Tag Archives: Parenting

Why Traditions Are Important

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*orginally published 12/6/15

Traditions inform us of our past and can influence our future. They teach us lessons- about simpler times, what is truly important and sometimes they remind us of traditions that need to be changed. Memories are held in traditions- both of loved ones who have passed as well as life events. As for many others, Christmas is a time of year that holds many sacred traditions in my life.

I see all of the pictures people post of their beautiful Christmas trees, many with specific themes and decorations that are well balanced and color coordinated. That is not my tree.

My tree is a wondrous hodge podge of ornaments that go together only because they all hold a special place in my heart. One of my favorite days of the entire year is the day I decorate my tree. When I turn on Christmas music, and one by one open each bin and unwrap each ornament. Sometimes ornaments make me smile and sometimes they make me cry. Every one of them reminds me of a time or event or feeling or person. I don’t rearrange the ones my daughter puts on the tree- sometimes too close together. That is part of the charm- part of my tradition.

In our house, there are plenty of ornaments representing our love of pop-culture.

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Barbie guest singing with the Max Rebo Band

We get new ornaments every year that usually represent something we love, a time in our life or someone’s personality.

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Yoda and a Grasshopper I bought the hubby because I am cruel. He notoriously hates grasshoppers and I could not resist. 

On my mother’s side of the family, once all of the cousins became adults, there were a few years in which we made ornaments for each other as gifts. One year we even made one together- snowmen out of clay that heavily suggested their poop (snowballs) was for sale. My poop selling snowman is broken, though I did find his arm in one of the boxes. Two amazing things came out of that rather short-lived tradition. 1. The fact that we now do a White Elephant gift exchange, which is even more fun with my Great Aunt Trudi as the wildcard- swooping out of nowhere to steal kinda random gifts, and inadvertently breaking up coalitions, and 2. This nativity made in the image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as S’mores. My cousin glued a bunch of these together, before we even had kids, and I love her that much more for it.

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Perhaps we started the tradition of making ornaments to exchange, because every year my Pop-pop would carve and paint Santa ornaments for all of us. Every year a different design. These are some of my very favorite on the tree. Pop-pop died in June 8 years ago. He never met any of his great-grands, but my daughter knows about him because at the very least, once a year, she looks at the ornaments he made, listening to me talk about him as she traces her fingers along the ridges of the wood carvings. I remember that first Christmas after he died, walking into my Mom-mom’s home knowing I would never get another Pop-pop ornament. But what an amazing and gut-wrenching surprise when we learned my uncle found the carved, but unfinished ornaments Pop-pop had already started and he finished them.

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The last Pop-pop Santa Ornament

I have ornaments memorializing people, as well as welcoming people into the world or my life. Ornaments marking events like trips or my first house. Plenty that are handmade, some by my grandmothers, some by Matt’s, some by me. Beautiful, delicate glass ornaments as well as weird ones. A ton from the dollar store that I bought the year I moved out and had my own tree. Large, smooth carved wood block ornaments Matt’s father made- three of them- one hanging by each of our Stockings.

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My very favorite Santa Pop-pop made. Picture of when the hubby and Newt made The Paper because they were so adorable at a Christmas tree lighting.

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Your tree will never be as cool as mine as you probably DO NOT have a rhino doing karate. Top right- the memorial ornament my sister made the year my step-dad died.

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Top right is Askasleikir (Bowl-licker) my folks brought back from Iceland. Bottom left- one of the first ornaments my sweetie and I got together.

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The ornament from the year I was pregnant- the ultasound picture. The weird looking blown glass cupcake thing was my mother in laws- one of my favorites!

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Matt’s grandmother painted the tree. The cute baby is from my first niece’s first Christmas. I may have yet another niece before this Christmas comes. 

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Gigi cross stitched this probably circa 1986

I have ornaments from my best friends. Some of those ornaments are from the days before we were married, before we had kids. The days that we would sit on my back porch smoking clove cigarettes, drinking mixed drinks made from cheap rum or tequila and talking about guys- some of whom later became husbands. Some of those ornaments are from more recent times, when we now we sit in the air conditioning, drinking craft beer or red wine, smoking absolutely nothing, as we listen to the squeals and laughter of our girls in the next room- making memories and friendships to last a lifetime. Sometimes we still talk about our guys, but we also talk about things like plantar fasciitis and the benefits of supportive walking shoes and podiatry.

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Handmade ornament of one of my childhood homes- made with love and irony from a BFF.

So many memories were shared with me by my parents when decorating the tree and even more were made. Because of my mom, the BEST Christmas records (yes- I said records because that is what we listened to and I promise you- she still has them all) will always be Alabama Christmas  , Oak Ridge Boys Christmas and Willie Nelson Pretty Paper, and I always cry when Santa comes at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Because of my other mom- Deb, I will always have a real Christmas tree and love cool, vintage ornaments. Like my moms did, I tell my daughter the stories behind the ornaments and like I did when I was a child, my daughter is super excited initially and then gives up about a quarter of the way through decorating- leaving the rest to me. And so, some traditions carry on…..

 

 

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Victory for an anxious mama

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I have always been an anxious person and becoming a mother certainly did nothing to decrease my anxiety. It took me until well into my 30’s to really start confronting my fears and doing things that I always wanted to do but was too afraid to take the leap.

By virtue of both nature and nurture, my kiddo also has her fair share of anxiety. And while I make light of situations such as when we were in the produce section of the grocery store and she told me she “needed” to fix that someone had set a garlic bulb randomly on a bunch of tomatoes, I am all too familiar with the inner dialogue that accompanies those behaviors.

It can be difficult to keep myself in check and have a “perfect” balance of challenging my daughter to push through her anxieties and not let them impact her life, but also listening to and respecting when it is too much for her to manage.

Which brings me to swimming.

We live in Florida. We have a swimming pool. We have a pond behind our house. Water and water safety are a huge concern for us, so naturally we put our daughter in swim lessons early. It was a great program and she definitely learned how to swim and how get to safety, but even after 3 summers of lessons and countless hours in the swimming pool, she would still cry when asked to swim any distance in the pool, or jump in, or anything other than sit on the steps. She would bargain with us about how many times she had to do a skill before she could go back to her float. She would cry and hyperventilate.

This summer, she and I were in the pool and I asked her to swim to the far side, which was where she deemed was the deep end and thus off limits. I reminded her that since she was swimming and not walking, it didn’t matter that it was over her head.

And then it happened. My scared 6 year old took a deep breath. She closed her eyes briefly and said to herself, “Don’t let your fear control you.” And she took off and swam across the pool.

Now she is a regular mermaid. She jumps in the pool and will swim and swim and swim. She is the coolest kid. I want to be like her when I grow up. beach pic

“I’ve just had a really long day.”

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She suddenly looked up at me, big blue eyes, glistening, “I’m sorry. I’ve just had a really long day.”

I cocked my head to the side and furrowed my brow to indicate I had no idea what she was talking about.”

She looked down sheepishly. “I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier. I’ve just had a long day.”

Quickly, and with a little amusement, I mentally reviewed this “really long day” for my not-yet-6-year-old.

This day was my first day back to work after a week vacation, but she still had the day off for teacher planning day following her spring break.

I let her sleep until the last possible minute. I even did her chores of feeding her dogs and fish. I let her have M&M cookies for breakfast. She came with me to work, and she quickly took over my office, the conference room, and eventually my boss’s office with her LalaLoopsies, markers, paper, tape, sand. Plenty of play on her tablet. Then, after work, she got a quick nap in the car on the way to dance. After dance, some running around on playground with friends. Tried out a new podcast on the way home, which she loved, then made plans to take the crazy dog for a walk. (We have 2 labs. One is old and calm. The other is only 2- that is the crazy dog.)

It was then she snapped.

Except, she really didn’t. I think she did yell at the dog, who was jumping, excited to see her, and briefly had a tone in her voice with me, that I called her on. For me, it was quickly forgotten. But as we walked with the dog, enjoying the weather and the discussion, it was bothering her- which brings me to the start.

I fought my natural inclination to respond with a sarcastic comment about wishing I had really long days like hers, and attended to HER feelings instead of mine. I thought about what I want when I am tired and irritable. I just want someone to hear me.

I brushed a wayward curl out of her face as I smiled at her. I acknowledged her really long day. I told her that when we got home we would eat and she could have a relaxing bath and then we would cuddle and read together before bedtime.

 

I’m so proud of my daughter on the primary Election Day.

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My daughter is not yet 6.

I’m watching her swinging for a few minutes before we get ready for karate. Her crazy blonde curls are flying everywhere and she has the biggest grin. Joy. Open. Kind. Pure.

20 minutes before, in the car heading home from the precinct after I cast my vote for my registered party’s presidential candidate, my brilliant daughter was talking about what she thinks makes a good president. She said the president should have courage and should help people.

And then, in the simplest of ways explained why a president should seek to resolve conflict, not create it- should seek to solve problems not create division. She said if people don’t get along and just go on to the next friend, and then don’t get along and move to the next friend and keep going and going like that, pretty soon the whole world will just be mad at each other and not listening.

No matter what happens in the election today, or in November, or in 4 or 8 or 12 years from now, I will make a commitment to myself and to my child that I will continue to love and to be kind. I will seek to understand the other side, even if I don’t agree, and in conflict will strive to do so with respect.

I will do my best to live up to my daughter’s expectations for a president, so by default, a leader: to have courage and to help people.

 

Update to my last post…

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Sometimes being a mom means having a 10 minute, in-depth, conversation about diarrhea while listening to your kid have diarrhea. Apparently 5 year olds honestly think there is some kind of world record having to do with diarrhea.

Being a mom is super glamorous.

Stubbed toes won’t get my husband out of our pottery date- but this might. UGH!

“Mama, you are just like a nurse.”

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For much of the past week, the hubby has had a bit of a cold. Nothing earth shattering and for the most part, he handles himself well when sick.

However, when either of us are sick, we tend to sleep separately. Just makes it easier so the tossing and turning won’t keep the other up and the sickie can get comfortable without having to account for another person. So this week, I have slept on the couch a few nights. No biggie.

Two nights ago, since I had to go to work the next day and he didn’t, he suggested Newt and I go to sleep in our bed and he would sleep on the couch. No problemo. It would save time from our nighttime routine when I put her to bed. She fell asleep fine but I couldn’t fall asleep until probably 2 am. Again- whatever. It happens to me a couple of times a week.

Until approximately an hour later, when I woke to the sounds of my sweet daughter violently retching in my bed. I guess the best thing about the rest of that night is that she was turned away from me and most of the considerable mess landed on the floor and down the side of the mattress.

I did a pretty good job suppressing my own gag reflex until I was safely in a different room than the kiddo, who kept apologizing. I spent the rest of the night doing laundry, holding her hair and her, and cleaning up puke. Eventually my husband joined in to help and we ended up blowing up the air mattress and all 3 of us slept in the living room.

As the sun was coming up, Newt and I had a nice moment noticing that had we actually slept, my alarm would be going off at that moment in time. Instead, we were sitting on a blow up mattress watching old Smurfs cartoons with a puke bucket between us. Good times.

Midway through the next day (yesterday for those keeping track), I started to feel not only queasy, but also a sore throat coming on. The good ole double whammy. But, I pressed on, trying to work from home and take care of the family. Several hours later, after much frustration and not much work done, it was almost time for bed. And then, the love of my life (besides my kid), stretched his legs out and kicked the coffee table, splitting his big toe nail in half and breaking in down about half way. Cursing and blood ensued.

Newt cried to see her daddy in pain, but as soon as I grabbed the first aid supplies, she was stopped and watched intently as I cleaned his wounds and carefully bandaged his toe. She commented, “Mama, you are just like a nurse.” I was pleased that she recognized the additional hat I had been wearing for the last several days.

That’s the thing. Moms often have to be like nurses. And teachers and therapists and cops and seamstresses and short order cooks and chauffeurs and secretaries and mediators and the list goes on and on. We have to know how to do a lot of things (or how to use Google well) and we don’t usually have time to prepare for which skills we might need to use in a given moment. And we have to do these things even when we are not feeling well ourselves.

So this week, even though I was hit with the double whammy of 2 different illnesses at the same time, thankfully I had the “mom versions” of them, which is apparently when moms feel symptoms less intensely than other family members in order to still carry on their “nursing” duties. The mom version of the illness does seem to come with the additional symptom (at least for me) of significant irritability when not directly administering comforting measures to others.

Oh- and to my husband- if you think that the little trick that you did with your toe will get you out of our triple date tomorrow to go paint pottery- you are sorely mistaken.  Love you!

I will never* homeschool my kid.

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Don’t worry. This isn’t a post critical of the concept of homeschooling. I fully accept it as a valid educational decision that works really well for certain families. Mine is just not one of them.

Sure, there are plenty of families who choose to homeschool for really, really scary reasons. And plenty who say they are homeschooling but there is not a lick of education actually happening. Just as there are really messed up family situations for many kids in public school or private school. And believe me, I have seen all of those kids at some point in my career as a therapist.

But this post is just about knowing yourself and your limits as a parent.

There is nothing, not a person or thing, on this entire planet that I love more than I love my daughter. I love watching her learn new things and explore her world. There is nothing better than cuddling with her. But, by the time Monday rolls around each week, we are both ready for a break from each other.

I know home schooling is not for our family because I would not be the best mom or teacher I could be. I know my limits and the limits of my patience. The healthiest relationship my kid and I can have is one where we have a healthy amount of time not together. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

One of my good friends from high school home schools her 2 kids. They live out of state and though I end up seeing my friend every year or so, I haven’t seen her kids in several years but was able to hang out with them last weekend. I can say that her 2 home schooled kids are deliciously weird. They have social skills and all- they aren’t “weird” weird. And I don’t really thinks it’s because of being home schooled. My public school educated kid is pretty darn weird too. Five years old and she announced yesterday that she wants to be a cryptozoologist when she grows up.

 

*I do know to never say never. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I would probably homeschool.

 

 

Just ’cause you’re right, that don’t mean I’m wrong

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Probably almost 12 years ago now, I was chatting with my brother. It was one of those long, meandering conversations about life, goals, hopes, stuff like that. It may have even been the night we discovered Jtv and stayed up late into the night, talking and drinking and realized the next morning that we somehow purchased like 5 loose Padparadscha sapphires. They were just so cheap and pretty!!!

Anyhoo, at some point the discussion landed on my own anxieties about my relationship with my boyfriend and if he was the guy for me in the long run. My concerns were that we saw the world too differently. We had different political ideologies and thoughts about social and cultural issues. I mean, our voter registration cards were the proof. One had an R and one had a D. What would that mean for us? What would that mean if we had kids? How would we know how to raise them? What values do we impart? I wasn’t sure if that was just a sign to me that we were too different.

My brother just chuckled and said we were great together. He suggested that it may actually be BETTER for our future children in the long run. It could teach them how to examine issues from all sides, use critical thinking skills, and come up with their own thoughts and opinions. I’m pretty sure at the time that his answer irritated me more than reassured me, mostly because (and I never would have admitted this) I was too afraid of raising kids that might use those critical thinking skills and come to a different conclusion than me about something when, clearly, I am right.

Fast forward to today. I did end up marrying that guy and have a great, independent thinking kid with him. We still have some differences in how we see the world, but it turns out that we are alike in more ways than we are different. We value hard work, kindness, honesty and family. We are fiercely loyal, and wickedly sarcastic. Our greatest goal in life is to be good parents to our daughter. When we do disagree, we try to be respectful to each other and if we just can’t in the moment, we have gotten pretty good about knowing when to take our corners. I feel more comfortable with the thought that my child will use her critical thinking skills to come to her own conclusions that may actually be different than mine. But I also hope that we are teaching her to have respectful, constructive- rather than destructive- conversations with people that have differing opinions.

And honestly, the difference that has affected us the most in our day to day lives isn’t our political affiliations. It’s the fact that we don’t come down on the same side in the Coke vs. Pepsi argument. (In case you are wondering, the correct choice is ALWAYS Coke.)

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I choose to love.

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As a therapist I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how people feel, how people think and how and why they behave certain ways.

As a therapist who specializes in trauma, I have spent countless hours with people who have trusted me enough to share details of horrific things they have been through. I have seen the devastating and long term effects caused by the violence of man.

I have seen what living in a near constant state of fear does to the human spirit. How it impacts relationships. How emotions and perceptions are affected. I have even seen how people lash out with anger and aggression because of fear.

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But I have also seen hope and I have seen healing. I have experienced healing. I have never seen healing happen from fear or anger. The moments of healing happen in a place of love and compassion. They happen when people are open to receiving and giving kindness. It happens when someone stands defiantly up to the fear- refusing to let the fear color their world anymore.

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It would be easy for me to let my fears of what might be or what could happen win. To circle the wagons and insulate myself and my loved ones from a cruel, harsh world. And it is a cruel, harsh world. But it’s also beautiful and peaceful and interesting and joyous and weird and so much more. I live with eyes wide open to the beauty and to the danger.

And every day I make a choice to approach myself and others with kindness. Every day I choose to contribute to the healing of others, of myself, of society. I choose to live in a way that reflects the kind of world I want for my daughter. I choose to make my love greater than my fear.

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Raising a Geek Girl: Curating the Toy Collection- Star Wars Edition Part II- Beyond Leia

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This post contains affiliate links.

In my last post, I covered some of the options for Princess Leia toys that are available. As of this writing, Princess Leia has been no less than a cultural icon for 38 years. She is truly a strong female character, who is a princess- now Disney Princess actually, and is a woman who can stand up to evil and fire a blaster with precision while wearing dresses and keeping her hair immaculately coiffed. It is certainly not necessary for a woman to have a put together appearance while being strong, but for my kid that who wants to wear only dresses, pink and purple and loves all things glitter, Leia is a hero she can identify with.

Even though Star Wars brought us an enduring image of female strength, the original movies themselves did not have a great many other women in them. With the release of Episodes I-III, Queen Amidala was introduced. Amidala was a woman who knew how to dress and was certainly brave, but she does not seem to have the same resonance with people as Leia. While there are some toys of Amidala still available, such as the Fashion Play Set discussed in the Leia edition, a quick search for Amidala or Padme on Amazon reveals mostly costumes.

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I do particularly like the below pose of the 4th figure from above. She was not a sex slave like Gold Bikini Leia was in her chained movie scene- but that doesn’t stop her from being marketed sexily. Note in the pose below how the chain is wrapped around her neck, not secured to her- but she holds it in her hands like a feather boa- rather than taking it off and kicking some butt. ALSO- during this scene in the movie, Anakin and Obi Wan are actually chained and in the arena with her. In my cursory internet search, I could find action figures of Anakin and Obi Wan from this scene but neither had chains. I am not saying they don’t exist- I am just saying if they do, they are so buried amidst their other action figure likenesses that I could not easily find them. Amidala has very little toys available and one of them might as well be called “sexy Padme with chain.” Super.

amidala 5 In a little over a month, the new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters and already there is a huge marketing push for toys, clothes, anything. It does appear that Disney and LucasFilms are considering girls this time. A woman, Rey, is featured prominently in all advertising and already has so many toys available- and we don’t even yet know who the heck she is or what she is like! Though recently released footage shows her piloting the Millennium Falcon like a boss.

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One of the things my husband has always says, is that the bad guys really look cooler than the good guys in Star Wars. It is true and my kid and husband are both drawn to the bad guy toys over the toys of the good guys- I mean Darth Vader is the ultimate image of movie villain. This Halloween, two of the most popular Halloween costumes I saw were the girl versions of Vader and a Stormtrooper. A couple of years ago, Newt was Vader for Halloween- though a slightly more “Newt” version- as she insisted her costume be pink and have glitter “all over it.”

Princess Vader Trick or Treating at Tampa History Center in 2013

Princess Vader Trick or Treating at Tampa History Center in 2013

One of the coolest looking characters from any of the Star Wars movies in my opinion is Captain Phasma.

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Yes, Captain Phasma is a villain, but guess what? Phasma is also a woman!! None other than Brienne of Tarth herself, Gwendoline Christie.

Image courtesy of ew.com

Image courtesy of ew.com And click on the image to read Ms. Christie’s take on why her character is good for girls.

And of course….TOYS!! Readily available TOYS!!!

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But there are a few more female characters from the Star Wars Universe I can’t leave out. Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and Hera and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels.

Left to right: Sabine, Hera, Ahsoka

Left to right: Sabine, Hera, Ahsoka

Cool looking (and non-villainous), strong, female characters. Far under-represented in the toy lines. This article discusses the issue well, especially the lack of Hera merchandise- which is crazy because Hera is the coolest of the bunch- ask my kid and her friend. The article also has a breakdown of some of the actual numbers of merchandise produced by character. There are a few figures, though, of course packaged with a male toy.

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It is not a toy, but last weekend I did make a dress for my daughter and one for her friend with Star Wars Rebels fabric because you just can’t find apparel with Hera and Sabine’s likenesses on it. Nothing fancy- but since I don’t really know how to sew- not too bad, if I do say so myself. I actually used this tutorial to figure out how to make it, and if I could do it- really anyone could. Easy solution to the Geek Mom problem of not finding enough geeky clothes for their Geek Girls!! You can find this particular fabric on Amazon, Hancock Fabric or Jo Ann Fabric.

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*RWMOTB is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.