Tuesday, June 30, 2015

an Ode to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

An Ode to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Tabitha Studer

This book
which I read years ago,
declaring confidently,
'this is my favorite book of all books'

This book
which is framed to an open passage in my dining room
the pages, spread wide like the span of a proud gobbler's fan

This book
which I picked up timidly again to re-read
cautiously bracing myself for disappointment
I've read so many books since declaring
this book
as my favorite.
Maybe I would discover the words don't grip me quite as deeply
Maybe I would find that my own progression in age, experiences and beliefs
will cast a shade on the spotlight I've so loyally directed at
this book.

This book
of which I made it only to the second page
before I was blanketed with the warm comfort of a friend
maybe more than a friend
a grandmother perhaps,
who always has tea and toast ready
and a listening ear
and a hand reached across the kitchen table for you to hold
at just the moment that you realize you had been feeling incredibly lonely
a hand that is worn down by years of life and wisdom
and a hand that says, 'no sweetheart, you are not alone at all.'

This book,
which I repeatedly and uncontrollably
have several times
clutched to my chest like a life vest
as I float through the sea of my days
I cling it near my heart
and frantically whisper
'thank you, thank you, thank you'
nearly weeping
with clear understanding that somehow
this book
contains all of the secret hieroglyphics etched into the walls of my inner heart
and I am so grateful that someone else knew how to discover them
and decipher them
and bring a more clear picture of how the world feels
even if only to me.

This book,
who's author, Betty Smith,
despite our separation of the vastness of space and time
between our lives
this book
that fills my entire soul with a recognition that
someone else on this earth knows
what the voice of my heart sounds like
somehow we are connected, Ms. Smith.

This book
that reaches out to me from the past
that sings to me the song of my heart
that reminds me that one person's story,
one person's written word
can make ripples all the way into a future unknown
to a mother who will put her children to sleep with the sound of her voice reading
this book
and those children will grow up and someday ask, what was important to my mother?
and they'll remember it was
this book,
her favorite,
and so they'll pick it up and learn more about what made their mother their mother
and in that way, Ms. Smith
you will live forever.

This book, these words,
you, Ms. Smith,
have made a difference through the ages,
even if only just to me,
even if only to this one girl out here in the future,
in this time that is so different from when you lived and loved
but somehow not different at all
what you said and what you wrote
do you hear me out there in this prayer of gratitude?
what you created from nothing

This book
that somehow in some fantastic way
quietly and persistently whispers,
'You, Tabitha, are a writer too.
Don't give up, friend.'

Betty Smith,
your book
my favorite,
this book:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
I love thee.
so much,
do I love thee.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Talking about safety with toddlers: Strangers

Our underlying family foundation over here at Team Studer is kindness.  We choose kindness, we seek out kindness, we believe in kindness in others.  As only preschoolers and toddlers, our kids already have experience in helping 'strangers' through our 12 months of kindness project.  We talk about people using the words, 'our neighbors,' 'the people working hard,' 'our friends.'  We rarely use the actual word 'Stranger,' because we don't want our kids to think everyone is a bad guy - lots of people are kind strangers! 

With all that being said, bottom-line though, we are parents and our top priority is keeping our kids SAFE.  And we can't do that alone, we believe the kids themselves hold a heap of responsibility in their own safety, so it's important for us to frequently talk about safety with people that they don't know (also known as strangers).

The top three things we discuss with the kids about strangers are:
1. Strangers are anyone that you don't know and they look like any regular person.  They could look spooky like the strangers on tv - or they could look beautiful and handsome.  A stranger is anyone that you don't know, even if they seem to know YOU (thanks for that modern technology!)

2. You never go anywhere with ANYONE without asking your parents first.  ever. ever. ever. nowhere with anyone, as in NO ONE - no strangers, no family, no friends.  NO ONE, NOWHERE without asking first.

3. If you get lost or are in trouble, there are safe Strangers that can help you.  These safe strangers include: policemen, firemen, teachers, and Moms that have their kids with them.

These topics are things we talk about frequently and at random to reinforce in their little sponge brains.  We don't want them to be afraid of people they don't know, but we do want them to be aware of themselves and who might be around them.

Many times we find that the strangers we encounter are kind!  They hold doors for us, or help the kids when they fall on the playground, or say 'what a nice family!' And plenty of times, MY friends that the kids have never met or people that know our family through facebook or the blog, will approach us and use the kids' names to talk to them and seem to know plenty about them from pictures and stories - but we still remind the kids that if they don't know the person, that is a stranger to them.  And they never, ever, ever go with anyone without asking their parents first.

I felt pretty confident that after much discussion that they understood.  We should be good.  They get it.  And then I watched this video: 

Immediately I said (I think I actually gasped it aloud), 'Gemma would go', no doubt in my mind....maybe even Greyson would go too. That was a scary moment for me to admit that they would go- probably for a few reasons they go - because the Mum was nearby (it felt like a space space), it was with someone who doesn't 'look like a bad guy,' and also - hello:  puppy.

But the video me a new starting point to open up the discussion about it and give the kids an opportunity to practice the scenario together.  I had Greyson (5yrs) watch the video so that he could see what happened while I added commentary throughout (things like, "see this man, he is not really a bad guy but he is a stranger to the kids" and "you see how the kids didn't even check with their momma!")  --I didn't have Gem (3yrs) watch it because the playground and talk of puppies would be total distraction to the actual point of the video.-- 

Afterwards, we talked about what to do when we are in a public place (using specific words:  park, playground, store, lots of people around).  And we decided to role play it to practice ourselves (Mum saying she'd be the stranger) and despite just literally talking about saying no to going anywhere with a stranger- BOTH kids ended up 'walking away' with Stranger Mum. 

So, we went at it again - only this time we gave the kids exact words and reactions we want them to use.  And we practiced again and again.  Over and over again.  We wanted to include things that would trip the kids up - things like saying 'I already asked your Mum and she said it's okay" and mentioning things they'd like to see (puppies, candy, etc)

(this is what we practiced multiple times with both Greyson and Gemma)

Mum announces, "Okay, I'm going to be the stranger now.  So I look nice and friendly but you still don't know me, okay." 
Grey/Gem pretend to be playing
Mum walks up to kid(s)
Mum:  "Hi! How are you, buddy?" 
Grey/Gem:  "Um, good."
Mum:  "I have some of my little puppies with me, they're so cute! You wanna come see them?"
Grey/Gem:  "I have to ask my Mom first"
Mum:  "I already asked her, it's okay, come on" ::hold kid's hand
Grey/Gem:  "No.  I have to ask her myself."
Mum:  "No really, it's alright, it will just be a minute - come on" ::starts walking while holding kid's hand
Grey/Gem:  (yelling to get the attention of anyone nearby) "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

The kids got a chance to be the 'stranger' too while Brandon and I played the part of the kids so we could portray how forceful we want/hope the kids will respond with "I have to ask" my parents.  And we try to practice this on random every few weeks/months to keep it refreshed in their minds.

We talk about how if someone ever tries to take you somewhere and you say "I have to ask my Mom first" and then the person says, "Nevermind" and walks away - you STILL come tell us because we can protect other kids too!  A stranger is someone you don't know, and if they are a kind stranger, they'll want to talk to and meet your parents.  You don't make friends with a stranger that doesn't want to talk to your parents.

(sidenote:  just practiced again yesterday with Gemma and she went with Stranger Mum first try out of the gate no questions asked while Grey was like, "Gem!  Don't go!!"  This is why its' important to keep practicing and talking about it frequently.)

So we continue to role play, talk about, and remind in situations when they come up in real life (like when Grey went to a different part of the playground with his older cousins without telling me recently and I had no idea where he had gone).  

I'm definitely not claiming to know everything about stranger safety, but I wanted to highlight the ways that we are being intentional at giving our kids experience and confidence in responding to potentially dangerous scenarios - without making the whole world  and all people feel scary.  We don't want them to be afraid, we want them to be aware and have tools to help them be confident and safe.

Coming up soon in my Safety series:
Red Flag feelings
Sibling accountability
Self Awareness

I'd love to hear about how you and your kids talk about strangers?  What tips and info can you share to keep ALL of our kids safe?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Kid chatter

These two.

They are pretty funny (among other adjectives I could think of - HAH).  Here's a little sampling of the best quotes from them over the past few months that I've been compiling to share. Hope they bring a smile to your face too :)


Gemma slammed her head off the door frame while attempting a gymnastic move and so I was snuggling her
Gemma:  when will my booboo get better? 
Me:  my grandma always said it would get better before you get married 
Gemma:  did you have any booboos when you got married?
Me:  nope, they all got better!
Gemma:  well I know what could make me better right now, true loves kiss

On the second to last Friday in Lent
Greyson:  boy!  Fish sure makes ya fart! 

Singing old macdonald to Violet and the kids were supplying the animals on the farm so I could do their sound in the song. 
Me:  old macdonald had a farm e I e I o
And on his farm he had a...
Gemma:  unicorn! 
Me:  gem. What does a unicorn say?
Gemma:  magical sounds? 

Greyson (whispering to his sister):  I won't tattle tell on you ,okay Gem. 
Greyson (aloud): I spilled the paint downstairs
Dad: did you? 
Greyson:  well I'm not telling on my sister

Me: you write on paper. Not on couches, not on walls, not on your own body, not on the floor. ON PAPER!
Gemma:  Lord in Heaven, help me. 

Me:  Grey! What's that banging sound?
Grey: what sound?
Me: the one that sounds like you're dragging something down the steps
Grey: um, I think it's your imagination.

While sitting at the breakfast table waiting for Brandon to come down dressed for work.
Gemma:  my handsome boy is going to come down soon!

Outside playing:
Gemma (mumbles something)
Greyson:  did she just say 'hell no?'
Me: I hope not, that's a curse
Gemma:  no I said, 'Aww shi...." (Trailing off while looking at me sideways)...I mean oh God!
Me: Gem, still both curses.

While sitting on her grandfather Chum's lap, Gemma spilled half a bottle of water on the both of them
Chum:  Gem!  It's all over my shorts!
Gemma:  Well it's all over MY FEELINGS!!

After Grey refused to apologize nicely to his sister for kicking her in the face on the trampoline
Me:  That's a shame because you know Karma works fast, my friend.  Something bad will happen to you now since you chose to be unkind to your sister.
(about ten minutes later at lunch)
Grey:  what's on my hair? I can see something
Me:  Um, looks like a little spider
-spider jumps down on a web onto Greyson's nose -
Grey:  Mom!
Me: (sweeping it off) Got it.
Grey:  Omigosh, was that the karma?!

Love, Greyson and Gemma

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Not Yet!

At a graduation party recently, a woman came up to introduce herself and said she reads my blog occasionally when it shows up in her newsfeed.  Just like any other time this has ever happened before, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that anyone is reading this thing (besides Mum and Gigi of course - hello Mum and Gigi!) Blogging can sometimes feel very lonely, me just sending these words out into the void with no response, so to hear someone I don't know say they've read and appreciated something I send out is incredibly humbling and heartwarming.

We chatted for a little while about our kids and lives and then she said that she just wanted to say Hi and let me know she's read the blog before.  "Hah, it reminds me of all the things I'm doing wrong as a Mom!"  It felt like a bolt of static electricity and I quickly tried to recover, "Omigosh, No! You're awesome, we're all just trying to do our best!" but the conversation was sort of already over and I felt like I was making it totally weird when she was just trying to give me a compliment.

This is not the first time someone has said something to this effect to me.  Although I think they're meant as compliments, it's hard to take them as such when it comes at the expense of the mother's own self reflection.  My primary goal for the blog is to write about our life so that I can look back and remember that it was just like this in this very moment and how I felt about it right then.  My secondary goal, if possible, is to inspire other families towards kindness and empathy.

Let me make this very clear:  I am by no means a perfect Mom.  I am in no way doing everything right.  Like at all.  Just like everyone else on the planet, things that get shared here and on social media is the highlight reel, people.  These are the bits and pieces that I'm proud of or that make me laugh.  Photo albums are made up of the happy pictures, not the hard times.  But it's the hard times that get you to each next happy photo.  (That is a line from the movie Just Married, friends - but true none the less).

So for truth's sake and making sure it's clear that I'm just as frustrated, annoyed, and overwhelmed as any mom out there - let's do a reality check with Team Studer -

Our dining room table is covered with items that are being collected all over the house because I am on a minimalist kick and want to get.rid.of.all.the.things!  I'm just making my way through every corner and room and tossing things in the trash or in that ever-growing pile.  This has been going on for three weeks now.  The pile does not make me feel better (where are you dining room table?) and the battle for regaining space and organization seems to have almost no dent.  If you can't tell, this is a pain point for me in my life right now.

We have three kids, five and under, who have a preference for jumping, running, tackling, and climbing over playing with toys.  For the toys they do play with, they would much rather dump out the entire container and then use said toys for inventing, weapons, or leaving them about the house in very odd places for later discovering.  I keep trying to find new solutions (and get.rid.of.all.the.things) for the toys, games, and massive collection (how?) and nothing has stuck or worked yet.  We are well into year five of trying to figure this one out, folks.

True story:  after Gemma got in trouble for not listening for the fifteenth time before 9am, she asked me, "Mom, when I grow up and be a Mumma, can I scream at my kids too?"  nice.  My totally unperfect response:  "Yes, if they don't listen like my kids." (Me as a grandma hates me right now).

We have two big dogs that shed a lot, track in muddy pawprints, and think all spaces are their spaces - including beds and couches.  We also have a cat that sheds a lot and leaves claw marks in the back of our furniture.  Bullet doesn't get near enough exercise, Trixie eats too many dropped snacks (vet suggests she needs to lose about fifteen pounds), Lola and Bullet need to be separated at all times, and every single one of them could use some more time and love from their furparents.

Every expert and experienced parent will tell you that one of the most important things to do as a family is to eat together.  We are really good at eating all together at the dinner table with no technology because we believe it is important to our foundation as a family.  

Ya know what no one ever tells you about mealtimes with young kids though?  How exhausting and frustrating it is:  the noise, the endless talking, the chewing with food flying everywhere out of their mouths, the spills, the whining about food they don't like, the constant up & down of getting refilled drinks, napkins, new silverware to replace the one they dropped on the floor.  And the clean-up, sweet baby Jesus in Heaven, the clean up.  You never knew food could be stuck in neck creases, underneath the chair, and in the curtains like this until you've eaten meals with young children.  (maybe not all young children?  Just my children?  okay, my children, then).

I am good at some things as a Mum, just like YOU are good at some things as a mum to your kids.  It might be easy to look at my blog, other mom bloggers, and pins and tell yourself, 'That is such a great mom, why can't I do that like she can?' 

But here's the flipside to that: We can't do a lot of things too! We are battling those same voices everyday with why we can't do something (many things!) as good as we want to. 

Why don't I ever talk about organization and cleaning on this blog?  Because these are NOT things I am good at!  Why don't I have a blog that focuses on healthy and clean eating?  Or exercise? Or diy home improvement projects?  Or calm parenting? Or homeschooling? Again...all things I am not good at it.  

But I do seek out other moms who CAN do those things in the blogs that I follow and on pinterest - not as a reminder of my own weaknesses, but as I way that I can try to grow and learn and be inspired. 

We have a saying in our house when our kids try something new and fail.  When anyone becomes frustrated and whines, "I CAN'T!"  Our reply is, "We don't say can't, we say 'Not Yet!"

Do I feel satisfied with our routine in the day, in the week...Not Yet!
Am I happy with the way our home is organized and clean?  Not Yet! 
Do I make exercise a priority in my life as a way to support my body and mind?  Not Yet!
Do I end each day feeling proud of all my choices as a Mum?  Not Yet!  

It gives me an ache to think that anyone would come here to read and walk away feeling like they are less or overwhelmed.  To you Moms feeling like this, I say ME TOO!  I am no supermom - I am no perfect mom.  I am just 'Mumma' to these kids of ours and I'm spending big parts of my day frustrated, exhausted, and ignoring that little voice in my head that keeps whispering, "You are not good at this," as I walk by loads of laundry, send smart-mouthed kids to time out, and glance at my never finished to do list.  

My hope is that you can come to my tiny corner of the web and sit for awhile, recognize a little bit of your own life, maybe be inspired to say 'Not Yet!'  I want this to be a refueling station where you can fill up on laughs, inspiration, or simply a recognition that you are not alone - even though some days it sure does feel like it, doesn't it? 

xxoxo forever, 

Monday, June 15, 2015

kid survey about their Mumma

There is a kid survey going around the internet that is incredibly sweet (thanks Shelly for sharing it!) The idea is that, without any prompting, you ask your kids each question and write down their responses. 

The thing that maybe is the most endearing part about the stuff that kids say is because there is usually the smallest hint of wisdom to their words - at least if only because it comes from a perspective that adults can't see anymore; we've lost along the path of growing up.

So, here is a bit of sometimes funny, sometimes insightful bits and pieces of what kind of mumma my kids have:

Greyson, age 5
1. What is something mom always says to you?  you are special

2. What makes mom happy? being good

3. What makes mom sad?  being bad

4. How does your mom make you laugh?  she tickles me

5. What was your mom like as a child?  she liked to play kickball

6. How old is your mom?  21

7. How tall is your mom?  shorter than Daddy

8. What is her favorite thing to do?   do exercise

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?  she goes to races

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?  talking about the weather

11. What is your mom really good at?  writing and doing letters

12. What is your mom not very good at?  making Violet happy when she's putting her clothes on

13. What does your mom do for a job?  I don't know....what?

14.What is your mom's favorite food?  shrimp

15.What makes you proud of your mom?  when she went in the race

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?  her name would be 'Johnson Fairakin'

17. What do you and your mom do together?  we go on special dates and eat

18. How are you and your mom the same?  we have the same brain

19. How are you and your mom different?  different hair.  and you're bigger than me

20. How do you know your mom loves you?  she always be's nice to me

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?  she just loves him

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?  her sister's house

23. How old was your Mom when you were born?  21

Gemma, age 3
1. What is something mom always says to you?  Don't Yell!

2. What makes mom happy?  make her toast

3. What makes mom sad?  the butterflies flying away

4. How does your mom make you laugh?  make funny things

5. What was your mom like as a child?  she yelled

6. How old is your mom?  3, like me

7. How tall is your mom?  this big (with her arms outstretched)

8. What is her favorite thing to do?  make pizza

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?  Daddy's here then

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?  being on Mickey

11. What is your mom really good at?  doing computer things

12. What is your mom not very good at?  doing bad things

13. What does your mom do for a job?  carrying Violet

14.What is your mom's favorite food?  chicken

15.What makes you proud of your mom?  sleeping

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?  Action!

17. What do you and your mom do together?  sleeping and going to the store

18. How are you and your mom the same?  this is taking too long

19. How are you and your mom different?  Mum!

20. How do you know your mom loves you?  her give me snuggas

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?  marrying him, giving him kissas and huggas

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?  to the store

23. How old was your Mom when you were born?  16