Life Unplugged

I’m not sure how it began.  I think it all started with the chaos of moving to a new home in a new city in the middle of a school year.  However it commenced, it was clear:  my children’s use of electronic devices had gotten out of control.

“Mom, can I play on my i-Pad while you unpack?”

“Mommy, I finished all of my school work; can I play X-box for a little while?”

For two months, I acquiesced because it allowed me to unpack one more box, organize one more closet, and buy one more minute of peace.  Before I knew it, my children, particularly  my son, were begging for electronic devices on car rides, at dinner, and even attempting to slide them under pillows in case they awoke in the middle of the night.  Clearly, we had a problem.  Their dependence on smart devices for constant entertainment had even taken a toll on their personalities.  My son was moody and jittery when the iPad wasn’t in his hands.  Fights ensued over whose turn it was to play X-box. They were rushing through assignments simply to get to tech time.  When I finally decided enough was enough and attempted to set limits, I was met with mourning and gnashing of teeth, so I found myself continually giving in because that was easier than the hassle of dealing with the outburst over just saying, “No!”

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New Year Reflections

This is the time of year where I usually reflect on my failed resolutions of the past 365 days, an uplifting berating of my many failings and shortcomings.  Most resolutions never live to see me sneaking Valentine conversation hearts from my kids’ stashes.  It’s been such a strange and atypical year, though, that I decided to reflect on what the past year has taught me about who I am, flaws and all.   Continue reading “New Year Reflections”

Because Sometimes You Need Help: Parenting a Strong-willed Child

I watch helplessly as my daughter rips the cushions from the couch and heaves them to the floor.  “I’m not going, and there’s nothing you can do to make me.”  She picks up a tray off the coffee table and stares threateningly into my eyes, daring me to move.  “Put that down,” I say calmly in my firmest “I mean business” voice.  “No!” she says and hurls it at the wall.  Before I can respond, she grabs my arm and sinks her teeth into the muscle above my elbow.  “Go.  Go.  Just go to your room and leave me be!” I shout.  I sink into the one remaining cushion on the couch and allow the tears to flow. Continue reading “Because Sometimes You Need Help: Parenting a Strong-willed Child”

O Come, Thou Long Expected

My hands toss into the air along with exasperated sighs and harsh words of frustration.  Another strand of lights is only half working, when minutes before all had been working.  I circle the tree like a Maypole without all the fun, undoing what I’d just spent twenty minutes doing when the lights spring back to life, and another strand suddenly goes dark.  I look out the window and notice my neighbor’s tree, perfectly lit, as if posing for a typical Norman Rockwell portrait. Despite my Pinterest ambitions, my tree always manages to resemble Charlie Brown’s before the rest of the Peanuts magically transformed it.  Once again, my imaginings of an idyllic Christmas are fading, and I haven’t finished the leftover Thanksgiving turkey.879c604ba638f21f4de376cbad260785 Continue reading “O Come, Thou Long Expected”

Lessons from Moving

I can vividly remember the day my husband told me we were moving.  I had just come home from spin class and was contemplating requesting sessions from a personal trainer for my birthday when my husband burst into the bedroom and announced, “I’ve got an opportunity in Nashville, and I think we should take it.”  Like any good wife, I immediately burst into tears.   Continue reading “Lessons from Moving”

The One Where I Open Up About My Struggle with Body Image

I quickly post pictures of me taken at the finish line of the Gulf Coast Triathlon without examining them too closely. I just completed my first triathlon, and these pictures need to get to the world wide web as soon as possible. The people need to know. Later, when I’ve had time to recover, I scroll through the photographs taken by family and friends. I pause on the one of me proudly holding up my finisher’s medal, and I am disgusted. My first thought isn’t, “Look at what you just accomplished after years of battling injury. You go girl!” No, sadly, my first thought is, “Who is that big girl? I look so fat.” What should be my most triumphant moment in a long time reduces me to tears of frustration as I pore over every flaw, picking apart each inch of my body with a negativity I wouldn’t reserve for my nemesis. Continue reading “The One Where I Open Up About My Struggle with Body Image”

A Letter to My Daughter on Beauty

My dear sweet girl,

I didn’t really expect to discuss this with you at the tender age of seven, but when after watching The Voice with Mommy for a mere ten minutes, you suddenly came downstairs after a commercial break with your hair down and brushed dramatically to the side just like a few of the contestants, I felt a lurch in the pit of my stomach. Your innocent pony tail and head band had been replaced with a Lauren Bacall peekaboo. What I thought sis1was an innocent, innocuous singing competition had already begun to teach you what our culture values as beautiful, and you didn’t even wait until the end of the show to model their ideal. Despite a steady diet of Veggie Tales and Gigi: God’s Little Princess, despite having never allowed “fashion” magazines into the house, I have realized that I can’t always protect you from “the world,” and since I’ve noticed that most retailers think seven is the right age for little girls to look like grown women, I think it’s time we had a chat about what true beauty really is.

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Review of The One and Only Ivan

I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings.  But any story will do.”

 It’s not unusual for me to choose a book for the kids and me to read based on the cover.  Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan is no exception.  The cover illustration of a contemplative gorilla sitting with his back to a grinning baby elephant glancing admirably at his large friend stood out from among the dozens of other books featured on the display of my local bookstore.  The gold medallion placed prominently in the bottom left corner indicating it was a Newberry winner sealed the deal.  My strategy did not disappoint.

The One and Only Ivan follows the story of Ivan, the mighty silverback gorilla, who is a resident of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  He, along with an elephant named Stella, a poodle named Snickers, and a cast of other animals was at one time the main attraction of this once-thriving mall, but unfortunately, Ivan and his pals no longer bring in the crowds.  Mall owner, Mack, desperate to renew interest in the Big Top Mall purchases a baby elephant named Ruby, whose presence transforms Ivan from contented gorilla into an artist with a mission.

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The Magic of Reading to Older Kids

A and C snuggle in tight, one under each arm. I open the pages of Because of Winn-Dixie and begin to read. Silence, rapt attention, interrupted now and thenbecause-of-winn by a chorus of giggles when our furry protagonist finds himself the center of a
mishap follows. Today has been declared electronic-free day, which is usually met with whining and pleading, but as soon as I crack open the pages of that book and allow the story to captivate my children, no shiny contraption, not even X-box can lure them from the magic currently igniting their imaginations.

At the close of each chapter, both children chime, “One more, mommy, please!” Though dishes pile in the sink, laundry overflows its basket, and dust sits on the furniture, I, too, am drawn into the tale and give in to my children’s pleas. (My family has this quirky inability to put down a good book until it’s finished.) Though, they are both capable of finishing the story on their own, I wouldn’t miss this time with them, so I continue to read until we reach the final page. For four hours, we lose ourselves in the world of a girl and her furry companion. I close the book and resume my housecleaning, leaving behind a lively discussion of the novel, two voices excitedly reminiscing about the highlights of this charming book.

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Working and Homeschooling: Finding Balance

I toss a stack of books into the leather ottoman that discreetly stores my children’s textbooks. A and C gather pencils , clean excess paper and schoolwork off the dining room table then rush off to read silently for half an hour while I dress for work. My husband and I discuss dinner and practice schedules, and I leave a few last minute instructions with the kids before I head out to the library where I will spend the next five hours tutoring. My husband steps in to handle the afternoon duties of shuttling the kids to practice, feeding them dinner, and preparing them for bed. When I return home from work, I will run upstairs where my two little ones arewaiting patiently for books and good night hugs, thus ending another day for our homeschooling family.

An oft-repeated comment I hear from moms who wish to homeschool is “I’d love to homeschool, but I have to work.” I’m often greeted with looks of surprise when I share that not only do I work but so do many of my homeschooling friends. Working mom and homeschooling mom need not be mutually exclusive. In fact working while homeschooling can provide real-world learning experiences for your own children.

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