Time for Manicures, Parties, and Rapunzel

Jessie asked me the other day, “Mommy, why don’t you wear dresses and paint your nails?”  I was torn between laughing hysterically in her face or beginning a tirade on the pressures of balancing family and work.  Instead I opted for:  “Jessie, we’re late…go, go, GO!”  Which I guess is a more efficient version of the tirade.

I used to do both those things but searching through mounds of nylons for one pair that does not have a run can add a precious two minutes to the morning rush.  “Don’t mess with the dress” became “don’t mess with a dress.”  I’m lucky if I have a clean shirt to match my slacks.

Manicured nails gave way to washing dishes, grooming poodles, and, again, finding thirty spare minutes to sit still while your nails dry.  Add a seven year old that does not understand “smudging”.

But Jessie’s question nagged at me for several days.  I don’t want to be the “old” mom.  I clearly remember wishing my mom was a little younger at times.  My parents were at least ten years older then most of my friends’ parents.  My mom didn’t understand things like pierced ears, bikinis, or eye shadow and mascara.  She was fine with a dab of lipstick and a small compact of face powder.  She usually put it on in the car after urging, “Shelley, we’re late…go, go, GO!”

I want Jess to know that she can ask me style questions.  I realize we won’t always agree.  Hopefully future disagreements will be more about clothes then tongue piercings or tatoos but I, at the very least, hope she will value my opinion from time to time.

I do paint Jessie’s nails quite often.  She has such tiny hands it usually involves me basically running the brush over the entire tip of her finger and telling her the paint on her skin will wear off eventually.  However, I decided we should have some real “girl” time.  I bought some new polish, put on my readers and we did this:

Manicure party

It was a perfect hen and chick party.  We talked about her birthday party.  Who she wants to invite and how she wants to decorate.  We talked about her little boyfriend, Jack, at school.  We talked about how her skin looks like her dad’s and how white I am but how we both have brown eyes.  She asked me if I ever had long hair and her goal for her hair is to grow it like Rapunzel.

I received more than I bargained for with this girlie time.  Plus the added bonus of discovering a polish that has lasted for five days without chipping.  I’m aiming for Sunday nights during “quiet” time for the mom/daughter manicures.

Imagine the treasures if I can make this last until college.

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How To Child Your Parent Through the Holidays

It’s been a busy week and, I admit it, I’m feeling the Holiday crunch and stress.  Fortunately, Jess has offered up her old soul wisdom to help guide me. 

1) Pace yourself.  We’re not quite done with the tree.  We do a little almost every night.  Jessie hangs about 5-10 ornaments, decides she’s had enough and moves on to other things.  But after five days, we’ve had the chance to take the sentimental journey of each of our special ornaments.  Things are looking festive and we’ve had the fun spread out a little bit.

2)  Show up and go through the motions.  Jess had choir practice Wednesday night.  She is Kid #1 in her upcoming Christmas Cantata at church this Sunday morning.  Please note the lovely red sequined ruffles under her poor shepherd costume.  Jess struggles with the words to the songs and can often be seen in a gaping yawn in the middle of the chorus.  However, she never hems and haws about practice and puts her whole self into the motions and her one small line.  When the older kids rehearse, she smiles in admiration as if it’s Taylor Swift or Barbie right in front of her.

3)  Express your joy.  This morning, when I asked Jess what her favorite part about yesterday was, she said it was that Max and Charlie came to her 1st Grade Holiday Concert.  She was overjoyed that her brothers showed up to watch her sing and dance.  Max and Charlie were operating in #2 yesterday – Show up and go through the motions.  Max just arrived home from Western after completing his last final exam.  Charlie, a freshman in high school, peeled himself away from his video games to attend.  But, that’s the thing with #2, it helps others get to #3.  Jessie’s performance soared to a higher level due to her elation at seeing her brothers in the audience. 

This was the evening that actually saved me from drowning in self-pity due to the hectic schedule.  If I ever wonder that Jess understands the true meaning of the Holidays, she proves it to me over and over if I just pay attention.  Never mind good parenting skills during the Holidays.  What everyone should have is good childing skills!

After all, it began with a little child.

Thanks for the lessons, Jess!

Encouraging Words

by:  Peg VanLoo
art by:  Katya VanLoo – age 4

     The language we use when doing artwork with children can make the difference between their being comfortable expressing themselves or being constrained to produce images that WE find acceptable. Think about the big, colorful paintings of preschoolers and how quickly many children fall into “coloring book” drawings. When we trust children to create work that expresses their unique points of view instead of our preconceived notions, it can lead to wonderful and marvelous surprises. 

Here are some suggestions:

     “Fill the whole space,” is a good way to encourage kids to “think big”.
     Say, “That makes me feel ______ (excited, scared, peaceful, etc),” instead of, “That’s good.” It’s less judgmental and it helps the child think about his picture in a new way. 
When a child shows you her work, NEVER ask, “What is it?” “Tell me about your picture,” will get you a much more interesting reply, plus it doesn’t imply that the picture must BE something.
Help children “stretch” by asking them questions like “”I see this area of your picture is darker (more detailed, has fewer lines, etc), could you tell me about that?”  
Try to lead them into thinking about and planning what they’re doing.
     If a child asks you a question like, “What color is ____?” or “How do you draw _____?” guide them by showing them the object if you can. (I once took a bunch of kids outside and had them put their arms around a tree & pick up the leaves & look waaay up to its top. They made marvelous tree pictures after that!)
If you can’t show them, ask them questions – “Have you ever seen, held one? What was it like? What color would you like it to be?” etc.

Remember, we always want to encourage, never judge. And have fun!

Operation Good Cheer*

This is the second year that coworkers from my company have participated in Operation Good Cheer.

Operation Good Cheer is an annual, all volunteer, Christmas gift-giving program sponsored by Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc.  The recipients of this program include some of the most troubled and vulnerable children in Michigan.  The children, as well as some disabled adults, were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and reside in out-of-home placement facilities such as foster homes, group homes or residential treatment facilities.

My coworkers, thanks to the coordination efforts of Marianne Barkholz and Alan Morgan, had the opportunity to give generously to several of the program’s recipients.

Each of the participants receives a “Wish List” which includes a personal profile of the child or adult along with six gift choices.  An encoding system ensures the confidentiality of the participant and the gifts’ final destination.

There were so many bikes this year!  I’m so proud to work with such generous people.

Transportation companies volunteer their services for the gift collection and deliver them to Oakland County International Airport.  The following day, volunteer pilots gather to fly the gifts to numerous airports located across the state.  Agencies greet the pilots, collect their gifts, and deliver them to each child before Christmas morning.

This was only the second stop on this truck’s route.  It’s almost half full already!

They’re almost done and off they’ll go to their next scheduled stop.  Can you see how this might be the most fulfilling work day of the year for these guys?

2010 Program Statics:

  • 4277 children were sponsored.
  • 44 nonprofit agencies participated.
  • 262 individuals and groups sponsored children
  • 17 trucking companies transported gifts
  • 350 volunteers & pilots volunteered their time, services or aircraft for gift delivery

For further information regarding Operation Good Cheer, the Children’s Entitlement Fund or any of the services Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc. provides please contact:  www.cfsm.org

*The majority of this post was reprinted from the Operation  Good Cheer brochure.

The Flash of July

I love taking Jess to her figure skating lessons.  Usually Mark gets to since I’m not out of work early enough but occasionally I can swing it.

I snap a few pics of her latest tricks.

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The skating arena is probably a cool 50 degrees.  A nice relief from the heat wave Michigan has been experiencing.  You would think the one place I would be safe from a hot flash is an ice arena.

Did I forget to mention that I’m fifty?

Part of me would like to forget that.  The other part doesn’t want to forget because it seems as if I forget everything lately.  I guess that’s part of being fifty. That and hot flashes.

One of them creeps up on me while shooting these pics.  The heat starts in my chest and I start sweating.  I take off my jacket.  The flush continues up through my neck into my face.  I brush the sweat off my forehead and through my hair to keep any additional heat from my face.

Remember how great the bathroom tile felt after a night of too much carousing?  Think back to your twenties.  I imagine crawling out onto the ice and lying spread eagle with my face planted into the surface.

I wonder what all these people would think?

I settle for sliding my foot toward the ice.  Maybe I can slip my foot out of my sandal and just rest my toes on the edge of the ice.  Maybe no one will see.

And then, miraculosly, before I embarrass myself, the flash ends.  The sweat on my skin disapates.  I’m cold.  I put on my jacket and bring my feet in closer to my body for warmth.

I wish had a parka and snow boots.