Thursday, February 12, 2015

So, while the girl mommies were at Frozen on Ice...

For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing posts and pics all over social media from moms taking their kids to Frozen on Ice. And at the same time, there was another show in town. One with big boy appeal...Monster Jam.

And since I'm a mom of no girls and all boys, I found myself sitting in the loud, smelly, freezing Allstate Arena watching ATVs and dune buggies and big monster trucks make their way around the track lined with dirt and sand.

Never in a million years would it be a place I would pick to spend money on tickets for and choose to spend a night at. But, you know, the things we do for our kids. And I did have fun.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Teaching lessons and learning lessons (an awakening inspired by laundry)

In my early days of parenting, I thought that one of the best things you could do as a mother was to do things for your child. It's pretty much a necessity at first. You have to do everything for that new child. They are helpless without you and spend those early days wrapped in the neediness of that child and you do everything you can for him or her.

As the child grows, the amount of things you do for them should lessen. I really didn't understand the concept that the idea of raising a child was to help them learn to do things on their own and to become independent. You are to raise them to one day be able to do all the things you do for them all on their own. It really is all about doing for them then teaching them and then eventually them not needing you to do those things anymore.

I honestly didn't get it at first. I just didn't get it. Why would I make my child do something when I could do it for them? I washed faces after eating. I cut up food for them. I made their beds. I cleaned their clothes. I sorted their socks. I straightened up their rooms. I ran their baths. I cleared their dishes off the table when they were done eating.

I was mom. I was supposed to do these things. Looking back, that is really what I was thinking. It seemed mean almost for me to make my child do a chore when I was completely capable of doing it. Well, that was when I had one son and he was the center of my world. Needless to say, my attitude has shifted as more children were born and they grew.

My attitude may have changed a little too much. Now my way of thinking is "why would I do something for them that they could do themselves?" If a child sits in front of the television and calls to me in the other room as I am in the middle of a project asking for a beverage, I most likely will reply, "No, you are capable of doing it yourself. You can get yourself a glass of water." Rewind 15 years and I would have jumped no matter what I was in the middle of and delivered that glass of water. And then kissed them on the forehead and probably asked if they'd like a snack to go with it.

My mind wandered to such thoughts today as I did laundry. You see, I don't usually do laundry. The kids are all old enough that they are all capable of doing laundry. Hubby washes his uniforms at work. The kids each do their own and there's a chart on the fridge with laundry on the list. Each day one of them is responsible for washing whatever is the laundry room that needs to be washed. Towels. Blankets. Coats. Hats. Gloves. Sheets. Stray socks. Pieces of clothing belonging to their brothers that got left behind in the bathroom hamper. And my laundry and my husbands. I do the folding and put it away, but they fill the washing machine, transfer it to the dryer and carry the baskets upstairs so I can fold them. Then they carry the clothes to wherever they need to go.

Laundry is something a child can and should learn to do. I cringe when I hear about mothers who still do laundry for their adult sons. I am glad that I finally woke up and gave this chore to the kids. It's something they are capable of. They learn cause and effect in the way that if they don't do their laundry, they don't have clean clothes. They then have to wear something not so clean or dig into the icky looking or ill fitting pieces that serve only as back-up garments.

I want to raise sons who can fend for themselves and not expect that the woman they end up with will be the one doing the laundry and housework and cooking and all that good stuff. I want them to be men who were taken care of my mom and then taught that everything mom did for them they could do on their own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When you sleep soundly, so may I

I walked into the living room earlier this week and found my youngest one asleep on the sofa. It reminded me of this poem I wrote many moons ago. :)

Put down your head, sweet child, upon my chest.
Close your eyes, and slumber in security.

When you cry, I weep an ocean of tears.
When you are hurt, my pain is so severe.
When you're gone, my self is incomplete.

When you smile, sunshine fills my life.
When you laugh, your comedy is a sweet song.
When you reach for me, my self becomes complete.

Sleep, my dear, in my warm arms.
When you sleep soundly, so may I.

I'm losing them

As Christmas break was coming to a close, I tried to squeeze in a quick overnighter. Mid-December was a bit of a blur as stomach flu circulated through the house. Christmas wasn't the flurry of activity for our family that it's been in the past. There was no celebration with my husband's side of the family as his father passed away about a year-and-a-half ago and his mom moved out of state in early December. On my side of the family, we don't have the grand Christmas holidays we celebrated at my sister's huge house in the west suburbs anymore. She moved to Arizona last year. My oldest brother wasn't there. We had a nice gathering, but it's just not the same when there are siblings missing who we are used to seeing every Christmas. We went to my younger sister's house, but it was several days after Christmas so it felt a little strange.

Anyway, I thought to make the time off a little more special, I would arrange to take the kids to a water park for a little fun. It was my husband and I and my four youngest boys. My oldest is an adult now and he rarely travels with us anymore. It makes me a little sad - as again, it just feels like something's missing - but he is either working or hanging out with friends or just opts to forego the bickering on the car ride that is bound to happen when you squeeze 7 people into an SUV for a road trip. Since my oldest usually doesn't go on trips with us anymore and because I have two teens that are growing quicker than I care them to, I savor these getaways when we have time all together.

So I got the bags packed and off we went to the water park. My 13-year-old (the overachiever) was genuinely upset that the trip was cutting into his time to work on his science project. We got to the hotel and first thing the 9 and 11-year-olds wanted to do was get in the water. Since it was getting close to dinner time I told them we'd head to the restaurant first and swim after that. We all enjoyed a nice meal and timed it well. We were all hungry, but hadn't yet hit diva status (remember that Snickers commercial that showed how hunger can turn the nicest person into a cranky, inconsolable diva) and enjoyed each other's company.

After dinner we returned to our room and I pulled out all the swimsuits. My husband had a busy night at work the day before and opted to stay in the room and rest. My 13-year-old told me he didn't want to swim. At all. During the two days there. "I really don't like to swim," he said. He expressed that he'd rather stay in the room. The 15-year-old was on the fence about swimming, but when his brother didn't want to go, he decided he'd stay in the room, too. The two youngest couldn't wait to get to the pool.

So, off the three of us went, leaving the other three behind in the room. As I floated around on the lazy river with nothing but my thoughts I came to the realization that the boys that I'd left behind in the room were moving on. They aren't into our little trips the way they used to be. They're too big for the children's museums and kid attractions. They are at an age when parents aren't all that fun to be with. Whereas a year ago we'd take trips and they would go with the flow and tag along and seem excited, this time it was apparent that they'd rather sit with their phones and play video games. I realized that I'm losing them. I'm losing them to the teen years. They're going into territory I can never pull them back from. They're growing up.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The magic of seeing Christmas through your child's eyes

Well, Christmas 2014 is officially over. Kind of doesn't feel right as we've had spring like temperatures, but it's true. Christmas came and went without a flake of snow on the ground. In years past I've gotten things going well in advance, but I've been slipping in recent years. No more mailing cards right after Thankgiving or having most of my shopping done before the calendar flips to December. With each kid, I've slowed down a bit, but I manage to get all the important stuff done with time to spare.

This year, a bout of the stomach flu went through the house the week before Christmas. And I lost almost a whole week. Truly, I lost it. I was at home almost that entire week, either caring for sick kids or being sick myself or recovering from being sick with 3 or 4 hour mid-day naps. I was totally unproductive and then when all was back to normal, I found myself with a couple days left to get it all done. I missed parties and holiday sales and was overcome with stress, rather than Christmas spirit.

Finally, I figured I needed to let it go. We made a visit to see Santa with a couple days to spare and although the bigger boys were not at all into the visit, the two youngest ones still excitedly put in gift requests and posed for pictures.

Christmas was so magical to me as a child. It was truly the highlight of the year. Really, we didn't have much. I almost never got anything on my long, unreasonable list. But, even as a child I knew Christmas was about much more than getting gifts. I cherished our Christmas Eve dinner when all six of us and my big brothers and sisters' spouses were there together for a big meal. Although there's a mountain of responsibilities in executing the holiday festivities as an adult, there are at least a few moments where they melt away as you see your child's excitement. It's truly magical.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Last minute gift ideas for the Pinterest challenged

We're getting down to the wire here. Christmas is creeping up fast. I have to admit that I am really behind and have more shopping to do and more gifts to wrap and put under the tree. You too? Well, here's a few quick ideas that will save you the time of scanning Pinterest boards and pulling out a ton of craft supplies.

Illinois lottery tickets are a fun gift and work for any grown-up, especially the ones who have everything, want nothing or are simply impossible to buy for.

1) Buy some instant lottery tickets from the Illinois Lottery. Grab a piece of paper and fashion some Holiday Cash Cards into the shape of a Christmas tree. Write the message "Have a Green Christmas!" on it and that's it. I used an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet which easily fit 6 cards. Use a bigger piece of  paper of a poster board if you'd like to make a larger tree. Grab some markers and glitter if you must dress it up. :)

2) This is a fun one for sports fans. Our family is full of huge Cubs fans. These Silver Bell Doubler Tickets are that perfect shade of Cubby Blue. Pair it with a team ornament or another small gift. The item on the right is a foldable fan for those sizzling summer ball games. I cut out a circle shape and drew seams for it to resemble a baseball. I wrote the message "Hope you hit a home run and win big!" followed up with a "Go Cubs." There are a variety of different instant tickets available starting at $1 and it's likely you can find one to go with the color scheme of your recipient's favorite team.

3) Many ladies, like me, love candles. They make great little gifts. Pick one up and add a note, "Hope you win some cash to BRIGHTEN your day" or "Hope you win something that LIGHTS UP your life" or "Hope this ticket SPARKS a big prize" or something like that. You get the idea! Be creative. Have fun with it. And cross off another gift from your list in just a few minutes.

Also, click HERE for another idea if you have a food lover on your gift list! :) And click HERE and HERE for more on the fun instant tickets available from the Illinois Lottery.

*** This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

When the season of peace is so unpeaceful

It's the Christmas season. It's a time for giving. For generosity. For good will. For peace.

But this year it seems there's so little of the latter.

In fact, in my 42 years on this earth, I don't think there's been a time that I have felt this way. I'm an optimistic person and I look for the good and I can see positive things spill from not-so-good situations. But right now I just feel like there's such an unrest and such a lack of peace in the world at a time when we should feel it most. At Christmas a lot of the negative or the disagreements in various arenas can kind of be put the side temporarily. This year there seems to be so much of it at the forefront. Too much to brush aside.

I feel it locally as there seems to be so much animosity of late toward local village officials and school board members. Elections are coming up the spring and tensions are already building.

I feel it in our country as the recent weeks have brought forth the most intense race issues I have seen in my lifetime and a lack of disrespect for law enforcement spreads.

And beyond our borders a war against terror continues and our military continues a fight that seems never-ending while we hear threats from other sources.

On a local level, I respect our leaders. I respect those who want to become leaders in the community. I see so much moving our village toward goals that will benefit us all. I find myself wishing we could go back a decade when the interference of social media didn't proliferate the negativity, yet I can appreciate it's role in distributing information and creating a platform that hadn't been there.

Internationally, there's a particular feeling of being helpless. You're one minuscule fish in an enormous pond and in waters that are foreign and sometimes so hard to understand and navigate.

In so many situations, I really try to see it from opposing views. I try not to jump to conclusions. I try to look at all sides and see the pros and cons.

With race issues, attempting to see things from another perspective is key, but acknowledging that you can never fully understand the other's point of view is essential. There are many difference in black culture and in white culture and in every other culture. It doesn't mean that one has to agree with the other. It doesn't mean that one has to follow the beliefs of the other. It doesn't mean that we can't see one another as simply human beings rather than being one of another group. Differences can bring people together as much as push them apart.

As I was growing up, I came from a community that was nearly all white and was bussed to a high school that was nearly all black. There had been a lot of discord in the previous decade as the bussing was initiated to integrate the school district. I had heard people talk of that time and about riots and fights and cops with dogs patrolling the halls and was really scared to attend the school.

My experiences there were so different than what I had heard and what I had feared. While I learned there were differences in culture, I learned how much the same we were, too. I remember the days in my homeroom where I recall there being only one other white student. The teacher, a black man, could not have been more kind and caring and encouraging and a better symbol of an ideal role model. Sitting beside me in class was the child of a physician and the two who graduated as valedictorian and salutatorian. In another row was a young girl who was sweet and shy and pregnant her freshman year with her second child (I believe she went on to have one more child before graduation.) In another row was a quiet young man who wore the same clothes for days in a row. I believe he was shuffling back and forth staying with siblings and relatives as his parents weren't in his life. I remember him once talking about having not eaten the day before. Within that room were kids of so many walks of life, all of the same race.

Maybe I'm looking through that slightly skewed nostalgic view that we sometimes have when looking back on our youth, but I don't recall many problems when I was there. I never was involved in any physical altercations. I was never threatened. I never came across any drugs or weapons. Maybe it was that it was a different time. Maybe it was that those who might be referred to as "thugs" today didn't stay in school - the dropout rate was pretty high and those who caused trouble were sent elsewhere or didn't come back. Maybe it was because I was in that neighborhood pretty much only during school hours when we were in a supervised and controlled environment and I would have encountered more problems if I was around there more often at night and on weekends. I learned during my time there how misleading stereotypes are.

I can say there were a few occasions where I did feel entirely out of place being in the minority, like when I attended school dances and not one song by a white artist was played. Another was when I heard in the school announcements about an arts competition that had cash prizes and scholarships to be awarded. When I went to my counselor to get an application, she told me it was only open to black students. It stung. It was something I wanted to have offered to me, but I wasn't eligible because of the color of my skin. It seemed really unfair. At first I it made me feel angry, but then I realized that this is what it feels like when the tables are turned. I can't say that I know what it feels like to be black, but in that moment I felt what it was like to be discriminated against because of color and after initially feeling unhappy about it, it made me feel sympathy. I realized that a few years before high school when there were only a handful of black kids in the junior high I attended, that they must have felt out of place quite often and were probably feeling at times like they weren't treated the same. It was an experience that made me consider difference and often disadvantages in race when I had really not looked before.

I continued at the school for my entire high school career. I went back to work there after I graduated. Every day I drove into this all-black neighborhood. Every day I continued to work and interact with those in another race and it was peaceful. And I wish I felt that peace again. And I wish everyone could feel that peace - of all ages and classes and races.