Mudrun Motivation For The Artsy Kid

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One of my biggest challenges as a parent has always been getting my daughter to be more active.  I’m not the kind of mom who forces my daughter to do anything that she doesn’t want to do. She does what makes her happy. That means she gets to spend her free time sewing, painting, and scrapbooking her heart away. But when it comes to keeping her healthy and active, I’m at a loss.

I got her the coolest roller blades that I could find, and my brother and sister got her an enviable Barbie bicycle for her last birthday, but whenever I suggest getting out and riding any of them, she hides behind her sewing machine. One gorgeous day this summer, I broke my own rule and forced her outside on the bike. I brought my bike along, too, and told her that we’d have fun riding in the park together. I was wrong.

We were just half a block away from our house when she started to complain that she was out of breath and her legs hurt. Image I pushed her to continue until we got to the park (4 blocks away), but by that time she was so red-faced and miserable we just turned around and walked our bikes back.

After asking her to play outside, and being shut down almost every day of the summer, I thought it would be better if I led by example.

I signed up to compete in the Mudderella (a mud run for women) in Pennsylvania. I enlisted my daughter as my coach and included her in all of my training workouts. She would willingly go to the park with me, and even did a few reps of my exercises every now and then. On race day, she cheered me on from the sidelines and jumped up and down with me when I crossed the finish line. I loved the experience, so I started looking into which mud run I wanted to try next.

I came across the Spartan Sprint that my husband wants to compete in with me in 2014. And guess what: They have a course for kids! It’s a 1/2 mile obstacle course for ages 4-8. I asked my daughter, Leeana, if she wanted to compete and she let out an enthusiastic “Yes!” to which my husband rolled his eyes.

“She says yes, but watch what’ll happen when you try to get her to train for it.”

Now I’m not sure if I’d be setting us all up for months of crying while we try family mud run training with the reluctant artist.

If I’m ever going to get her active, I don’t really think I have another option.

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Handcrafted Love

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It’s that time of the year again. The elves are hard at work,

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Toys R Us big books are arriving on door steps, and kids are making their Christmas lists. See anything wrong with this picture?

Courtney DeFeo did.Two years ago, the mother of two was looking for a way to get her kids to stop thinking of what they wanted, and start thinking of ways to give back to others. She came up with the Light Em Up program.

Through Light ‘Em Up, families can create a unique holiday giving plan to get the kids in the spirit of giving. You can read more about Light Em Up here.

I was so inspired by Courtney last year, that I decided to give it a try with my daughter, Leeana.

Knowing that my daughter always loved crafting gifts for her family, I asked if she wanted to make things for her neighbors and friends for Christmas as well. She went right to work painting pictures, and stringing beads into bracelets and necklaces.

Her neighbors and friends were all touched and surprised, but none more than Leeana. The feeling of making others happy was like nothing she’d ever felt before.

Since then, Leeana (aka Leli) has become an expert pillow-maker on her sewing machine and has started Leli’s Magical Stitches where she sells her creations and donates a portion of the proceeds to Prevent Child Abuse NY.

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According to Leli, her pillows are stuffed with love, not cotton.

Because she so loved the feeling of giving back last year, Leli has decided to hand craft every gift that she gives this year. And since she wants all of her friends to experience the joy of giving back, Leli is challenging all of her social media followers to hand craft all of the gifts that they give, and share photos of the gifts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #HandCraftedLove.

Leli will award a pillow prize package to 4 challenge winners.  The first prize will be awarded to the person who has created the most handcrafted gifts. That’ll mean remembering your neighbors, sanitation workers, postal workers, and maybe even delivering handcrafted love to a senior center or hospital.

The next three prizes will be awarded to the Facebook fan with the most shares of their photo, the Twitter follower with the most retweets, and the Instagram follower with the most likes.

Each prize package will include a choice of 2 custom pillows, or 1 custom pillow purse. All prizes will be handcrafted with love by Leli.

Share your #HandCraftedLove photos between today and December 26th for your chance to win!

For great handcrafted gift ideas to get you started, check out Courtney DeFeo’s list and watch this precious video.

Mama Bear and The Little Troll

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I don’t know if it’s because she is an only child, but since her days at head start, my daughter, Leeana, has always found herself in a little clique. In head-start and Pre-K she teamed up with Julia, Henrietta, and Sophia. In kindergarten it was Olivia, Tenaya, and a new Sophia. Now in the first grade, her little crew remains the same minus Olivia, who was dropped for, from what I understand, wanting to play wrestle.

I’m pretty sure every little girl’s cattiness develops just a few minutes after birth. Since the age of 3, I’ve seen my daughter’s “frenemies” (a term she may have learned in school or from the Housewives of Miami) hand out vicious doses of the silent treatment, gossip behind each other’s back, and even give backhanded compliments. Once, a little girl told my daughter that she wasn’t invited to her birthday party because she has curly hair. Apparently curly hair is a no-no for any swanky Pre-K gathering.

I’m no expert on gender differences, but I’ve never seen boys behave this way. From my side of the fence as a girl-mom, the grass is flourishing in the boy yard. They play, punch each other, giggle, and play some more. No mean words, no icy smiles, no secret vendettas. They’re not worried about their friends’ hair texture or rough demeanor. They just play. Like kids.

My daughter’s teachers, the other girls’ parents, the school guidance counselors and I have all tried our best to talk to these girls and get them to be more kind to one another, but last week I somehow managed to get tangled up in their gossip.

Leeana came home from school one afternoon, and she looked completely deflated. She gave me a quick, monotone run down of her day, and pouted the entire ride.

When we got home, after a nice snack, I sat her on the couch and asked her what was wrong. She started to cry and told me that one of the girls (the leader of the little crew) kicked her out of the club and told all of the other girls not to talk to her, so she spent the entire day alone. Not only that, the girl told Leeana that she hated her.

I hugged my little girl and told her that her friend didn’t mean any of it. I said that the girl doesn’t really know what the word “hate” means.

“Someone at home probably said that to her when they were angry and she just brought their anger and mean words to school and used them on her friends.”

Obviously I hadn’t thought this explanation all the way through, because her next question was:

“Who is mean to her at home, mama?”

Ummm…

“There is a family of angry trolls that lives in the basement of her house and they come out when everyone is sleeping and say mean things to her.”

At that, Leeana laughed until she had to pee.

She wasn’t sad anymore, her friend wasn’t a villain, and she wasn’t taking it personally. Problem solved, right? I thought so, until the next day when I picked her up from school. She was smiling from ear to ear, and she ran up to me and said, “Mama, I told her that you said that she lives with angry trolls, and everyone laughed and laughed.”

And the day after that:

“Mama, she told me that her mom said that I’m a mouse.”

I’m still working on a good comeback.

 

 

Don’t Discipline the Artist

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Confession: When my daughter was 4 years old, I left her alone in her room for a full 30 minutes.

She was sitting comfortably in her big purple lounge chair watching an episode of Good Luck Charlie. I saw it as an opportunity to steal a date with my DVR, so I snuck into the living room with a mug of hot chocolate and caught up with my girls from the Housewives of Atlanta. That was a mistake.

When my half hour of child neglect was over, I went back into my daughter’s room to find her wearing nothing but panties and covered from head to toe in paint. The floor and walls looked like the crime scene of a rainbow massacre.

We stared at each other in shock for moment until she broke the silence with, “I wanted new clothes.”

Let me give you some background here.

My daughter is a child who used a dress-form jewelry holder (a gift she received for Christmas) as a mannequin on which she made dresses out of paper. I video taped it. She made these paper dresses for each of her dolls. She still cries if you tell her to put down her paint brush to go outside and play (unless, of course, she’s bringing sidewalk chalk).

I’ve always been the kind of mother who encourages artistic expression. Once, a friend of mine complained that his daughter was constantly drawing on her walls. He said that he tried all forms of discipline that he could think of, and still, while tucking her in at night, he would find an army of hairy stick figures finding shelter behind her stuffed animals that sat on the wall. My advice to him: Stop fighting it. Pick one wall in her room, and cover it top to bottom in paper or chalkboard paint. That will be the wall that she is allowed to draw on. Who knows? Maybe she’ll be a muralist someday.

So you might wonder how I handled the paint explosion in my daughter’s room.

After making sure that she didn’t swallow any, I had her help me clean it up, and after a bath, we took a trip to the store and bought children’s body paint intended for bath time use.

This situation, in my opinion, didn’t require any discipline. To be honest, in her six years of life, I can’t say that she has ever been disciplined. She’s been enlisted as a member of the clean-up crew, she’s had meetings with her father and I to discuss better ways of handling things, and she has gone to bed earlier than usual on particularly crabby days, but she has not been disciplined. I don’t think discipline is a word that should be linked to childhood as strongly as it is. That’s not to say that children do not need guidance and direction, only that it doesn’t necessarily need to come in the form of discipline.

Admittedly, I could be completely wrong about this. I mean, I only have one child, and perhaps that’s not enough to make me a parenting expert. But my experience has lead me to realize the power of mutual respect.

Our daughter is free to express herself in any way that she chooses (artistically, verbally, etc.). She knows that we respect and value her feelings, her opinions, and her imagination. In turn, she willingly respects our requests. We don’t impose our will. Instead, we allow her to choose what decision she is going to make on her own.

I asked her if she enjoyed having her walls and floor full of paint. She didn’t, and because she takes pride in her room, she willingly agreed to clean up her mess. Most importantly, she was never reprimanded for expressing herself artistically.

Just one year later, our daughter Leeana (aka Leli) received a sewing machine for Christmas, and now she really makes her own clothes. You can read more about that in this blog post that I wrote for Parents.com.

I often wonder if this approach would work with other children. I’m still too afraid to find out.

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My First Time

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I’ve come to realize that every decision that I make either rests on beams of support, or falls into the ditch of doubt. No decision of mine has the luxury of floating on the grey, chilled winds of opportunity. I’ve also come to realize that I can never figure out what side I’m on until I’ve written it all down. That said, I’ve decided (in secret) to chronicle my decisions here. Let me give you an example of the kinds of decisions I’m talking about.

At 19 years old I told my then boyfriend of 1 month that I was pregnant — and keeping it. My family were the beams of support, and his, well, I’m sure you can figure that out.

Ever since that day, our daughter Leeana (now 6 years old) has been the only true measure of the quality of the decisions that I make. So far she is a polite, very mature, even-tempered girl who is at the top of her class, reads well beyond her grade level and can sew her own clothes. She’s a God-send.

I wish that that were enough for me to be confident in my decisions, but in truth, I sometimes feel that I may have just gotten lucky with this one.

Not too long ago, a long time friend of mine came by my house with her two children. Let me first state that this friend is something of a child whisperer. She is the oldest of 5 children, and a teacher by both nature and profession. She has a daughter who is one of the most well behaved children you could ever meet. Her son, however, doesn’t seem as well-adjusted. To make a long story short, he climbed on my coffee table and threw his socks at my face. When she told him that throwing socks was not nice, he tried to swallow them.

Had my friend not had a second child, some may have questioned her ability to make good parenting decisions. They might have believed that there was something wrong at home, or that she just never taught the boy right from wrong.

“You’re lucky with that one,” she nodded toward my daughter on her way out. “Just don’t have a boy.”

The thought of another child potentially revealing the truth about my inability to make a good decision if a million dollars depended on it, has lead me to keep my IUD nice and snug in it’s spot for the past 6 years.

Everything that I’m doing for the first time (putting Leeana through school, disciplining, etc.) I may also be doing for the last.

So, if nothing else, I hope that this blog will provide some fun, light reading once I can replace my glasses with hindsight. Maybe it’ll even provide some hidden insights along the way.