead by example, and keep my team spirit in check. I need to watch how I respond to the end result, how I behave so that my children understand that while important, winning isn’t everything, and losing will not be the end of the world. I will support them and cheer for them, but I also need to make sure when they are defeated, which they will be, I need to honor their efforts and give no blame, but just hug them and let them know I am always in their corner.

Not to worry though, Auburn baby attire is safely put away for my grandchildren…

an old MOPS newsletter… from January 2010

Pushing the cart down the cereal aisle, I could hear the wailing. The wailing was faint as I picked my box of Berry Kix cereal, but it got a bit louder each aisle. Approaching the cheese, the wailing was losing some steam, and in my line of vision, I could see the little girl with the red, tear-stained cheeks, the runny nose, and chest heaving from all the effort.

I could imagine the mother’s white knuckles clutching the handle on the cart. I could imagine her lips pierced together in a tight line as she tried to get the remaining groceries on her list. I could imagine because I, too, have been frantically wishing that my child would settle down, would quit the wailing, but not wanting to give in to the demands. Hoping other shoppers would not glance our way when one of my children was complaining and fussing, as I desperately tried to coax them into a quiet compliance. I have pledged to not do the same to other parents, to not look with pity or even worse, judgment. Passing by to get a gallon of milk, I quickly glanced over and tried to offer a smile of “I understand”.

It can start simple enough, the request for just something small, the perfectly pink, sparkling purse that caught my daughters’ eyes, or the round, colorful Bakugan that costs just a few dollars for my son. Or merely, a delicious candy bar before we have eaten lunch. A polite please when asking, but then scrunched up faces and a dramatic sigh of disappointment when I state “not this time”. As the murmurs under their breath turn into louder, clear whining, I pick up the pace and push the cart faster. Attempts at redirection – do you want to hold the shopping list, do you want colored or regular goldfish – are thwarted. The kids’ patience levels with me are wavering, and in turn, my patience level with the kids has certainly wavered, and was left back at the bread aisle.

When in these situations of frustration, I try to remain patient, but firm. I parent like someone is watching me, I want to be perceived as loving, caring, and a good parent to those in the store that are watching me, and deep down, to myself. Again, I parent like someone is watching me…other parents, other shoppers could be watching me, judging me.

Yet, someone IS always watching me even when not in a store, three some ones.

My children, aka human sponges, soak up everything. They are listening when I do not think they are listening. They are watching me when I am scolding them about not being tattle-tales, when I am reading a book to them, when I am talking to my friends on the phone, when I help in their classrooms, when I am giving their dad a kiss goodbye in the morning, and when I am tired and snap at them too quickly. They are watching me when I bring a meal to a friend who had a baby, when I am folding my umpteenth load of laundry, when I am venting about someone who has irritated me, when I am sending a thank you note, and when I am cooking their favorite dinners. They soak it all in, my good behaviors and my not-so-great behaviors. On this mothering journey, I am constantly parenting, and am constantly not parenting perfectly.

Parenting like someone is watching me is a gift I need to give my children, not just the other moms and dads in the stores. It might not make the shopping trips less frustrating. More than likely, there will be shopping trips that willl be cut extremely short, but I will get my milk and paper towels, and hopefully will also get some pride in knowing my children watched me parent them firmly, but tenderly even in the throes of whining and with white knuckles.

MOPS newsletter/March 2010

It has been described has a safe haven. Over time, it can create family spirit.

It is the family dinner.

I have read about the advantages of the family dinner. There are numerous rewards of gathering around the family table, sharing a meal, and discussing the day’s events. According to published studies, kids who have a family dinner a few times a week are less likely to smoke, to drink, to do drugs, get depressed, and to develop eating disorders. Studies have also shown that kids who regularly enjoy a family dinner do well in school, eat their vegetables, learn big words, and know which fork to use.

In my house, we have family dinners as often as we can. Our children are at ages where we can still have dinners on a frequent basis. As with most families, various activities and sports, and my husband’s profession, do not always allow for all five of us to be there each time, but we do try. I hope that our family dinners, sometimes family breakfasts, will play a part in my children’s moral compasses. However, we aren’t quite in the place to see all of the published advantages, as our kids are not often out of our supervision; they still depend on us for most things.

So, here are a few other points– in no particular order — I have learned from our family dinners, my own personal research.

Milk spills on red, cloth placemats just perfect so they have to be washed frequently. Water spills on the table so it can be easily, and quickly, wiped off.

It can take 25minutes to eat four green beans and two very small bites of meatloaf. A chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles can be eaten in two minutes, or less.

There absolutely cannot be a moment of silence at the dinner table. If a silent moment occurs, three children can immediately fill the silence, all at the same time. Or perhaps, some smacking or gulping of milk can fill the dreaded silence.

When praising one child for eating all of his or her carrots and red peppers, another child takes great offense that I did not comment that he or she ate all of her carrots and red peppers first, therefore, I must like the other child more.

The top questions asked during a family meal are: “can I be done?” and “how many bites do I have to eat?” The top answers are: “you can be done, but you do not get a treat, unless you eat your (multiple choice, take your pick) meat, carrots, peas, tomatoes, or rice” and “you have to eat ALL the bites on your plate, that is why I put them on your plate”.

Above all, the family dinner has taught me how valuable time is; how precious family moments are. I have learned how significant the family meal is to my family’s growth. We laugh, we talk, we listen, and a little eating is done by my girls… my son is growing to where he is eating more and more… and we connect with each other. Yes, our mealtimes can have some trying moments, but I still delight in seeing my family around the table, all together… for I know, the day will come soon enough where we are not all together as often, and I just might miss cleaning up spilled milk.

because I wrote so… 2/10

I am ready to be a grandmother.

Let me rephrase, I am ready to have the patience of a grandmother. From my point of view, grandmothers are able to play Candyland over and over and over, without getting flustered when the kids fuss over who gets to go first. Grandmothers do not worry about playdoh getting on the kitchen floor, or even on the carpet. Grandmothers do not cringe at the seventeenth time a child asks for a snack without saying please. Grandmothers marvel at every drawing, lego creation, and dress up ensemble. Grandmothers will do the same puzzle four times in a row.

Grandmothers have earned the right to be dazzled by their grandchildren, and leave the correction, the tedious tasks, and well, the parenting to the parents. Grandparents have raised their children. They have dealt with tears when their daughter did not get invited to a certain birthday party, they have scolded their son for not saying excuse me after a belch, they have suffered and survived potty training and the accidents that occur with potty training, they have carpooled and transported children hundreds of miles without the safety-seats we have today, and they have washed countless loads of laundry. Grandmothers have paid their dues, and are deserving of the special times with grandkids, and are deserving of the fun stuff.

As a mom, I am also dazzled by my children, am dazzled and blessed by them every day. But, I am not always so patient as a grandmother can be. I worry about cleaning up all of the bright-colored, miniscule blobs of playdoh from the carpet. I do not always cheerfully remind my children to rephrase their requests in a less demanding way and use the word please. When playing Candyland for the third time, my thoughts wonder to what I need to be doing to get dinner ready, bills that need to be paid, or if I have five minutes to jump on Facebook.

I like to think that when grandmothers were mothers of young children, they too, lost their patience when brothers and sisters fought over sitting in the same chair, that they got a little harried when a full can of fish food was dumped into the fishbowl that contained one fish, and that they raised their voices when declaring, yet again, it was past time to stop running in the kitchen. Thinking this makes me feel better when I am troubled that I was not at my best, that I once again, became frazzled during some dramatic whining.

Grandmothers have earned their badges of honor, and survived the ups and downs of mothering… and just shy of 10years into this mothering adventure, I realize I still have many more days to earn the patience of a grandmother. And, I am OK with that, as long as I get my five minutes on Facebook, and I can get through the playdoh stage relatively unscathed — and my carpet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wife, mother, daughter, friend, and hope to be a writer. Many labels, but am proud to have them all. I am a Southern-born girl who now lives on a farm in the Midwest — traded in snow-white beaches for snow itself! I have a wonderful family that I fondly describe as “blessed chaos”.