Death, Kissing and Parent Teacher Conferences

My kids say a lot of weird stuff. So much so, I have an entire category dedicated to it on my blog. So, by now, it really shouldn’t surprise me when they come out with something completely off the wall. And yet…

Here are the prize winners from this week alone:

“I don’t want to go to death!”

My 9-year-old son was reading aloud a section of the bible that talked about how kids should be respectful to their parents, or they would be put to death. (Matthew 15:4) It really struck him as important, so he told his brother and sister to listen up, as he repeated the passage. “For instance, God says ‘honor your father and mother’ and ‘anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father and mother must be put to death.'” Upon hearing this, our 4-year-old says, “But, I don’t wanna go to death!” Later that night, he brought it up again after supper, when the other kids had left the table.

“I don’t want to go to death. I’ll hide. I’ll hide in the refrigerator! He can’t get me in the closet, right? When?! When am I going to death?”

“Spin the bottle? I love that game!”

The award for the most alarming statement goes to my 12-year-old daughter who, seemingly out of nowhere announced in the car, “Spin the bottle? I love that game!” Turns out, she was reading her comic book and saw the game being played, which reminded her that she loves it so much. Thinking (and praying and hoping) that maybe she innocently had it confused with another game, where maybe you just spin the bottle and nothing nefarious happens, you know, like kick the can, I asked her, “Honey, what happens in spin the bottle?” “Oh, you spin the bottle and whoever it lands on you have to kiss.” Panic. Slight panic rising up. Yes, yes, I know she’s getting older and she’s going to experiment with things and I should get used to change and she’s growing up and does anyone have a paper bag I can breathe into? “So, sweetie, have you ever played spin the bottle?” “No, but my friend has at a party and she told me about it.” Insert conversation about not doing things we’re not comfortable with and how we can always say no and get out of situations like that…

“What? They’re going to put me to death?!”

After parent teacher conferences tonight, I arrived home armed with notes from my 6th and 3rd grader’s teachers. My son asked if he could see his report card. I said sure, having forgotten about the fact that I put a sticky note on it, with my reminder note to write a post about my preschooler’s thought that he could hide from death. My 3rd grader stared at his report card, without even opening it, and quietly read the words, “‘I don’t want to go to death?’ MOM, what did you and my teacher talk about?!”

Oh yes, raising kids is certainly interesting. I just wish I had a hidden microphone to catch all the other crazy stuff they say. You know, the stuff I forget to write down. What crazy things do your kids come up with?

The Quitter’s Curse

I remember distinctly my senior year in high school.  The stress. The classes. The homework. The internship. The paying job. The homework. The college application essays. The scholarship applications. The little sleep. And with all the stress and the attempts to keep my grades up, I was eager to sign up for the easy elective. The slight glimmer of hope in my otherwise busy and stress-filled senior schedule. It was the equivalent of underwater basket weaving. It should have been cake. It was pottery.

Those first few classes seemed easy enough. We sat around the wheels as they spun. Our wet hands clasped around mounds of clay. Forming the grey mess, pulling it higher, slowly, and digging our fingers into the top, stretching out, carefully some piece of art to take form. A vase. A plate. A bowl. A cup. Something beautiful would emerge. Those first few days, we watched as our instructor so gracefully drew his hands up around the wet clay, a masterpiece emerging. Then, mimicking his moves, we tried this ourselves. Small, nervous giggles turned to outright laughter as several of us lost control of the wet canvas, the clay becoming quickly lopsided and flinging violently off our wheels. It was funny. At first.

Soon, the rest of my class was excelling, surpassing my still limited skills. Pottery did not come easy for me. I needed easy. While others finished project after project, lining up their As in the shelves for the kiln, where after they’d color them with beautiful designs, my projects had yet to leave the wheel. Not one.

As the stresses of my senior year weighed me down, the nagging applications constantly whispering a reminder of their incomplete state, I found myself more and more frustrated with the demands of what should have been my Easy A. Pottery was supposed to be my outlet. Something to take away the stresses of my daily life. And yet, here it was, reminding me of everything I couldn’t be. Everything I was not.

Maybe it was a rash decision. Maybe I’d thought it through the way a 17-year-old does. I walked down to the office and demanded to speak to my counselor. I’d never sought him out before, seeing him only in passing in the halls and on the days he’d sign off on my schedule for the semester. But now, here I was in front of him, asking, pleading, demanding that I be transferred out of pottery. I didn’t care what class he transferred me into, I only knew I didn’t want to be in this one for one second longer.

What he said at first surprised me. Like pottery I thought, this too, would be easy. Getting out of a class, something I’d heard of but never tried for my self, seemed like it should be a simple matter of paperwork and my life would get easier before I’d even left his office. But, it wasn’t going to be that easy. “Why?” he’d asked. Why did I want out of the seemingly easiest class the school offered? My response started with logic and soon let way to tears. I couldn’t take it. He gave me the speech I’m sure he’d given hundreds of students before me, the “don’t be a quitter” speech. He told me how quitting was a slippery slope, a dangerous path to allow myself down. He said if it started with pottery, where would it end? What if I quit every time something got hard? This logic only enraged me. I was not a quitter. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing and I just needed to make this one really hard thing go away. After a few more canned speeches, he saw the twitch in my eye – the one that was birthed by late nights, little sleep and a pottery wheel that spun out of control in a way that summed up my teenage existence – he finally conceded. I managed an even easier class – late arrival, followed by helping out in the cleanup of a coffee machine. It was bliss.

Years later, at any given hardship in life – be it work related or a chore I really would rather not do, or even a diet, I would recall his words to me. About how becoming a quitter is a curse you set upon yourself. Tonight, I found myself the one handing out the canned speeches, the monologue of “what kind of life will you lead if you quit everything?” This speech is directed at my 6th grade daughter. Her spinning wheel is sports. She thought they’d be easy. She thought they’d be fun. And now, well, now she wants out.

How easily she must forget, it was just two weeks ago, she begged to quit basketball, just as her team was in the final week of the season. Now, she’s berating me with tales of how boring and hard wrestling is. Wrestling, the sport she begged to join. Just a week into practice, she says it’s too hard. Her coach is too stern. She’s not having fun. “But you made a commitment to your teammates,” I tell her. It is to no avail. She doesn’t care. She just wants to quit.

Speech after speech, question after question, she just pulled the covers higher over her shoulder, and rolled in bed away from me. I wasn’t giving her what she wanted. I told her to think about and I left her room.

I see now what my counselor was warning me about – a life filled with the easy way out. The road most traveled. He didn’t want that for me. And I certainly don’t want that for my daughter.

So, now what? What do I do? Let her quit? Let the quitter’s curse take root in her? I tell her about the scripture I have printed out and taped to my desk, “Do everything you do as if you were doing it for the Lord and not the people.” It has no impact on her. She can see no way of honoring God with her wrestling, just as I could find no way of honoring him with pottery, especially given the amount of profanities that typically streamed from my mouth as the unruly clay would fling off my wheel.

Molding another person’s character is a very difficult task. Lots of people quit that, too. But this is a responsibility that I will not falter on. Of this I am sure. What I don’t know, is what to say or do to convince my daughter that quitting is not an option.

My Life as a Taxi Cab Driver

No, I’m not adding a new line to my resume – but I might as well!

My two oldest school aged children have joined sports teams. “Ah, how cute!” you say. “Add that to their college applications,” you suggest. Yeah – it’s great. Until you look at my new schedule on paper.

Next week, for example, my daughter has a game in one town at 3:30 and my son’s game is at 5, in another town, 45 minutes away. Did I mention I don’t get off work until 5 – in yet another town? GAH!

How are you supposed to make it all work?

My girlfriend and I were just discussing scheduling this morning. It seems there’s always something. Every night, an activity. And at some point, you have to fit in homework and other little things like eating and sleeping and actually interacting with your child in a more meaningful way than just barking out the commands, “Get in the car! We’re late!”

Has life always been this stressful for every generation? I swear, as a kid, I went to school, did my homework, did the chores, played Barbies and maybe – just maybe – watched a half hour of TV on one of the five available channels. When did things get so complicated?

What’s your solution to life in overload? How do you get around without changing your title to Taxi Cab Driver?

 

 

The Ick Factor

Okay, we’re parents. We’ve seen gross things. Barf. Poop. Barf and poop at the same time. Getting spit up on. Getting spit up in your own mouth. Yep, we’ve all been there. But, sometimes, the ick factor is really taken to its limits.

Enter my preschooler.

Today, he fell down on the playground. They said there was a lot of blood, but that the cut itself wasn’t too bad. They were more worried about getting the wound cleaned out – there were a lot of little rocks in there. So, we took him to the doctor. No stitches, but they were going to have to get to those rocks.

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They put the numbing cream on. (That’s the white stuff on his knee.) Then, we waited. He’d just about calmed down again when the doctor came back in the room and said the words my 4-year-old certainly didn’t want to hear, “We’re going to have to cut that flap of skin to get the rocks out.”

“Cut the flap? CUT THE FLAP?!” my 4-year-old repeated, alarmed.

It took two nurses and my ex husband to hold his legs while I held his hands so the doctor could cut. I tried my best to whisper positive things into my baby boy’s ear, while tears wet his cheeks. But, at some point, I realized I was no longer talking. Instead, I was praying it would be over quickly, all while realizing I was starting to feel a little light-headed.

No, I didn’t pass out. No, my little one didn’t pass out. In fact, he was good as new (except for the massive bandage) once he got a popsicle. But, I certainly felt that if I had to look into that patch of freshly cut flesh anymore, that I’d soon hit the ground.

So, my question to you seasoned veterans of parenting is, what’s your breaking point? When does the ick factor enter in for you?

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Back to School Shopping

I’ve done back to school shopping a few times. Several times. Okay – 10, to be exact – not including shopping for myself. 10 times makes me a seasoned expert, right? Let’s go with that.

My friend has a soon-to-be kindergartener on her hands. She’s feeling a tad overwhelmed by the whole prospect of school supply shopping. Sure, she’s shopped for preschool, but kindergarten? That’s the big leagues. They’re not just eating glue anymore. My friend will assuredly have this under control – but there are things we learn only from experience – knowledge I can impart on her as to what is a necessity and what is not.

First things first – the backpack. “Do you get the nice, sturdy kind that will last a few years or the fun one she wants?” my friend asked. “The fun one,” I replied instantly. Now, those who know me may be surprised by this response. Typically, I am much more in the camp of “function over fashion.” However, I’m also a mother of three kids under the age of 12 and I know when to pick my battles. A fun backpack serves dual purposes: it gets your kid off your back, because, believe you me, they will want every cool school supply on the planet – you know, the ones that cost at least 10 times more than the perfectly good plain one – and this is one big area you can let them make their own statement, and, despite the fact that the fun backpacks are typically pieces of junk you will end up having to replace mid-year (especially when your kids drag them across the freaking playground!) they serve as great memory keepers. Your kiddo will bring home dozens of pieces of cherished artwork and assignments and projects that he/she can’t ever part with. And you’ll need a place to store all those memories. Insert now-trashed well-loved backpack.  Fill it at the end of each school year. This will be your storing-house for all those mementos. Each year, you get a new backpack for a year’s worth of memories. It’s actually very sweet.

Next, we move onto the rest of the supplies. Here’s an average kindergarten supply list:

Kindergarten Class:

___ Pencil/school supply box for desk

___  Sharp, pointed school scissors

___ 6 – No. 2 pencils w/pink erasers

___ Crayons, 2 boxes of 8 basic colors (for math)

___ Crayons, 1 box for art

___ Wide point washable markers (8 basic colors, only)

___ Small 8-10 watercolor paint set with brush

___ Change of clothes

 

As I mentioned before, there will be varying levels of each item. Lets take the pencil box, for example. One year, on a shoestring budget, I found the $.33 version. It was yellow. Basic. Plastic. It worked. My daughter, however, found the $14 Hannah Montana version. It was essentially the same product, but with Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus (pre-twerking days) face plastered all over it, and an accompanying 42 times increase in price. Get the cheap yellow box. Or, get the fashionable one. But, this is where you need to take your stand. Let your child choose one fancy item and stick with that. Otherwise, what could be a $20 shopping trip will turn into an excursion equivalent to a car payment.

Scissors, pencils, erasers, watercolors – go cheap. Crayons/markers – look through your stuff at home. Did Grandma give you multiple boxes over the last few years? Take those. Save yourself some money, now. You have years of this ahead of you. The same applies for older kids. Make them take an inventory of the supplies they still have from last year before you do any shopping. And, keep in mind, if you find great stuff on sale – think of the kids that don’t have any supplies. There are always donation boxes at stores and churches.

Parents of school age kids – what other advice would you give to the first-timers?

 

 

 

 

Being Left Out Sucks

Waiting in line for a ride – and just as you reach the front, they put up the rope and tell you you’ll have to wait until next time.

The team captains are choosing players in kick ball and you’re the last person chosen out of the whole gym class.

They’re handing out Drumsticks and you’re the only one left not holding an ice cream cone.

Being left out sucks.

My kids are learning the hard way lately how being left out is lame. My 12-year-old daughter was crying the other night that (and stop me if you’ve heard this from a pre-teen before) “all my friends are going on field trips and I’m not and I feel really left out!” My 8-year-old son had a similar experience when his friends “fired him” from his club he and his buddies started at their day camp. And my 4-year-old complained about being the only kid not to get to have a friend over after school. Everyone is being left out one way or another.

All of us at some point have been left out. It sucks. And yet, it’s a lesson we all have to learn. Yeah, yeah, got that. But, how do you explain that to your kids? You just want to nuzzle them and hold them close and secretly call their so-called friends “jerks” in your head. But, how do you help your child through it?

What do you tell your children when they complain of being left out?

 

 

Lose 10 Pounds This Week

Okay, so the title of this post may be slightly deceiving. I have no idea how much weight you could actually lose – but based on the amount of sweat dripping from my body last night – it might be a lot!

The Mommy Exercise Plan

Step 1 – Agree to the many requests by your children to go to the park.

Step 2 – Dress in something that’s okay to get sweaty. And dirty. Dress your kids in helmets and gear.

Step 3 – Run after your kids as they bike to the park. Don’t worry – all those pauses and walking you do when they get off their bikes to look at an ant marching down the street or investigate the pile of dried up dog poop on the corner will be made up for in the all-out sprints you will perform when they get a little too close to the intersection.

Step 4 – Arrive at the park. Catch your breath. You’ll need it.

Step 5 – Proceed with an intense game of “Zombie Mommy.” Zombie Mommy – if you don’t know – is when the children run from you while giggling as you chase them from one piece of playground equipment to the next. Be prepared to stop on a dime as they suddenly claim, “NO, Mom! You DIDN’T tag me, because I’m on the swing and the swing is base! Duh!”

Step 6 – Pause briefly to catch your breath while random children approach you and ask you to play with them as well. And chase them. Make eye contact with said children’s parents to make sure they know you’re not some weirdo chasing their children around a playground while making growling Zombie sounds.

Step 7 – You’ve caught a child. Carefully throw the child to the ground – carefully, I said! Tickle the child and say in a friendly-Zombie-tone (yeah, you can do it) that you’re going to eat their brains. Release them. Repeat steps 5-7 for about half an hour.

Step 8 – It’s time to tell the kids – in your non-Zombie regular mom voice- that it’s time to go home. Threaten to not play Zombie Mommy again if they don’t listen.

Step 9 – Perform step 3 in reverse. Run after them all the way home.

Step 10 – Collapse into a sweaty pile on your couch.

 

Congratulations – you’ve just burned a million calories, played with your kids and tired them (and you) out for the evening. Give yourself 1.5 hours total for this exercise.

Oh – and it’s worth noting – despite the fact that you made eye contact with the other kids’ parents, you may still be perpetually labeled as the “crazy mom who chases kids at the park.”

 

 

 

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