Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dear sons: Be a Helper

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)

Dear sons, 

(Letter #21)

One thing I hope that you have learned in having me as a mother is to be giving and generous - to give of your time and talent and gifts to help others. And not only is it important to be giving, but to not seek reciprocation. Give to be kind and brighten another one's day. Give because you know that there's a purpose to it. Give so that you fill a need for that person. Give so that they know someone cares. Give expecting nothing back except the words "Thank you." I want each of you to be men who want to help others.

Throughout your life there will no doubt be people who help and give to you in numerous ways - your family, your friends, your teachers, your co-workers. Pay forward their kindness and gifts if not directly back to them, but give forth to others because others were kind to you.

Helping and giving feels good and that feeling is the best reward.



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Can't we all just get along?

It's the weekend. It's Autumn. It's chilly outside. These are times that I like to hang out in the warm, quiet house for a peaceful day where I don't have much on the agenda. A couple errands to run later. Some housework to do. Catching up on e-mails. Meals to plan. A cupboard waiting to be organized.

I should be urging the kids to do their chores right now, but I hear my two youngest in the other room playing. And they are playing nicely. And it's something that is pretty rare, so I don't want to disturb it.

I know the clock is ticking. In an hour (probably much less) it will be all over, likely ending with a dispute and someone stomping out of the room or the Lincoln log structure they are building getting "accidentally" knocked to the ground. But right now they are getting along and exchanging ideas and laughing and I'm clinging to it for as many short minutes as it will last.

The sibling rivalry is what I would say is my most difficult challenge of parenting. And when there are five kids - all of the same gender - there is sibling rivalry. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of it.

And it's something you expect they will outgrow, but so far it hasn't happened. I'm sure it will subside eventually, but there's a long way to go. When they were toddlers and would fight over the same toy I thought it would get better as they got older and matured and didn't both want to play with the same talking Buzz Lightyear action figure. But, that's not the way it goes. As they get older they get more sly and sneaky, more aggressive, more personal with insults.

I don't mean to paint a picture of a house full of boys brawling from morning 'til night. Much of the time it is peaceful. Violence isn't tolerated. They each have a space of their own where they go to be away from each other. They have some similar interests and have fun sharing in those together. But the disagreements and teasing still happen way more often that I would like. Well, honestly I'd like them to never happen, but I know that is something that is completely unrealistic.

I have six siblings. Three are much older and were out of the house by the time I was in kindergarten, but I have twin sisters two years younger that I grew up with. The truth is we fought. We fought a lot. We fought over Barbies and what TV show to watch and clothes and whose turn it was to do the dishes. Sometimes it was verbal - yelling and teasing and name calling. On occassion  it ended with hair pulling and kicking and slapping. Now as adults we are wonderful friends. But when we were teenagers and someone had taken a hair clip without asking, it was World War III.

The boys have some great moments. One will realize that his brother is busy getting ready for a soccer game and take out the garbage even though it isn't his job for the day. One will spend their own birthday money they received as a gift to buy something he knows his brother will like. There are a lot of those examples and those are ones I cherish. And the ones that get me through the other times when the bickering has struck my very last nerve. I just wish they could get a long. Like ALL. THE. TIME.

P.S. It's been 24 minutes since I started typing this. They are no longer playing together. I heard "stop it" seven times. Called the offender in the kitchen to let him know there were some doughnuts. He ate one and went off to do something in a different room. Crises averted, but no more pleasant conversation and laughter to listen to.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day

Today is election day and because the schools are also polling places, the elementary and junior high school district a couple years ago decided to start scheduling parent conferences on election day so that kids weren't in classes while scores of strangers were filing in and out of the gym.

Too bad it couldn't be a sleeping in day for me. High School is in session today, so I was out the door at 7 to take him to school. A mid-week no-school day is welcome right now.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Spreading it out

I've been thinking lately about how much I miss the years of having toddlers and preschoolers, but also how nice it is to have gotten to a stage where the boys have become quite independent and able to do a lot on their own. They also don't have to be supervised every moment like when they were into absolutely everything.

One thing I remember being so stressful in the past was when I'd have to load all of them into the car in the mornings to get the oldest to school and then wake up a sleeping baby at pick-up time. That is one part I definitely do not miss.

These days I have kids in three different schools. They are all heading out the door in the morning at separate times. I'm usually in the car with just one, which is something that I enjoy. I still love spending one-on-one time with each of the boys and having conversation with each one individually. The house gets emptier little by little in the morning over a 1 1/2 hour span. It generally makes for a smoother morning than it did a decade ago. :)

Hoping for a better Halloween next year

Okay, so I'm going along with the National Blog Post Month effort to post every day in November to my Adventures in Motherhood blog. Since I missed two days already, I'm backing up to Saturday, November 1st. So, let's just pretend you are reading this on Saturday, ok?

Friday night was Halloween. It's a holiday I typically love, but it was hampered quite a bit this year by the weather. I was also pretty exhausted by the time trick-or-treating was to start. I have a column deadline on Friday mornings, so I got up early to write my column. Next was shopping. I'm the snack day chairperson at the junior high every other Friday, which happened to fall on Halloween.

So, that meant out early for a shopping trip at Sam's Club for about 15 cases of various chips and a few cases of cookies and then about 8 cases of candy. Then it was over to the school to unload and set-up and spending the next three hours there selling Flaming Hot Cheetos and sour Skittles to preteens.

From there, it was a stop at Walgreen's for a couple items and then over to the elementary school where I'm head room for the fourth grade class. They have a parade followed by a party, but this year food was completely banned from school and occupying the kids for the party and not involving food in any way was a bit challenging. No more candy corn bingo. No more handing out candy for goodie bags. No more make-your-own ice cream sundae bars or decorate your own cupcake or cookie activity.

Let me insert here the respect I have for all teachers. I love kids. I love spending time at my kids' schools, but it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Kudos to all the teachers who do it every day.

By the time we got home I was ready for a nap, but trick-or-treating was still to come. I was a little relieved when the kids said they wanted to stay home for a while and hand out candy. It was not just raining, but there was sleet and hail and very strong, cold winds. I wasn't jumping for joy to head out in it.

As the time was passing, I asked a few more times if the kids wanted to head out to trick-or-treat, but they were content jumping out and scaring kids and handing out candy. After it got dark, the two youngest decided they'd like to head down the street to a church that always does a trunk-or-treat on Halloween. My husband walked down there with him and I snuggled under a blanket on the sofa flipping around through channels with the remote because it is highly unusual for me to have control of the remote and a quiet room to watch what I want to watch.

The next morning, though, I just felt cheated. The weather had been so yucky. I missed out on trick-or-treating. I really wanted a do-over. The kids were fine with it, though. I was prepared for hundreds of trick-or-treaters and we got way fewer than most years so there was plenty of candy for them since they didn't brave the brutal weather to collect any of their own.

I'm really pleased that Halloween next year will be on a Saturday. So, that means the school party will be on a Friday and I won't have both in one day. Saturday will mean more time to prepare, more time to trick-or-treat. It'll also be my last year as a room mom. My youngest one will be in 5th grade so no more parties after next year. I will miss it. Time's just moving too fast for me. I wonder how many more years there will be of trick-or-treating with my guys. I'm hoping at least a couple more.

Parenting across the ages

So I just read that it's National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and that a lot of bloggers are committing to posting daily in November. I'm getting a late start. It's November 3rd, but I thought it would be a good reason to get back to this blog. It's been sadly neglected as I work on deadlines for my writing jobs, concentrate on the food blog, do volunteer stuff that I somehow get myself into and you know, those other things that fill my time - like five kids. It's not that I have nothing to write about. At least a dozen times over the last couple months there have been moments that cause me to think, "This would be a great blog post" and then life marches on and I don't take the time to type it up.

So, let's count this as my November 2 post and I'll see what else I can come up with later today because November 2 was a fun day. My nephew, Eli, turns 1 today and yesterday was his party. My sister Becky is just two years younger than me, but there was a long time between when I became a mom and when she became a mom.

My oldest will be 21 in May. He was born in 1994 just before I turned 22. Becky turned 40 this year and became a mom for the first time at 39. So, naturally, I was at Eli's birthday party thinking back on my early mom days and how easy it seemed. I don't mean it was EASY. Parenting never is. I mean that I'm now 42. I've got a few more pounds on me than I did at 21. I've got a few more aches. I get winded a little easier when I'm running or going up and down the stairs. Let's face it. Energy is much more abundant to a 21-year-old than a 42-year-old. I felt glad that my days of chasing toddlers and sleepless nights and changing diapers happened long ago.

My mom had six kids with a 20-year span from oldest to youngest. She had her first at 19, followed by two more in the next 2 1/2 years. Then she had me the week before she turned 37 and then twins at 39. As we were growing up, my parents always seemed so tired. Can you blame them? Keeping up with kids isn't easy at any age and I'm sure it's even harder when you are in your 40's and 50's.

While other kids' parents took them to the beach, the pool, camping trips, amusement parks, it just didn't happen for us. We made a lot of good memories at home. Our parents just weren't the on-the-go type and maybe that was just them and not really an indication of age. Anyway, I've always been an on-the-go type, so I had the intention early on of having my kids while I was on the younger side. I wanted to be finished with having kids by 30. My youngest one was born when I was 32, so I had 5 kids over 11 years.

As I was pregnant with my youngest one, the other twin was pregnant with her first. Her youngest was born when she was 39. So, both of my little sisters have had their kids in their 30's. I think they may have started sooner if Mr. Right had appeared earlier, but it just happened that it didn't happen until later on. And I'm so glad that it happened for them when it did. Although there are some increased risks as expectant mothers age, the age for first time moms has increased over the years. A lot of parents plan it to be later and I certainly understand the many reasons - you want to feel ready, you want to have an adequate home, you want to feel like you can financially care for the baby or you just want to live more and see more before becoming a parent.

Also at the party was my sister's best friend. She also recently became a mom for the first time. Her daughter is two and she has another one on the way. When I commented that I couldn't imagine having a baby at my age, she retorted with, "Well, I couldn't imagine having one when I was younger." It is really an individual thing. Her oldest sister just became a mom for the first time at age 47 and it was a big surprise to them and such a big blessing. I'm so happy for her. Motherhood is the best, whether it happens at 21 or 39 or 47.