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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why I Correct Other People's Kids at the Playground

Talking to another mom friend the other day, I unleashed something I have been keeping secret since I became a mom myself: I correct kids on the playground -- my kids, your kids, other random kids who may need correcting.
It wasn't until the other weekend at the park, when I realized I was a "kid corrector." C has always been rather intimidated by the playground. Climbing and sliding have never really been her thing, and for a kiddo with hypotonia, that totally makes sense. However, the other weekend, she actually climbed to the top of the playground. She waved to me, smiling and giggling uncontrollably.
There were only two ways down -- the steps she had just climbed up or an enclosed spiral slide. I held my breath as I watched her make her choice. She pointed hesitantly to the slide, and I did my best to force a smile. I wasn't sure how this would go, but I've been trying hard to not let my own fears and doubts about her abilities affect her from trying new things. She walked over to slide, as if preparing to go down, but stopped.
It took me a minute to realize why she wasn't on her way down -- a group of bigger kids had set up shop in the middle of the slide and we're refusing to budge. No one could go down the slide.
Sure that the kids would eventually tire of their spot or overheat from it's sauna-like qualities shortly, I encouraged C to come down the steps and promised her we would try the slide again.
But they didn't.
Other kids tried to use the slide but were also unable -- the big kids screamed at them that they "better not come down." It was like they had squatter's rights on the slide.
I watched as little kid after little kid walked away from the slide defeated. I secretly hoped some bigger kid with some super strong legs would go down the slide and knock the whole lot out, but a quick glimpse around the playground left me less than hopeful.
It had been at least 10 minutes, and with no bigger kid in sight, I went to the bottom of slide and -- in the best teacher voice I could conjure -- told them to get off the slide so other people could use it. Slowly, one-by-one, they exited the slide making sure to avoid eye contact with me.
One mother on a bench gave me a smile and a thumbs-up. Another gave me a dirty look. I get it. Correcting other people's kids isn't popular -- especially at the park. But before your totally disown me, hear me out.
I am not forever hovering with my megaphone correcting kids. I am all for kiddos resolving conflicts on their own, and I fully embrace that accidents can and do happen...or I'm learning to at least. But when I see a teachable moment, I am prone to seize it. Maybe it's the non-stop mom in me or maybe it's the teacher in me who has had too long of a summer break. Either way, my intentions are good. My corrections aren't meant to offend.
The truth is: I believe it takes a village. If I correct your kid, isn't because I think he is terrible...or even worse, you are. It's because I value our village. I want to make it stronger and kinder and more accepting. I want you to know you aren't alone in this whole parenting gig, and I want to know that maybe I'm not alone too. Yes, you can correct my children.
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While the park playground is a place for kids to be free and to play and to explore and to make mistakes, I still believe that parents need to be active facilitators and encourage appropriate behaviors.
In today's climate a simple glimpse at the comment section on a Facebook post shows the amount of hate spewing out of those around us. I have also met my fair share of adults who believe they can say and do whatever they please and are above any repercussions. I don't think teaching our children to be respectful and considerate of others is too much to ask -- at home and at school.
Why not start on the playground?

11 Signs Summer Is Drawing to a Close

If you live in my neck of the woods, then you are fully aware summer is quickly coming to a close. There is only about four weeks left till school is back in session. How do I know? Well, it isn't because I glanced at my overpriced Erin Condren Life Planner or because the back to school items are spilling out of their homes on the shelves of Target and Walmart. I know summer is almost over when:

1. I don't know what day of the week it is, and there is absolutely no way I can tell you the date. Maybe I need an Erin Condren planner after all?!
2. I can't recall the last time I gave my kids a bath...unless, of course, swimming in the pool or running through the sprinklers count?!
3. I've been wearing the same t-shirt for the last three days, and I don't care who knows it.
4. My go-to beauty look is a highly disheveled ponytail and an ample amount of sunscreen. Okay, the t-shirt, the ponytail is also probably about three days old.
5. I contemplated feeding my kids Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. Again. Enough said.
6. I no longer care how I look in a swimsuit. That start of the swim season when I feel super self-conscious has passed. I'm officially Tyra Banks catwalking it like a boss...chasing after two kids at the Splash pad.
7. I forgot what time bedtime is supposed to be, and my kids are totally taking advantage of it.
8. I've pulled out all the stops, done all the summer fun summer stuff, vacationed, and now my kids are entertaining themselves with an empty vacuum cleaner box.
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9. I've watched every episode of "Fixer Upper" on Netflix and Pinned no less than 110 home improvements. None of which I have actually completed...much less attempted.
10. I no longer respond to "mom" or "mommy" or any other variation of the word.
11. I've seen at least five teacher friends lament the arrival of back to school commercials and ads on their social media pages.
And while I understand their disappointment that all good things must come to an end. I won't lie. I'm kinda ready to head back to school. Because I know -- as well as anyone -- that in-between Parent-Teacher Conferences and Field Trips, state testing and early mornings, math homework and after school activities there is the promise of another beautiful summer just over the horizon. And that's more than enough for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

7 Life Lessons for My Children

I hope you dream big and without fear. Search for buried treasures you may never find and build castles on clouds you will never live in, and in doing so, know that no matter how big or how silly a dream may seem, if it brings you happiness that is all that matters. Carry those dreams in a pocket close to your heart.  Pull them out on days when the world feels a little too gray and storm clouds loom.

I hope you explore the world around you and absorb it like a sponge. Dive into the deepest, darkest waters and climb to the tallest, towering points. Listen to the words of others as you go, and etch their stories on your heart. Fill your lungs with fresh air, and learn the native songs as they float around you.  The world is a truly beautiful place with so much to teach, and you have so much to learn.  Soak in the very simple lessons and the undeniably epic ones too -- each will help shape you into the person you will become.

I hope you know your value and never settle for less than you are worth -- at school, at work, and in relationships. Know that you are worthy of love and respect, and once you believe it, teach others how you expect to be treated. Don't allow others to berate you.  Don't berate yourself. Negative inner dialogue is often the thief of much happiness. Learn to love yourself. The rest will all work out.

I hope you stand strong in what you believe, even when you are standing alone and especially when you are standing up for others. There may be comfort in numbers, but nothing worth accomplishing is ever done out of comfort. Though you may feel small and your knees may shake, your one voice can make a tremendous difference. When others try to quiet you with threats and fears, this is the time your voice needs to be heard most. Value kindness over popularity and courage over conformity.

I hope you see that there is more good than bad in this world.  People will lead you to believe that monsters are lurking around every corner.  You will read terrible stories in newspaper that will make you feel uncertain and afraid.  And you will see horrible events on your television screen that will make you question humanity.  Don't believe everything the media tries to sell you. Instead, believe what you witness firsthand. Experience is a wise teacher, and he will show you the good people. There are many of them.  

I hope you laugh every day -- big laughs, belly laughs, laughs that come from the soul.  I hope you laugh loudly and boldly as tears stream down your face.  I hope you snort. I hope you almost pee your pants at least once from this type of laughter.  And I hope you cry with no apologies -- through heartbreaks and broken promises and earth shattering news.  I hope you are never afraid to feel your sadness, and I hope you are never too serious and solemn to share your amazing laugh with the world.  

I hope you find the beauty in the simple moments -- a child's small hand nestled in yours, the sound of faint giggles at bedtime, the way sun dances on your skin as the soft breeze kisses it, a warm embrace, the smell of freshly cut grass in the spring, the feel of the soft ground underneath your bare feet, a familiar face, the whispers of the rain, a kind parting word.  There is so much to appreciate in each second of every day.  Life is fast fleeting; live for the little moments.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Embracing Our Differences Through Books and Crafts: Cloudette

One of the big lessons I want both of my daughters to carry with them through life is: No matter what others say to you or think about you, you can accomplish great things.  I especially worry about this with C as she gets older and her differences from her peers become more apparent to her and others. So, I was really excited when I came across Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld at our local library.

Image result for cloudette
Image from Macmillan 

Cloudette is smaller than the other clouds around her.  Although she realizes that there are some major advantages to being smaller than the other clouds, she also feels like her size difference has some serious disadvantages -- primarily that since she is small, she won't be able to do anything BIG! The book teaches children that no matter their size or their differences, they can do BIG things and make a positive impact.

This week, we started out by making a yummy Jello treat from Kraft.  I love it because it only requires a handful of ingredients: boiling water, 2 pkgs of blue jello, Cool Whip. Seriously, super easy.  The recipe can be found HERE!

JELL-O Cloud Parfaits Image 1
Image from Kraft

As we made the treat, we talked about the differences in our clouds.  Some of the clouds were small and others were larger. Some of the clouds were really long and others were really short.  Some were extra fluffy and others were not.

After talking about the differences in our clouds and waited for our treat to be ready to eat, we read all about Cloudette. The kiddos enjoyed the story and the snack.  To be honest, so did I!

Here is a link to listen to the story

Give the Compliment and Take It

Give the compliment and take it. If there are two things I could teach my daughters, it would be just that.

I cannot deny that for the last year I haven't been very proud of my body. I've put on my fair share of post baby, post nursing, depression, ice cream obsession weight. And while I have been working really hard to become a healthier and happier me, I still am learning to love my body as it is and for all the amazing things it can do -- like carry a 37 pound kid and two arms full of groceries up the stairs simultaneously.

Today, while I was with my daughters at the grocery store, I overheard a woman near me say, "I love that dress on you." Obviously, I didn't respond, because there was no way she was talking to me.

Until I realized she was.

The woman came up closer and my oldest tugged on my arm to get my attention. "I love that dress on you," the woman repeated as she looked directly at me and pointed at my dress. I was stunned. Of all the people in that crowded store, she was talking to ME!

My immediate reaction was to deflect the compliment. I wanted to tell her that we had been outside at the park in the heat. That I was super sweaty and probably super smelly. That I hadn't slept well because my youngest had been up the night before. I wanted to tell her that my body used to look a whole lot better. That when I found out my youngest was not neurotypical and had developmental delays I flung myself into solitude and food for comfort. I wanted to tell her how much I hate the way I look most days. But my daughters were watching, so I told her "thank you." Although it was completely out of my comfort zone, I took the compliment.

And as much as I hope my daughters will learn to take the compliments they are given, I also hope they take a cue from this woman and look for the good and beauty around them and willing give compliments to others. After today, I know I will.

Before the woman walked away, I made sure to tell her how much her words meant to me. Words are powerful. We can break or make a person with what we say. And she made my day.

If you are reading this, I want you to know you are deserving of the compliment -- take it. And don't be afraid to go out of your way and use your words to build someone else up -- at school, at the office, at the park. You never know who needs to hear the kind words you have to share. I know I will never forget the woman in the Schnucks' produce aisle who gave me the confidence boost I so need. I guarantee if you give the compliment, you won't regret it.

What a Barbie Doll Taught Me About Diversity in Toys

I took C to Target today to pick out a new toy. She absolutely loves to cook and she loves Play-Doh, so this Spaghetti Chef Barbie with Play-Doh was a MUST. As she happily walked away with her new doll, I noticed a Caucasian Spaghetti Chef doll right next to the one we bought. Exact same doll. But this one was not on clearance. Odd.

I looked around quickly and noticed that this seemed to be the case for many dolls with brown skin. Maybe this was some random fluke, but I have a feeling that it wasn't. In fact, the possibility that this could be the norm concerns me.

As parents, we all work hard to teach our children to value themselves as they are, to appreciate the beauty of diversity​, and to respect others. We explain that everyone is different, but our differences don't define us. We emphasize that no color is better than another.

And then stores do this...

What a Coloring Kit Taught Me About Diversity in Toys

I try to find as many things as possible to keep my oldest entertained while C is at therapy. When my mom was in town, she bought this coloring kit for my oldest, and yesterday, we took it to therapy so she had something to do.

As my oldest stared coloring a picture of a couple ballerinas, she sighed loudly. I looked over at her and noticed a hint of frustration on her face. "What's the problem?" I asked.

"Well, this only has peach color for the ballerina's skin. I wanted the ballerina to have brown skin," she replied. "I will just wait till I get home. The ballerinas can only have blonde hair anyway," she said with a quick roll of her eyes.

I was caught off guard, because the shades of markers in a coloring kit had never really mattered to me growing up. Maybe because there always was a peach color that represented me.

It reminded me of the incident the other week when C picked out a Barbie on clearance while the identical Barbie with lighter skin was full price.

I've been buying toys for 10 years and playing with them for even longer, and if it weren't for my own children and their perceptiveness, I would not notice most of this -- unfortunately.

Our children deserve to be represented in the toys they play with. And while we have come a long way -- a boy American Girl Doll, dolls with disabilities, etc. -- we still have a long way to go.