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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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five on Friday: This is The Thanks They Get

We're extremely lucky to have some very generous family members that let us vacation in their beach cottage every year. We like to show our thanks in only the way this family can by leaving things like:

1. A "Thank You" of some staged photos of the kids doing some very naughty things in the house (from four years ago): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.664818990199409.1073741841.627254967289145&type=3

2. The least possible amount of sand in the couch cushions.

3. Some friendly faces waiting for them in unusual spots (R & J, keep and eye out for these guys):

4. A sign indicating the cottage is now the American counterpart to Hogwarts:
5. Some new sea glass in the collection jar. And, lastly, as a bonus . . . hardly anything is broken or missing.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Five on Friday: Highlights from Our Recent Visit with Birth Family (or, as we like to call each other, Family)

We had a long overdue visit with my adopted kids' extended biological family last week. Here are the five best things about our visit first at Great Grandma's and then at Uncle Pop-Pop's* house:

1. Getting to bring cheer to Great Grandma who has had some tough emotional blows to deal with in the past few months. Seeing the look of joy on her face when surrounded by the children.

2. Kids finally got to see Uncle Pop-Pop's multiple pet reptiles that he first told them about over a year ago.
 3. The ease with which ALL of my children--adopted and biological--accept and cherish these relationships. When Auntie arrived after work, I am pretty sure my oldest (biological) daughter would have tackled anyone that got in her way in saying "hello" first.

4. Unexpectedly being able to also see my kids' Birth Mom (or "First Mom/my" as our household vernacular dictates) . . . I am sure my four-year-old didn't remember her and that made me sad. Happy for the visit and the photos to keep her fresh in their minds.
Trading shoes with her First Mommy for a laugh together

5. Being told personally by both Great Grandma and then Uncle Pop-Pop's wife, "You're family."

(* http://www.sisterserendip.com/2013/05/a-grandpa-by-any-other-name.html

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Let Me Explain . . .

A few weeks ago I shared a Five on Friday list of things to do when the kids say they’re bored over the summer (http://www.sisterserendip.com/2014/06/five-on-friday-things-to-do-when-kids.html), the top answer being: Ignore them. This came on the heels of me also sharing my article on having weekly themes throughout the summer (http://www.farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/06/09/how-creating-themes-can-save-summer/)  I realized I must seem like a hypocrite—ignore them! Constantly entertain them! Let them be bored! Do a craft!

So perhaps a little clarification is due.

First of all I’d just like to point out that when you spend 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 whole weeks with 5 children—that is a lot of freaking time to pass. I could (and often do) have four outings a week planned and still have plenty of time left over for the kids to be home bored/figuring out how to entertain themselves.

Also, the weekly theme ideas for the most part are there as guidelines. There’s no pressure to complete ALL the stockpiled ideas. What could I compare it to? Well, for me it’s almost like meal planning. Let me explain:

When I don’t meal plan, they still eat. I’m pretty good at flying by the seat of my pants. We are completely capable of surviving without it and often do.

When I do meal plan, dinner prep definitely goes more smoothly. When I have a plan written down and it’s somehow suddenly 5:30 and I’m completely uninspired I just look at my list and have a recipe and the ingredients on hand to come up with something better than pancakes for dinner.

Sometimes other things come up—impromptu parties or dinner invitations that through a wrench in my plans. When that happens, we go with the flow. In those cases I just try to make sure any ingredients I had lined up get used the next day, for something else or frozen/otherwise saved. We are more likely to have a healthy variety of foods. I (almost) never get to the end of a season and think, “D’oh! I never got around to making that totally seasonal completely delicious looking recipe I saw!”

Likewise, when I don’t have weekly summer themes planned out, we survive. We’re also good at flying by the seat of our pants in the kid entertainment department.

But when we do have weekly summer themes planned out, summer seems to go more smoothly. When I have a plan written down and it’s suddenly anytime o’clock that the kids are getting antsy and fight-y with each other and I’m getting antsy and yell-y at the kids and feeling totally uninspired, I can look at my list of theme ideas and have a craft or recipe and the proper supplies on hand to pass our day more pleasantly. Often one activity together can break us out of our slump for the rest of the day.

Sometimes other things come up—impromptu invitations for swimming or playing can through a wrench in my plans. In those cases, we go with the flow. We scrap our theme ideas and have fun with our friends, being sure to use up any purchases supplies at a later time. We are more likely to have a variety of activities to entertain us over the summer—instead of the readers just reading all day and the athletes just playing all day, everyone does a little reading, a little crafting, a little cooking and a lot of playing. I (almost) never get to the end of the summer and think, “D’oh! Another summer gone and we STILL didn’t try that super cool craft/recipe/outing/activity!”

We’re only on week two into our summer themes and honestly, we’ve barely done anything. Star Wars week consisted of making light saber ice pop holders (that was fun), my oldest son playing light saber fighting outside with the younger kids (that was cute) and making some Yoda Soda (green punch, pretty much.)

This week I chose to be baseball week as there was a slight possibility of us stopping at the Baseball Hall of Fame on our drive to vacation. That idea was scrapped and the only other idea on my list that we DID do was making individual baseball piñatas.  And here they are:

An eight ball, a marble, a basketball and a Death Star. Not a single baseball.

But that’s what weekly theme summers mean around here: a general guideline to make things go smoothly, no hard and fast rules.

Just like meal planning.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five on Friday: Fantastic Names My Kids Have Come Up With

Over the years my kids have named a lot of imaginary friends and baby dolls with some really fantastic monikers. When thinking of my favorites, I realized they were ALL first-middle name combinations. Here they are:

1. Chickie Baby
2. Chessidy Bubble (one & two were names my oldest would alternately refer to her brother and herself as or say were the names of her future children)
3. Sunshine Miracle
4. Genius Jinglebells (three & four are names for identical baby dolls and were group efforts from my four oldest)
5. Shelby Fluffy (my youngest recently came up with this one for an anatomically correct baby boy doll my Mom gave her)

Sunshine Miracle and Genius Jinglebells

*Where do they get this skill from? Well their father really, really wanted to name a kid "Atomic Billy" but mean Mommy nixed it five times . . . so maybe from him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My "One Big Truth"

Just when I think I've got nothing exciting in the queue I get invited to be a guest speaker for a really exciting new club that's forming. It's called "real girls" and is for ages 12-17 and is being described like this:
It's a youth group of sorts.  REAL will stand for, among other things, Respect, Empathy, Action and Learning.  Our group's goal will be to create a safe and fun environment wherein adolescent girls can build more authentic relationships with their friends, families, earth/environment and selves.  We will emphasize REAL connections with others (as opposed to mediated), REAL expectations of ourselves and our bodies, and REAL goals for how we'd like to use our time. We will have guest speakers share with us their talents, experiences, work lives, family choices, and/or simply what they wish someone had said to them when they were teens.  We will have topic talks about health, friendships, current cultural issues and how to be and become the kind of people we want to be in the world.  We will make things and do things...explore our own creativity through art and music projects... and connect with others through meaningful community service.
For the inaugural meeting, I was asked to come and introduce myself and share one big truth that I adhere to in my life. Today I will go before this group of amazing young women (I know they are because my daughter's involved!) and present this:
My name is Gina  and I am a stay-at-home Mom to five kids as well as a writer, actress and activist. I write a blog called Sister Serendip, which is mostly about our fun and creative family but is also a place for me to talk about more serious topics like transracial families, open adoption and surviving sexual assault. I do most of my acting with the Meta Theatre Company, which is a social justice theatre troupe. I also organize community events like the Martin Luther King Day of Community Service. And now I’m going to tell you about one of my own big truths:
I’ll admit there are a lot of things about being an adult that are pretty great: driving, staying up late, all hours access to junk food. But one of the things that really sucks is that you can find yourself saying--and actually believing--all those totally stupid things that clueless adults are always saying to kids. Yeah, I’m an adult now and I’ll confess: I cannot believe the cost of gas these days! And you kids really do grow incredibly fast—in the blink of an eye, even.

When I was trying to think of “one big truth” to share it felt pretty overwhelming but then I realized that this one thought has been popping into my head a lot lately so maybe there was a reason for that. The thought is this: all the same things that made me ‘stand out’ as a child really make me stand out as an adult.

What one big truth could I glean from that statement? Be yourself? Oh no! I’ll sound like one of those idiotic adults that repeats meaningless statements. I can’t do it!

Nothing else came through to me quite as clearly though so I will share it but in hopes that I can share some fresh perspectives on what that means when applied to real life. Here goes:

A funny thing about being yourself…sometimes you have to fake it a little. Sometimes you have to try on other people’s ways to see which pieces fit to keep for yourself and which pieces to leave behind. Other times you have to just wear or do or say the things that YOU really want to even if you have to ignore the fact that you feel a little unsure about it. After awhile something amazing begins to happen—while you’re faking that confidence, you actually gain it. Soon people say things to you like, “I’d love to be able to get on a stage and perform like you do.” “If I tried to put rusty old junk in my garden like you do, it’d just look like rusty old junk.” “Oh you can wear hats, I can’t pull that off like you do.” (Hats?? Spoken not by headless folk, either. Figure that one out.)

But even though you’ve surely heard people say, “be yourself!” hundreds of times before and clearly most of you here already try to live by that truth, there’s an aspect to that I don’t really hear people discussing: that while you’re being true to yourself, remember to make room for other people’s truths.

Don’t get me wrong: some of them are toxic and it’s okay to cut them out of your life. But it took me a long time to realize that just because their truths might be the polar opposites of mine doesn’t mean there’s no space for them in my life. It doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn from them or nothing to gain by knowing them. I’ve even discovered that I can actually be friends with people that seem to have absolutely nothing in common with me. Finding the truth that each person shines for themselves and then surrounding myself with those various sources of light creates an amazing backdrop to let my own authentic self to shine.

I do hope that I was able to get you to think about what “being yourself” means in some new ways.  That being true to yourself doesn’t mean that everyone else has to be true to your belief system. That it sometimes takes some massive amounts of self-assurance or weeks or even months of faking it until it kicks in. Sometimes it takes a little courage, like me today taking the risk of sounding like a boring old lady advising a group of young ladies with a phrase they’ve surely heard hundreds of times before: be yourself!! Please try not to gag until I turn my back.

Oh but one last thing: always listen to your elders ;)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five on Friday: It Wasn't Until I Had My 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th Child That . . .

1.    It wasn’t until my first child that I discovered I could easily sleep through my husband’s alarm going off next to my bed but the sound of an infant sniffling in the next bedroom would wake me from the deepest slumber.

2.    It wasn’t until my second child that I really, really wanted a dishwasher.

3.    It wasn’t until my third child that I put cheese away in the cabinet (and I remember saying at that time, “the third child is really pushing me over the edge” . . . ha ha ha ha ha.)

4.    It wasn’t until the fourth child that I actually needed that third row in the car.

5.    It wasn’t until the fifth child that I lost my ability to be consistently punctual and have actually completely forgot about going to some appointments (which I find highly embarrassing).