- pick blueberries/raspberries/strawberries
- go to the zoo-Cleveland and Akron
- go out with friends
- play baseball, batting cages
- go to baseball games
- go swimming
- go to the rec center
- go to Little Italy
- go to the art museum
- go to the natural history museum
- go to the park/hiking
- go geocaching
- find rocks
- ride bikes
- make lemonade
- make popsicles
- go camping
- plant a garden
- walk Girl
The weather is turning nice and we're itching for summer! What we're hoping to do this summer...
Writing is obviously important to me. If it wasn't, I wouldn't write a blog. I have always felt it easier to express myself through paper and pen. Through writing, I can more clearly articulate what it is I want to say. I come by my ability to write through both of my parents. My mother is a great storyteller and my father has always used pen and paper to express his feelings.
In school, while most people struggled with writing, I comfortably crafted story upon story. Not only was I easily able to create works of fiction, but I could also write factual essays with ease. I have always used writing to pour my heart out, weave magical tales, or explain concepts. Not only do the words come effortlessly to me, but the structure of writing does as well. Up until high school, I don't ever remember being formally taught how to construct a paragraph. Somehow, I always just knew. Once I became a teacher, writing instruction was an area in which I thrived.
When my son was young, he had fine motor issues. These issues made it extremely difficult for him to physically write. Because of trying to catch up with motor skills, he fell behind in writing instruction, or so I thought. It wasn't until going into 4th grade that his fine motor skills were on par with a child his age. I wasn't too concerned because I knew that I was strong in writing and could help. For him, writing is extremely difficult and doesn't make sense. He's a logical person, I tried to explain it as logically as I could. We made a lot of progress before we had yet, another, set back. Going into 5th grade, he was so far behind in writing that I honestly didn't think he could ever catch up. Not only that, but his confidence has been shot and he truly hated to write. Though I had given him the basic formula for writing, I wasn't sure he could even apply it with how low his confidence was. Then, my son got so very lucky and had the best fifth grade teachers ever. Now, going into 8th grade, he's a decent writer. Storytelling is still very difficult for him. Though he reads more than anyone I know, adults included, trying to find words to make stories of his own is not his forte, but the structure of writing is correct. He still does the bare minimum to get by, but as his confidence grows, I believe his writing will also grow.
Sunshine, on the other hand, is more like me with her writing. Words and ideas easily flow from her. She can sit down and write for hours. The stories that she writes are well crafted and filled with vibrant word choices. For factual works, she has evidence that supports her topic. Sunshine, however, lacks structure. She has the potential to be a phenomenal writer. I have tried, many, many times to help her with this, but she is stubborn and believes that if you try to make it better, you are saying what she has written is not good. Next year, Sunshine has the same 5th grade team and I'm hoping they can help her with structure since she won't listen to me.
Writing is so important, yet, in today's society, we put very little emphasis on it. Writing has become a thing of the past. Everything that that people want to say has become abbreviated to fit into the number of characters you can post on social media.
A few weeks ago, my kids and I were at my parents' house. Sunshine found my old year books. As she was looking through them, she noticed a note from one of my friends. It had an arrow pointing to me in a picture and said, "There you are again! You're in every picture! You're always busy!" That was 8th grade. That was when there really weren't many clubs or things to get involved in at the tiny school I went to. You see, I went to a private school and there were all of 14 people in the entire 8th grade. We were the smallest class, but the rest of the grades didn't have many more students than that. With a school that small, we didn't have that many opportunities to be involved in things. I found the comment to be sort of funny. But, there it was, in black and white, arrows to every picture I was in, and there were a lot.
Then, we got to the high school yearbooks. Sunshine noticed I was in a lot of pictures there, too. I was definitely involved in a lot in high school. I don't think there were many clubs I wasn't involved in. In addition, I played soccer. I was at school all the time. All clubs were either before school of after school. There was no going home and coming back for something. We had soccer, drama, and some Ambassador events on the weekends, but it wasn't very often. Back then, barely anyone had events that weren't directly after school. I would come home, do my homework, and then be back out with my friends. No one had to go to this or that. Even though I was in almost everything, I never felt like I was "busy". Summers, I worked at the same camp from my 8th grade year all the way until I was out of college. I babysat. I even worked at a podiatrist office one year (that was awful!)
Fast forward to college. My freshman year, I thought I would take it easy and enjoy college life. Didn't get involved in activities and took the minimum number of classes to be full time. And I was bored. I couldn't handle all the down time. Don't get me wrong, I partied very hard and did a lot of things, but nothing that kept my mind occupied. The next trimester, I took a full course load (as I did every trimester after that) and I added English as my Minor, just to have something else to do. I got involved in more activities, including playing soccer again. I rushed a sorority. I got a job. I volunteered for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I graduated with honors from both colleges I was in (dual major). I did all this and had a life as well. I fell in love and started a life with my soul mate.
After college, I guess you can say I took time off. I had a job. Husband had a job. Other than work, I literally did nothing. I read, a lot. I painted. That's pretty much it. On weekends and time off, Husband and I would go exploring. We hiked and would take day trips all over Ohio. I was a little bored, but it was good down time for me. Three years later, we bought a house and got a dog. I tried to relieve my boredom with taking Puppy for a lot of walks. I joined a gym as well. Since we had a house and a dog to take care of, our road trips were fewer and fewer. We did things every weekend with friends, which helped a great deal with helping my mind stay busy. Then we had a baby. I no longer worked. Husband worked longer and longer hours. I was home, all day, alone with a dog and a baby. I was constantly moving, but my mind was not active.
So, I got involved. I got involved in different moms' groups. I got involved with school. I got involved with the library. The kids grew up and they got involved. Now, I barely have time to think of anything important other than what's right in front of me. Like I said in my Superwoman post, I get it all done. And so do my kids.
As I had said for myself, the key is priorities and balance. For them, it's the same, but their balance is free time. They are not in so many activities that they do not have days off. Even Monster, with 5 days a week of karate, has 2 days off. When it all gets overwhelming, we take a break. Let me explain that taking a break and commitment are very different. Every so often, Monster won't go to a karate class. The class that he misses is a group class. It is not his private class. He has never skipped a private class. Like everything, there is a balance. For his private class, he has made a commitment to be there. He has an instructor waiting there, just for him. For group classes, the instructor is there regardless of who shows up. Yes, he is committed to these classes, but everyone needs a break. Another example is Sunshine and her commitment to Science Olympiad and soccer. She has made commitments to both. This year, it worked out that she can do both, but, we didn't know that until last week. With Science Olympiad, she has a partner. One person who is counting on her. One person who could not compete if she wasn't there. If the times hadn't worked out, Sunshine would have missed her soccer game to compete in Science Olympiad. She knew that going into it. Though she made a commitment to soccer, there are other girls who can fill in for her on the field. Yes, it would be difficult to play with one less girl, but, there are more options then just one person depending on you.
Once more, commitment does not equal never taking a break and being busy is not an excuse for not getting things done. When you commit to something important that people are counting on you for, being busy is never an excuse. When you choose to take a break from something that people aren't really going to miss you, that does not mean you are breaking your commitment. Breaking your commitment is when you decide that you'd rather do something more fun rather than what you have committed to. Next weekend, Sunshine was invited to a birthday party. She can't go. She can't go because we have committed to the Run 4 Fun, Science Olympiad and soccer. Those are commitments. Would she rather be sleeping over her friend's house for a birthday party? Yes, of course, but we made commitments. Yes, it means we're busy as well, but, had we just been planning to head out for an overnight trip or had plans to go hiking or something of the sort, we would have postponed that because that sort of thing is not a necessity.
Being busy is just something that I've apparently always done, but I also know when to take a break. I understand the difference between commitments and doing things for fun. There is also a difference between over commitment and being busy. Busy still has breaks. Over commitment means you let people down because you have decided to commit to too many things. There are times you will always have to let people down, but if you're trying to teach your kids to stick to something, then you can't over commit because then they don't know what's truly important. Being busy is never an excuse to shirk commitments. Apparently, I've been busy my entire life. Yes, sometimes I am too busy to do something, but it's usually something that is fun. I also take breaks from my busy when I can so that I can recharge and I teach my kids to do the same.
My Dear Baby Boo,
Each day when I look at you, it both amazes me and terrifies me at how you are moving from being my little baby to becoming a young woman. I vividly recall you "dancing" around the living room when you were old enough to stand on your own. It could barely be called dancing since it was mostly running and jumping. Now, when you dance in the living room, you are graceful and glide across the floor. Each soccer season, this being our 15th, I think about your very first time playing soccer. You were just two. You kicked that ball all the way to the goal and then picked it up and put it in. I love watching you play soccer, but that will forever be my favorite memory. You wanted to play baseball before you could even hold a bat. You were literally going to baseball fields from the time you were a few months old. As soon as you could walk, you wanted to be out there with your brother rather than stuck behind the fence with me. Finally, it was your turn. And you, my sweet girl, who had waited so long, huffed and stomped around the bases your first time out there because you were called [Sunshine] R as opposed to just [Sunshine]. Now, you are playing all the positions and figuring out your favorite. You no longer stomp around the bases.
You have always been one to do your own thing, regardless of what others are doing. To this day, I am in awe of that and filled with pride. I have watched you set out and try new things. This past year, you picked up a bow and arrow and decided archery was pretty cool, even though no one else you know does it. You weren't sure about chess, but joined chess club and found you like it. Though math isn't your favorite, you joined 24 Club and made it into the city tournament. You have stepped up and taken on leadership roles by joining safety patrol and KKids. You can now solve a Rubik's cube faster than your brother! You are singing your heart out in Glee, and, to our surprise, tried out for a solo. Getting the solo doesn't matter, what matters is you tried! This summer, you are branching out and trying rock climbing. You have always been so adventurous! Not only have you started doing so many new things, but you have stuck with activities that you really love, like soccer, dance, softball, running, gardening, and art.
This past year, you have taken time to develop your friendships. You are such a caring kid. You want to make sure everyone is happy. I'm so proud of you for being the kid who plays with the kids who don't have many friends. You try very hard to make sure everyone is included, even if you are not a huge fan of that particular person. You are still learning life lessons on who to trust and how to balance your friendships, but that's good and you're doing an amazing job.
Life is always an adventure with you, my sweet Sunshine. I'm excited to see what this coming year has in store for you. Whatever it is, you will meet it with your bold spirit and kind nature. You will shine.
I love you. Always.
Like I said in my last post, I haven't been sleeping. Here are the musings of 3 am.
I have always been hyper away of talk about body image in front of my kids. I try very hard not to say negative things. Over the years, I have listened to people tell their children they shouldn't eat more, even if they aren't full, so they don't get fat. I've listened to people tell their kids they need to exercise more so they don't get fat. I've listened to people tell their kids if they eat right and exercise, they won't get fat. This has always made me very angry. First, kids need to eat when they are hungry because they are growing. Help them make better choices, but don't tell them they shouldn't eat anything else. Second, most 7 year olds are not fat, so don't tell them to exercise so they don't get that way. Encourage your children to be active. Third, and this one has made me go off on rants many times, eating healthy and exercise does not always equal skinny, so stop telling kids this. Every body type is different. There are different circumstances, heredity, and health issues that can make this not true. I've been a huge advocate for getting rid of negative self talk about your body in my house. Yes, sometimes, I do make negative comments around my kids, but, for the most part, I'm very good about it. We live a healthy, active lifestyle and I make sure I point that out.
As my kids have been growing up, not only have I paid close attention to the talk about being fat, but also the talk about being pretty. It shocks me the number of kids who are 12 and younger who think they need make-up in order to be pretty. With having a daughter, of course she's been interested in make-up, but we focus on that she's still a child and doesn't need make-up. Many years ago, I had a friend who literally got up 2 hours before her family to do her hair and make-up. She was proud of the fact that her husband and children never saw her without make-up. Do you know what message this sends the young men she was raising? It says to them, women have to look perfect in order to be valued. Let me tell you, there are some mornings I don't even look in a mirror before walking out the door let alone do my hair or make-up. A woman's self worth should not be linked make-up and hair. I have bad news for people who have this issue, looks fade.
With my focus mainly on body image negative self-talk, I guess I didn't think about the rest of it. I should start by saying I feel like I'm failing the majority of the time. When I get frustrated and angry, I make comments like, "I'm such a failure", or, "I can't do anything right". The more hectic life becomes, the more I say it. And, the more I hear it back. We try so hard to build our kids up, but I never thought of how my negative self-talk is tearing them down. More and more I've been hearing things like, "I can't do anything right", and I know it's coming from me. On a positive note, at least they don't give up, which both Husband and I have shown them.
Most parents don't think their children pay attention to actions and responses to situations, but they do. I already know that when my kids start to drive, they will be impatient drivers. Why do I know this? I've been teaching it to them since birth. They will also be safe drivers because, again, I've been teaching it to them since birth. While we are in the car, I explain my actions and responses. I always have. "Did you see how that guy ran the stop light? Well, had I not been paying attention, he would have hit us. I was looking and I saw he was not slowing down, so I waited to make sure he would stop, which he didn't." I then usually follow it up with teaching them some nice names for the person who just blew through the light or some sarcasm about how he must be more important than us. The car is just one example of where kids are paying attention and learning. It's all around. If you thrive on drama, your children will thrive on drama. If you always blame others for bad things that happen in your life, they will always blame others. If you take no responsibility for your actions, they will take no responsibility for their actions. If you base people's worth by how they look, they will base people's worth by how they look.
A while back, I knew a couple that the husband constantly yelled at the wife. I mean all the time. In turn, her son would yell at her. The father taught the son that it was OK to yell at their mother. The mother taught her son that it was OK to yell at her by putting up with it. Not only that, but they also had a daughter who learned the lesson that it's normal and alright for men to yell and and belittle women. Are those the type of men and women we want to be raising?
We see our actions reflected back to us all the time. Not everything, of course. Kids have their own personalities, too. However, they take some cues from us. When we start to get stressed out and yell, our kids start snapping at each other more. When we don't take things so personally, our kids are more carefree.
I'm all about life lessons lately and I feel like this is an important one. Kids are sponges. Even if you think they aren't paying attention, they are. What lessons do you want your children to learn? We all need to remember to start acting like we want our kids to act.
I haven't been sleeping, so I have time to think and write. This is what kept me up last night. I'm finally agreeing with people who keep praising me for everything I do and telling me they don't know how I get it all done. Here's my secret: I have my s#!t together. No matter how busy I am, I find time to do it all. Two kids, six days of activities per week, most days with multiple activities, a husband who works all the time, a dog, volunteer work, and normal, everyday stuff, and I get it all done, most of the time without shortcuts. Someone needs something, I can get my stuff and their stuff done, without sacrificing my family. Plus, I do it all with crippling anxiety.
Yes, there are things I don't have time to get done, but it's priorities. My kids and what they need come first. Please note it's what they need, not always what they want. If Sunshine wants her nails painted, but Monster has a project to work on, the project takes priority. Husband wants to go out for ice cream but Sunshine still has homework, the priority is homework. We all make choices in our lives and it's not all fun and games. Of course I'd rather always do the fun stuff. I'd love to travel and hike and go to museums, but, when there are things that need to get done, sometimes you need to suck it up and do what has to be done. That's how it all gets done. We all want to have fun all the time, but that's not realistic and if you're making everything fun, then you're setting your kids up to fail because bosses do not care if you'd rather be at a baseball game than working or if you wanted to go out drinking instead of getting reports done.
For everyone who knows me, you know my children aren't lacking fun things that they do! Our family does so much together and we make sure fun is in there. This weekend, the weather was beautiful. My family got work done AND had fun. Saturday, Sunshine managed to hang out with her friends, go to the pool, work on a science project, and play outside, while Monster went to karate, helped with the science project and played baseball. Sunday, the kids did laundry and dishes while Husband and I ran errands. By 11:30, we were all done with everything and spent the rest of the day outside. In fact, I didn't even see Sunshine for hours while she was out being a kid. Monster was a huge help and between, playing basketball and baseball, he even helped us reseed the lawn and plant bulbs. Then, we went to see Phantom of the Opera. Know what? Everything got done and everyone had fun and got a cultural event thrown in there!
It's all about balance. There is always give and take. Sometimes, you need to give up something you want to do for something you have to do. Since I'm all about teaching my kids life lessons lately, this is a great one. Prioritizing your work is important. There will always be excuses otherwise. As a teacher, I used to hear kids tell me that they couldn't do their homework for this reason or that reason. I loved when they would tell me they just didn't have time and I would then ask what they did when they got home from school and they made excuses of why they didn't get right to it and do it then. Homework is a priority. You can make all sorts of excuses for the things you are doing, but, when you prioritize, you will always find time. I'm not saying it's easy and it's not always fun.
I then have one more thing that most people don't have. Horrible anxiety. There are days my anxiety is so bad that I can barely leave the house, but I do. There are days I can't breathe because I'm having such bad panic attacks and I'm terrified of pretty much everything, yet I get it done. Today is great example of that. I got up, got kids up, got breakfasts made, lunches packed, got one kid to school (the other one got himself to school), took the dog for a run, did some shoulder therapy, went to the library, did grocery shopping, did a few loads of laundry, prepped stuff a meeting I have coming up, and picked things up for a girl scout meeting. That was all by 1:00. And I did it all, and keep going, while fighting the urge to cry and curl up in a ball and hide. I resisted the urge to keep my kids home from school so that I would have panic attacks about them being gone. Right now, I can't breathe because it's getting so close to dismissal time and all I want to do is to go up to the school and make sure everyone had a good day. That's what anxiety does and that's what I battle with every day and still get everything done.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't just sit at home all day doing nothing. I know it seems crazy to people, but I actually do work. I might not get paid, but don't, for one second, think I'm not working just as hard or have more time to do certain things than people who do work. I have a friend who works a full time job, has kids in all sorts of activities, and has a side business that takes up almost as much time as her full time job. Know what? She gets her stuff done, too. There's no excuses on why things aren't getting done. She makes time for the important stuff. She prioritizes. Our families are good friends. Would we like to be doing things together on the weekends? We would and we make time when we can, but we also can't just hang out every weekend with friends. Hell, we can't even hang out once a month with friends. Would be nice, but in order to get the important things done, it's not realistic.
So, in the wee hours of the morning, this was keeping me up. Yes, I'm Superwoman. How do I do it all? I make sacrifices. I find balance. I prioritize. I get it done because it has to get done. That's how I do it.
Letting your children do things on their own and learn their own lessons is tough. I tend to be a perfectionist about certain things, so there are things that it's very hard for me to take a step back and let my children take the lead on. Seven years ago, I wrote about child led art. Everything else in their lives is a little like child led art. I have always been big on letting my kids do projects on their own, but the older they get, the more I want to jump in to make it perfect. Sunshine loves to cook and bake. It took me way too long to let her do it on her own. It wasn't until just this past year that I started being a lot more hands off. Of course she still needs helping putting things in and getting them out of the oven, but other than that, I let her be. She and a friend decided they wanted to bake something a few months ago. I helped them find a recipe that we had all the ingredients for and then I turned them loose in the kitchen. It turned out to be a baking failure, or at least sort of. What they made tasted fine, but it fell apart and looked like a mess. They were excited about it though. They were also really proud. They started making plans for next time they do something and what they would do differently. That is learning. Even though it didn't turn out how they wanted, they saw where they could improve.
With Monster, these lessons are a little more difficult. You never want your children to fail, especially when it's important, but sometimes, for them to learn, there is no other choice. Monster has learned a lot of hard lessons throughout his life. A lot of these lessons have hurt, but, they have also made him grow. When he started karate 5 years ago, I was so worried about him failing at it that I would take notes and video to help him practice. I would sit with him while he practiced and watch him and tell him what to do better. Very soon, though, I wasn't able to keep up anymore. Techniques and katas got more complicated and I just couldn't take notes that fast. So, he was left on his own. Here's the important part. He succeeded without me. Yes, there were things he failed at and had to learn again, but there more things that he didn't fail at. Karate has been so great for him. I don't think he would be who he is today without it.
Sunshine has a different personality, so she has been taking the lead for a long time. From clothing choices to hair, it's always been her way. Even in this area though, she has learned. If she complains about her hair not being perfect, I certainly won't redo it until it is. She learns how to do it on her own because I don't care if her ponytail has bumps. If you won't do it yourself and you don't like how I do it, then it just won't get done. When Sunshine asks me to do her hair, she knows that it will be what it is, and she's good with that because she's learned that lesson. Other lessons are a little more of a battle, but they are lessons nonetheless and I try to let her take the lead, even when I know she is going to fail. She never wants to practice her math facts or her spelling words. I don't force her. At the beginning of the year, she learned that if she didn't practice her facts, she wouldn't be a "master". She desperately wanted to get "master" rank. So, she decided on her own to practice math facts, She's been a "master" every trimester and has gotten a lot faster at her facts. Spelling words, well, she has yet to fail at that. Like her brother, she's just naturally good at those. However, one day, she may fail, and it will be up to her to ask for help.
If you don't teach your kids that it's alright to fail, then they learn to be poor losers. If you are always setting them up for success, then when they actually fail, they won't know how to deal with it. Teaching your kids how to take away lessons from failing is just as important as their successes. Letting your child take the lead on the things they want to do and how they want to do it. Of course you should help your children, especially if they want it. But helping is different from doing. it. There are also some things kids don't need your help with. You need to figure out where the line is. Are you helping or are you holding your child back. It can all come back to that child led art. Do you want something to be perfect and is that why you are doing it? If so, you're teaching your children that their visions, if they don't line up with yours, aren't good enough. Yes, we live in a busy world, but, if we always do things for our kids because it's just easier that way, then we are raising adults who feel like everything should be done for them.
When you let your children take the lead, you see where you, as the parent, has been taking over too much. Are they asking you for help with simple things? Like if they are making a poster and ask what should I write or where should I put this or that, then you've probably been doing it for them the whole time, even though they are physically writing the things down. My daughter and her friend made an awesome poster, where they both learned to fail, because I won't do things for my kids' friends either. The girls were making a sign for an origami table that the girl scouts were running. The only thing they asked me about it was if they could work in the gazebo. They went planned the entire thing themselves. They wrote it all out and designed it. And, they spelled origami wrong, every time. Do you know what they learned from it? One, how to spell origami correctly, and two, how to make origami letters. Instead of crying about the fact they messed up and redoing it to be perfect, they decided to make origami letters to cover the mistake. Did they know how to make the letters? No, so, I helped a little by telling Sunshine she should text our friend who is an art teacher to see if she could help teach her. Our friend then sent videos on how to make origami letters. I did not sit there and help Sunshine fold and fold until she got it. She did it on her own. And you know what? They poster turned out pretty darn cool. I know way too many people who would have told their kids they would have to start over. Yes, sometimes, mistakes are too big to cover up, but the first response should never be to give up and start over. It was a sign for girl scouts, it was not life or death. Should you always do your best? Yes, but your best does not always mean perfection. Kids need to learn that. Kids need to learn that no matter how great they are, there is someone out there who will always be better, and someone who will always be worse. Their best doesn't have to be their brother's best or friends' best. It just has to be theirs. When you let your children take the lead, you can see what amazing things they can do. You also see where you need to work harder. Either way, they learn, and if you let them, they can even teach you.