Posts Tagged With: Parenting

Snap: Ten Things I Tell My Kids

I’ve previously shared the wisdom and gifts I receive from my children; here are a few things I say to them.

  1. I’m sorry you don’t like it. Write your congressman.
  2. Is it broken forever or just for a minute?
  3. Dude, hands out of the pants. (mostly to my son, although my husband has been busted a few times)
  4. Is this really how you want this to go down?
  5. Stop!
  6. Holy cow, really?
  7. Stop micromanaging your brother. (to my daughter)
  8. When [doggie, kitty, bird, etc] goes in it’s house, it wants a time out. Respect it’s wishes.
  9. What is that?
  10. I love you so much, no one else will ever be good enough for you.

Have a wonderful weekend!



Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Snap: Ten Things My Son Gives Me

Mommy and AlexLast week, I gave you ten sound bites from my six-year-old daughter, Liliana. While I would love to provide the same for my two-year-old son, his would consist of mostly growling (as he is part dinosaur) or saying his cheek is “broken” in order to get a kiss. He is a giver though, and here are some of his favorite things to pass on to me:

  1. Boogers (either handed to me or wiped on my face)
  2. Poop (animal)
  3. His favorite toys (which he wants me to kiss and hug, but then when I do, he gets mad, pushes them aside, and takes the hugging/kissing for himself)
  4. Poop (his)
  5. Pants (his)
  6. Pats on my back when I hold him
  7. Gravel (or any other rock, including chunks of sidewalk)
  8. Dead mice (regifted from our cat)
  9. Food (half-eaten)
  10. Kisses (pretty much anywhere, although my face and hands are his target zones)
Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Snap: Ten Things My Daughter Says

Photo by Amy Cerka

Photo by Amy Cerka

At age six, my daughter Liliana already has a mouth on her. This is probably not a surprise to people who know us, but sometimes the things she comes up with leave me battling to keep a straight face.

  1. “It came from my own imagination.”
  2. “Awkward.”
  3. “Do we really need this drama?”
  4. “If [blank] happens, I will cry to death.”
  5. “Just let me be who I am!”
  6. “That was 100 awesome!”
  7. “Oh, you’re tricksing.”
  8. “Winner, winner. Tofu dinner.”
  9. “You are repressing me!” (usually coupled with number 5)
  10. “I am a delight.”
Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Five Things that Rocked April 28 – May 4

  1. It would have been enough that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for the Lakers and is the leading NBA scorer of all times. But then he stayed loyal to the Lakers, working as their assistant coach. He even made some people unhappy when he rightly criticized the NBA for taking players straight out of high school instead having them complete four years of college. He’s even in a Bruce Lee movie (granted a terrible Bruce Lee movie). Now he has made himself a rock star of epic proportions by writing an article for The Huffington Post (swoon) over the The Real Housewives franchise that appropriately references hubris and the unreliable narrator. Love times a billion.
  2. Claire Messud’s response to the implied sexism of a question about the likability of her main character. Fantastic.
  3. This letter to moms. I’ll admit I teared up.
  4. Bookriot’s guide to summer book-based movies.
  5. Buzzfeed showing some redhead love. Sunscreen for everyone!



Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

M is for Morality

There is a quote by Oscar Wilde that I am particularly fond of in which he states, “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.” While I don’t agree that this represents the depth of morality, it does reflect an unfortunate abuse. Oftentimes I think people mistake morality for personal opinion. For example, there are is an organization in my town that does a great deal of charity fundraising through gun related events. I elect not to participate because I don’t want to be involved with guns in any way and it doesn’t make sense to me personally to connect charity with violence. However, that is my personal opinion and certainly doesn’t make the organization immoral.

With a less glib and more reflective version of Wilde’s thoughts, Socrates argues that “A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” Both men raise the question of how emotional and personal bias can pollute morality; I ask then, if those elements are not part of morality (or at least shouldn’t be), what components should be used in constructing a moral code?

One of the many things I didn’t think about in great detail when my husband and I elected to become parents was how we would implement a moral code for our children. Certainly I considered it in an abstract way, but it wasn’t something that we made a clear plan for as we did for things like college funds. So now we (and I would guess a number of other parents) find ourselves trying to teach our children morality on the fly through modeling and real life events. Case in point:

A few weeks ago I was on my way home from a work function when I received a message from my mother (who had picked my 6-year-old daughter up at school) telling me that Liliana was in trouble for stealing. The basic story I got out of my mother (and later from Lili) was that my daughter found a bracelet on the playground. Lili was holding the bracelet and told one of the teachers that it was hers instead of turning it in. Another teacher asked her again if it was hers and she lied, which was quickly revealed because the actual owner of the bracelet had already told the teacher it was missing. On the phone, my mother was livid and had a list of things she wanted to implement as consequences. I told her just to wait as I needed to talk to my husband and Lili before we did anything (my husband was away helping the family of a friend of ours who had just had a stroke). I knew that this was an important moment that had to be handled carefully. (Side note: my husband and I talk about any consequences in big moments in advance so that we are both on the same page.)

I arrived at my mother’s house to find Liliana in time out in her room, pitiful and sulky. We talked about why she lied about the bracelet and tried to keep something that wasn’t hers (she liked it and thought it was pretty). We talked about how the other little girl, who did have the bracelet, must have felt losing it. We talked about consequences and consideration. We talked about right and wrong. It was a hard conversation because I didn’t want to lose my temper but instead wanted to make a point. Liliana did know that what she did was wrong; she knew it at the time. Yet she acted against her better judgment for short term satisfaction.

As a parent, it’s easy to say we teach our children morality, especially when we are there to help them make the right choice. It’s when we aren’t there that they are truly tested. I can’t say, even now, that I know exactly why she did what she did. Piecing it together from her story, I think that when the bracelet had no owner, in her mind it was up for grabs. By the time she was questioned about it, she panicked and lied. From what I hear from friends, lying to avoid trouble is common at this age. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. In the end, Lili lost her favorite toy for a set period of time and was made to write individual apology letters to the two teachers she lied to and the little girl she stole from. She spent several hours during her weekend playtime writing the letters (and rewriting until they were error free).  As she wrote them, we talked about how the other person must have felt when she was committing the act for which she was apologizing.

Did we tackle this in the correct way? I don’t know. Like I said, events like this lead to parenting on the fly. I’m sure there was a better way to deal with it, better consequences to levy. Being responsible as the moral architect for another person is a heavy burden–I just hope I’m up to the job.



Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

J is for Judgment

I originally wrote this post last summer. Although some of the circumstances have changed, I still deal with judgment of a destructive nature often when it comes to my kids. And it still makes me just as mad.

Yesterday was a tough Mom day for me. Whatever shortcomings Pixar’s Brave might have, it nails one image perfectly–mothers are bears who protect their young.

This Mama Bear is in a fighting mood.

It started during pick up time at my childrens’ Christian Mother’s Day Out program. Standing outside my almost two-year-old son’s classroom, I waited just a moment before getting his attention to watch him dance and play with his friends. Another mother standing next to me complimented me on his plaid deck shoes (which are super cute). I told her he had picked them out himself and that he loves shoes. Her response? She looked at his shoes, looked at him dancing, and then looked at me and said:

“Uh oh. Better be careful or he might end up . . .”

When she didn’t finish, I started to ask, “Might end up what? Working in a shoe store? Doing the Safety Dance? In the Navy?”

But I didn’t. Because I knew what she meant. However, something in me wanted to force her to say it out loud, to make her actually say that  judgmental thing she was thinking about a toddler dancing in the bubbles. So I just raised my eyebrows and waited.

Instead of saying it, she went with something worse: she did a hand gesture. A stupid, early 80s making fun of Billy Crystal’s character on Soap hand gesture.

I actually felt the acid in the back of my throat to the extent that I truly believe I could have spit like that dinosaur in Jurassic Park. In some ways, I guess I did.

“He might end up denied basic civil rights and judged by small-minded hypocrites?” I asked her. Then I smiled. “I would hope that wouldn’t happen to anyone’s child, no matter who they are.”

She started to say something, but I got my kids and left.

On the drive home I heard my daughter unzip her lunch bag. Still angry about the encounter outside Alex’s classroom, I asked her why she didn’t eat her lunch again. She gave me the same response she’s given me for the past two weeks: “I was full.”

Some back story–About three weeks ago Liliana asked me not to send her (vegan) meatballs in her lunch, even though they are her favorite. She said the boys in her class were making fun of her food by telling her it was gross and looked like poop. Her daddy and I talked to her about doing what she liked and ignoring people who make fun her. She and Daddy even practiced saying, “You don’t know, you’ve never tried it,” as a response to her lunchtime critics. She hadn’t mentioned it again, so we figured the situation had been resolved.

Sadly, it has not.

It turns out that Liliana has been telling me and her teacher that she is full each lunch hour and not even opening her lunch because she doesn’t want to listen to the boys tell her that her lunch is “gross’ and “looks like poop.” Now, I know that we have been a little hippie-dippy lately with our vegan ways, but it’s not like I’ve been sending her mung beans. Today, for example, she had a pretty normal looking sandwich: veggie turkey slices with rice cheese on wheat. If you aren’t familiar with vegan deli options, veggie turkey slices and rice cheese look like round lunch meat and Kraft cheese. There is no way these 5-year-old boys are the culinary experts to discern that her lunch is anything out of the ordinary. Other days I’ve sent her pasta, cream cheese pinwheels, and pita pockets. To go with it she usually has carrots, some sort of dried or fresh fruit, and, if we’ve been baking, a muffin or cookie. Yes, these things are vegan, but they look the same.

These boys are just being mean. Liliana, for those who don’t know her, isn’t a timid little girl. She stands up for herself and her friends. However, I think part of the issue is that the leader of the group is a little boy Liliana was best friends with from age two. They’ve played together, gone to each other’s birthday parties, and now, he has become her tormentor.

I’ve tried to explain that this sometimes happens with boys–they get silly and pretend they don’t like girls for a few years. She’s told them her taught line about not having tried it. She sits at a different table with little girls who are her friends. And yet, for two weeks she has been eating her lunch at 3:15 pm in the back of our car because she’s hungry and afraid to eat during lunch.

The compilation of these two events has spiraled me into a new realm of pissed off. In terms of Alex, what set me off about that mother is how easily she slipped into the role of judge. He’s a year old. He’s smart, funny, cute, and loving. He’s a great little guy. If my son is gay, my son is gay. If he’s not, he’s not. No lame stereotype she’s concocted is going to define him. The only reason I wouldn’t want him to be gay is because the world would be harder for him.

We live in a country where normal is defined in a way that strips people of their rights and identities. As his mother, I want Alex to love who he wants to love and not be made to feel ashamed of it nor denied civil rights simply because he is being honest about who he is. Mothers like that judgmental mother will raise sons and daughters who think like they do. Which means one day another child–maybe my kid, maybe not–could be mocked and bullied for being different. That, to me, is not acceptable.

Liliana is another matter. It breaks my heart to watch her learn about cruelty. We want her to fight her own battles, to be strong and proud of who she is, but in this case that has been deflected. I’m going to talk to teachers and possibly the ringleader’s mother because a little girl should not be going through the day hungry due to mean children. It’s ridiculous.

I have had several conversations about motherhood over the years and have named several things that at one time or another seem like the hardest part: the isolation from other adults, the frustration of trying to teach them when you want to strangle them . . . the list goes on and on.

Right now, this feels like the hardest part. Watching the world work its meanness on my cubs is hard enough; knowing that I can’t act on my impulses to protect them in the way I want to tears at my heart. Instead of of one swiping blow that knocks out judgmental mothers and bratty little boys, I have to settle for warning growls and hard lessons for my cubs about standing up for yourself and not letting anyone make you feel bad about who you are.

That being said, if my warning growls get ignored again, this Mama Bear is going to draw blood.

Categories: Feed the Belly, Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Parents: Some Rules Aren’t Made to Be Broken

Dear Fellow Parents:

Fess up–this parenting thing is harder than you thought it would be. When they were babies and you were living in that dark tunnel of no sleep-crying-poop, you thought, “It’s going to get better.” And it did, depending on the how terrible twos and threes went for you. Or you at least got used to it. (Side note: have you noticed every time you figure out something, like how to handle tantrums, your child evolves and creates a new nightmare of crazy that you never imagined you’d have to deal with?)

Here’s the thing: parenting is hard and for me, the older they get, the more challenging it gets. Now we’re not just responsible for feeding and changing; we are responsible for creating members of society. I think one big step toward that is stopping all this holiday blow out nonsense. I’ve complained about it. Others have complained about it. It’s like a runaway train of ridiculous.

For today though, I’d like to address a specific issue: rules. Our world is constructed of rules. It’s how we train the id that it’s not okay to just do whatever it wants. It’s why my toddler gets so frustrated with me (“No Alex, we do not pull down our pants and wiggle our hips and boy parts at passing ladies”). Kids have a hard enough time learning to make moral decisions and obey the rules. Please stop picking which rules they follow.

At my daughter’s school, the kids are not supposed to bring toys to school, wear sandals, or wear short skirts. From my perspective, these are all logical rules: toys get broken, lost, or cause outbreaks of “It’s mine!” Sandals are not the best footwear for playing outside or going to PE. And as for the skirts? They are little girls, not contestants on The Bachelor.

When we first enrolled in our current school, I sat down and read the handbook cover to cover. Our family talked about the rules and expectations so everyone was aware of them. And we follow them.

Where this gets hard is that other parents pick and choose which rules their children should follow. Every time I dropped my daughter off last fall, I got to watch a number of little girls in ribboned, jeweled, or otherwise adorned sandals tromp into school. A friend of my daughter keeps bringing her entire collection of My Little Pony for recess. And when I pick my daughter up I’ve seen way too much little girl bootie exposed when bending over to pick up backpacks.

So what, Amber? Who cares? It’s just silly stuff. It’s not like they’re breaking important rules. They’re kids! Let them enjoy it.

My point is this: when a parent allows a child to knowingly break a rule, especially one established by someone else, they are teaching their child two things. First, that they can pick and choose which rules they want to follow depending on what they want. Second, they are more important and special than other people because the rules don’t apply to them.

I’m not saying we should all raise little conformists. My daughter electing to bring vegan snacks for her week as snack helper proves that. But when we model from an early age a disregard for rules and guidelines, we are teaching children that those types of behaviors are acceptable.

About once a week I have to explain to Lili why she can’t wear sandals or take her toys. We’ve actually gone and read the handbook now that her reading is better and I try to explain why these rules exist. Still, a few weeks ago she went against the rules and took a pony stowaway to school so she would have one to play with at recess. When we found out about it, she lost the privilege of playing with the pony for two days (“what you abuse, you lose”). She was upset, arguing that other little girls got to bring their toys. My reply was merely, “That’s between them and their parents. We follow the rules.”

These children are going to grow into young adults and adults who need to at least understand the importance of rules. Certainly they can and should question them, but in the end part of being a grownup in following rules, particularly those set up for good reasons.

I’m your biggest fan, fellow parents, because I know how hard this is for all of us. Just please make your daughters wear tennis shoes.



Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Outsider: Mommy Edition

I recently read this insightful post on why it’s hard to be friends with other moms and found myself nodding in agreement. My husband, as is the case with the post’s author, is the naturally charming, likeable one. He’s the one who builds friendships. I’m the one who turns people off.

Also like the post’s author, I thought motherhood would provide a natural bond for me, sort of a sisterhood of stretch marks. Unfortunately, at least at my kids’ schools, this isn’t the case. For starters, I have little in common with many of these moms. Few of them work outside the home and they give me a sad look when they hear I do (as if we’ve fallen on hard times and I’m being forced to sell my hair and jewelry).

They all know my kids–they’ve been on the field trips and seen the chapel programs I’ve missed because I was explaining the allegory of “Young Goodman Brown.” They’ve helped at the Christmas party, opening up the treats I dropped of that morning; meanwhile, I’m grading annotated bibliographies. They volunteer at the pep rallies and book fairs, hand out awards, and take pictures. My daughter often asks why her friend’s mom eats lunch with them several times a week, but I can’t. “Because Mommy has class, ” is a tiresome answer.

I’m conflicted about it. On one hand I’m jealous (and suspicious for no reason) of these women who get to spend so much time with my daughter. On the other, I love working. Perhaps this is intensely selfish, but I feel like I need an identity outside of being a mother. I like to go to a place where, for several hours a day, I do something I’m good at, that I spent years studying to do, and possibly help other kids beside my own.

In the end, it is not these other mothers who exclude me–it is my own choices. And so I avoid them so I can avoid answering questions about why I wasn’t at some event, or why I work. When it comes down to it, my friends are my own and my children’s are their own. There isn’t a big Ven diagram that says these elements have to overlap. Although, it sure would make things easier.



Categories: Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hippie Freak Mother’s Plea for Valentine’s Day

Image courtesy of Relevant Magazine

My daughter’s school must think I am some of sort of hippie freak (which I am, just not in the way they think). For example, Lili brings her lunch to school everyday, even the two days a week the school brings in Chick-fil-a and Papa John’s Pizza. I avoid most of their fundraising drives. Liliana often goes to school in wildly clashing colors and patterns.

There are, in my opinion, reasonable explanations for these. Putting aside my ideological issues with Chick-fil-a and Papa John’s, we don’t think she should get in the habit of eating fast food twice a week at school just because the other kids are doing it. Liliana hates pickles, so I don’t think contributing to the football fundraiser that involves buying her pickles all the time is logical. And my daughter dresses herself and looks cute in her own way. She at least looks like her own person.

It probably doesn’t help that the days I don’t have to drive directly to work, Charleigh, our border collie mix, helps take Lili to school. One of the drop off/pick up helpers thinks she’s some sort of giant mutant dog. (She only weighs like 40 pounds–the dog world is so sizest.) Or there was the time I was waiting to pick Lili up and took a shot of clear cough medicine out of a small, clear glass, only to see the woman behind me in the review mirror, her mouth dropped in horror. So maybe they think I drink in the pick up lane, too. Oops.

My hippie-freakness has become especially prevalent around the holidays. Both of my children attend schools where people go overboard. At Christmas, we were supposed to send sixteen little stocking stuffers for Lili’s class and a wrapped book under ten dollars for Alex’s class. Lili gave her friends pencils with eraser toppers that I knew they could use in class. Alex brought a paperboard copy of The Little Engine that Could.

In return, we received bagfuls of stuff from the other kids–individual stockings full of candy, felt bags overflowing with stickers and glitter pens, stuffed animals, Hot Wheels, and tiny toys too varied to name. While I appreciate the generosity at the heart of it, it’s just too much. A two-year-old does not need Fun Dip (actually no one needs Fun Dip), a one-inch ornament, stuffed miniature bear, and three lollipops–especially not all from the same child.

Being the hippie freak that I am, I just think about what messages we’re sending through (and to) our kids. What Kindergartner really needs seven pencils, two mini coloring books, stamps, and holiday tape? (Again from one child.) With sixteen children in her class, Lili would have had plenty with just one thing from each child. As it is, it all gets lost in the noise–a heaping pile of plastic, throw away, sticky, choking hazard mess that she will lose, break, or forget about. Consumption this way is so conspicuous and feels so hollow.

It also blows my mind that in a class full of two-year-olds, people would give out so much candy. My kids are allowed one sweet type thing a day and it has to be before five. They only have one cup of juice each day at lunch. The rest of the time it’s water or non-dairy milk. (What happens when they are with their grandparents is unfortunately out my hands. At least my mom is kind enough to lie to me if she’s hopping them up.)

I’m not asking that parents adhere to my dietary restrictions. Both my kids eat some dairy and meat. But no matter who your kid is or what your beliefs are, that much sugar is never a good idea. As a result I become the lame mom that sends pretzels or vegan fruit snacks for Trick or Treating. My main compliant against giving out candy can be summed up in the following story:

Last Saturday while I was dealing with laundry, Alex found a Fun Dip. Despite my efforts to purge the candy from Christmas (I hate being wasteful, but I don’t really know what else to do with it), this little packet had fallen out into Lili’s backpack. Exploring, as little boys do, Alex discovered it and claimed it for his own. I found him hiding under the desk (because he knew he shouldn’t have it), his mouth and hands bright green, powdered sugary stuff everywhere. He was crazy for about an hour and then cranky. It wasn’t great for his system, either. We won’t even talk about the stains that I can’t get out of his shirt, the floor, and the wall. (Our cat somehow managed to get it out of her fur, so maybe I’ll see if she has some tips.)

I am already dreading Valentine’s Day when scads of candy and toys will hitch a ride into my house. Thus I am asking all mothers: can we not? Can we not go overboard? Can we go for quality over quantity? Can we teach our children that the world is not made of throw away material things? Can we think about the impact of our actions on others, especially our impressionable children? Can we keep it simple and sweet?

Last year Lili gave out seed imbedded Valentine cards that could be planted. I’m starting to brainstorm ideas for this year. It would probably be in poor taste to regift all those toys and candy from Christmas, right?



Categories: Feed the Belly, Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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