Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sissy Beer

So we're at one of those fabulous Friday afternoon play dates where snacks turn into dinner. Lucky for me, this usually means a cocktail for the those of us who have been with kids all day and all week. My friend offers me a Magic Hat #9. Usually we have Bloody Marys- spicy with lots of olives, but with 5 hungry kids that wasn't happening. She said she wasn't sure if I liked "sissy beers" otherwise she would have offered earlier.
Silly girl. At the end of a week with kids- if it's cold, fermented, and comes in a bottle- I'm in.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Popular Girl

It starts early- especially with girls. At the age of 3, I wouldn't call it bullying, but it's definitely hurtful. Somewhere along the line, whether it's from television, older siblings, or some genetically predisposed cell that says “I know how to hurt you” kids say mean things. In my daughter's case it started with 3 year olds saying, “I'm not having any play dates with you.” Then it moved to 'You're not invited to my birthday party.” After that it was “I won't be your best friend.” And most recently it was, “If you want to be popular, you need to dress this way, talk that way, and do whatever I do. If you don't you won't be popular.”

That first day of 1st grade, my daughter didn't even know what the word “popular” meant. She's one of those kids who is friends with everyone. Not attached to one or two specific people, not attached to either boys or girls. We had dealt with some of these things before. I had explained (with support from earlier teachers) that in pre-school, everyone is friends. I had explained that it's not up to the kids who to invite to a birthday party, but it's up to the moms. Most recently I had explained that if someone says you have to DO something to be their best friend, maybe that person is not really your friend.

So here we were. The first day of 1st grade talking about being popular. I first asked my daughter if she knew this girl's name. She didn't so when discussing this situation, I just called her “Popular Girl.” I asked her if she knew what “popular” meant. She didn't so I explained what it meant and said that you don't have to be a certain way or dress a certain way for people to want to hang out with you. Your friends are your friends. The result of Popular Girl's entrance into our lives was that my daughter was now requesting certain clothes and boots that look a certain way. She's always had an eye for fashion so I was open to her recognition of current style and offered to comply with her request. I asked her, “Is this what Popular Girl was wearing?” She said yes. I reminded her that you don't have to dress a certain way for people to like you. She said she knew that, but liked the clothes anyway. So I did a little shopping.

The next day, there was yet another interaction with Popular Girl. She gave my daughter the same criteria for people to like her. I asked my daughter if she knew this girl's name yet. “No” she said, so we kept on going with Popular Girl.” Today my advice to my daughter was similar: Your friends are your friends and that's it. Then I asked her, “Does Popular Girl have a lot of friends?” She said, not surprisingly, “No.”

The third day of school, I got the same report. Popular Girl had once again set the rules for how my daughter was to go about having friends. On this day, I did two things. The first was I asked my daughter if Popular Girl had an older sister. She immediately said, “Yes! What's her name?” I told her I didn't know, but after 3 days, I was getting the picture of where the clothing and influences were coming from. This girl dressed nothing like my daughter's friends and classmates- most of whom are the oldest in their families.

Finally, on the fourth day of the first week of 1st grade, I asked my daughter to do two things for me as we discussed Popular Girl. The first was to just ignore her and walk away and the second was to point her out to me. After school my daughter showed me who Popular Girl was and I was able to do two things. Confirm my thoughts about the influence of an older sister and also get her name.

As it turned out, my daughter was able to walk away. Not surprisingly Popular Girl made her way back to my daughter and they are now friends. However the first chance I had, I spoke to the teacher and told her the whole story. I went in to the school on day while the kids were at lunch so I would not be seen. This time I had the girl's name and was able to retell the story with the happy ending. The teacher was surprised and not happy about this occurrence in her classroom. She did address it with the whole class in that “nursery school” way of being able to say everyone is friends with everyone without embarrassing any particular child. To this day, my daughter does not know that I spoke to her teacher and neither do the kids. While I know it would show her my support, it would also give ammunition to the kids for teasing.

I'm lucky. My daughter is strong and confident. Right now. It may not always be that way. I've been dropped by 3 sets of friends in my life. The gathering of one's friends to go against another friend is one of the most difficult things we endure as people and I think girls are especially mean about it. It takes a strong person to get past it, and an even stronger one to forgive. My daughter has forgiven Popular Girl and they are now friends. I hope each child has learned something from this experience.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Peanut News

In the news: A new approach to treating peanut allergies.
It seems almost too good to be true and I'm still not totally sold. I've seen Super Boy's face swollen for 2 days just from touching a nut. I can only imaging what would happen if he actually ate one and the swelling was INSIDE. At one point, it looked like Super Boy was going to be a lucky 1 out of 5 who would outgrow the allergy, but instead it expanded from peanuts to tree nuts. I found that out the hard way.
There are plenty of substitutes for peanut butter- some even worth eating. I've become a fan of Trader Joe's sun butter (made from sun flower seeds) which is so much more palatable than the cardboard called soynut butter- that stuff just shouldn't be sold.
As far as building a tolerance- I'll have no problem being patient on this one. I'm in no rush to start experimenting with peanuts, no matter how small the amount.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It started with an eye shadow

My friend, Erika, became a new Mary Kay consultant and asked me if I wanted to attend one of her Tuesday night meetings. The class would be about eyes. I never really mastered the whole eye make up thing and had always admired those who knew what they were doing. So I went.
I hadn't been all that far off in my current eye routine That is if you consider using the right colors in the wrong places no too far off. So I entered a world of color and design created just for me. I bought an eye shadow in a color I had never considered before and felt adventurous and pretty.
Erika built up her business and I attended a basic skin care class. I was happy with what I had been using, but why not support a friend? I was impressed! My only request for a change in skin care routine was that it not add any time to my current routine. With 3 kids and an average 20 minutes to get ready, including a shower, time is not a luxury. Erika gave me a plan that did two things. 1) It did not take up any more time than before and 2) felt clean and natural on my face. I was beginning to see the woman I was becoming. The mom who can look put together and still push a stroller. All of this coupled with my new "skinny jeans" and I was on a high.
Here comes the pinnacle of my new me. Erika called me again with the invitation to another Tuesday night meeting and class: luscious lips! I was immediately interested. I'd had even less previous success with my lips than my eyes.
We started with lip exfoliation. Who knew you could do that? Who knew lips needed that? Mine felt so soft I wanted to kiss someone! Next was a filler and smoother. More loveliness for my lips. Then came color. Erika pre-picked colors for me and they were perfect. A lip liner, lip stick, and lip gloss. When all put together, I looked like a new person.
Earlier this week, I had an appointment. I didn't want to look all schlumpy so I did my face that day- including my lips. When I dropped my son off at school and the compliments flowed. I was "gorgeous." "Where was I going?" "What was different?" The reality is that for 3 months, ever since that first eye shadow experience, my make up has been the same. The lip stick ensemble made all the difference. I felt beautiful all thanks to my friend Erika. My new lips have woven themselves into my daily routine and I love them- along with my skinny jeans and my stroller.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My morning

Another early wake up. I finished Breaking Dawn so now it's time for another early morning treat. If I looked at it any other way I'd be cranky. First- there was the wake up at 5am and then the bath at about 5:15. Not mine- no lavender and rose petals here- just a really poopy child whose cold has moved from his head to his tummy. The result is just too gross to post so I'll let you use your imagination. Post bath and some play it was time for Cheerios- aka- my time. Baby went into high chair with a trayful of Cheerios and I went to my knitting bag. The way I see it is that if the person for whom I am making the sweater wakes me up at 5am, then there's no issue with me working on this project and enjoying a little time "to myself." I may even go back to it while he plays and I'm done here. My final act in this little early morning session was making coffee. I started to feel bad for my husband because by the time he gets to the coffee, it will be about 2 hours old. Then I remembered that's he's still in bed and I am now joined by two children. I'm ready for coffee.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

cooking with kids

I just read an online article from Gourmet about a mother who was trying to cook dinner with her baby in a sling and it accidentally caught fire. Clearly it wasn't a major fire and the baby was not hurt but it brought back memories of when my oldest was a baby and I was trying to cook dinner. There I was, at the stove, baby in one arm, wooden spoon in the other. My body was at such a strange angle in an effort to not have her splattered and burned that cooking just became one of my larger challenges.
It took me 7 years and 3 kids to "learn" how to cook dinner with a family. Not for a family, but with a family- there is a difference. Long gone are the days I would spend hours on a Sunday preparing something new and wonderful for me and my husband. Now, if I spend all day cooking on a Sunday it's to make things that can be frozen and used later such as spaghetti sauce. I can't stand sauce in a jar so whether it ultimately becomes part of pizza, vodka sauce, or chicken parmigiana at least my sauce is at the base of the dish.
There are other easy things I have learned to do. i say easy beacause they can be done when my kids are not around or don't immediately need me for some emergency like getting a toy off a shelf.
Use a slow cooker: I know- it sounds so 1970s, but there are some really good recipes out there and you can get a good slow cooker for as little as $35. It's worth every penny. Some of my favorite cookbooks are: The Best Make Ahead Recipe, the Best Slow and Easy Recipes, (both are from the editors of America's Test Kitchen) and Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook.
Cook Ahead: This does not have to be a casserole, but can be a roast that goes in the oven two hours before you eat or something you pull out of your freezer and cook. I also will make something like rice, mashed potatoes or pasta in the late afternoon (around 3) so that at dinner it only has to go in the microwave to be heated up.
Use Steam in the bag vegetables: In my opinion, this is one of the best recent inventions. My favorites are the ones from Whole Foods and the time they save is amazing.
Roast: The editors of Fine Cooking magazine put out special publications fairly often. Most recently there was one on Roasting for meats, vegetables, and fish. The recipes were delicious and in most cases, roasting simply involves a little oil, a little seasoning, and sticking food in the oven- somehting that can easily be done just before, of after, getting that toy off a shelf.

It's only 4 1/2 hours!

Technically, it shouldn't be all that difficult. Once kids get into nursery school, and then elementary school, most of their days are spent someplace else with (thankfully) someone else entertaining them. So, why is it that by the time my kids get home from school I'm wondering who slipped them coffee on the way? It's amazing to me that those last 4 1/2 hours of the day can be the most difficult. Is it the homework, the pressure for play dates, feeding those hungry little people, getting them clean, or the protests at bed time? In theory it should be cake compared to the 12-14 hours with a young infant or toddler. It's not.

I get it- they have had a full day with friends and teachers and need some time to unwind and just be kids. So where does all the energy come from? In my efforts to make it through these last hours of the day without too much strife, I've tried many things. Homework first, play second. Play first, homework second. Let them help prepare dinner. Early baths or showers. Tickle fights. You name it. Most recently I've turned to aroma therapy. I have used Young Living essential oils to maintain my kids health so now I'm trying them to help soothe and calm the wired little people to enter my afternoons. There is a blend called Peace and Calming (just what I need). I tell the kids it's their own special "after school" oil. I put a little on their pulse points so they can easily smell it. They don't know what I'm hoping for from the oil, just that it's to help them after a "stressful" day. The final result is still to be determined, but if it helps keep the energy level bearable- I'm in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The upside of an early wake up

Is there one? For a long time I wasn't sure. Like most adults, I spent many years waking to the sound of an alarm clock. Then I had kids. Miraculously I slept through the alarm clock but awoke at the slightest peep coming from the baby monitor. Now it's a different story, and believe it or not there is an upside.

Two of my three children are early risers. Surely, one of those "paybacks" my father often referenced. The upside- I have discovered "extra time" in my day. Not that I would willingly wake at 5:30, but as long as I'm up.... So I have taken to reading. I'm deep into the Twilight series (www.stepheniemeyer.com) and about 100 pages from finishing book 4, Breaking Dawn. I suppose I could do something more productive like finish the dishes from last night or clean my stove. Maybe when I am done with this book I will. But for this morning, I am stealing some extra time to do something I love before the mad dash to get kids to school. I have finally found an upside to waking when it's still dark.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A child's gift

I am not what I would consider a religious person, but I do consider myself faithful. There is a difference here and it wasn't until adulthood that I actually began to consider that organized religion and faith could be separate as well as connected. I have faith and have taken the structured, organized religion aspect of that with a grain of salt for most of my life. Growing up we did not miss a single Sunday during the school year. I was baptized, confirmed and married in the same church I attended as a child. However, I had not explored my faith in depth until I met my husband. His level of faith and religious expertise far exceeds mine.

As with most things, once we had kids it was time for me to explore the church/faith/religion thing again. I wanted to give my children the same positive church experience I had growing up as well as the benefit of my husband's faith. So we began visiting churches and taking the kids to Sunday School on as regular a basis as anyone else does these days.

My daughter has always enjoyed Sunday school and hearing Bible stories. Both the kid friendly ones and the ones that teach stronger lessons one may not find in a book of children's Bible stories. During a time when we were in between churches Bible stories at dinner was the extent of our kids religious education. My daughter was always captivated by the stories and struggled to understand. "If God said to not eat the fruit, then why didn't Adam and Eve listen?" she would say.

Over the past couple of years we have brought the kids to Good Friday services at church. This year I took all 3 kids to an Ash Wednesday service. A first for me and probably the first one they will remember. The priest told a story, sang songs with the kids, celebrated the Eucharist, and at the end gave each child an olive wood cross from Jerusalem. The children were told that if they came across someone who needed the cross more than they did to go ahead and give it away and she would give them another one to replace it.

My daughter requested that her cross be made into a necklace so she could wear it every day. My son chose to keep his in his pocket so he could find it when he needed to. I added mine to the myriad of items on my key chain. The next day my daughter went to school. When she came home she told me she had given a friend her cross- he was having a hard day. She told him to wear it under his shirt so the teacher wouldn't take it away and add it to her collection of items kids bring into school that can be distracting in class. I was amazed and so proud of her! I reminded her that we would replace her cross on Sunday and told her it was great the way she shared with a friend in need.

Children don't have the fears and inhibitions most adults do about faith. In their innocence kids just share it. They don't worry that someone will judge them or think it strange to share a cross. I can honestly say that I don't know that I would have done the same. In fact, I know I didn't. I have a friend who's 4 year old son had emergency surgery. I should have given her my cross. Instead I called and texted her in the hospital and offered to do anything I could to help. Her husband had things under control so anything I offered was not needed. But this simple gesture could have been so much more. To share a cross in a time of need would have shown something totally different from a text asking how things are going. I have learned from my daughter's gift and will do my best to remember to include it with the offer to help.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Things lost and broken

Today I broke a coffee mug. For the second time. Same mug- broken twice. It got me thinking.

There have been a few times in my life when items I have suddenly become lost or broken. This has happened in groups as well as with individual pieces. The first broken item of significance was a necklace given to me by my high school boyfriend. This was a graduation gift and meant a lot to me. He was my first, and my first love. :) I was a year older and went off to college- something that I had been anxious to do for 8 months. Even with a wonderful new love life, it was time for a change.

I went off to school and it wasn't long before I had a new boyfriend. In the process of growing that relationship I broke the necklace that my first love had given me. At the time I saw it as a sign that something old was done and it was time to move on. So I did. I didn't even look back.
In the 20 years since that incident I don't know how many other things have broken or gotten lost. Certainly not enough to make note of what it might mean or symbolize in my life.

March, 2009. In the past 3 days I have lost two earrings, both from different pairs, and then today I broke the handle of a coffee mug. Again. The earrings I have worn several times in the many years I have had them and clearly never lost one before. One pair was from my dad, the other from my mom. The coffee mug was a gift from my mother. The first time the handle broke (by exactly the same method I might add) I glued it back together. It has since survived the dishwasher, microwave, and coffee almost every day. However, twice now it has NOT survived removal from the dishwasher while my 5 year old is trying to talk to me.

What this all means, I am not sure. Are my relationships with my parents changing as I get further into being a parent myself? Is the one repaired relationship doomed to be broken again? Should I just always wear earrings that have backs attached to them? Based on my first experience with something broken and the fact that these three things have happened in 3 days, I'm just waiting for what's coming next.

Thoughts? Has anyone else experienced this? I know my mother has and we agree that these types of things usually mean something, but exactly what remains to be seen.

I don't expect to find the earrings I lost. I never even heard them fall. I have not glued the mug together again and I'm not sure I will. Am I testing fate? Am I just waiting for what's next? Have I just not gotten enough sleep lately?