Raining Glitter

I swear I can't leave the house unsupervised for five seconds.

My oldest daughter is having the busiest end of school year I have ever known or even imagined in my 40 years. Every day there is something. So, today there was a short presentation and my oldest daughter really wanted me there for it, but I had the two little home and the 1st grader was sick.

So, I begged my husband to work from home for the morning, and that I would bribe(yes, as in with money) our 7-year old to 'babysit/entertain' the littles while I was gone for a very short hour and a half. He agreed, then disappeared upstairs to work, where apparently he stayed the entire time I was absent.

I came home to a house full of glitter.

All over the floor and carpet, sofa and chairs, tables, rugs, all over their stuffed animals, even in their hair. It looked like the roof of the house had opened up and it rained glitter.

Leaving for an hour and a half lead to two hours of clean up.

I guess that's what I get for leaving a seven-year old in charge.

A Lonely Playground

This morning was the first day back to school after Spring Break. My seven-year-old daughter woke up in her usual slow-moving, totally dragging, sad-faced way. She doesn't particularly like school. She's a homebody, so the fact that Spring Break was over didn't settle too well with her. But then again, this wasn't that different than every other school morning.

She went about this morning in her typical routine: We drag her out of bed, make sure she gets dressed, and she goes downstairs and plants herself on the couch. We beg her to come eat her breakfast because by now the clock is ticking and the school is a stickler on their tardy policy and it's not just her that would be late. Her older sister would suffer that consequence as well. She eats a few bites and asks us to check her fever, complaining that something ails her, ensuring us that she needs to stay home. So we humor her and confirm her lack of fever, and continue our scurrying around to make sure everyone is ready. We're out the door to send a sad-faced little girl and her sister off to school. This is probably a fairly normal morning for families that have a kid or two that don't enjoy school.

I'm usually in a hurry and I drop and go, nearly peeling out of one school parking lot to get to another where the two younger siblings go to preschool. My to-do list is raging through my mind as I calculate all I need to get done that day and subtracting it from the minimal amount of hours I have to do it all. I'm no longer thinking about that sad little face that jumped out of my van only moments ago.

But this morning as I reminded her every three seconds to please take another bite of Cheerios, there were tears. I took a deep breath, hugged her, and was secretly thinking, 'Great, here we go again.' I gave the usual pep-talk about the school year coming to an end soon, and a big trip we were taking that would ease the pain of making it through these last two months. She said her stomach hurt, and I told her I was sorry. She drug her feet over to her backpack, boots, and coat and put them on slowly (and I mean slow as in take slow motion in a movie and multiple it times one hundred). By now, I'm getting frustrated. We need to get out the door and everyone else is already in the car.

We tear into the school parking lot and my oldest leans over to me with a kiss and smile, then hops out the door. The seven-year old pauses until I open the van door with my ceiling button and lean back to give her a kiss. Her tiny mouth is tilted into a frown as I notice she is staring at the playground. Finally, she steps out of the van and her tiny head (hiding in a knit hat with an owl face on it) is hanging as she enters the gate to the playground.

Normally, that's when I back out. Once she's inside that gate, I'm outta there, moving on and about my day. But today, something told me not to hurry. Something made me watch her.

She strolled over to where the kids all place their backpacks until the whistle blows. She set her backpack down and turned around to gaze at the playground. She started to wander around a bit, but had yet to speak to another kid. Then one of her little friends that she had just had a play date with over the weekend entered the playground. I saw my daughter's face light up at the sight of this friend. But as my daughter began to move toward her friend, another little girl ran over and monopolized the friend.

Once those two were paired up, my daughter kept her distance, as if there were some unspoken (or spoken, possibly) rule that she couldn't join the other two girls. I watched as my daughter continued to glance in the direction of the other two girls, moving toward them occasionally, but then backing away, as if contemplating if she would be accepted into their duo, or would simply be a third wheel.

Her friend was left alone for a moment, and I saw my daughter take the opportunity to go say hello. They interacted briefly until the other little girl returned, and I watched as my daughter's friend locked elbows with the other little girl, and the pair turned and walked away from my daughter, leaving her standing alone.

I felt a tear stream down my own face as I realized what her little tears in the morning were really about. Why her stomach hurts and her body aches on the mornings she must go to school. That kind of rejection would be painful to anyone.

She's lonely. At a school of hundreds of children, she feels alone.

She has occasionally mentioned to us that she doesn't have anyone to play with at school, or that the other girls all pair up and there she stands without a partner. But some days, I ask her if she played with anyone on the playground, and she will say that she did. But today, I saw what the majority of her days must look like.

I don't recall ever not having friends at school, or not having someone to play with. But she is my introvert. My child that doesn't want to do any activities unless they are private. She is guarded and quiet, and on the playground I saw what she has talked about so many times before as she wandered around by herself in a sea of children. She is an island.

I don't know where the grass is greener in this situation. I can't be there for her at recess or lunchtime, and I think that to some extent, life can be like this and it's a road she is going to have to travel. I can't run out onto the playground and scold other children for ignoring her or turning the other way, or not including her. They may not even realize what they are doing. But I know that inside, my daughter's little heart breaks every time she is turned away, when three's a crowd and someone she thought was a friend leaves her standing alone.

I don't think I'd want to go to school either.

We've talked about her being brave. We've discussed her standing up for herself, speaking boldly about her feelings and what she wants and needs from her friends. Yet, I watched her let the two girls walk away, as if she were invisible. Maybe she thinks she is.

So I'm left to feel like there is something I should be doing, or could be doing, to make her schooldays a little brighter, yet I have no idea where a parent steps in. Does she just endure it, since she has to go to school? Do I call her friend's mom and tell her that her daughter is not including my daughter on the playground? Or is that forcing friendship where it doesn't belong? Do I want my daughter to have to beg someone to be a real, true, genuine friend that wouldn't neglect her? Or do these things have to forge their own path?

At this moment, I have no answers. I'm at a loss. I see no greener grass on the other side right now. But I know that when June rolls around, my daughter's face will be happy again. The grass outside our windows will be green and the flowers blooming.

Until then, I vow to be a better mom. To watch her more often. To talk more. To let her talk more. To be a better friend.

One Down (But can she keep her mouth shut?)

I'm driving in my car with my oldest daughter (only 9 1/2), and I've got Easter on the brain. It's time to be the bunny again and of course, it's the day before Easter and I've got nothing. I'm obviously quiet as I roll around some ideas in my head about when and how I'm going to pull off the visit to the store without any kids by bedtime.

My daughter (in her usual curious and observant state) could tell I was in thinking mode. She loves to break up my thinking mode. I don't know why (could it be that with four kids, it's an opportunity to get a little attention?), but it drives me nuts because my brain likes to think. A lot. When it gets interrupted, it's almost like I was just woken up from a deep sleep. It takes a minute to regain reality.

Back to Easter. So my daughter turns down the stereo and breaks up my thinking mode by saying, "Hey mom, what are you thinking about?" Original huh?

I think she said that same statement two more times (and quite a bit louder) before I returned from my trance and said, "Oh, sorry. Yeah, what's up?"

"What were you thinking about?" she asked again.

"Just Easter. What do you want from the bunny?"

"Really, Mom? You think I don't know about 'the bunny." She put 'the bunny' in quotation marks with her fingers (thank a lot Disney, I know that's where she learns this stuff).

I try to revamp her perception of "the bunny". "Yeah, and what exactly do you want "the bunny" to put in your basket?"

She turned to me and smiled. "A cell phone."

I laughed, even though I'm really annoyed, because I'm entirely too tired of this 'when can I have a cell phone' conversation, but I humor her. It was kind of clever to throw it in at that opportunistic moment. I also realized what it really meant. One down in the believer department. No more Santa, Bunny, or Tooth Fairy for her.

I rebut, "Well, I don't think "the bunny" can afford one more cell phone plan right now."

She argues, "Well, maybe if "the bunny" would give me the phone, I could pay for the plan."

"You're 9."

"Almost 10."

"But not 10, and "the bunny" doesn't give 10-year-olds phones either."

She pouted as I took a deep breath and realized that it's starting. She knows "the bunny" is me and her Dad, and that means she is growing up. Sometimes, I like it that she is growing up, but it made me sad today. So, I did what I usually try to do when I realize she is growing up in a certain area of her little life. I try to embrace it. So, I took another deep breath and said, "So, you want to help tonight; be 'the bunny's' assistant?"

She smiled and squealed and jumped up and down in her seat. I drove through the green light and asked, "ShopKo or Kmart."

"Kmart," she answered, and I whipped on into a parking space.

That night, she could barely contain herself. She was giddy with excitement as she asked me every two minutes when everyone was going to bed so that we could "you know, do that thing (hand signals included)."

Well, good thing I had a helper, because the hubby fell asleep and I would have been solo. As she and I stuffed eggs to hide and placed everyone's basket out (including hers so she could pretend 'the bunny' came), I reminded her that it has to be our secret, because we don't want to ruin the magic of it all for her little sisters and brother. She pretended to zip her lips. We hugged. I cried.

I was woken up at 5:45am to small children asking me if they can hunt for the eggs the bunny brought. I said 'sure', even though I was thinking how painful it was going to be because it was so effin early. I started to get out of bed, slowly. My new assistant put a hand on my shoulder and said, "You stay. I got this."

I shrugged. "Okay." I said, and snuggled back into bed. Slept until 9am. It rocked. Maybe this is what other Mama's mean when they say, 'don't worry, it does get better.'

I decided that maybe it really was a good department for her to be growing up in (as long as she can keep her mouth shut). The grass definitely seems greener.

Report Cards - Pay for Performance?

I love report card day. So far, report card days have been great days. I'm super blessed with kids that get good grades, and while I do have to give the teachers of all of the credit, I am rejuvenated in my motherhood on those days. I get to feel like I'm a really good mom (to make up for all those days I feel like the worst mom ever).

Third grade brought on a whole new level of report cards. We went to the letter system. My oldest daughter's first letter grade report card was all As and A+s. I beamed. Her father beamed. Most importantly, she beamed. Her teacher wrote a bunch of shiny, happy comments on how wonderful our daughter is (so, of course, I LOVE her teacher). We all beamed some more. We told her great job, keep it up, now you've done it and set the standard, we expect this every time, and by the way, we really do love you just the way you are as long as you're still getting straight As. Okay, so I was only thinking in my head the set the standard, expectations stuff, and of course I'll love her just the same if the grades ever drop. But I know my daughter and she was thinking it too. All is good in the world. We are the Cleavers.

Ironically, the next day I take my two-year-old to the barber shop to get his hair cut. The woman that cut his hair (let's call her Shirley), has owned the barber shop for 30 something years. So we're chatting as she's cutting my little wiggly guy's hair, and I'm not really considering what else she might have done during that 30 something years. To me, she was just this really nice woman with Buzz Light Year hanging over her head so that my child would be entertained long enough to get his hair cut.

She asked about my other kids and so I asked about hers. She has two boys. One is in college, and the other a senior in high school. The one is college was Valedictorian of his high school class. Her senior will also be Valedictorian of his class. Suddenly, Shirley was no longer the woman that owned the barber shop for 30 something years, but was now the proud mother of two Valedictorians. I asked her how she managed to pull that off. She said, "I'm just blessed."

Well, I get that blessed stuff and all, but I knew there was more to it. So I probed, as every mother seeking good advice should do. I asked her if they just got good grades because they wanted to, or if she rewarded them. I'd been tossing around the idea of paying for grades now that letter grades were in the picture, and I was curious what the best, most morally correct, and productive way to keep a straight A student motivated to continue being a straight A student. Or should grades be like those chores they must do simply because they are part of the family so they must contribute?

She smiled and said, "Sure I rewarded them. I mean, I get paid for my performance, why shouldn't they? Doesn't it teach them how life really works? Starting in third grade, I paid a quarter for every A and an extra dime for every A+. Every year, I increased it a quarter. By the time high school hit, my oldest still had straight As and he put a hand on my shoulder and said, 'Mom, you don't have to pay me anymore. I'm getting the grades for me now.'"

I wanted to cry and hug Shirley. There was my answer, as if light were shining down on Shirley and she was my fairy Godmother telling me that yes, it is okay to pay your child for good grades. It wasn't bribing them to do something they should want to do themselves, but rather it was encouraging them, providing an incentive, paying for performance. The same way life as an adult works. I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon with Shirley, but she blew the hair off of my toddler, smiled, and said, "First haircut is on me."

So now we pay a quarter for each A and an extra dime if it's an A+. We're paying for S+ too; to get the younger one motivated and accustomed to the PFP (pay for performance) system she will enter in the third grade.

But this has not only been motivating for my daughter, it has opened up conversations. She brought home her report card last night and we discussed her grades and how much she earned for her performance, and she asked, "So what if you get straight As all the way through high school?"

I told her it opened a lot of doors, for whatever college she might want to attend, for scholarships, to pursue a dream job or even just a dream. She asked me if I'd heard of Stanford. I said, "Yes, but you're going to need a whole lot of perfect report cards for that one." She went to her room and started counting her money.

I know I may not end up with four Valedictorians, but I do thank Shirley for introducing a way for my husband and I to install the idea of pay for performance at an early age. I believe it will have a lasting impact, even if I'm broke by the time they all graduate from paying my kids for their report cards. In fact, I hope I am. That would mean they did well.

What about you? Will you pay for performance?

Get this book - unless you're all "rainbows and unicorns."

I just have to share the book these women wrote. I really wanted to write this book, but they did instead. But I can't hate them for beating me to it, because they are too darn funny, and that scores pretty high in my book (ha! no pun intended.) They're all bloggers, by the way, and since we all have so much spare time to just sit around reading blogs all day(not), you may as well just go ahead and put them on your list so you don't have to use that spare time researching blogs you should read in your spare time.

The book is titled, 'I Just Want to Pee Alone'.

Are you relating already? (Don't worry, the link to buy the book is just a few paragraphs away)

These women are so freaking hilarious that even if you did have the chance to pee alone, you might not make it to the bathroom. Yes, it is 'pee your pants', laugh-out-loud, read-over-another-mom's-shoulder funny. So since most of us didn't do the required number of kegels (but lie and say we did), you might just want to read it while on the toilet; assuming you actually do sneak away for a few precious moments of alone time. (Is that sad; I mean that we'll take alone time at the drop of a hat, even if it is in the bathroom?)

Anyway, the reason I love these ladies is because they don't take themselves too seriously, they pile on the sarcasm, don't give a hyena's hoot what other mother's think of them, willingly throw the f*bomb here and there, and pretty much let you know right off the bat that if you don't like what they write, you can just take your little prissy self somewhere else where they sip tea with their pinky in the air, never forget to cross their legs, and talk about their perfect children while those children are out throwing firecrackers into the neighbors car.

These ladies are my kind ladies. They inspire the H out of me. So, if you like to laugh, and appreciate motherhood for what it really is (I mean, let's be honest here, c'mon), get this book! Do yourself a favor, Momma. Don't you deserve a laugh today?

Where in the H did my quiet go?

Last week, my hubby ran off with the three girls to South Carolina, and left me home with two-year-old little man. For SEVEN DAYS and SIX NIGHTS. Heaven, did I hear you knocking? Hello? Oh, hello Heaven.

So, I was stuck home(poor me) with only one of my four children and no other human around, and I was spared the usual of the daily routine, like fighting, and making a meal only to hear the words "I don't like that", and I only heard a little whining when I wasn't giving little man 100 percent of my attention.

One of the best of all things: I didn't cook a darn thing. I microwaved, but I don't dare call that cooking (even though I kind of think it is) because the Betty Crocker/Martha Stewart/Rachel Ray types would dust me in that argument. So anyway, I was not necessarily "cooking" (but I did feed my child) and therefore, dishes were limited, laundry was null, and I spent a lot of time purging all of the crap out of the house, and making it all nice and purty for when everyone returned (to just mess it up again). I also read a lot. I slept a lot too, but not enough.

Because best of all, was the quiet. I wanted to cherish the quiet.

When little man went to bed at night, I knew he was a goner. No waking up wanting any stupid water, or another freaking banana. He was toast. Tired little dude. And the night was mine. Mine alone. I got to enjoy this super rare thing that I darn near forgot about, called quiet. My new most favorite thing in the entire world (except my family, of course, because I have to say that), but yes, quiet. My favorite thing in the whole world.

In fact, that's what I'm going to start asking for my birthday, and Christmas, and anything else anyone ever asks what I want. I'm going to reply, "I would love some quiet. What a precious gift that would be."

Seriously, just wrap me up some quiet with a great big bow. It would be the best gift I've ever received.

So, of course, the fastest six days ever went by, and the chaos returned in the form of three giddy little girls, and one really busy husband. The house is an instant disaster, and my quiet is all gone. And I just want it back. NOW!

But, dream big, I suppose, because slowly all the life bursting with enthusiasm and screaming around me will sink in and become the new normal again. I'll go about my days trying to answer everyone talking to me all at once while I pick up the eight million things that don't belong on the floor.

Quiet is gone. Not forever, but gone for now. I miss it already. Pretty heartbroken, actually.

So, until we meet again, possibly in Heaven, who knows. I love you, Quiet. With all my heart. When in the H can you come back? Not soon enough!

How We View Death

Sometimes my posts from my author site and my mommy site seem to cross over. This is one of those cases..

Kids really put things into perspective sometimes. Even things that are scary or uncomfortable or incomprehensible. My four year old daughter did just that the other night for me as we were reading books, discussing them, and getting ready to go to bed.

The sweet angel of a face turned to me dead (no pun intended) serious and said, “Mommy, I think Pops is going to heaven soon, because he has gray hair. But Mimi dyes hers black, so she’s gonna live a lot longer.”

At first it made my heart sink, and I wanted to say, never! Pops is never leaving this planet without us! He is my dad, and all.

But then I thought, wow. That really takes something very complicated and turns it into something very simple. Just dye your hair. You’ll live longer.

Is that really how these innocent young creatures view their own mortality? I mean, she really didn’t think it was all that big of a deal. It made me wonder what else did she have such simple solutions for. Death is a big thing. What were her thoughts on Peace? Cancer? Were they so simple as well?

In a few years, that perspective will take a new shape, and she’ll start to understand what death means on a deeper level, and she’ll fear it every now and then, for herself, and for others, but for now, it actually gives me comfort that she can be so at peace with something most people can barely internalize without slight desperation to have some kind of understanding. Maybe it’s that very perspective that we should take on. We only have a certain degree of control over death, about as much control as we have over choosing our hair color. And once we dye our hair, we have to throw up our hands, recognize the rest is up to God and just simply live life. Simply.