Treasure family dinners


Growing up, it was a rite of passage.  If someone could survive an “Elliott family dinner,” the person was okay in our book.

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What happened at these dinners?  We shared stories.  We made fun of each other, even berated each other, but in love: I don’t think any of us is in therapy because of them.  We all had the chance to laugh at my dad’s perfectionism and my mom’s quirks, as well as each others’.  My brothers and I played out movie scenes we memorized, all taking on different characters such as those in the “Coming to America” barber shop scenes. My older brother always had a quick-wit, and we laughed hard.  My younger brother was funny and a performer who kept us giggling.  I was simultaneously the most studious child in my family and the one with the least amount of common sense, asking stupid questions in an entirely unsafe environment where I paid dearly for it.  And the stories we share of these family dinners still get repeated over and over again when we are together.

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My own experience – along with scientific proof that family dinners are impactful – are reasons why having dinner together as a family is something I work hard to make happen.  To name a few benefits, family dinners help with health, brain growth, vocabulary and family relationships, as well as promote good behaviors and stave off bad ones.

If I haven’t lost you already, I’m hoping you’ll stick with me.  My husband travels a lot and my kids have activities some nights that make eating together impossible.  This means we currently eat together as a family about three nights a week.  On the nights we can eat together, I work to make these count.  Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. I keep our meals simple.  It’s okay if family dinner is Chipotle.
  2. It makes me SO MUCH HAPPIER when everyone enjoys their food.  That means I make a lot of the same meals for the sake of peace.
  3. I make big pots of spaghetti, chili, soups and stews so I can freeze the leftovers for a night when Greg is traveling or to give to a family in need.
  4. When I had babies and toddlers, I gave them what we were serving as early as possible.  Once a child is about 1, there is very little he cannot eat if you cut it into small enough pieces.
  5. I used the Deceptively Delicious cookbook when the kids were younger to help get more fruits and vegetables in them.  I’ll write another blog about healthy eating strategies for toddlers – someday …
  6. Now that they’re older, I often serve raw vegetables or a salad as the side dish and let the kids pick the ones they like.  They eat vegetables and there’s no arguing, gagging or nose-holding.
  7. Everyone has to at least TRY all the food.
  8. If you don’t like it, we’re not making something else for you.  I have a friend who grew up in a family with six kids, and the alternative if you didn’t like dinner was a microwaved, scrambled egg.  (That sounds more disgusting to me as an adult than an asparagus and Brussels sprouts pie would have as a child.)  Come up with something that works for you if you are concerned your child might not eat.
  9. Though we don’t always remember to do it, we have a “thankfulness journal” where we write down something each of us is thankful for at dinner.  This is a favorite for everyone, but especially our most reserved child, who gets a chance to be thoughtful and heard over the louder two.
  10. Another conversation starter is the “roses and thorns” concept.  Everyone goes around and shares his or her rose (high) of the day and thorn (low) of the day.  I actually got that one from the Obamas!

IMG_4135When I prioritize an activity in our family life, I often ask myself, “Will I regret doing this or not doing this when I look back some day?”  And then I remember my childhood family dinners – which sometimes went very wrong – and how they make me smile.  My mom’s spaghetti, roasts, chicken and dumplings … these foods take me back.  And none of my family will allow me to forget the night the Domino’s commercial came on television announcing (in my defense, with buffalo flying through the sky, flapping wings) that it was now selling buffalo wings.  And I looked at everyone, and before I could process the question that came to my mind, I blurted out, “Wait – do buffalo wings come from real buffalo?”

I want my children to have their own “Elliott family dinner” memories.  And based on our meals so far, I’m sure they’ll have plenty to talk about when they’re older.

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Parenting lesson #39: Put it in writing.


The struggle to pack school lunches is real.

Today is my oldest’s first day of school, and my other two will follow suit next week.  Planning, shopping for and packing healthy, appealing lunches for the kids are not my favorite hobbies.  In my dreams, I would pack them kale salads with tuna, quinoa crackers and homemade fruit roll ups.  But real life limitations such as time constraints and needing my kids to actually eat their lunches means that the basic sandwich, pre-packaged chips I buy in bulk from Costco, a fruit or veggie and a few Pepperidge Farm cookies are what they generally get (because fewer preservatives = healthy junk, right?).

And while the food I pack is the opposite of Pin-worthy, I must say that I love including lunchbox notes for my kids.  (As an aside, does anyone actually make shapes or animals out of their kids’ food?)

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Since I began packing lunches six years ago, I’ve been including little notes, and I’ve enjoyed writing to my kids ever since.  It’s like sending a little part of me to school with them.  For pre-K, the notes were pretty simple, as the teachers had to read them.  But as the kids have learned to read, I’ve made them more interesting.  When they need encouragement on a particular day, I can provide it.

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My process:

On Etsy, there are some really talented moms who make inexpensive templates you can download.  (Just search “lunchbox notes.”)  Then, print them out on card stock.  Last, cut them with a paper-cutter (or scissors) and voila! – you’re ready for lunch packing.  This morning I printed out my Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter-themed cards as well as a stockpile of everyday ones so I’m not scrambling to have cards ready to go (which is the bottleneck in this process).

One of my favorite shops no longer exists (boo!), but here is a link for @LemonSqueezeDesigns, where I have bought a few.

To make packing lunches easier this year, I also printed out a food chart that is specific to our family.  It took me about an hour of thinking and using other lists on Pinterest for help.  I posted it in my kitchen today.

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The bottom line: What I want my kids to remember about school lunches when they’re grown is not that we had fights about them not eating what I packed.  (If I’m being honest, the owl one above is for tomorrow, because Eliza came home today with a full lunchbox.  “Mom, everyone was talking!!!”)  What I want them to remember is that I shared a little piece of my love, my humor and myself with them when I took 30 seconds to write a note.

Parenting lesson #38: Little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems


As I was texting about my frustration and embarrassment to a friend this morning whose children are younger than mine, I confessed that it seems the adage “little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems” rings true.  She stuck her fingers in her proverbial ears as I read her reply: “La la la I’m going to pretend you said it gets easier. ;)”

Clearly she spends time with toddlers.

I was easily annoyed at moms with older kids when I was in the thick of the infant and toddler days.  When I had a two-year-old and a baby, I would relay stories of not being able to shower, of kissing makeup goodbye, of being covered in spit-up and food, in not being able to get out of pajamas, in ____________________ (fill in the blank).  I distinctly remember these moms of older kids would get these grins on their faces like they were remembering these times fondly and say, “I remember those days, and they are fleeting.  Enjoy them.”  And part of me wanted to punch them in the face.

Because every phase of parenting has its challenges, the one you’re in feels like plenty to navigate.  Imagining that parenting gets harder is not a happy thought.

But it does.  I already see it.

Currently, we’re struggling with how to help one of our kids who has hit others a few times when angered.  Our children are 10, eight and five, so while our expectations of them are different based on what makes sense developmentally, ALL OF THEM are old enough to know better. When one of them hit (or bit) another child as a two-year-old, I laughed with the other mom uncomfortably while apologizing as she said, “hashtag toddler problems” with a smile on her face.  One of our kids even left a bruise on another child’s face after biting him.  That mom and I still laugh about it.  But if one of my kids did that now, I’m not sure I’d still be friends with the victim’s mom.

I scratch my head and wonder if I’m doing something wrong.  I’ve been taking a kickboxing class where I punch a bag and the kids have all sat and watched it, making me wonder if somehow them seeing me punch a bag – which is cathartic for me – is bad for them.

Perhaps nothing in life is as powerful as parenting is in its capability to push you to question everything about yourself, to overanalyze and believe nearly anything you do could come back to bite you.

I imagine the two-year-old who doesn’t like to “play” clean up and who you laugh with as you put the toys away for the 16,000th time while you shake your head turns into the teenager you have a screaming match with as you (unreasonably) threaten she will never leave the house again because her room looks like a bomb went off in a mall where a Sephora shares a wall with Charlotte Russe.  And she hates YOU for it, because somehow it’s your fault you didn’t teach her to be tidy.  And you wonder, “Where did I mess up?”

You probably didn’t.  It’s important to remember that our children have their own God-given personalities, they will have their own struggles, and a lot of the time, it’s really not about you.  We are here to guide, model, teach, comfort, love and instruct; but at the end of the day, they are their own people with unique minds.  What they do reflects on us to an extent, but as they grow, they become more and more independent.  And I can see how growing up causes boundary lines between them and us to be redrawn a lot.  That’s going to cause strife, conflict and struggle.  As they become free to make more decisions, good and bad, we can help guide them, but we simply can’t learn the tough lessons for them.

As I process how to help my child, it’s so important for me to talk to other moms who’ve already been through these ages and stages and similar difficulties.  I gain so much perspective and wisdom.  And I remind myself that’s what good parents do: seek wisdom, learn from my own mistakes, ask forgiveness and move forward.

My friend helped me this morning, because after exchanging funny texts, she wrote, “You’re one of the best moms I know and I’m so thankful that I get to glean knowledge from you.”  We need encouragement from those around us as we struggle through the times we all want to plug our ears and say, “La la la I can’t hear you.”  Facing parenting challenges with others, being vulnerable about our shortcomings and struggles and lifting each other up is how we get through the increasingly difficult problems of parenting.

And to think: I don’t even have a teenager yet.

Parenting lesson #25: Mommy brain never goes away.


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I will not forget my children.

I wish I had better news for new moms.  But the truth is that the mommy brain fog, while it lifts after the newborn weeks, does not ever fully clear.  I have never been more certain of it.  When I first wrote about mommy brain, I was hopeful it would be gone by now.  It’s not.

On Monday, I took dinner to my boss because his wife just had their third child, and somehow we got on the topic of mommy brain.  He said, “My wife just says she feels like she’s gotten so dumb.”  I said, “I know exactly how she feels, and I wish I could say it gets better, but it never goes away.”  Case in point: later that night when I was getting things out of my trunk I found the baby gift I had bought for them still in my trunk.  The irony is I put it there a week earlier so I wouldn’t forget it on the morning I was driving into the office to take them food.

Let me be clear: mommy brain makes you feel stupid in the early weeks after giving birth.  But what remains after that is a forgetfulness.  It’s looking for your keys while you’re holding them.  It’s driving off with your cup of coffee on your roof.  It’s going to the grocery store for peanut butter and arriving home with two full bags and no peanut butter.  (These are all things I’ve done.)  And the forgetfulness is directly proportional to how many things you are tracking in your brain.  The busier you are and the less sleep you get, the more forgetful.  So since the past two weeks have been pretty full, I did something yesterday that I would have never thought possible.

I decided to call my dad while in the carpool line waiting for Zach.  I was relaying all the details about the stains on our basement carpet when I pulled out of the school parking lot and, while waiting at the light, heard Ethan interrupt my conversation with, “Mom, did we get Zach?”  I started responding, “Ye … ” as I turned my head and realized Zach was not in the car.  I said, “Dad, I gotta go, I have to focus, I just drove through the carpool line without getting Zach.”  I wondered how I managed to forget my kid when I didn’t really forget my kid.  I was there, just not “all there.”  The car in front of me was the last to get a kid in the group ahead of me, so as it drove off with its child, I just followed it out of the lot without stopping as the first car in my group.  This could happen to anyone, right?

Then I started thinking about how I needed to take this as a real warning that I simply have too much going on and I need to focus on each moment and the task at-hand without trying to multitask.  But it didn’t take long for me to forget the lesson I had just learned, because about an hour later I was driving to an appointment while making another one on the phone and I missed my exit on the highway, making me late.

As I pulled up at home last night, I was laughing at my day as I got out of the car.  Greg pulled up and I told him, “I’m laughing about how I left Zach at school.”  He pointed at my van and said, “You left your lights on.”  I realized then that my brain was trying to tell my body something.  So I went to bed early, and though I slept longer than usual, I know there are forgetful things I did today as well, I just can’t remember what they are right now.  And I have come full circle … so if you’re a new mom, don’t let the mommy brain bother you.  Embrace it, because you’re going to have it forever.

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting lesson #6: Birthing is not the height of parenting pain, it is the beginning of it.


Pre-bedtime dance parties can be super fun.  They can also be dangerous.  Tonight, after finally hooking up a radio in the boys’ room, Ethan was so excited to hear the Biebs that he jumped right into my mouth.  Like his head collided into my chin.  I got a fat, bloody lip and my teeth are still hurting.

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And it got me thinking about how wonderful parenting is while simultaneously being painful.  There’s no better lesson about how life is a journey with the good, the bad and the ugly like having kids.

We have so, SO much to be thankful for, and there are good, happy, joyful moments every day.  But there are also hard, disappointing, try-my-patience-for-the-umpteenth-time and – yes – painful moments almost daily as well.  In the words of Clark W. Griswold, “It’s all part of the experience.”

My kids are 8, 7 and 3 now.  They’re not old, but they’re not young.  I’ve struggled about whether to blog about so many things because now that they’re getting older, I want to respect who they are becoming and I don’t want to share things with the world that might be too personal.  Everyone knows two-year-olds are crazy, demanding Hitlers, so it is funny to write about them.  But when those two-year-olds are 8 and they tantrum, or are 7 and cry over every little thing, it seems like stepping over a line a little to write about them and their struggles.  (This is partly why I simply haven’t blogged much.)  But in order to be authentic, you have to be real about all parts of life.  And the reality of having children is that it’s messy.  And painful.  Physically painful sometimes, yes.  Emotionally painful, absolutely.  Mentally painful, you bet.

So if you’re embarking on this parenting journey, you’re in for quite the ride.  If you have a crazy labor and delivery story (like just about every woman I know), I can relate to your pain.  And I can also honestly say it’s just beginning.

But it is all so very worth it.  There’s no one I’d rather dance with at 7:30 at night to “Sorry” than over-exuberant Ethan.  Even if it means I’ll get a fat lip.  I’d do it again tomorrow night in a heartbeat.

What I Really Want for Mother’s Day.


IMG_1305Along the lines of my previous Top Ten list for Mother’s Day:

I love being a mother.  Each of my children is such a blessing, and I really do – for the most part – enjoy serving them.  Yes, there are moments every day that try my patience and make me wonder how old I’ll be when I get to count on not getting woken up or interrupted in the middle of every. single. thing I am doing (yes, even peeing).  But Mother’s Day makes me reflect on both the joys of motherhood and also the service of it.

Along those lines, here are the things on my mind:

 

  1.  I would like to sleep until I wake up.  I know this will naturally be between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. anyway, but I would like to go to bed tonight, not have anyone wake me up in the middle of the night, and not hear any noise until I naturally wake up.
  2. I don’t want to have to think about feeding myself or anyone else.  I just want meals to magically appear at the right times.
  3. I also don’t want to answer any questions about food, especially not about eating candy or junk so I don’t have to say “No” and feel like a food Nazi on Mother’s Day.
  4. Honestly, while on the subject of questions, I would really love to have every question from every child begin with the word “Daddy” tomorrow.
  5. I would love some homemade gifts from my kids.  Honestly.
  6. It would be great to have a chunk of time when I get to do whatever I want.  I think I would use it to load the car with about half of the kids’ toys and drop them off at charity.
  7. I don’t want to clean up any messes, deal with pee or poop (not even from the dog) or wipe any tushies.
  8. I don’t want to use any appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer.
  9. I would love a good back scratching.
  10. Most importantly, I would love some family snuggles, definitely at night, or after I wake up ON MY OWN from that solid night’s sleep.

What would YOU like?

Parenting lesson #22: Everyone lies, especially parents


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It’s possible my last post made me sound like an amazing parent who always sticks to her guns, never issues empty threats, and never goes back on what she says so her bipolar two-year-old will respond perfectly to every situation by age three.

I lie.  Or maybe I stretch the truth.  Or perhaps I’m simply implying I’m better than I actually am.  At the end of the day, a lie is a lie.  (Yes, even if it’s about the Elf on the Shelf, or Santa Claus, or that if your kid doesn’t eat green vegetables, his nose will turn green and his feet will turn purple.  That’s another lie I tell.)


 

Thursday is a great example of a time when I absolutely caved.  I had just dropped off my older two at school.  Let me digress a little by letting you in on the fact that Ethan is obsessed with lip balm.  In fact, recently after I told him he couldn’t have my lip balm, he took my secretary table where I keep the lip balm and flipped it up, spilling my full cup of coffee into all of my makeup.  But that’s another post.


 

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This is but a glimpse of the coffee mess.

 

So I was on my commute home from school drop off, and Ethan asked for my lip balm.  I said, “Maybe later.”  (I am really trying not to say “No” so much.)  Of course that was not an acceptable response, because two seconds later happened to be later.  So he asked again. “Another time,” I said.  Again, the question.  “I already answered you, Ethan.  I said later.”  Again.  “No, not right now.”  It was probably the sixth or seventh time that I said, “Okay, fine.  You can have it.”

This was that parenting moment.  That moment when you KNOW you are sending a mixed message.  When you know you shouldn’t say “No” and then give your child what he wants in the next second, but you’re just too darned drained and tired to keep bantering.  It’s also the moment when there is a high risk of things ending badly, but for the momentary relief you so badly want from the badgering (or noise, or sibling spats, or whatever the case may be), you cave.  You make what you said just moments earlier a lie.

About twenty minutes of peace and quiet later – which is precisely what I knew I was buying with my change of heart – I arrived at the gym.  When I opened his door to get Ethan out, there was no more lip balm left in the Eos container.  It was empty, and Ethan looked at me and said, “Mama, I need a napkin to wash my hands.”  No kidding!  His hands, seat belt, and jacket were so artistically smothered in berry lip balm.


 

 


 

We simply can’t get it right all the time.  There is no perfect parent and it is impossible to be 100% consistent.  But also, it’s not necessarily inconsistency if our children are able to convince us to change our minds.  I actually think it’s important for my children to know that they do have negotiating and reasoning power with me, especially with my older two.

Sometimes Eliza and Zach convince me to change my mind about giving them a treat, or having longer to play, or, really anything.  And when they do, I get to share with them the reason I have changed my mind.  When they’ve made a great point (“But mom, I already finished my homework and we’re getting along so well!”), I can recognize it.

And when I’ve changed my mind for no explicable reason except that I’m buying some peace and quiet, I use it as an opportunity to explain grace to them.  I like connecting these dots for them.  I connect the idea that sometimes we get things – good things we want – for no reason at all, but simply because we exist and are loved.  I don’t believe that Ethan can grasp that yet, but I still tell him that’s what he’s getting.  My older two began asking me for grace when they were three or four, so it’s not far off.

For now, I need to remind myself that sometimes, giving in, or turning myself into a liar, is worth the 20-minute drive of quiet when I am able to string some cohesive thoughts together.  And cleaning up smeared lip balm is also worth it.  A lot of parenting is weighing the various options in the moment and picking that one that works best in that situation.  There’s hardly ever one, black-and-white, always the right response.  And THAT’s no lie.

 

 

Parenting lesson #21: Two-year-olds are bipolar and skeptical.


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My little prince, NOT eating his yogurt.

Sometimes I think my daily life looks like the scene from “Coming to America” when Prince Hakeem meets his arranged betrothed, Imani Izzy.  Imani has been trained her whole life to do anything he asks of her, and he tests just how far she will go to meet his demands.  (“Make a noise like an orangutan” ring any bells?)  The difference in my life is that my prince is a two-year-old who, after getting exactly what he wants, changes course and decides screaming for the exact opposite is in order.

On any given day, we have many conversations about food, toys, and activities that go something like this:

Me: “(Prince) Ethan, you’ve been sick.  What would you like for breakfast?  Pick anything you’d like from the fridge.”

Ethan: “I want dat yoguht peas.”

Me: “Sure, please sit at the table to eat it.”

Ethan: “NO, I DON’T WANT DAT YOGUHT!!!!”

I don’t remember child #1 or child #2 doing this.  It’s very possible I blocked it from memory like every mother does for the survival of the human race.  Or maybe my older ones didn’t really test me in this particular way.  But at least a small part of me wants to take the yogurt and dump it all over him.  Some days I probably would if I could get past knowing I’d just be creating another mess to clean.

I had his teacher conference today, and the teacher reminded me that he is dealing with normal two-year-old issues such as making good choices, following directions, and learning to share.  Honestly, it must be really hard to be two.

Unlike Imani Izzy in “Coming to America,” I actually say “no” to my prince quite often.  Over the course of a day, he probably hears “no” or “not now” or “try this instead” so many more times than he hears “yes.”  Part of that is being two and making ridiculous requests, like “Can I eat dis wip balm?”; part is being the third child and having older siblings who get to do things he can’t but would love to do; and part of it is I am an older, more distracted, more easily exasperated mom now than I was five years ago.  In all seriousness, it must be really hard to start to understand you’re a person, and have so much to learn, but have so many handicaps.

My little Prince Hakeem is testing boundaries and trying to find his place in this world.  He wants to know just how much power he has, whether I mean what I say, and whether he can do whatever he wants.  When Ethan gets an answer he doesn’t like, he simply keeps asking the question over and over, assuming I must have lied the first (32) times I told him he couldn’t have any candy.  In fact, in the car the other day he asked me seven times for my soda and 14 times for dessert in a span of five minutes, despite my answer being the same “No” every single time.  Imagine wondering at every turn if “no” really meant “no,” or if it meant “maybe” or simply “not now.”  He has to figure out these things for himself.

Now more than ever, I have to patiently and consistently deal with his antics so he knows he can trust me and what I say, and also so he can grow into someone who respects authority instead of demands power.

If he wants me to bark like a dog for fun, I’ll probably do it for him.  If as soon as I start barking he changes his mind and decides he wants me to make a noise like an orangutan, I might even do that if he asks me nicely.  But if he’s screaming about getting exactly what he wants when he wants it, he’s not going to get it because this world is not his kingdom.  And he might need to test this truth thousands of times before he believes it.

 

Parenting lesson #37: The mouths of babes don’t always tell the full truth.


IMG_3209At Eliza’s Kindergarten back-to-school night, her teacher said, “We promise to believe only half of what we hear at school about you if you promise to only believe half of what you hear at home about us.”  I hope she was speaking on behalf of all the teachers.

In first grade, one of the things the children do is keep a scrapbook.  Eliza brought hers home yesterday.  There was one page about things that “crack up” the kids.  My daughter said she laughs when her classmate Braxton falls on the floor on purpose.  He’s hilarious!  She wrote that she laughs when her brother tells a joke.  How adorable!  She said her daddy makes her laugh when he tickles her.  That is so sweet.  And how do I make her laugh?  Apparently by burping at her.

IMG_3210Burping at her.

I barely ever burp.  I’m not only embarrassed now, but I’m embarrassed whenever I burp.  I never burp on purpose (I don’t know how to), so when it happens in front of the kids, I’ve burped, and giggled with them as I’ve said, “Excuse me!”  Sure, we’ve laughed about it, but my goodness, is that the first thing that comes to her mind when asked to describe how I make her laugh?

Am I that serious the rest of the time???

I decided I wanted an explanation today.  I wasn’t accusatory, but I was really hoping for some validation that I actually make my daughter laugh in other ways.

Me: “Eliza, so you wrote that I make you laugh when I burp at you.  When do I do that?”

Eliza: “Sometimes you burp at me, mom.”

Me: “Um, I never burp at you.  I’ve burped in front of you.”

Eliza: “Well it’s funny.”

Me: “Okay, but out of all the things I do with you, burping is the first thing that comes to mind when you think, ‘What does my mommy do that’s funny?’  Can you think of something else I do that’s funny?”

Eliza: “Farts?”

I don’t even know why I try.  Apparently I must be a super-serious mom who makes my child laugh only when I make bodily noises I cannot control.  Right?  Of course, I know this isn’t true.  It’s really easy to get sidetracked in parenting by something your child says or does that could easily hurt your feelings.  The truth is probably that the day she made that scrapbook page, I had burped on the way to school and it was fresh in her mind.  The truth is if she really thought about it, she could most likely think of some ways I make her laugh that are cute, and endearing, and not embarrassing.

We as parents have to remember to take these situations with a grain of salt and write them down so we can laugh at them for what they are – half-truths.  I can choose to allow myself to question my very core if I believe this is what she really thinks of me.  Or I can choose to take what she wrote and run it through the sieve of reality.

I think Ms. Kolker, the Kindergarten teacher, was onto something.  And I’m pretty sure Mrs. Woodside, her first grade teacher, knows the same.  At least I’m banking on my 50/50 odds here.

A new year to be “all here”


She is timeless.
She is timeless.

Once again, it wouldn’t be a new year without a new season of Downton Abbey.  I’m pondering the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley’s thoughts on the introduction of the telephone into the house (from season 2). After having trouble while trying to make a call, she asks, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”  Despite a 100-year gap between her frustration then and mine now, I’m wondering the same thing about my own phone.

We live in an increasingly overstimulated society, in which we ingest more information that people ever have before.  It seems like no matter where I am or what I’m doing, there’s a constant nagging to check e-mail, social media and texts.  I say nagging because if it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t have a Smart phone.  I probably wouldn’t have a basic cell phone except for emergency purposes.  But there is this sense that someone else might feel ignored, or put off, if I don’t keep up.  And there’s also the fear that I might miss something important.  The problem is that while I’m afraid I’m missing something important, I’m missing something important that’s right in front of me.

It really dawned on me how much I’ve bought into this need to stay connected when I was at a New Year’s party over the weekend.  My best friend had gone on a date and I really wanted to find out how it went.  Instead of politely excusing myself and checking in with her for a quick call, I brought the phone back to the table and proceeded to text back-and-forth with her in the middle of the other conversations I was having.  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized one woman disappeared from the table without me noticing and I thought perhaps she thought I was so rude that she walked away.

The thing is, I get really annoyed when people do this to me.  I am shocked to realize that I caught myself doing it.  And on a day-to-day basis, I do this often to Greg and the kids.  I will be in the middle of texting when one of my children will ask to play a game.  I will respond, “I can’t right now, I’m busy.”  Now, sometimes I am; but sometimes I’m looking at random pictures of people I was friends with 20 years ago, getting updates about snow conditions, cubicle annoyances or new hair-dos.  And I have to seriously consider what is actually important.  Because there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and yet one could shoot a reel of my life, play it back to me, and point out at least an hour every day  that’s arguably wasted.  And I can’t get it back.  And my family can’t either.

So I’ve had enough so-called “multi-tasking” while at soccer practice.  I want to recapture the art of just being in the moment.  I want to appreciate the blessing of now and what’s happening right before my very eyes.  If you are my friend and you haven’t heard from me in a while, just pick up your phone and use it for its intended purpose.  After all, there might be some aspects of society 100 years ago that make me cringe.  But the Dowager Countess having my manners?  Imagine her completely ignoring everyone at dinner with her head stuck in a newspaper.  Now that would be ghastly, and possibly akin to torture.