Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Daughter is more than Mini Me

I wrote this for submission to the This I Believe website.

I believe that our children are more than just mini-me extensions of ourselves. In many ways, our children have already evolved beyond our generation’s capacity for knowledge and for empathy.

Everywhere my daughter and I go, people exclaim, “Wow, she is your mini-me!” While I see physical similarities between us, I know that she is so much more than a smaller version of me. She is so much more than I was at 9 years old, and she is already more than I am at the age of 41.

My daughter awakens joy-filled, smile-ridden and eager for a new day that is rife with blank-page possibilities and fabulous new adventures. I, on the other hand, tend to view the dawn of each day, as another 24 hours to survive. At times, I sullenly wallow in the mountains that have to be climbed, and the battles that need to be fought.

Where I am prone to self-involvement and narcissism, my daughter is a rescuer of wounded mourning doves and playground damsels with skinned knees. She donates money to charities that serve underprivileged children and animals. She is an immaterialistic, non-consuming, rabid recycler.

My daughter is adept at finding the goodness in people and situations, but is equally concerned with fairness and justice for all. She was incredulous and slightly disgusted this election year when I had to explain that some people might not vote for a man with black skin. She sees things the way that they should be, and asks how can we change it. While I tend to be the one to ask “why,” and she counters with “why not?’

While I question the existence of the Loch Ness Monster and George W. Bush, she believes in all things magical…and not just the usual suspects like Santa and the Easter Bunny, either. She not only believes in them; she knows that leprechauns, fairies and pixies, are all around us. This belief system subsequently enables her to embrace and accept people of all different shapes, sizes and color, in the real world.

I was shy and awkward as a child, and still find mingling at parties today to be a form of excruciating torture. She, however, is comfortable in her skin, and socially brave in various circles of people. She performs in plays and piano recitals, in front of audiences of hundreds, with nary a hint of stage fright. My daughter is strong and brave, but she is also the first one in a room to cry happy tears.

More than I, she knows the important things in life aren’t things at all. Her daily bucket list would include, smell (and pick) the flowers, read everything, love hard, laugh often, have fun, and snuggle at least once everyday.

My daughter, who is so much more than my mini-me, is well on her way to becoming “maximum her.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kids say the darndest things

Today's Gems

I explained PMS to daughter the other day – crabbiness, cramps, etc.

Yesterday morning, following a tirade by me, she asked, “Uh Mommy, did your period come yet?” :)

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I truly know what it's like to have my heart out there in the world now.

Daughter started walking home from school by herself this school year. Yes, she's in 4th grade and yes, I've finally allowed it to happen. Yeah, yeah, I secretly stalked her initial first walk home "alone." I admit it...Yes, I AM A HOVERCRAFT OR HELICOPTER PARENT, as my friends call me.

Whatever.

That first walk home, I smiled as two vehicles - at an uncontrolled intersection - a policeman and a postal carrier - both stopped (heading in different directions) to wave her across the street in front of both of them. My faith in people was elevated immensely.


Her beaming, proud face and pronouncement to me, "I did it!" was priceless. She was ready to do this and it was my own fears that had kept her from taking on the task earlier. She continues to try and grow up...and I continue to try and keep her little. It's not working, and I am trying to learn how to let her spread her wings and fly.
To date, I am still on edge until I see her appear in the driveway. My heart skips a "whew beat" that - again - she's arrived home safely to me.

Help! For the LOVE of Books! Voracious Reader won't (can't?) listen!

I am soliciting advice from fellow cyber parents today.

I have a problem with my 9-year old daughter, and if this is the most difficult challenge that I ever face in raising her, I will call myself a lucky woman.

Last week she received her 4th grade report card, and it was filled with amazing grades and complimentary comments from her teacher, except for one area. My daughter needs to work on her listening skills. She often needs to ask her teacher to repeat instructions. This is due to the fact that she is a voracious reader and she often has difficulty in pulling herself out of the story that she is deep (deep, deep, deep!) down into.

Let me back up and insert some history regarding past report cards and listening skills.

First grade: Daughter didn't listen to directions given by her teacher, because she was reading, and was asked to put her head down on the desk as a punishment.

Second grade: Concerns were expressed by her teacher that it was often difficult to bring daughter back to reality after reading time had ended.

Third grade: Daughter was reading in class when she wasn't supposed to be and the teacher told her to erase a "star" in her notebook. (This is a "bad thing" for those of you not familiar with this punishment method.)

Which leads us to 4th grade and the note on her report card. She has a lot of history in this non-listening arena, and I can attest to the fact that the same thing happens at home. If she is reading, I often have to say her name three times before receiving a response from her. Each time, when she looks up at me, her eyes are vacant, and I can see her trying to pull herself back into real life, while she is still digesting what she just read.

I have no ideas on how to remedy this situation. Any ideas? anyone?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Inner child vs Outer Adult

My daughter and I recently attended a local "Got Milk" event in Madison.

We arrived early for the festivities, which is a rare occurrence for us. The milk folks gave us each a carton of chocolate milk, a canvas bag of goodies and a chocolate milk mustache sticker to wear. Of course, I donned a mustache, too, as I am completely in touch with my inner child. (It's just the "outer adult" that I have issues with!)

We plopped ourselves on a couch that was decorated with orange and black balloons. Daughter was having a blast bopping the balloons about and asked if I wanted to join in her game.

"No, I don't think that I should."

"Why," she asked.

Why not indeed. "Well, I guess that I should be the responsible adult," I replied.

She raised her eyebrows and her eyes went directly to the chocolate milk mustache sticker on my upper lip. And, she asked, "Since WHEN?"
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Baking - Burnt to Perfection

I love to bake. With this love of baking comes a certain amount of pyrotechnics.

Sometimes in my more-is-always-better-exuberance, I tend to overfill pie pans, muffin tins, and other bakeware. This tends to result in batter drips burning onto the bottom of the oven. After completion of the baking cycle, I usually flip on the self-clean oven feature to take care of this smelly side-effect.

Due to the high oven temperature to perform the oven's self-cleaning, sometimes, (okay, often) a small fire starts on the bottom crusty portion of the oven. The first time this occurred, I flipped out. My daughter then wigged out because of my own screaming. Fortunately, the oven door locks automatically, or I probably would have opened the oven and given the fire more oxygen.

A few days ago, I made monkey bread. I let it rise too high before baking and sure enough, the juices creeped over the pan's edge and super-glued to the bottom of the oven. Apparently, fires in my kitchen have become very commonplace, because my daughter walked by, and her only comment was, "Just like in the olden days...cooking over an open fire." I'm not sure where she gets this sarcastic wit. :)
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Charity begins at Home - Kiva

'Tis the season.

My favorite story about charitable giving at Christmas is called, "The Small White Envelope." Click here to read the story:
http://www.new-life.net/favrt049.htm

I have discovered a new charity called Kiva, and our little white envelope this year will hold a contribution to this organization. Kiva consists of "loans that change lives" and they let you lend to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world which empowers them to lift themselves out of poverty. I am going to let my daughter choose the entrepreneur that she would like to help.

Click here for more info on Kiva:
http://www.kiva.org/

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I am convinced that my daughter is going to choose some sort of humanitarian career when she attains adulthood. I feel that her heart beats to help children and animals.

My daughter recently inherited a windfall of $300. I told her that she could spend some of the money and save some of it. After pondering it for a bit, she said, "I think that I'll just save it all."

"Why?" I ask, completely confused why a 9-year old wouldn't want to spend at least part of the cash on something fun.

"Well, I thought I'd save it for you when you need to pay taxes."

Silence from me. I do not ever talk about paying taxes in her prescence. I think that she is fairly insulated from adult financial concerns, as a child should be.

After I explaining that I wouldn't need a loan from her in the near future, I said, "There's nothing that you would like to buy just for fun??"

"No. There's nothing that I really want, so I think that I'll just save it."

I later told a friend of mine this story. She was amazed at Hannah's generosity AND her fiscalness, especially at the age of 9. She has a daughter the same age, and she said that she was going to ask her daughter the same questions. She knew that her answers were not going to be similar in charitableness to my daughter's. She phoned me later to relate the conversation.

Mom: "I have a hypothetical question for you. (insert time here for definition of 'hypothetical.") Let's say that you received $300 out of the blue. What would you spend it on?"

Daughter: "AM I GETTING $300, MOM?"

Mom: "No." (and review definition of "hypothetical" again.)

Daughter: "Well, I think that I would buy a Nintendo for myself. Why are you asking me this, Mom?"

Mom explained to her daughter, how my daughter offered up her money to me to pay taxes. And, then when the offer was declined, my daughter decided to save the funds.

Daughter: "Wow. That's really sweet. Hey, Mom, I changed my mind.

Mom: Thinking that her daughter had considered this story of selfless generosity, and had changed her answer accordingly, asked, "What did you change your answer to, Honey?"

Daughter: "I decided that I'd much rather have a cell phone."
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Armpit hair and other changes in girls...

"Wow, I REEK!" she exclaimed.

And thus, my daughter discovered that she needs to start wearing deodorant everyday. She's nine years old and is starting to experience changes in her body. (see: bra story below)

Every so often, she will come over to me, raise an arm and inquire, "Do you see any armpit hair yet?" For some reason unfathomable to me, she seems to be looking forward to this development. Each time, I check her little armpit, and I report, "Nope. No hair yet."

And every time, I smile a little smile and I remember back to when she was two years old, and our first conversation about "hair."

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She was two years old and we still played in the bathtub together. We would splash and play silly games. It was routine for me to exit the tub before her, get dressed and then retrieve her from the tub. One time, I stepped out of the tub and her eyes followed me curiously.

"Mommy, what's THAT?" she asked pointing at my lower body, as I dried myself with a towel.

I asked her, "What's 'what,' honey?"

"THAT!" she replied, pointing at the lower feminine bikini region of my body. (Not that it's had a bikini on it in 20+ years!)

Calmly and matter of factly, I stated, "It's hair."

She pondered this briefly and then with a sudden look of horror exclaimed, "WHAT is YOUR HAIR doing down THERE???!!!"
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Monkey Bread - Favorite of 4th graders!


My daughter's FAVE baked treat...and voted #1 in her 4th grade class, too!

MONKEY BREAD

2 loaves frozen bread dough, semi-thawed
Cinnamon & Sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 stick butter
3/4 c. vanilla ice cream

walnut or pecan pieces, if desired

Cut 1 loaf bread into large bite-size pieces (with pizza cutter)and put into a greased round cake pan. Repeat with 2nd loaf of bread and place into another round cake pan. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and nuts. Bring brown sugar, white sugar, butter and ice cream to a boil. Pour 1/2 of mixture over each pan of cut up bread. Let rise 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. (put a sheet underneath to catch drips!)

This can also be made in a bundt or angel food pan.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Children and Charity - CHILDREN, INC

My daughter and I were reviewing her homework recently, and I noticed that there was a 1-800 telephone number written on the side of the page. I asked where she'd gotten this phone number.

She answered, "I saw it on TV one time."

Umm, yikes.

Gently prodding now, "What's the telephone number for?" (and yes, I was happy that it wasn't a 1-900 number!)

She paused and seemed reluctant to answer, which made me a bit nervous.

Timidly she answered, "It was a number to call to help feed hungry children."

I can picture it now...the infomercial announcer imploring, "Please write down this number and call now! Only you can help prevent this child from going hungry." And, I can see my darling, generous daughter with her huge and caring heart, jotting down that number, and trying to figure out how she's going to raise some money to feed all of these hungry children.

First thing I said was, "How incredibly sweet and giving you are, honey." And then, we discussed how our family has sponsored a Costa Rican child named Linda since the year 2000. Our favorite children's charitable organization is called "Children Inc." Our sponsored child and my daughter are the same age, and we take great joy in helping her and her family. We love to get letters and pictures, and I hope one day that we will have the opportunity to meet her.

So, if my credit card suddenly disappears into my daughter's hands, I am relieved to know that it will be used for a donation to a charitable cause, and not for the newest toy or electronic device. And, that's a warm feeling.

Sponsoring a child through Children Inc. is $28.00/month. Here's a link to their website:
http://www.children-inc.org/

An Old Mom Fails New Math


It was bound to happen, I just didn't think that it would happen so soon! I can no longer help my daughter with her math homework, and she's only in 4th grade. I have long considered myself to be of reasonable intelligence, so this is quite a blow to my self-esteem.

So, to lay the background, yesterday, my daughter had a timed math test on division facts. Two answers were marked as being incorrect. Both were problems in which a number was being divided by zero.

8/0 = She answered "0." 5/0 = She answered "0." Both were wrong answers.

I asked her, "What IS the correct answer?" She said that she didn't know. Hmm, I swear that when I was a kid we were taught that any number divided by zero results in an answer of 0.
It turns out that little "rule" only applies to multiplying by zero. Any number multiplied by zero results in a product of 0.

According to Wikipedia, it's not a "and vice versa" situation. Apparently, numbers cannot "really" be divided by zero, and the answer should be "undefined." So, my question is, "Was she supposed to write "undefined" on her TIMED division quiz?" Writing out the word would take up a good deal of the 3-minutes of time, wouldn't it? Is there some sort of symbol that is used to denote that the answer is "undefined?" To my math-challenged brain, this seems like a trick question.

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Part two of my math failure.

Daughter did a math assignment in which she was asked to measure the distance between several cities in a country. She used an old wooden inch ruler that I have had for years! She measured and recorded the inches, and then she calculated with the map's scale how many miles the measurement equated to. (1 inch = 200 miles)

She completed her homework and I checked her work. Her inch measurements looked kosher to my own measurements. Her calculations from inches to miles looked correct, too.

Yesterday, the homework was returned. She scored 12 out of 16 on the assignment. We remeasured. We recalculated miles. Measuring with inches seems to have changed since I went to school, or my ruler is way out of whack. We sent back the homework sheet, with our antiquated ruler, to school today.

Just so you know, if you try to reach me today, I may be attending 4th grade math to relearn measuring skills. Perhaps I should just learn that this is her father's area of expertise and not set myself up for feeling inadequate!

After reviewing her the Math portion of her WKCE practice booklet last night, I can only be glad that I'm not being tested in that arena. Which leads me to believe that my math skills are not among the attributes that inspire my daughter! (see previous post)

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

What Jackie Robinson and I have in Common according to my Daughter

Last night, as I was looking over one of my daughter's homework assignments, I discovered a remarkable silent gift that she'd given to me.

Her reading group is currently studying a book about Jackie Robinson, the black baseball player who broke the "baseball color line" and ended segregation in professional baseball.

Her teacher had given her the following assignment.

"Connector: Your job is to find connections between the book your group is reading and the world outside. This means connecting the reading to your own life, to happenings at school or in the community, to similar events at other times and places, to other people or problems that you are reminded of. You might also see connections between this book and other writings on the same topic, or by the same author. There are not right answers here - whatever the reading connects you with is worth sharing!"

My daughter had written the following responses:

"The U.S. was at war with Japan and now we're at war with Iraq."

"Jackie got insulted just like another Jackie who was a woman."

There were other answers, but the one that made tears leap to my eyes was this one...

"Jackie Robinson inspired Hank Aaron...like my Mom inspires me."

Wow.

I have to say that I've been flying high on this thought all rainy day long. I've never been anyone's "inspiration" before, and how incredibly wonderful to hear that I inspire my DAUGHTER! Oh, of course I know that she loves me, as we have a great mother-daughter relationship. But to hear that I INSPIRE her???

Amazing.

Like many pre-teens, my daughter has many heroes...famous authors, pioneers, presidents, musicians, etc...so it is amazing to me that I still fill the #1 position in her eyes.

People who know me know that I did not have an inspirational-type mother. I have often feared that I wouldn't be very good at this parenting gig, based on my own childhood. On some dark days, when I'm being particularly hard on myself about past mistakes or my incredible procrastination, being "inspirational" seems like a heavy load to bear. That one little sentence made my heart soar.

May your day be full of tiny little presents, just waiting to be unwrapped.




Friday, October 31, 2008

Favorite StoryPeople print for Daughters - Christmas Gift

There has never been a day when I have not been proud of you, I said to my daughter, though some days I'm louder about other stuff so it's easy to miss that.

This is my favorite print from the StoryPeople - Brian Andreas - folks. I bought it for my daughter and the sentiment never fails to make my heart flip-flop.

Purchase yours today for your own daughter here:
http://www.storypeople.com/storypeople/WebStory.do?action=Show&storyID=1703&pageIndex=4&minRow=242&storyInSearch=200&productCategoryID=1000

(used with permission from StoryPeople)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Daughters and Bras Bralettes (aka training bras)

When the Booby Fairy comes to your House...See the bra poll to your left and vote.

I vividly recall Robin Williams' stand-up routine in which he discussed his wife's pregnancy. During her pregnancy, her usual AA-sized ta-tas grew to ginormous DD's. Much to his great delight, of course. He exclaimed that "The Booby Fairy came! The Booby Fairy came!" (I cleaned up that sentence, a bit. It's Robin Williams, you know.)

Immediately, his wife covered her chest, and turned away saying, "These are for the baby." Ah, poor Robin.

I am reminded of this snippet of comedy, because the booby fairy is coming to our house. No! Not for ME!!! No enhancements for me. God was way too generous with me. Personally, I'd take a reduction if it was offered!

So, yes, my 8-year old is beginning to enter womanhood. Conversation following the first day of school.

“Mommy, guess what?”

“What?”


“My booby area is starting to get round!!!”

Of course, she is more delighted about this development (ha, pun intended) than I. And, yes, it is true. My little girl is marching straight towards womanhood. I have read that after breast development starts, menstruation usually follows within 2 years. YIKES, and double yikes, I say. We are not prepared for PMS X 3!

We have already discussed "periods," so she knows about that rite of passage. The highlight of said discussion being that I ended up with a maxi pad stuck to my forehead! (and screaming, "Is it on straight?!?") We discussed that when it happens, it will be a special time and we will celebrate accordingly. The three of us will go to a spa and pamper ourselves and celebrate being women.

Shortly afterwards, I found her reading the book "Period" at the breakfast table - she does her own research, you know - and she says, "Hey Mommy. Look at the name of this chapter." It is entitled, "What happens when I get my period?" She looked at me and said, "I know what happens! WE GO TO THE SPA!" I caressed her hair and said back to her, "Yep, Honey. It's just like going to the spa."

"...each and every freakin' month. Just like going to the spa...just like that," I muttered as I walked away.

So, time marches on. Before my eyes, she has grown from my little peanut into my little woman.

May the booby fairy stay away from your house until you invite her inside.

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Update to the blog above. A few months ago, we did go shopping for Hannah's first "training bra". (train them to do WHAT?) Since my day, they have a new name. These articles for the younger set (ha) are now referred to as "bralettes." We purchased several (unpadded) bralettes at Old Navy. She left the store, happily swinging the bag back and forth, her face positively beaming with joy. And time marches on.

Comments? Stories of your own? Make us laugh by using the comments section.

A Village of Good Moms


I am the proud Mom of a 9-year old daughter. I have longed to write a blog about my experiences with parenting. I want to share my observations and challenges about daughters with fellow parents, and open up a dialogue to share ideas with each other. This first blog is a little about me and my Momness. I want this blog to be a Village of Good Moms (and dads!).
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"You are a good mom."

A few weeks after my StepMom told me the above statement, I still find myself contemplating it.

I do believe that I am a good Mom...I just wonder HOW I got to be one. I certainly did not learn it at my own birth mother's hands. For that is how I think of her - the woman who gave birth to me. She was too young and selfish to know how to "mother."

I was lucky enough to live on my Grandparent's farm and be raised with my aunts and uncle until the age of 10. My Grandma, Lillian, who I referred to as "Mom" just like her children did, loved me completely and unconditionally...and she still does.

After we moved off of the farm, I started my own search for loving mother figures. I was fortunate to find three different adopted moms, who nurtured me and loved me through the difficult teen years. I found them at the church that I belonged to, and they gave me what I was longing for at home. They spent time with me and made me feel special. They fit my image of what I thought a mother should be. When I remember this time and these special giving women, I think of the following quote:

"One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, how big my house was, or what kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little better, because I was important in the life of a child."

Each of these women, were so important to me as a child. Research has shown that every child needs and should have a caring adult in their lives. It doesn't have to be a biological parent or relative...just someone who treats them as if they are the most important person in the world. Really, these women probably saved my life...or at the very least, made it so much better. Their influence continues on in my life today.

When I look at my daughter, I know that I would be crushed if she had to seek out other caring adults for love. I would question myself to find out how was I failing her. I would examine why she felt the need to look for mothering from someone else. With my birth mother, I think that she probably experienced a sense of relief that I was off her hands during those times away with my adopted "moms." As an adult, I try to take the high road and say, "She did the best that she could." My child's heart still whispers, "That's not good enough."

When I was pregnant with Hannah, I knew what kind of Mom that I wanted to be to her. I just wondered if I would be able to give her the love, affection and attention that I had wanted to receive as a child from my birth mother. My experience with my Grandma and my adopted Moms gave me the internal tools to be able to give these things to my own daughter.

And, my Hannah. She is so so loved. I love her so completely and so deeply that my heart breaks sometimes. But even aside from that, she has so many caring adults who love her and support her and make her feel special. We have a village of family and friends in which she thrives. In addition, Hannah has been fortunate at school to get not only the most academically talented teachers each year, but also the ones that I would also call the best Mom figures, too. Thank you, Kelli, Cindy, Sari and Laurie - for being kind and special to her and to our family.

As for my own "village," I have surrounded myself with an abundance of GREAT MOM friends. As a "motherless daughter" - how I refer to myself these days - I am so blessed to have a network of friends who I can call on for any child advice that I might need. Diane, Ellie, Peggy, Sari, LeAnn, Tammy - some relatives and some friends - are my support group, my touchstones, my rocks.

For example, when my 2 year old was burning up with a fever and no medicine seemed to be lowering it, I frantically called my friend, Diane. She was my calm voice of reason and my empathetic ear. She is everything that I would like to be as a Mom and most importantly, she loves my daughter.

And, my sis-in-law, Peggy, a counselor for people with eating disorders, is helping me to help Hannah through her present worries about her "big stomach." While she offers advice, most importantly, she also just listens to me. That's what great friends do...we're in this mothering thing together.

I could go on and on about these great friends of mine, but I won't. Suffice it to say as a group, they are amazing women and incredible mothers. I love them with all my heart and am fortunate to have them in my life...and Hannah is fortunate that I have them, too. They complete me as a Mom...not just a Mom...but a "good mom."