Tag Archives: tweens

The Payoff

It’s not always easy to be a parent, and it’s really not always easy to try to be a good one…

  • At 3 a.m. when you have finally gotten to sleep and your child comes and wakes you because she’s had a nightmare (for the fifth time this week)…
  • When your four year-old has a meltdown at the state capitol and you have legislators from a dozen states giving you the skunk eye as you patiently sit and discuss the unfairness of life on the steps…
  • As your child goes through some stage that everybody has advice about and you patiently wait even longer for it to pass, having faith (almost completely) that eventually she’ll be able to pee alone or talk to strangers or sleep in her own room or whatever it is that is her personal quirk…

It’s super easy to be a great parent during the light of day when you’re well rested, everything is going perfectly and your kids are being fabulous.  That’s cake.

But the tough days and nights are where the payoff lies.

Those are the times when we don’t know if we really have it in us, but somehow we do, and later they come back to make it all worthwhile.

I am getting to that phase in life where I am gaining wisdom and wrinkles.  I’ve made it through phases that I thought would never end, to the point where now I almost forget that once they made me crazy.

I am lucky enough to still have little children but also lucky enough to have big ones.  Every day I see the payoff… the fears that have been resolved, the needs that have been filled and gone away, the phases that ran their course and the happy, healthy kids who have remained.

It’s sometimes bittersweet for me to have my little girls growing up so fast.  I’m not all together ready to be done with fairy wings and princess gowns.  Like it or not, I have preteens and am inches away from a full-fledged teenager.

But I am loving more and more the adventure of having big kids.

My daughters and I are taking part in some college courses given by international students at a local college.  Victoria and I are learning German, while Anna, Victoria and I are all learning Spanish.

There is something magical about sitting in a college class with my daughters on either side of me.

My once-shy Annalee, who hid behind my skirts when she was two, now is the first to answer some questions about how to conjugate a verb in a college Spanish class.

And Victoria, who changes on a minute by minute basis, has mostly decided that I am awfully fabulous to be around and wants me to come with her everywhere.  (Okay, sometimes I’m still absolutely terrible, but I’m happy to at least mostly rock!)

So I’m here to say hang in there… to those of you in the early years that try so hard to exhaust you, to those of you who have been plugging away with your good mama hats on and wonder if it matters at all, to those of you being told by all sides advice that goes against your heart… hang in there.

I’m not naive enough to think that the hard days are behind me.  Boy oh boy do I have a lot of crazy-making mama moments in store for me, I know.  But it is so nice to have come through enough to realize that I seem to be at least going in the right direction.

Here’s to the hard work of parenting, and to the little people we’ve created who are worth it.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
~Frederick Douglass

Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted.
~Garrison Keillor



Filed under the big stuff

Crazy Hat Girl

Victoria has been in the Wilder Pageant for 6 years now.  Every summer, she dresses up in an old fashioned dress, pinafore, braids and bonnet, and helps reenact life from the time when the Ingalls Family lived nearby.

Until this year.

This year, she is wearing an old fashioned dress, pinafore, braids and… this hat.

She wasn’t supposed to.  Her dad brought it as a possible costume change since he plays two characters, and she seized it and wore it for fun during dress rehearsal.  The director told her to go ahead and wear it, much to her delight.

This came as a surprise to many of the other bonnet-clad girls, who repeatedly asked her if she was really going to wear that hat.  She would tell them yes, sometimes they’d give her a look, and that would be the end of it.

Except for one girl.  This girl (whom I’ll call Pageant Girl) just could not get over the fact that Victoria was really, truly going to wear that hat in the Wilder Pageant.  She asked Victoria about it repeatedly.

The conversations went like this…

Pageant girl:  You’re not really gonna wear that hat, are you?

Victoria:  Yes

Pageant girl:  But you can’t wear that hat!

Victoria:  But the director said I could.

and later…

Pageant girl:  You’re not really wearing that hat though, are you?

Then the next day, after the first performance, when Victoria did in fact wear the hat…

Pageant girl:  Why are you wearing that hat?

Victoria:  Because the director told me to.

and later…

Pageant girl:  Why are you wearing that hat?

Victoria:  Because I want to.

and later…

Pageant girl:  Why are you wearing that hat?

Victoria:  Because it’s so awesome.

Pageant girl:  But it’s not awesome!  It’s weird!  And it doesn’t look good on you!

Victoria says, “We were next to The Bench of Teenagers and they all stood up and said things like It’s okay and It’s a cool hat and Hey, she looks fine.”

But still, later on…

Pageant girl:  That hat looks so weird.

Victoria:  Thanks.

Pageant girl:  I feel sorry for you, because there’s no way I’d wear that hat!

Victoria:  (Jumping onto a bench)  I feel sorry for you because you’re not daring enough to!

I have grown to love that crazy hat — and my kid for wearing it.  🙂


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Limited Time Only

I am running out of little girls.  I am so aware lately of how little time I have left for dress-up and potions and imaginary things.  Victoria is nearly twelve and my baby Annalee is ten.

Ten-to-eleven can be a crazy age.  Kids get moody, clumsy, sensitive, confused, irritable.  They want to be big, then they want to be little.  Mothers can become the enemy, even when they were faultless up till now.

I know it’s coming.  I’ve been through it once and have seen many other beloved ten-to-eleven year-olds start on that roller coaster.

Annalee has never been a boring child.  She has been emotional, dramatic, sensitive, energetic, talkative and exuberant since birth.

She has also always been childlike.  Where Victoria was born with an old soul, Annalee was born with a brand new one.

She relished being babied when she was a baby.  Where Victoria had no time for rocking and fussed if I tried a lullaby, Annalee delighted in being snuggled, dressed up, sang to and otherwise mothered.

She was the quintessential little girl when she was little.  She loved princesses, dress-up and make believe.  Everything was pink.  Everything was frilly or feathered.  There were ponies and dolls and sparkles (though not one to be typecast there were also soccer balls, jeans and a perplexing love for math).

And now, at ten, Annalee is still my little girl.  She spent much of yesterday hanging upside down from a tree so Victoria could try out her new camera accessory.  She made up a circus show in the back yard, complete with posters advertising free admission.  She is still crazy about all things Harry Potter.  She still calls me “Mama.”  She still asks me if we can do a craft, please, just the two of us.

I don’t want to misrepresent her — this child can drive me to the brink like none of my others.  She can push buttons, throw fits, take on attitudes and make me nuts.  She is no superchild.  But she is a super child.

Today, Annalee brought me a gourmet egg dish she invented herself (“fresh, local eggs,” she told me, “with chives I snipped fresh from the garden”), watched her little brother, washed walls, scooped the cat box, drew me several pictures, organized her father’s sockets, carried branches, posed for her sister, comforted Alex and ran errands — and most of it she volunteered for without even being asked.

She is a sweet little girl.

Little.  For not much longer.

I am so aware of the ticking of the clock.  I know how little time there is left of this particular girl before she is replaced with an older, wiser, more grown up girl.  She will be just as fabulous, but she will not be this child.

She can only be little for a little while more.

Someday soon, Annalee will outgrow Harry Potter.  Before I know it, it will be time for training bras… dating… college classes… In ten short years, her childhood will be a distant memory.

Tomorrow, Anna says she’s going to wake at 6:45 so she can make Daddy a special egg for when he wakes up.  I think I’ll wake up early too, and maybe do that craft.

“The days are long but the years are short.”


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Lessons From Victoria

Victoria is 11 but sometimes I forget she’s not 17 or so.  Or maybe 34.  Victoria was one of those babies that people always said had an old soul.

Look!  At one day old, she was already deep in thought.

Over the years, we haven’t parented Victoria (or any of the kids) in a strictly mainstream way.  I’ve never been that big of a fan of mainstream things, and when it came to parenting I preferred to follow my heart.  I also followed the advice of lots of other mothers I admired and read an awful lot of books, but I picked books that followed my heart too.

Along the way, I got a lot of advice that I didn’t ask for, and I pretty much ignored every bit.

Somehow, despite my parenting all wrong as far as at least a few relatives were concerned, she completely skipped any terrible two’s, did learn to fall asleep in her own bed, did not in fact test her boundaries and has pretty much been a terrific kid every day of her life.

Best of all, I thoroughly enjoy being her mother.  We sit and have long talks.  We teach each other things (she’s already way better than I am at anything computer related).  We crack jokes.  She reads my blogs and asks my advice.

And yes, I give her chores and math problems (we homeschool) and have some rules that she’s not entirely fond of, but she has a say in all of that too and she doesn’t seem to mind any of it too terribly (other than the math problems).

Tonight we sat and read through an heirloom seed catalog from 2005 together.  We read some of the cool stories of the plant varieties and I talked about what qualities to look for in plants for our area and we made plans for summer gardens.

Almost every night, we have talks like that.  I love them.

People tell you all the time that you should parent this way or that way or some dire thing will happen.  People care an awful lot about how other people parent, I have to say.

I think the biggest parenting lesson I learned from Victoria is that there’s a direct correlation between how much time you spend just hanging out and enjoying your child, and how great your child will turn out.  Not just being around each other, but really talking and connecting.

And that it’s always a good idea to follow your heart.

Or it could be that she just has a great head on her shoulder.  😉

And yes, I thoroughly enjoy the other 3 children too, but that’s another post for another day (and I don’t have pictures of them with snowball heads on their shoulders).


Filed under the big stuff

101 Things To Do With an Old T-shirt!

I love some of the ideas from Hide Your Armsabout all the ways you can customize and repurpose an old T-shirt!  Make a cloth diaper, a cool scarf, a dog tee, a bracelet, yoga pants… What a great way to spend a rainy day with kiddos.  🙂


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Magical Mama Sharon passed on this wonderful little mini movie that is actually a Thai commercial.  She wrote:

I just love your blog and know how strongly you feel about encouraging your children to be the best.  I think you will love this inspirational video.  It’s actually a Pantene commercial although I’m not sure what it has to do with hair.  But I love the message it sends and I shared it with my daughter and her friends.

It’s beautiful!  What a wonderful little story and the music is moving too.  Thanks Sharon!


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One Child Short

Victoria is once again down in Nebraska, staying with our wonderful friends Tiffany, Rex and kiddos.  They are like family, only more fun! 

This is day four or so of our oldest child being gone.  We miss her, but we’re glad she’s got the opportunity to do neat stuff like this. 

Last time Victoria was down in Nebraska, she had reached her infamous all-grown-up, who-needs-Mom stage.  I am pleased to report that she outgrew that and now misses me quite a bit. 

Is it wrong to be happy about this?  🙂 

Not that she’s miserable and not that I’m gleeful about it, but she calls frequently and wants to just talk and talk.  She says she wishes I were down there with her. We talked for 59 minutes just in one call.  Thank goodness we got unlimited long distance!

I’m glad my little girl is growing up, but I’m also so glad that she once again cherishes Mama time.  Eleven was just too young to give her up!

I hear she’s having a wonderful time, though.  She’s made new friends, helped babysit a toddler, gone on walks, played Wii and Nintendo and an invented magic dragon game, gone to the great big library they have (that’s a big deal to Victoria!), took a roadtrip to Kansas and even got to go to the (gasp) mall.  Yes, malls are big deals to us out here too.  We’re 90 miles away from the nearest real one! 

We’ve been trying to have extra fun around here with the younger kids.  I know it’s hard to watch their big sister get to go off on adventures with friends they all love too.  We’ve been on some neat field trips and had fun little treats.

Sometime in the next week, we’ll head south and meet up somewhere to pick Victoria up.  For now, she gets to play at having a funny British mom who makes wonderful tea, a take-charge dad who spoils everybody and a much neater, much quieter house with lots and lots of pets and fun new siblings.

And I still can’t wait to get her back.  🙂

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A Walk in the Moonlight

Tonight was not the easiest of nights.  Daryl and the girls had "media night" for the play they are in.  They have practice every weeknight and tonight they left early in full costume to rehearse act one and meet the press.  As with the rest of June, I was on my own with two little boys (one of whom can drive me to distraction!).

It was a long night.  Alex found the litter box and the scoop and left a trail down the hallway carpet and all the way down the stairs.  He dumped things out.  He wrote on Daddy’s new recliner with blue marker.  He accidentally scratched Jack.  He threw fits.

There are some nights when it takes all you’ve got to make it to bedtime, and tonight was one of those nights.

I got him cleaned up, the recliner cleaned up, the hallway and stairs cleaned up, and got him acting better and asleep.  I even got a bunch of enthusiastic toddler hugs and kisses before he dropped.  The rest of the house was trashed but it was a success in my book.

When the girls came home, we ended up having an impromptu music history lesson when I had Victoria look up "We are the World" on you-tube and talked about how Michael Jackson shaped his generation.  Then I was still wired from the evening and asked Anna if she wanted to go for a walk.

My kids love taking late night walks.  I’m not sure what it is about walking with Mama under the stars, but it has always been a treat to my kids.

Anna was still in her prairie girl costume, bonnet and all.  We held hands and walked around the neighborhood, talking.  I told her how I held her in my lap when she was a baby on the front lawn in the moonlight and made her promises.  She walked me to the magical cornfield and told me to make a wish for the fairies.  She also told me how so-and-so texted her boyfriend at rehearsal about the bench the kids were using.  She said she felt lucky she got to take late night walks with me.  I told her sappy memories and gave her hugs.

When we got back, I asked her to send Victoria out.  I’m glad Victoria is not too old to take late night walks with her mama.  I showed her my bulletproof roses that the neighbor thought were "brambles" and mowed down for years.  They grew in full shade on the north side of the house for years before we moved in and loved them into full bloom.  I told her how our back yard used to be nothing but grass, and how we bought 5 tiny lilac trees and 2 dogwoods to line the back and now they’re twice as tall as we are.  The gardens, the climbing tree, the raspberries, the roses taller than the garage… it’s all new since the house became ours and now it seems like it’s been there forever.

We went walking off down the side streets and I told her how we went walking on a night like this when she was a baby with my friend Jen and her daughter, Lizzie, and how we stopped in the moonlight for me to bend down and talk to her in the stroller.  I was being sappy and adoring her, and Lizzie turned to her mother and said in her most reverent five year-old voice, "That’s love."

I told her again about how many miscarriages I had before we had her, and how Daddy and I used to fight over who got to hold her.  I told her how much we loved her and how proud we’ve been every day of her life.

When we got home, Jack snuggled up in my lap while we watched late night TV and he fell asleep while I stroked his hair.  We never got to the books I meant to read tonight or the art project I kept wanting to do.  I hope the snuggling and the extra orange juice popsicles made up for it a little.

It’s the end of the night now, and it’s miserably hot inside.  We don’t have central air, just a window unit downstairs.  I’m hot and tired and there’s still more mess to clean up in the morning.  Tomorrow, Alex will wake in a fantastic mood and commence trying to drive us all crazy again. 

It was a trying night.  There were messes and tears and mayhem.  There’s no denying it.  But what I’m taking to bed with me tonight is the kisses, the snuggling, walking hand in hand with my daughters and making wishes by magical cornfields.

The rest will still drive me to distraction, but I still think it’s worth it.  🙂

Goodnight all.  Happy Friday!

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More Fun Tween Ideas!

Magical Mama Lonni wrote in to share a billion (okay, very slightly less) more fun things to do with your tween.  She’s raising some really fabulous tweens and teens herself and I love her list.  So here, lifted straight from the comments are her great suggestions….

I like your ideas and it got me wracking my brain. Look out, I feel like a chapter long comment is about to happen. ;o)

Hmmmm, you could…

-go clam shell picking at the river

-go pop can collecting (they aren’t worth much now but it’s a good excuse to go walking together.) You could do trash too of course.

-make cool projects using the sewing machine (bags, water bottle carrier, curtains, pajama pants, funky cloth table napkins or place mats, pillows, clothes for Webkinz, a quilt using t-shirt fronts…)

-build stilts out of lumber (most places will cut your lumber for youso you just have to screw/nail it together once you get home.)

-have a campfire in the yard, toast grilled cheese sandwiches and marshmallows on the fire, or just sit around it eating ice cream (just ’cause most people don’t think of that!) and talking. Harmonicas are optional. ;o)

-collect a hoard of video tape cases from a video store (these days they’ll give them away) and set up giant domino paths thru your house. Fun to watch them all fall and see if your design worked!

-wander around a furniture store. The massage chairs and lift chairs are such fun and always give us the giggles. One time we just hung out in their home theater area for an hour or so. No one said a thing to us. :o)

-play around with make-up and hair-dos. Ooooo! Get an updo at a salon then go out for dessert to show off. Someone said you can get this done cheap at the Cosmetology Training school.

-go pretend car shopping, just seeing what different cars are like inside, features, prices, gas mileage (could even test drive a new car).

-nose around in places you don’t normally shop like farm, sporting goods, hardware, home decorating, antiques, plant nursery, or fishing/bait stores. There’s always something new and interesting to find and talk about…yup, *even* at an appliance store.

-go fishing

-rent a paddle boat at the lake (around here it’s only $5/hour)

-take your bikes to the BMX track

-go to a skateboard park

-play mini-golf or get your frustrations out on the driving range (you can buy a golf club for about $1 at the thrift store)

-go on a creative photo shoot, seeing what interesting cars, buildings, signs, people, nature things, shapes, shadows, etc. you can find. Taking weird close-ups and odd angles, etc. Take pics of each other in unusual locations like trains tracks and doorways of old buildings and pics of each other doing every day things that you never think to photograph like pushing a grocery cart, paying for your food at McDonalds, or getting your mail.

-go out for appetizers

-go to a business that sells manufactured homes and ask if they mind if you go look thru all of them (my kids love this!)

-go to a camper dealer and check out their camper inventory (they’ve gotten amazingly nice!)

-go bowling (check at the college because you can usually bowl there cheaper than at the reg. alleys)

-for a few quarters you can play together at the arcade at a bowling alley (who doesn’t like skeet ball and air hockey?)

-try out some new baking ideas. We just bought fondant and a big set of bakers food coloring the other day. There’s a bunch of ways to be creative with fondant and it’s more fun if someone creates with you! Also look up cake pops on Bakerella or Pioneer Woman’s blog.  They’re adorable and a great way to play with food!

Dig around in books like "The Daring Book for Girls", "The Big Book of Girl Stuff", and "How to Be the Best at Everything". There are boy versions of these books too that are really worth looking at also, even for girls. Also those "Would You Rather…" books have some bizarre and hilarious choices and equal a good time together.

You know where I live, but do you know there’s a cheap theater here and you can go to a movie for $3/person? Their movies have just been thru the other theaters so are still pretty fresh. As a special treat now and then it’s kinda fun to go see something on the big screen and this makes it affordable.

Phew, now I’m tired. I hope there’s at least one new idea here you can use sometime. :o)

Um, yeah!  You’re a rock star, Lonni!  Will you be my mother?! 

(Harumph!  Victoria wants to know the same thing– disloyal child!)

Thanks for all the great ideas!  I think the giggling lunatic behind me and I will have some fun with lots of these.   😉

And is it bad that I’m happy to have my giggling lunatic back? 

Happy weekend everybody!

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Fun With Your Tween!

Yesterday I wrote about Victoria changing as she nears 11.  I loved reading the comments it generated, here and in emails.  It seems I’m not alone!

I did a little research to see what to expect the next couple of years and found a good article here that talked about typical changes and why they occur.  I’m a little more likely to let some things slide after reading it.  

Here’s a snip… 

Perhaps most significantly, the brain undergoes a major transformation that reduces a child’s ability to control her behavior and makes it harder for her to "read" both emotions and social situations. It’s not surprising, then, that your child feels strange, wonders who she is, becomes more prone to confusion and exasperation, and starts to "lose it" — even before the actual teenage years arrive.

The article is full of info.  It’s a good read!

But I also thought that I should come up with a new list of fun stuff to do with my unpredictable but still fabulous tween. 

Here’s some ideas I came up with. 

  • Go out for dessert
  • Shop garage sales for cool wardrobe additions
  • Hike, bike or otherwise get outside and exercise
  • Help her redecorate her room
  • Play cards
  • Watch chick flicks
  • Play soccer or shoot hoops
  • Take her to an art exhibit opening
  • Go boating
  • Go to the beach
  • Take more family camping trips
  • Arrange for her to have more fun activities with friends and just be there to yap about it when she comes home.  🙂

What’s on your list?


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