Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sylvia is 13 today

My first born, my sweet, sensitive, passionate child. Again, not a complete listing of all of the things that make you special, but 13 qualities that I love about you.

  1. You are so talented. You are pure joy on a stage, in rehearsal.  I love that you have the chance to spread your wings, and you soar.
  2. You are so supportive of me, of your sister, your friends and loved ones. I love that you know just what to say when I'm feeling nervous or anxious about something.
  3. I am so proud of how you were able to keep up with everything at school, in rehearsal, in our social calendar.  You seem to thrive on being busy. A great quality that you will utilize well for the rest of your life!
  4. On that note, you help keep me sane when things get crazy. And things have been way crazy lately! Thanks for being part of the glue holding this family together. 
  5. You are so smart. You have proven time and again that when you're determined, you can accomplish anything. 
  6. You kill spiders for me!! If that's not love, I don't know what is.
  7. I love that you love musical theatre as much as I do! 
  8. You know yourself really well, and you are always striving to be better; to try new things, to do something that scares you.  Again, a really important quality that will make you unstoppable.
  9. You have grown so much in the past year; not just physically, but emotionally. You've learned something that took me until just a few years ago to learn: you can separate other people's actions (or inactions) towards you from what's truly about you and what's not. In short, you can accept people as they are. That's so impressive for a person of any age!
  10. You manage the difficult stuff with a healthy dose of humor. 
  11. I love when we hang out together. Whether it's watching a TV show, playing cards, listening to music, talking or whatever...I just love being with you. 
  12. You are so smart and, more importantly, thoughtful. You don't want to just pass a test, you want to understand it at its core.
  13. You accept you as you are. While you try to improve and explore new things, you never try to hide who you are. You just want to be the best you possible. 
You are a teenager now. I know that's supposed to mean that we'll no longer get along or talk to each other, and I'm supposed to be scared to death of these upcoming years. But really, I'm excited to be on this journey with you. You are most definitely on the right path to having a wonderful, fulfilling life, full of love, passion, laughter and happiness. I'm so proud to call you my daughter, and I love you with all of my heart. Happy birthday, Sylvia.

Friday, October 29, 2010

F.A.B. Friday: one step at a time

This week, I have definitely not been afraid to put myself out there. I can't talk about it, but suffice it to say, I said yes to something that scared the hell out of me. I don't really know how well I did, but at least I can say I did it.

It has been another crazy busy week, and I've given up thinking that things are ever going to get back to normal. This is our normal. We pack as much into the days and nights as possible, and hey, we love it. It's who we are. We will have time to rest and regroup on Saturday, so we'll just keep going until then.

I'm worrying about money again, but not obsessively. At least, not yet! Just one paycheck at a time, but with a look at the overall and trying to get creative about where I might be able to shave off a little here and there. I am sticking with my plan to pay down one of my two credit cards without using it, so that's progress!

All of this sounds like very little, I know, but for someone like me who (as Carrie Fisher would say) thinks that instant gratification takes too long, just the ability to take baby steps is a big thing for me!

For more on F.A.B. Fridays, visit Wanna Be Balanced.

Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Reasons my Riley is awesome

This is by no means a complete list of all of Riley's awesome qualities.

  1. I love how you dance! So free-spirited, with that brilliant smile of yours, and while very much your own style, completely in tune with the rhythm of the music. 
  2. Your sense of humor. Sure, sometimes your age shows, but often you exhibit a quick wit that seems beyond your years. You make me laugh every day. 
  3. You are so much your own person. You respect yourself, you're confident enough to accommodate others, but you won't let anyone walk all over you, either. 
  4. Your "love" life cracks me up. You've had two boyfriends already, but they didn't last because you didn't think they were nice enough. The fact that you're still friends with both of them says a lot about your character. 
  5. You can make up your own games and entertain yourself when Sylvia's gone for rehearsals, but you love playing with her or your friends or me, too. You don't fit into any category; you can be a loner, a groupie, or enjoy one-on-one time just as easily. I love that about you. 
  6. You love almost every experience: nature, music, theatre, swimming, biking, cooking, art, playing school, solving problems, playing games. There's almost nothing you don't like to do. 
  7. You still love to snuggle with me and just chat. We talk about everything and nothing. We laugh, we hug, and there's nowhere else we'd rather be.
  8. You're nurturing, compassionate, and just so full of love. 
  9. You have a strong commitment to family. Not just me and Sylvia, but your entire extended family. And considering how large ours is, that trait fits in nicely!
  10. You light up the room everywhere you go. 
Happy 10th birthday, Riley. Every day with you is a privilege. I love you so so much!

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Belated F.A.B. Friday

    Things were a little too busy for me to post this on Friday. I had my leadership class, and my Riley got home from her 5th grade science camp!! Sylvia and I missed her all week, but, just as I suspected, Riley was having a wonderful time.

    As for my update: I've found that what's works better for me is just to do something every day; whether it's going through clothes to get rid of, a stack of papers or toys that the girls have outgrown. It's definitely a SLOW process, but it's a process.

    I made plans to go down to my sister's next month, and serendipitously, an old friend called me last weekend and it was great catching up. I'm invited to a luncheon next week, and I will try to be the first to greet at least one person there!

    Work is, as always, great. Ups and downs, sure, but I love my job every day. I do need to do more to get ready for our move, though.

    And I have to cut this short to spend some quality time with my girls. I hope to have more time to actually write tomorrow!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Spirit Day

    As has been widely reported, we have lost way too many youth lately to the fear and hatred of homophobia. It's an ugly side of human nature that I don't understand, and frankly, don't want to. Whatever excuse people hide behind to make the hatred of fellow humans acceptable is simply that, an excuse.

    And it's time for adults to recognize that their reprehensible acceptance of such ugliness is at the heart of the blame.

    How often have you heard slurs of a homophobic nature and stood up to it?

    A few years ago, these two kids were talking outside of the apartment building's laundry room while I was in there and one of them used such a slur. I don't even remember what it was now, but I stopped in my tracks and said, "hey! That's not okay." The shame in that boy's face was clear. I didn't know him, didn't know his parents, didn't know where that came from, but even he knew he shouldn't have said it. They moved away from me, knowing that they weren't going to get away with such behavior in front of me.

    Last year, Sylvia had a teacher that openly made a plea for students not to participate in the Day of Silence, where students take a vow of silence to support the LGBT community against hatred, bullying, and harassment. I emailed that teacher {edited to protect anonymity}:

    ...I think that this is an extremely important topic, and something I discussed with my daughter a long time ago. The decision is hers, but we are strong advocates for equal rights for everybody. While I wish it did not come to this, while I wish tolerance was something that came naturally to more people, please do not lose sight of the message of this day.

    This message is about the forced silence that too many children are forced to take because they are different. It causes too many suicides every year. It causes too many destroyed lives.
    It is entirely possible, if not probable, that students in these [classes] are struggling with this issue. It is unfortunately also possible that one or more of these students could end up a statistic one day.

    So I hope that...this opportunity is not missed.
    I did not hear back from that teacher, but I bcc'd Board of Education members and her Principal.

    Yes, we are all entitled to our opinions. Yes, we have Free Speech in America, but I think that freedom comes with a great weight of responsibility: a responsibility to treat each other respectfully, even and especially when we disagree.  Our words and our actions do have consequences.

    Let's think about the legacies we want to pass on, the values we want to role model, and just what we lose when we sacrifice equality for all. We are, unfortunately, seeing too much unravel because some have made it okay to be offensive, rude and mean to others. Lives are being lost. Mother and fathers are losing their children. Family and friends have been robbed of loved ones.

    There is too much wrong already to endure this hatred, too. There are wars, famine, disease, bankruptcies, foreclosures, fraud, corruption. Why are we adding bullying and homophobia to the list? It makes no sense. It's hurtful, it's wrong, and it's shameful.

    It does get better for many LGBT adults, but that's simply not good enough. As most of us may recall, being told that high school will end didn't always feel like it! So now, there's a project to make it better, with resources for both students and adults. Our humanity can and will win this. How long it takes is up to all of us.

    This post is in honor of Spirit Day. We're wearing purple to honor those didn't believe they could beat homophobia.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Dear Mom and Dad

    Did you ever see Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead? Very bad title, but kind of a fun movie where Christina Applegate, just out of high school, ends up playing the role of working mom to her 4 (or 5?) siblings. By the end of it, she and the oldest brother have this scene where they sound like a husband and wife fighting about the stress of it all and the under-appreciation they both feel.

    I always liked this film, Sylvia's seen it and liked it, too, but even out of the mouths of babes, Sylvia just doesn't get it. And I realize now that I never really got it, either. Not until now when Sylvia is on the cusp of teenager-hood (ism?).

    I understand now that you spent every waking hour thinking of me and my sister, and did everything in our best interest. I understand now that sometimes you had to make hard decisions that seemed so totally unfair in my eyes, and knowing that broke your own heart because the last thing you wanted to do is hurt me. I understand now that you gave us everything you could, and sometimes more, and that it hurt you when there was something you couldn't give, or that it was indeed something that was not in my best interest to have. I understand now that even though I always thought it was obvious that I loved you and thought of you often, it may not have come across that way!

    If it makes you feel any better, I understand all this now because I am having some of the same frustrating experiences that you had when I was growing up. I'm trying to keep things in perspective, both from my POV as a former child and as a parent now, but it can be hard. And sometimes, I just make the wrong choices and have to correct myself as much as possible. And sometimes, I just have to accept that my girls will not always understand, and that it's okay that they don't.

    Instead, I'll just wait and see if they grow up to have daughters, and if maybe this post might come in handy to them someday. (And they'll be thinking, OMG, blogs are SO last generation!)

    Love your older and getting wiser daughter,

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    The Plans & Mission

    I know it's not F.A.B. Friday, but I have to get this done.

    1-2 Year Plan: For the most part, keep doing what I'm doing. Continue to volunteer and help out where I can on projects that I care about and believe in. Continue to build relationships and not be afraid to put myself out there. (Yes, I have a big mouth, but in person, it takes me slightly longer to speak up and I'm almost never the first to introduce myself to someone new. I need to get better at that.)

    2-5 Year Plan: Begin the legal steps to create a 401(c)3 for the benefit and support of single parents and single parent families. Start small projects to start getting the name out there, and write grant applications.

    5-10 Year Plan: Keep building the non-profit, partner with other organizations on events to reach more people, maybe bring in other single parents across the country to start their own small projects and obtain their own grants for needs in their area.

    10 Year+ Plan: Hire staff, make bigger dreams and bigger goals and have the non-profit organization be nationally known and recognized. Get invited to the White House or to testify in front of Congress.

    Mission Statement: My life is about people. They enrich me, and I want to do the same for them. And see a lot of musical theatre.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    FAB Fridays: Values and Goals

    First an update from last week's goals: So I didn't declutter 15 minutes every day, but I did some, and as FlyLady herself says, I'm not going to try and catch up, but jump in where I am. Sylvia did do some of the laundry, and Riley does what I ask, but I have yet to set up official chores for them. Since Riley's going to her Science camp soon, it's better to wait until after she returns before I set those up, anyway.

    Someone recently told me that our values are in our actions, not our statements. I thought about this and wrote about it in the realm of education both here and at Parentella. Now I'm starting to think about it in terms of me.

    Part of why I didn't do some nights of decluttering is because I chose to instead snuggle with my girls, and tend to their needs. I'm okay with valuing time with my girls over housework. I'm also thinking about some things I do that are definite time-wasters, and some that may not be productive per se, but allow me the downtime I need to rejuvenate or relax. I'm trying to get rid of the total time-wasters that make me feel bad, but still hold onto the things I enjoy, like watching The Daily Show, reading a book, re-connecting with old friends on FB.

    Through my actions, I can say with confidence that I value my family, my friends, my work and colleagues, music, and feeling a part of my community. Knowing that, my goals are to continue to enrich my role in these activities.

    Family: For the most part, keep doing what I'm doing. I spend a lot of time with my girls and my parents, but I do need to carve out more time with my sister. She lives a couple of hours away, and our weekends have been so packed lately, we haven't been down there for quite some time. I need to make more time.

    Friends: I'm doing better at checking in on my friends on FB, but every now and then, I have to pick up the phone. Maybe I can make it a point to call one friend a week just to let them know I'm thinking of them.

    Work and colleagues: We're moving locations soon and there's a ton of de-cluttering I need to do in my office! I should spend the last 15 minutes of every day (as possible) working on that. And there are some colleagues that I talk to every 15 minutes practically, and others that I sometimes don't talk to for weeks! I should try and have a conversation with everyone at least once a week.

    Music: I've been listening to more music at home lately, which helps me (a) declutter, (b) belt out songs I love, which makes me happy, and (c) appreciate all the money I've spent over the years amassing my collection!

    Community: I've attended a few community events lately, and they have been wonderful experiences! I find that I always know more people than I expected, I laugh a lot, have great and thoughtful discussions, and feel connected to people. They've mostly been charity events, too, and it's wonderful to see so many come together to make life better for our children, our families, our pets, our land. Sometimes the world as portrayed by the media seems so cold, frightening, and disconnected. It's refreshing to get out there and get a much brighter picture!

    Read more about F.A.B. Fridays at Wanna Be Balanced.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Top Ten Signs that I'm Middle-Aged

    1. I need to wear glasses now when on the PC or watching TV. I used to only need them driving at night, but lo and behold, when I started doing what my optometrist and using my glasses more often, I stopped getting so many terrible headaches!
    2. The more current music on Glee is annoying (except for "Billionaire"). Last night's episode, featuring songs from A Chorus Line and a duet originally done by Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland, was my absolute favorite so far this season!
    3. Doing more than one thing a day sounds like way too much. Which is why I'm thrilled that for the first time since before Sylvia had rehearsals for Willy Wonka, we've gotten to stay home every night this week.
    4. Independent movies don't sound as interesting to me as they used to. I just want to be entertained. In fact, most movies are less appealing. Two hours just seems too long to commit. 
    5. I need hand lotion more frequently than I used to. 
    6. I have friends on FaceBook that I knew 25 years ago, when I was the same age Sylvia is now.
    7. My girls are weeks away from being 10 and 13, and will be graduating from elementary school and middle school this year.
    8. I've been a single mom longer than I was a married mom. (Well, coupled, really, since we didn't officially get married until I was pregnant with Riley.)
    9. Let's not even discuss the gray hairs. 
    10. I had another, but I forgot.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Where's the finish line?

    In honor of the mid-term election, Yahoo! Mother Board is asking us to join the conversation at their new feature, Ask America. I was disappointed that their Education topic only offers us two choices: higher standards or more money (which is not Yahoo's fault, but the candidates'). In order to truly reform education, we need to re-frame the question.

    For the past few decades, the two-party system has failed to offer radical enough solutions. While I'm an Obama supporter, I don't think his stance on education offers enough change, and I'm not sure what the Top is racing towards.

    I've recently seen two documentaries on education, Race to Nowhere and Waiting for "Superman". If you have to choose between the two, see Race to Nowhere, but see both if you can, or see what you can. We need to start talking about this more.

    It took until 8th grade for Sylvia to have a reason to want to do well in school. She wants to go to an arts high, and knows that in order to be admitted, she has to maintain a certain GPA. So she's working harder than she has in the past to keep her grades up so that she can go to a school that lets her do what she really wants to do: dance every day. She knows that in order to stay in that school, she will have to keep up a GPA.

    That school happens to be my alma mater, and I know how the academic teachers frame their lessons. They know their students are interested in the arts, so they pay particular attention on how their subjects correlate to the arts. A history lesson is also a lesson in the history of art at that time. A math lesson can be better understood with the elements of music theory. English literature is interpreted and analyzed much like a script.

    We spend so much effort prioritizing education in the yearly milestones of standardized tests instead of the overall goal of education, and our children just aren't getting it. Over a million drop out of high school every year. That's unacceptable, and affects us all. It leads to higher crime rates, higher prison costs, and fewer people able to support themselves, let alone their families. We also have just learned that an alarming number of college students drop out after their freshman year, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

    We forget that brains don't fully mature until the age of 25, and expect them to understand an adult's reasoning for school: "who said school was supposed to be fun? They just have to do it." Particularly when so many of their classes and teachers and administrators are solely focused on passing the standardized tests, students are not seeing the long-term benefits. A young mind needs help connecting the dots.

    Instead of telling our children to stop playing video games, why don't we show them how video games are made? Instead of telling them to get off their social networks, why don't we show them what it takes to create such a site? Everything they love involves creativity, math, reading, writing, and even a sense of history and the future in order to be relevant and popular. We need to capitalize on what motivates our students.

    Some of our "low-performing" teachers are probably suffering from the same lack of motivation as our students. I don't think anyone goes into the profession thinking it will be easy, but because they want to make a difference. I've also found direct correlations between my daughters' grades in certain subjects where their teachers are either confused themselves or lack enthusiasm. Their textbooks are District-mandated, their standards are state-mandated, and their Principals may be mandating how they run their classroom. We need to offer teachers the support they may need to keep the class on track, but still let it be their class.

    We need to broaden our "standards" to include what really matters: allowing each student reach their fullest potential. We need to make it okay to not go to college and help some students into trade schools to earn a decent living and provide valuable services. And for anyone that does want to go to college, we need to make that achievable without entering the workforce tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

    Education affects everything else. Without a strong workforce, our economy will suffer. Without work, crime and the need for government assistance increases. A weakened, deficit-burdened government decreases our security and international standing. An uneducated, impoverished society does not make for a healthy, strong society.

    We need to stop racing, and instead, guide our students to their own individual paths to success.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    All About Sisters

    This is my favorite picture of the girls. I can't see their faces, it's a few years old, I wasn't actually there when it was taken, but it's the holding hands that gets me. I know that they held hands to feel connected. I know they were enjoying one of their sisterly moments, and this one just happened to be caught on camera.

    As I read The Kids Are All Right, written by the Welch siblings, their assessment that being orphaned wasn't the worst thing that happened to them, but being separated from each other was made sense to me. Not that being orphaned wasn't horrible, but that the only ones who could understand the pain and get each other through it was each other. Without one another to ground them, they were lost.

    Having two children is, no doubt, more than twice as hard as having one. The financial cost, the attempt to make family decisions where of course they both want to choose something different, trying to spend quality time with both, parenting them differently because they are different people, but still attempting to keep things fair and equal, getting through a crisis with one and before I've sat down having a crisis with the other and the sibling rivalry can be exhausting.

    But I wouldn't have it any other way. And neither would they.

    They may whine about sharing a bedroom, but when one of them is spending the night elsewhere, the other has a hard time going to sleep without her sister there. They share private jokes, they make up plays to put on for me, they comfort each other, and they are the best of friends.

    I understand their relationship because I have the same with my sister. 

    My sister is my best friend. My favorite childhood memory is the Christmas morning when she woke me up early so we could sneak up to see what Santa had brought long before it was time to wake up. We whispered excitedly about her new bike and my new Barbie house that were left unwrapped. We took our stockings back to her room to empty the contents and whispered and giggled together before we put them back. I felt loved, special, happy and warm all over just being with her and sharing something with just her.

    Now, we share laughter when no one else gets it, and we'll inevitably say the same things at the exact same time with the exact same inflection when we're together. We call each other sobbing, we call each other excited to share our latest best news, and we love each other too much to let any of our faults get in the way. With each other, we are totally and completely free to be ourselves.

    The scariest thing about being a single mom was what would happen to my girls if something happened to me. I was anxious to finalize my divorce so that I could put my will in place and ensure that they would indeed be all right - and together -  if I wasn't here to care for them. And someday, I won't be. There's a certain comfort in knowing that when that day comes, they will be holding each other and together, they'll get through it.

    Read more posts on The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir at the book club site, From Left to Write.

    While I was given the book to read for free, I have not been compensated for this post. The link to the book is connected to my Amazon Associates account, and any purchase made from it will generate a (very) small referral fee for me.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    F.A.B. Fridays

    Fab Fridays is an invention by a new bloggy friend with a fellow yearn for balance over at Wanna Be Balanced. She's doing a 52-week Plan, but I'm jumping in late, and rearranging the plan according to my needs.

    In my quest to put it all together, it's time to face those things where I've needed improvement for a very long time.

    Now I know why I've been avoiding them: for so long it was just about getting through the day, and sometimes just getting through the day seemed impossible! For the most part, though, the girls and I have a routine, we're getting along, and leading a fairly drama-free life (which is also why I'm finding it harder to post lately!).

    Well, now it's time to improve upon those routines. Now it's time to tackle the stuff that I've been avoiding. Most of it, you'll see, involves the domestic side of me which, admittedly, is not very evolved!

    I need to get better at de-cluttering. Granted, it was a little easier to do when we were moving every year, but now that we've been living in the same place for over two years, that stuff is starting to pile up! So I'm going to get serious about those FlyLady routines again, starting with de-cluttering 15 minutes a day.

    I also need to be a better enforcer when it comes to giving the girls chores. Sylvia was getting really good about doing laundry, but then when she was doing the play, I started doing it all of the time again. I need to get better about sharing the laundry love :)I need to give Riley more chores around the house, too. Especially now that she only has homework on Mondays and Wednesdays, she has more time on the weeknights to do things.

    I need to set goals for my future. I've never been good at answering questions like, "where do you see yourself in 5 years?" It was easy to say I just have to get through today when we were still getting on our feet, or I had built-in goals like finishing college. Now that those are done, it's time to think of my life in the long term.

    But I'll start one week, one Friday, at a time!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    The Ford Amphitheatre provides Arts for All

    I was invited to visit the Ford Amphitheatre, and we chose a Hip Hop Dance Festival, presented by JUICE to attend.

    The Ford has all the fun of some of our bigger outdoor venues like picnic areas and great setting, but offers a more intimate experience. Ford celebrates some of the smaller arts organizations in SoCal, and during the summer, has a special Saturday series for families with free tickets for children. (Parking is also a lot cheaper at the Ford.)

    I was glad we got this opportunity to be introduced to JUICE, a collective of hip-hop artists, and thrilled to learn about their open jam sessions on Saturdays and Thursdays where anyone can learn more about hip-hop and hone their skills. This is perfect for Sylvia!

    I'd only been to the Ford once before, but I was glad I wore flats for the Hip Hop Dance Festival! The house section of the theatre does not have stairs, and the hill can be kind of steep.

    While the Ford's summer activities are winding down, October 30 is the opening of their [Inside] the Ford New Play Series in conjunction with three L.A. theatre companies.

    Overall, I was impressed with Ford's commitment to showcasing a variety of art and their partnerships with so many artists organizations that I wouldn't know about otherwise. The girls loved the show and on our way out, we were treated to a fireworks show, courtesy of the Bowl across the freeway. And it took us a fraction of the time to escape the parking lot!

    Join the Ford's email list to learn about all of their upcoming events.

    Disclosure: We were given the tickets for free to attend this event, but I still spent money on parking,  hot chocolate, etc. I was not compensated to write this post, and all of the opinions expressed are my own. Because I'm way too opinionated to speak for anyone else.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    What I hope Tony Danza teaches us

    I watched the premiere of A&E's Teach: Tony Danza with a great deal of interest this weekend. Not because I'm a die-hard Danza fan, but because I'm interested to see a teacher's first year.

    Of course, I realize that this look won't be complete; that most first-year teachers don't have cameras following them around, Danza might get more help and support than other first-year teachers, and he's of course older than most first-year teachers. But I'm still interested to see what, if anything, we can glean from this.

    I found his first interaction with one of the Assistant Principals hilarious! She chastised him for not clocking in at 7:30, and said it didn't matter what time he got to his classroom, all in a very patronizing manner. And he looked like a kid getting called to the Principal's office, apologizing and hanging his head in appropriate shame.

    He was also completely nervous in front of his class, and his high school students teased him like they would any other teacher. Most of these kids had no idea who Tony Danza was before he came into their classroom.

    I was amused when Danza talked too much about himself (an actor with an ego? Well I never!), read his students' papers aloud instead of letting them do it, but he did recognize these things later, and I'm curious to see how much he is able to overcome that. How long does it take to change that sort of behavior?

    I remember teachers like that. Some get so enthralled with the sound of their own voice that they don't recognize the glaze in their students' eyes. They think we're glistening with wonder and awe at their brilliance. Sylvia has one teacher that she really likes, but from one Back to School Night, I know that he talks too much and strays too far from the subject.

    I remember once, in 5th grade, I asked a four-word question, and the teacher spent 40 minutes on his answer. Fellow classmates thanked me for asking him that question because it meant he didn't have time to give us homework since he didn't cover anything he was supposed to in class! I suspect there will be more instances where we can relate to this show.

    And this, together with movies like Race to Nowhere and Waiting for "Superman", might be what it takes to get this country talking about education.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Iron Chef Cat Cora, the Muppets, and Riley

    I was thrilled to attend an event with my favorite Iron Chef Cat Cora, cooking with the Muppets (no surprise here; the Muppet Show was my favorite growing up!) to promote DisneyFamily's Muppets Kitchen.

    Cora and her cohorts were so funny, entertaining, and full of great ideas for dealing with dinner, school lunches, and ensuring that our kids eat healthy. We tweeted during the event, using the hashtag #MuppetsKitchen. Cora answered questions on how to get kids to try new foods (just try one bite, and then try again the next day and the next) and sneaking vegetables into their meals. I loved the way she approached that one in particular: go ahead and puree the hidden vegetables, but then make it a guessing game while you're eating. This way, they get the lessons on how to make sure they get what they need, and may find that those "sneaky" vegetables aren't so scary after all.

    We were lucky enough to get to try some of the recipes available at the Muppets Kitchen, including trail mix popcorn (yum) and mini Greek burgers (very yum).

    We also got Cat Cora's latest book, Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist signed by my favorite Iron Chef, a mixing bowl that is almost too large for my kitchen, an apron, a bracelet with my favorite Muppets character, Animal, and...The Muppet Show The Complete Second Season! I'm so glad that my girls are loving it (almost) as much I do!

    Riley and I enjoyed time together in the kitchen this past summer, and this event reminded me how important it is to make time in the school year, too. Eating is a lifelong activity and I would love for her to have more skills in the kitchen than I did when I was first on my own. And let's face it, it's a lot easier to face recipes if there are Muppets involved.

    *Disclosure: the post states what I was given for free. I was not compensated to write this post, and the opinions expressed are completely my own. Call it pathetic, but true: I do love the Muppets that much. Oh, and the link to Cat Cora's cookbook is affiliated with my Amazon account. If you buy the book through that link, it will generate a small fee for me. Not nearly enough to put Riley through college or anything.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    My First Experience with Growing Pains

    Well, first is not exactly true, but it's the first since Riley started kindergarten. And it's the first time I'm beginning to understand Empty Nest syndrome.

    Often, in the difficult times, the thought of the girls being out on their own was the goal that kept me going! Not that I don't love being their mother, but to me, the true pay-off of the role is knowing that they're out there, doing what I raised them to do. I love that image in my head of years from now, enjoying each other's company as adults, all of us. So to me, that Empty Nest thing just didn't make a lot of sense. Until this week.

    Friday night, to be exact. We'd planned a family movie night. At the end of another busy week, it was going to be our chance to just chill together. I was really looking forward to that. But when I was picking the girls up from the Club, Sylvia asked if she could stay for Teen Night. I had no real reason to say no, so I let her stay.

    Our family movie night isn't that important, but I still felt that sense of loss from her choosing to do something else. I don't blame her for it, and I know it wasn't personal, but it was that realization of her world expanding. She's started talking on the phone more, texting her friends more than me, and when I picked her up, she wasn't full of details of her night.

    I know she was safe, I know it's perfectly normal for her to start having some privacy in her life. She isn't intentionally keeping things from me and she's entitled to not share everything with me. But there is that sense of a small hole in my heart. That there is going to be more and more in her life that doesn't include me.

    When Riley and I got home without Sylvia that night, Riley chose to enjoy spending time in her room without her sister. She's getting older, too. She needs her own space that doesn't include me or her sister. Again, I don't begrudge her that. But I was prepared to enjoy a night with my family, and instead, I was left wondering what to do with myself.

    Not to sound too maudlin, I didn't lose it or anything. I managed just fine, and we did enjoy some family time over the weekend. I know this is not the end of the world, merely an adjustment.  It is just another step on the way to that ultimate goal of them having full lives as independent adults. And more proof that as soon as I think I've got this motherhood thing figured out, it ups and changes on me as the girls continue to grow.