Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Importance of a Sincere Apology

An apology note from my daughter.
I’ve tried to instill in my kids the importance of apologizing when they do something wrong or when they hurt someone’s feelings. It doesn’t matter whether the offense was big or small, intentional or accidental. And it doesn’t matter whether the other person accepts the apology or ‘deserves’ it. These days it seems that far too many people have lost the common sense and the responsibility of a simple “I’m sorry.” And I don’t want my children to join this number!

My 5-year-old daughter’s reading and spelling abilities seem to be improving by the day. She takes so much pleasure and pride in being able to read and write some now…so much so that her favorite pastime right now is writing people notes. Her beginner’s spelling abilities don’t hold her back either. She plods along, sounding things out to the best of her ability.

She produces artwork now that has a ‘to’ and ‘frem’ note scribbled on the back. I get little love notes from her that say ‘I love you Mommy!’ and that feature lots of purple and pink hearts. She has started writing little poems and stories, wanting to be just like me. But the note that touched my heart the most was an apology note that said ‘i AM SOREE.”

Last week, we had a rough day. My daughter was feeling cranky and tired. And she just didn’t want to do school. I told her that she HAD to complete her school work for the day because school is very important. Suffice it to say she didn’t take kindly to my reasoning and once again told me that she hated me.

I had been having a rough day, too, so I teared up a little at her outburst. I sent her to her room for a timeout so she could calm down and think about her behavior. Five minutes later, she returned to me with her little note. I read it and then asked her what she was sorry about. She immediately started crying and told me, “Mommy, I’m sorry that I made you cry. I don’t hate you. I love you so much! I’m sorry I was so mean.”

She gave me the biggest hug and then gave me a kiss on my cheek. Her brown eyes still glistening with tears, she smiled and said, “Mommy, I promise to write you a note every time I make you mad or sad. Then you will always know I’m really sorry because I work very hard at spelling my words!”

This got me thinking about how so many people can’t even take a couple seconds to say they are sorry, but my little girl spent 5 whole minutes trying to figure out how to write out ‘I am sorry’ for the first time. Why is it that as we get older we change? Is it pride or rudeness? Do our hearts become complacent or even hardened? Are we too rushed to notice that we have wronged others or too busy to care? If only we could throw all of that away and just apologize immediately, life would be a lot simpler and more pleasant, wouldn’t it?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Endless Cabin Fever: Where's the Warm Weather?

Biking with the kids
It has been a long, cold, and snowy winter this year…and it doesn’t seem to want to let up. Every time the weather manages to show a tantalizing hint of spring, the threat of snow is back in the forecast within days. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for winter to be over! And each time the weather turns back to a wintery mix, my heart sinks. It feels like we’re caught in an endless winter and my family and I are suffering from a terrible case of cabin fever!

We have already started a spring/summer to-do list of everything we want to do when the weather is warm again:

  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking (and biking of any kind!)
  • Picnics
  • Swimming
  • Water battles
  • Learn to fly a kite
  • Cookouts (lots of cookouts with friends and family!)
  • Plant flowers
  • Start a vegetable garden
  • Camp out in the backyard
  • Fishing
  • And most importantly, absorb as much fresh air and sun as possible!

It is funny how getting stuck indoors (except for short outings) puts things into perspective and has made me realize how lucky we are when the weather is warm and sunny. No more lazing around the house when the weather is beautiful for this family! I hope to find any and every excuse possible to go outside this spring and summer with my kids. Even if I don’t have the energy to do much more than lounge in the sun and watch my children play, I’m getting out there and enjoying the outdoors.

Are you already daydreaming about spring and summer plans? What do you hope to do with your family this year?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When Mommy Grows Up...

The sky is the limit!
As part of a school project, my kids and I have been talking a lot lately about what they might want to be when they grow up. My son wants to design vac trucks (the bigger the better!), drive a school bus, and play guitar and keyboard in a band. My daughter, also on the band kick, wants to be a rock star, as well as design clothes and be a cook at a restaurant. It is so refreshing to see their youthful, innocent enthusiasm! For them, the possibilities are truly endless.

And then, my daughter innocently asked me this week, “What you wanna be when you grow up, Mommy?”

Laying aside the fact that I’m already an adult and thus have been ‘grown up’ for quite some time, I gave it some thought. I remember when I was a little girl I had a huge list of things I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 30:

  • Publish a book
  • Become an astronaut and jump on the moon
  • Train to be the NFL’s first female quarterback and win a Super Bowl
  • Dig up a new species of dinosaur
  • Build a machine that could turn Monopoly money into real money
  • Design and build unique houses for famous people
  • Become a singer/songwriter/rockin’ guitarist
  • Develop super powers and fight crime

With my twenties winding down, let’s just say I’m falling a little short here on the life goals! Publish a book? Well, I’m getting close with this one…if only I could finish one novel, instead of starting a new one every few months. My astronaut ambition? With the NASA cuts and the physical strain of the training, it’s not going to happen…unless I write it into my book, of course.

NFL’s first female quarterback? Again, the physical strain would kill me…if the opposing team didn’t do it first. A dinosaur archaeological discovery? Hey, this could still happen someday, just not before I’m 30. Building a Monopoly money converter? It’s a lucrative idea but quite illegal (hello, money counterfeiting!).

An architect for the famous? I doubt it, but I still hope to design my dream house someday. A music career? Nope, that’s not going to happen either…although the songwriter part is still plausible. And my super hero dreams? Um, this one is probably the most unlikely out of all of them (read ‘virtually impossible’ here)…unless of course, I get so rich from my books and songs that I can hire a team of scientists to make me Iron Woman.

All kidding aside, I think I’ve made progress, but my life goals are still evolving. Perhaps we never do actually grow up in this sense, no matter how old we get. Life is all about changing, growing, and reinventing ourselves. What is important to us now may only be a distant memory tomorrow. I think what I want my children to learn the most from their school project is how important it is for them (1) to find the things they love, (2) to keep dreaming big, and (3) to never be afraid to start a new dream.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cat Got Your Pants?

Not the best shot, but caught him in the act!
I love my fur babies to death! They offer comfort, love, and companionship to me and the rest of my family. But they are so much more. They are actually a part of the family. And I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

Just like my children, though, they know how to get into their share of mischief. In a recent post, The Cat’s Out of the Bag, I gave a prime example of how rascally my pets can be. One of my kittens, Mr. Fuzzy, has an unnatural attraction to socks. Clean or dirty, on or off your feet, he HAS to have them! Now that I know that he is the reason my house is constantly being decorated with socks, it’s actually pretty funny. I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now, I chuckle my way though picking up socks and chasing the furry guy when he’s making off with another catch.

I have had cats that stole Barbie dolls, balls, pens, straws, hair ties, strings, and rubber bands, but a sock stealing cat? This is a crazy first for me! I had never imagined a cat could get so enamored with hosiery that he tries to steal them right off your feet. If anytime I had wished that I could read an animal’s mind, this is it.

The funny thing about fascinations, however, is they tend to fade and a new obsession often takes its place. Well, my four-legged sock thief has already expanded his fixations to include another piece of clothing—a much more important one at that: pants! Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, whenever a tantalizing sock is nowhere to be found, pants make an excellent substitute.

Yesterday, as my son and I were engrossed in his online class, Mr. Fuzzy jumped into my lap for some attention. He then proceeded to leap onto my son’s chair, slink his little body behind my son, and then pounce onto an innocent, unsuspecting pair of my daughter’s pants lying on the couch. With lightning-fast speed, he grabbed the pants between his teeth and took off at full velocity, the pant legs dragging underneath him!

In complete disbelief, I grabbed my cell phone and managed to take a single photo before he disappeared into our bathroom. What in world would possess a cat to steal socks and now pants?! We all know the old expression ‘cat got your tongue?’ But I think I’ll have to add two more expressions to my vocabulary--‘cat got your sock?’ and ‘cat got your pants?’—because there’s no sign that Mr. Fuzzy is letting up on his clothing prey any time soon!

What are some of the strange things your pets have stolen?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mommy's Valentines

A valentine from my daughter

You are Mommy’s valentines;
Your sweet kisses fill my heart.
You will forever be mine,
For I’ve loved you from the start.

Your smiles brighten my day.
Your laughter lifts up my soul.
Your warm hugs take me away
And on the rough days, console

I’m not sure why God chose me
To have two children like you,
But I’m happy as can be
And feeling super blessed, too!

You are the best surprises
That I could ever ask for,
And each time the sun rises,
I thank God a little more.

I never knew love at all,
‘Til I held you in my arm--
Your bodies so frail and small--
And vowed to keep you from harm.

Right now you can’t understand
How much you’ve affected me,
But one day you’ll see firsthand
That you’ve set my spirit free!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Cat's Out of the Bag

As parents, we try our best to raise our children right and give them a good example to follow. However, the human fallibility factor loves to pop up every now and then—sometimes in the funniest ways. I know I’m not immune to such moments, but I swear I get more than my fair share sometimes! A perfect example occurred this month at my house.

I don’t know about your children, but my children dislike socks. If their shoes aren’t on, their little piggies are bare and racing around the house. I can’t even remember the number of times we have come home from a friend or relative’s home minus a sock or two because my kids had stripped their feet as soon as we were in the door, without looking to see where their socks had landed.

In the winter time, it’s a constant battle trying to convince them that they would be warmer if only their socks stayed on their feet. And the majority of the time, I lose these battles and am left with barely worn socks strewn about our house…much to my exasperation.

For years, I have worked with my kids to try to get them to clean up after themselves. And happily, we are making leaps and bounds every day. But for some reason, those darn socks keep ending up all over--behind furniture, under cushions, stuffed in corners, and lurking in the unlikeliest places. With semi-dirty socks scattered throughout our home, it’s not our washer or dryer’s fault usually when a mate goes missing.

Since we moved into our own home near the end of last year, I decided that this was one bad habit we were going to break! At first, my children grumbled and moaned every time I reminded them that dirty socks belong only in the hamper. In time, though, it was becoming more and more like second nature to them, and more socks were ending up in the dirty laundry without a single word from me. Victory!

Then, this month, I noticed something strange: I was finding tons of my children’s socks all over the house, from the kitchen to the bathroom to their bedrooms! Suffice it to say, I was not amused at all. Day after day, I went around the house picking up socks, and time and time again, I sat down with my kids and explained why I wasn’t happy. My displeasure grew more and more as my kids continued to deny that they weren’t the ones who left their socks lying around.

Finally about a week or so ago, I was about to snap! How could my kids deny that they had left their socks around the house? Who else would be leaving them all about? I strongly believed that someone had to be lying because there simply wasn’t any other explanation. I was going to get to the bottom of this!

Just as I was about to confront my kids yet again about their dirty socks, I heard a strange noise in the bathroom. Curious, I started down the hall. As I neared the bathroom doorway to investigate, a black furry blur bolted between my feet, dragging one of my dirty socks behind him! It was our kitten Mr. Fuzzy. He had stolen one of my dirty socks out of the hamper and was taking off with it like it was some prized catch. I was beside myself with utter shock.

Immediately, my son poked his head out of his bedroom, looked up at me with his big blue eyes, and sighed, “See, Mommy; I told you we weren’t the ones putting socks everywhere!”

The Hurtful I-Hate-You's

My Daughter's Self-Portrait

Everyone seems to warn you about the terrible twos, the endless why’s, and the troubled teens.  But nothing I have ever read, discussed, or imagined prepared me for what I have come to call the hurtful I-hate-you’s!

My 5-and-a-half-year-old daughter has always been my sweet little princess.  She stole my heart the moment she looked up at me with those big brown eyes as I was holding her minutes after she entered this world.  She was my cuddle bunny, snuggling up with me every opportunity she could get and wrapping me in the softest hugs I have ever known.

Her smiles and giggles have brought so much life and happiness over the years.  And her silly sense of humor has filled even the worst days with laughter.  That’s why I was totally unprepared for the change that has taken over my lovable little girl.  Just about a month or so ago, in a fit of anger, her tiny little voice rocked my world with her first “I hate you, Mommy!”

Even though some time has passed, I still remember it like it was yesterday, the sting of her words keeping the shocking incident fresh in my mind.  One typical weekday morning, not long after the end of my children’s winter break, I was hard at work preparing for my kids’ cyberschooling.  My children were eating breakfast and watching cartoons in the living room.

When time came to begin the school day I told them to turn off the TV and go change out of their pajamas.  My son, without a fuss, turned off the television and went straight to his room to get dressed.  My daughter, on the other hand, starting pouting and complaining because I was interrupting the episode of Dora the Explorer she was so intently watching.  Despite my reassurances that it was a Dora rerun and readily available on Netflix for them to finish after school, she exploded.  She began yelling at me that it wasn’t fair and that she hated school—that it kept her from doing the things that she wants to do.

Taking the typical mother’s position, I sat her down and explained that school was necessary and that sometimes we all have to do things that we hate.  I suggested that she find some way to tolerate and get through it each day, so she could have more time to do fun things.  Well, that just infuriated her more.  I tried to reason with her again, to no avail.  And finally, she glared at me with her little mouth twisted into a sneer and screamed at me, “I hate you, Mommy!”

In utter shock and hurt, I sent her to her bedroom for a timeout—for both of us.  I went to my own bedroom and cried.  How could my sweet little girl hate me so?  Just a few short days before, we had been best friends.  We had a girls’ night in, taking turns styling each others’ hair and painting our nails together.  How could things change so drastically in less than a week?
Over the next few weeks, her fits grew worse and worse and the I-hate-you’s were used more and more.  I was at my wits end and so emotional that I didn’t know what to do!

In the end, it took a lot of soul searching and thinking before I finally got up the nerve to sit down with her this past weekend and talk to her about it.  After another I-hate-you incident, when all was calm and normal again, I called my little princess to sit next to me and we had a little heart-to-heart conversation.  I asked her how she felt when someone says mean things to her.  I allowed her to gone on and describe what she thinks and feels when such a thing happens.  And then I revealed to her what her heated words do to me.
She immediately frowned and told me that she doesn’t like when other people cry because it makes her sad and then she starts crying.

After that I asked her directly why she tells me she hates me during these situations.  Her tiny face scrunched up for a moment, as she mulled it over in her head.  Finally, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, I hate school.  It isn’t any fun.  And I think it is mean for you to make me do it.  I don’t get to play enough, so I hate when you tell me I can’t play.”

Confused, I asked her, “Does that mean that you don’t really hate me?”

Immediately, she replied, “I love you, Mommy.  I just get mad at you.”

You would not believe the relief I felt.  My daughter didn’t really hate me!  Since our little talk, the I-hate-you’s have stopped…for now.  I know that with the tumultuous moods my princess gets into these days chances are these hurtful words are bound to surface again.  But if they ever do, I’m prepared.  I now realize that this is only a stage she is going through—not the product of some poor parenting on my part.  And I now know in my heart that she still loves me, no matter how much she rants and raves to the contrary.

For those of you with young children who might be going through a similar phase, don’t take your little ones’ words at face value.  Young children often don’t have the ability to properly express and deal with their emotions.  And this is just a product of that immaturity.  Just do what you can to weather the storm and hold the beautiful memories and happy moments close to heart.  It will pass soon enough!