Archive | parenting RSS feed for this section

Caution: Bridge May Ice in Winter

21 Apr

So many life lessons exist for the kids within the miles and hours spent in a cocoon on wheels with other people.

  • We need fuel to run. This can be taught by the amount of gas fill-ups needed or snack food fixes you’ll require. Even though we know they aren’t good for us, we will most often invite things we don’t eat on any other normal day – chips, beef jerky, Combos, giant pickles in bags and Swedish Fish – to be an additional travel companions.
  • Sleep happens.
  • Interstate billboards offer you plenty of knowledge nuggets about religion, sex, eating habits and laws we should follow to make society better and safer.

21 is the legal drinking age.

Litter is bad.

Speed limit is slower than you’re driving.

Seat belts even keep a picture of the state of Georgia safe.

  • Stretching is important.
  • Too much time trapped with the same people causes fits of laughter, whining, tested nerves and lunacy. Such are the emotions many of us go through on a given day.
  • The road trip games we play can offer quite a few lessons. For example, we enjoy the alphabet game. We play ours by finding words on signs, billboards and cars that go in alphabetical order. You can’t say the same word as another person unless it’s for Q, X and Z. (The toughest to find.) First person to find the Z word, wins. This most recent road trip showed me how this game wad teaching the kids:
    • Patience – sometimes you need to wait for 20 minutes and few signs before finding your word.
    • Things don’t always come easy – daddy was driving too fast by signs, some signs were blocked by other vehicles, one person would say a word faster, etc.
    • Make the best of a situation – when you are the only one still looking for a G word, sing a silly song about the letter G and how it is hiding from you. (Nia had a lot of original tunes.)
  • Be ready for the speed bumps. Traffic, accidents, car issues, items accidentally left on the roof, wrong or misread directions, a threatening wasp unexpectedly trapped in the small space with you, a spilled drink, and/or extra pit stops will attempt to throw you off course and shatter your spirit. How you handle these situations is a glimpse at how you’d handle problems at school, work or relationships. Proceed with caution.

Orion’s Belt

20 Apr

I looked up at the stars the other night. It’s such a rare thing for me anymore that I had to think about the last time I stopped to take in the view. This time, I was running through my neighborhood on a clear evening. Instead of looking down at the ground so I don’t trip or step in a dog’s gift to the sidewalk or keeping my eyes forward so I keep moving in that same direction, my attention shifted toward the sky. Spotting the Big Dipper was as easy as it ever was. Like riding a bike.

I remember how much I used to love star gazing. Sitting on the front porch of my childhood home with a glass of my mom’s iced tea keeping me company. I felt so free being old enough to sit out at night by myself. (Sure, many nights I was hoping some boy I liked would drive by my house. On a rare occasion, that would actually happen.) For the most part though, I sat there and let the stars hypnotize me as I thought out love stories in my mind.

Starry nights used to have such an “An American Tail” feel for me as well. The sky was the one thing that I felt connected Andrew to me when we were oceans apart. I know it sounds cheesy, but I couldn’t help but think of the song “Somewhere Out There” when I was in Georgia and he was in Kosovo and Kuwait/Iraq. Although, I know he wouldn’t wish on the same star because he’s not into all that hogwash.

I’m not sure when I started taking the stars for granted. If it wasn’t for that recent run and Nia’s new knowledge and fascination with the solar system, my eyes would still be shooting straight ahead. Recently, she pointed at the sky and said, “There’s Orion’s Belt.” Something I never knew. I can’t wait for her to teach me more.

Solar System by Nia

Solar System by Nia

Priceless Sharpie® Stains

3 Mar

I’m sure I should care more when things in our house get marked up or stained. It’s not that I don’t respect property or our things, it’s just I’ve prepared myself that accidents happen. We even bought furniture knowing it was going to be “loved” by our family.

Besides, how can I be upset about these Sharpie® marks:

Sharpie Stain

Sharpie® Stain

When they were only left because Nate was drawing and coloring these precious portraits:

Andrew by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie® Andrew
Drawn by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie Nicole by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie® Nicole
Drawn by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie Nia by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie® Nia
Drawn by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie Self-Portrait

Sharpie® Self-Portrait

Laugh Track Humor

24 Feb

funny“Why do they keep laughing at everything she says?”

It’s a valid question, Nate. Especially since 75% of what comes out of her scripted sitcom mouth is not funny. (Or is it?)

“It’s called a laugh track, buddy. Basically, the people who make the tv show have a sound that makes it seem like an audience is laughing. They use it so we know something was meant to be funny.” Even when it’s not.

That got me thinking about the whole chicken versus egg thing and questions started ping-ponging around in my brain.

How much do we learn about humor from the laugh track cues on sitcoms? (Are many of us are trained to laugh at things because of what we absorbed watching tv punchlines that producers led us to believe are hysterical because of an audience reaction?)

Why do you want to teach my children to laugh at the sassy little girl on your program? Do you know how hard I’m working to teach them not to sass? Sure, I know we don’t have to watch your show but I actually do find that sassy little girl comical – probably because of the early laugh track humor invasion established in my brain at an early age. Instead, I’ll just watch the show with them and when her line hits I’ll smirk in my head and then reinforce to the kids, “We shouldn’t talk to people that way.” I’m so conflicted and hypocritical over here.

How much of our humor comes naturally? Some are just born with a fabulous sense of humor? Maybe we learn it from the adults we had around us as we grew up? Funny friends? But where did they learn that someone tripping over a chair and into a pile of garbage is funny? Banana peel on a head and then a quirky line to cut to commercial? Bwa-ha-ha! (I only laugh at these scenes on special days.) What makes me laugh so hard at the zany things Amy Duncan does on Good Luck Charlie? I laugh at her daily and only feel a little ashamed about it. And why the heck do I think the drunk driving scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin is funny? It’s so wrong. So wrong. But it makes my laugh go silent and tears fill in my eyes because it strikes me as hilarious. Surely I can’t connect that demented sense of humor to laugh tracks?

Are emoticons the electronic equivalent to a televised laugh track, helping readers know when they are supposed to smile? How will we know when to chuckle or that someone is just kidding unless they give us a 🙂 or a ;)?

Of course, I am ridiculous and these are all just the inner-workings of my mind as I was doing the dishes one night. It does make me laugh when I think about it all though. Which makes me wonder …

Made With Love … by Daddy

24 Feb

It seemed like a simple enough wish to help bring to life for Nia. “I want to make a Princess Leia sock doll and an Anakin doll for Nate.” Sure. Why not? After all, I just helped her a few months ago when she wanted to make a sock doll of Baby Peach (from the Mario Bros. game). However, (and it’s ok to laugh) here’s the doll I helped create:

Princess Peach Doll - made by Nia and Mom

Princess Peach Doll – made by Nia and Mom

Yes, those are yarn arms and an old Barbie dress. If I can do that, surely I can help with the new dolls. Besides, Nia loves her Peach. Even if she can’t cuddle with her because one of the crumbled papers that serve as hair may detach. (Have I ever told you I’m not the craftiest and I don’t know how to sew? I’m sure it’s obvious now!)

We got to Michaels craft store and started brainstorming the pieces we would need to create. Nia knew she wanted buttons for eyes and yarn for hair. Then, my suggestions started flying.

“How about a Styrofoam ball for a head?”
“Pipe cleaner for a mouth?”
“Felt for clothes.”
“We can just use some cotton balls for stuffing.”

Nia seemed pleased with these ideas. We loaded our basket as Andrew and Nate decided on a Star Wars model spaceship to build. At some point during our shopping, Andrew grabbed a bag of stuffing for dolls. It was almost like he knew he would have a bigger part in this project. In fact, he’s the reason the dolls came to life as wonderfully as they did.

My contribution? I stuffed a Styrofoam ball in one of the socks. That ball didn’t make the final cut though. It was replaced (rightly so) with cuddly stuffing.

Sewing Machine Daddy

Sewing Machine Daddy

I went to the grocery store and when I came home an excited Nia greeted me at the door holding a stuffed sock with sewn on arms and legs. It was a real sock doll. I came upstairs and saw Andrew sitting at the table focused on the sewing machine (with a beer beside it). “Shut up!” I said to him in shock and praise. He laughed. I was amazed.

He worked on the Leia and Anakin sock dolls for several hours over two days. The kids stuffed the dolls and gave guidance on how they wanted the hair and clothes. Nia also helped by making Leia’s belt. I helped by shouting compliments and joyful words like, “Unbelievable!” “Wow!” and “Those are the best sock dolls ever!”

Toward the end, sewing machine daddy scoffed at me when I asked if he was going to use a pipe cleaner for a mouth. “I’m going to sew it.” Know what else he sewed? The dolls’ yarn hair and the scar near Anakin’s eye. Incredible.

Made with love … by daddy. Something the kids will treasure for always.

The Creation of Andrew's Leia and Anakin Sock Dolls

The Creation of Andrew’s Leia and Anakin Sock Dolls

Loves her Princess Leia

Loves her Princess Leia

Loves his Anakin

Loves his Anakin

“I wanted her to be real …”

13 Feb

Disclaimer: This post is a killer of magic and wonder. I only hope other curious little ones with the google machine don’t discover the truth from my words. I write this with hesitation because I’m fearful of disappointing any other children besides the two I am responsible for messing up. 

“I wanted her to be real,” Nia lamented to us at 3 a.m. She had just asked her daddy, “Are you the Tooth Fairy?”


She saw him, let him make the exchange and then came to our bedroom to make sure she saw what she knew she saw. He answered her honestly and then asked her if she was sad.

“I just wanted her to be real.”

I was in the bathroom when the discovery happened and immediately went and cuddled in her twin bed with her when I heard about it. My little girl – growing up. I kissed her on her head and she snuggled me. Our middle of the night discussion then began.

I said I was sorry she was sad and that mommy and daddy just wanted her to experience some magic and wonder. I explained the Tooth Fairy is real through us and assured her that money for teeth will still happen while she sleeps – but let’s not tell Nate yet. She giggled with relief that she would still get the dollars and told me she wouldn’t reveal the secret to him or her friends because she didn’t want to ruin the magic for them. I let her know mommy and daddy went through it all too when we were little. I also shared more secrets and told her I kept her teeth. That made her giggle more and ask why.

“I couldn’t throw them away.”

“Where are they?”

“Oh, all over in hiding spots in my room.”

“But what if Nate finds one?”

“Well, I guess I’ll have to think of something. Kind of like mommy and daddy had to when the Tooth Fairy didn’t show up for your Friday night lost tooth. We felt so sad about that, Bean.”

“I still love you,” she assured me.

“I hope so!”

Giggles and hugs.

Luckily, she didn’t ask about any other magical characters in her life. I tried to stop the conversation before that happened though – plus, it was 3 in the morning. Andrew warned me before I went to her room, “Be careful not to tear down the entire fake person organization.” I’m sure she’s on to those as well and those questions will be coming. I think she’ll be ok with it all though. Before I left her room, I reflected, “I guess it was time. You’re almost double-digits.” She reasoned, “And that’s how many teeth I’ve lost. I’m now in the double-digits at 11.”

I think I cried more than she did.

Update: Later that night …

I cried more than she did – until later that night. She had the entire day to process that what she had believed for so long, wasn’t true. She told her teacher and cried. Her friends asked her what was wrong but she couldn’t tell them because she didn’t want to ruin anything for them. She had to wait all day and then some more because she couldn’t talk about it around her little brother.

She whispered to me as I dished dinner, “I’m just really sad about it. I really wanted her to be real.”

“I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

She then asked it. THE question. “What about Santa and the Easter Bunny? Are you and daddy them too?”

I paused and then mustered, “I’m not sure we should talk about this right now …”

Seeing her struggling still, I went over to her and asked, “Do you want them to be real?”


“What if I tell you they aren’t?”

Immediate tears.

Nate then came to the table and we had to pause the conversation. After dinner, she told me, “I was thinking about it. Even if you and daddy are all those things, it’s ok because you are doing it out of love and because you want to do something nice for us.”

I hugged her but we had to leave the house then and I asked if she’d like to talk about it later with her daddy too. She wanted to and that’s when she really broke down.

She cried and cried as she leaned on her daddy’s shoulder. He told her about how disappointed he was when he found out and that he cried too. He told her we never meant to trick her in a mean way – that we were just trying to create a special thing for her to imagine. He said she may like to do the same for her children but she can decide that when she’s older. She asked again about Santa and the Easter Bunny. We danced around it but never really said one way or the other. It was too difficult and too much at once. Too much.

One thing that helped heal her heart was hearing Andrew talk about what he felt like when he learned. We also asked if she wanted to help us when it was time for Nate’s next Tooth Fairy visits. She really liked that idea but also worried about keeping the secret. She felt it was lie and didn’t want to lie. We talked about how I tell her things that a lot of other kids her age may not know (like what bad words mean or puberty things) but then I’ll add, “Now, don’t tell your friends because their parents may not be ready for them to know yet.” I said since she was ok keeping that a secret, maybe she could treat this the same way. That helped her but I know she will still be worried.

Thinking back on all of this, it really is her first big disappointment in life. There is something to be said for making it to almost 10 years old without major heartbreak. Andrew brought up an excellent point to her and she seemed to understand. He said, “We know this is so sad and hard to deal with but this also will teach you about how to handle disappointments and express your feelings in a healthy way. It isn’t good if you never learn how to let your feelings out or know how to get through situations that hurt you.”

It’s a tough lesson for all of us. I still struggle with it. Andrew and I both are now, knowing that we essentially set our child up for this disappointment. She tried to blame herself for waking up and “ruining it.” We tried to blame ourselves for ever starting it in the first place. We told her it wasn’t her fault at all – she told us it wasn’t ours. In fact, we asked her if she wishes she had never experienced the magic of the Tooth Fairy and she said no. She still wants it to be there.

So do we, sweetie.

A New Star Wars Fan – and His Art

15 Jan

Nate experienced Star Wars for the first time over the Christmas and New Year school break and, of course, became captivated with the story and characters. He rooted for Anakin so much that he cried and cried at the end of Revenge of the Sith. I had to console him right up until he closed his eyes for sleep that night.

With that sorrow for Anakin, I’m wondering if I should be concerned Nate seems to favor the Dark Side characters. Based off his drawings, you can certainly tell where the Force is guiding him. The sweetness of his drawings makes it difficult to be too concerned though. Darth “Mole” doesn’t seem so bad through the 7-year-old eyes and ears of Nate.

"The Dark Side" as drawn by Nate, 7 years old

“The Dark Side” as drawn by Nate, 7 years old

Young Anakin as drawn by Nate

Young Anakin as drawn by Nate, 7 years old

Andrew loved the order they watched the movies too. He thought it was so cool how the kids were surprised at certain major plot points and their reactions made him feel like a kid again watching them for the first time. They watched the movies in this order: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, The Phantom Menace,  Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and then Return of the Jedi. It was a good plan.

Little Helper

9 Jan

Nate is becoming such a little helper around the house. He likes to run the vacuum and over-Windex all the surfaces he can reach. The other day was the sweetest when he helped put away groceries without even being asked. I went to change clothes after church and the store and when I walked to the kitchen I saw empty grocery bags hanging from the pantry door. He was busy loading up the shelves. “Does this go here, momma?”

I think he most enjoyed helping with his school lunch. We made ham, cheese, mayo and mustard on whole grain with some olives he wanted to cut himself. The lunch also featured a side of giggles as he kept putting the silliest things in his lunchbox to then declare, “It’s all ready!”

I’m so thankful for his eagerness to help and his attitude to have fun with the “work.”


Cutting olives for his sandwich.


Making a “monster” face.


Picking what he wants in his lunch.


Chicken Broth for lunch. This replaced a bag of marshmallows he just had in there. Sweet, silly boy.


Innocent Expectations

1 Jan

High expectations have added drama to quite a few important dates for me. I’m guilty of letting my hopes get in the way of fun.

I wanted certain things to happen on certain special days and they didn’t. I wanted romance and wooing but instead ended up resentful and woeful or alone due to job responsibilities. I plan huge parties to mark annual celebrations, stressing over details like napkins and cheap party favors. I didn’t want to have to do the dishes on my birthday but I do. I love Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up about this. It always makes me stop and think about how my expectations explode what still could (and should) be a good time.

Now though, I have something sweeter to think about to change my perspective – how easy and lovely it is for children to enjoy themselves without weeks of planning, perfect decorations or an extravagant menu. All they need is a few minutes banging pots and pans.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

The kids showed such pure joy by getting to stay up until midnight and go outside to welcome 2013 with a cacophony of spoons on metal. They giggled and giggled. They thought it was wild fun and then it was over and they were off to bed with prayers and a warning of bedroom separation if sleep didn’t happen quickly and quietly. A few more laughs leaked out from behind the closed door and that was it. One of them didn’t even stay awake through the countdown and I know she won’t be disappointed about that – not like I would be now. “Can’t believe I slept through the New Year …”

Sleepy Celebrator

Sleepy Celebrator

I suppose it was that easy for many of us when we were little. Before the dreams of a trip to the Big Apple to watch the ball drop in person or the fairy tale idea we got from the movies where two people fall in love as the confetti falls and the Auld Lang Syne starts. This New Year I got a glimpse back and it was rejuvenating. I will carry it with me through the days of the new calendar – and for next year’s party planning.

Little Boy, Full of Heart

27 Dec
Inside-the-Park Home Run Smile

Inside-the-Park Home Run Smile

The title states facts. Nate is a little boy. Inch for pound, his height matches his weight and he’s smaller than others his age. His age alone makes him little. Now seven years old, he is still too little to open some food/drink containers without adult help, walk alone in a store or comprehend many “older” things like death (although he did cry when Mickey died in Rocky III) and dates (sweetly calling it a “date” when Andrew and I smooch in the kitchen as we cross paths). For as little as he is though, his heart cannot be measured.

Pushing himself.

Pushing himself.

His pure passion and intensity shows in all he does – from coloring a picture as neatly and as focused as he can to making his bed with each blanket layered and plush animal placed in its spot (when he does make his bed anyway). He starts his race each morning as soon as he wakes up – dressed with shoes on and waiting for his breakfast before his big sister is even awake. He is often ready before the adults of the house too – especially on baseball practice/game mornings.


Sneakers – just in case he needs to run somewhere.

Nate tries so hard and doesn’t quit until he “wins” or is pleased with his work. He is unbelievably and naturally competitive, even when it comes to getting the most reward sticks in his class for good behavior. (He actually has a strategy for trying to achieve this – befriending the boy who has the most sticks and striving to behave like he does.)

His brain hides so much knowledge behind his constant motion and the baseball stats he keeps. That love of baseball actually helped his brain. He taught himself math by figuring out how much his beloved Braves would have to score to win. He taught himself reading by scanning the channel guide looking for baseball games and reviewing the scores at the bottom of the screen of the game he’s watching. His confidence on the field is displayed in the classroom as well. He’s given PowerPoint presentations in front of his class like it’s no big deal. He gets beyond frustrated when he doesn’t get his schoolwork just right. He keeps a schedule and routine for himself, walking in the door after school and conquering his homework within minutes of sitting at the table. Little disciplined man – especially when it’s something he really wants to do. He amazes, entertains, teaches and challenges me every day.

Presenting before his class.

Presenting before his class.

As he begins his seventh year of attempts, memories and growing up, I wonder what he has planned next. His heart is his own and what drives it comes from within him. The flame burns so fiercely that I worry about it fizzling out too soon – before he really needs its strength to get him through tough times. I want to protect his heart and try to nurture it and calm it as best as I can but it often feels like he’s on such an important mission. It’s such a treasure and an example to follow.

Catching the ball - because he must.

Catching the ball – because he must.

One speed: Intense

One speed: Intense

%d bloggers like this: