Thursday, August 30, 2012

I wish I didn't care so much

Well it took me a while to figure out how to multitask  We are in our last out of 3 weeks of swim lessons.  I just realized this week that I could write this while I watched the lessons.  Just imagine how much I could have written if I clued in 2 weeks ago.  Oh well.

I am a good parent because I care about my kids and want them to be emotionally prepared for activities and programs.  I am a bad parent because I let the programs/sports have control of my brain and emotions during various times.  I wish I didn't care so much.  Of course I care about my kids and don't think anyone could love them or care for them more than I.  What I'm talking about is the stress I go through ever pre-season and playing-season for each kid.  The various processes make me crazy.

I love my kids.  I want them to be happy, have fun and succeed at things they are passionate about.  That's probably not too far off of how most people feel about their kids.  The hard part is caring so much.  It probably wouldn't be as difficult if I didn't have so many kids and they weren't involved in so many things.  I try and make them wait for things, but it's all catching up to me.

When I try new things, I am a bit nervous until I understand the ropes.  One year of an activity should give me the experience I need to move forward to set proper expectations for my kids.  Until that is under my belt, we wing it.  I try to best guess what's going on to support my kids having a fun experience.

We live in a very competitive town.  I guess it wouldn't be competitive if I wasn't that type of mom.  Some sports offer a competitive choice.  It is more expensive and time consuming than the recreational version.   We had been advised to stay out of it as long as possible.  Now I know why.  Last year was our first year involved at that level.  In some respects, it was a very positive experience, in others it was very challenging.  Having last year under our belt didn't help us for this year.

Last year, #2 went in with the attitude that if she didn't make the A team she didn't want to play.  Well, she made the B team, played, was with one of her best friends and made a lot of new friends.  She is very driven and capable.  A little humbling was good for her, as was not being the best at something.  But then, an injury sidelined her for the first 3 weeks of the season.  Nothing could prepare us for that setback.  She just had to heal and move forward as best she could.  Unfortunately, it put her behind a lot of her teammates' progress.  She played the rest of the season trying to catchup to a level she was  prior to her injury.

No amount of spring clinics or winter playing could change the coaches perception of her.  The hardest part was watching the tryout process this second year.  Maybe it was the best part because I could tell where they were going to place her before the teams were even announced.  We hedged or bets and had a contingency plan if she did not make the B team again.  She would be able to play fall baseball (her true passion).  Well, baseball here we come because she was dropped to the C team.  Now, who's to say this isn't where she would have been without the injury last year.  She is with other friends and new ones will be made.  I'm hoping for another fun season regardless.

#3 has tried for 2 years, unsuccessfully, to play soccer at a competitive level.  She, somehow, has given those coaches the impression that she is not seriously motivated enough to play at that level.  In her heart, she really wants to play at that level but her actions don't always reflect what her true motivations are.  She is too young to understand that her actions will reflect in peoples' decisions that will affect her.  She has the best spirit and is so much fun.  It is definitely their loss in not picking her, but that's my somewhat biased opinion.  Now, I'm biased because I'm her mother, but I also have the benefit of knowing her and having seen her play sports over the years.  I think there is always room for a girl who will always try, have fun and do her best.  But again, I care too much.  What if I was just happy that she had the experience of trying out.  What if I wasn't frustrated thinking the weeks of spring clinics that took our time and money were a waste.  Were they a waste?  I guess because our goal was to make the competitive level, we failed.  If we had set out with a different goal, we probably wouldn't be as disappointed.

I should say that this isn't even just related to competitive sports.  I've had this experience in sports that draft too.  Baseball is a mandatory draft in 4th grade for us.  Our first round with that put us on a team where #1 knew no one.  It turned out great.  It was stressful at first because it was a new situation for us, but we had no expectations because we had never been through this before.  Year 2 we thought we knew what to expect.  No such luck when we ended up on a team we never would have chosen.  The benefit was that it gave us more experience for the next year and more kids who would be involved in the sport.  Year 3 was a bit more predictable.  I guess that is until year 4 turns us on our ear.

Drafting is stressful, even when you understand the process.  In another one of our sports, they can arbitrarily decide that they want to institute a draft.  It's based on 1-2-3 rankings from the season before.  Then intent is to keep the teams balanced.  The hardest part is that they ask for friend requests on the registration.  Once a draft is instituted, the requests go out the window.  Really, they shouldn't ask.  Then we would have no expectation.  It's hard not being with friends.  I think that's true for grown ups too.

Another area of stress is in classroom placements.  There is an expectation that we will have the teachers we've had before.  Our school does a good job tracking kids in siblings' paths.  I always still worry about who they will have and what friends will be in their classes.   I really shouldn't invest the energy because I have no say.  But I am always apprehensive until the lists come out and we can map out our feelings.  Every year it really gives us all teaching moments, but to be able to step back and deal with it logically as it happens is no easy feat.

These are all just examples of my caring getting in the way.  A lot of the inefficiencies of these sports make me nutty.  It also makes me crazy when there is a lack of transparency.  It bums me out when there is favoritism.  I get that a level of familiarity can benefit some kids in the selection process, but in our instances I feel like it has worked against us.  There is no recognition of the fact that kids can change and mature and possibly even improve.  My level of frustration rises as decisions are waited for.

I always hope I'll be wrong when I have a vision of things not working out the "easy" way.  Many times it hasn't worked out that way.  I think, thank goodness I'm paying attention to signals of decision makers in these situations.  How bad would it be if we could not psychologically prepare for what's coming down the pike.

Why can't I be the mom that just says, it's all just part of the experience?  Just enjoy the process, whatever it is.  They'll end up where is best for them.  I'm not the expert here, leave the opinions to the ones in charge.  I'm just not sure all that are in charge should be or are even supported themselves in how they operate.

But, I am the expert in my kids, what makes them tick, what motivates them, bums them out.  It is not me saying they are the best at everything and they should make the A team and have all the playing time possible.  It is me saying that they are all still so young.  Many of these experiences, more mature or older kids, can handle without having parental support.  But, should they have to?  At what point do you walk away and say it's not for us?  How do I involve myself without caring? 

So, for now, I'll just continue caring, yet wishing I didn't.  Because it makes me crazy.  I will try to minimize my kids being crazy.  I will help navigate the sometimes too advanced concepts and feelings that present themselves.  I will continue thinking and knowing my kids are awesome and hope they end up where truly is best for them. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Picking what you eat

Did you miss me?  I missed you!  Yes, it's been a while.  It doesn't mean that posts haven't been happening....Just mostly in my head.  Time to get the fingers moving on the keyboard and put it out there.

Life is still busy.  It's actually the busiest time of year for us.  Regardless of how busy we are, we still need to eat.  3 meals a day.  Every day....  

With four kids' individual personalities, their food preferences follow suit.  One point is that their preferences are a moving target.  It has been said that you need to put a food in front of a kid hundreds of times before you can expect them to eat it.  What about the opposite.  What happens when you have a child who eats a food and then stops?  How much does peer pressure have to do with "likes" and "dislikes"?  How does one meal plan around all of these factors.

Child #1, with parents who knew nothing, was a pretty agreeable eater as a small child.  He had his quirks, but ate fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, etc.  No issues.  Until he gave up all fruits and vegetables.  ALL.  Well, not quite all.  Apples and bananas were it.  Around 1st grade he added lettuce to his repertoire of things he'd eat, thanks to the school garden and a gallon of ranch dressing.  Then came the tips of broccoli and avocado with ketchup.  I don't think enough nutrients from the vegetables entered his system, but it was better than nothing.

Apples and bananas began to wane and then his sisters started to LOVE fruit.  The smell, sight or mention of the fruit would send him into a tizzy.  My patience began to wane along with all fruits and vegetables.  His extreme persistence in not eating these foods was so annoying.  I cooked with home made broths and we ate a lot of salad.  I lectured and yelled.  Speaking negatively about food they were served was a punishable offense.  The main issue that was arising was that his littlest sister, #4, was starting to mimic him.

 #4 was the slowest, pickiest eater in the world.  She would fall asleep eating, it would take her so long.  Her tastes were different.  Due to low weight, she had extra supplements of cod liver oil and homemade formula.  As she got older, she would eat anything mixed with the oil, but imitate her brother's refusal for most other things.  If she ate after 3PM, she would not eat dinner.  I was told that 2 good meals were good enough.  Boy did she try my patience.

#2 eats EVERYTHING.  I'm not joking.  She tells me when there is something she doesn't like, but says that she doesn't want to hurt my feelings and eats it anyway.  As much as she was trying to emulate her brother in most other areas of her life, thank goodness eating wasn't one of them.

#3 eats almost everything.  She eats all fruits and vegetables along with most meals.  She also likes to help cook.  Shelling an extra large bag of peas is exciting.  Payment is being able to eat them along the way.

That was then, this is now.....

Just because some of my kids didn't like fruits or vegetables didn't mean I didn't serve them.  We converted, as a family, to eating family meals together every night.  This meant I was eating what the kids did.  The kids were served more diverse foods and things they hadn't seen or liked before.  Tantrums ensued, but I pursued.  First #1 accepted onions in his food.  Then #1 and #2 started favoring spicy foods.  Seasoning became fun.  They fought over the pepper grinder.  #1 became open to eating bell peppers.  In his mind it was because they had the word pepper in them, so they were related to pepper.  This is where I knew it was a mental thing.  Really, as you and I know, bell peppers have nothing to do with pepper!  I mean, come on!  A small victory happened here.

Fast forward a year of refused meals, picking vegetables out of mixed meals, and so on.  #1 had dinner at a friend's house.  His next request floored me.  Could I please make broccolini and make sure it was well done.   Um, yah, of course I could.  In the same week I made a meal that had butternut squash and chard in it.  I figured squash tasted similar to the sweet potatoes he ate during Thanksgiving.  I must confess that I was playing on the fact he was colorblind.  I figured the chard would look brown and blend in with other parts.  I didn't count on him reading the recipe as I cooked.  He ate it anyway.  A few days later I made a yummy dish that included mushrooms.  He started to eat around them.  I asked him to think about trying them since he'd really been liking what I'd been making that week.  He ate them and said "mmmm, not bad".  #4 was watching him. 

Within a week or two, my picky-never touched/looked at-eater had quadrupled his vegetable repertoire.  I felt so accomplished.  Who am I kidding though?  It had taken over 6 years of struggles and trials.  I had never been in the position of working so long without a plan, trying to do the best I could.  Lucky for all of us that I am more stubborn than my children.  I know they get it from me, but for now, I hold the title.

What came next.....

Kale!  It wasn't far off from chard or broccolini.  I overcooked it, like the boy enjoyed.  We ALL enjoyed it.  Now, we have salad, maybe once a week and the kids fight over the rest of the kale chips.  Last night he even ate tomatoes on his sandwich.  I hope it doesn't take 6 years to get #4 on board. 

How much of our success was maturity?  Probably lots.  Both mine and the kids.  We are enjoying finding new favorite meals together.  I am so thankful we did not give up.  I am a believer.  Keep serving it, but not forcing it.  We have switched to family style.  Take what you will eat and you can always have more.  Say nothing if you don't like it.  We ask the kids to try each item but don't battle.  If they don't care for dinner, they don't get a second cup of milk.  The only thing we allow to be eaten other than dinner is bananas.  We are also thankful that our friends eat similarly to us.  We cannot control what our kids eat or are offered when not at home.  The kids trade and share lunches and snacks at school.  They learn to articulate their likes and dislikes when friend's parents offer foods.  They are exposed to things we may not eat.  Once again, it takes a village.

Now, I'm hungry, what's for dinner?!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

play ball

Yes, we make choices on the activities our kids are engaged in.  Yes, there are too many for many a reason (time, money, etc).  But, with that said, I am humbled by all that I have learned about myself and kids through this part of our journey.

We are at the end of the baseball season.  Even though this is our third season, I am still learning.  The start of this season in particular began with tears.  I am second guessing our decisions, which is silly, since they are way in the past.    #1 doesn't like his picture to be taken, but values a good one when taken of an amazing play.  How am I supposed to accomplish that?  Neither kid likes to be endeared as "baby" which I still often call them.  They also don't like "woohoo" in a motherly pitch to be hollered.

We decided that #1 & #2 would tryout for the leagues above them.  Our intent was not for them to play in the tougher leagues, but to have the experience of the tryout process.  Based on last year's league structure, very few kids actually "played up".  Well, that was not the situation this year.  We got our team assignments and unfortunately, hubby was out of town.  Neither kid made it into the higher leagues.  I was not surprised, until I heard that most of my guys' peers did make it.  So, this year's league was a different animal.  I had misjudged the dynamics.  It turns out that with the SF Giants winning the World Series, everyone decided to play ball.  This created a situation where lots of players needed to be pushed up into the higher leagues.  I had just created the first of many disappointments with this process for my kids.  In their eyes, they had failed where so many had succeeded.

#2 is uber-competitave.  She plays in the boys' league.  Our original agreed upon purpose was not to make it.  She agreed but then the time came and she cried and protested.  This was several days after we heard about #1's team placement.  Each hour and day in between she would ask if I received her placement notice.  Those were tough "no's".  The anticipation created more tension.  More and more peers had "made it" until she felt she was the only one in her grade who had not.  She then set a condition saying, "If I don't make it, I'm not playing".

#1 heard his team placement right away.  He was to be an older fish in a younger pond.  The good news was he had friends and peers he knew on his team.  Last year he did not know anyone on his team.  So, this year, it was meaningful to have friends.  He said he wouldn't play.  The team he was drafted on was a different story.  Last year this particular team did not have the best behavior when they played his team.  It was on his list of teams he did not want to play on.  The thing is, no one asks who you want to be with or which team you want to play on.  Even though our intent was to not make the higher league, other coaches did not know this.  I did not know that the lower league would not be present or know his stats because he was at the higher tryouts.  In retrospect, this was probably a mistake.  Should he have done both tryouts?  Was this an option?  I didn't have the answers then or even now for that matter, but knew the stress we were dealing with as a result of the choices.

What did we do?  We reacted, and maybe overreacted.  We cried, we talked and we made decisions at the parental level.  In retrospect, we would have approached the pre-season differently.  That being said, we survived and quite well I might say.

We told #2 that if she chose to not play this year, she would not be allowed to play next year.  This was an opportunity to be a leader and improve her skills.  One of the things we did right was to ask that she not be on a team with younger kids from her school.  This is because the youngers were #3's peers and friends.  That would have exacerbated the situation for sure.  I am confident that this was good forethought on our part.  It turns out she was not the only one her grade who was in her league.  It also turned out that her entire team from last year, except for her, was drafted into the higher league by her coach from last year.  This team, that had drafted her buddies, won 1 game this year.  They had a tough season.  The team she was on touted her as their best fielder.  They won all or almost all (depending on who you ask) of their games (even though score is technically not kept).  I am so thankful that she did not make the higher league.  I am thankful she swallowed her pride and stuck with it.  As amazing #2 is at almost everything she does, it is okay to not be the top of something and to take a ride to see what will happen.  I am thankful for the situations we went through on this journey to have had the experience we did.  She still wants to be a Major League ball player and this means her confidence is intact.  She made new friends and received good coaching at all levels.  She could also focus on her tae kwon do black-belt.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

We explored our options for #1's situation.  Even dad supported him in his impulse to not play.  I couldn't imagine him not playing when all of his friends were ready to.  His choices were to play on a team he didn't want to be on, ask to be traded or to not play.  The risk in being traded would be that he might end up on a team where he had no friends.  As good and experience last year's season turned out to be, I hadn't realized how stressful it was to not have friends on his team.  Sure, he ended the season with friends, but how could I have missed the stress he carried from it?  I e-mailed and talked with his coach discussing our concerns.  In the end #1 chose to stick with the known quantity.  We would have supported him with any of his choices (obviously).

Was playing baseball supposed to be this hard?  His season had it's ups and downs and so did his attitude.  In the end, his team had a decent playoff and a weak season prior to that.  If you read my tae kwon do post, you'd know that attitude is an issue that permeates all facets of #1's life.  I'm glad he knows what winning in this season feels like.  He said he wouldn't trade the weak season for the great playoffs.  Hopefully this learning of persistence can payoff will go with him in his future journeys.  I am still waiting for the coach and teacher that can unlock his potential.  For now, I'm happy he's happy and we're maintaining.  I've learned he doesn't need me to tell him to get ready.  He may not look ready, but it is not my job, nor does it motivate him to have me hollering "get ready" or "pay attention".  When the ball is hit to him, he will do what he is capable of doing without my words.  What he really wants is for me to see him do good.  Whenever there is a good play, after the game, he'll ask "did you see that?"  So, instead of worrying about things that are his coaches' jobs, I should just pay attention and enjoy the ride.

Going forward we will continue to learn these lessons of patience and persistence.  They are not easy, but I suppose they are necessary.  It feels good to cheer your kids on and to see them overcome stressful situations.  It feels good to learn together as a family.  The examples #1 and #2 worked through were great lessons for the youngers to learn from (if they were paying attention).  If they missed the lesson, mom and dad will be there to remind them with love, understanding and probably a few tissues for the tears.  Stay tuned, we're heading into the unchartered territory of competitive soccer for #2 and #3....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Korean Bar Mitzvah

This post has been under construction in my brain for the last few weeks.  Three weeks ago #1 and #2 cleared their pretest at their tae kwon do studio.  This was not just any test, it was their black belt pretest.  I have never been so anxious for my kids to do well.  This was something they had been working towards for 5 and 4+ years respectively.  When I say they, I really mean we.  Extra sisters and I have been waiting and watching class upon class upon class.  As the belt-rank increased, so did the time requirements and the class times shifted later and later.  With this progression, our household bedtimes shifted later and later.  It has been a true family commitment.  We spend more time and money at tae kwon do than we do at our temple.  Years ago I realized the benefits of starting this journey early.  If my kids wanted to pursue their black belts, they would need to be young enough to not have major commitments in their way.  Commitments like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, school, other competitive sports, etc...  Each year, as our contracts expired the kids have had a choice to continue or not.  They have always chosen to move forward.  Now, during several times, the quest to move forward stalled but never stopped completely.

I bet you are wondering what my point is here.  Well, with the paper to test for black belt, the kids were assigned an essay topic.  This had to be heartfelt and written without help.  Their topics were specifically assigned.  #1's was "attitude" and #2's was "patience".  Both topics resonated with me.  Please, please, let me contribute to their essays.  What?  This is their journey?  Well, I'll just put my thoughts here then...

Patience.  Uh-huh.  Take a deep breath.  I am not a very patient person.  I have learned patience through our tae kwon do journey.  Patience from sitting through multiple classes per day and week.  Patience from seeing other kids pass my kids in belt advancement.  Patience from things being done differently than I would do them.  I have had to have patience with myself and kids in ways I would never have expected.  Patience with those darn uniforms that never come clean.  One little thing gets on them and it will never come out.  Patience when #3's class time was not consecutive with #1 & #2's.  Occupying my time and that of extra sisters'.  Patience when #1 was not performing to his personal best.  Oh, the torture.  Lastly, patience to let this be their journey, not mine.

My guess is that the intent of "patience" being #2's topic was to take her time.  She started tae kwon do 6 months after her brother.  Within a few months, she caught up to him.  On one or two occasions she even tested for the next belt before her brother.  Her focus is unfazed.  Her determination and teachability are both top notch.  She needs patience to be the amazing girl she is without being too hard on herself.  She needs patience with her brother to understand he is a different person and learner than she is.  She needs patience with her mother to allow her to help.  She needs patience with her little sisters; to remember she is one too.

Attitude.  This is something I am so qualified to talk about.  Oops, this probably isn't a good thing.  There are different ways to look at attitude.  It can be a way of thinking or feeling about someone or something.  It is also defined as uncooperative  behavior.  I think I have a little bit of both.  I have to be careful to keep my attitude in check and in my head.  In a way, attitude is related to patience.  Someone with a lack of patience can be seen as one with a bad attitude.  How do you explain to a 6, 7, 8 etc.. year old that their attitude can impact so much?  Others' perception of one's attitude has a lot of power.  There are places we are held accountable.  In life, no one has to give you grades or reviews.  If there were grades or reviews in being a mom, I'm sure my attitude would be a factor.

"You only have one chance to make a first impression".  This is true.  I've seen #1 work for months to redeem his value to have it shattered in one afternoon by uncooperative behavior (aka a bad attitude).  Yes, these are teachable moments, but so much of it is maturation.  Until a child is able to comprehend the concept, it is so difficult to teach.  Tae kwon do has been so good for my wiggly boy.  His perception versus reality has always gotten in his way.  This affects his self esteem and confidence.  To see him advance in belts and stick with this to achieve his black belt has been amazing.  There have been times when his attitude has gotten in his way and gotten him in trouble in class.  He always felt this meant the teachers wanted him to drop out.  Time and time again I'd try to explain to him that it really meant they believed in him.  Really they saw more in him than he did himself.  His potential and ability versus his performance is prevalent in school, religious school, soccer, baseball and tae kwon do.  I am so hopeful that this achievement can serve as a tangible example of what he can do.  That people are not out to get him.  That his attitude is a frame of mind that can be tamed.

During the black belt test, Sensi was reminding the kids testing to breathe.  Each time he said this, I noticed I was holding my breath.  I wanted them to reach this goal to be proud of themselves.  Each class prior to their test was an opportunity to learn, but it was also an opportunity for lack of patience or a bad attitude.  The decision making was not in our control, but the performance was.  We, as a family, made this last stretch a priority.  I don't think I realized how much it affected me until their speeches were written.  Yes, I had a sneak peek since I am the household editor-at-large.  For once, tears I shed at bedtime were tears of joy and not sadness.  Both #1 and #2 gave a glimpse inside their heads and hearts.  #1 spoke of himself as a boy and looks to the future to becoming a teenager and going to college.  #2 gave understanding perspective of herself and both school and home life.

My last thought on this is that I cannot imagine being any prouder.  My heart soared as my kids reached this achievement.  This was an amazing happy moment in life that I look forward to holding on to forever.  I know there are more events in life for us to learn from, be proud of and be touched by.  I'm happy to have patience and take them one at a time as they are earned and given to us.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day, schedule accordingly

Wow, it's been a while.  Sorry.  I've gotten lost in life.  I'm resurfacing just days before the "all-important" Mother's Day Holiday.

Now, this probably will not shock you, especially if you read my previous post on Valentine's Day.  I'm a scrooge with respect to certain holidays.  I'm not totally sure where Mother's Day fits in.  It's not my birthday, which is my favorite holiday.  I really like my kids' and hubby's birthdays too.  Thanksgiving, Passover and Hanukkah are up there.  Mostly because they center around food.  Even though I don't celebrate Easter, I like the holiday because of traditions we have with friends.

Regardless of how I feel about Mother's Day, I'm being asked to celebrate around the previously scheduled activities of my kids.  Hmmm...  I think I'm a mom because I have kids.  Not totally sure how it all works, but I'm pretty sure about that.  It's like celebrating a birthday because it is the anniversary of the day you were born.  Oops, I'm digressing, back to the topic at hand.  I've been asked (in e-mail) to send my kids to Sunday school and celebrate later.  A coach of one of my kids asked for me (in an e-mail here too) to celebrate before or after practice.  What these e-mails are saying to me is that yah, we know it's "your day", but it really isn't going to be any different from every other Sunday, or weekday for that matter.

Now, maybe some of you have lovely traditions.  Maybe you have families that plan without your input or effort.  That is not my experience with any holiday that my family celebrates.  I love my family to pieces, but they are not planners.  When I say family, I mean my husband.  It's not that he doesn't care.  He does.  He'd do anything.  He's chock full of ideas.  The problem is that most of his ideas are things HE wants to do.  It's really cute, but also annoying.  It does come in handy for planning for HIS birthday, etc.

The kids are too young and are also casualties to the holidays where "mom should be taken care of".    They aren't prompted ahead of time to create cards or have a plan on how to be nicer that day.  This puts them into a panic on the day of and then they start giving me "little treasures" (aka junk) that symbolizes how much they love me.  One of my kids actually gave me $1 on my birthday.  If they're not scrambling to find me gifts at home, they're making me special gifts at school.  In the 10 years I've been a mother, I've gotten ONE useful gift on Mother's Day.  I'd much prefer a hug, kiss, day with no fighting, doing chores without asking and maybe someone cooking my favorite food for me.  This has me reflecting back to trying to buy my mom nice gifts for Mother's Day.  She was born in April, I'm sure she'd like an Aries Ram necklace to symbolize that.  Ugh, sorry Mom.  We tried.

Oops, I'm straying off topic again, sorry.  Whatever we do will have to be done before 8:30 and between 1-5:30.  We already have our tradition of donuts before Sunday School (which I cannot eat) and that's about it.  Do I need more tradition?  Nah.  Then the pressure sets in on Monday.  "What did you do/get, etc.. for Mother's Day?"  Um, nothing?  Isn't being the mother of 4 unique, healthy, amazing kids enough?  It's like Mother's Day is every day.

I'm probably missing the point of this holiday.  While you're busy explaining it to me, explain Father's Day too.  A day where the kids shower the Dad with love and affection and the Dad gets to take time off from doing Sunday chores.  How is that fair?  It seems to be the "anti-Mother's Day" holiday instead of Father's Day.  It's double the work on Mom who does everything during the week and 1/2 of everything on the weekends.  Hmmm, maybe I'll start celebrating Father's Day.....

Monday, February 21, 2011

what cookies have taught me

This weekend I chaperoned my 2 oldest girls selling cookies.  This is our second year going through this process.  Well, last year #2 was the only one selling and the process has changed a bit.  This year, we hoard cookies in our garage and sell from our independent inventory.  Last year we "pre-sold" and delivered later....but I digress...

What I noticed or learned from this weekend has been varied.  I learned that #3 is a go getter.  She was hawking her wares at school, handing me sticky notes after school for the orders she took.  These were orders we filled and were paid in full within 24 hours.  She also is good at taking feedback.  After she tried to sell to her friends at taekwondo, I let her know that she has to start with the cost or sell to the parents.  Her friends thought she was giving them something.  Oops.  But, she did not make that mistake again.  She also honed her opening speech.  And she walked and sold and walked and sold.  She cautiously opened gates, checking for dogs.  She knew I was at the sidewalk waiting to help if needed.  Some gate latches were too high, but for the most part she persevered.

I have learned that #2 is consistent, yet not always predictable.  #2 is apprehensive, but confident at the same time.  She will not look adults, strangers or not, in the eye when she speaks to/or is spoken to.  This is without regard for what she is doing.  Last year, when she set out solo to sell, she let #3 come with her for moral support.  This year she took #4 with her for support.   She even let her brother help.  She is competitive, but is sharing with her sister.  They never share.  She is also willing to let #3 go to the more challenging houses.  The girls have worked out a deal to share prizes.  Reminder, they never share.  This is letting her good side shine and lessening her competitiveness.

I have learned that there are a lot of cookie sellers in our neighborhood.  We don't want to encroach on other girls' business.  #1 felt we should still "double knock".  What I mean is even though every other house said someone else had been by, he thought we were quitting when we acquiesced.  We rolled home due to darkness.  The next day, the group gave up a trip to the city to sell again.  #2 chose to do a quick sell and head to a play date knowing #3 would pick up the slack.  That is pretty trusting when the combined sales will dictate both of their prizes.  Smart girl.  #1 rolled with us for over an hour.  He went home when we were short on inventory to bring back more cases.  Way more motivated than I ever expected.  Especially when he has nothing to gain.  It also seemed to be an opportunity for my group to see that following rules and etiquette has a place.  They would be the first to complain if they had been wronged.  Maybe they will remember this when they have a choice and I am not there to be the voice of reason.

This is also a lesson in not making assumptions.  I learned that in college business and fashion merchandising classes.  You never know who will buy what and how many.  This is a great way for my kids to see this rule.  The vendor at the farmers market may be our best customer.  Even though these cookies are as far from local and organic as you can get.  Ya' never know...

I have learned that our neighborhood is way bigger than I thought.  Many more people have gated properties than I ever expected to see on our journey.  Some properties are huge and there are even a few mansions among tiny cottages.  There are a lot of dogs, many off leash.  People are generous.  Some donate change, others buy cookies to support the cute freckly girls at their door.  People ask about the girls' favorites and let them do the math and bring them change.  They are patient and kind, even if saying "no thank you".  It is almost like trick or treating, but in the daylight.  We see so much more.  Their support is priceless.  This is what makes us go out again.  And grow.

Yes, my girls are doing this because they get stuff.  But, this has been a great opportunity to hang out with all of them and see so many parts of their personalities and our neighborhood.  I don't think they realize that they get more than "things" and I get stuff too.  Our family is brought together by something I can't even eat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Let's just start this by saying that I know a lot of you will not agree with my point of view here.  It doesn't mean either one of us are right or wrong.  We will have differences in opinion and that's all this is or will potentially be....

I am not a fan of Valentine's day.  the Zero Waste Home blog says it better than I have been able to articulate.  In addition to all of her points, it's a hassle.  It's a hassle for my house to produce 90+ valentines to pass out to "friends".  It's a hassle to receive 90+ valentines and have kids who hoard cards from "friends".  It's a hassle to implement my eat it as you get it candy policy when each child is getting 20+ pieces of candy to bring home.  Why don't they have the kids eat the candy at school, since that is where it is coming from?

Years ago, I asked a couple of our teachers, a bit too close to the actual celebration date, to consider alternatives to the individual valentines.  In pre-school and even kindergarten, the kids really aren't writing each friend's name.  And, if they are, it's excruciatingly slow going.  My alternative suggestion was for each child to bring in an 8.5x11" paper as a homemade valentine.  Then, each "friend" could sign the valentine.  They could be displayed in the class and then everyone could take theirs home and be done with it.  No candy, no valentines mailbox or bag or anything else needed.  I was told that people like the process of the individual cards and that they would encourage homemade, but that was about it.

How many valentines are actually homemade?  We color on an 8.5x11" paper and write our message.  It is the same for all friends.  I then scan the artwork and print it on post cards.  The older kids personalize them with each friend's name.  The younger ones say "to my friend".  I guess it's half-way homemade?  Before the Halloween candy went into the garbage for mis-behavior (see previous post for details) the kids decided to give each friend a piece of candy with their valentine.  In all of the swapping of cards and candy, I doubt their friends would know that the candy they received was purposely given to them.  Larger ones for certain people and so on.  It solved part of my "we have too much candy in the house" problem (before I threw it away).  I recognize that shifting my issue onto others isn't fair either.

Does this mean that when the kids and I clean out their hoards of stuff and I put the trinkets in the Halloween bucket that I'm transferring my problems to others?  I like to see it as reusing and preventing more candy or trinkets from being purchased and put into the mix of things we (or none of us) really don't need.  To be more like Zero Waste, we'd need to refuse and then have nothing to reuse.  I'm afraid we've been too long on the current path and I'd have a revolt or mutiny in my house.  But then again, I did eliminate the Halloween candy hoarding situation and shift gears there.  I guess I'll just keep trying to make mini-modifications and hope my kids outgrow some of the wasteful habits and holidays.

I feel like a Valentine's Day Scrooge.  Yes, I know it's a holiday about love.  Shouldn't love be every day?