Happy Birthday November and December

Christmas is so commercialized. So it was a refreshing relief to read this post by Britt over at A Physical Perspective.

And, thankfully, my husband saves me from most of the headaches and pressures. Like I don’t have to traipse around town to purchase gifts. He does all of our shopping on line. Plus, he knows what little dudes ages 8 & 6 would like for presents. One more reason why I love him.

Ultimately, a time of year that is supposed to represent peace often creates undue stress and heightened emotions.

I tell you these things so I can share an added obligation which some of you may experience …

Celebrating November and December birthdays.

© 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

Photo © 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest’s birthday is after Thanksgiving. Traditionally we have a family birthday party during the holiday weekend, making one of the desserts his birthday cake (complete with character of choice). It’s been nice and easy for me. I don’t always have to make or purchase the cake as other members of the family will volunteer.

This year he asked for a birthday party with some of his school friends to come to his house. How could we deny him?

So I find myself planning a 6 year old birthday party in December. Which I have to tell you he cried about, because:  “My birthday’s in November not December. I should have a party in November.” Sigh. Have I ever mentioned parenting is a tough gig?

I am agonizing over taxing invitees financially and sending out invitations last minute; praying that some of the 6 children he invited would come. Ugh! I am trying to figure out activities that a group of 6 year olds will enjoy without causing disappointment and embarrassment. Especially, when my dude tells me:  “They’ll think I’m a baby if we do that.” All of my activities suggestions have been vetoed. Plus he nixed his big brother’s recommendation of a scavenger hunt.

If you’ve read any of my posts where I mention my dudes you’ll know that they have definitive ideas about EVERYTHING, which has it’s pros and cons.

© 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

Photo © 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

Surprisingly, the response has been wonderful and all the kids can make it, but I still feel the pressure. And it makes me a little sad for any of you whose birthdays are during this time of year, especially if said birthday is swallowed up by the season never to be heard from.

Maybe some of you are like my older sister, who figured out ways to make it work for her:  “Just put 2 presents under the tree for me.” And she would buy herself a gift, wrap it and place it under the tree. That way she got at least one item she wanted.

I was always jealous of her opportunity to double her gifts. Being a January birthday myself meant, if folks remembered my birthday, they were still recovering from their Christmas spends. But, that’s a story for another day – about the perils of being a middle child.

Anyway, in case it’s not acknowledged by anyone else, I wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Hope someone sacrifices to give you a party or places more than one gift under the tree for you.

May your birthday be remembered in the midst of it all.

Parenting a Budding Hobbyist

Paint SuppliesLast week we had Family Night on Friday instead of Wednesday due to a work requirement for me. We planned breakfast for dinner and an outing to Hobby Lobby to get paint for their latest hobby, which my oldest refers to as “Collecting and Customizing LEGOS”.

While waiting for our food we had the following conversation:

8YO – I’m going to be a doctor of science when I get done with college.

Hubby: Which science?

8YO – Something to do with technology and chemistry.

Hubby:  A Chemical Engineer. Nice. What will you make?

8YO:  A unicorn army to take over the universe. (Laughing because he recognizes that it’s far fetched. Yet one more reason I love Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. If you haven’t watched an episode of this trust me when I tell you that you’re missing out.)

Me:  If you do that I’ll pay good money for access to it.

Waiter:  I think a lot of people will pay good money for that. (As he walked away with a smile and a shake of his head.)

I need to replace my “if” statements with “when” statements in the you-can-do-anything-vocabulary. 

Paint Bottle Flower

But the real story here … is how I want my actions to match my words as I build their personal belief; water and grow their creative dreams. It’s possible to teach people tasks and functions. It’s not always possible to help them use their imagination. It’s a skill and an art that they can apply to any aspect of life.

My parents always had the words. But as I reflect, they rarely put those words into actions. Don’t get me wrong, their words took me a long way in achieving certain success. I can only imagine what I would have accomplished had they invested in other ways too.

So even though I don’t have personal experience to draw from or real life examples to reference, I want to take it to the next level of support.

As I listen to my dudes play it’s clear they are highly inventive. And now is not the time in their young lives to poke holes in their ventures. Some of their projects so intrigue me.

Red - The Beginning

The 8YO intends to create real light sabers. His business plan involves low cost initiation with the product but the profit will come from upgrades as a customer completes proficiency levels. We talk a lot about the importance of chemistry to excel in his passion. He also has plans for some stop motion LEGO videos, memorializing stories that he plays out as live action.

Lego Mario

The 6YO wants to write comics and make movies. “Some movies will be appropriate. And some will be inappropriate.” Which is his way of explaining that some won’t be kid-friendly. Chapter 3 of his current comic is titled:  The Parents Made The Kid Bad. Not sure if he’s trying to tell me something. Anyway, his artistic representations go well with his dialogue.

Together they are role playing scenes for their upcoming talk show. NOTE:  I’m not allowed to sing the theme song because apparently they “created it” and so they “own it”. Who taught them copyright disclosures so young? It wasn’t me. And I won’t name the show or tell you more … you’ll have to wait for the pilot release on YouTube in the near future. (I’ll  post a link when it’s out.)

Work In ProgressWe are in the process of getting them the tools to do all they wish. It’s easy to keep notebooks, markers, crayons, paints, and other craft tools on hand. However, part of this process of fostering their hobbies and interests is to teach them patience. My oldest seems to think starting today means finishing today. So managing expectations e.g. Painting LEGOS has to happen in layers so that the colors don’t bleed together.

Once he can appreciate this lesson we’ll take steps to get a tripod and help him experiment with a camera.

I feel like I’ve taken the long way around to say it’s important to me that my boys know that I care about what’s important to them in meaningful ways.

What are some ways that you invest in others’ dreams without squelching them? Or maybe you had a dream that you put on the shelf because you needed someone to encourage you? I’d love to hear about it.

Reading to My Children, Books They Love to Pieces …

My husband and I have been reading to our children since the womb. We would crawl into bed and choose from a stack of rhyming books to read my rounded tummy.

When my husband read he could usually illicit movement as a response, a kick or punch. Sometimes there would be a somersault or full body stretch.  One of the things I loved most about pregnancy.

Our oldest son, at birth would try to turn toward my husband’s voice because he knew it so well. It was amazing to see a swaddled baby turn his head in the direction of his Daddy’s voice.

We received a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom as a baby shower gift. A sing song story about the alphabet which I still have memorized to this day. Its bright colored pages took us from womb to tummy time. We would prop it up in front of him while he lay on his tummy. I would read it to him while he played in his bouncy seat.

As a toddler the book went with him everywhere as a constant companion; it was always under his arm. He carried it to and from the sitters. We eventually had to buy a copy to keep at her place. He carried it to Grandma’s house. He held on his lap during car rides. We had to read it every night at bedtime. This is how he learned his alphabet.

Here’s his third (well worn-well read) copy:

We had to buy our youngest son his own copy to destroy. And since we’d changed sitters we had to buy a new copy for her daycare library. So we’ve paid retail for this book at least 6 times, I’ve lost count. Crazy? No.

Reading to our boys is a joy, not just for them but for us as well. They still find comfort in hearing the sound of our voices as we experience new or favorite stories together. It’s humbling really.

It’s not just reading the words but finding ways to make the words come alive for them. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is more fun if it’s read (or recited in my case) with drama. Reading out loud is like performance art (think Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam). Reading is NOT boring and I want my boys to understand that. When my oldest says, “I can see it playing like a movie in my head,” I know we’ve done our best by the author’s words.

Transitioning from rhyming books to picture books and now chapter books has been a wonderful journey. Watching my oldest read to my youngest fills me with a sense of pride and peace.

Here’s what on their bookshelf right now …

I love it when they laugh at the funny parts. I am thankful when they are empathetic to characters’ embarrassments, disappointments, and triumphs. Their comprehension is evident when I hear them tell the storyline to others.

We are reading, The Genius Files:  Mission Unstoppable, which I feel is too mature for them. But it just means we can have conversation to unlock the mystery of what they don’t know.

No matter what … my boys understand that words have power. And they love a good story. They know good stories are meant to be shared through voices of love.

What about you? … What are the books from your childhood that fell apart because you read them so much? Is there a book that you always have a copy of on your bookshelf?

Unplugged, Turned Off, and Tuned Out

Reading for unplugged times.

My family and I are addicted to technology especially my 5 year old who is bored in less than 5 seconds if we make him turn off his 3DS and play with … gasp … a toy.

Our boys get an hour of TV before going to daycare. An hour of TV when they get back from daycare. And, thankfully, they only get TV at daycare for special events tied to curriculum.

Sometimes they get a half hour (or more) of video game time or computer time. And those are on the days when I’m diligent and stick to the schedule. The weekends are a completely different situation; and not in a good way. That’s a lot of plugged in time for little dudes.

So it’s up to me to set the example and it’s hard. I didn’t realize how much I relied on my electronic interfaces.

I check Facebook and Instagram constantly. I hit refresh on my email every few minutes, hoping something new will pop up. I watch my blog stats real time, as if they’re changing so rapidly, while I watch TV. I have new blog posts in my Reader that need to be read and commented on. Then there’s Netflix and Hulu which allow me to watch entire seasons of shows back to back. There’s so much to see.

For my husband, it’s Words with Friends and a plethora of podcasts. We are always wirelessly wired.

Still trying to finish 2009 scrapbooks.

Can you relate? Maybe you have some other social media to keep up with like Twitter or Pinterest or Google Plus or Tumblr or fill in the blank … am I right?

Well, I’ve made a commitment to go on an electronics diet this summer. Notice I put a time limit on this “goal”. I am making an effort to consume a little less TV, video games, phone time, computer time, etc.

To support my diet, I’ve purchased a hardcopy book instead of loading up new fiction to my Kindle. I actually went to the bookstore with the boys and we all picked out new books. I can’t remember the last time I purchased a physical copy of a book.

But when I tell them to unplug and get a book, I can do the same … Life in these gaps of being unplugged is interesting.

I started with 20 minutes … we didn’t know what to do. We looked at each other but not in the eyes for fear we might spontaneously combust. I bit my nails and held my breath. We all watched the timer countdown the minutes. The boys cried, “Why?” at the highest decibels. We were all relieved for the 20 minutes to be over.

I didn’t plan well. It would have gone better if I had organized an activity to fill the time for the first go round … Now I know … I have a list of options they can do independently or as a group. Some are fun and others not so much …

  • Play outside
  • Read a book
  • Scrapbook (we have vacation pictures)
  • Board games (we just started Pokemon trading card game)
  • Chores (we are working on folding laundry)
  • Family conversation

Activities, like these, where they can flex their creative muscles or just relax and unwind from the barrage of information and images that are always coming at us.

It’s important to note that we aren’t “making up” that “lost” 20 minutes in other parts of the day. We’re cutting back.

Slowly I am increasing the time of being turned off and tuned out. And slowly, we are adjusting to being without our gadgets. The boys know that unplugged moments are going to be part of our lives.

It’s getting easier … I’m realistic. I’ll never do away with gadgets in our home. Like I said, we’re junkies. And it’s not a bad thing but moderation is key.

The funny thing? When I pick up my iPhone or open my computer, it’s waiting for me. Patiently waiting for me. I’ve been pinged or notified that something happened. I didn’t miss it. I only delayed it.

Been working on this blanket for way too long. Before my boys were born.

And, being unplugged means I have interesting things to post or share, or so I think, because I took the break to live a little life.

I’ve noticed that my boys, who no longer take naps, are a little less crabby when bedtime rolls around. There is a lot more conversation about characters they’ve made up and stories they want to write or play out as live action. Less is more in terms of gadgets especially as it relates to creativity.

I’ve also noticed that as a Momma, I’m a little less stressed out. I don’t respond to their meltdowns with frustration because I’m not harried or weighted down by being connected like I’m on life support.

So tell me, how do you intentionally unplug? What would you do if you weren’t plugged in? What changes do you notice when you’ve had a break from being connected?

 

 

Creative Writing is Child’s Play

Children aren’t limited by convention. They haven’t discovered or embraced the rules. They don’t know to filter or sensor what they say. We can learn a lot from them.

Last week I asked for advice about picking up a story that I’d let sit too long. I received some wonderful tips. I’ve incorporated some into my personal writing process.

However, nothing prepared me for the creative writing exercise that took place two days ago.

While trapped in the car on a road trip, each of my boys decided they were going to write a story. “Maybe we can get our stories published Mom.” Does a writer’s heart good to hear.

Writing approaches are as varied as there are authors or writers. Some outline, develop character, and research first, creating a specific plan to reach the desired end of their project. Others just write to see what comes out.

My boys operate on opposite sides of the spectrum in planning and going with the flow. My oldest wants to map out his goal while the youngest just tells his story. Both boys offered me valuable writing lessons.

I find it difficult to assign names to people, places, and things. But my oldest made it seem easy. In order to start his story, he wanted to create a list of character names to work from. My first thought was to use the names generator in Scrivener, but he just wanted to make them up. He came up with boys’ names and I was charged with girls’ names.

Boys:

    • Mooea
    • Yeeoow
    • Noowaau
    • Nugy
    • Abluy

I can’t pronounce these names. He seems to like vowels more than consonants so I said, “You should pick names that people can pronounce.” Way to kill creativity, right?

His response was awesome. “I can name them whatever I want. Besides, they’re aliens.”

But he altered his course because the final names he added were:  Beetle and Storm, still fun but not as “out there” as the above.

I should have kept my mouth shut and let him create. He taught me that I don’t need to overthink my choices, especially not in the first draft.

The girls’ names were less creative as they were my task but I like some of them. So with his permission some of his characters my find their way into my novel.

Girls:

    • Sierra
    • Marsha
    • Feather
    • Blondie
    • Francie
    • Willow
    • Smudge

His final step in our playful session was to describe the story and give it a title. It’s an alien ghost story called:  Spirit Kingdom. Cool, right?

Why do I make writing so hard?

Another challenge for me is deciding where the story begins. My youngest doesn’t have this challenge. He handed me a pencil and said, “I need you to write down my story.” Here’s what he told me:

“This is a story about a boy named Noah, who finds a pair of magical shoes.

When he’s bad, bad things happen. So he needs to learn a lesson. He has to be nice or the leaves will fall.

Noah went to bed. While he was asleep a witch named, Will, touched the shoes with his wand. He put a spell on the shoes.

Noah woke up the next day and put on his shoes. The shoes made him dance all day.

‘Oh no, my shoes,’ he said because they need repair.”

It’s a great start to a story that I would read. The premise is simple, yet a lot could happen if he were to pursue it.

He taught me to just let the words flow. You can edit and change them later. It’s more important to just get the story out of your head and on paper, which I should already know. (Just as a side note, he cried when his paper crumpled in his backpack because he thought this would hinder publishing.)

Children create stories as a way of life. It’s their way of viewing and relating to the world around them. It’s how they play and interact with one another. I love listening to them play made up games but it never occurred to me until this happened that good writing is like children playing make believe.

No matter what your writing approach you can write with childlike abandon. Spend some time playing make believe and let me know if it has a positive influence on your writing.

Joint Venture: Summer Reading Tips from Raymond Bean, Award-winning Author

Summer Reading Tips

I read the jotter’s joint post on summer reading from May 10, 2012, and it resonated with me.  Gail recommended one of my books, which won me over immediately, but it was the message in the post that I connected with as a father, teacher, and writer.  She expressed many of the complexities parents encounter when attempting to spark the love of reading in their children.  Summer reading can be especially daunting.

If you’re like many proactive and dedicated parents you’re stressing out a bit about summer reading.  Creating a summer reading routine that works for you and your child is multifaceted.  You want your young reader to WANT to read, initiate trips to the library, and seek out new books for that new digital reader you bought him.  You envision him snuggled up on a rainy, July day with a classic, perhaps a favorite book from your childhood (insert title of your choice here).  He wants to play XBOX 360.

I’ve taught elementary school for fourteen years and every year around this time parents begin to ask about summer reading.  I’ve put together a list of a few strategies that I’ve found helpful over the years.  Full disclosure, last summer I struggled with my then nine-year-old son over his reading, but that’s another story entirely.  Like Gail, I was attempting to help him learn to appreciate and read chapter length books independently.  I had a long list of books I was sure he’d love because I love them.  It turned out that I had just that, a list of books that I love.  Without meaning to, my son taught me that my job wasn’t to help him love my favorites, but to help him find favorites of his own.

We all know that there’s no perfect strategy or plan to help your kids with summer reading, but you’d better have one or it will be the last week of August before you can say, “Where’d you put your summer reading log?”

  1. Be Flexible:  Don’t push a book on your child.  The more you push it, the more he’ll find reasons to dislike it.  You may not love the book he’s reading, but it’s not about you.  I bet he doesn’t want to read the book you’re reading.
  2. Search Smart:  Try searching for new titles on sites like Amazon.  Start by having him type the title of a book he already read and liked.  For example, type in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Then scroll down to the “frequently bought together” category.  Books will naturally “pair” with similar titles.  If he likes book x there’s a good chance he’ll like book y.  Most books have a “Look Inside” feature.  Use this to your advantage to weed out clunkers and minimize the chances of him selecting a book he doesn’t like.  Read a few pages before making a decision.
  3. Set Goals:  I’m not a fan of time based reading goals.  Many kids simply wait out the clock and ask, “Am I done yet?”  Instead experiment with page based goals.  Consider the number of total pages in the book.  Work with your child to decide on a manageable number of pages to be read per day.  Don’t go nuts!  Help your child set reasonable and achievable daily goals.  Once daily goals are set, determine a completion date for the book.  This strategy will help your child read more, and also provide experience planning, setting, and meeting goals.
  4. Read:  Practice what you preach!  Don’t tell your child it’s time to read and park yourself in front of the computer or text your friends.  Reading with your child when he’s making the transition to chapter length books is extremely valuable.  Join in on the fun, and share the book.  If he’d rather read alone, read near him.  Snuggle up on the couch or at least in the same room, and read something you like.  Have a reading goal of your own, and share it with your child.

Last summer was the summer my son transitioned to chapter books.  Thankfully he’s found many favorites of his own and read extensively this year.  Lately he’s after me to read titles that he loves, and I haven’t had a chance to read yet.  What a difference a year makes!  Thanks to Jotter’s Joint for inviting me to stop by.  Please post strategies that have worked for you in the comments section.  Happy summer reading.

Read, Write, Laugh,

Raymond Bean

www.raymondbean.com

raymondbeanbooks@gmail.com

From the Jotter’s Joint, I extend a special thank you to Ray for sharing his insights on reaching reluctant readers.

I also want to say a personal thank you to Ray for his Sweet Farts Series which has made chapter book lovers out of my boys.

Please take the time to check out Ray’s website and blog.If you’re looking for summer books for your kids, Sweet Farts may be the right fit. My boys vocabulary for describing bodily functions has grown but at least I know they’re paying attention.

Happy Summer Reading,

Gail

Vacation 2012 Postcard: The First Time Flyer, the Reluctant Flyer, and the Frequent Flyer

This is our first real family vacation in 5 years. It requires plane tickets, hotel reservations, a rental car, a block of time off work, and money saved up. It’s a big deal. We are all over the moon about this trip … except for one little thing … flyer fears.

Our five year old is a first time flyer. While he can’t wait to see our family on the West coast, he isn’t looking forward to hopping on a plane. He doesn’t like loud noises and claims to be afraid of heights.

His fears fuel my fears. I worry about whether or not the sounds of the engine will be scary for him. I worry that he’ll cry at take off and in turbulence.

I also worry about the crowded airport because he doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings. He feels safe in most situations to walk away from us and explore. It makes me long for those kiddie harness people put on their kids. It would be one less concern. Okay, not really. It was a fleeting thought.

The seven year old is reluctant to fly. Last time he was on a plane he was two and too curious to be afraid. He’s expressed his displeasure for us taking a vacation that requires us to leave our house let alone travel across the country. He’s a homebody, what can I say?

He needs to feel in control and needs advanced notice of anything that is outside whatever “the plan” is. It’s hard to manage his expectations. We never know what’s going to cause a loud and disruptive reaction.

I worry that he’ll have an uncontrollable outburst like Jeffery from Bill Cosby’s Himself stand up routine. Sorry fellow travelers.

I am a frequent flyer. I travel domestically between five and fifteen times a year for work. So I have the etiquettes down (or so I think). The idea of going through security with my two little guys makes me nervous. It will be slower than I am used to travelling on my own.

My husband doesn’t fly frequently but he’s not a first timer or reluctant … He’ll be great with the boys. He’s fabulous at relating to them and helping them through difficult things.

REALITY:  Their excitement far outweighed their fears. The giggled as we took off. They laughed as the plane tilted toward the West.

“I can see the whole world from here,” said the first time flyer.

“I know. Isn’t it awesome?” responded the reluctant flyer.

“We’re flying,” said the first time flyer.

“This isn’t as scary as I thought it would be,” said the reluctant flyer.

They were wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for better behavior. I was worried for nothing.

“We’re in the clouds. Do you see them?” asked the reluctant flyer.

“Yeah. Yippee,” said the first time flyer..

“They look like ice cream.”

After we reached cruising altitude they pretty much ignored me. Entertaining themselves with the goodies I packed in their backpacks:

  • Power Rangers Samurai coloring books
  • Crayola Twistable Color Pencils
  • Books from our Summer Reading list
  • Their blankets

Several people sitting around us and even our flight attendant commented on how well they flew. As a frequent flyer who watches parents struggle to care for crabby kids, I am thankful that my boys surprised me so wonderfully.

The Promise of Summer

Fudgsicles. Red, white and blue Bomb Pops. Orange Creamsicles. Nestle Drumsticks. Late afternoon shouts, “Ice cream truck. It’s the ice cream truck.” Children running and waving money.

Riding bikes, roller skating or playing ball in the street with friends; these were the best ways to pass the time. We would play all day but reported home when the streetlights came on. Sometimes we’d play a game of hide-n-seek under the cover of night with the neighborhood kids while parents sat on porches and listened to the sounds of stealthy children.

We would make trips to the local pool or play in the sprinklers for the sake of cooling off from the heat. Taking frequent trips to the library to find new adventures to fuel our fun.

The smell of fresh cut grass. Clear blue skies. Golden sunshine streaming through the gaps of the clothes on the clothesline. Laughter in the distance as kids enjoy their freedom.

Veggies from the garden:  summer squash, tomatoes, and zucchini. Eating peaches, plums, and nectarines right off the tree. My Dad often paid me to be a human scarecrow and ward off birds from his precious fruit trees. Chicken and burgers on the grill. Family and friends laughing as we prepare the evening meal together. True community.

Sleeping in till lunch time and watching soap operas all afternoon:  Search for Tomorrow, Days of Our Lives, and Another World. No set bedtime.

Even though I was a little bit of a nerd and enjoyed school, these are the things that summer always promised to deliver for me. Can you see it? Close your eyes and imagine …

Summertime!

Now as a mom of two small boys summer represents some new things …

Ice cream is still involved, just not from an ice cream truck. They are few and far between. When I was young you could set your watch by the arrival of the ice cream truck. Now we’ll stop by one of our favorite ice cream shops.

As the school year comes to a close for my boys, I see that they are in need of a break from the regular routine. They are crabby and annoyed. Counting down the days hasn’t helped. They need a vacation. I am excited for them to have one. I want them to have memories like mine.

The mom in me is excited that I won’t have to remember to pack lunches. There won’t be a need for clean school uniforms and arguments about being in dress code. We can say goodbye to Manic Mornings where tired children meltdown over things like eating breakfast, getting dressed, and brushing their teeth.

Summer can’t get here soon enough. I will fill it as best as I can with:  Fudgsicles, Red, white and blue Bomb Pops, Orange Creamsicles, and Nestle Drumsticks, for my boys.

We will laugh and play in the sunshine. I will put on running shoes or find a bike path. I will stand in the heat and blow bubbles for a game of “Bubble Wars”. I will step outside of my comfort zone and do outdoor things with them. We’ll celebrate the promise of Summer.

Get ready because here it comes …

Cereal? It’s What’s for Dinner!

What’s for dinner? This is the topic of conversation every night when I pick up the boys. It goes something like this:

Child:  What’s for dinner?
Parent:  Food.
Child:  What kind of food?
Parent:  The kind you eat.
Child:  You always say that.
Parent:  It’s always true.

Most nights, for me, it’s cereal. Not in the replace-2-meals-a-day sort of way. I’m not on a special or trendy diet. But rather in a my-boys-are-so-picky sort of way.

Here’s what I mean:

I have one who doesn’t like to eat meat. You name it:  chicken, beef, or pork. The other one doesn’t like anything with a carbohydrate in it. You know:  potatoes, pasta, or bread.

Neither one will eat a veggie. If it’s green (especially leafy) they aren’t touching it. No matter how you dress it up. I know the trick of putting cheese on it but wait … you’ll soon understand.

Sometimes they will eat fruit but only certain fruit and only if it’s fresh not canned. So pineapples, grapes, and apples always make the cut. Please don’t put a peach in front of them. Why? Because of the peach fuzz. Apparently:  “It freaks me out a little, Mom.”

Keep in mind it’s not just types of foods, it’s textures too. For example, they both say yes to apples but one says no to applesauce and the other enjoys it from time to time.

I have one who avoids dairy. While the other loves yogurt and creamy ice cream. I mean we can’t even order pizza because melted cheese “freaks out” the dairy hater. And that means no cheese on veggies.

You may be surprised to know that they will eat a number of beans and legumes. Not typical for kids or at least in my experience.

Now we haven’t even talked about allergies. One who can eat anything as far as we know. And one who can’t have any type of nut and had a reaction to crab legs so we’re avoiding sea food with him in general.

Do you see what I’m faced with? The easy meals that satisfied me as a child won’t fly with my kids. No Kraft Mac and Cheese (even if it’s the cheesiest). No PB&J sandwiches. You can have the J but then we have to deal with the bread issue. No fish sticks. Oh and they aren’t big on hot dogs.

Tell me, how do you create a home cooked dinner that meets the needs of these picky palates? You don’t. So I don’t. I’ve stopped trying. Instead I make them vote and negotiate amongst themselves about dinner options. This technique has its own challenges.

One says:  “I want to get something at home. I want to go straight home.” [You have to say it with a whine in your voice to get the full effect.]

The other says:  “Not me. I want to eat at a restaurant and get an order.” [You have to say it defiantly.]

But once they agree, I deliver and then come home to eat whatever flavor of cereal we have; usually Frosted Flakes but lately Coco Puffs or Lucky Charms.

Cereal? It’s what’s for dinner.

As I run into people I haven’t seen in a while they all make similar comments:  “You’ve lost a lot of weight.” And I consider it a compliment. I don’t mind hearing it. Some people even have attitude about it. Like this is a personal affront to them.

Regardless, I am not trying to lose weight. Sorry … I’m not. Dropping pounds and inches isn’t on my radar in a proactive way. That’s not why I’m eating cereal for dinner.

Even though some may say (including my husband) that I’ve given parenting control to the kids, I like to think of it as choosing my battles. They eat but they have to decide and practice negotiation. They eat things that they like so we don’t argue (as much).

And I have the added benefit of weight loss and maintenance as a result. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method.

Maybe I am on a special diet! But if you have advice on meal options for my picky family, please let me know!

Show-N-Tell

The six original Power Rangers.

As the school year draws to an end for my five year old, his teacher gave each student the opportunity to bring a special item to share with the class. She sent home a canvas bag with a note attached stating:

Parents – Please help your child select one item to bring in the bag and to think of two things to tell about the item. Thank you! 

What a great way to get to know someone. Have them share a single important item. Needless to say, my little dude was super-excited.

He chose his RED Samurai Power Ranger action figure. Naturally! It’s what both of my boys are into right now. We are living, breathing, walking and talking all things Power Rangers at my house. This is their interest. This is their world.

And thanks to the age of Netflix they can watch every season and variation ever made since the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers inception in 1993.

His choice makes sense. It shows who my youngest is right now in life.

Well of course that got me thinking. What if my boss decided to do show and tell week? What if I had to choose something? What would it be and why?

I don’t know what I am so passionate about that I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to share it with others. As an adult, do I have something that I could say I am “super-excited” about [fill in the blank]?

Here are the things that I considered but wasn’t able to narrow it down to just one. For those of you who know me well … you will understand this list. They are addictions for me really. I wish I could help it.

Pen

The challenge would be which pen. I have more pens in my purse than most people have on their desk or in their home. It could be an expensive pen (Mont Blanc) or a cheap one (BIC® Cristal® Bold). Then I would have to decide on color (standard:  black, blue, red or non-traditional:  orange, pink, purple) and point size (0.7mm, 1.0mm, 1.6mm) and style (ballpoint, roller, porous). Two Reasons:

  • I love to write and the pen matters.
  • It’s an addiction I share with my sisters.

Paper

A notebook or stationery or planner pages? How do you decide? I carry these with me at all times. Paper weight matters. Recycled or not. Recently, I found a notebook where the paper was made of stone instead of tree material. Cool right? Not to write on. Reasons:

  • For keeping my thoughts; you never know when inspiration will hit.
  • For jotting down important stuff like appointments and schedules; things I need to remember.

Shoes

High heels? Can’t live without them. I am short so every little bit helps. And they just keep getting higher. My favorite shoe is patent leather. Pretty much anything as long as it has that shine. I have a pair that is red patent leather with a tortoise shell heel and quarter inch platform. They are gorgeous. Two things:

  • They are colorful and pretty; shoes make or break an ensemble.
  • Height … like I said every bit counts.

Handbags

Need I say more? Big, beautiful and full of surprises. For a while I collected them. Now I focus on quality rather than quality. Currently, I am carrying a denim blue colored leather bag that barely holds all my stuff. Things:

  • Like shoes – They are colorful and pretty; make or break an outfit.
  • Conversation pieces.

These four areas have been passions of mine for years. Life actually. I guess they are definers of who I am. If you didn’t know these things … just consider it insight into the psychology of Gail. My “isms” if you will.

Anyway … what would be your one item? What would you show and tell in order to help people get to know you better?