Showing posts with label activities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label activities. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Camp Should Be Running, Swimming & Crafts Not Movie Tickets

One of the fun things about summer - the $1 movie.  Granted, it's at 10 am, so there's no sleeping in and still a rush to get there on time, but to get me and my four into the movie for $5? It's a pretty good compromise.  So that's what we did today, went to go see Despicable Me 2.

The theatre was full of summer campers - rows and rows of little kids in matching tee-shirts.  And when I say "little" kids, I do mean little - they were like 2-3 years old.  Aside from the camp leaders who spent half the movie walking through the aisles distributing popcorn and juice and "whispering" loudly to the children, totally oblivious to the rest of us trying to get our $1 worth, as a parent, I was wondering if the kids' parents really approved of their kids spending their camp time sitting in a movie theatre.  Time when they could be getting some sun, playing with the other campers, or even learning their alphabet.

I know, I know - you're thinking "but you were there with your kids!" and it sounds a bit hypocritical to say that summer camps shouldn't take kids to the movies. But in my defense, here are my points:
1 - They are MY kids. If I want them to spend their summer morning at the movies, that's the choice I get to make.

2 - If/when I send my kids to camp, I pay for them to have a better, more active experience than I would give them at home. The camp checks are written so kids can run, jump, swim, hit balls, ride horses, build popsicle stick picture frames, and eat messy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We can plop them down in front of a screen for free at home - or for our own $1.

I've actually been pretty annoyed when one of my kids came home from camp and reported that their activities included taking a "field trip" to the nearby fast food establishment for lunch.  Really? If you're going to put my kid on a bus, then do something educational or at least entertainingly worthwhile. Take them to the park or to the zoo. Or even a field trip to the library for reading time or a puppet show.  Even when they've done after-school activities and come back to tell me that they played on the computer with their friends, I feel that's a waste. One thing my kids (and most kids) don't need is more time to goof off playing games on the computer.  When I send my kids to an activity, I expect them to get more out of it then that time spent with me at my direction.  Yes, when I pay for an activity, I expect the service providers to be, for those few hours, a better parent than I am. That's money well spent.

What do you think? Does it matter to you what your kids are doing in summer camp?

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

10 Things to Do on the Longest Days of the Summer

We’re heading into the for-real official, according to the sun, first day of summer marked by the longest day of the year.  According to the weather folks, the days around June 21 will also be relatively long, too. And hot.  So what to do with all these extra hours of sunlight?  A few ideas.

Cook early.  Don’t spend the mid-day in the kitchen.  Plan an easy meal that you can prep and cook early.  Pull out the crock-pot in the morning, try my Asian chicken.  I also like pasta salads for this reason - they’re easy and versatile.  You can change up the ingredients, but also tweak it a little bit for the picky eaters in the house.  

My basic recipe for pasta salad
  • Cooked, cooled pasta – I prefer short pastas like rotini or bow-tie, but spaghetti and angel hair work well, too
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Green veggie – spinach and asparagus work well
  • Crumbled/shredded cheese – mozzarella and feta are tasty choices
  • Italian/Caesar salad dressing – this is a cheat to save figuring out extra seasoning
  • Protein options (great use of leftovers): chopped chicken, cold salmon, tuna
  • Toss it all in a bowl. Chill.
  • Pour a glass of sangria.  Lunch and/or dinner is ready. Ta da!

Cook late. Wait til the sun’s gone done a little bit and toss a few burgers or fish on the grill.  Throw some veggies and corn on the cob on there, too. And then finish it off with dessert, like our Campfire Banana S’mores.

Take an early evening walk. Alone, with the family or just the dog, depending on what kind of day you’ve had.  When the sun starts it’s descent, enjoy the little bit of warmth left and the quiet of the settling day.

Catch fireflies. This, and catching crayfish during the day time, were two of me and my brother’s favorite summertime activities.  Watching the little bugs light up never seemed to get old. Be sure to punch holes in the top of whatever container your kids are catching them in, and of course, some grass for them to live off of (I don’t really know that that’s what fireflies eat.)  And then, before going in for the evening be sure to let them all go.

Eat ice cream.  In a cone.  The more fresh from the cow, the better. Or at least, not from a box and big name. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a pint of Ben & Jerry’s somewhere in the freezer, but there’s nothing like fresh-made, from somebody’s personal recipe ice cream. Better yet, make some of your own. I’ve got my ice cream maker in the freezer now.

Enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables.  Stop by a farm stand or farmer’s market.  Or take a basket to a pick-your-own farm for whatever’s in season now. Eat your berries and veggies as is or bake them into a pie or coffee cake or something delicious.  And you’d be surprised what your kids can learn. I’m almost embarrassed to admit one of my kids was perplexed by the fuzzy skin and big pit in the middle of a peach we bought at a road-side fruit stand.

Drink cold, sweet tea.  One of the things I love about living below the Mason-Dixon line is I never had to preface “tea” with “sweet.”  What other way would you drink cold tea?  It’s the simplest thing and I make it by the gallon (which, lasts maybe two days)
  • Tea bags: I like Luzianne for iced tea and experiment with some of the flavored teas for a different flavor.  2 or 3 large tea bags per kettle of water (Luzianne tea bags are larger, made for pitchers of tea; use about 4-6 regular size tea bags)
  • Pour almost boiling water over tea bags in a plastic pitcher (not glass!)
  • Let tea bags seep about 10 minutes
  • Add sugar (to taste, I use a lot) while the water is still hot *this is key!
  • Add ice, if needed, to fill the pitcher.
  • Pour over ice. Enjoy.
Enjoy discounted movies and bowling.  Maybe the heat is too much, after all, so head indoors for a few hours.  We don't go to the movies a lot because, well, because there's six of us.  Same for bowling.  But in the summer, some theaters offer discount movies and it's a great chance to catch up on movies.  Regal Cinemas offer $1 fun kid movies.  A number of bowling alleys, like AMF Bowling, offer either free or discounted games, but you do have to signup for the passes or card.  These are also great rainy summer day activities, too.

Hydrate. In as many ways as possible. Be sure to drink enough water on hot days. But also cool off in the watering hole of your choice – swim at the local community pool, jump in a nearby lake, run through your lawn sprinkler, or dip your feet in the baby pool still sitting in the garage.

Lay in the grass and watch the sky.  That’s all.

Happy summer!

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(Note - as usual, specific brand mentions are not endorsements from those brands, just our own experience with them.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Child's First Resignation Letter

Again, my children signed up for a bunch of activities, stuff that they really really wanted to do and promised to do without whining or dragging their feet when time to go to practice/rehearsal.  And again, mid-way through after realizing that practice is every week and not always so fun, they are whining and dragging their feet. But for the most part, they get there. You know, because I paid for it and they have to commit to a thing and sometimes activities are boring, life can't be a merry-go-round of excitement all the time, etc., etc.

Which leaves me to wonder - what am I doing to myself? Why not just let them quit and then I can stay home, save some gas, and finish reading this book I've been carrying around with me forever?  Is teaching them the concept of commitment really worth my sanity?  Well, the last time my daughter gave me the list of excuses - so much homework, a stomach ache, looks like rain - I decided that there's a lesson to be learned in quitting, too.

I let me daughter quit one of her after-school activities with two conditions.

  1. She owed me half of the fees that I had paid. She had birthday money, snow shoveling money, allowance and could pay me back in installments.  No point in me taking a financial loss when she changed her mind. 
  2. She had to write a letter of resignation. Yes, like the kind when you leave a job.  I wanted her to realize that you can't just walk out on an activity and leave a group who is depending on you to show up. Whether a choir, a sports team, the school play, or game of jump rope - folks are counting on you to be there and take your role and if you're going to quit on them, you at least let them know you're leaving and offer an explanation.

The letter is done, we emailed it to the appropriate people and they have acknowledged that they received it.  We are free from racing across town one evening of the week, our calendar has a few more blank spaces on it, and I've read a few more pages in my book. As for my financial recovery?  Still waiting.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

10 Ways to Avoid an "I'm Bored!" Snow Day

“Schools are closed due to snow.”

The music of winter, singing at 5:30 a.m.  On the one hand, it’s a welcome “go head, sleep in” refrain. But when you do finally wake up, you realize that it means you will be in the house with the kids all day long, especially if it’s a wet, yucky snow that’s useless for sledding and snowman building.  Before you start to panic, some ideas of what to do with your kids for those housebound extra hours (or days).
  • Enjoy a good breakfast.  How often do you get to enjoy a good breakfast, all sitting down together and chatting in the morning? For us, breakfast is usually a choice of boiled eggs, cereal and toasts, in a rotation of whoever is leaving for school or work next.  Snow days are a great opportunity to scramble some eggs, flip a few pancakes, make potatoes and biscuits, and all eat at once around the table instead of on the way to the bus.
  • Bake.  I love baking, my kids love baking, and who doesn’t want warm cookies or muffins on a cold, winter-y day?  Luckily, most quickbreads and basic cookies require only the staples of a kitchen pantry – flour, sugar, an egg or two, milk, oil, salt, baking powder or soda. You can get fancy if you happen to have other ingredients such as chocolate chips, blueberries, nuts, and oatmeal on hand.
  • Watch some old TV.  With the millions of channels on TV now, there's always some old show on that's family friendly. You'll get a kick out of watching your old favorites and you'll be surprised at how much your kids will enjoy shows that were really funny.  Gilligan's Island anyone?
  • Cut out snowflakes.  I forgot, until I spotted a few on Pinterest, how much I used to love cutting out snowflakes as a kid. It’s still a fun surprise to see what the holes and cuts will look like when you’ve unfolded the paper.
  • Keep a stash of random craft supplies on hand and let the kids be creative.  In addition to the norm, like crayons, scissors, and glue sticks, stash the following in a basket and be ready for “I’m bored!”:  buttons – from clothes not in good condition to give away, the spares attached to new clothes; magnets – the free, promotional give-aways or store bought; yarn, string; beads; stickers; plastic bottle tops.  Don't want to be fancy? Color - it’s relaxing and a fun time to just chat with the kids. And show off how well you can stay in the lines.
  • Keep a “bored kids” board on Pinterest, for that moment when the kids are losing their creative energy and start throwing buttons at each other and have eaten all the cookies.  Add to it whenever you come across an idea your kids will like.
  • Read. Call for quiet reading and everyone to their separate corners or cuddle up on the couch for family reading, silent or aloud. Gauge it by the energy level in the house or the need to settle down.
  • Do a little school work.  The kids will complain and whine a little, but remind them that they are only going to do 30 minutes or an hour, and they’re getting out of 6 hours of work at school.  Depending on the grade, you can practice math facts, review lessons in their text books or online, read, or simply write a few paragraphs to practice handwriting or typing skills, grammar, spelling, and creative thinking.
  • Clean up, declutter.  Not the most fun thing to do, but snow days can be good catch up days on the housecleaning that gets pushed aside for the busy family schedule.  Limit the time so that the kids can have some fun, though.
  • Take a nap.  Who really gets enough sleep on a regular basis?
Oh – and of course, go outside, breathe the cold air, gather a bowl of fresh snow for snow-cream and throw a few snowballs!

What are your favorite activities on a snow day?

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Have You Done All Summer?!

As if turning the page on the calendar (yes, I use a calendar with real pages that turn) is not enough to tell me it's almost August 1, the back-to-school newsletters from the schools are piling up in the mailbox.  Excitement? Panic? Yes. School is not too far away and what have we done with our summer?!  My mind is racing back over the past 6 weeks and trying to catalogue whether we had the best summer ever because this will be the one and only summer of 2013 and its got to be spectacular and memorable and oh so special.  Doesn't it?

That's the mom-panic/guilt I feel as each phase of life comes close to an end. Will the kids remember this summer/Christmas/vacation/birthday forever and ever? Did I use all my mommy powers to make it a momentous occasion?  Up until last week, we were at the pool on a daily basis for swim team and at the basketball court several times a week for the summer league and at basketball, tennis, and academic camp.  Then last week, it was a true slacker mom week as I barely got in my car and we hung out at home.  But somewhere in all that we did mix in a few other activities.

Movies - The kids have been to the movies a few times. I've taken them, their dad took them, they went with friends.  I'd go a lot more if the movies weren't so dang expensive! It doesn't sound so bad when you consider 1 ticket - but multiply that by 6 and add a bucket of popcorn (because not having popcorn is not an option) and you're getting close to $100.  Yeah, a bit much for a movie we can catch on Netflix eventually, but there are some movies you've got to see on the big screen with big booming speakers.

Farm markets - There's something about pick-your-own and farm fresh fruits. We went out early in the summer for strawberries, have stopped at markets for blueberries and tomatoes.  It's a summer treat that we enjoy, partly because once you've hauled in pounds of berries, what else is there to do but make strawberry shortcake and blueberry buckle?

Newseum - With 4 kids, I'm always looking out for the reduced-price option and for the summer, Newseum is FREE for kids! (It's about $22 for adults.) It's  an interesting and educational museum, a history museum really, although, when you think about it, most of the news that's reported is sad, so its not exactly a happy place.  There are some really good exhibits about Sept. 11, Kennedy, and the FBI and an awesome display of Pulitzer Prize winning photos which may be more suitable for teens and adults, but the younger ones had a good time in the mini-news studio, outfitted with a teleprompter, backdrop, and camera.

The kids loved "checking in" at the Newseum.

Newseum: As American citizens, we enjoy many freedoms.

Bowling - Several bowling alleys have some kind of free games promotion. Bowl America offers free games for every A or B on the final report card.  With 4 kids, we ended up with about 100 free games of bowling.

So, now what for the rest of the summer? Other than the rush of back-to-school shopping and finishing up the last few pages of summer packets? We still need to find the perfect scoop of ice cream, hang out by the pool a little bit more, and enjoy sleeping late.  Ahh, summer.

What have you been doing all summer?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Piddlin' While Driving

Drop off 1 kid to college campus for camp. Pick up 2 kids from home, drop off to swimming pool for practice. Wait one hour. Pick up 1 kid, drop off to sports camp. Piddle around a little bit. Pick up kid 1 from college campus. Pick up kid 4 from sports camp.

Added up? About 4 1/2 hours of driving and waiting.  Lots of time for piddlin'. But you kinda have to pay attention to the road, too. So crochet is out, reading is out. What's left? Coffee. Yes, thank goodness you can still enjoy coffee and eat snacks.

During the hour wait time, I usually hung out on the adjacent track. Running; and then when the temperature hit 90+ degrees by 9 a.m., walking; and  then after a couple of laps on that hot, black track,  crawling. But I got in a workout.

The drive time?  I could talk to my kids. But some of the time, I was actually by myself or they were sleep or passed out from their grueling day. Had I thought ahead, I would've downloaded an audio book. Of course, I had this idea every morning as I was pouring my coffee, getting ready to walk out the door. Then - ta-da - my discovery of the week! Perhaps, admittedly, I am slow to grab the newest technology and "it" thing.

You can dowload the audio of TED Talks to listen to offline. What? Yes.  And yes, I do know that TED talks verge on the nerd-y side, but it beats drive-time radio. I hate radio ads, weather reports bore me, traffic reports are useless because I'm not usually on the highway and the times I am, I don't know whether I'm going east-bound or west-bound on the inner or outer loop anyway, and listening to the tweets from other radio listeners annoy me. (Side note - whenever TV or radio shows read or scroll tweets it annoys me - I am on Twitter, I can read them for myself if I care, too, thank you.)  It's too much to muddle thru waiting for 1 song every 15 minutes.  Instead, I can listen to random, and sometimes famous, people talk about education and technology and stuff.  I even found one for my son about making a remote control skateboard and how to be a yo-yo expert. 

What about Slacker and Pandora? I like them, too, but sometimes, I'm really not in a musical mood.  So, TED it is.  I downloaded a few talks on my iPad and then hit "play" when I got in the car. And its very simple - no more distraction than tuning your radio, if you are concerned about driving safely. There's even a "play all" option so you don't have to fidget with it at all.  Some of the talks were interesting, thought-provoking. Some made me wonder how this person got chosen as a speaker at all. But it was better than another ad about cheap car insurance.

How? This is how it works on iPad - Select your TED Talk. Under the featured image, there's a "Save" option. You will be offered whichever is available: "Save video for offline viewing" or "Save audio".  They will be saved under "My Talks".

Now, between Bruno Mars on permanent rotation on the iPod and TED downloaded, I can make it through a few more chaffeuring runs.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Hey Coach! (Or Mom and Dad!)

This past weekend, my daughter’s junior tennis team played in the Divisional Championships. And as the team Captain, I also took on the role as the team Coach.  During the matches, I had less than 30 seconds to talk to the kids between their games. In that 30 seconds, I had to tell them the most important thing that they needed to know to help them win their game. Reflecting back on the weekend - and getting ready for the next round - I found that coaching is much like parenting.

Coaching for the win is much like parenting.
Remind them to take advantage of their strengths and prepare to cover for their weaknesses.  Perhaps they should focus on their serve or ability to vary the speed and direction of their groundstrokes or force their opponent to hit from their weak backhand. Sometimes they needed to move faster or be more prepared for a volley. They knew their skills, they needed tips on strategies to use them.

They will face new, unique situations and will be looking to you for help. When they were playing outside and trying to serve looking straight into the sun, some of the kids were ready to give up those games, they didn’t know how else to overcome the situation. I considered options, what I’ve done in similar situations and the rules of tennis. Then I gave them suggestions to try.  Some worked, some didn’t. But we didn’t just give up.

Make a plan for improvement.  When the matches were all over, the kids were ready to rest and pack up their tennis racquets. But once they took a break, they needed to think about the match they just played and prepare for the next one.

Include the village. I was the official coach, the one allowed to talk to the players during the matches, but it was impossible for me to watch 3 courts all at once and take note of everything going on.  I relied on and listened to the other parents’ observations, questions, and suggestions to make comments to the players. For these two days, it wasn’t “my” kid and “your” kid – it was “our” team and we parents cheered for, congratulated and critiqued each other kids to help them all.

Acknowledge their bad performance. Kids know when they’ve done poorly. My swimmers know when they didn’t swim their best race, the tennis players knew when they didn’t play their best game.  We didn’t say “hey, that was great” when it wasn’t. Instead, I asked, “What could’ve been better? What are you going to do next time?”  Kids need to learn not to dwell on their failures, but to learn from them for the next time they are in the same situation.

Cheer them on. Give them a hug – even when they are hot and sweaty or dripping wet. Let them see you clapping wildly from the crowd. Let them hear you screaming their name from the stands. Even when they act embarrassed, they really do appreciate it. No-one wants to be the kid that no-one cheers for.

Cheer them on even when they don’t know it.  On a weekly basis, my son reminds me that he cannot see nor hear me when he’s underwater.  This doesn’t stop me from screaming from the pool deck.  During the regular tennis season, parents are often behind a glass window.  Even when my kids can’t hear me, I still cheer.  If nothing else, everybody else knows – someone care’s about that kid. That kid is loved.  That kid is special.  And everyone should know that about my kids.

I'm exhausted from 15 hours in the heat, running between courts, and handling administrative duties of the tournament.  And much like parenting, I'll gladly do it again.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Split Loyalties: A Parent's Dilemma

It starts from the moment the second (or third or fourth) child is born. This one wants to nap, that one wants to go out and play. That one wants to go on the slide, this one wants to go one the swings. Let's get pizza, let's get burgers.  Which one's whining wins out?

When Serena and Venus play for another Open title again or Jim and John Harbaugh faced each other for the SuperBowl, there was one big question for the parents: "Oooh, who will they root for?"  At least, they only have to go to one venue and see both their kids, who wins is up to the kids.  What's hard is when you want to cheer for both kids and they are not in the same venue.

It's the smart parents that put all their kids in the same sport. On our summer swim team, we had a family with 4 (or was it 5?) kids, they all swam.  Easy, right?  One Saturday morning, one 4-hour block, all kids are busy and occupied, and parents can be there for everyone. But some folks don't do that. They put their 4 kids in various and separate activities, with the idea that it will give everyone their own identity, a unique talent and sense of pride. Great. Until all of their hardwork culminates on one day.

This weekend we have swim team Championship meet and all the hoo-ray that goes with that, tennis team district play-offs, and a church fashion show.  And we havent even thrown in stuff like meals, church, and sleeping.  Are you thinking that there's too many activities for the hours allotted to a weekend? I would agree.  There's overlaps and conflicts, especially when you throw in travel to two counties.  Obviously, the kids will get to their events somehow, but how does a parent choose where to go?

We generally try to pick the most "important". Yes, I know, it's all important. But for instance, music and show performances usually trump regular games and meets, and definitely any practices, because there's usually only one per quarter/season/year and you can't miss something that's that infrequent. Then, we consider if one is some type of play-off, championship, super-duper something. After that, we split up and text each other progress.

But what happens on a weekend like this one? One-time event, championships, play-offs, and celebrations. That's when we fire up the helicopter and the be-in-two-places-at-once machine. Let me know if you'd ever like to rent them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sunk Costs of Parenting

Economic theory suggests that rational decisions should not be made on the basis of sunk costs, that is money already spent and unrecoverable on a project.  People’s behavior, however, often is quite the opposite, in that we do make what economists consider to be irrational decisions based on unrecoverable lost resources. 

For example, let's say you buy a pair of shoes, get them home and realize they hurt your feet (for sake of discussion, pretend you spilled coffee on the reciept and now can’t return them.)  Do you: 
(a) wear them because you paid good, hard-earned money for them, or 
(b) give them away.  
A rational decision would be “b”, because how much you spent on the shoes is now irrelevant to the decision of whether you will cause yourself foot pain.  If you chose “a”, you are perfectly suited to be a parent.

It's hard to ignore all those parenting "sunk costs"
Every few months, I go through a pile of registration forms and the family calendar: tennis lessons, swim team registration, music lessons, basketball team fees, tennis team fees, some other random stuff.  And then in my head I replay a quick loop of the past few months.  The soundtrack goes something like this: 
“get your stuff/equipment/music for the gym/pool/rehearsal, hurry up.  Put on your socks.  Hurry up now, don’t forget your other stuff/equipment/music!  Where are your socks?  Bring your homework to do while you wait for your sibling to practice/rehearse/play and don’t forget a pencil, hurry up!  Where are your socks?  Did you practice today?  When are you going to practice?  There’s no point in going to lessons if you aren’t going to practice.  Go practice.  Stop crying, go practice.  Forty-five minutes.  Yes, all at one time.  Stop whining.  Hurry up.  You won’t die from cold feet.” 
Why, in the name of all things chocolate, why would I subject myself to this daily ritual?  Yes, I said daily.  With four kids, the activity changes, but the process occurs everyday.  And this isn’t even to get to school, this is after they get off the school bus.

Because as parents, we think, “I’ve already spent a gazillion dollars on rackets and bats and balls and team uniforms and knee pads and shoulder pads and I’ve bought a piano and a tuba and spent another gazillion dollars on lessons for the past ten years, so dang it – we’re going to keep at it.”  According to economists, this would be an irrational decision.  (Really, is anyone surprised that parents make irrational decisions?)
According to theory, a rational decision maker would not consider all those gazillion dollars already spent, those are our “sunk costs”; we’re not getting that money back.  Our future decisions of whether we are going to register for another season, should be based on the future monetary costs and our desire to continue in the endless loop of prodding little people to activities and pushing them to practice, and the attendant fussing and crying (by all parties).  Actually, you would think any decision maker would not subject themselves to the emotional turmoil of getting a kid to practice guitar or learn the words to a song.  But then, where would we be without music?  (Thanks, Joe Jackson.)

Each week, after the meltdown of getting in the car with all the appropriate stuff, I tell my kids “this is it, this is the last time I’m doing this, if you’re not ready next week, we’re not going.”  I think they don’t even listen to me anymore.  They know that next week, we will do this again.  And the week after that.  And the season after that when I sign them up again.

I never said I was rational (or that I passed Economics).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"The tournament has been cancelled due to..."

I kinda stop reading the email at that point because, really, do we care why it was cancelled? All we need to know is that we're not spending Saturday driving to the next state to sit in another school gym for the day, eating concession stand hot dogs and potato chips. Instead, we get a rare Saturday to sleep in, granted only for a little while because there are still two (at least) activities scheduled for the day.

It's a mark of an over-scheduled life when you feel like your calendar is out of your hands. I sit reading emails and checking phone messages with my date book and my calendar open, putting in appointments and practices and notes for carpool so I don't forget anybody's child somewhere, including my own (and yes, I have). When dentist appointments and play rehearsal and swim practice and PTA meetings all bump into each other, that goes on the "to call" list to start shifting things around. And when I come across an empty calendar box, I start going thru notes again to make sure I didn't miss anything.

How did we get to this point? The days that begin at 5:30 a.m. and don't end until well after midnight. I want to warn my new-mom friends - don't rush, wait another year or two, even three, before signing the little one up for anything - whatever jumping/swimming/art/music/foreign language tutoring/Pre-algebra that you think they will need or are interested in before their first birthday. Because the time of sitting and watching them discover their fingers and toes will go fast.

And on the other side, I am warned by my empty or almost-empty nester friends - enjoy the hours cheering them on from the bleachers, splashing them from the pool deck, singing along in the audience theatre, helping them sell enough cookies for the next coolest prize, and driving all over town with those few minutes to talk about their day. This time before they move on to the big world of their own will go even faster.

Share in the Comments - in what sports/activities are your kids involved?

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Throwing him in the deep end

My son had a well-decorated summer swim season.  He swam in every meet and won first place, in all events, every week, with the exception of 3 races (all 3 of those 2nd place finishes were behind the same kid).  Now he's swimming on the winter team and its like going from being the fastest fish in a little pond to an average fish in a big pond.

For his first meet, we had to choose what events he wanted to swim.  With some hesitation, he decided on the 100 yard freestyle - four times his normal distance.  He also chose the 50-yard backstroke (twice his normal distance) and the 25-yard butterfly.   This was a big jump into a pool with some really fast fish, but we figured we would let him try it, see how he does.  Well, swimming against kids who've been swimming year round since they could walk, he didn't place anywhere near where he was used to.  As he came over to me, I was preparing to give him the "good try" speech to ward off any upset.  To my surprise, he was smiling.  

"I've improved my time.  I've dropped some seconds off my best times," he said.

I couldn't help but smile at his excitement.  He later said that he was surprised by the speed of the other swimmers, but he was still proud of his own improvements.  I loved it.  I was excited for him that he could see beyond a "loss", realize his own accomplishments, and take pride in himself.  

My little fish is going to be a wonderful big fish one day.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Crossing the street

A new community center opened this summer down the street from our house.  Its barely 2 blocks, but in between there is a 4-lane busy street.  So here’s the mother’s conundrum.  My oldest daughter is 12 – old enough to go to the basketball courts and play without my supervision.  But is she street-wise enough to cross the street all by herself?   

I don’t know, because I never let my children cross the street by themselves. 

When they go out to ride their bikes, I tell them they can go anywhere as long as they don’t cross the 4-lane streets that form the corner of our neighborhood.  So, instead, they ride down the street a mile or two and through the wooded bike path, past their school, and back another mile along the road.  Is that better? 

This morning she not only wanted to go to the basketball courts, but she wanted to ride her bike!  Decisions, decisions.  Granted, I could walk her to the corner, but that seemed a bit too much hovering.  I could go with her, with the other kids, too, but they seemed happy running around in the yard and I didn’t want to disrupt that temporary peacefulness.  I could make her walk.  Finally, probably with more instructions than soldiers receive as they head off to battle, I crossed my fingers and sent her off across that vast expanse towards independence.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Try-outs: Are you a good enough parent?

I have butterflies.  My palms are sweating and my heart is racing.  I can feel a bead of sweat slide down the center of my back.  It's try-outs!

The coaches are timing and scoring.  The music director and choreographer are listening and checking rhythm.  I can't stand it.  The competition - those other people vying for the same limited spots.  Then the "if we call your name, go to this room, otherwise, wait here" part.  How can anyone stand it?

Try-outs are more nerve-wracking for the parents than for the kids.  Over the past few weeks, my kids have gone to try-outs and auditions for the tennis team, the swim team, and a drama production. The nervous looks of the other parents confirm that I am not alone in my hysteria. 

For the kids, it's about making the team or being cast for the show.  But for the me - it's about whether I've done a good job as a mom, right?  Did I take them to enough practices, did I rehearse the songs and the lines enough, did I encourage them enough?  Did he have the right pre-game meal to make it through the try-out?  Should she have had some lemon tea before having to sing?  Did I give them a big enough hug before they went out there to face the judges?  Do you love your child enough to make them the very best they can be? 

Each parent is trying to gauge their child against the other kids.  Some sly ones will even ask questions of other parents for information gathering.  "So, does your child take any lessons?" "How long has your child been playing?" "And how old is your child?"  (This one starts in the early toddler years as parents try to figure out why your child can climb the playground steps on her own)  Or they try to cover up how important this is to them.  "Well, we're not sure of this will even fit into his schedule, he's so busy, so we'll just see what happens." It's all because every parent knows, your child's selection to the team/play/choir/band, is a direct reflection, not on the child's own talent and skill, but your abilities as a parent to raise a smart, industrious, talented kid.

At the try-outs, if you are given the option, you must watch your child's performance.  Partly so that you can check out the competition.  But also because this is part of your parental grade, as well.  Are you attentive and interested in your child?  Or are you playing Words with Friends while your kid is fighting for his life?  I'm sure I'm losing some points by typing instead of focusing fully on my child.  In fact, when the swim coach said "you can wait here - if your child's not doing well in the beginning, we will take him  out of the pool", I left the pool deck and headed to the overhead seats because my thought was "my son is not coming out of the pool 'til this is over".  I think I should get some extra credit for confidence.

But the drama people, they obviously have done this before.  No parents allowed in the audition room.  They know that while we'll be making our own kids nervous, we'll be judging the other kids.  Parents would be trying to get their daughter to pat down her hair or their son to stop playing with his shoes, making what they think are subtle gestures from the sidelines. 

You could of course, opt out of it all and not have your child try-out for anything.  Instead, they could hang out at home with any other friends who happen not to be doing anything.  They could ride their bikes or sit on the steps and read.  They could get together a game of kickball or play on the playground.  They could make up their own songs and dance around the kitchen.  But then – who would see them and know how beautiful they are? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waiting...all in a mom's day

The street appears to be melting with the rain sliding down the glass. Every few minutes a car speeds by and splashes water against my door. Trying to balance my need for fresh air and the desire not to get my carseats wet, I open the back windows just a fraction of an inch. It's all a part of my rainy day routine. I'm sitting at the corner, waiting for my 2 youngest to hop off their yellow chariot. Then we'll head around the corner to pick up my oldest from her bus-stop. The last one will get home 30-40 minutes later. The car pick-up is an addendum for the wet weather, it’s on top of our regular-day busy schedule. The rain just complicates things by adding wet raincoats and backpacks to the mix. But the sitting and waiting, I'm used to that.

As any mom with busy kids can attest, there's a lot of waiting time. It might be in the car or the waiting area outside of the school gym, class, park, dance studio, or theatre. Our kids are involved in basketball, tennis, swimming, Tae Kwan Do, and drama. No more than 2 share the same activity, and due to their age and skill difference, they do not practice or play at the same time. And they go to 4 different schools. So this leaves our schedule after 3pm a jumble of activities spanning across the county.

All that to say, we spend a lot of time in the car and waiting for someone to finish doing something, rain or shine.

I haven't perfected it yet, but I am working on maximizing the efficiency of this waiting time. Here's a few things that work well for us. And I’m always open to more suggestions.

- Always keep something to read in the car - waiting for kids is a good time to catch up on Real Simple, People, or the daily newspaper.  If you're lucky, you might even be able to string enough time together to read an entire book.

- An alternative to the reading material is any other portable interest or hobby. At times, I have kept a skein of yarn and a crochet hook and stitched up squares. By the end of the year, I had a blanket done.

- Plan ahead for meals. Because we often move from one activity to the next with little time to go home and not everyone eating at the same time or place, it's easy to get caught up in the fast food drive-thru for dinner. On a good day, I cook an easy "on-the-go" meal - something simple, tasty, and portable (and hopefully nutritious). Whether chicken and rice with veggies, spaghetti with sauce, or a quesadilla, I put it in plastic containers, one per child, pack them in our insulated tote, along with a drink, plasticware, and napkins, and we're on our way.   And if you need ChickenOut or Chipotle to help you with this healthy, portable meal - don't feel bad.

- Pack some snacks. For shorter days, throw some snacks and juices/milk/water bottles in a bag for the ride. No matter how you may feel about snacking, they are hungry after school and bored riding around, so save the aggravation and avoid the vending machine. Whether its cookies, crackers and peanut butter, nuts, or fresh fruit – be proactive. And throw something healthy in there for yourself, too.  Or chocolate, whatever keeps you going through the day.

- Keep school supply box in the car so kids can get homework done while waiting for their activity to begin or brother/sister to finish theirs. Load it up with the basics: pencils, pens, crayons, scissors, glue stick, small ruler, small calculator. Contents of course are grade dependent.

- Keep sports/play equipment in the car. Balls, Frisbees - if one kid has an activity at a school or athletic field, let the others run around outside, too and get some fresh air. Deck of cards, coloring book – in case its raining.

- Get your exercise! Moms are notorious for not making time to exercise, so use your waiting time. Walk around the neighborhood. Run around the track. Swim in the other lane when your kid is at swim practice. Hit a tennis ball against the wall. I even keep a set of dumbbells in the car for a quick workout. It may not always be a long workout, but it's better than sitting in the car eating chips (okay, maybe not “better” but healthier).

- Take a nap! What mom doesn't love pulling up to the parking lot with 15 minutes to spare, just long enough for a quick power nap?

Wait - the gym door is opening and the team is filing out.  That's it for now.  Basketball is over, time to get home for bedtime.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the madness, there is love

Wandering on one of my favorite sites,, I saw this: