Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Worst Part of Vacation?

Airport bathroom trips without Daddy are the WORST part of vacation.  Seriously.  My respect for single parents knows no bounds when this catastrophe occurs.

Let me set the scene:

Arrival at airport two hours early after a harrowing almost-missed-our-flight-last-year-fiasco-lord-knows-not-cutting-it-that-close-this-year:  discover flight delay of 30 minutes.  (now have 2.5 hours to kill with overexcited children - Oh.  Lord.  Help.  Me.)

A-ha!  Play area, then lunch.  Brilliance.

Completely wear them out playing.  Allow their natural exuberance to be felt throughout the play zone.

Wash hands on way to lunch.  So EWWWW in airport play areas.  Am assured no one needs to potty yet, we can all potty after lunch - before flight.  Mea Culpa on believing THAT tall tale.

Lunch:  get seated - with two children, car seat and 30 pound carry on (Momma needsa lotta things to do on the flight).  Order lunch.  

"Mommy, I needa go pottay."

"No.  We're getting ready to eat lunch.  You can wait."  (She really can - total camel)

Doubles over, crosses legs, says, "Can I just go in my diaper?"

"You don't have a diaper on.  DON'T GO YET!"

"Waitress?  I swear we're coming back, even though we're taking everything but our drinks to the out of the restaurant potty halfway down the terminal.  Swear."

Drag car seat, carry on, Oldest, Youngest and self to potty - at light speed.  Mission accomplished.  Minor shenanigans ensue - like both children sitting on the changing counter while I pottied, laughing at my "method," so to speak.  Who needs privacy when you have kids, right?  Or Blogs . . .

Moral of the Story?

I missed Husband the whole trip, but not nearly as much as this moment.  Had he been with us, it would have been soooooo much easier.  Like leave Oldest, car seat, and carry on with him, whisk Youngest down the hall.  Back in a jiffy.  But I wouldn't be writing about THAT happening, would I???  That would be B-O-R-I-N-G.

Ah, well, all's well that ends well.  Youngest pottied AND slept on the return flight.  Bliss.

And I just successfully inserted the word "well" 3 times in 7 words.  Can anyone top that literary brilliance today?

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Happiness Project - Post Vacation

It's Happiness Monday (well, Tuesday, don't sue me)!  I love My Happiness Project, where I decided to spend a year "finding" happiness with the help of Gretchen Rubin and her awesome book.  Check out her website for more information.  And buy the book!  It's never too late to start your own Happiness Project.  

My vacation - Cliffs Notes Style:

We went.
We sunned.
We funned.
We slept.
We ate.
I drank.
We read.
We walked.
We swam.
We bonded.
We loved.
We played.

We didn't stay.  

We said goodbye.  

Life awaited us at home.  

Now we're back - refreshed and ready to plow through Spring.  :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Happiness Project and Spring Break

It's Happiness Monday!  I love My Happiness Project, where I decided to spend a year "finding" happiness with the help of Gretchen Rubin and her awesome book.  Check out her website for more information.  And buy the book!  It's never too late to start your own Happiness Project.  

In keeping with last week's theme of contradictions, this week is about "knowing when to take a break."  Loving my Children's Gifts will be on Spring Break for the next week.  

While on break, my happiness will (hopefully) consist of the following challenging decisions and nothing more:
  1. Beach or Pool? 
  2. Cocktail hour at 5pm or 5:30?  Or 4?
  3. Breakfast in or out?
  4. Would you like fries with that?  (yes)
  5. Go to bed early or stay up reading?
  6. 1 Sudoku puzzle a day or 2?

I can't wait to see you upon my return!  Until then, Happy Blogging!  


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Super Sunday Series - Motivation

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series - where I speak to all topics gifted and how they relate to your child's well-being.  Please click on the tab above if you want to discover more about the Series and its topics.

This week in the Series is MOTIVATION!  Motivation is complex and layered.  There are psychological components, sociological components, and family components to consider.

I've decided today to talk about nurturing motivation.  I think all parents have a fear (some hidden, some announced) that their child won't live up to their "potential."  My gifted bible, A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children, (which I haven't quoted in so long!) says this about it:
Fundamentally, it is difficult for children who are in the upper 3% to stay motivated in an educational system that focuses primarily on the other 97%.  The resulting discouragement is probably the main reason why most gifted children work at least two to four grade levels below their potential.  Pages 61-62.  
So what can parents do to help our gifted children stay motivated when practically everywhere they look they are being told to slow down in some form or another?
  1. Try to be understanding, rather than demanding. 
  2. Find the child's interests, build on that motivation, then work on redirecting it.  In our house, Oldest's interests change often.  Right now, it's Pokemon.  Previously, it's been Scooby Doo or the movie Cars.  I could teach an entire curriculum through her interests when she's in the thick of them.  Seriously.  She might be resistant to division, for example.  But I'll bet if I told her to add up all the Pokemon in one of her books then divide them equally between the three main characters, she would do it so fast (and accurately) my head would spin.  But if I said, "let's work on division!"  She might get herself grounded with the bellyaching she would do.  
  3. Teach your child self-management skills.  Lucky for me, the Montessori philosophy does this quite well.  But learning the art of negotiation, priority setting, and time management are all essential life skills to acquire and they don't come about magically.    
  4. Help your child focus on effort, not just outcome.  Sound familiar?  Perfectionism 101.  
  5. Participate in activities together.  We do this a lot here.  I'll set Oldest up with something and I'll set myself up with something, then we'll work on our projects in the same room.  This will help your child see how you stay motivated and how you work through tough patches.
All tips come from A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children.

Finally, Parent's Guide astutely reminds parents to recognize that our own motivation ebbs and flows, sometimes more than once a day.  So wouldn't it be unfair to expect more motivation from our kids than we expect from ourselves?    

I hope this helps.  If you find something here you'd like to know more about, please let me know in a comment.  I'll be happy to dig a little deeper.  

What do you do in your house to foster motivation?  

Saturday, March 20, 2010

6 word Saturday

Leaving . . . on a jet plane.  Soon.

Head over to Cate and Show my face for more.  Try one of your own!  They're fun.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dear So and So - Vacation Edition

Dear airplane rides
Be kind to Momma.  Flying alone with a 7 month old and a 5 year old seemed challenging 2 years ago.  Flying alone with an 18 month old and a 6 year old seemed challenging last year.  Flying alone with a rambunctious, zany, highly energetic 2 year old who never stops talking EVER and who gave up her pacifier in February (what WAS I thinking?) and a just turned 8 year old who still wants to ride her Trunki no matter how many times I say it's not happening without Daddy and who also never stops talking EVER seems a little challenging this year.

Maybe a little sleep before leaving would help, but what the heck - let's really play Russian Roulette and have a tired, cranky, slightly over-stressed mommy too

Dear Youngest
By today's count, you've taken 4 headers this week.  Since MONDAY.  I'm beginning to think you're a closet drinker.  Let's try not to get a traumatic brain injury on the eve of vacation, hmmmmm?

Mommy wants to REST on vacation, child

Dear hot water heater
Right.  When you busted on Wednesday that was super fun.  Running sopping wet towels up and down the stairs to wring out outside was uber-cool.  Not knowing whether water coursing like a river under the furnace as it gushed from the hot water heater was a bad thing was super-reassuring.  Roto-Rooter coming within an hour really was reassuring, so thanks for that. Youngest not napping during the debacle was that final touch of AWESOME in the afternoon.

Taking 6 hours to replace your 23 year old self was a great way to practice patience.  Not having the water on for those 6 hours wasn't a problem - we like not flushing the toilet.  Forgetting that Youngest didn't nap until she laid down on the floor crying over how tired she was was a pretty proud mommy moment.  And the $1,681.00 bill was the piece de resistance on a sunny, warm, beautiful Spring St. Patrick's Day.

Seriously.  I can't think of any other way I would have done it.  Can you?  Doesn't that sound fun?  I found it titillating.  But on the bright side, at least it didn't happen while on vacation!

Dear neighborhood sisters who Oldest has a case of unrequited friend love for: 

So it's been 7 months since you rang our door bell.  In that time, I have told Oldest 673 times that "no, she actually can't come down to see if you're home."  Because, see, last time she did that and you guys shot off on your scooters leaving her behind at a stop sign and she felt lost and scared at dusk and was paralyzed with fear to even come home because she was thinking about monsters and scary people, and I was at home having no idea this was happening and thinking you all were playing at your house, like you told me you would be doing?  She may have forgotten that, but I haven't.

I also haven't forgotten when I was in a pinch for a babysitter for a one hour lunch meeting last summer and walked down and asked your dad if she could hang out with you guys and good old Dad checked with your Mom who said "sure, bring her down at 11:30," then when we came down the next day you two and your mom were backing out of the driveway to go to the zoo because she "forgot" (even though we'd discussed it 18 hours earlier) and Oldest cried for the hour in her room while I had a mommy's helper watching Youngest.

I'm a Taurus and a mother and that combination makes for a long, long, long memory.  So this week, when you saw Oldest having a playdate with another girl up the street (who is a much better fit for her), is that why you suddenly have been ringing our door 3 times a day for three days straight?  And then when you told me that if Oldest could come down to visit the other day and your mom would tell her to come home at whatever time I said for her to, and then Oldest didn't come home and Youngest and I went down to pick her up and your mom actually wasn't home and your dad was inside sleeping?

Yeah, all those memories from last summer come rushing back even more.  And guess what?  I'm going to teach Oldest how to play a NEW game this summer.  It's called playing hard to get.  Despite my repeated Super Sunday Posts about friendship in January, this isn't how I envision a healthy friendship.

Maybe this is how it rolls with neighborhood friendships.  It's just not how I roll.

Dear Friday Follow
Bea's Gift Baskets

Hello to you and thanks again to Hearts Make Families, One 2 Try and Midday Escapades.  Link up if you want to meet new people.  I've discovered some genuine, new, engaged and totally fun followers through this link up.  So enjoy if you're interested.

And head over to Kat's place at 3 bedroom bungalow for more Dear So and So fun.  You won't be sorry!

Tip Me! Tip Me!

Occasionally I use Thursday to sound off about something that bothers me.  Editorialize.  Pretend I'm being paid to give an opinion.  In other words, prepare yourself to be annoyed.

And truly, these posts are the only ones I've gotten negative comments from my readers and I actually received  two from my review of Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I maintain was awful, contrary to my dissenter's opinions (one of which is my famous, someday really famous director nephew).

So caveat aside, let's talk about tip jars, baby!

Tip jars, for me, are a great representation of what is wrong with America.  When they say this:

Tips Appreciated

They actually mean this (in my humble opinion):

Hey YOU!  Pay me more for doing something I'm already getting paid to do.  Feel guilty about "just" being a customer who keeps my place of employment in business and succumb to your guilt.  Throw that change in the tip jar on the counter.  Go on - you don't need it, right?  Oh, you do?  Who cares?  I need it more.  DO IT.  And if you don't?  You're an inconsiderate jerk.

Ok, MAYBE it's not talking that much (either that, or I need the men in white coats to come pick me up), but you get the idea.

In so many ways, America is an instant gratification, "get it free" society and it drives me crazy!

I see tip jars at places I love (like Chipotle) and places I hate (like Starbucks), so this isn't merely a slam on places I don't like.  It's a slam on the notion of overpaying for minimum wage service.  If I want to go to a fancy shmancy sit down dinner and get "handled with care" by a waiter, then by all means I'm going to tip the person generously (also because I know she/he is getting paid LESS than minimum wage and relies on tips for a large portion of his/her paycheck).

But if I walk up to a counter and say "I'd like a half-caf mocha latte to go," I don't think the person who makes a production of yelling "half-caf mocha latte to go" deserves a buck of my hard earned money.  I just shelled out an exorbitantly overpriced payment for it at the register, didn't I? (Which I can't even get into why our riches are going down the toilet in the form of over-priced drinks today - another day for that fun.)  I know they're getting paid minimum wage and I know that's not enough to make ends meet for virtually anyone.  I just don't think the guilt-inducing tip jar is the answer.

I'd rather take my guilt over the state of the world to a confessional (or my congressman, I suppose) than give it away in a tip jar.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Family Mission: Complete

We did it.  We created Our Family Mission (say it with an echo to herald its importance).

If you recall, the family mission development began when I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.  I joined an online book club, that I loved for 3 weeks, then had to slack off on due to increased responsibilities around here and decreased time  to accomplish my tasks (something about sick kids and snow storms for an entire month, but I'm SO over it).

But the mission.  The mission!  We kept at it.  Every week we did the next step, whittled down, expanded where necessary, talked, analyzed, giggled.  Because it was a lot of fun!  Family mission development with a Mom, Dad, 7 year old and 2 year old is definitely interesting!

So without further ado, I give it to you:

Our #1 priority is to love and respect each other.  

We do this through having fun, being kind, listening to and supporting each other's feelings and decisions.  

We are honest and have a home with Christian values.

We will spend our lives educating ourselves and learning new things.

We love music and animals.

I'm sure it will evolve over time.  It's a little generic sounding, but truthfully, these are the words (italicized) that we all wrote down.  Like any good business, we should have a yearly evaluation of it to see if it still fits us.  I'm sure as the girls grow, we'll add some things like, "we will not kiss boys until we are married to them," or "negative peer pressure in any way is for complete idiots" and stuff like that.  :)

But for a first pass, we like it.  No, we love it.  It makes us feel complete, whole, unified toward a common purpose - supporting each other in all things.  And as it says at the top, "giving each other love and respect."

What was our process?

Week 1 - Discussion about why we love our home (And to be honest, this first conversation almost made me stop the process.  The girls were too silly and Husband was "just not that into it," if you know what I mean.  But because I am a Taurus, I pressed on.)
Week 2 - Each person listed 5 words or phrases that described what our family represents (or wanted it to represent).
Week 3 - I presented the tally of words and phrases (you would be shocked how much overlap there was).
Week 4 - We cut the ones we didn't need or that were superfluous.
Week 5 - I wrote it up two ways and presented it to the group.  This is the one we picked.

What do you think?  Have you ever done one?  For those who already told me you haven't, does the process interest you?  Do you think it's crazy to treat your home like a business?  Share with me.

**I'll say, in conclusion, that I don't like calling it the mission statement and we will likely discuss what we should call it in the next week or so.**

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rockin' Awards Day!

I am long overdue to thank people for the lovely, lovely, lovely blog awards I've received over the last two weeks.

First, my most humble apologies for not writing about this sooner.  Last week I got a little caught up in the revelry of life.

Second, many thanks to the following bloggers for the following awards:

b sparkly for the

"You're going places" Award.  Why, thank you, b Sparkly!  I think you're going places too, baby!

Midwestern Mama for the "Sunshine Award"
From one midwesterner to another, thank YOU!  Here's to a spring FULL of Sunshine, right?

Zen Mama for the beautiful blogger award.

No, no, Zen Mama, YOU are the beautiful blogger.  Truly.  I love your posts.  :)

And I think there was one called "kewl blog?" But for the life of me, I can't find it.  If anyone knows what I'm talking about and wants to tell me so I can properly thank the sender, please do!

Now, enter the heavy breathing, drum rolls, breathless anticipation, or whatever else you need to do to feel suspenseful, but here are my recipients of these lovely, lovely, lovely awards.

 goes to Dalia at Generation X Mom.  Anybody who can make me lie awake nights worrying about the things she shares has definitely gotten my attention and is definitely going places.  :)  Congrats, Dalia!

 is going to the lovely 504 Main.  Holly always injects positive good humor into her blog and I always leave feeling better about myself through what she's written.  Congratulations, Holly!

 goes to Hippie Mommy.  Sarah has a spirited, wonderful, son and her posts remind me of a place I lived in about 4 years ago (emotionally, that is).  She uses heartfelt emotion to work through her days and therefore wins Beautiful Blogger.  Congratulations, Hippie Mommy!

Alas, I am now all caught up on my awards.  Until next time's ceremony, have a beautiful, sunshiney day going to all the places you go today!

If you received an award, I have violated many rules in the giving.  So I guess I'll make up my own rules to pass them along - just give them to someone you like and admire on the web!

And finally, if you haven't read enough from me today - go check out my post at Sited and Blogged - I tell you how I really feel about Blogging Awards . . .

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Happiness Project - Contradictions

It's Happiness Monday!  I love My Happiness Project, where I decided to spend a year "finding" happiness with the help of Gretchen Rubin and her awesome book.  Check out her website for more information.  And buy the book!  It's never too late to start your own Happiness Project.  

One area the book explores - the contradictions you find in happiness.  For example, in my own life, the tug-of-war between "work hard every day, marking things off my to-do list" and "take time to enjoy life."  

This past week gave me a good study in that.  If you didn't notice from three different posts, we had a birthday last week.  Oldest turned 8 and much of the week was spent doing celebratory things with her:
  1. piano recital Tuesday night
  2. cooking with her class Wednesday afternoon
  3. wrapping presents and baking her cake wednesday night
  4. family time thursday afternoon and evening
  5. a dinner and dance Friday night
  6. family coming to spend the day and evening Saturday
And we had fun.  Lots and lots of fun.  The kind of fun where you say, "we need to have more fun like this."  The kids were great with each other, it was wonderful to spend time with family, baking the cake with Oldest rather than buying it was so much more memorable, cooking with her class gave me insight into what a wonderful class she has, etc, etc.  

Now it's Monday, and guess what my to-do list looks like?  Well, I'm not really sure because I haven't even made it yet!  It is going to be L-O-N-G, to say the least.  Combine that with our pending spring break trip and this week is a recipe for little, if any, down time.  

And you know what?  That's OK.  Really.  As much as I say getting my to do list accomplished every day is a major source of my happiness (and it most certainly is), I wouldn't have taken away one thing from last week. We loved it, we all connected deeply and we strengthened our family bond as we head into what can sometimes be a tough month for our family  - the 30 days leading up to tax day (Husband is a CPA).  

And celebrating birthdays makes us all really happy.  It's that person's special day and they deserve to be honored.  

What about you?  How do you celebrate birthdays?  Do you do the week long celebration like us?  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Super Sunday Series - Meritocracy

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series - where I speak to all topics gifted and how they relate to your child's well-being.  Please click on the tab above if you want to discover more about the Series and its topics.

My BFF from elementary until present day (shout out - Hi Cindy!) flies the friendly skies all around the world.  In the most random of all randoms, she ran into Husband two weeks ago when he had to fly to Virginia for the day.  She gave him a magazine she'd been saving to give me the next time she saw me.

The magazine contained an article about giftedness.

Gifted Exchange has already talked about it, if you want to see her take on it.  I'm weighing in too.  It's too salacious and controversial in the gifted arena not to, as far as I'm concerned.  Does it sound funny to call something about gifted children salacious?  Maybe, but it fits.

The article is from New York magazine and explores the NYC admissions process to Kindergarten.  Go check it out at the link then come back.  I'll wait.  Promise.

Ok, you're back?  Good, let's get started.

So the article, in a nutshell, says this (for those of you who might not have checked the link):

  1. New York City tests for giftedness at age 4. 
  2. Your placement at that age basically puts you on a track that goes all the way through high school graduation.
  3. 4 is too young to get an accurate test.
  4. Some kids test high who shouldn't.
  5. Some kids test low who shouldn't.
  6. There should be re-tests, but there aren't.
  7. Therefore, there is no such thing as giftedness.
Yes, yes, yes - it's a bit of a reach to move from logic deduction  6 to logic conlcusion 7.    And the article isn't totally doing that, but that's the tone you get throughout.  In my opinion.

Another standout from the article (which I've blogged about before), are the prep classes kids (at 4) can take to "ace the test."  

I have feelings about this article:
  1. On one hand it's appalling that parents try to stack the odds in their child's favor.
  2. On one hand I understand wanting the best for your children.
  3. On one hand I understand how many parents think they have/want to have a genius child.
  4. On one hand I understand the difficulty teachers face with parents who overestimate their children's abilities.  
  5. On one hand I understand the dislike of the term "gifted."
  6. On one hand I see that a 20 minute test (the length of the NYC tests, per the article) can't possibly signify the true measure of a child's intelligence.  (The test Oldest took at 4 lasted 4 hours with breaks.)
And, if I've become an octopus, that leaves me a couple of  hands to say how I really feel about the article!

How DO I really feel?  

My kids are Montessori kids, and I've long held the belief that quality early education can change the path for any child's life.  Kids learn so much in the first 5 years of life and waiting until 5 years old to "begin" their education truly misses some of their best learning time.  Montessori has taught me that every child has great potential and every child is way more capable than most adults give them credit for.  If we give children the opportunity, many can excel in school.  

That being said, if someone said to me, "your child's not gifted, she's the same as every other child in the class" it would be laughable.  To say an 8 year old who reads at the level of a 13 year old is the same as an 8 year old who reads at the level of, well, an 8 year old is preposterous.  

It would be like saying (and I have the distinct feeling this is going to make some of you mad) a child with autism, diabetes, ADHD or epilepsy shouldn't have those monikers, because they aren't THAT different.  That would be preposterous too, right?

Gifted children are different than their peers.  

Some more so than others.  Their giftedness can't be ignored merely because some states test in a way that admits children who maybe shouldn't be admitted.  

Here's what I think.  I think people can't buy in to the term gifted.  It sounds elitist.  It sounds special in a way it's not meant to be.  It sounds like a privilege, so some people practically storm the castle to get Little Johnny to be a part of it.  

And in so many ways, it is wonderful.  But it's also a challenge.  It is, quite frankly, a special need, but on a different level than what we think of special needs as a society.  I've seen giftedness called different things - "more," "high ability,"  just to name two.  And I agree that the term gifted isn't optimal.  It makes people think you're being elitist and it makes you feel like you're bragging.  

But the truth is - it's the word to describe our nation's genius and to suggest that there is no such thing, really, as giftedness, merely because of the way a state tests for it, just infuriates me.  

Like the head of the Ohio Association of Gifted Children said at the meeting a few weeks ago,  "It doesn't matter if you agree with the word 'gifted' or not.  You are here because that's what your child is and you might as well stand up for it and be proud of it.  Because if you don't as the parent, no one else will."  And that's grossly paraphrased, so I hope I got the essence.  

For a magazine to title an article (on the front page, no less), "The Myth of the Gifted Child," and therefore assert that giftedness is a myth, I invite you to spend a week at my house.  You might come away and say, "maybe there's something to this giftedness thing after all."  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

6 Word Saturday

More birthday fun today.  Family visiting.  

So many good ones to read.  Head over to for more.  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear So and So - Vicarious Living

After reading mine, go read Kat's and the others.  Check her out at 3 Bedroom Bungalow.  

Dear Anonymous Commenter this week:

What's this mean?   "Hm hm.. that's very interessting but to be honest i have a hard time determining it... wonder what others have to say.. "

I'm all about leaving the anonymous option on - if you don't have the courage to put your name behind it yet, then have at it, but does this sentence mean something?  Considering I didn't ask a question in that post.

Just lookin for answers but with no idea where to find them

Dear Tuesday's piano recital -

When Oldest walks up to play, my heart thuds, I hear whooshing in my ears and I tremble with fear.  What if, what if, what if . . .

Then she nails it and the relief is so strong, I want to weep.

Do all parents do this and if so, what would our kids think if they knew?

Dear Youngest at Oldest's Piano recital

You rocked it girlie!  So proud of you and how quiet you were for your first recital as an audience member.  When you said, "Mommy, when I get older, can I do a panno cital like Oldest when I go to my panno lesson?"  I nearly melted.

Yes Dear, you can, and hopefully mommy doesn't have an apoplectic fit having to stay calm while TWO children perform

Dear Follow Friday -
Head over to Hearts Make Families, One 2 Try or Midday Escapades for more new blogs!  All are welcome!

I haven't had this much fun every Friday for 6 weeks straight since college!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Birthday Reflections

Dear Oldest:

I sit here this morning, writing before you wake up, not believing you turn 8 years old today.  And as always, it makes me cry - this cruel task of parenting.  Which is simply - if we are doing it right, we will watch you slowly but surely gain confidence and independence as you step into a world that doesn't have Mom and Dad at its center.  Each year, you move another step away from us, and that's as it should be.

I'm beginning to see glimpses of the teenage girl you will become - beautiful, confident, friendly, self assured.

But you are also still the girl I want to hold for a little bit longer.  

Your smile is infectious and people have always been drawn to your happiness.  

Your passions are emerging in the form of art, music, creative expression, writing and reading.  

You still wear your heart on your sleeve, which can be good and bad.  Good because you feel deeply, love purely, care so much for so many things.  Bad because you get hurt easily.  You truly believe the world is a kind place and have no tough shell to handle the hurts yet.  

Your sense of justice is advanced and unnerving at times - the clarity with which you can see a situation.  Like explaining, very accurately, the difference between needs and wants to your sister the other night.  Funny, yet sounding more like it came from a 12 year old, or maybe a 20 year old.  

Boys are starting to take interest in you.  You had one declare his love for you at your uncle's wedding this fall.  THAT makes Daddy want to become the world's strongest and scariest man.  He has daughters to protect, you know.

Your love of your sister is so intense, so pure, so real, that it sometimes takes her breath away.  She didn't spend 5 years longing for a sister like you did and sometimes she's overwhelmed by your devotion to her.  But she loves you so much too.  You are all she knows as a sister - this shining light of love for her, this sister who thinks of her so often.  

When you are at your best, you are unstoppable, a literal force to be reckoned with and your intensity and dedication to the things that interest you simply amaze me.  

You have big changes coming your way this year, though, my girl.  I know you are ready, I've watched you grow into such a capable, independent girl over the last 8 years.  

I hope so many things for you, but this year I hope I can be your rock and our home your safe place as you navigate the next steps in your young life.  

Happy 8th Birthday.    

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Today, the Pictures

Bear with me today and tomorrow as I dedicate my posts to Oldest (even more than usual).  Her birthday is tomorrow, so today we're taking a picture tour of her life.  Tomorrow?  Her annual birthday letter.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Albus Dumbledore Said My Favorite Quote

It's our choices that show who we really are, far more than our abilities. - Albus Dumbledore

Yes, I quote Harry Potter books.  I love them and am not embarassed to admit it.  I would wait (like so many others) with breathless anticipation for the new ones to come out and then devour them like candy on Halloween night.  

I hate that they are finished because I'm not one of those people who can re-read a book I love.  I think there are just too many great unread books out there to find, so that's where I focus my energies.    

The quote above came from Albus Dumbledore, headmaster at Hogwarts to Harry toward the end of book five (? - Potter Enthusiasts - correct a girl if she's wrong).  Harry, on the eve of adolescence, wanted all the answers, easily and quickly.  He wanted his abilities to open more doors for him than he felt was happening.  

Professor Dumbledore, among other things said in that conversation, said something which bears repeating:

It's our choices that show who we really are, far more than our abilities.

Do you ever find a line in a book that is so profound to your life at the time that it changes you?  

This one did for me.  We were just learning of Oldest's capabilities, as far as intelligence.  But we were also learning the reality of her resistance to hard work and her often quick response of  "I just won't try at all" at the very first sign of challenge.  It was striking fear in my heart, because I hadn't yet learned that this is a little something called perfectionism.  I thought we might have one of those stories of "brilliant kid never uses gifts and ends up wasting her talent" that you hear about gifted kids from time to time.  

It reminded me of Edison's quote, "success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."   

I wrote the Potter quote down in brigthly colored crayon and posted it over my computer.  I wanted it in a place where Oldest could see it every day, even if we never talked about it.  I wanted it to gradually mold her thinking to "I can't just rest on my intelligence.  I have to make good choices, choices that require hard work, if I'm ever going to go anywhere in life."  Yes, it's a lot to try to plant into a 5 year old's psyche, but I truly believe much of a child's lifetime capacity happens when they are very young.

I started living this in real life.  Without making a big deal about it, I started interjecting into regular conversations, "well, you know our family.  We're hard workers."  OR  "We make good choices."  Sometimes randomly, always when she complained about the difficulty of something.  I wanted her to intermalize that kind of thinking for when things were hard for her.  

And you know what?  It's working.  Some days it's really noticeable, some days it seems to have flown out the window.  Most days, I'm seeing that her mindset is shifting a little bit at a time.  And the most wonderful part is that Youngest, starting at the ground floor of this thinking, is just internalizing it from the beginning.  

It's our choices that show who we really are, far more than our abilities.

Do you have a quote you live by?  What is it about that quote that you love?

***Fascinatingly, I discovered this article about the similarities of Harry Potter and gifted kids while trying to find the book the quote came from - it's worth a look.***  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happiness Project - Did I Win the Gold in February?

It's Happiness Monday!  I love My Happiness Project, where I decided to spend a year "finding" happiness with the help of Gretchen Rubin and her awesome book.  Check out her website for more information.  And buy the book!  It's never too late to start your own Happiness Project.  

Today I come clean about February.  Its ups, its downs, its successes and failures.  

  1. I decluttered a lot of junk from this house.  Bookshelves, closets (4), art cupboards, puzzle/game drawers, the attic (completely cleared out to make way for the insulation installation this month), Husband's cupboard of "stuff we'd all forgotten about."  Every Monday of February, at least 2 extra bags of JUNK went out with the trash.  That made me feel gooooooood.
  2. My nagging task list - when I made it, it had 70 items.  On February 28th, it was down to 31 items, which rocks.  Plus I fixed my wedding ring, which I've been putting off for at least 5 years.  Seriously.
  3. Eating in.  We were supposed to do it 16 times in February and we did it 15 times.  
  4. Keeping a food diary and exercising - 24/28 days and 25/28 days, respectively.  And I lost a pound.  Not a lot of weight loss, but 10 pounds in 2 months is.
  5. Training the puppy.  She's doing awesome.  Really.  I only mutter about giving her away a couple of times a week now.  HUGE improvement.
Failures (or, if I'm positively framing, "areas of improvement"):
  1. Decluttering - I still have a lot of work to do.  I saved my "office" for the end and it's still a work in progress.  Plus I want to do things in the basement.  So decluttering has been bumped into March and has a weekend role around here.  
  2. Evening tidy up.  I found I don't really care about this.  The house isn't THAT messy in the evening, so why go around and make sure one dog toy is off the floor before bed?
  3. Going to bed.  FAIL.  ABORT.  SOMEBODY NEEDS AN INTERVENTION.  Really - what is my problem with this?  I only made it to bed at a reasonable hour (10:45 was the goal) 15 times in February.  And some nights it was really, really late.  I see the direct correlation with my mood and a good night's sleep, so why am I having such a hard time doing this?  I'm really asking, people.  Any help would be appreciated on tips to sticking to a reasonable bedtime.  Getting all my STUFF done during the day would help, I'm sure, and Youngest's newest plan to not nap in the afternoon is certainly throwing a wrench into that, but still.
And there you have it!  How did you do in February?  Did you try anything new?  Find success?  Did you fall off the resolution wagon?  My little notebook of accountability (I check things off nightly) really, really keeps me on task.  It's a tip from Gretchen.  I recommend it.

Remember that this month for me is "all about the kids," but you could make it about anything you want!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Super Sunday Series - HOW to be your child's advocate

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series - where I speak to all topics gifted and how they relate to your child's well-being.  Please click on the tab above if you want to discover more about the Series and its topics.

Last week I wrote to you about the importance of being your child's advocate.  I mentioned this in my talk last Saturday and someone asked this question (paraphrased):

"How do you have time to be an advocate when you have to spend so much time merely attending to your gifted child's needs?"

It was a great question, worthy of more than the answer I gave her on the spot.

Oldest's first teacher introduced us to the concept of being your child's best advocate.  I had no idea what she meant then.  Oldest was 2.5 years old, I wasn't yet cognizant of the difficulties her intensities were going to create for a classroom and its teacher, and frankly, like many first time moms, I assumed everything was going to be all sweetness and roses with her school experience.

I met with this teacher (who, not coincidentally, is now Youngest's first teacher) this week to talk with her a little more "how to be your child's advocate."  I saw the gleam in her eye, and she said, "Ooooooh, my favorite topic."  She's been teaching for 25 years, and people from all around our city know of her expertise with young children, her ability to give them a wonderful foundation for their school age years.

Here are her top 7 ways to do this:

  1. Know your child.  Know both their strengths and weaknesses.  As the parent, you have the ability to make a more accurate assessment of who your child is than anyone else, if you pay attention.  What's important is to have an accurate picture of who your child is.  I see so many parents who act as if everything (good, bad and ugly) their child does is wonderful.  They can't/don't see where their child needs improvement.  Being realistic about who your child is makes #2 below so important.
  2. Develop your own skills as referee and coach.  By coaching, she means to help your child maximize the skills they have.  By refereeing, she means to set the appropriate limits, expectations and have consequences for when those limits are crossed.  To her advice, I would add "research, research, research."  If your child is a perfectionist, learn about that.  If your child has overexcitabilities, learn about those.  If your child is reading 7th grade books in 2nd grade, learn about reading levels and what they mean.  Read books on parenting, become a "student" of how to be an effective parent.   Read about giftedness.  What does it really mean?  It might surprise you.  
  3. Know your community resources.  There is work involved with this one - it takes some effort.  She strongly recommends you research all options available to your child to find the place that best fits your child's personality, coming to a decision by process of elimination.  
  4. Recognize that no one system is going to provide everything your child needs.  From the gifted perspective, I think this is very important.  Gifted kids think differently, act differently, and almost always need "more" in their lives, as far as enrichment.  Finding activities that help your gifted child pursue their passion, outside of school, may go a long way at school.  And by saying gifted kids need "more," I am by no means saying they need more "work."  I believe they need enrichment that gives them more "thought," if that makes sense. 
  5. Be the school and teacher's partner, not adversary.  Many of the suggestions here are important, but I find this one at the top of the list for us.  I look at my children's teachers as a partner in their eduction, not the person who does it while I sit around and do nothing.  I don't think in terms of, "the teacher has to do this for my child," but rather, "what can I do to help the teacher teach my child?"  And I didn't just wake up one day and say, "this is how I'm going to do it."  It's taken some real effort.
  6. Celebrate the social differences your child has.  Instead of saying, "my child is a terrible perfectionist (which may be true)," you can frame it in the positive and say, "my child has a commitment to excellence."  Instead of, "my child will blurt out answers without waiting to be recognized," you can say, "my child is eager to share her love of knowledge with others."  
  7. Find their tribe.  I've been seeing this around some places lately and I love it.  Your child's tribe might NOT be at school, it might be someplace else entirely.  And that's OK, as long as you teach him or her that it's OK.  

***One final note:  I've talked about this before, but one concrete way to advocate for your child is to have them tested.  When you have test results to rely on, rather than a parental opinion (that some people WILL assume is exaggerated), your advocacy gains credibility.  A word of caution, however:  be prepared for the results.  They might be lower than you thought, or you might learn your child has some other issue entirely.  Or the results might be so high that you have to rethink everything.  It's a leap of faith that you must be willing to come to terms with.  Plus it's expensive.

What do you think?  What ways do you advocate for your child that are different from the suggestions I've made, with the help of my 25 year teaching expert?  What do you see here that you agree or disagree with?  Share with us.  By sharing, we can learn more.  

Saturday, March 6, 2010

6 Word Saturday

Slept 8 hours last night.  Hurray.

Head over to Cate's place and look at all of the other 6 word Saturdays.  

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dear So and So.

Head over to Kat's place.  She's got the good ones.  Really.  Me?  Just a shell of Dear So and So this week AGAIN.  Maybe I need more drama in my life.  Yeah, right, forget THAT.  

Dear LOST -

Pant, pant.  Me like.  You could completely blow though, and I'd still like you.  You being my only TV right now and all.

Breathless with anticipation

Dear All Other TV -

Oddly, you are not missed.  Except Gray's.  And Survivor. And The Mentalist.  And CSI.  And Desperate Housewives.  And Brothers and Sisters.  And 90210, or 90-Tool-10 as Husband calls it.  And Criminal Minds.

Easter is 30 days away.  Me like that too.

Dear Strawberry Shortcake Video Youngest picks Every. Single.  Day.  She.  Has.  A.  Turn -.

I might claw my eyes out with a shrimp fork if I hear the "Sherry Bobble Berry" song one more time.

Plus Youngest doesn't even watch it - she comes to find me, hiding here at the computer!  WTH is up with that?

Dear Oldest -
You took that tough love so well, my little friend.

I guess I'll give you those birthday presents after all

Dear Friday Follow -

Wheeeeeeeeee!  Here we go again!  Midday Escapades, One 2 Try and Hearts Make Families make for a fun Friday every single week.

Between Dear So and So and Friday Follow - it's like being Templeton at the County Fair 'round here on Fridays

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Think Positive Plan

In keeping with my ideas, tips and tricks for NOT YELLING AT THE KIDS, I have to share this article from the March issue of Family Fun magazine.

Written by Kristin Bock, it provides the final piece of the puzzle for two things I'm already doing.  I'm already writing a one-sentence gratitude journal each day (started in February) and we already name two "good things and two bad things" from each of our days.  The final piece?  Kristin suggests that after one reminder, start counting negative statements and expect an equal number of positive statements by day's end.

I LOVE THIS IDEA.  It is so proactive, one of Missy's Maxims!

I've posted yesterday and today about two areas that are a major source of yelling for me - Youngest waking up multiple times a night (and I don't yell at her THEN, it's the build up of fatigue and my annoyance with myself that "helps" me to yell later) and Oldest's insistence on negativity when she's upset about something.  It's classic perfectionism - and I get that.  Heck, I DO that sometimes.

But there is only so much freaking out berating oneself "negative reaction to an upsetting situation" before I handle it in the "extremely mature, adult-like response" of yelling, sometimes quite loudly.  And how does that solve the problem?  Modeling a negative reaction to negative behavior will only perpetuate the negative behavior, right?

Which is why I love this idea to put the ball in Oldest's court - be as negative as you want, just know I'm keeping count (after one warning) and then you have to reciprocate with positive statements.  Hmmm, I might even make her put them on paper and deposit them into our new Emotions Bank Account I learned about in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't share with you this awesome tip from Veteran Kindergarten Teacher -

"One thing I try in my classroom is complete silence. I look at the children and don't say a word. That usually gets their attention. Then I talk quietly but firmly about what I am seeing and what needs to change."  

I'll let you know how these changes are working out this month.  Do you have any ideas to share? Anything that works especially well for you?  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Time for Some Tough Love Around These Here Parts - Wednesday

Originally, this was to be a post about tough love for Youngest.  Now it's about tough love for both children.  Yay.

The Official Goodbye to Paci Weekend happened 2.5 weeks ago.  Hind sight tells me I misinterpreted Youngest's reason for waking up nightly (sometimes repeatedly).  It wasn't because she needed her paci replaced.  It was just a good ol'bad habit.

Which has continued since Paci went buh-bye.  Add to it that she's taking close to an hour to fall asleep at night and has only been sleeping a little over an hour for her nap, and we've got one over-tired toddler on our hands.

And you know what that means - Mama's overtired and getting C.  R.  A.  N.  K.  Y.

Last night Oldest really, and I mean really, showed herself at gymnastics.  No less than THREE times she took off (much like a toddler) to do a running jump into the pit, with the teacher calling, "Miss Oldest, Miss Oldest - it's not time for the pit.  Come back to class and participate!"  Which she would, AFTER she did what she'd decided to do.  In her defense, her friend was doing the same thing and sometimes peer pressure is a great motivator.  It's also a great teaching  moment for a parent.

Tough Love
So in keeping with my March resolution to NOT YELL (which SOMEONE needs to give me a cookie for being able to keep from it yesterday), we're having ourselves a little tough love 'round these here parts.

Cry It Out for Youngest and Grounding for Oldest.
Youngest is 2.5 years old - which is plenty old enough to sleep all night without a little pat, cuddle, re-tuck, drink, or question anywhere from midnight to 5am.  And I'm never going to reach a state of semi-rest if I'm catering to her.  And if I'm catering to her and therefore tired, I'm WAY more likely to yell during the day.  Because I'm mad at myself for this going on so long and because I'm TIRED.

Oldest?  This isn't new.  Sometimes she really has to stretch the boundaries of behavior to remember what her privileges are.  Don't all kids?  She's going to choose from a menu of consequences when she wakes up.  She will need to choose two items and most items last three days (for 3 times of not listening in class).  Things like no dessert for 3 days, no computer for 3 days, sitting out the last class, not taking gymnastics in the spring, going to bed early for 3 days (I'm kind of hoping for that one).

Seem harsh for either one of them?  Not really - if there's one truth I'm learning in my own project - sometimes to get happy, you have to get through some unhappy first.  And that's going to be for all of us for the next few days.

**Special Note:  As I finish this, it's 6:30am.  Youngest USED to sleep until 7:30/8am, but is right now up there starting to call out.  This is MY time - one of the few times a day someone else isn't asking for something from me.  Her waking up strengthens my resolve that IT IS TIME.

What about you?  What tough love have you done recently?  And what does it take to get you past "minor consequences" to the tough love stage?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's Technical Question Tuesday!

Bloggers!  Give it to me straight.  Why did you choose your blogging location?  Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad or your own site?  Did you start in one place and switch to another?  Why?

I am walking through the world's best tutorial on building your own site right now (seriously, if you are even thinking about it, check Hal out) and am curious how YOU made your decisions about this issue.  And if I'm being honest, I was advised before day one to create my own site, I just wasn't there emotionally yet.

Will you share?

Finally, Comment Luv or Disqus and why?  I have neither and like both when I see them.

Tell me, tell me, tell me (how you do that trick, the one that makes me . . . OH - wrong venue - started singing a little The Cure).

And if you're not a blogger, what type of site do YOU prefer to visit?

Happy Technical Question Tuesday!

P.S.  Sorry about the technical difficulties on the wallpaper today - it's being worked on.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happiness and March - It's all about the Kids

Have you started your own happiness project?  Have you read Gretchen Rubin's book?  It's never too late to start.  Head over to her blog and read all about it.  

This month is "Kid Month." Spring is coming, Winter is ending (HOPEFULLY), Spring Break is a few short weeks away.  And March is Oldest's birthday month.  March is a month that changed my life forever with her screaming smiling arrival.  As I'm sure you'll get tired of seeing see this month, I get quite nostalgic about how she changed our lives that March.  

So that makes it the perfect month to focus on my children.  Appreciate them more.  Love them more openly. Yell less never.  Read some parenting books.  

My resolutions for March:
  1. NO YELLING.  Seriously, talk about one of my greatest sources of unhappiness - yelling at the kids.  And it's so reactive, so knee-jerk.  I hate that I do it.  I feel terrible after I've done it.  And even though I'm afraid my head might explode this month keeping from it, I'm NOT YELLING.  I have a game plan - counting, leaving the room, finding my happy place. 
  2. Read two books - Siblings Without Rivalry and Best Friends, Worst Enemies.  
  3. Finish our family mission statement.
  4. Have family meetings on Sundays and a family night one weekend night.
  5. Polite night at Sunday dinner.  Like over-the-top polite to make it more fun.
  6. Buy scrapbooking software.  I have to face facts that I'm not going to do it by hand  - I'm about 4 years behind.  Online photo albums from here forward - anyone have advice on getting hard copy pictures, awards, etc memorialized?
  7. Listen.  Reframe.  Believe their feelings.  I borrowed this one from Gretchen.  And if I remember correctly, this is from the same authors of Siblings without Rivalry - Faber and Mazlish.  It's so easy to brush aside the very real feelings of a child, but my relationship with them will be much better if I can truly listen and believe the feelings behind the words.  
  8. Virtually TV free for the whole month (yes, this is our Lent promise, but I think it dovetails nicely into a month of focus for the kids, don't you?).  By virtually, I mean they get one show a day - between them.
So there you have it.  Any thoughts?  Tips?  Does anyone out there succeed at not yelling at their kids ever?  If so, what's your secret?  Will it count if I call it "talking emphatically" like my mom used to say?  

Me:  Stop yelling at me!
My Mom:  I'm NOT yelling, I'm talking EMPHATICALLY.  
Me:  Oh.  There's a difference?  (That one was in my head - BUT I knew when to shut it - something Oldest hasn't grasped yet - hence the need for Resolution #1).

Next week on My Happiness Project?  February's tally.  
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