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By Robin Dearing
Thursday, May 25, 2006
I blinked and my baby turned into a kindergartener. I blinked again and the year is now over.
Before I had a kid of my own, I thought events like pre-school and kindergarten "graduations" were hokey.
That was before I sat with my tissue ready and watched my daughter participate in her kindergarten graduation.
Margaret sang the songs she had practiced with a mixture of genuine gusto and feigned enthusiasm. She covered her mouth and looked embarrassed when one of her silver flip flops fell under the bleachers. She was the only kid that cried.
She was selected to sing a special part in their last song. Margaret stood in front of her class with the microphone and sang along with the rest of the class. There was a break and she began singing alone, singing beautifully.
Then it happened. She forgot the words or saw me getting all teary eyed or she just plain got nervous but she stopped singing and started crying. A teacher's aide rescued her and brought her back to the rest of the class.
She finally recovered her composure once the principal started giving out the awards and diplomas.
Each child received their awards, walked to the front of the stage area, bowed and went back to their places.
Margaret received awards for reading and music, for participating in the Book It program (we spent a lot of time redeeming Pizza Hut coupons this year) and one for being diligent in her homework. The teacher even made a special comment about her reading capabilities.
But after the program was over, Mar told me that she was disappointed with herself because she messed up her song.
She was the most decorated kid in her class and all she felt was disappointment.
Mar and I talked with her wonderful teacher who assured her that a little crying never ruined any singing performance.
I love this woman; every kindergarten teacher should be made from her mold.
ETA: In the above picture, Margaret is in the top row on the far left in the blue. If you look closely she's only wearing one flip flop.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Alex just finished the inaugural Grand Valley lacrosse season and I’ll tell you what – I am a bona fide lacrosse Mom! I’ve spent most weekends in April and May on some of the most beautiful sports fields I’ve ever seen. What an awesomely fun game and what an incredible team of kids and coaches we had! Grand Valley lacrosse (a.k.a. team name “Lizards?) has 22 kids from various middle schools around the valley, including Hotchkiss. They held their very first practice just after spring break. This team really jelled from the start, and had a winning season that included playing teams that had years of experience.
The thing I like best about lacrosse is that the games are short and there are only about two rules • no hitting another player in the head or kidneys with your stick. The thing the kids like best is that the game is a mix of soccer, football and hockey. You get to run, pass, kick, catch and smash into other players.
It was amusing to witness the kids choose nick names for other players. Their goalie was dubbed Buddah, one pretty aggressive player became known as Steroid Stu, and two of the littlest but toughest guys on the team whose jersey numbers are 1 and 2 got the monikers Thing One and Thing Two. They were like little mosquitoes buzzing around and taking out guys easily twice their size.
The last game was played yesterday in Aspen (surrounded by the Maroon Bells and the usual 95,000 square foot Aspen homes). Aspen had enough players to sub in a whole new team about every five minutes. Our kids had to be exhausted but you never knew it. They beat them 11-8. It was a nail-biter for me, and I really did try to tone down my cheering. I apparently cheer a lot. And loudly. And for everything. Alex’s dad told me “You don’t have to cheer for the grass growing.? I happen to think that the grass is an important part of the game. But even Alex had to concede it was worth it. •Mom, we only lost two games and that was when you weren’t there to cheer.? See?!
It can be a hassle driving your kid back and forth to practice 3 or 4 times a week. The cost of the equipment, team fees and gas to drive to games ain•t cheap. But seeing your kid race back to the starting line positively jubilant after scoring a goal is priceless.
Congratulations Grand Valley Lacrosse, and many thanks to the coaches who made it all happen for the kids!
For a Sentinel sports story on the Lizards - go here.
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Sunday Margaret attended a birthday party for one of her school chums.
It was a lovely party in a park complete with pony rides. Yes, there was a pony ... how wonderfully charming is that?
But my favorite thing about this party was the favors. Instead of a bag of toys (which the kids love — but really, how many plastic slinkies does one kid need?), they painted small terra cotta pots, in which they planted marigolds. Margaret painted hers in stripes with the dominant color being orange ... very much the same color as the pot itself.
So simple and clever. Something that both Mar and I are very happy to have.
When we arrived at the party and Margaret dashed off to play with her friends, the mom graciously told me that I was welcome to stay or to leave Mar there and that I shouldn't free pressured either way.
This mom is the kind of mom I would like to be: hands on, organized, gracious and welcoming.
I had wondered beforehand what the role of the parent is in these situations. I even called a dear friend for advice, quickly stating the obvious, that I am clueless when it comes to social parenting (and most other kinds of parenting, too. But it seems I should get brownie points for knowing when to ask for help).
So, the gracious mom left it up to me.
Which should I do? Go or stay?
Should I stay to make sure she didn't need me for anything or have a bit of time for myself?
Yeah, I bolted out of there faster than you can say "sugar buzz."
As Mar and I were getting ready to leave the party, the mom told me that Mar had about 15 minutes when she was weepy and wanted me.
I felt terrible.
I should've stayed.
I should have stayed to make sure that Mar was OK. I should have stayed so that the mom didn't have to deal with my weepy kid. I should have stayed because it's what those good moms do.
Instead, I had a glorious hour and a half to myself. I reveled in it. I enjoyed it. Because that's what the bad moms do.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, May 22, 2006
When I named my son after a philosopher, I didn't stop to think what that may do to his personality.
Soren is a very serious little man. He looks at the world around him with a mostly stony face. In most pictures he is in complete thoughtful observation.
But he finally laughed!
(Sigh of relief) Thank goodness. I was starting to think he didn't have a sense of humor; my own being a little off at times.
He finds the voice of Yoda funny. Who would have known he was a Star Wars fan? But, sure enough, a little Yoda voice and some cheek pinching got a couple of bonifide giggles out of the little guy.
It was a week late, but I finally got my Mother's Day present. As predicted, my eyes did well up with pride and joy.
The laughter of babies is the best sound in the whole world!
Friday, May 19, 2006
Last night I went to my first Bunco party. I don’t know if party is the right word but there was plenty of wine, and cheesecake for dessert, so to me that’s a party. For those of you unfamiliar with Bunco, it’s a game where you just basically roll dice and hope for a 6 so you can win prizes. It was fun in a weird way, but one of those gatherings where I’ve always felt there’s way too much estrogen in one room for my comfort level. Honestly, here’s my real issue with this – these ladies are what some people would refer to as Redlands Barbies. Very lovely, sweet women, all of them. But you know what I’m talking about. Starter castles, private school children, high profile husbands, and manicures. So basically, we don’t have a lot in common. Except the estrogen.
Oh, yeah, and children.
Mine does not go to private school. Although there have been times when I have threatened him with that. Or home-schooling. Either one is enough to straighten him out pretty quickly. Anyway, one of the women last night was relating a story about a teacher her son had who was obviously not suited to be a teacher. Bunco Babe was debating whether or not to take her kid out of this teacher’s class. She was even considering putting him back in – gasp! – public school because she didn’t want to upset this teacher. I just don't understand why you would yank your kid out of an entire school because you don’t want to hurt an obviously incompetent teacher’s feelings.
My son had a teacher in second grade who was sarcastic, mean, insulting, and just downright unpleasant to her students. I asked the principal to put my son in another teacher’s class. She did, and he was much happier. The teacher did call me at home to tell me how upset she was by this. Tough. My kid was not the only one having problems with this teacher. One of his classmates, seven years old, mind you, hated her class so much that he got off the bus when it arrived at school and proceeded to walk a mile and a half home, crossing Patterson Road, and then hid in a closet until his mom came home. His mom took him out of that class too.
At any rate, as a mom, or dad, you have got to stick up for your kid in school. Nobody else is going to. There are just some teachers and some kids whose personalities clash. It happens. Your kid is not to blame, and the teacher has a responsibility to try to establish a good rapport with the students. Let me be clear that disrespect should never be tolerated, on either side. I have always told my son this, and I think, to the best of his ability (big disclaimer), he has followed that. He knows dire consequences await if he doesn’t.
To her credit, Bunco Babe did make an effort to understand her son’s teacher’s issues. “You know,? she said, •this teacher is under some kind of stress. Plus, she’s single.? Well that
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
As I've mentioned before, I have a hard time distinguishing between what's right for me and what's right for my daughter.
I've been battling this question. Sometimes I think I get it right; sometimes not.
On Mother's Day, I heard Margaret crying in the bathroom as her dad combed her hair. This is a daily occurence. She hates getting detangled, but in my view, it's got to be done.
If it were up to her, she'd happily walk around with a wild rat's nest. She has thin, fine hair that is prone to tangle and if often adorned with leaves and grass (Mar's a tomboy dressed in pink).
I've threatened to cut her hair if she didn't acquiese to the daily combings more readily. The threat never worked and recently she's begun lately saying, "Good. I want my hair cut like Aleise's."
Ever so slowly, I realized that she had long hair because her dad and I wanted her to have long hair — not because she did.
So, Sunday I brought my scissors into the bathroom and said, "I'm gonna cut it."
Bill said, "No." Mar said, "Yes."
Mar got what she wanted — six inches cut off the bottom while I muttered to myself, "She doesn't like it long. It doesn't look good. She cries when we comb it." over and over again.
She loves it. I think it's cute and her dad can live with it (secretly he's more than pleased with how easy it is to comb in the mornings).
It was the right thing to do. We got it right this time, but what about the harder questions?
When is the right time to let her make her own decisions and when do I step in and guide her?
What is non-negotiable? When should I bend?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Let’s just get right to the tough subjects. Sex and my 14-year-old son. Not that the two have anything in common yet. Oh please God let that be true.
I mean sex and how to talk about it with your kid. I don’t mean the “birds and the bees?. Did that years ago and I•m pretty darn proud of how we both handled it. I just plowed through the more graphic, technical details and he only said “that’s disgusting? once.
So now that we have the technicalities out of the way, it leaves the really important stuff to talk about. Like why he should never, ever •do it?. (And let me just be clear right up front that the first girl who touches my son in a more than let•s-be-friends kind of way better know how to run a lot faster than a speeding bullet.)
I’ve read several books on how to talk to your kid about sex and why waiting until you’re like at least 35 to have sex is a good idea. But give me a break. The suggested dialogues in these books assume that the kid you’re raising has lived in a cave on some other planet, has never left that cave and never will.
I recently drove my kid to practice where the girls’ sports team was warming up on the adjacent field. My son made some comment about the girls doing his “favorite stretch?. I was momentarily speechless and then launched into a lecture about how God did not put females on this earth for the sole pleasure of males to ogle, and that I fully expect him to treat girls with respect and admiration and how girls really find that kind of comment quite degrading. In return I got the most-often-performed-teenage maneuver, the double eyeball roll. This is where my son rolls his eyeballs not just one time around but twice in disbelief that he could actually be related to someone as completely idiotic as me. And then says, •Not the girls I know.? For crying out loud! That•s a topic for another day. Stay tuned all you mothers of teenage girls!
That was my first experience of my son making an overtly teenage male comment. I discussed it with my S.O. who comforted me be saying only half-jokingly that my son’s only mistake was to make the comment within my earshot. Great.
The struggle to instill in my son the importance on so many levels of waiting a really long time to engage in any and all sexual contact is just beginning and will continue for years to come. For now though, I make it clear that the most important reason of all to avoid sex is that it’s the number one cause of having children.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, May 15, 2006
Just for the sake of getting conversation rolling, I propose the question: “Should babies watch TV??
My initial reaction to this question is indubitably NO and I would assume that would be the popular answer.
But, it appears others would disagree, like subscribers to the new BabyFirstTV. For only $9.99 a month, DirecTV subscribers can order this new channel marketed specifically for babies here
I just finished watching some of the promo video on the website. I gotta say, I think babies WOULD like it. But whether or not they should be watching or if parents should be plunking down their children in front of Nanny Tellie (so momma can have a glass of wine?) remains to be debated.
And, if I had to watch that rainbow horse paint color on clothes for more than 30 seconds I think WOULD have to have a little nip of gin.
According to this article
, Sharon Rechter, executive vice president of the network said •The fact of life is that babies are already watching TV?, and you know I agree with her.
I left my 3-month-old on the living floor with his legs pointed away from the tube just for a second to grab a diaper. When I returned, he had turned his head to a break-neck angle and his eyes were transfixed. Apparently he has a blossoming interest in Drain-O.
But, a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics said that babies under two shouldn•t be watching TV at all.
So, what do you think? If your secret indulgence is popping a Cinderella DVD into your kids’ Barbie TV before bed, I’d like to know. If you think television watching is a deadly sin, tell me why. Or if you just have a suggestion for a nice merlot, well, I’d take that too.
By Robin Dearing
Sunday, May 14, 2006
This ran as a column in The Daily Sentinel on opinion page May 14. Happy Mother's Day, mom.
“I’m the worst mother ever,? I muttered over and over to myself as I raced to pick up my kindergartener. Margaret had been on a field trip to Moon Farm and needed to be picked up at a different time than normal. I had forgotten.
•What kind of mother forgets her own kid?? I asked myself.
Certainly not my own mom • she would never have forgotten. She was always ready to shuttle my brother and me around to various practices, games and band concerts.
I can never remember her not being there for me … ever.
Shirley Dearing, is everything that I’m not: calm, sensible and dependable. She is shy around new people, but she is quick-witted and always willing to make the best out of any situation.
When I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter, I called my mom in a panic. “I can’t become a mother yet. I don’t know everything like you do,? I cried. She laughed at my realization and told me that I should be able to figure out what I don•t already know. I was fishing for more assurance, but my mom is not that type of lady. She always believed that you grew strongest when standing on your own two feet.
I remember as a child losing at games like “Sorry? and •Life.? When I pouted, I got no consolation. •The fun is in playing the game,? she•d say. She never let me win at anything. If I wanted to win, I had to learn how to play to the fullest of my abilities.
She’s right, there’s no glory in getting carried across the finish line.
My mom is chock full of common sense, but she is never really one to tell you what to do. If she had concerns about someone I was dating, she would never say so. Instead she would make subtle comments that would draw attention to things that I was overlooking in my youthful zeal.
As I grew out of my angst-filled teenage years, I began to see my mom as a great ally. Through my college years, I worked with her at the family business and it was then that we became great friends. Even though we now live 800 miles apart, she’s been my most constant friend and a source of support that I couldn’t imagine being without.
The one trait that I envy in her (and one that doesn’t exist in me at all) is her stoicism. While I’m prone to dissolve into a pool of tears after watching a Hallmark commercial, she rarely lets her emotions get the best of her.
Never was this more apparent than when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last spring.
Once she got over the initial shock and fear of knowing that her body had turned on her, she said with the grace and ease that define her character, “This is not going to kill me.?
And it didn•t. She suffered through 4 months of chemotherapy, losing her hair, as well as two mastectomies (they didn’t decide to take the second breast until after the first surgery).
This was followed by radiation therapy, which required her to drive 45 minutes each way daily for numerous weeks. Toward the end of her treatments, her daily excursions included trips to the local hospital to visit my father, who has been suffering from heart disease for many years.
When I would talk to her on the phone, she would list the treatments she had already had and count down the ones that still remained without drama or complaint.
I, on the other hand, would sob over the injustice of it all. Lament that I couldn’t be there to help my mom. Rage over the fact that she was sick at all.
Now she is cancer free and well on the road to a full recovery — all is just as she said it would be.
So now, as I wonder what she might say when I tell her that I forgot my daughter at kindergarten, I realize that being a good mother isn’t about being perfect.
It’s about being strong for yourself and your family. It’s about realizing your strengths and exploiting them. It’s about acknowledging your weaknesses and working to overcome them. And, most importantly, it’s about teaching your children to do the same.
Robin Dearing is assistant to the publisher of The Daily Sentinel and co-author of the “Haute Mamas? blog on GJSentinel.com.
Friday, May 12, 2006
There is no better smell than a newborn baby’s head. Really – the next time you’re lucky enough to snuggle up to a baby, your own or someone else’s, breathe in that smell. I really think that there are pockets in heaven that smell the same way.
I loved when my son was a baby and I could just hold him and breathe him in. It wasn’t so much the Johnson’s baby soap, or baby wipes, or other less pleasant baby smells that were so maternally appealing. It was just the smell of my child himself. They say that mother and baby cows recognize each other by their smell and I think that humans are the same way.
I could tell where my son had been just by his smell. He smelled of the outdoors, or school, or daycare. Never unpleasant, just recognizable. As he grew to his pre-teen years, I was definitely glad that AXE body spray was invented. And now sometimes the scent of AXE lingers in the house like a cloud long after Alex has left for school. Still, his own signature scent hasn’t left him. It’s just stronger and different now. And yes, admittedly, sometimes teenage boys are just plain stinky.
Last weekend my son had some friends over and they spent the better part of the afternoon patrolling the neighborhood for any girls that might have moved in overnight that they didn’t yet know about. When they came back to the house and proceeded to eat and drink for thirty minutes straight, they really smelled. Not especially good, but not bad either. Just teenage boy kind of scent. Like elk marking trees during the fall rut.
I came home last night after a three-day business trip. It was about 11:00 p.m. and my son was sound asleep. I quietly opened the door to his room, tip-toed to his bed and hovered over him. I bent down and put my face close to his and just breathed in that smell. I couldn’t help it. I had missed it. Pockets of heaven.