Bells Will Be Ringing…

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Back to school new

 

…school bells, that is.  Yes, it’s August 1st and that means that the start of the 2014 – 2015 school year is just around the corner.  This time last year I wrote a series of blog posts called “Back to School Basics”  that covered 4 different areas: getting organized, parent/teacher relationships, back to school shopping and sending your baby off to Kindergarten.  Obviously with 5 kids – three of them now adults – I have a little experience with getting kids and myself ready for heading back to class.  I decided to share some of my observations in hopes that I might be of some help to you.  Because they were so well received last year, I’m going to post them again in my next couple of blog posts.  Today, we will start by talking about getting ourselves organized (Back to School Basics: Let’s Get Organized) and the importance of the parent/teacher relationship (Back to School Basics: The Parent/Teacher Partnership).

Feel free to share these (PLEASE DO!) with others.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions. I love hearing from you!

 

 

If It’s Magic

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Photo Courtesy of L.A. Screenwriter

Photo Courtesy of L.A. Screenwriter

“If It’s Magic”

If it’s magic…
Then why can’t it be everlasting
Like the sun that always shines
Like the poets in this rhyme
Like the galaxies in timeIf it’s pleasing…
Then why can’t it be never leaving
Like the day that never fails
Like on seashores there are shells
Like the time that always tells

It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst

So…
If it’s special
Then with it why aren’t we as careful
As making sure we dress in style
Posing pictures with a smile
Keeping danger from a child

It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst

So…
If it’s magic…
Why can’t we make it everlasting
Like the lifetime of the sun
It will leave no heart undone
For there’s enough for everyone

Stevie Wonder

Stuck in a Blender

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“Hi, Lisa!

I noticed in your bio that you are in a blended family.  I am, also and I am wondering why you don’t write about blending families more often. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and together we have 4 children (his two daughters – ages 5 & 8 – and my son and daughter – ages 10 and 12)…To be honest, this has been a lot harder than either of us thought it ever would be.  The kids are not responding the way we thought they would, our relationship is strained and our exes are not making things any easier.  I fear that we have made a mistake and didn’t think this through.  Do you have any advice to offer?  I do love him, but sometimes I wonder if that is enough… V”

 

Hello V!  First let me offer you a big virtual hug.  This is just a portion of your letter, yet it’s obvious that you and your mister are in a bad place right now and I’m sorry for that.  I am also sorry that it has taken me a while to respond to your email.  I’m not completely comfortable with giving advice and, in fact, I’m not going to give you any. I’ve given your letter a lot of consideration and finally mentioned it to my husband to get his perspective.  What I can tell you is how we have dealt with our situation in hopes that it can give you some encouragement and insight.

First, please know that blending a family is not easy for anyone.  We honestly do not know of one blended family that hasn’t suffered from bumps and bruises. In biological families there is a multitude of personalities and quirks that often get in the way of familial bonding.  Blended families tend to have that same dynamic and then some.  We enter these marriages with such high (and often unrealistic) hopes for an instant family without realizing that not too long ago we were all perfect strangers.  I know that for you these three years of marriage have seemed long and trying but, in reality that’s not a lot of time for people who barely knew each other to grow to love one another.  Big Poppa and I have been married for 11 years and we are still stuck in a blender.

I would have to admit that the pressures and trials of being in a blended family have almost ended my marriage…more than once.  We have sought counseling (family and couples) on and off throughout these 11 years – which is not a bad thing even when all is well.  To be honest with you, I don’t think that we have done a very good job of effectively becoming one family.  In many ways we still operate like three separate families – his, mine and ours.  Each of us is still very tender about the subject of our children and it has become a topic that we really don’t discuss much.  Awkward? Yes. Survival technique? Definitely.  I don’t advise this approach, I’m just being honest.

Our saving grace has been our love for God and each other.  Ultimately, we are committed to our vows and each other.  Not to mention that Big Poppa and I are the best of friends.  There have been moments that we have lost sight of this, but that has been what’s always brought us back to try to talk things out or at least find a comfortable place to call a truce.  It’s so easy to find fault with the other person and their children and fail to see where we missed the mark.  On the other hand, you both need to firmly believe that nothing the other person is doing is with malicious intent or trying to cause harm.  Yes, we are there to provide protection for our children, but we are also there to provide protection and support for our spouse.  It all starts with trust and commitment.

V, raising a family is hard and a blended family is even harder.  There’s no easy way to say it.  I wish that I had advice that could help you or somehow make it easier, but I don’t.  I can tell you that I feel you, girl. I’ve been there and it’s hard, and it’s exhausting and it’s painful.  You’re husband is not going to understand everything that you’re feeling and you’re not going to understand him completely either.   His kids may reject you and your kids may reject him, but don’t reject each other.  Please don’t do that. Hold on to one another and eventually you will all get to a comfortable place.  Some couples therapy wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Take good care,

Lisa

 

Our Family Circa 2012

Our Family Circa 2012

 

It Affects Us All Eventually

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My So Called Glamorous Life:

Friends, Tara gets it. We are all in this together, whether we want to be or not.

Originally posted on I Might Need A Nap:

This evening a friend of mine posted about a new policy in the school system.  She has made the decision since school got out in May to homeschool her child.  This policy will not affect her child at all, and yet, she is upset about it and is calling the system out for it.

Good for her.

Too often I see people share their feelings of relief about something that has happened–trying to separate themselves from whatever tragedy or incident has happened.

“Thank goodness I homeschool, because of this that happened in such and such school…..”

“I’m so glad I live in this country and not where our daughters are being kidnapped for going to school…..”

“Well, it’s a good thing I never go to Wal-Mart, after what happened at that one in such and such a town…..”

Y’all.

For the love.

This way of thinking really gets me riled…

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What Does it Mean to Be a Woman?

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Seems like as soon as Thing 2 could talk, she has said that when she grows up she wants to be a mommy.  Not truck driver. Not doctor. Not female body builder.  Mommy.  I must tell you (and no one who knows us personally will disagree with me) that I am her absolute favorite person on the planet.  I am followed closely by Thing 1 and everyone else is on the B List.  On the other hand, Thing 1 has never said she wants to be a mommy.  Well, maybe once, but it was like a distant 25th to dancer and scientist/fashion designer.  I’ve always thought Thing 2’s desire to be a mommy was cute, but I never gave it much thought since she is only 6-years-old and her interests and life goals will morph several hundred times before she reaches adulthood.

Recently, the girls and I were having a conversation about how a woman’s body naturally goes through different seasons: preparing to reproduce, reproduction years and the end of reproduction.  I was explaining that as a woman in my late 40’s, I am at the end of my reproductive years  – hence, no little brother.  Thing 2 looked up at me and said “But, when we grow up we’re going to have babies because that’s what it means to be a woman, right? That’s what girls do, right momma?”  Suddenly, it wasn’t so cute to me anymore.

Obviously, I like kids. I mean, when we married we already had 3 kids between us yet, we had just had to keep going.  Three was for quitters. However, I do recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for raising children.  In fact, I didn’t even realize how much I would enjoy being a mother until I became one.  It doesn’t work that way for everyone.  I looked at my baby girl and said “No, sweetie.  You can be a woman without ever having children and that’s okay.”

She looked a little surprised. Her sister spoke up an said “Auntie,” referring to my sister, “doesn’t have any kids and she’s a woman.”

“True,” I responded “Auntie, is childless by choice, but there are a lot of women who physically can’t have children.  They are still women.”

“Why can’t they have kids?”

“For any number of reasons all too complicated to explain. Regardless of the reason, whether you have children or not does not define you as a person or a woman.”

I felt guilty. Like the life that I have chosen to lead has somehow made my daughters believe that this is the only life to choose.  While I am very happy with the choices that I have made and the life that I live, I know that it isn’t for everyone – including them.  Their lives are only beginning and open to so many exciting possibilities I want them to know that no matter what choices they make about their careers or relationships or decisions to have children or not to have children, I’m there to support them.  And I certainly want them to know that being a woman means so much more than giving birth.

So, I pulled them close and told them that while being a mother is “a very important job that requires a lot of hard work, it is not what makes you a woman. Women are a lot of things.  We are: smart, and strong, and creative, and ambitious, and nurturing, and insightful, and caring and clever, and fast, and agile, and a lot more.  We are: writers, and lawyers, and police officers, and soldiers, and doctors, and teachers, and dancers, and engineers, and, again a lot more. Sometimes we are mommies and something else; and other times we are mommies and nothing else; and sometimes we aren’t mommies at all.  Any combination is fine and that will be your decision when you are older.”

“Yes, much older,” echoed Thing 1.

Thing 2 was looking kind of dazed, so I asked her if she understood what I had said.  She assured me that she did, saying “Yes, being a grown up woman is more than just being a mommy.”

I smiled, “Exactly!”

“And, I get to pick what kind of woman I want to be.”

“You got, sister!”

#girlpower

A PSA from My So Called Glamorous Life: The Airport Edition

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Photo Courtesy of Pixababy

Photo Courtesy of Pixababy

 

I’m baaaack!  You may not have even realized I was gone, but I returned home last night from a last-minute trip back to Illinois.  I felt like it was time to go see my mom (83-years-old and still beautiful) and just step away from things for a few days.  A side note here: While I purposely didn’t post to my blog, I had lots of brilliant ideas for blog topics.  Of course, I forgot my blog notebook so none of them were actually written.  Now, I am drawing a complete blank.

Anyway, me and my “road dawgs” (Thing 1 and Thing 2) left for our adventure while Big Poppa and the older sibs stayed at home.  This was one of the few times that it was just me traveling alone with the girls and they were awesome. They were loud, glamorous, entertaining, curious and obedient. Of course they were still kids, but over all they were well-behaved which was good because we had an 8:00 a.m. flight and well, I’m not exactly a morning person.  I may have mentioned that before, but it bares repeating – just so you understand.

As we made our way through the airport, we attracted some attention from some of our fellow travelers, also braving the early morning hours. Most of it was benign, but some of it, considering my fragile state (see paragraph above re: not a morning person) was mildly aggravating. Therefore, as a public service to humanity I decided to compile a few tips to avoid when encountering a mom traveling alone with her children.  No need to thank me because it’s the least I could do to apologize to all of those people that received a sideways glance, also known as the “stank eye” from me.

Tip #1: Before approaching or commenting, look at the mom’s facial expression.  Ignore the kids because they are oblivious.  If momma isn’t smiling or at the very least looking relaxed, just keep moving. Small talk makes things worse.

Tip #2: Kind sir, when you see mom and her kids quickly approaching with their breakfast in hand, looking for a place to sit so that they may eat while waiting to board their flight, please move your things out of the 3 seats next to you.  I realize that you think that your expensive briefcase, suit coat and bag from the news stand need their own space, but they really don’t.  They will be fine on the floor.  Also, when momma looks at you like you have lost your ever-loving mind, don’t look offended.  Just move.

Tip #3:  Keep in mind that by the time you encounter momma and her kids boarding the plane, she has probably been at this for a couple of hours (you know, getting the kids up early to get to the airport in the first place?).  So, when you hear her child asking question, after question, after question these are probably questions number 398, 399 and 400.  Not questions 1, 2 and 3.  When mom seems a bit impatient, do not pipe up with “She’s just curious,” or “Maybe she’s forgotten.”  Just don’t.  Particularly if you’re traveling alone.  Think your thinks silently.  Because you are going to get the chance to read your book, or take a nap or have deep thoughts without anyone looking out the airplane window and asking “Where are we right now?” As if you’re some sort of atlas.  *I actually tried to fake my way through that question only to be met with “But why would be traveling in that direction?  Shouldn’t we be going northeast?” That’s when I gave her the stank eye.

Tip #4: Finally,  fellow passengers, when flying on the carrier that has first come first serve seating, be aware that generally when a mom is traveling with her young kids, it’s probably best for everyone if they all sit together or at least near each other, if possible.  So, when she starts down the aisle looking for at least 2 seats near one single seat, do not avert your eyes as you sit in the aisle blocking the way to two empty seats.   She sees you and believe me when I say that if she doesn’t find 3 seats together, she is going make her way back down that aisle and deposit her kids next to you. You can answer the “Where are we now?” question while she takes a nap.  *By the way, when that flight attendant motioned to me to come to the very last row where there were 3 seats, you should have jumped up and hugged her because I was making my way back to you, babe. 

There.  I’ve done my part. You’re welcome.

 

Happy 4th of July

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My So Called Glamorous Life:

Hello, good people! I’m traveling with my minions right now, but I wanted to share this recipe with you (again) just in case you are still in need of dessert ideas for the holiday. I’m going to be with my siblings and my mother enjoying some much needed down time. Y’all have a safe and wonderful holiday with your family and friends.

Originally posted on My So Called Glamorous Life:

Happy Independence Day!  Since I know that we all want to get out and have some family fun, I will get right down to business:

This cake! It’s going to be a little time consuming but, it’s totally worth it because it is one of the few red, white and blue cakes where each layer is actually a different flavor, not just food coloring. In fact, there’s no food coloring in this at all!

Berry Patriotic Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Berry Patriotic Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

For the Strawberry cake:

8 1/2 0z.  (approximately 1/2 of a box)  white cake mix *Not Vanilla! White only!

1.5 oz. (approximately 1/2/of a box) strawberry instant jello

5 oz. pureed fresh strawberries

2 eggs, room temperature

1/4 c. vegetable oil

3 tbs. water

Mix all ingredients, and pour into a lightly greased 9″ cake pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick comes our clean…

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An Open Letter to American Girl: An Update

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dolls

Just over a month ago I posted an open letter to American Girl following the company’s decision to retire several of their historical dolls, including Cecile, one of two African – American dolls, and Ivy, the only Asian doll.  My letter was seen by thousands of people and I received numerous comments across all social media platforms.  Most of the comments were very supportive and even those of you that disagreed with me did so respectfully (for the most part) and I thank you for that.   A lot of you asked me to provide an update should I actually hear from American Girl (“AG”).  Well, I have heard from AG and I have some thoughts.

American Girl reached out to me personally to discuss my concerns about the inclusion/marketing of ethnic dolls within their product offerings and I sincerely appreciate their efforts.  Clearly they do understand how important it is to respond to their customers; keeping in mind that thousands of their current and potential shoppers read the letter.  Was there anything revealed that made me see things differently? No. Was there anything in our discussions that made me feel better about the situation?  Not really.  Ultimately, AG defended the diversity of their dolls across all products lines and assured me that with the release of the new historical line this fall, there would be a more ethnically balanced representation of different eras in our country’s history.

In regard to the Girl of the Year doll, I’m not sure that the company understands the importance of getting this right.  While I was not told “no,” they would not ever produce another Girl of the Year of color;  I was also not told “yes,” that they would. While I understand that they can’t accommodate every customer by producing a doll in every ethnicity, I also understand that this is a process.  You have to start somewhere.  Everyone knows that Girl of the Year is the face of American Girl and their most buzzed about product.  Sure, they offer ethnic dolls in other lines, but to not offer an ethnically diverse line of Girl of the Year dolls is kind of like saying “Yes, you can come to my party and I will accommodate you, but I’m not going to actually invite you.”   AG has to let brown girls be the star of the show sometimes if it wants to maintain and grow its customer base.

Probably, the best result of this whole thing is that the company is using my letter to start internal conversations about the issue of diversity.  This, to me, is major because absolutely nothing can ever be accomplished without constructive dialogue.  Obviously, I want that dialogue to lead somewhere and the only way to judge if there has been any progress is to see movement on the part of the company.  Therefore, I will still be keeping my eye on AG, but this time with my credit card held firmly in my pocket. No more teas, excursions or shopping sprees.  At least for now. I am using this opportunity to teach my girls how to be smart consumers. I want them to understand that they don’t need these dolls. They are a luxury that they can definitely do without.  Children are never too young to learn about their spending power and that companies really only pay attention to one thing…money.

Thank you all, again for reading, sharing and commenting (including those of you who disagreed with me – a healthy, respectful debate is a good thing). Also, thank you again American Girl for taking the time to respond.  Hopefully, I will be able to dine in that pink, black and silver dining room on Michigan Avenue again in the future.  I really want you to do right by all of these beautiful, brown American girls.

 

For When You Feel Like You Are Falling Apart

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For When You Feel Like You Are Falling Apart

My So Called Glamorous Life:

Dena is a gifted and inspirational writer. Lately, I have been feeling the weight of my every day life, quite heavily. You know, nothing in particular, but just everything. This post helped me to put it all into perspective. I hope that you enjoy it.

Originally posted on Centering Down:

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve felt a bit like I’m coming apart. Mainly because I’ve been struggling with my yearly grass pollen induced sinus infection. Add to that a handful of ongoing middle aged maladies that I’ve accumulated in the past couple of years and my once strong, healthy self seems to be unravelling around me.

Now I know this is dramatic. Illness seems to have that effect on me.

But there are times when we truly do feel as if we are falling apart.

When a parent dies.

Or the marriage breaks up.

Or the test results come back and the news is so, so bad.

Maybe it is not even something obvious. The hardships of life can build up and take their toll until the combined effect is enough to have us coming apart at the seams.

In these moments we can feel as…

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