Momisms – moments in my life

3/21/2012 –
I’ve seen the most amazing thing, it’s something I think we can all try to emulate. Today, I saw the most amazing woman perform a complicated task under extreme pressure. My office building has a cafeteria of sorts. Not like the high school cafeteria you might be shuddering over, but more a gourmet cafeteria. Breakfasts consist of made-to-order omelette or eggs cooked the way you like (scrambled please) or even a pancake or two. Now imagine, if you can, the morning rush at 8am, when people are budding from their car/bike/bus/train to their desks, stopping for breakfast on the way. Whoa! That’s allotta people, you might think. And I did.

Coffee before 9am is 25cents, including all the creme and sugar you can hold, refills are free. Normally, I hit the coffee when I arrive, and when they open, at 7am. But, today I was running a little late. I saw a line of about 20 people waiting for their breakfast order, and I saw one lady working the grill and three, yes THREE, frying pans. She was awesome! Taking and remembering orders: sunny side up, hash brown no bacon, or omelette with ham, cheddar cheese and mushroom 2 slices of soft bacon. You name it, she was all over it. At one point, she had 2 orders on the griddle and 2 omelettes in the fry pans. AMAZING!!

Why do I mention this? Because I think this typeof work should be required before you decide to have kids. This gives you a brief glimpse of the hard work involved in raising a quality human. Whether you are lucky enough to stay at home with your littles, or lucky enough to go to work, balancing the needs of your outside obligations, familial obligations, keeping the littles engaged and entertained and figuring out whose gonna clean the toilets. It sounds a lot like this job, but live fire combat situations might run a close second…have you ever has to re-dress a screaming toddler after a poopy diaper explodes, while older kids are running around breaking things? My husband has, and I’m sure he prefers combat. It’s hard work, people don’t always tell a parent that. Pinterest is full of cute, yet deceptive baby images.

Imagine a stay at home parent, trying to figure out how to keep the child engaged and learning but hanging into your own sanity by a thread. Only a special breed can sit and demonstrate how tow write the letter ‘A is for Apple’ so many times before wanting to stick their head in the electric oven, next to the fish sticks.

Then, imagine a parent who works outside the home. That parent, stressed by deadlines at the office has to rush home or to daycare with just enough time to brush teeth, read stories, kiss faces and tuck into bed. Lamenting the missed quality time with their kids and often working after bedtime.

Neither situation is ideal, and a balance must be maintained. (insert self mantra here) Eventually, the breakfast rush will be over, the child will learn how to write an A, and the work deadline will pass. But those pressures are quickly replaced by a lunch rush, the letter ‘B’ and a new project with a new deadline.

Don’t despair, enjoy the quiet time. Like Erika in the lunchroom, talk with your kids (customers), engage. Go to the park or the zoo or come up with a special thing that you like to share. (My boys and I like to dance around the house to music, or make our own) Customers will leave and little boys/girls grow up. Make sure you bring excellence to the table with everything, teaching the ABC’s and filling your downtime. Your kids might not enjoy the ‘work’, but when foundations are laid well, the downtime is easier to enjoy. And THAT, the special time you take to learn about the person who is your child, THAT time they will remember forever!

3/6/2012 – As my boys grow up, I realize that I have learned a very valuable lesson from my parents. The lesson of hard work. Both my parents work exceedingly hard. When my mom stayed at home with us, she was able to teach us lessons, keep the house clean (reasonably) and get a hot meal on the table by the time my dad came home. Superwoman, yes. My dad, he worked all kinds of hours and spent many, many hours on trips around the world. He was in the Air Force and I was (and still am) proud of his service to my country. I struggle with finding a proper balance to my propensity to become a work-aholic and my family responsibilities. Do I love my kids? Absolutely. I look at some kids I grew up with and wonder about the differences between what drove me to college and a career, while others I know have always struggled to keep a job, or even get a job. And, I wonder, how can I best prepare my boys for their life and prepare them to become successful members of society? Contributors.

This is even more of a topic for me right now as I register my older two, for kindergarten. Yes, they are preparing to the take the great big leap into school. And I am scared. I really want them to succeed and want them do well in school. How do you inspire that? I don’t subscribe to the theory that some kids are naturals at school, because the flip side is that some kids are not. While not everyone will grow up and get a PhD, I think everyone can achieve the basics and do a good job at it too. So, how do I inspire a good work ethic in my boys, and show them that school can be fun? Some people say I should pay for reading books or learning lessons. I don’t like that. To me, it sends a message that there should always be a payoff, more than a simple “good job” or “attaboy” that is inherent in trying hard and doing well. Others say I should drill, drill, drill at home. I don’t like this method either. Seems to take the pure joy out of learning. I agree practice is important, you cant learn anything or remember hardly anything without repetition, but continuous drills? Nope, I’ve had that experience with piano lessons and as a result, though I loved playing, I hated practicing.

So, I think I am going to try and take a page from my own upbringing. I am going to set a good example. A good example of the hard work, and the joy it is to continue learning. I want to show them how working hard can help you succeed and do well, just as my own parents did. So, I will continue to tell them why I sometimes have to work long hours and show them the payoff of working hard through chores and even a garden this summer.

We have selected some chores, like making beds and cleaning their own bathrooms as part of familial obligations. But, if they want commission (allowance), they can help me clean my bathroom, or clean the garage, e.g. extra stuff that just needs to get done. I am also going to have them select what they want to grow in the garden and then harvest it. Im want to give them a sense of purpose, of giving back to the family when we eat what comes from the garden.

When summer is over and school does finally start, I hope to work with them on their homework, even add to it and supplement at times, but also bring in extra fun, learning activities, like science projects or cooking at home to build reading, math and science skills. Wish me luck and stay tuned to see how it goes! Here’s hoping I make it through Kindergarten, Im sure the twins will do fine, its ME that will worry and stress over it.

2/19/2012 – I am reading a book called Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. This book describes how outliers, or phenomena outside expected norms can lead to the actual cause of the event. His example, is to look at Nobel Prize winners and the colleges they attended. Yes, Nobel Prize winners are well educated in their field and make great discoveries. But is it because these winners are smarter than the rest of us? Perhaps not, Gladwell states that although Harvard has the largest number of winners, by far, there are also colleges on the list like University of Illinois, and Washington State University (Go Cougs!). Are these colleges as prestigious as Harvard? (Ask a Cougar fan and they will probably tell you its better, but I digress.) The winners of the Nobel Prize for any subject just needs to be “smart-enough” to get into college, any college. Also, the student must have been taught key life skills by their parents. In one example, an individual who has an off-the-charts IQ, but who was brought up in a less than desirable family situation, lacked the social skills to effectively navigate in the higher education environment and as a result, he only spent about 1 1/2 years in college. Another specific example was someone who was equally as smart, but advanced quite significantly in his career field, AFTER he tried to poison his mentor on campus. Hmmm…the guy trying to do the right thing is effectively kicked out of college and the one who tries to kill his mentor progresses so far in his career that he heads up a major project for the government. What the heck? Gladwell reasoned that the first man was brought up in an environment where he learned to distrust authority and learned that resistance was futile. The second man was brought up in an environment, middle-class, and his parents likely taught their child key life skills.

An example of a parent teaching these life skills? In the book he references a parent taking their 10yr old child to the doctor. The parent instructs the child to think of questions to ask the doctor. (life skill: preparation and planning) While at the doctors office, the child interacts, interrupts and questions the doctor. (life skill: social/respectful interaction and analytical thinking)

All this, coupled with a blog post about a great event (coming 2/20) at Northwest Trek Career Day which lets high school and college students register for special program to learn about the different career paths when working with animals. This is a great event. And, this is my plea: Parents council your kids, education your kids and prepare them to become productive members of society. If you don’t they will live in your basement until they are over 30! Okay, maybe a bit melodramatic, but here’s the deal. As I look around me, I see friends or family who:

  • Saddled themselves with large student loans only to discover their true passion is teaching kindergarten, for $30,000 a year. Now their student loan payments take up almost 50% of their income.
  • Are looking for work, but not having a clue how to do it – the resume is old and clunky, doesn’t network and doesn’t follow up – gone are the days when you can submit a resume online and expect something to happen. Make it happen
  • Need to realize that hard work doesn’t end at 5pm. If you are going to be a leader in your industry, you don’t clock off until the work is done. If people are going to be relying on you for work, you cannot keep those people waiting, it is inefficient. Go the extra mile, the the extra thing and keep everyone moving forward. Then, when you go home, do the dishes/laundry/cooking/cleaning etc. It has to be done, all of it. Yes, makes you want to go back to junior school just for the summer vacations when you could whine about being bored.

These things are killing us! Teach your kids to speak politely to strangers. Teach them manners and give them opportunities for networking from an early age. Teach them to plan ahead and think about consequences. (Sexting, publishing pictures of wild weekends in Vegas) Teach them to work hard to become the best at whatever they choose to do. If you have a child that really, really wants to be a mechanic, that’s great! They can be an honorable mechanic.

But be realistic about potential earnings, advise against your child going to a great, but expensive, college where they will cripple their future because it is tied down too much in student loan re-payment. It isn’t sexy or even the popular thing to do, but lets face reality folks, eventually you want your kid to support themselves and their own family. While its great to follow your passion, make sure to encourage your kids natural behavior. If one of your kids hates math and memorization, don’t encourage them to become a CPA! And, if they can’t sing, keep them off American Idol! One friend told me recently, at the age of 30+yrs old, my parents kept telling me I could do anything I wanted. Well, I STILL don’t know what I want to do. (He is currently unemployed and very confused about what to do)

And for goodness sake, beat the lazy out of your kids. Of course Im kidding, about the beatings, but still…make sure your kids know about hard work. Life is work. Just depends on your definition. When you are at work, you need to: show up on time, work your butt off and produce. You can never stop working and growing. After you graduate, you will need to learn about changing technologies, management practices. Your child who became that really amazing mechanic, yep that one too. Can you imagine a mechanic that doesn’t actually fix cars, or doesn’t fix cars on time? I can’t imagine a successful one anyway. But a mechanic that not only: 1-fixes your car, 2-the car stays fixed and is 3-returned on time, that will be a successful mechanic. A mechanic who continues to learn about new technologies so to be able to grow and repair new cars will not only be successful but will grow the business and have the chance to be wildly successful.

I look at my boys growing up, and I try to think about how to help them become successful and happy adults. It is a moving target, but I will try to give them life skills that help them learn how to successfully navigate the world. At the age of 5, this already weighs on my mind. It is hard work, but I will

  • Stop and make them say good morning to their Sunday school teachers and speak to waiters at restaurants to politely ask for their own meal.
  • Continue to push fiscal responsibility by having them look at prices when grocery shopping or explain why we do/do not do certain things
  • Be transparent in the “Why” things happen in life and how we can make the best of them.
  • Teach cause and effect, and planning – I love strategy games
  • Teach the value of donating time, money and consideration to causes greater than ourselves.
  • Show them that even mommy and daddy have to continue with schooling and classes to make sure we are not totally behind the times.
The list is a little ambitious, but hey my kids are amazing and worth the extra effort. Yours are too. I know this is a really big soapbox, but it makes me so mad when people are graduating college without basic life skills, then turn and want someone to give them a free pass. I had to learn a bunch of these lessons the hard way. But parents, don’t do this disservice to your own family. Teach them, prepare them and expect them to become winners they can be. Whew, Im done, thank you for reading.

2/13/2012 -My life is crazy. Yes, we all think that, but some days I truly believe that I will end up in bedlam. Although, it might not be that bad, if it involves a real bed and a bit of rest. 🙂 And just when I think Ive hit the end of my road, someone opens the curtains and lets in some light.

Yesterday was a Saturday, which means its errand day. We usually manage to sneak a few errands in between outings with the boys. If I am lucky, I can do them on the way home. Not this week. Between waiting at the bank, dropping daddy off at school, buying the baby new shoes at the Rack my kids were bored and at the end of their rope. It was late for lunch and this was the perfect combination for the perfect storm. The boys fought between the seats, fussed and almost threw a fit on the way out of the SuperMall. “Come ON mom!” was their battle cry. The promise of a Costco hotdog saved the day and my sanity.

As I now look back, with a much calmer attitude, I realize the situation. They were uninterested in any of the errands, so I had to come up with a way to engage them in the errand, not just to drag them around from place to place. Archie was a gem when he held onto his brother as I fixed the hotdogs. During the Costco run, both Archie and Sean were great about helping me pick out produce, and decide what to serve this week. (Explains the pizza we are eating for dinner tonight.) And, as a reward for behaving, we decided to go to the Family Day at the Glass Museum.

I cautioned them the Museum probably was not free, and we might not be able to actually go in if it was too expensive. But, because the twins and the baby are 5yrs and 18mo old, they were free, the $12 entrance for me was easier to swallow. (And since they were able to go, they hugged me and said ‘Thank you’!) They had a blast! The family day craft was fun and easy for the 5 year olds to do. There was an artist in residence and working in the hot shop so they were able to see the large vase that was built. And they actually sat still and watched and asked questions to the presenter with the microphone. It was a miracle! They were behaved and after we moved onto the theater to see a short 15min film about a featured artist, the gallery meant that much more to them. They kept saying “Just like in the movie mama”, “Look at this”, “Look over here”. There is hope, my children are not cretins, but will someday grow up to appreciate the beauty around them, even if it is because they are fascinated with fire and melting glass to create art. That can’t go wrong, can it?


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