Friday, June 5, 2015

What We Are Reading: The Help

Like most moms, I spend a fair amount of time worrying about lots of things. Some important, but mostly, like most of moms, about the little things. 

I started this section on my blog because I feel I have some insights in this area, that can help other moms. Just as importantly however because I have questions of my own.

Books have always been some of my best friends. Sadly, since becoming a mommy I find that they are  some of my most neglected friends. 

Sure I read, a chapter hear, a book cover there. Blogs galore, articles on various topics of interest; What to feed my toddler. How to know if your child loves you. How to stop aggressive behavior. How to stay connected as a couple. Things that could be secretly ruining my relationship. You get the picture.

I also take a lot of quizzes. Mostly from Buzzfeed and BabyCenter. A few weeks ago, I took one: Are you doing everything you can to build a love of reading in your child. I took it, because even though I'm pretty sure I'm nailing it, I'm a sucker for anything that can cause self doubt. 

I did pretty well. Except on one question. Does your child see you reading. I read daily. (See above) The thing is, the articles, blogs, quizzes, they are ALL on my phone. So for all Animal knows I'm just playing with my phone. I have picked up all of three books since my sons birth. Three books in three years and I've read zero. 

That's right, I said Zero.

What a pitiful example I make. Sure I read to Animal, books by the dozen. But how often can he say mommy reads a story to herself, because she loves to read too? None.

I had to change that immediately. 

I started with (drumroll please). The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I wanted to read it after reading an interview with the author just before the movie came out. I watched it with a friend and really enjoyed it. She happened to mention that she had been waiting for some story lines she thought important,  but overall she still enjoyed. I was still pregnant when I watched, but at the time I was busy reading books about pregnancy and labor & delivery. No just because books, I was a busy girl then, with a strong agenda.

Well three and a half years later. I finally read it. Verdict? As usual the book was better than the movie.  All the same, the best part was curling up on the couch.  On Animals bedroom floor while he played. On the picnic table while he looked for bugs in the yard. Maybe especially nostalgic,  in bed way past my bedtime with my lamp on. I finished over a weekend, and Animal got to see mommy read for fun. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

What Does Forgiveness Mean?

We've all been there right?

When some transgression, grievance, or betrayal, real or perceived, big or small happens and we have to decide whether to forgive and forget or not. 

I don't believe I'm a petty person at least I've never been accused. Passive aggressive, selfish, bitchy those I've heard. and am quick to let go of ill will.  I will mull over what happened. Think about whether it matters enough to warrant airing or to suck it up, because in the long run it doesn't really matter. That equation has worked well for me in the past.

Like everyone else, I'm not perfect. Occasionally I make the mistake of letting a friendship go or getting my panties in a bunch over something rather trivial that feels big at the time. Unfortunately for me, more often than not, I continue the relationship long past a healthy point. I guess you could say I'm a bit of a doormat. I'm just not confrontational. Fortunately I almost always surround myself with wonderful people. My circle of friends is small. Not interconnected for the most part. But they are real friends, and those are hard to come by.

A year ago something happened. Something big. Something not imagined. It was not the first thing, but it was the worst. It made me feel something I have never truly felt, and wish things I had never, ever wished. I was crushed. Devastated. Hurt. Enraged. Worried for my family. 

I thought things I'm certain I have never thought before. 

I also prayed a lot, because the thing about when you are holding on to ill will I learned, is it makes you sick. Physically. Emotionally. It rots you.

I asked God to take that feeling away. 

I promised to forgive if he would just remove the malice that was taking root in my soul. Rotting me at my core. Then I thanked him for making a way for my family to move forward. For getting us through this tough time and putting us in the right situation. For giving me the ability to forgive. Even before it happened, because I had believed that ultimately of course we would move forward, we would be stronger and I would of course forgive.

I believe it was at the moment I thanked Him AND started thinking about forgiveness, that the decay started to heal. I had faith that things would get better, and they did. As soon as things were in motion I spent a day researching what forgiveness was. Because I wasn't ready to forgive. The resentment was just to deep. My rage so fresh.

I was happily surprised to learn that in both the psychological and Biblical definitions of forgiveness, didn't mean I had to have a relationship with that person. I didn't even have to talk to them about any of my feelings. I only had to let go of my ill will, let go of expectations relating to that person, and let go of the hurt. 

This was a revelation to me. One I needed to receive. Maybe you do too. I'm not going to say it was easy, or even that it's done. I will say that I'm almost there. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thirty Somethings At Outside Lands

My husband and I have not been avid concert goers. Ticket prices seemed to always be more than we wanted to spend.  I tend to fall asleep anywhere after 10pm. So for those reasons it wasn't ever a priority. 

When we found out we were pregnant, something happened to my husband and he developed a great urgency to live a little. The year I got pregnant he went to no less than six concerts. Two of them were music festivals. I fought to go went to one where we had seats , but I passed on the chance to go to Outside Lands that first year because after he took me to Florence and the Machine on our anniversary at four months pregnant. I knew I would not want to walk/stand for a three straight days without being able to drink. 

The hubby had the most amazing time and has gone every year since. This year after many setbacks I finally got to go with him. My brother and my soon to be SIL offered to watch Animal and my mom (who is his other primary caregiver) was there too. I didn't go all three days, so I had to try to see and do all I wanted in one day.

Doors opened at noon, we wanted to leave at 11, but as usual when it's a personal day we're always running late. So we left at a quarter to noon. We parked across from the shuttle at 12:30ish and got in line for the shuttle that would take us to Golden Gate Park. The line was long, the ride is about 25 minutes long. We were on the Shuttle at one and as we pulled away we were surprised to see the line had more than doubled since we got there. 

Next, as we are dropped of at the gate, we somehow manage to miss the line doubling again. It took nearly another hour to get in.

There was so much art. Live artist painting murals. Past murals lined the outer edges of the event. There were painted structures all over. Some to admire and others to rest your achy feet. I could have spent several hours just walking through this area and watching the painters. Sadly, as fore mentioned, I had only one day so I only spent and hour walking through the art.

There were DJs, comedy shows, Skits, vaudeville acts, magic shows, break dancers, arts and crafts, carnies and even "camp" where we could have played board games and shit. We walked past all of that. No time. I definitely need to go for the three days.

There were so many choices in food. So much to drink. We did not eat, or drink to our hearts content. I didn't want to use the port a pottys any more than absolutely necessary and I'm sure that's self explanatory. 

We did however stop at beer lands, wine lands and for a cocktail. So good and like all events so pricey. At least my cocktail wasn't watered down. 

Outside lands is held at Golden Gate Park, so it is dusty, windy and awesome. 

At four we head to the stage where Death Cab for Cutie would perform. The hubby likes to get as close to his favorite bands as possible so we head to that stage as the band BEFORE Death Cab is going to start.  We find a decent place to stand for Haim, a band I've never heard of. At first I'm really bummed I'm not getting one last drink because I know we're not moving once DCFC starts. Then the energy really picks up and I really enjoy the three sister band. 

After they finish and the crowd starts to leave, we inch our way forward to find a better, closer spot. They are awesome, they play everything I want to hear. I almost completely ignore the people who have continued to inch forward and are now standing in spots where was once 8 inches between me and the person in front of me. 

Death exits after marveling at the fact that they are opening for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Again after they finish and the crowd thins, we inch our way a little closer to the stage. It's comfortable.

Until the show starts. Don't get me wrong. Tom Petty put on a great show and he played almost everything I wanted to hear. He really rocked and the crowd was super into it. However, after standing in basically the same spot for four hours prior to his starting, my feet, back and body were done. I'm a middle aged woman for God's sake. Not to mention the people again squeezing into spaces that don't exist. The hubby who is much larger and who had already done this for two days had to be dying. He didn't seem to be. He loves music so much and was just in mega beast mode. I was impressed. 

The show ended just before ten. We trekked out to the shuttles, waited, road back to our car, walked to our car and headed home. We got home after midnight. It was exhausting and wonderful. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What We Are Reading: BATMAN Who is Clayface?

The hubby has a new job and is working near a comic book store. 

When he came home with, BATMAN Who Is Clayface by Donald Lemke, pictures by Steven E. Gordon Colors by Eric A. Gordon.  I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not because I'm not a fan, but because Animal is a little much sometimes and super hero/bad guy play,  is not something he needs any extra encouraging with. 

All doubts however were wiped away when I saw the excitement in his face! One important thing when hoping to instill a love of books in a child (or any person for that matter) is to remember, interest in subject matter is of utmost importance. So if like me you're not a fan of sci-fi, don't frown when your child comes home with Dune.  Instead look on the bright side. If your child brought home a book it's probably going to get read. There in lies the trick.

What's the silver lining in our new favorite bedtime story?


What's a detective mama? A person who solves mysteries by paying attention to clues and asking questions.  What's a batarang? It's a special boomerang that looks like a bat. What's a viking? A Scandinavian pirate. What's a utility belt? It's like grandpas tool belt only filled with the things Batman needs to fight crime. 

We have learned a lot of new words.  They are seeping into his free play time and therefore creating new synapses in his little brain. Important new information onto which he can connect other new facts. This is important because it's hard to grasp new information unless it can be connected to knowledge already acquired. 


This book is 36 pages long, it takes longer to read, but he is so interested in the content  and pictures that he follows closely. A skill that will translate to other books and activities.


This story has a lot to work off as far as lesson planning goes.

For instance in the story Clayface robs a bank. What can he learn from this you might wonder? 

We can play bank. We can practice counting skills, sorting, and simple math can be presented. If he were a little older we might draw up our own money and talk about where money comes from. We might visit a bank, talk through the process of depositing and withdrawing money. What other things can you do at a bank? Maybe take a deposit and withdrawal slips to copy and have some writing and math practice. 

There are also science opportunities. Matt Hagen becomes Clayface when he falls into toxic goo. You could play mad scientist. Look up the recipe for silly putty, play dough, gak, or clay. You could fill glasses with a few drops of yellow, red and blue food coloring. Then mix them with your child to see what new colors they get.

How about art or PE? Trace your child on butcher paper of let them trace you. Then color or paint a few "wax" figures. Put them up around your backyard and let your kid go wild with a boomerang. 

If my son was older and had some writing skills I might ask him to imagine he was Mat Hagen and tell me how he might use is new shape shifting skills in a short story. If he got really creative, I could help him transform his story into a short play. We could build a set and make a short video. 

The possibilities to get creative and teach your child in a meaningful way through his own interest  are really only as limited as your imagination.

Now get out there and have fun!

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Can't Believe I'm Doing This

There are a lot of things I prepared for during pregnancy. Like labor and delivery, how to care for a newborn, and logistics like health insurance for the little guy. 

The hubby and I talked about who would get up and handle night time feeding. Birthday parties. What would we do when he wanted a Mohawk, a piercing, or a tattoo. We had philosophical chats about t-ball, corporal punishment vs. timeouts, and how long I would breastfeed. 

Before parenthood there were a shit ton of things I'd never considered or even knew existed. Like what a doula was, an episiotomy, or whether or not I would circumcise my son. I didn't know what attachment parenting was or how to use a breast pump. 

I don't like making uninformed decisions, especially  when my child is at stake. So I research and research and research until I am satisfied that I'm doing what I honestly think is best for my little love bug.

Other things I just really thought I knew. I'm an Early Childhood Educator for Pete's sake! At least a 150 kids have been in my class. I'm good at what I do. Really.

So there were a few things I was for sure not going to worry about. Like discipline. Consistency. Language development (unless I had to, and of course I would know). Socialization. Close to the top of my list was potty training. 

I've been there, done that, with so many families. I knew what the signs of toilet learning readiness were. When to start and when to step back. 

Oh I knew. Like all childless people, I knew.

I had it all planned out. I would simply wait until my son showed all the signs of readiness, was physically ready and could verbally express his needs. I the great knowing mother would just follow his lead. It was that simple. Why complicate matters? Why push my needs and desires onto this little person? Why turn it into a needless power struggle?

Why indeed. 

Here's the thing. I'm pretty sure he's there. He's even asked to use the toilet and then gone. Successfully. And you know what I'm ready. I'm tiered of spending money on diapers, wipes, desitin, and diaper genie refills. I'd love to put that money into his college savings account.

So now here I am. Buying a potty seat. Underwear. Researching how to potty train a boy. Getting stickers and a few other little rewards (bribes). Fingers crossed hoping I'm not going to be starting a terrible power struggle I'm bound to lose. 

Any tips? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What We Are Reading: Building Empathy

Empathetic children. It's a characteristic most of us can agree we want our children to have. We're not the only ones. Experts have been talking a lot about it. I was reminded of this when I read this great article .

It was about why it's so important for boys and how to foster it. I giggled a little, not because I thought it was silly, but because one of the first tips was about giving little boys baby dolls. It reminded me of a certain story I shared with you. 

The other tips where great too. One was about reading with our children. It talks about a gap in reading to girls vs. boys by parents. The gap starts even before a first birthday. This makes me so sad, but I can totally relate. 

Reading is one of my greatest loves and I have been waiting so long to share that love with my child(ren). When Animal wanted nothing to do with books I could have literally cried. I refused to give up, reading daily to him. Eventually the day came when he picked his own story. It just got better from there. I could have given up, would have given up, if reading didn't mean so much to me. 

Empathy is an important skill for both sexes, it fosters courage, happiness and even success in the work place. 

Children's books are a great place to begin to build this essential skill. Books allow children to experience different points of view. To understand why others feel sad, happy, excited, scared, or lonely. To name their feelings. When you read to your child you can facilitate this process. You can ask leading questions like," What do you think the boy is feeling?" , "Why do you think he's scared?", or  "What would you do if this was happening to you?"

I have noticed my son has a hard time understanding when I'm upset. If I scowl and ask, "Am I happy or grumpy?" he can easily identify how I feel. I reward him with happy faces as well. He has really responded to this and I find he is more easily redirected this way. We can hone this skill at story time. When we read I like to ask, "Does he have a happy face or a grumpy face?" 

At work I use this technique as well. If someone is unkind or aggressive in my class room I ask them to look at their friend, how do they look? How do they think their friend is feeling right now? And finally, What can you do to make your friend feel better? Even two year old can start to understand and contemplate these things. By the end of the year I don't have to prompt them very often, they learn what to look for and how to make a situation right. Don't get me wrong, they are children and don't always care to make things right, but it's not about creating submissive robots, it's about giving them the tools to function socially.

There are many children's books specifically about feelings, and how to deal with them. There are also books like, HEY, LITTLE ANT By Phillip and Hannah Hoose.  That directly ask children to think about how they or others may feel. They are great. But don't think you have to limit yourself to books like this. Fiction titles are especially good at doing the same thing in a profound and meaningful way. 

I can still remember sobbing when I read Where The Red Fern Grows. Or how concerned I was for Ponyboy and Johnny. These characters along with hundreds of others taught me about being someone outside of myself. Outside of my comfort and even made me care for or understand someone I may have otherwise written off or disliked. The empathy that can be built when you step outside of yourself and into someone elses' shoes it's unparalleled,  because there just no other way to feel what someone else feels and think their thoughts and live their outside influences as well.

Empathetic children, another reason to read to your child.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

True Story Hot Dog Review

I grew up more or less believing every commercial on TV. I wasn't a savvy seven year old. So when I was told Ball Park Franks' were the best because "they plump when you cooked them" I was convinced it was true.

When my parents would BBQ, I would ask for Ball Park hot dogs. I thought they were tasty and I was satisfied. They were pretty cheap and so my parents (for who a hot dog is a foreign food) were also happy.

It wasn't until I was married, and once had a craving for a hot dog that I learned anything about what a good hot dog tasted like. I picked up my trusty brand. When I got home my husband was pretty surprised. He refused to eat any but promised me that very weekend I would know what a "good" hot dog tasted like. He brought home Nathan's. He was right. Those were in fact the best hot dogs, I had ever had. 

Since then, I've turned into a bit of a snob. To be fair hot dogs are one of my least favorite things to eat. I have to be really in the mood or at a ball game. What is it about a ball game that makes a hot dog so good?  

Now if some one's cooking a Ball Park Frank I wont eat it. I wont let Animal eat it either. Of course he did try one at someones BBQ, and LOVES them. So I was super excited to find this at Costco a few weeks ago.
Our new favorite!

They are free of all the yucky preservatives, all beef, organic and gluten free. I was sure they would be gross, but what would Animal know? They'd be hot dogs and he would get used to the flavor and like it. 

Well boy was I wrong, these healthier hot dogs are DELICIOUS! We all loved them, including the hubby. They are not so cheap, 11.99 for 15 hot dogs(at Costco), but man are they worth it. With Fourth of July around the corner it's a good time to try them yourselves.