Made By Hand

(In response to WordPress’ Daily Post from MANY weeks ago, By Hand)

What was the best gift you ever received that was handmade? Those of us who are parents probably have a ton of handmade pictures, bookmarks, keychains and jewelry that our children have made for us. But there are three special handmade gifts I will always treasure.

Over 20 years ago, my good friend in South Carolina made a simple storage mug for me. It is a plain black mug, with my name written on it with a gold paint marker. Let me interject that having an uncommon name, I am ALWAYS excited to see my name monogrammed on anything! But she also wrote around the mug adjectives she felt described me. That’s what made it personal.

When my son was 4, he made my first pre-school Mother’s Day gift, which was a handmade beaded keychain. He was so proud of it and I still have it on my keychain, faded letters and all. When my daughter was 4, she made the same keychain as her brother, and I promised I would keep both of them. However, her knot must not have been tight and I didn’t realize that over a period of a few days, I had slowly been losing beads from the keychain. But I still keep the green rope tied to my keys, as a reminder of my handmade gift. And my daughter appreciates the fact that I never threw away the green rope!

Something handmade should be cherished and appreciated – because someone took the time to CRAFT it just for you. Did you receive a handmade card or gift this Christmas? Leave a comment and share your gift with us!

The Art of Understanding Personalities

personality

personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

One of the many lessons I have learned over the years is that trying to understand the heart of individuals aids greatly in learning how to deal with them. If you get where they come from, you know where they’re going. Here’s an example: Perhaps someone you know socially is very bossy – I mean always wants to be in charge. Once you really get to know them, you may find that they have NO control at home, or on their job. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but understanding where they come from can keep you from taking things personally. Just as you should know your audience when teaching, writing or speaking, you should understand personalities when dealing with individuals.

This line of thinking starts at home, with our spouses and our children. One of the most exciting things to me about parenthood is  watching my children’s personality develop. This morning I was listening to my 5- and 7- year old have an intense discussion/mini-argument. Izzy (7) insisted that he was right because he was older. Yvette (5) declared it didn’t matter who was older. Earlier this year, it dawned on me that Izzy is the debating negotiator. The conversation never ends with this guy! Yvette will also stand her ground, and will go toe to toe with her big brother. The difference is, once she makes her point, she drops the mic and walks away. Understanding these personality traits help me deal with them on different levels.  Don’t get it twisted though – I do NOT negotiate with terrorists, and my child will NOT just walk away from me! I’m still the Momma! 🙂

The Long Way Home

A Long Road Home

A Long Road Home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend, I took the children to Toys ‘R Us to redeem gift cards. It was a surprisingly short trip, as we easily found the Power Rangers section. They then quickly spotted the toys they wanted. Easy peasy. We were in and out of the store in less than 20 minutes. We had gone to the closest TRU, which was only about 15 minutes from home and as we pulled away from the parking lot, I decided to take a longer way back home, just to spend a few more peaceful moments in the car with the kids. I immediately thought back to my childhood. My father worked at night, so during the summer, I was with him all day while my mother was at work. Daddy and I often did fun things like go to the movies, or bowling. Some days we would do some comparison shopping at stores like Two Guys, TSS, Alexander’s or Mays (what y’all know about THOSE stores?!).  And then some days, he would just run a quick errand. It was on those  days that I hoped he wouldn’t make the turn that signaled we were headed back home. I was silently wishing we would be going somewhere else before going home. I guess during our TRU errand last week, part of me wanted to satisfy that same unspoken desire of my children and take them on a little ride.

Back in 2005, during a Christmas visit with my parents in Florida, my father asked me to drive him to his doctors’ offices to deliver cookies to the staff. It was the day before I was to fly back home. What should have been a 30-minute errand turned into an all-day adventure! He had me driving all over the state of Florida…to the Cadillac dealership for an oil change, to the grocery store for some pigs’ feet he planned to cook for New Year’s, then to a new meat market some 1 ½ hours away! But during our excursion, we had such a wonderful conversation. What I remembered most about that day was the moment he suddenly said, “You know, you have become a beautiful woman and I’m very proud of you.” All ‘Daddy’s girls’ seek their father’s approval, and although I had felt his approval throughout the years, there was something special about what he said. It was then that I realized he had purposely stretched out our day to spend some extra time with me. Unfortunately the day tired him so that he was unable to drive with my mother and me to the airport the next day, and the last visual I have is of him sitting tiredly out in the living room, waiting to say goodbye.  I did not know that this would be my last time seeing him and on March 24, 2006, he passed away. I did not get to say goodbye to him, but I always have the memory of our last time taking the long road home.

Sometimes, it’s worth spending a few more miles with someone…think about it.

Back to School

It’s that time of year, when the kiddies prepare to go back to school. Moms and Dads run frantically down school supply aisles at the local big-box stores, shopping lists in hand. I read an interesting article this morning from blogger Mocha Dad entitled, “5 Ways to Avoid Back to School Headaches.” I was thankful for these wonderful tips, a few of which I had already been practicing.

I have done all the shopping – uniforms, gear, supplies, lunch preparations. My children are ready and anxious for their first day of school. But there’s one problem. I’m not ready! I cannot believe the summer is over. I am not ready to see my little prince get on his first school bus or see him traveling the halls of a big, new school. I’m not ready! I’m not ready to see my little princess in her first school uniform, tackling the rigorous kindergarten homework her brother faced just two years ago. I’m not ready to prepare for her graduation in June, and then move to her brother’s big school this time next year. As always, I’m so concerned with how my children will fare in a situation, I forget to think about dealing with it myself!

True, I don’t have much of a choice, but I had to face this reality and work with it. I’m not ready, but I’m getting ready. By Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be back in Momma-mode!

Teach ’em How to Study

Studying

Studying (Photo credit: scui3asteveo)

It’s back to school time for children across the country. My own children will be starting second grade and kindergarten next Wednesday. I ran across an interesting article/quiz in Scientific American about study skills. I believe that like learning, optimal study habits differ by individual. However, there are some basic principles of learning that can be applied to any student.

As our children head back to class, start instilling in them good study habits. Sometimes we get so caught up in them learning the material, we don’t help our children learn how to study the material. My son, who is entering the second grade, learned last year what it meant to study. He had quizzes on whatever book he had just read, and I had to remind him that yes, he read the chapters of the book, but he now needed to study them, so that he could be tested on specific events in the book. It helped for me to give him a practical example. Immediately after reading the material once, I “quizzed” him. Of course, he answered everything correctly; however when I asked him the same questions a few hours later, he found himself having to look back in the book for the answers. Though I sympathized with his struggle, I also looked at this as an opportunity to begin instilling in him the value of studying.

I am thankful for Mrs. Krutoy – my jet black-haired, hipster jeans and go-go boots-wearing 7th grade Social Studies teacher (mind you, this was in 1982!). We had biweekly exams and she gave us very specific study instructions. We were to give ourselves three nights before the exam to start studying. There were always three major sections of notes for every exam, so each night we could focus on a different section, each night adding the previous section for review. I aced most of her exams! I maintained this same three-day study rule throughout college and even in graduate school. I even remained diligent in dividing the readings and/or notes into three sections for easier studying.

When teaching the Three R’s, don’t forget to add an ‘S’ – for Studying!

How did you study for exams?

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 30)

The Age of Remembrance

SevenLast week, my firstborn child turned seven. As I continue to get to know my children and their personalities, I have come to call my intense and sensitive son Izzy my twin, and my feisty 5-year-old daughter Yvette my alter-ego! As I have my serious heart to heart talks with them about things they are facing in school – and yes, even at their young ages, they “face” issues at school – I often let them know that I understand what they are going through because I had the same experiences when I was growing up. I like to let them know that they are not alone and that “Momma knows.”

But I had an interesting epiphany a few days after Izzy’s birthday. I have many childhood memories going back to pre-school days. I remember not liking the monkey bars because I hated that “burning” sensation I felt on my hands when I slid down the wooden pole. When I put my son’s age into perspective, I thought back to 1976, the year I turned seven (go ahead, I’ll give you a second to do the math!). Not only do I vividly remember events of that year and beyond, but I can recall my feelings about many events. It made me feel even more connected to my son, because now I can relate to him more specifically the thoughts and feelings associated with the situations I will be counseling him on. I was, and still am, quite the introvert and often kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. Fortunately, Izzy is more apt to share with me during our fireside chats.

That was the year my sister graduated from High School. On the morning of her graduation, she had developed some strange temporary palsy which caused the right corner of her lip to curl up slightly, so that she appeared to be sneering in many of her photos. She was quite upset by this – what graduating senior wouldn’t be? I remember crying for her inside and wishing that it would go away before the day was over. It was also the year my father bought what was to become my favorite Cadillac – a beautiful midnight blue, 1976 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. Shortly afterward, we had to travel to his home in Richmond, Virginia for his cousin’s funeral – the first funeral I had ever attended. Izzy too will attend his first funeral next week, and I have already begun preparing him for what he will witness, Remembering the questions in my head back in 1976, I feel I can better prepare him for what he might be feeling, as well as seeing.

I am thankful for what I am considering this powerful memory tool, one that will help me to continue to be as engaged as possible with my little ones. My hope is that by the time they enter those extremely awkward pre-teen years, they will have felt a greater sense of connectivity with me and know that they are not alone. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to be their friend – I’m their Momma FIRST! But at least they will know that I didn’t just become an adult overnight – I had to grow up and experience many of the same things they are experiencing.

(WriteNow Challenge Day 19)

Kids Gone Wild

Kids in Restaurant

When my sister and I were younger, my parents often took us to restaurants for dinner. We were taught to be on our best behavior and learned to select and place our own orders. At 5 and 7, my children know the same. In fact, on a recent trip to Friday’s, Yvette began circling her choices on the kids’ menu so she would remember what she wanted to order when the server returned! Many times, we are approached by other customers who compliment us on how well-behaved our children are. I say this not to be boastful, but to prove that young children can be expected to behave at a restaurant.

A child’s behavior in public places is predicated upon two things – how well parents teach their children to behave in these situations and how often the children are exposed to these public places. When we go to a restaurant and see children acting like they are at the playground, the first thing I do is look at their parents. Listen, we all know sometimes our children get out of hand. If I see parents at least making an attempt to calm their children down, then I send the sympathy vibe and pray the parents get a break! But more often than not, these parents are ignoring their children’s behavior, engaging in their own conversations and sometimes not even knowing that the children have left the table and are hanging out with someone else’s children! For this there is no excuse.

I read the following article the other day – local NYC restaurants are considering banning children from restaurants during peak hours. Some agree, some thinks it’s unfair punishment for those parents with well-behaved children. What are your thoughts?

Read “Growing Number of Restaurants Banning Children During Peak Hours

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 12)