Dear Parents, If you have come clean to your fourth grader about Good Ole St. Nick and The Elf on the Shelf this year that's quite cool and all. I'm not here to argue against growing up. This is all part of life. But you might want to let them know that it's kinda important not to blab it to many of their friends who might NOT yet know yet - especially when Christmas is right around the corner and when someone's Mommy's might have actually wanted one, last Christmas where the full Christmas magic is in bloom before the innocence was shattered forever. Is that too much to ask Mommy to Mommy here? Is there a part where you swear them to secrecy or guilt them about not telling others? Or, do the kids just blab anyway even if their parents warn them not to?
Ya know, maybe it's not a biggie to some parents, Santa-Shmanta,whatever whatever... just another day and all part of growing up. I mean, I'm a dork - I actually get teary eyed when my children lose their first tooth and cry at the thought of waking up Christmas morning alone after my kids are grown and gone (true story, I actually cried big loser tears talking about it yesterday) and get UPSET that the magic of Christmas has to be lost for a 9 year old because some kids feel the need to show how cool and mature they are... but please... I know I'm on borrowed time here but can you throw me a bone people! I didn't get to do ANY of this with CB and I'm just eating it all up and it's going by way too fast. I'm not ready.
That's it. A very upsetting day in Mommy-Land. First Pink has "Santa Questions" (though she's only asking and cover has not been completely blown) and then baby Rella has 2 freaking loose teeth.
I'm seriously not ready for this.
Anyway, that's the end of that rant. Make ALL the fun you'd like.
Now, breathing deeeeep.... feeling the love, feeling the love.
So, yes. Christmas and all the Winter Holidays are not about Santa, of course. They are about love and giving and sharing and family. So, in that vein I wanted to select 12 things to do with the girls that were reflective of that. I knew there was no way I could do one of these "25 Acts of Kindness" things - that would just set me up for failure. Twelve may be pushing it, just because I can only think of 10, but 12 goes with The 12 Days of Christmas so I'm gonna have to "dig deep."
Here's my start:
1. Write some Holiday Cards for Heroes that will be distributed to active duty and wounded U.S. soldiers - DONE
2. Donate toys and volunteer at Santa's Workshop - DONE
3. Spread holiday cheer with the residents of a nursing home - DONE today!!
The girls and their Kids Philanthropy group decorated holiday door hangers and then distributed them to the residents. It's really cute to see them interact.
CB kept off to the side, but she's getting used to it there.
So, then I also have :
4. Donate books for the library's "New Book Drive"
5. Donate to our church's Food Pantry for holiday dinners
6. Sponsor a Child for a local holiday roller skating party - DONE
7. Write a Thank you note to someone special and tell them what you like about them
8. Go through old toys and games and donate
9. Sing in the Children's Christmas Choir for the Christmas Eve Mass - not me of course.
10. Volunteer to lay wreaths at each of the 1800 tombs at the Veterans Cemetery - Our whole family is actually volunteering to do this on Sunday morning!
And that's about where I lose my creativity. Any suggestions?
It was a Black Friday and Thanksgiving Weekend Birthday for my baby, Rella. Not a great time to get a party together, but a wonderful time to be with the family. We celebrated in between Thanksgiving Dinner #1 and Thanksgiving Dinner #2 by spending the day at the ice skating rink.
Tink and I went ice skating last year with her Girl Scout troop. That was her first time and my first time since I was probably about 10. We had tons of fun, but I only had HER to worry about. This time, it was going to be me against three, NONE of whom could skate. The other girls have never been on roller or ice skates, deprived children they are. Since Dr. Fab is a party pooper and stated early on that he would only be watching, not skating, we brought reinforcements - 2 pro-skating cousins and an aunt who provided lots of entertainment by falling on her ass with remarkable frequency.
It all went down as I would have predicted. Rella was not crazy about it ("This is really hawd!" she kept saying) but wouldn't give up even though she kept whining. After 1 lap around the rink clutching the wall, Pink couldn't deal with the discomfort of her skates and her inability to perform perfectly after 8 seconds on the ice. So, she quit.
Tink, of course, laughed and fell and didn't give a crap and just had fun.
And Dr. Fab took photos and cheered everyone on and was basically a trooper as the only male amongst three children, 2 tweens, his chatty sister and his immature wife. The man deserves a medal.
Rella has been counting down to her birthday literally since November 1st and I was so worried she'd be disappointed. We don't buy lots of gifts, and my slacker self hasn't planned her "friend party" yet so God knows when that will happen. It was just skating and cake and pizza with some family. Oh, and Jingles-the-God-Forsaken-Elf-on-the-Shelf made an early appearance just for her birthday. He usually doesn't arrive until Dec 1st. Well, that's his goal... but usually he shows up mid-month. He's got issues.
Anyway, she seemed tickled. It's good to be 6, I guess. I can't believe my youngest - my BABY - is 6. I remember saying "When our youngest is 6, life will be so much easier." And, honestly... it IS.
Monday before PM Kindergarten I surprised her with a birthday trip to Build A Bear - the place she WANTED to go on her actual birthday but I wasn't getting within 50 miles of a mall on Black Friday Weekend. So, we got there at 10 am and she built a bunny, not a bear. Her first one ever. Now she can't complain of a deprived childhood!
Meet "Alexa" the bunny. Who has an outfit that costs more than most of my own. And roller skates. Everyone knows bunnies need roller skates.
She rushed off to school to celebrate over cookies with her friends - cookies I almost forgot to send in until Rella said as we rode the escalator down in the mall "Hey what about my birthday treat for school Mom?" Good Lord, you would think I could remember one thing! I've had a terrible string of forgetful fog over me lately, but I'm blaming it on this head cold.
I think the birthday extravaganza is officially over now. Except for the obligatory party with friends. Hopefully, I will get that scheduled before Christmas.
Hope your family had a special, warm and family-filled Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because
a) I don't have to buy anything and
b) I don't have to do anything other than show up and eat.
Or at least, that's how it is for now so I am enjoying that luxury.
On Thanksgiving Day our tradition is to head my in-laws for a feast to end all feasts. Now that they have moved our commute has gone from two hours to 6 minutes. That is something to be thankful for!
A more recent tradition on Thanksgiving is The Making of The Gingerbread Houses, one house per family unit. It's a friendly competition, and no one ever wins... and everyone eats more candy than what ends up on their house. It's cute. Even my 16-year-old nephew isn't too old or cool to join in the fun.
It's a cliche wrapped in a cliche but I can't hold it back - we have so much to be thankful for. I wake up every morning thinking about how blessed we are. That, even on our "bad" days when "everything goes wrong," it is really more annoying things ( a mailbox being knocked over, the kids acting like fools, the washing machine breaking) than anything really major. The "major things" will come, I know this because people can't live forever and tragedies don't discriminate. So, I will enjoy all the regular ups and downs of family and life while it's all relatively manageable.
"What about CB?" some people might ask. Certainly CB and I have traveled off the generic path of the picture-perfect version of family "normality." But even when we were in and out of hospitals and going to therapists and getting diagnoses... even at her "worst" I always knew her life wasn't in danger. Her health wasn't THAT precarious. I mean, there were a couple scares, but the scares only lasted a few moments. Even after her diagnosis of Autism and cognitive impairments, after life unfolded in the way it did, I can't say we're not blessed. It is what it is. Would I change it? Yes, probably. For her. And, who am I kidding, for me to. But the "someone always has it worse" rule can keep you pretty grounded even when things aren't ideal. And what is ideal anyway? And how long can "ideal" really last?
Last weekend, I failed to do my weekend wrap up, so I'll do it here. As part of the Catholic church there is a sacrament called "First Reconciliation" which is when you take your first confession or do your first penance. Not being Catholic myself, I never did this nor did I really know what it was until I went through it with Pink last year. I'm not terribly 'religious' but I try to make these sacraments as meaningful to the kids as I can because if we're going to do it, let's get some meaning out of it, right?
So, Tink was nervous to confess to the preist. She was embarrassed. She was afraid she'd get in trouble or that he'd report what she said back to us. Now, let me preface all of this by saying Tink is like the model of good behavior. She causes me the least grief around the house and I think I've yelled at her a total of 3 times in her entire 7 years of life. So, what on earth she could "confess" is beyond me. So, we steered clear from this whole "You have sinned and you must say 20 Hail Marys" and all that stuff. We told her it's just about examining your behavior as you grow and learn, taking responsibility and apologizing when you do something you know you shouldn't have done (or have missed an opportunity to make the right choice) and then saying next time, I'll do better. Even more importantly, it's about righting your "wrong." Reconcilling. Doing better when you know better.
Afterwards, we went out for pizza and don't you know this little bunny wanted a slice piled with broccoli. Only this kid.
And this little one will be celebrating a birthday. My baby - turning 6. But, that post will come another day. We've got major drama unfolding here and Mama is ready to lose her cool. Ready to snap, but hey... still thankful nonetheless.
Today is tHERsDay, and CB is having a pretty good week so far. No complaints here.
She's so cute.
Time for a little light housekeeping.
* Pentimento Magazine's second issue will be coming out December 15th and I have the good fortune of having an essay featured in this issue. As a contributing editor, I had the opportunity to preview this issue too for editorial assistance. After reading it straight through and seeing the layout, I was blurry eyed with tears and overcome with emotion. That's what this magazine does. It makes you ache, good and bad, and feel connected to an entire community of people in your "tribe" of the differently-abled. I love this magazine. It is only available in print so PLEASE consider a subscription at $10.00/year. It costs less than a coffee habit or a few books on your Kindle.
* I've been featured again on the Families for Communities Blog and Resource page. This is a wonderful website for parents of children with special needs so please show them some support!
* Want a "feel good" Facebook page? The Grow Love Project celebrates ordinary acts of kindness we see, hear, read, or do every day. They just started facebook page. It's not a non-profit. It's not an orgazination or a blog or anything self-promoting. It's just a really cool woman trying to create a space to share good things, charitable deeds, random acts of kindness with the world. Join the community, post what you are doing with YOUR family in your corner of the world. Be the spark, be a light, be an inspiration.
(P.S. They have the cutest T-shirts on their website. I am so hunting this down and GETTING ONE to wear with a black maxi skirt and fitted denim jacket and boots. Not that I'm planning the outfit in my head right now or anything).
* Speaking of outfits - Heavenly Soles sent me a pair of sheepskin boots to test drive and review.
I have to confess my shallowness here. The giant "HS" on the back throws me off. And when I say "throws me off" what I mean is that I don't like it one bit because I feel like I'm wearing knock off Uggs or Koolaburras. BUT, I will also confess that they are actually really warm and comfy. But, I won't wear them outside of the house. I almost treat them like slippers. Feel free to make fun of me. I am that pathetic, I know.
So if you are not as ridiculous as I, and don't mind a giant HS on the back of your boot, check them out. They are less expensive than the higher end sheep skin boot and though I can't comment on their durability because they are so new, I can say that my two pairs of Uggs haven't really held up very well over the last few years.
Ok, next subject....
* My newest article on Handling Food Allergies at the Holidays, specifically at Thanksgiving, is up on SheKnows. It offers tips from moms who know how difficult Thanksgiving can be for kids with serious, life-threatening food allergies.
This week is American Education Week in New Jersey and parents get an opportunity to go in and observe their child's classroom! I was just in Pink's class this morning and it was really cool.
Having my last three kids so close together was wonderful and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. But, it did pose some challenges. Sleep, showering and sanity suffered. Another challenge was that when Pink started Kindergarten it was nearly impossible for me to get in to the classroom to volunteer when I had 2 little ones still at home and no family around for childcare. Same went for Tink when she started school - there was still little Rella running around. So, I didn't come in for "Mystery Reader" or help with Centers or volunteer to be Room Mom (the latter of which I actually have no interest in ever doing).
It's difficult for working parents to get into the school and sometimes it is difficult for stay at home parents as well. Yet, I think we all like the idea of at least getting to observe the classroom environment when they are little, when we can.
Rella, the last little duckling, got the least attention as a baby, all the hand-me-downs, and gets left out of her older sisters' games sometimes. But, she lucks out in that I can actually spend some time in her classroom once a month volunteering with Centers. It's really fun to get to know the kids better, the teacher better, and get a glimpse into the Kindergarten day.
We are very fortunate to be in a great public school district. I love the elementary school and so far, I'm loving Pink's new school, Grades 4 through 6, as well. The teachers are incredible in our township, and though no school is ever without flaws, our district is pretty great. We're very proud to send our children here. CB's school is amazing as well and these teachers, in my opinion, are even more deserving of praise. They work with a very, very challenging group of kids and not everyone can do it.
Dr. Fabulous and I obviously value education. We should - we both completed 300 years of school and have doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology. My father is a medical doctor and his mother received an honorary doctorate degree in the mental health field. In essence, my children come from a long line of nerds and bookworms. But these degrees certainly don't mean we're any smarter than anyone else. In fact, I could list a million people I know who have more intelligence than I. I just memorized a lot of things that won't serve me well in an Armageddon situation so... I'll be eaten first.
Despite the fact that amount of schooling or grades can't always predict future success, I still strongly believe that a good education is invaluable for giving you the kind of flexibility you need to make a variety of choices in your life. I also strongly believe one of the main keys with education is not necessarily being the most naturally gifted or smartest. It's often about a family's value on education, the individual's motivation and desire to learn and their work ethic and good study habits. I am actually pretty painfully average cognitively. Yet, I've accomplished a great deal academically because I found a field of interest to me and had the tenacity to set a goal and not give up until I attained it. Obviously, the way my parents raised me had a lot to do with that.
It certainly takes great teachers, a school with resources and a quality curriculum to make sure our kids are prepared academically. And I'll never argue that success takes more than "book smarts." Creativity, problem solving skills, SOCIAL and interpersonal skills, philanthropic behaviors are inarguably part of the equation. But everyone needs a solid academic foundation. The teachers, however, can't do everything. We as parents need to do our best to reinforce learning at home while our children are young and impressionable.
Yet, it's hard, I admit. My kids like to learn and they thankfully do not appear to have any learning or attentional difficulties. But they have their areas of strength and weakness and like most kids they don't necessarily like to always put EFFORT into things that don't come easily. Their motivation needs prodding sometimes. When learning comes easy, they're all into it. When they start getting challenged? Sure, the frustration comes. They are sometimes inclined to give up prematurely unless we intervene.
I rely on their teachers a great deal for all the ideas and resources and support they provide for us to work with the kids at home. The communication between teacher and parent is so important. It can be overwhelming when they let you know all these things you can do at home, but you don't have to do it all. There are so many awesome apps and websites that certainly make learning fun (though they end up monopolizing my precious computer). I try to do the best I can. I think the idea is to just keep the kids practicing, especially over the weekends and longer breaks.
Above all, I am a firm believer in good old fashioned nose-in-a-book-with-real-pages READING. If I do nothing else, I always fall back on reading, reading, reading. My kids will read to themselves before bed, they'll read on the side lines while a sister is at soccer or swim practice. They'll read to each other. I'll read to them. A story app will read aloud as they follow along.
Did you know that if a child reads 20 minutes a day during the school year that they are exposed to
1,800,000 words? A student who reads 5 minutes each day? 282,000 words. Incredible.
I know not every kid takes to reading and some may even struggle with it. I have some people in my extended family who struggle with reading. In those cases, the Mom reads to them (even though they are 13) and buys the Kindle Fire that can read aloud to you. Whatever works for you. Whatever works, just don't give up and give in.
Another thing I am a stickler about is getting homework done right away. I think most people have the tendency to procrastinate. It's in our nature. So, I'm trying to instill some good work habits NOW while I have the utmost of control as "The Mom," and hopefully some of it will stick.
Education is so important and I am tremendously thankful for those who dedicate their lives to teaching and school administration. While I certainly don't have any guarantees about how everything will go down with my children and school, I do know that it is amazing to watch them learn and grow each day.
We experienced the ying and the yang this weekend - the celebration of life after life has gone, and the celebration IN life as it carries on, real-time.
We had my grandfather's Memorial on Saturday and after reminiscing and remembering, Dr. Fabulous and I had to attend his non-profit's big, annual Gala in Philadelphia. This is one of their main fundraising events of the year and also their 45th anniversary event!
The party, as always, was spectacular. I found this amazing dress with a color I love at a great new local boutique. The best thing was that it was 50% off allowing me to buy 2 more sale dresses for the original budget of just one. I love great finds that support local business owners! And this dress, with my strappy super sparkly stiletto heels ($20.00 from Payless), got TONS of compliments all night long. I think because almost the entire room was wearing black and I was in Easter Egg lavender. The whole outfit head to toe cost me less than $50.00 and I don't think ANYONE would have guessed it at this super fancy soiree.
Yet Dr. Fab STILL continues to say I spend too much money. Ha! The man has NO idea what many women spend on themselves!
So, it always adds to the fun when you win one of their amazing raffle baskets.... which we did.
Despite the fact that everyone joked that the raffle MUST be rigged if the CEO won (second time winning in 3 years), I wish that were the case. Our strategy is to simply purchase hundreds of dollars worth of tickets, put them all in one basket and hope we get lucky. And, this year, we did.
Maybe my grandfather was pulling some strings too.