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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love Letter for My Z-Man

 Dear First Grade Teacher,

This is our fourth child that is going to have you as a first grade teacher. One of my favorite things about having you is that before school even starts, you ask for a love letter about my child.

In a home with five children, it can be a challenge to remember to acknowledge what makes each one of them so unique. I feel guilty at not being able to give all of myself to each one of them. I wonder if I let all five know, individually, personally, how wonderful I think they are. I wonder if I let the world enough how great each one of these kids is for their own reasons and how even though they are often lumped together as siblings, they each shine so brightly in their own right. So when you ask me for a love letter, I am more than happy to oblige.

First of all, let me just warn you: this kid is cute. Heartbreakingly cute. Multiple kindergarten girls lining up to tell me they want to marry him cute. Not only is he physically adorable, he’s incredibly charming.  You’re going to eat him up.

Z is very inquisitive and eager to learn. How are race cars made? Why is popcorn called popcorn? What makes summer end? Can I read “The Hobbit,” too? (“Wow, you’re reading ‘The Hobbit’? What page are you on?” “Twelve. But I’ve only been reading for a few weeks." Oh, and he’s inadvertently hysterical.)

He’s very much like older brother E in that he’s a natural born athlete. He’s fast and strong and loves all sports. If you ever happen to try to pick him up you’ll discover he’s a solid mass of muscle, much heavier than he looks like he’d be (my sister-in-law once convinced we were playing a trick on her by hiding bricks in his pockets or something). We worry about him being labeled “just like his older brother” and being unable to blossom on his own so we’ve encouraged him to pursue his own interests. So he plays team sports with E and rides dirt bikes without him.

Z is our number-one helper. If he sees Daddy getting the toolbox or Mommy getting the mixer, he will say, “Can I help?” I think you’ll see you can rely on him in the classroom to be your right-hand man, too.

He really loves animals. He has a subscription to Ranger Rick, Jr. magazine and reads each issue cover to cover, over and over again. He spends more time than any of the other kids playing with our dog. He likes to walk her but he mostly likes to lie on the floor petting and snuggling her several times a day.

As I’m sure you already know, he needs to go to speech. He didn’t get started until late in the kindergarten year so he still has a lot to learn (or unlearn, really). Most people understand him in spite of his minor impediments and he rarely gets frustrated about it so I hope he can fix them way before the frustration ever gets a chance to set in.

The only problem he has ever had in school is rushing through his work. He’s a very social kid and like most children, really loves playing. It’s hard for him to slow down and finish his work correctly when he’d rather do it as fast as possible in hopes of getting back to playing. He did improve over the last school year but I’m sure after a summer off he’s going to have to relearn this lesson. We will be sure to talk to him about it at home, too.

We were absolutely amazed by how much he learned in his kindergarten year. It’s wonderful to see him reading and sounding words out to write on his own. Over the summer, he has continued adding numbers on to the number roll he started in kindergarten. We’re all excited for him to learn even more in first grade.

It would be easy to get lost in the shuffle as the fourth out of five kids. But this little boy really makes an impression. He is sweet, fun, caring, charming, compassionate, helpful, smart and adorable. I know you’re going to enjoy having him.

I look forward to seeing you again at Back to School Night! Enjoy your last few days of summer.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Five on Friday: One Week of Summer

I keep finding myself the same thing everyone seems to be saying right now, that summer has just flown by. But it's not really true--when I think back to the kids' last day of school it seems like a long time ago. Each day is filled with so much adventure, wonder and fun it contributes to the feeling of time passing quickly. Just in this past week we've had:

2. A fun overnight at the little lakeside cottage that my parents recently bought. My kids love being there. Now all but the youngest can kayak on their own and all including the youngest can jump off the floating dock like a pro. Thanks, Mom and Dad.  

3. Kids discovering wonders of nature everywhere. Z discovered a root that looks like his favorite letter. E captured the world's tiniest toad. They all caught salamanders and this poor guy lost his tail (and weird little A asked, "Can we eat the tail for dinner?")

4. Real girls=real amazing. Local artist and friend Catherine Lent and her daughter decided a new kind of club was needed for girls. (You may remember I spoke at the inaugural meeting on my "one big truth" . . . http://www.sisterserendip.com/2014/06/my-one-big-truth.html and I also led a bunch of fun acting improv activities at another meeting.) My daughter learned so much, got to meet amazing girls and tremendous women and will surely look back upon this summer as one of her most impactful. (She even got to spend a few hours writing, hanging out and playing games with a world famous author who gave a shout out to the group here: https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/photos/a.356148997800555.79726.227291194019670/671669896248462/?type=1&theater) Yesterday was the summer's last meeting and I know next Thursday we'll be missing this group.

5. Free events and family fun time. We heard about this Concert Under the Stars in June and immediately put it on the calendar--a Beatles cover band would be performing. I still can't believe how much fun we all had there, not just our Beatles-obsessed child. The encore was "Twist and Shout" which even our 12 year old non-dancer G boogied down to (thanks to the scene in "Ferris Bueller") The band had a few costumes but the Sergeant Pepper ones were the most fun.

We have thirteen days left until the start of school. Other people are starting to wonder, "how can I entertain the kids another two weeks???" and I'm wondering, "When the heck are we going to pause the fun and go school shopping??"

Friday, August 8, 2014

Five on Friday: Zucchini Abundance

1. Zucchini muffins! Even if you make it all healthy-like with whole wheat and hardly any sugar, you can throw a few mini chocolate chips in and suddenly the kids don't even want to know what the green stuff is. (Shred it and freeze it for making muffins over the winter too!)

2. Sliced longways and grilled.

3. Sliced in circles and sauteed with some onions and garlic.

4. Shredded, squeezed, salted, sauteed with garlic and placed on top of angel hair pasta.

5. Sick of those already? Have no fear. August 8th is "Sneak a Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night" (and I'm not making that up).

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five on Friday: Things I'm Grateful for This Week

1. Clothesline. Less electricity used and sheets smell terrific. Plus it's so quaint!
2. Vegetable Garden. It's my favorite time of year when I can send a kid out to the garden to pick something for dinner.
3. Smart, creative, generally helpful kids
4. Community. I'm so thankful to be surrounded by interesting, artistic and fun people.
5. Daddy-O, for way more than five reasons

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let Me Give You a Little Advice

Where is that baby’s hat?

The first time you hear it, you’re not sure it’s for real. After all, you’re indoors, it’s 75 degrees, and your baby is perfectly happy.

Welcome to parenthood. Your baby is (apparently) everybody’s business.

As shocking as it is to get that kind of unsolicited advice, it's been equally surprising  for me to be asked for my opinion on child-rearing. I guess now that I've put myself out there as a “Mommy Blogger” (oh god, that sounds worse than “Soccer Mom” doesn’t it? I might have to rethink this whole thing) people are sometimes asking me for advice or what my parenting philosophies are.

I suppose if I had to come up with one, it would actually be based on the three bits of parenting advice I got and did subscribe to (all from people I cared about, not strangers). They were:

   1. “Just love them.” Something I heard my Grandmother Babci say countless times about raising babies. It’s the basis for everything else, isn’t it? 

  2.   “This is YOUR baby, YOU know what’s best for her.”  This is what my midwife told me when I went for my first follow-up checkup after giving birth to my first child. At that point I had been a babysitter, nanny and aunt for over a decade so had a lot of experience with babies and children. Hearing this, though, was a pivotal realization that I was the Mom this time—and that I was the expert on my baby. It was imperative for me to hear that to find my confidence as a mother. She told me that I knew what was best for my baby and it turned out she was absolutely right.

   3. "Never give anyone parenting advice unless they specifically ask for it.” The third one was something my former boss (and still friend) told me. It resonated with me but I didn’t think it’d apply--who’d be asking quirky me for advice? But ask they did! Even before I started blogging! One of my first real Mom friends had a son in between my first two kids and constantly had questions for me, like, “When do they stop pulling books off the shelves?” “When do they sleep through the night?” When, how, why . . .? Surprised as I was to be asked, I always tried to answer the best I could but always with the disclaimer that “they’re all different, what worked on mine might not work on yours!” And it’s really true: I’m on kid number five and still don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. 

   Which brings me to my parenting philosophy, a combination of all three:

1.    “Just love them”. When the tensions are high and so is the yelling voice, give yourself a time out and repeat this mantra.

2. “You’re the expert on your baby”. Listen to your intuition (and if that doesn’t work, consider that sometimes if it doesn’t work, you have to try something counterintuitive. I learned that one when one of my nursing babies used to bite my nipple. Instead of pulling baby off immediately as my intuition dictated, I learned to pull him closer to make him stop. Also applies to showing more love to the child who is acting particularly unlovable.)

3.  “Never give anyone parenting advice unless they specifically ask for it.” Likewise, remember to ask for advice when you need to. Just like you shouldn’t give advice unless it’s asked for, you might be surrounded by people who aren't offering you help because you're not asking for it. Yes, I do believe each parent is the expert on his or her own baby but sometimes a fresh perspective is needed. Sometimes you’re on kid number five and out of ideas for getting the hitting to stop.  Lean on your village. Be part of other families’ villages in return.

So there it is, for those who have asked or were curious: the most serious parenting philosophy I can come up with. Feel free to adhere to, take with a grain of salt or completely disregard. I trust your ability to parent your own child without my input. And if I ever see you out in public with a hat free baby, I promise to not ask where his or her hat is.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five On Friday: Things I Want to Make Sure My Kids See Me Doing

1. Hug and kiss their Dad. Go out on dates and on mini-vacations with just him. Go out on dates and on mini-vacations with my friends and not him.

2. Read for my own pleasure.

3. Check and refill air in my tires and fluids in my car. Use the weed whacker and power drill.

4. Grow, cook and enjoy food.

5. Ask for help or forgiveness when necessary.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five on Friday: Phrases My Kids Clearly Don't Understand

1. Play quietly in your own rooms until 7:30 am (hey, I can hope, can't I?)
2. It's not fair! (I can pretty much guarantee whatever it is, it's totally fair.)3. Could you please lower your volume? (they can't. I know they can't. I keep asking anyway)
4. Keep your hands to yourselves. (ditto)
5. We're leaving in five minutes (fine, that's my fault as I usually start chatting for another 20 minutes)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being a Parent Means Never Having to Say "I Farted" . . .

  . . . at least not at the Rite Aid with a loud and chatty three year old. Hey, at home, I am all about transparency in farting. I like to try to teach the kids to excuse themselves but there’s a lot of gas being passed at our house and, quite frankly, a lot of—well-- traditions to maintain. Daddy-O is quite fond of having the kids pull his finger (our inquisitive six year old recently asked, “How does that actually work??”) and there’s always the “Doorknob” game (involves shouting “doorknob” and punching the person who farted without remembering to say the word “safety” or, as Mommy attempts to enforce, “excuse me.”)

Although sometimes at home, I opt not for “excuse me” myself but for the more direct, “I farted” which sometimes followed by the phrase “run away.” (“No, kids, trust me. You do not want to smell this. RUN. AWAY.”)

But we never deny. So I’m always surprised the first time one of my sweet little two year olds would answer, “did you toot?” with “I fink the dog did it.” It seemed to be a natural developmental stage they passed through since they certainly didn’t learn it from their Father or myself and it was before they started grade school.

After the “blame someone else” phase, they enter the several years long “blatantly deny” phase. How many times have I asked who needs to excuse themselves (and/or possibly need to go change their underpants) only to be met with innocent faces all protesting denial? I never lie about farting, why do they??

Okay. Fine. There was that one time in Rite Aid. It was a quick stop for two items that were apparently to be found in opposite corners of the store. As we hightailed it from one end to the other I’ll admit (now) that I let out what can be referred to as a SBD (silent but deadly) and tried to quickly hurry my three year old along away from the stench and towards our destination. Naturally, she smelled it and shouted, “WHO FAHTED?”

I tried to shush her and get her to move on but of course she again shouted, “WHO FAHTED, MOMMY? I FINK IT WAS DAT MAN OVER DERE.” Clearly she was not going to let it drop. As a mother who values honesty and good manners, I got down on my knees, looked her in the eye and said . . . “I really don’t know who farted.”

She stared at me and said nothing. Was she on to my ruse? I continued, “We don’t know who farted and it’s not important. It’s really not polite to keep shouting about it at the store like this so please let’s be quiet and get what we need so we can go.”

She continued staring me in the eye and said, “Actually, it was me.”

Knowing full well it wasn’t her, I hid my smile, stood back up and said the only thing I could think to say in this situation.

 “Well then. If you farted, what do you need to say?”


Good girl.