Work with me, please.

Posts tagged ‘birthday’

How’s That for You?


Here’s to another satisfied birthday kid. Jay’s party went well yesterday. He and his friends had fun, and the staff were so helpful. I actually spent a lot of time talking to other parents and relaxing, so much so that I missed a lot of good pictures.

Jay had asked for a Ninjago cake. I stressed for a few weeks about how to pull that off. I looked at lovely Ninjago cakes online that were in the shape of the Ninja Lego men, brightly colored fondant draped elegantly to depict the characters’ costumes. I envied those bakers. Fondant scares me. I’m not ready for it. I thought about star-tipping one of the Ninja, but I visualized myself cramped over a cake for a few hours, ending up with a severe case of carpel tunnel syndrome. Then, someone suggested an edible print-out. Bingo! It was so easy and fast, and he was pleased with it — always the ultimate test.

Before the party, he had his first drum lesson.  He had fun and he wants to continue with the lessons, which I think is great.   What I like too is that the lessons are at the instructor’s house.  Yay!  I’m excited that Jay chose something that is unrelated to Mae’s interests.  Sometimes, it seems that he likes what she likes because she likes it and he’ll stop liking something if she doesn’t like it or shows no interest.  I have a feeling the drum lessons will be different.  I’ll ask her to encourage him to practice because she’s great at motivating others, and I think that will help him stay focused.

I’ve been making it a point lately to preach to them that they have to help and support each other.   This is the first weekend that they are responsible for their own laundry.  So far, they have moved their clothes downstairs, into the washer, and then into the dryer, using teamwork.  I just listen carefully and intervene if necessary.  I have to particularly listen out for the bossy one, Mae.

Love her like I do, I know Mae can be slippery, which came out most recently this weekend. She’d been suspicious of the Tooth Fairy since Jay lost a tooth several weeks ago. She lost a tooth at camp on Friday and didn’t tell me about it. She placed it under her pillow Friday night to test if the “Tooth Fairy” would bring her a gift. I walked into her bedroom Saturday morning and she pulled the tooth from under her pillow with a flourish. “Aha! I told you.” Yep, she proved herself right. No question, the Tooth Fairy does not exist outside of this house. I am she. Then, she proceeded to think out loud about what I should give her for her tooth. “Should I get candy or money or . . . .”

Erck! (FYI, that’s the sound of a car hitting brakes hard.) I explained that now that she knows there is no Tooth Fairy, she can’t expect to collect on a lost tooth. I thought that would be a short conversation. Not with this child. No, not this one. So, then I explained it this way: The Tooth Fairy leaves gifts. A giver decides whether and what to give; there is no entitlement. I added that she’s a nine-year old allowance-earner and she can buy herself whatever gift she thinks the “Tooth Fairy” would have or should have given her. She’s grown out of the make-believe, so she can grow into more independence. Since we were having a frank conversation, I told her that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are fake too. Done.

Winding Down

It’s been so long since I’ve been here! The clouds are breaking. Work has lightened up, at least for now. We have a new staff member, which I hope means that my workload will stay reasonable. Homework is decreasing as the end of the school year gets closer. Whew! I’m convinced that 3rd grade has been harder on me as a parent this year than it was when I was a student myself some 30 plus years ago.

20130522-072907.jpgI finished my cake decorating class. If grades were given, I would have been lucky to get a C. For the last class project, my cake leveler broke and I was unable to get the nice, smooth surface I wanted. I made cream cheese frosting, which the instructor recommended against. I’m a hardhead.  I could not bring myself to put butter cream icing on a red velvet cake, and I didn’t have time to make two frostings. I took my chances. As a result, my frosting was too soft to make the pretty flowers I saw in my head. At least the cake tasted good (or so I was told). You couldn’t tell by looking at the final cake, but I actually learned a lot.  I need practice, which means that I need to bake, which I haven’t had time to do. Well, this weekend I will have time as well as a reason to celebrate. Yesterday was the birthday of Albert, Jay’s favorite stuffed puppy. Albert has birthdays every few weeks. Jay decides the theme and plans the party, including the type of cake and how it should be decorated. He gave Albert three birthday gifts yesterday, including a sleeping bag that looked like a sock. So, we’ll top off the celebration with a special cake for Albert.

Mae is done with social skills training until the fall while the therapist takes a summer break.  I definitely plan to return to the social skills playgroup.   I had a nice, long talk with the  therapist during our last visit.  She talked about helping the kids recognize “unlikeable” behaviors that make it difficult for other kids to stay friends with them.  I’m convinced that there is value in structured play time with interventions or corrections as necessary, both in being corrected and seeing others corrected.  A teacher told me recently that kids need to see or hear something at least 17 times to master it or make it habitual.  So, I’m going with that.  The cognitive behavioral therapy is on hold because we couldn’t get a regular slot that worked for our schedules.  If Mae asks to go during the summer, it may work out better since we won’t have to worry about homework.

This weekend I’ll also be working on travel plans for a vacation in June.  Sooo looking forward to that!  The vacation, that  is, not the planning.

Spread Thin


I would have written this post days ago were it not for Ruzzle, that addictive word game that has become my go-to mental break.

Work was on fire the past two weeks. I gave away hours of personal and family time in the evenings and weekends to keep up with the demands. I went to bed exhausted and woke up groggy and still exhausted.

Mae went back to therapy and social skills training last week, after a break of over one year. Overall, the school year has been great compared to past years. This is still a critical time. She’s made some friends and she seems to have a lot of fun with them . . . until someone doesn’t want to play tag. Then, the crying begins and then the teasing about the crying begins. Last week, she decided to give an upper cut to some boy who wouldn’t stop mocking her crying. She told me that night that no one likes or wants her anymore because they won’t play tag with her.

It’s the self-degradation and the hitting that worry me. I’m afraid that her classmates will stop wanting to play with her at all because of how she reacts when they want to do something other than what she wants to do.

So, we’re continuing to work on how to play what others are playing or learn to move on and play with someone else, and how to handle disappointments and disagreements.

Before tonight’s appointment, Mae said, “Today is a perfect day to go to Dr. [M]. I have a bunch of stuff to talk about. Last time, she did most of the talking. This time, I think I should do most of the talking.” And talked, she did.

I was unsure that more one-on-one therapy would be beneficial, but I’m glad we went. I think it’s good in the long run that Mae has a practice of going to safe places and people when something is troubling her. Unfortunately, we have a scheduling issue. Our choices now are 5 pm or 8 pm appointments. So, we’ll have to postpone more sessions until the therapist has different openings or I can change my work schedule.

Mae thinks social skills training is fun because she gets to play with other kids. The group meets on Saturday mornings, so the scheduling is working for us right now. She is the only girl in the group, which sucks. She seems to have more trouble playing with girls, and I was hoping for some practice in that area.

In better news, Mae and I had an awesome time for her birthday in NYC. It was a fun-packed two days. We got to do everything on our list and we made a new list of things to do on the next trip. We’ve already made a photo book, which is a birthday tradition, for the trip. She asked to add the captions this time, which took some letting go on my part. I had to tell myself, “She’s nine. Let her tell her story in her own words (and edit it before ordering :))”.

I started a 4-week cake decorating class. I didn’t do too bad on my first cake. The kids recognized it right away as an Angry Bird, and that’s all the validation I need. I thought it was much better than the “my family” foursome of mini cakes I made for Mae’s birthday. I thought Jay should have been easily recognizable with his two missing teeth and Mohawk. Hubby said that his cake should have had hair although he doesn’t wear any in real life. Oh well, I’m learning.


She’s 9. This Changes Everything.

20130325-213045.jpgIt’s not often that I feel my age. Having “young children” has helped tremendously. But, as Mae and Jay become older and more independent, especially Mae, I feel my “young parent” vibe slipping away.

Mae turned 9 today.  I gave her a bathrobe and a book about girls’ bodies for her birthday.  She requested a robe because she’s now self-conscious about leaving the bathroom undressed after a shower or bath.  I told her that the book will serve as a reference as she notices changes in her body.  We talked about menses and what she should expect when her cycle begins.  It wasn’t my intention, but I freaked her out a little.  She imagined walking through the school hallway leaving a trail of blood behind her and kids slipping in the blood.  She said, “Mom, you’re scaring me!”  Heck, it’s scary for me, too!  In a different way.  I assured her that all of this stuff is normal and there are lots of women at her school who can help her.

Last week, my mom sent Mae two birthday outfits that I thought were a little mature, including a pair of jeans with studs down the side of the legs and another with bold, glittery swirls down the side. Mae loved the outfits. She told me that she would wear one to skate night because she most definitely could not wear her school uniform. She used to care so little about clothes (other than refusing adamantly to wear dresses and skirts).

I’ve avoided certain styles (curse skinny jeans!) because I think children should dress and look like children, not mini adults. But, I said nothing about the new clothes, just looked and listened helplessly.  Hubby takes her side on this issue, putting me in the minority. He’s the one who took her and Jay skating and she told him she wants to begin buying her own clothes. He told me that she’s not a little girl anymore and her clothing and hair should reflect as much. Today, he gave her a Target gift card for her birthday and told her she could go clothes shopping.  I guess she can’t wear jeans with embroidered butterflies and flowers forever.

I knew this phase was coming and something about this number 9 makes it more real for me.  There are nothing but double digits after this and more stuff to get scared about.  Waaaa!

“Present Control”


. . . because one screen is not enough.

My eight-year old Mae is a bit birthday obsessed right now. It started on March 1. Shortly after she woke up, some of her first words were, “Can we celebrate my birthday all month long?” Her birthday is March 25. That’s a lot of build-up. She caught me off-guard; we haven’t done month-long celebrations in the past. So, I said, “Uhhh . . . make a list of things you would like to do for your birthday and then we’ll see.” (I have found that asking for a list is a great way to get the kids to leave me alone about something. It buys me valuable time to think. I also secretly hope that after the list is made, they will come to their senses and realize how greedy/unreasonable/unrealistic they are being. This hasn’t happened yet.)

There was one thing I already knew Mae wanted for her birthday. Back in January, she asked if she could take cupcakes to school. She had discussed it with a classmate whose birthday is the day before and they agreed that their moms should bring cupcakes. Then, I met the clasmate’s mom on a field trip. She and I talked and agreed that we would grant their request do as we were told. Since then, Mae has said to me at least twice that she wants cupcakes but they should be cookies instead. I haven’t figured out what this means, and I’ll sort it out closer to the date.

Meanwhile, I’m planning an overnight stay for her and me in New York for the weekend after her birthday. She is super excited about this, and I’m getting hit with all kinds of questions about what we’re going to do in the city. Yesterday, though, she said to me, “we’ve been talking a lot about my birthday, but we haven’t talked much about presents. Am I still going to get presents from my family and friends?” I began my annual spiel about how birthdays are not about presents.

Me:  Birthdays are about celebrating life and spending time with family and friends.

Her:  I know, I know. But, present control is important.

Those are her actual words: “present control”.

I don’t even know what that means. She continued talking about presents. I heard more words coming from her in the back seat but I can’t tell you what she said. I was asking myself over and over, “Did she really just say “present control”? Then, my mind went to how hard I’ve tried to emphasize people and relationships over things; gratitude; not taking things for granted; and all that good stuff. And, lo and behold, she’s trying to implement “present control,” whatever that is.

Three years ago, when she turned six, she had a birthday party and we asked the guests to bring a gift for the children’s hospital in DC instead of for Mae. A few weeks later, she and I delivered the gifts to the hospital. That was too long ago, and it’s time for another attitude gratitude shift.

She’s too busy during the week right now with homework, but during the summer, I hope we can find a regular volunteer activity that will help her gain a greater appreciation for what it means to have and have not.

The Next 20 Years


Yesterday was my 41st birthday. I wanted so badly to stay in bed, but I’ve been trying to take the kids to Dharma on a regular basis, every other Sunday, so that they develop a spiritual foundation and practice. The Dharma lessons emphasize kindness, compassion, sharing and other principles that decent human beings follow. The kids get to practice being still and mindful, and it’s another opportunity for Mae to practice social skills.

So, I made myself get up and we got ourselves to Dharma. Lo and behold, the lesson for adults, who study in a separate room, was making life more meaningful by developing a spiritual practice and doing so right now.

To paraphrase, the Teacher said that we spend the first 20 years of life having fun. It’s the rare individual who is focused on building a spiritual life in their first 20 years. Then, we spend the next 20 years building a family and career and say that we don’t have time for a spiritual life. We tell ourselves that we’ll make time later.

Now, there were people in that room who looked to be well under and well over 40. It seemed that the lesson was for me. That’s what I’d been doing . . . waiting until I have more time . . . time to fix up our piddly home shrine; meditate at home with the kids, which we hadn’t done in months; become a dues-paying member of the meditation center; and volunteer in the community on a regular basis.

The Teacher said listening to and reading Dharma are important and necessary; however, there is no substitute for practice. No substitute for regular meditation and engaging in activities that make us beneficial to others. She said helping family doesn’t count. Animals take care of their families, and if we limit our “benefiting others” to family, we’re not much better than animals. Ouch. Our lives are more meaningful when we consciously behave in a way that benefits our community and the world.

As the Teacher said, worldly activities never cease and everybody is busy. The next 20 years could pass and then we’d look back and ask, “What happened?” She said of the present, “You either make time or you don’t.”

As we walked away from the center, I told the kids that we’re going to work on making our lives more meaningful and beneficial to others. Before I could say how we can do so, Jay asked why we haven’t meditated at our shrine in a long time. I told him we’d start there.

As I begin my next 20 years, I know what I want to do and why and how. I know what I want my kids to see and learn. I just have to do it. Starting now.

So Glad We Can All Agree


I have a daughter that will eat oranges and won’t drink orange juice, and a son that will drink orange juice and won’t eat oranges — just one way that they purposely complicate things that have no reason to be complicated.

So, I was very much interested in seeing how they would react to orange cranberry muffins. Score! Both kids ate the muffins. Yay!

In addition to the muffins, I made a sour cream citrus pound cake for my mother-in-law’s birthday. I actually split the batter to make two cakes and froze one for a cook-out in a couple of weeks. After that, I’m taking a break from sweets for a while. Jay told me this weekend that my stomach looks “fatty” and asked why. Bad enough he said it. Why does he need to know how it came to be this way? If I were a cruel person, I would have said, “It’s all you and your sister’s fault!” One day, I may tell them that.

We’re expecting a fancy blender to arrive in the mail on Tuesday, at which point Hubby is going to try to overhaul our diet with green smoothies and juices. It would be awesome if the four of us could have juice for dinner every night. Besides the health benefits, meal planning and after dinner clean-up would become easier and faster (right?). That’s ambitious; so, I’ll set my first goal as having juice for dinner myself at least 3 times a week.

We’ll see.

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