Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Should Have Stayed With Mommy.

This post unintentionally got put on the back burner.  Life. Life. Life. But here it is.  A week later--but I'm still thankful for it. 

On Saturday afternoon Chris asked Georgia if she wanted to go to Lowe's with him, and then the dollar store to pick up some new princess stickers.  She said no.  I looked at him longingly with huge puppy dog eyes that said, "Please do your best to make this trip to Lowe's sound like a trip to Disney Land because I could really just use an hour of silence."

He went in again.  And her response, "I really just want to stay with mommy."
That's sweet.  It really is.  And I love being a mom even more when I hear stuff like that.  But sometimes.....just one magical hour is the little blue pill we need, right?  And lately, Georgia and I have been going at it like two middle school girls.  Everything.  Everything. Everything is a fight.

"I don't want to wear that. It's not pink.  Dark pink."
While shrieking, "Theeeeeeese socks don't feeeeeeel right." Followed by a dramatic fall to the ground. 
"Now no one will like me." Followed by a slamming door and screaming--all over the wrong bow. 
"If it's not perfect, I'm not doing it," as her crayons get pushed on the floor.

And that's a sliver of the fights.  Like the smallest sliver.
Thankfully, they're usually quick.  Because, really, Georgia is a pleaser and she wants to make you happy.  She wants structure and rules and expectations; as evidenced by how good our days are when they are orderly and calm and full of the norm.  Not rocket science, I know.  But a breath of fresh air when they blow in.

And I know we'll get through this phase just like every other phase that feels like it takes ten years when you're in the midst of it, but really it takes five minutes and you can't believe it's really over and you kind of miss it when it passes.  In the thick of it though--I get sad--because I feel like I'm missing out on precious moments of bonding with my daughter because they get eclipsed by the parenting--or so I think.

Back to Saturday afternoon.  Chris convinced Georgia to head to Lowe's with him--she got to wear her Cinderella dress.  They got all buckled into the car and were just pulling out of the neighborhood when Georgia said quietly, kind of to herself and kind of to Chris, "I wish I would have stayed with mommy."  Chris said, "What did you just say?"  "I wish I would have stayed with mommy.  I really love her." She had a good time with Chris in the end; she loves her daddy too--like a whole lot.  For a moment though, she wanted to be with her mommy.

Chris told me this story at the end of the night.  And I smiled.  And I wanted to go lay in bed with Georgia and kiss her soft cheeks until she woke up and whispered she loved me (because she will).  I needed that story in the midst of some tumultuous days with her and I love my husband for so many reasons; that night--for sharing that story with me.

These little minds we're raising are interesting.  We tend to think they're classic, "what you see is what you get."  But there's more to them, that they don't let on to you--just like most adults that we know.  Thoughts and musings that they keep locked up inside and don't feel comfortable sharing for whatever reason--only to be shared at the perfect time, sometimes when the person who needs to hear it most isn't around.

But thankfully, when we do get to hear them they happen to come just when we are desperate for them.  They keep us going and tell us, "Keep doing what you're doing.  It's working.  And it's not as terrible as you're thinking it is." And even if you don't get to hear them, I'll bet you a million bucks those little thoughts in the little minds we're rearing are still there.  Just like we have amazing things to tell people we love, but might be having a hard time with, so do our kids.  And on rough days, I don't know about you, but I'm choosing to cling to that, and believe in that, instead of a door getting slammed in my face, and a whirling dervish in my living room, and fits over socks and three quarter length sleeves.

I cling to that and the sweet moments that we really do have in the week like Georgia giving her baby a bath--which by the way--has become a daily ritual.  Sometimes multiple times a day.  If this baby was human she'd be a wrinkled up raisin in desperate need of some triple action gold bond.

And after this sweet moment of little baby lovin'.........

there was this maniacal moment of little baby getting the guts squeezed out of her.

I leave you with a video.  A video that Georgia wanted me to record and "definitely put on my 'clog'." So, here's my sweet girl--giving you all a tutorial on the best way to bathe a baby...........

Those good moments?  Sear them into your mama memories and cash them in on rough, rough days.  And for heaven's sake, if your kid says something fabulous about their mom or dad--tell them!  It's better than a bouquet of flowers and a pedicure..........I mean, a close second........but still............

Happy Weekend!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Clean Rooms.

I cleaned like a crazy woman yesterday.  I took down all the remaining 'winter stuff'; fake snow covered trees, Valentines Day hearts, the winter terrarium on my kitchen table, the bright red felt runner, the red wreath off the front door......all of it.  And in its place I put little pots of succulents on the kitchen table, some new plants in my kitchen window, fake moss in jars, and other various 'spring is most likely right around the corner' decorations. And I dusted and I finished the laundry (which as you know lasts an all of ten minutes) and I vacuumed and when I went to bed last night it just felt really........good.

And this morning I took Georgia to the rooms stayed clean.  And right from school we drove to meet my mom at our normal 1/2 way spot when Georgia is going to stay with her for a few the rooms stayed clean.  And now I'm home, alone, until I go to meet Chris for dinner, in this clean room house.  And as wonderful as it is, it's really just okay.

Because the thing is--my house doesn't really feel like my house anymore unless Georgia, and all that she is about is in it.  Unless there are remnants of dress up clothes scattered around the living room, little plastic shoes that I trip over on the stairs, the Fresh Beat Band playing in the background, nutri-grain bar crumbs on the kitchen floor, paper scraps around the craft table, a stuffed animal menagerie on the couch, and calls from the kitchen, "Mommy--I didn't really mean to spill all that water. I'm so sorry," it just doesn't feel like home.  And honestly, the clean rooms, don't mean as much as they used to.  Don't get me wrong--I'll always strive for them and thoroughly enjoy them and pick up as much as I can as the messes get made--but ultimately, when the rooms aren't perfect, it means Georgia is here and that's better than anything else.

She's only gone for two days--my work schedule this week demanded it.  And she loves going to Gaga's more than macaroni and cheese.  But the minute I drop her off I can't wait to get her back.

So, for the next two days, I'll relish these clean rooms..........

but after that.........
I'll look forward to Georgia being back......and everything that it means.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

From a teacher's mouth. {Thoughts on why I'm glad my mom took over my 4th grade bug collection.}

"Helllllo Clarice."  
Sorry, I had to.  Bug collections always give me Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster shivers.  Not at all the point of this post.  

But here's what is (and it's kind of a soapbox).  
In fourth grade I had to make a bug collection.  Everyone knew that fourth grade was the bug collection year so all summer long whenever we'd come across a praying mantis or a cicada shell, or a shriveled up bee, or whatever, we saved it.  And then, come September or October we'd haul them out of our freezers and impale them with pins and oh-so-nicely display them.  And maybe this is what I could have done on my own.  It's reasonable.  It's neat. It's fine. 

My mom and dad however, would never have that.  They were more interested in completed projects of the variety displayed below.  And this was the expectation for every project.  Rarely did we complete a school project of this magnitude on our own.  It wasn't an option.  Period.  In fact, I don't know if we'd have been permitted to leave the house with a project like the one above. Not because it's horrible, but because it wasn't the best that we could do with a little help.

And I'm sure that people might disagree with this parenting-project-philosophy.  In recent years America has decided that kids should be able to do projects all on their own and it's a badge of honor for your kid to be able to say, "I made it all on my own," even if the end result is crap. Yep, I said it, crap.  A lot of American kids turn in crap (and there are varying degrees of it) and call them projects or papers or presentations, "that I did all by myself." As if doing something by yourself is the hallmark of quality.  The other spell that America seems to be under is the one that says if a parent helps a kid with a project, guides them to do their best, shows them how to enhance an idea, shows them what they are actually capable of that their kid isn't doing the project on their own and the validity of the finished product is cheapened.  That's a lie.

As an educator for the last thirteen years I'd say that most teachers, if they're being honest, hope that parents are helping, really helping, kids with their projects.  Because the thing is, we know that when parents sit down and help their kids, show them how to do something better, give them ideas, spur on creativity, model how to do something, send them back to the drawing board if need are inspired.  They get excited about what they can do and what the end result looks like.  And when they get excited that they produced a top-notch assignment, they want to do even better the next time around.  And that's growth.  Authentic and viable growth.

School-age kids need help in almost everything that they do--it's okay to offer's imperative. It's our job and it's their time to learn.  Even when they fight help; they need it.  My three year old daughter "knows" how to get her snow clothes on to play outside--she makes it very clear that she wants to do it on her own.  So I let her.  And then I step in and show her that her boots aren't secured correctly, her thumbs aren't in the mittens the right way, her coat is buttoned crooked, and that without me helping her she'll be freezing and miserable when she goes outside.  And she still gets mad at me.  And I don't care.

Because bottom line I want her to have a good experience when she goes out to play in the snow.  I want her to see me buttoning her coat the right way over and over so she'll learn to do it on her own one day.  If I never showed her and just cheered praise about something being done wrong or mediocre because I wanted her to feel good about the fact that she did it "all on her own" she'd get frostbite and sick and wonder why I said she'd done a great job and then went outside and froze and got snow up her leg.  And nine times out of ten after I've helped her she'll say, "Oh...that feels a lot better.  Thank-you." I haven't robbed her of her independence, I've helped it.....because I've modeled the right way to do something.  I've given her legitimate confidence to do something better the next time.

I've noticed lately that I've had to employ some of the 'you will do your best work in this family' attitude  with Georgia.  She'll sit and draw for hours at the little table we have in the kitchen.  And she can do amazing things.  The most adorable little people and animals that she'll pore over and perfect.  I go crazy over them.

She brought these cuties to me and asked me to help her connect their hands.  I did.  And then I told her it'd be cute if she added some glitter glue and I showed her how to use the new tubes of it that we had.  I also mentioned that they didn't have shoes on and she should add shoes to their legs.  She was happy for the suggestions.  Suggestions that built up her confidence in what she could do and what she could get her projects to look like....not suggestions that made her feel like I was taking over and dictating what the final product should be.

A few days ago she told me that she wanted to draw a special picture for someone she knew--someone that was an adult.  She told me she wanted it to be amazing. "Great!," I said.  "What are you going to draw?"  She told me, "a lady wearing a pink dress."  She got to work.

And this is what she drew.  It took her two minutes.  But she did it "all on her own."  She asked me if I liked it and thought it was beautiful.  "Hmmm, " I said.  "It doesn't seem like you took that much time on it and I've seen you do way better when you let me help you or when you just take your time and do it like..........," and I listed some suggestions.  She replied, "Well, it's okay, we can still send it this way."

"No," I said, "we can't."  "We're not sending this to someone we love as a special Valentine's Day drawing because I know it's not your best work." She looked at me for a few minutes and sat back down.  We've had the "best work" conversation before about a litany of things and she knows I'm not messing around when it comes to best work.

Now, lest you think I'm five minutes away from becoming Tiger Mom--I don't care if she draws scribbles and loops like this all day long......but when the purpose of the drawing is to send it to someone we love for a Valentine's Day card there are going to be there are for any project. And when I've seen what she's capable of on other days--I know what her best really is.

So she started again.  And I sat next to her and gave her some simple suggestions and reminded her of things she'd drawn in the past and helped her with a few shapes that she was stuck on.  I was not taking over her project. I was helping her see what she was capable of doing if she put her mind to it, focused, and worked hard.  At one point she told me she didn't want my help.  "You're kind of stuck with it," I said.  In the end she made an adorable little Cinderella drawing that was absolutely her best work.  She learned how to mix glitter glue and water color paint and thought that was pretty great.

She was proud and said, "I did this all on my own," proving my point that helping kids doesn't equal taking away their ability to accomplish something independently.  It only does if we perpetuate the myth that working with someone, whether that be a parent, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a spouse, or a child is not as valuable, is in fact less valuable, than working as a team.

So here's the thing.  Do projects with your kids.  Pretty much all of them.  Even when your kids insist that you are to have no part in them. School works best when it's done in tandem with home.  You'll build your kids confidence because they'll see what they're truly capable of and teachers (like me) will love it! And another thing--if your kids want to wage a war over a project and turn in crap, consider not letting them and facing a zero on a project that might very well damage their grade beyond repair.  Because the truth is, as a teacher, I wouldn't let garbage get turned in.  I'd tell kids, "I'm not grading that.  I know it's not your all.  I provided you with clear guidelines, you could have asked for help, planned ahead, or taken more pride........and I won't accept that.....I've seen what your best is, and that's not it."  I suppose I'd rather have them learn that lesson as a third grader or an eighth grader versus when they're a student teacher, or an intern at their dream job, or during the first week in a new position right out of college.

Our kids aren't learning that lesson like we did and whoa.....does it show.  We're all up in arms and playing the "wounded ego" card telling stories of how our moms 'took over our bug collections in fourth grade and made it more about them than us.'  And we need to stop and get real.  It wasn't about them, it was about showing us how great we could be....if we accepted help and admitted that as a fourth grader we might not know everything there is to know about making a bug collection look amazing.  It was about laying a ground-work of good ideas for future projects.  And it worked.

It worked a lot better than the fluffy, false praise of, "And you did it all by yourself!"

Let's change our language to, "And you worked so hard, and took suggestions, and asked for help, and applied yourself, and look what you accomplished."

That's all.  For now.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

When a weekend comes together......

Phew.  Those Super Bowl lights came back on.  And is it just me and my complete lack of understanding and/or apathy about football that is wondering why every single bathroom, outer office, and night light had to be on to resume play in the stadium?

Anyway......we had a great weekend.  It started with Georgia's school carnival on Friday night.

Parker...he can elicit smiles out of Georgia like no one else.  

Funny story....a few weeks ago I was with Georgia at school for a special assembly on a day that she doesn't normally go to school and we ran into Parker in the hallway.  He had a few other friends surrounding him; all girls.  He gave Georgia a big hug and went on his way.  As he disappeared down the hallway, Georgia stared after him and said quietly, "Who are those other girls?  I didn't know Parker knew other girls."  Ah.....little heart breaks start early.  And Parker's mom (who is one of my best friends) and I had to laugh that Georgia believed she was the only woman in Parker's life.  Those life lessons are never easy are they? 

Moving on......
The carnival was filled with all things a crazy school carnival on a Friday night should be filled with.  Face painting and best friends, jump houses, games that dads win for you, sugar, bad prizes that break when you get home and you can cry over, more sugar, and the surreal realization for Chris and I that our little baby is big enough that we're attending school events with her. We bumped into parents from her class that we don't really know yet who wanted to set up a play-date with Georgia and their children and we watched Georgia run shrieking up to her teachers when she saw them the way kids do when they see their teachers at school events........and I really couldn't think of a better way to spend a Friday night. 

And on Saturday, we woke up to beautiful snow.  The first really pretty snow of the year.  Outside we went...........

Ingenious snow-fort building courtesy of Fiona and Parker's dad.  He probably missed his calling as an igloo architect.

And tonight......we're just home.  And that's a good place to be after a few crazy weeks and more to come.  And because I know you believe Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg would have enhanced the Super Bowl halftime show it is for your viewing pleasure.  And if you've never seen this.....seriously?.......and you're welcome. 

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