Tag Archives: children

Taking the “er” out of Mother……

I know taking the “er” out of mother would simply leave us as “moth”s.

But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Moths don’t care what their hair looks like, when their children start reading, or what size anyone’s jeans are.

Gray doesn’t mean they are older. It just means, well, they are gray.

Moths don’t need earrings that match a purse that matches their eyes. They don’t have to clip coupons (although that might be fun to watch). Moths don’t have to potty train their little moths so that they won’t embarrass them at the playground.

Moths are just, in every moment, moths.

They spend most of their time searching for bright, shiny light that has all the promise of warmth. And there’s lots of room around those lights for everyone to squish in and warm themselves. Those moths shy away from dark, lonely places.

It’s when we add in the “er” that comparisons ensue. We become mothers and comparers.

She is prettier.

Oh look, she is skinnier.

Her house is bigger.

Oh dear, her child is faster.

And her son is reading earlier.

She might just be better than me. Eeeeks.

Wait just one minute…

She is fatter. And my child is taller. Whew.

I recently read this fabulouso article by April Perry on a website called the Power of Moms (what a wonderful use of “er“) that details how social media isn’t helping mothers one bit. We spend too much time online mourning over who we are not.

We see meals on Pinterest that we could never actually make, party themes that would require an entire film crew to pull off, and others who are supposedly doing it better.

Facebookers share with us trips that we could not/did not go on and college scholarships our children won’t get.

Twitter takes clever to a whole new level. There is tremendous stress in trying to figure out how to be witty or impart wisdom in 140 characters or fewer, especially when emoticons are frowned upon as a wasted use of space.

All the while, our little moths sit and wait for us to stop clicking on keyboards and return to being just who they want us to be. Their mothers.

And if you have evidence that moths actually eat their young at birth, please don’t confuse the beauty of this symbolism with science. I am not trying to be smarter, just less “er“. And that cute little moth made me smile. 😎

Just in case you didn’t get enough of my “er”ism here – I wrote this post a while back. A small warning – I was snarkier then. 😉

Lexile – find out what books your child should/could be reading……

If you have ever been to the library or book store with a child, you know full well how hard it can be to find a “just right” book for that child to read.

Well, Lexile will make choosing a book a (much) easier undertaking.

You can read the full details here – but I will try to break it down for you quickly.

Lexile analyzes the difficulty level of a particular piece (book, magazine article, etc) and assigns it a number. For example, Harry Potter has been given the rating of 88OL. (The “L” stands for Lexile. Clever, huh?) Read more »

Swim Parent 101………

If your child has ever been involved in anything competitive (including learning to tie his shoes), you have run into the “my child ties his shoes better than your child” parent. It is exhausting. Swim parents are no exception. So I humbly offer some guidelines for those parents who will be sitting with other parents waiting for hours for their children to swim one and a half minutes more beautifully than any other children has ever swum before.

  • When attending a swim meet at an indoor pool, forgo the perfume/cologne. It does not mix well with the chlorine laden air. In fact, let’s just make this a life rule – if you are going to be around other people and you will not be able to spread your arms out straight to create some space between bodies, perfume is a no go.
  • Do use deodorant. Always. Every time.
  • Don’t forget to pack snacks. Snacks make a swim meet better.
  • Either buy a meet sheet or figure it out on your own. They are usually just a couple of dollars. Don’t keep asking for “just a peek” at the parent’s sheet next to you.
  • Walk outside to talk on your phone. Turn down your ipod.
  • If you say to your child, “you must get a 37.06 in this race” and your child’s response is “I just don’t know what you mean by that,” reconsider swimming as the sport of choice for your kid. Or at least temporarily suspend your hopes of Olympic Gold. If your child is younger than 8 and you are quoting must-meet times, check yourself. You are already an out-of-control swim parent.
  • Do not talk to the parent next to you when her child is swimming. Especially with a running commentary on his technique/speed/cuteness of suit.
  • Do not offer that parent advice on how his kid could improve his technique/dives/turns after watching him swim. Even if you have the best idea ever. No wait… especially if you have the best idea ever. Just say, boy that was a nice swim. Period. Done.
  • You really cannot predict height or wing span – even if the doctor “guesses” what the height of your child might be. Just let your kid swim the race at the meet you are attending and worry about how great they are “going” to be when they are sixteen when they are actually sixteen. And if you are using the term wing span in reference to your own child’s fabulousness, settle down. Have a snack – it is better to use your mouth for nourishment purposes at this point.
  • When you stand up in the stands and wave your arms wildly in a kicking motion, you can be pretty sure that your child’s thought bubble is not saying, “oh yippee, look at my mom being so super supportive and giving me last minute pointers. Thank God she reminded me to kick. I might have forgotten that at a swim meet I am supposed to kick.” Your child is actually thinking, “oh dear heavens, please sit down.”
  • If you are extremely out of shape, you lose credibility in the athletic world – no matter how great you might have been once. It is not fair, but it is very true.
  • Once your child dives in with a swim cap on over his ears and begins to swim with his head mostly under water, he will not hear you screaming. No matter how loud you scream. Yes, this is also unfortunately true for backstroke. But you can cause hearing loss or at least headache damage for the poor parent sitting next to you.
  • Sending a piercing whistling sound through the air every time your child’s head pops out of the water during breaststroke should be deemed a crime punishable by death.
  • Parents are generally not allowed on deck. Get over it. Of course, if you really want to be on deck, grab a stopwatch and volunteer to time. Every parent has felt the pang of watching her child walk through those big glass doors alone. We give our kids a cell phone to keep with them so they can reach us if they need something. Walkie talkies work too. And before we had cell  phones, we used our kids DS game – if you have two, they can talk to each other. But seriously, just consider volunteering. You will probably even get free food and all the bathroom breaks you need.
  • No matter how many different ways you can think of to praise your child, the parent next to you is still going to think her kid is better. Even if scientific evidence and swim times point to the contrary.
  • If your kid has a bad swim, don’t make excuses. It’s hard to get your best time – really hard. And humans make mistakes. I have never seen a kid intentionally screw up a flip turn or a dive or swim his slowest in a race. Not ever. So, when they get out of the water just love them for getting in the water in the first place. Let the coaches correct their technique. That is why you pay them. Too many kids are brought to tears by their parents opinion of a race.
  • and the Golden Rule of Swim Parent 101 – don’t ever, under any circumstances, ever quote another child’s time to his/her parent. Just be busy with your own child’s time and leave other children’s times on the time sheet where they belong.

Of course, all of these are offered humbly because I have been the victim of my own wisdom more than once. 😉

What I Didn’t Know Then………

My parenting journey is a long, long way from being complete. But, even though I know I have a lot to learn, I do feel wiser than I used to think I was. Huh? Yeah, I have (finally) learned some things that make my parenting life easier.

One of the most important things that I have realized is that my children keep my worry chest busy enough. I don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about how little Johnny’s parents handle Johnny. And I can cross my fingers that Johnny’s parents won’t have an opinion about my parenting – but that is simply a waste of time. As a parent you will be criticized by other parents. Don’t take it personally. It is just your turn. Someone else will get a turn soon enough.

As a parent, you only have to follow your heart and intuition and do what you believe is right for your kids.  Even if it is in direct conflict with what other parents are doing or not doing. Trust your gut.

Along those lines, trust your kids instincts, too. It’s definitely hard when your kids don’t necessarily want to play with the children of your friends. But forcing friendships isn’t any easier. It makes for stressful play dates and stressful mommies. And moms can be friends even when kids aren’t.

Sooner than you can even imagine, your little munchkins will be in school all day and you can connect with your friends over lunch. Steering clear of uncomfortable friendships will be much more important for your kiddos later in life. A little practice at articulating how they feel is a good, good thing – even if it makes us uncomfortable because they might not come across as being “nice”. Allowing them to trust their instincts will help them to follow through on those feelings when you aren’t right there.

Teaching kids to be gracious is extremely important but being nice at their own expense might not be such a great lesson to learn.

Another little tidbit that I personally learned the hard way is that words don’t taste so good going back down. Never (yep, never) say “I would never ……… ” Or even worse, “My child would never…….” Because guess what happens next? I will give you one guess. 😉

Yes, my youngest child has a cell phone and has played the Xbox game Call of Duty (maybe even more than once) – and she has seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies. Are you asking, “isn’t she only 9?” Maybe.

Are you now asking if I swore that Harry Potter was way too dark for my son when he was 9 and that 9 was ridiculously young for any type of personal electronics? Maybe. Possibly. Burp. So sorry, please pardon me.

And seriously, you simply cannot make your child faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, or any other “er”. But the good news is that they are fabulous just as they are. Most children learn to read. Most children talk. Most children walk. When they hit about third grade, it has pretty much leveled out. The rock stars aren’t rocking as hard and the average-to-slow kids are catching up. The early readers are reading, but so are the late bloomers. Pretty much everyone has given up diapers and pacifiers. And hard work begins to matter as much as, if not more than, natural ability. And don’t go bringing up the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. You know what I mean.

And speaking of reading. It is important to read with your children because it is fun to do it. They love the attention you give them when you share a book with them. It does help them learn to read. But it is not so important for you to stress out about teaching them to read. They will learn to read. (If you don’t believe me, reread the paragraph above. Oh yea, that’s me talking too. Sorry. Ask a parent of an older child. Oh, you don’t know about that yet? Please keep reading.)

It’s also extremely helpful for you to have adult friends with older kids. They have a better perspective on what is really important to worry about with smaller children. And they will tell you what is important to know about school and classes and teams and all the stuff you will be dealing with in the next phase of parenting.  They will be gentle with you because they have been there but they might laugh a tiny bit – don’t worry, they are not being critical – it’s just that they are remembering when. And their kids can babysit for you. Bonus.

I personally feel (and no, I am not a teacher, doctor, or educator – so this is just my opinion) that the single most important thing you can teach your kids is confidence. If your kids feel safe trying something new no matter how it turns out, they will always be successful. If they are not intimidated by people, places, or activities, they have a tremendous advantage. Tremendous. Children who are smart but are afraid of failure will face more challenges than those children who are “average” but brave and confident. Children need to know that their parents will love them no matter what. And parents, we need to love our children no matter what. Home should be a safe place to fall. And get up and fall. Again. And again. Always. Every time.

When our children are learning to walk, we encourage them to stumble and tumble. We let them go boom on the concrete and bump off of coffee tables. Even when they fall and cry, we say “get back up, you can do it.” We don’t say, “why didn’t you walk better?” We are proud and we smile and we hold out both hands and we hug them tightly. That should never, ever change.

Not too long ago I read a passage that went something like …. intelligence is not measured best when children know what to do, it is measured best by how children respond when they do not know what to do. (Yes, I wish I knew who said it – but I don’t -sorry.)

And when you are proud, tread lightly on the bragging. If you believe you have an exceptional child and you are sharing how fabulous your child is with another parent, please keep in mind that they most likely feel that their child is (at least) equally as exceptional as your little superstar.

Hey, I never said this parenting stuff was easy. It’s all a tricky balance.

I actually had a parent try to convince me that her child was better at the dentist than my child was. I started to defend how well my child handled the dentist when I quickly realized how nuts the conversation was. Seriously? We are competing over who handles the dentist better? Really. I am quite sure there are more important quandaries to tackle.I don’t know like civil unrest in Libya – Tsunamis in Japan – poverty anywhere – the civil unrest in my laundry room. Blah Blah Blah.

Parenting will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. You will bleed love for your kids and, at some point, one of  your beloveds will stand at the top of the stairs and scream at the top of their lungs that they hate you. And they will mean it. For a little while at least. But not forever. And you will cry and laugh and love and fear and rejoice more than you ever have before. Put that seatbelt on. It’s going to be a fabulously bumpy ride.

As it should be……………

Another sports post – oh say it isn’t so – it is. But this is a good one.

My daughter had another basketball game. The opposing team has one of her dearest friends on it.

Her mom cheered for my daughter – I cheered for her daughter. The girls giggled throughout the entire game. The parents behaved. The coaches mostly behaved – one did get a technical foul – but I (not sitting too close this time) didn’t think that was warranted, unless maybe he said something really ugly under his breath that I could not hear from my comfy cozy seat on the other side of the gym.

The girls played hard. Grandparents clapped and smiled. The refs took every opportunity to explain the calls to the girls.

And butterflies flew around the gym under rainbows while unicorns danced. Okay, not really. But close.

After the game, we ran into a player from the other team at 7-11. She had done a great job guarding my little angel. I told her she gave Angel a run for her money. They both snickered while they were getting their slurpees.

Then the other girl turned on her heels and said, “hey, good game.”

Angel said, “yeah, you too.”

And all was right with the sports world for 9-year-old girls.

Let’s Stop the Snack Madness………..

I have been trying to figure out a way to be more helpful to others and I think I might have figured out a small little way to make a difference.

It will relieve stress on parents, address childhood obesity and pollution in America, and possibly feed some hungry children in the world. Sounds good, right?

If you have ever had a child in a rec sport, then you probably already know where I am going with this. But in case you don’t, let me ‘splain.

Take little Suzy Quzy. She’s 8 and she loves soccer. It’s Saturday and she has a 10am game.

Her mom gives her a good breakfast because she has a game. She’s going to need the energy. Suzy goes to the game and warms up. During warm ups, she drinks some of the water from one of the tw0 bottles of water that she brought with her. Then she plays about 15 minutes of soccer.

During half-time Suzy’s mom comes running across the field with oranges slices. She is slightly frantic because half time is such a short period of time to give out a snack. There is real pressure here to make sure everyone has a snack. Seriously, the children might actually starve because they have not had anything to eat in the last 45 minutes. Those aren’t airplanes people, they are grumblies in their tummies.

And not for nothin’, these kids better love these oranges. Afterall, Suzy’s mom went to two grocery stores to get oranges because they didn’t look great at the first one (where they had been on sale because it’s not really orange season and they are expensive, so a sale sounded good). And there was traffic. Jeez Louise the traffic. It took her an extra 20 minutes to get home. Now she is running late. She yelled at her kids to leave her alone because she had to get these oranges sliced for the game. She cut her finger because her husband tickled her when he walked by. The sheer nerve of that man. Now he is in trouble. Suzy cannot find her soccer cleats but mom cannot help because she is slicing oranges.

While the coach is talking, Suzy’s mom sees that most of the kids don’t have oranges. Suzy’s mom really wants everyone to know there are orange slices. So while the coach is talking, she is weaving in and out of the kids just to be sure everyone knows there are oranges. Oh, and diaper wipes. She wants to make sure no one plays soccer with sticky hands. That is critical to soccer play because – fyi – you don’t even use your hands in soccer but, sure, it is probably better if they are not sticky.

During half time about three kids have one orange slice each. But one of the players has a three-year-old brother who just loves oranges, especially when they are sliced and bought (out of season) by someone else. So, deflated, Suzy’s mom gives him the bag of oranges and he plays with eats them with very dirty hands. The husband is wondering why they just spent $20 on oranges but he is way too smart to say it out loud. He compliments his beautiful bride on having the best snack ever. Oh, yeah, those diaper wipes kicked it up a notch. How is it possible that no one had thought of that before?

The kids open their second water bottle because they cannot figure out which ones are their original bottles. There are 8 bottles on the ground, all only half empty. But, they can’t drink out of those because they might catch a real-life cootie. Don’t laugh, I have seen it happen and it ain’t pretty.

Finally, the kids finish up their soccer game. Another frantic parent comes over with a peanut-free, glutten-free, and dairy-free end-of-game snack and another drink. They must be famished by now.  Holy cow, it’s been an entire hour and a half since they have had a proper meal. Yeah, Suzy’s mom thought she was all hot stuff with those exotic, organic orange slices, but we see where those ended up – abandoned and alone in the dirt.

The kids forget both of their original water bottles and suck down a juice box. And honestly, they are glad to have another drink. At this point, water is so two hours ago. Now each child has 3 bottles of trash. Only one of which will actually be claimed. The rest of the bottles nearly filled with perfectly good water get left on the field. Along with some  orange slices formerly known as perfectly good. The kids all open their snacks but it’s not one they are crazy about (maybe because peanut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free snacks actually taste like cardboard) so they don’t eat it. The overachieving mom brings a trash bag to pick up all the leftover pieces – take that Suzy’s mom – diaper wipes indeed. But a lot of trash still gets left on the field.

Oh, wait, the coach has one more announcement. It’s Stephie’s birthday. Everyone sing and there are cupcakes. And boy, are they cute. Another fyi, the cuter the cupcake, the more likely it is to go uneaten. Kids love looking at them, but if it’s too complicated, eating them very quickly becomes not-so-much.

More trash is created by the cupcake wrapper and one-bite-taken-out-of-cupcakes.

Suzy’s family gets home exhausted. And Suzy’s mom announces, “It’s lunchtime!” They are having fruit salad with dirt dressing. However, Dad is not hungry. He has already had a really cute cupcake and a half of a bag of cardboard.

I therefore propose that if your child really cannot go an hour and a half without eating, plan ahead. Bring them a snack. One that is safe for them and that they like and that they will actually eat. And the parent responsible for snacks can take the $50 s/he would have spent on snacks and drinks and donate it to the World Hunger Organization or their local church or local food bank or whatever – you get the point.

Really hungry children would get the resources they are truly desperate for, husbands would once again be allowed to tickle their wives, moms could help their children find their soccer cleats without cut fingers, kids wouldn’t overeat as much, fields would have less trash, and the list goes on. I am not sure what to do about the little brother who really likes playing with expensive orange slices in the dirt, but hey, Rome was not built in a day.

Kohl’s Cares – Another Scholarship Opportunity…….

I did not know this but apparently every year Kohl’s recognizes and rewards young volunteers (ages 6-18) across the country for their amazing contributions to their communities. This year they are recognizing more than 2,100 kids with more than $415,000 in scholarships and prizes. Listed below are the rules taken directly from their website. If you think you would like to nominate someone (and you can nominate your own children), please, please, please do not just rely on what is written here. Check out their website.

Official Rules For Kohl’s Cares®
Scholarship Program

Eligibility: No purchase necessary. Students eligible for nomination (“Students”) for the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program (“Program”) must be legal U.S. residents of a state in which a Kohl’s store is located. Students must be between the ages of 6 and 18 and not yet a high school graduate as of March 15, 2011. Each Student must be nominated by someone age 21 years or older. Parents may nominate their own children. Associates of Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. (“Kohl’s”) and/or Associates’ immediate family members may not nominate their children or minor dependents. Kohl’s Associates may nominate non-related children who are not members of the Associates’ household. For purposes of this Program, “immediate family members” include the Associate’s parents, children, spouse and other members of the Associate’s household who are declared also as dependents on the Associate’s federal income tax return. Employees of Scholarship Management Services and its respective affiliates may not participate in this Program.

Students who were a prior Kohl’s Cares® regional or national scholarship recipient are not eligible to win a scholarship under the 2011 Program.

Nominations: Nomination forms may only be completed and submitted at www.kohlskids.com beginning at 8 a.m. CST, February 1, 2011. Forms must be submitted and
signed electronically (by typing your name) by a nominator who is 21 years or older no later than 11:59 p.m. CST, March 15, 2011. One nomination form should be submitted per Student. Nomination forms containing multiple names will not be accepted. One nominator may nominate multiple Students by submitting multiple nomination forms each containing a unique email address. All sections of the nomination form must be completed.

Nominations should describe how the Student has contributed to the community in a meaningful way by performing volunteer services that helped non-family members.
The volunteer activity must have occurred within the last 12 months (March 15, 2010–March 15, 2011). Financial need or academic performance will not be considered in
the review and selection of winners.

Kohl’s and Scholarship Management Services shall not be responsible for misdirected, incomplete or late nomination forms. All nominations become property of Kohl’s and Scholarship Management Services and will not be returned or acknowledged. Additional information about a Student and/or documentation may be requested by Kohl’s or Scholarship Management Services. To remain eligible, parents must provide all reasonably requested documentation and information upon Kohl’s or Scholarship Management Services’ request.

As a supporter of equal opportunity, Kohl’s will work with Scholarship Management Services to distribute awards to minority students on a basis at least proportionate to the number of known minority Students nominated.

See below to learn more about the Nomination process.

Awards: Nomination forms will be separated into two age groups: ages 6-12 and ages 13-18. Kohl’s plans to recognize one Student from each age group as a store winner
for each Kohl’s store. Store winners will receive a $50.00 Kohl’s Gift Card. Additionally, over two hundred $1,000 regional scholarship awards for postsecondary education are planned, half to each age group. Ten $9,000 national scholarships for postsecondary education will be awarded, five to each age group. Since a national winner is also a regional winner, the total scholarship amount for national winners is $10,000 each. In addition, Kohl’s donates $1,000 to a non-profit organization on behalf of each national winner.

Notification: Store winners will be notified in May 2011. Regional winners will be notified in June 2011. National winners will be notified in July 2011.
Non-recipients and nominators will not be notified.

Recipients Claiming Scholarships: All recipients will be required to sign and return a Publicity Release/Acceptance Form as a condition of receiving a gift card and/or
scholarship. Scholarship redemption is subject to recipient submitting verification of full-time enrollment in an undergraduate program at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university or vocational/technical school (a “Qualifying Institution”). In the event a recipient does not graduate from high school or does not enroll in a Qualifying Institution within two years after high school graduation, the scholarship will be forfeited. All scholarship recipients may be subject to a criminal background check.

Scholarship Restrictions: Scholarship awards must be used for educational expenses at a Qualifying Institution. These expenses may include tuition, fees, room
and board, books and supplies, transportation and other miscellaneous education related expenses. Scholarships will be paid in one installment in September and
will be mailed to each recipient’s home address payable to the school for the student.

Awards are one time only and are not renewable. No substitutions or transfers are permitted. Limit one award per household per year.
Nomination Form and Process: Visit www.kohlskids.com and click on “Nominate a Kid.” You will need to read and agree to an online Consent and register as a nominator.
During the nomination process, you will be able to leave the site by clicking on the Save and Log out button located on any application page. To return, you must enter the
username and password you entered when registering for your nomination account.

Correspondence to nominators will be via email only; check your email regularly. You must provide a valid email address that accepts bulk email. To ensure delivery of messages, add kohls@scholarshipamerica.org to your contacts, email address book or safe senders list.

Nominators may wish to gather the following information before beginning the nomination process:
• Information about the Student: Including full name, address, age, birth date, phone number and current grade in school.
• Information about the project: Including items collected, money raised, time spent, number of people affected, outcome of the project and general project description.

Nominators are solely responsible for submitting in English all information necessary for the nomination process. Nominations found to be incomplete as of the nomination deadline will not be processed. No faxed or mailed nomination materials will be accepted. No email attachments are allowed.

All information submitted is considered confidential and is reviewed only by Scholarship Management Services, Kohl’s partner in managing the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship
Program. Information about selected Students will be provided to Kohl’s for purposes of verification of eligibility, demographic research, publicity and recipient communication.

Carefully review your nomination before submission. All pages must be completed and entered in the format described in order to electronically submit the form. Standard capitalization must be used when entering data. Once the nomination is submitted, your nomination account will be closed and no revisions can be made. The nomination must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. CST, March 15, 2011. A confirmation email will be sent once you’ve electronically submitted your nomination.

Additional Terms: Taxes on awards of any kind are the sole responsibility of the recipients. By participating, the nominators and Students agree:
(1) to these Official Rules and all decisions of Kohl’s and Scholarship Management Services which shall be final in all respects;
(2) to the use of their names, photos, likenesses, video, and/or images in any media, including without limitation on the internet and in social media, for advertising, promotional and publicity purposes in relation to this program without prior written consent or compensation where legal and subject to a signed Publicity Release/Acceptance Form; and
(3) to release, discharge and hold harmless Kohl’s, Scholarship Management Services, and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, and employees, from any and all claims or damages arising out of, in any way, their participation in this program.
(4) Kohl’s reserves the right to cancel, suspend or extend the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program at any time, with or without notice. Scholarship Management Services and Kohl’s reserve the right to interpret these rules and to make all decisions concerning the award, acceptance, and use of scholarships in situations not covered by these Rules.

Questions?
Contact us:
Email: kohls@scholarshipamerica.org
Call: 1-507-931-1682 and ask for Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program
Write:
Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program
Scholarship Management Services
One Scholarship Way
Saint Peter, MN 56082

Wrong Question…………

When I start talking about having staff in India, I know some of you are thinking – oh jeez, here she goes again. But please bear with me because today I figured out the number one reason that having staff was bad for my family – or any family who is not going to have staff working in its home forever. You get a little too used to it. Our reality does not include a driver, a cook, a guard, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a laundress. Well, it does – but funny enough, they are all the same person – me. And the pay ain’t quite the same.

So, for those children who actually read this blog – both of you – are you listening? Here are some of the wrong conversations/situations to find yourselves in….

Scenario 1
Mom has done the laundry (including your smelly gym clothes and soccer socks) and has washed the all the breakfast dishes (after making you breakfast) and now has brownies in the oven (because she knows you love them – she even went to two stores to find the exact ones that you like – because God forbid you have your second favorite kind of brownie warm from the oven right when you walk in the door from school). She has just finished wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. She turned off the news when you walked in the door (even though it was the story she had been waiting all day to hear) so she could listen (with focus) to how your day went. After you chat and have a yummy chocolately treat, Mom goes to sweep the floor again because there are now mysteriously brownie crumbs all over it.

It is here that the real potential for danger exists. If she then asks you to take out the trash or vacuum the basement or even lick the litter box clean – the exact wrong question is……do I have to? I will help you here because I know most of you are treading on new ground. The right answer is …..O!M!G! Mom, I would so love to do all of those things for you. And, by the by, you actually then have to do them (because sometimes it is more than the thought that counts) and then say ….. and Mom, did you get your hair cut because it looks marvelous. Do you see the difference?

Scenario 2:
You have decided that it is in your best interest to join a practice group that practices very early on Saturday mornings. This causes your mother – who sleeps through tornadoes – to have to get out of bed at 5:15A.M. on a Saturday morning. The roosters have not even learned to crow at this point and your mother is up and driving you to practice. And, yes, she is very proud of you for getting up and getting out the door – that is not the problem. Read on.

When you get back home, your very tired mother makes (okay, warms up) waffles because that is what you asked for (and no it does not matter if they are frozen v. homemade). She also makes eggs and biscuits because that is what your brother asked for. And she also makes bacon because apparently your sister would like that. You are distracted by the goings on of SpongeBob so I can understand why you don’t realize that was a lot to accomplish before 8:30am. But you push it a tad too far when you ask …… Mom, can you pour syrup in to a small bowl and bring it over here? Really?

Here’s the problem – at some point you are going to want to drive a car. If you cannot handle pouring syrup into a bowl (even a small bowl) all by your lonesome, I am pretty sure that operating heavy machinery is off the can-do list. The right answer is…….Mom, these are the most delicious waffles I have ever had. They don’t even need syrup. And by the way, did you get your hair cut because it looks amazing. Or maybe you lost weight. See how that is different?

Scenario 3
You love to ride your scooter. You have ridden it and fallen off of it a million and one times. So, your mom knows that you are one tough cookie even if you scream like a banchee. Sooooo, if you fall off said scooter the exact moment that your mom calls a friend to vent over another mom who is making her c.r.a.z.y. and she sees you fall, she might not panic and hang up immediately because she knows you are okay. And she knows that you had a 14-minute delay in crying. So, she really might not hang up the phone right away. No matter how big those crocodile tears are – because if you can stop and have a snack on the way to tell her how hurt you are, the reality of it is – you are probably going to be just fine. Operating heavy machinery may also not be in your future but you most likely don’t need to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. You might need therapy later – but right now, it’s all good.

Please forgive the parenting rant – but seriously. I don’t know how single parents do it – God love you!

Life in a Flying House…………

Is that not the coolest title ever? I wish I had thunk of it myself. Dang it. 

I received an email that those of you expats with children definitely want to keep in mind for next year. It’s a scholarship contest for children living abroad.

Unfortunately the deadline has passed for this year but the winners will be announced in early September and I cannot wait to read their entries.

But mark your calendars for next year. I am excited to even hear what the theme will be  – this year’s rocks.

Anyhouse, here’s the low down……..

Dear A Reason To Write:

I came across your blog online and really enjoyed your posts. As a member of the expat community, you have a unique voice among your peers. (I am really crossing my pencils that this is not simply a form letter because that was a nice compliment. 😉 )

I’m contacting you because I wanted to share some news with you about the Expat Youth Scholarship. I’m with Clements International, the scholarship sponsor, and the leading provider of insurance solutions for expatriates and international organizations. (Yes, that is what we call a plug – but please know that I do not know this company at all and am not recommending them or endorsing their products – they might be fantastic – I just do not know. But their contest sounds great so please read on.)  We’re awarding a total of $10,000 in scholarships to six students (remember I am not a numbers gal but if I do the math right that is a decent chunk o’change) and announcing the finalists on September 13.

Our company started this scholarship program in 2009 to give back to our clients and the expatriate community we serve. Now in its second year, the 2010 Expat Youth Scholarship offered participants a chance to use their experiences living in a foreign country to imagine where their journey might take them next. The scholarship’s theme, “Life in a Flying House,” is inspired by the idea that expat students who spend their childhoods moving between different countries and cultures develop rich life experiences. This year we received over 500 entries and will be awarding a total of $10,000 in scholarships to six, talented students from all over the world!

As an active representative of the expat community, I’m reaching out to solicit your help in promoting the scholarship to your readers. The winning entries are amazing and will be posted online for the world to see at www.expatyouthscholarship.com once the finalists are announced. We also plan to post details about the 2011 scholarship in the coming months, which may be of interest to your readers who wish to enter next year. (P.S. Kathy – if you are looking for judges next year, pick me pick me!)

You can sign up to receive e-mail updates at www.expatscholarship.com and visit our Facebook page (with over 500 fans!).

Thanks, Kathy

Good luck writers – get those pencils sharpened.

What does it all mean……………….

Yesterday, I wrote about a man taking my shopping cart in the parking lot for me. You can read about it here.

I have been thinking about why that had such an impact on me and this is what I came up with. I think I will ramble a little – so please stick with this one – I promise there is a point at the end.

Living in India was an absolutely amazing experience that took me way out of my comfort zone. It jumbled up my routines and took me away from my favorite people. Living there gave me opportunities I would never, ever have here and it made me question a lot of what I thought I knew to be true.

I mostly think of myself as a kind and even generous person. It’s true that I can be cranky and selfish just like anyone else but I truly do enjoy giving other people a reason to smile and (mostly) don’t mind helping out.

But here comes India full force – where people really need – and not just a hug or a dinner brought over or a carpool for their over-scheduled kid or someone to take their shopping cart in the parking lot – they need food and water and a way out of horrible, horrible situations. And please know that I understand people in America need too – I know that – and I understand that the needs in America can be very real and can be overwhelming too. People are sick and people are hungry and people are hurting. I get that. But not in the same magnitude as in India – not so many people all at once and not so desperately and not without options. Right now, I live in a bubble – a green, lush, over-fed bubble with people who do not hesitate to help each other out. We are getting by just fine. Sure we endure struggles – but it is really not the  same.

I will show you what I mean – this man is taking a bath outside in a busy market area. The water is not clean and he is in public and I am taking his picture.

The streets are dirty and there is human and animal waste all over the place. That means that you have very good chances of getting pretty sick at some point. Especially if you do not have a nutritious diet and clean drinking water. And this is the road outside the entrance to the neighborhood we lived in – an upscale area. This is not a slum.

It is not only not uncommon – it is actually quite common – to see children unattended on the streets.

We have been having some pretty significant storms in our area and many people have been without electricity for several days. News reporters were interviewing several people affected by the outages and one councilman said, “people here feel like they are living in a third world country.” Dear heavens. Really? I understand he was going for the dramatic effect – but please.

Again, I appreciate that the people who lost power probably lost the food in their fridge and were hot as heck in their houses and were certainly inconvenienced. It probably is a hardship for some of them to replace their food. And of course, the elderly and young children and anyone who is sick could be in real danger. But it is temporary. And it will be fixed. Welcome to America baby where there are churches and libraries and friends houses to go to. There are options. The temporary pain of a power outage is certainly not like living in a third world country. I promise you, it is not.

I miss that about India – that the people of India don’t let bumps in the road slow them down. And I think I learned to calm down a little bit myself. I learned that if it will end up as a funny story one day, you can get through it. That the Indian people as a whole don’t take so much for granted. I would like to believe that clean water is a right and not a privilege but that is just not a reality – and electricity – well, that is icing on the cake. It really, really is.

Anyway, back to why I appreciated the man taking my cart.

Like I said, I used to think I was fairly generous and kind. India really made me question if that is true. I volunteered, sure – but I never fully committed to any one group. I gave myself a pass because I was still pretty involved in my kids classrooms which took up some time – and moving to India was a huge adjustment for me so I gave myself time to settle in before raising my hand too much – but you know what that sounds like – the excuses that they are. I know I contributed in many ways to help out people, but frankly it wasn’t enough. I truly could have done more. And why did I let myself get too overwhelmed to dive fully in. Because I knew I would eventually get to escape and move home to the land of temporary problems.

The hardest thing to accept about my time in India is how many times I turned my head away from a young child knocking at my window. If I remembered to bring crackers or cookies I would share those every time. But honestly putting food in the car wasn’t top on the list in my routine of getting out the door. I tried to remember – but I could have done better about it – and I should have. I regret that I simply did not do better.

Begging in India is a tricky thing. And helping beggars is even trickier.

Most people will tell you absolutely not to give to anyone begging for several reasons. Any money you give them usually goes to some sort of ring leader (read gang leader), if you give to one person you could end up with a flock of people around you and the mob mentality in India is not safe, giving to beggars encourages begging, it’s illegal, if you teach a man to fish, blah blah blah.

And it did happen to me more than once that I gave to one person and more people surrounded me. It was certainly uncomfortable. I even saw a woman have her change purse stolen. It was snatched right out of her hands. She was trying to give every child in front of her some change and one child said, “uh-uh lady – that is going to be all mine.” And we said, “see why you don’t do that?” And she said, “what difference does it make if he has all my change, I really don’t need it. It’s just my change.” And that was the right attitude. But it’s hard to get there.

When you see a small child knocking on your window, you let all these reminders run through your head. Why it is not a good idea to encourage begging – there is real danger in it – but how do you end it. You know that you cannot – it is much bigger than one person. And when the car, thankfully and finally, pulls away, you are still left with a pit the size of Texas in your stomach.

And then, when you have to explain all of this to your own children -augh.

The one thing my children never asked me was why they got to ride in an air conditioned car with a driver while so many children barely had enough to eat. They understood so much about our experience there and I am very proud of the way they took so much of the whole experience in and made it a part of who they are. But this is the one question that never escaped me. Why them and not me? I counted a lot of blessings in India – but that didn’t do the kid knocking at my door a whole lot of good.

And then you get back to your little oasis called home and you close the door and you want to shut it all out. In India it is particularly important to have a “home”. With familiar things and pictures of family that you miss and just some good old macaroni and cheese. But you cannot get away from the need that others experience.

At first, I would even say I was even proud of how we treated our staff who worked in our house. Pride goeth before a fall, no doubt. We paid more than most people, we gave lots of time off, we gave frequent bonuses, we gave them the things we did not “need”, we didn’t ask them to do things we would not do ourselves, we shook our heads at those who haggled too tightly over what was a reasonable salary to hold on to a few more pennies, blah blah blah.

But it was never enough. Our cleaner wanted help with tuition for his son and housing. Our cook and his wife just took what they wanted – no matter how much we gave, they always took more, and our driver started off his first day by telling me he had made a bad investment and lost all of his savings and tuition was due for his kids school. How do you balance that? When is enough enough? What is enough? What is not enough.

I know we made their lives easier – or at least we tried to. I feel good that we were reasonable enough to work for. But the problem for staff that works with expat families is that eventually those families leave and nothing is permanent. We have been paying our housekeeper for the past few months and we haven’t been living there. We have told him it is time to get another job and I did a lot to put him in touch with the right people. But he doesn’t seem to believe it. Eventually we are going to stop paying him but, but , but…………

So, when the guy in the parking smiled because I had done something nice – even though it was really insignificant – it made me smile. I said in my original post that being so happy about the whole event was over-reacting. And that is true. The world is not going to change because someone put away someone’s shopping cart – but maybe if we all are a little nicer to each other we will at least make it through the days a little easier. Especially in a country where most people don’t need much – maybe we all need kindness. Maybe that is the best start of all.

Unfortunately, today, I am right back where I was before. I want to be really helpful to people who really need it. Hopefully I will figure out a way to do that.