Happy Birthday MLK


Happy Birthday MLK

Happy birthday MLK. You are one of the true leaders of our recent history who believed and acted to support your beliefs. I look forward to teaching the kids about you.

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Random Thoughts: Organizing, and Donating to Extended Family non-profit


Hi there.   Quick note to let ya’ll know that I am still here.  It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything.

Maybe it’s because there’s just a lot going on.   Maybe because I’m finding other outlets to feel good about myself.  Maybe because I’m emotionally drained thinking about the past few weeks of tragedy – that in CT as well as one that touched my daughter too closely (remember my post about her 4-year old “classmate” in her daycare center that fell ill and died).   She talks about this still, asks questions, and yes, she breaks down and sobs about death and loss.  She has felt loss this year in other ways as well.

So, I just have not been writing as much.

But I’ve been having fun with the kids.   I’ve given and received more hugs and kisses to/from them than I ever thought possible.   I’ve been excavating my backyard and building my winter garden.  I’ve been getting ready for Christmas and am looking forward to making it special for the kids this year.   I’ve been cooking.   I’ve been organizing and shedding.   Going through closets and purging.  It feels good.  Feels good to get organized and make room.

An organized closet

During this process I collected quite a bit of usable, good clothing that others could get use out of.  I wanted to find homes for old suits that have been hanging around in my closet for longer than I care to admit.  I started a search to find a non-profit that directly benefits working mothers – and I found exactly what I was looking for.

Check out Extended Family.   Essentially they are a non-profit that assists single, working parents who are in need.   Unlike many other non-profits, 100% of all donations go to the single working parents and families in need – the organization does not fund its overhead with your donation – it is operated by volunteers and lead by Mark Carmer who backs the organization with his own money.   Look at their site, they do a much better job at describing themselves than I can.

According to Mark Carmer, Founder and President of Extended Family,

“We assist single parents who are truly alone and have no assistance from the other parent. These single parents are employed and working hard for their families, but find it’s still not enough.

We have found that single parents who are employed, in an effort to improve the lives of their children, often fail to qualify for government or charitable assistance… because they are earning an income.  Extended Family believes these are the people who should be supported the most.  We believe in helping those who are working hard to help their family, but are alone in doing so… and need a little help from Extended Family.”

Quite impressive, huh??!?!?!??!?    I quickly packaged up my piles of suits and shipped them off to Mark at Extended Family.   I am confident that they will find good homes for them.

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So, now I feel much better that I’ve written something.  And something that hopefully you can act on – if you are in search of a great non-profit to make a donation to before year-end, please consider Extended Family.

I may write another post before the end of the year, but I don’t want to promise anything.   In which case, be merry with your loved ones and gear up for 2013!!

Best to all –

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Give and Take


Another season of giving is here.  This time of year always strikes me as a bit comical.   So much focused energy on give, give, give that the spirit of giving loses its meaning.    This notion of giving and taking intrigued me today because I was thinking about something to write about.  I was thinking about how these actions are at some level taught – or at least the recognition of these actions are taught at some level.  I’ve long believed that some people are just natural Givers, and some are natural Takers.   But thinking about it more, of course there is a balance between the two.   We give and we take.   I was thinking about this and how I, as a “newer” mom, would like to teach these concepts to my own kids or at least influence how they learn about giving and taking.   What a great time of year to do this… but yet, this time of year is so focused, so concentrated, so frenzied…. The “Giver and Taker” lesson is one that is so much larger – one that spans years, if not a lifetime.  How one gives, how one takes, how these roles change given certain situations and relationships, over time as you grow through experience.

I’ve also been thinking of “give and take” a lot during the breakdown of my marriage and this entire past year of the divorce.   But that is a different discussion and don’t wish to focus on that today.

We teach our children how to be polite when they are in the roles of Takers — “please“, “thank-you“… it starts early and at a very young age.   I guess it is much easier to learn how to take than to give.  As infants, all they do is really take take take, right?   But then as these little beings age we also teach the virtues of sharing and friendship.   We teach the importance of communication – of talking and listening.    To me, happiness is seeing empathy from my kids and seeing the interactions they have with one another.   Seeing the give and take of communication, sharing, problem solving, and yes of course fighting with each other.   Someone may need help – the other sibling is there to offer help.   I guess it is this balance between give and take that I see in my children that really, really, really, intrigues me.   I will want to explore this further at some point….

So, back to my point.  I was originally going to post something that in retrospect seems so trite… I was going to write about and understand how other parents are teaching their kids the virtue of giving during the holiday season.  For example, going to soup kitchens, giving away favorite toys to those in need, shopping for Toys for Tots, etc.    But when I started to really THINK about give and take – and the complexity of roles, and how there is give and take all around you – and the importance of give and take over the course of a lifetime (and NOT just for one month of a year) – my original thought of a posting just seemed so ridiculous.

And then I was looking through the web for images for Give and Take and found an artist that I think is incredible.  Lorenzo Quinn.   Please visit Lorenzo Quinn’s website, particularly his Give and Take III series.    He is a sculptor and his work Give and Take III caught my eye.   It is beautiful.   It is human.    It softened me from my original standpoint of Givers and Takers.   I see that we are all givers and takers.   We are all at some point in a position where we NEED to take – where we need help.   There are lines in these hands.   There are years of living in these hands.   At some point, you become a Taker.   You need to be a Taker and accept the help of the Giver.   The hands are so close.   There is a connection between the two even though they are not physically connected.   This piece is just simply beautiful to me.   I am now a big fan of this artist.   And he did change the way I originally thought about Giving and Taking.   This has softened me and I am thankful for this influence.

“It is vital to find a balance in life. Nature has been trying to teach us that lesson since the beginning of time. All opposites meet in their extremes.

You cannot fully enjoy receiving if you have never given, because you will not recognize the gift you have received if you value only what is difficult to obtain.”

source:   Lorenzo Quinn website

So I think what I would like to do is actually just talk about this picture with the kids.  And talk about the giving and receiving – and how each of us does both of those things every day in our lives.   And give them examples in day to day life (e.g., “you tell me you are hungry, I give you a snack“; “your sister wants to play with your toy, you let her play with it“; “you see your brother needs help to push in his chair, and you push his chair in for him“, etc.).    And I think I will ask them that at this time of year, people enjoy giving things to others and also receiving what others want to give.   And I think that’s all I want to write about right now.    And yes, I probably will still do something like go shopping for Toys for Tots, or a kid polyeana or something, but honestly this concept of Give and Take is so compelling to me that I feel the need to explore further in my own thoughts and in my own relationships with others, and think about how I teach this to the kids.

What are your thoughts on this?   How do you teach your kids the deeper meanings of Give and Take, particularly during this time of year when it is overly-commercialized?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Forget it! There is no way to stop time


A friend of mine sent me the below article link tonight and wanted me to share with you.  Thank you Mama G!  I agree that this is worth sharing – I believe it will strike a chord in you.   It’s something that we all know, something that we may wish away, and something that we may try in our own way to slow.   But you and I both know that you can’t stop time from passing us by.

Photo source:  inasinglestroke.com

I think of myself – how I try to document the kids’ milestones, how I take pictures endlessly, and how I do hope if I am lucky enough to live to an old age, that I can somehow, some way, remember what it is like now to be a mother to my children.

This post says it well:

http://www.blogher.com/letter-my-51-year-old-self?page=full

In my case I think I’m a bit older than this author 🙂   For me it might be a letter to my 65ish old self.   🙂   But still…. a good read and a good reminder to stop and simply enjoy your kids.

It’s hard as a working mother.  The weekends are not long enough.  And the weeknights are entirely too short.   But take in that time with your kids and leave the dishes aside.   Watch them interact and play.    Try to take that picture in your mind.  Or better yet, stop to think about the way these kids make you FEEL.   Because it’s probably not the minutia of the day that you will remember.  It won’t be the milestone of when the child lost that first tooth.  It will be the way you FEEL around your child that you will (hopefully) remember.   The fierceness of love, the never ending desire and dedication to do anything and everything that you can for that child.  The way that child could make you laugh from the deepest parts of your being.  The way you FEEL when you look into your child’s eyes.  The PRIDE you have for your child as you have a conversation with your little (or not so little anymore) one.

Take notice of those things.  Take mental notes — no “heart notes” of these FEELINGS.   Some will be good, crazed, anxious… but you will likely treasure those just as you do the pride, joy, admiration, connection, and undying love for each of your kids.

That’s all I will say for now –

I will have an emotional day tomorrow and I will likely need to write about it; so, until then;

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Remembering the first kiss


You may know that it is going to come your way.   You may have anticipated it; fantasized about it.  There is an excitement.  An air of anticipation.   The experience is yet an unknown.   How will he feel?  How will he smell?  Taste?   How will this go?   Awkward?  Or natural?   Out of the blue?   How soft will he be?   What will it feel like to have his lips on yours?

And then each of you draw near.   The questions cease.  Your wonder comes to an end.  The mystery is over.  The fantasy has been realized, or maybe the experience has left you sadly disappointed?

Increased heart rate, the smell of his neck, the feel of his body, the closeness of the touch, the feel of his hair, the feel of his embrace.  Leaving wanting more.

Are you like me and do you remember that first kiss?

Photo source:  kidzworld.com

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Working mothers are also women.   Sometimes strong, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes utterly romantic, and sometimes sadly oblivious.

Perhaps one way to get through the juggling of work and kids is to take a step back and think of your partner and remember that first kiss.  Remember how he made you feel.  Remember the reactions in your body, remember the thoughts in your head, or just the bliss of thoughtless “non-thinking” and just “doing”.

Yes, the partnership may lose its luster over time and also with added stress and the physical demands of raising children.  But maybe there is a way to get that spark back by thinking back on that first moment.  That first physical connection.   The first physical connection which obviously lead to much more… a life together, a family together.  Your children.

In my opinion we should work hard to remember that first kiss.  So much leading up to it, so much coming after it….

Are you like me and is that first kiss etched in your memory??

Take these polls and share your thoughts!

THANK YOU FOR SHARING!!!

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Parent Volunteering


During my day at work today I received a lot of emails.  Many were boring.  Many made me react like “Ugggh.”.   Some were mildly amusing, several made me laugh out loud (note:  I am getting my laugh back…. YEAH!!).   But I received one message today that really, honestly got me so excited and happy yet anxious and fearful all at the same time….. a request by Big Bro’s teacher to come to his classroom and volunteer my time during “Science Time”.

Of course I responded positively almost as soon as I received this email.   This is what I’ve been dreaming about.  Having the flexibility with work that would allow me to not only care for my youngest kids, but also get a glimpse into the lives of my older children while at their schools.   I find it strange transitioning from a mother who knows EVERYTHING about her kid (e.g., when last fed, burped, pooped) to a mother with an older child in school, where they are embarking on their own lives.  So much is unknown to us, to me.   And this is a good thing.   My son is his own person.   Why should I know everything that he has going on in a day?

Photo source:   artsedge.kennedy-center.org

Anyway, I have the opportunity tomorrow (Wednesday) to get a glimpse – 1 hour – of classroom time with him in 1st grade.   I’m so lucky!   And scared, I think.   The Type A personality in me would like to know what the subject matter is so I can prepare in advance.   (kidding.)

This has got me wondering about all of you… what kinds of reactions you have with volunteering and if you have the opportunity (or desire) to volunteer at your kids’ schools —

Have some fun and take the polls please!

What other thoughts can you share ladies?   What advice can you give me on “Science” in the 1st grade??!?!?!??!!??!   🙂

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Funding the Tooth Fairy for 80 teeth?!!?!?!?


About this time last year, I wrote about how Big Bro was on the verge of losing his first tooth and I wanted to understand what the going rate was for teeth for the Tooth Fairy.   See my original post.   

If you have been following this blog, you know I have four children.  That’s 80 teeth in total.  And if you’ve been following this blog recently, you are aware that Big Bro had his first adult tooth growing right behind his baby tooth —

Which led us to the Dentist, some laughing gas, hoses attached to his face, the other kids being swept away to a “play area” in the dentist office so they would not be scared about Big Bro, numbing swabs, several injections, a mallot, other small knife-looking instruments, what looked like plyers, and a very nervous mommy.     X-rays showed that his other adult tooth right next door was growing in the same way.   He was fearless.  He stayed still.  He was so brave.  I was shocked.  So, TWO extractions later, Big Bro’s mouth looked like this (self portrait):

So, the Tooth Fairy came to my house for the first time.  And, I was limited to what was in my wallet at the time.  I had normally envisioned brand-new silver dollars for each tooth for each kid… alas, those dreams swept away due to me not being prepared.    He received a $5 bill for the first tooth and a $1 bill for the second tooth.    All in all, 4 kids and less than $100 seems reasonable.    But that obviously does not include my stress level nor the cost of the Dentist visit, the majority out-of-pocket.  I guess that’s a subject for another post at another time.   🙂

I’d like to get your thoughts on what the Tooth Fairy is doing in your homes!    Take the poll!

Thanks for listening ladies and being there for this HUGE milestone for our family!

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: What does Labor Day mean to you?


I must confess.  I still get confused between Memorial Day and Labor Day.   I guess the “Ms” stick together, Memorial Day happens in May.   So today is Labor Day.  Hopefully this trick will stick for me going forward.

Historically, the holiday came about and was initiated by labor unions.  There is no real substantive underlying “movements” or monumental meaning for the holiday.  But in modern times it does signify, at least informally, the end of summer, parties, BBQs, being with family, taking it easy, shopping….

It seems like for working mothers there is a twist on words – laboring to bring our children into the world and also playing a role in the workforce.    It seems like this should be an extra-special day for us working mothers.  A day where we get to take a break from the juggling act and spend extra time with the family in a relaxed way.   A way for us to celebrate another year of working hard and surviving another year of the “grind”.   Yet also celebrating family, your kids… possibly the main reason you work so hard now to begin with.

Photo source:  milagrosboutique.com

For me… well what did I do?   I did not have the children today.   So I celebrated solo – not bad though.  I’m not complaining.   I woke up late.   I cleaned Cocoa’s cage.  I went food shopping.   I bought a patio set (taking advantage of 50% off end of summer clearance!!!!  I am psyched!).   I ate a lot of vegetables, but the smell of BBQ in the air made me think of cheeseburgers for most of the day.   I hacked down more dead raspberry bush vines to prepare for garbage pick up.   I am going to open up a Guinness and begin my “clean out my closet” project.    So, I think I had a pretty good variety of activity today – the only thing I missed was BBQ and the kids.    But I will see them tomorrow.

What does Labor Day mean to you?   How did you spend the Labor Day holiday?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Breakfast on the go


Now that school has started, I will be driving my four kids during the early AM commute to get Big Bro to public school in time — it will be a 45 minute trip.  I would like to have the kids get up, get dressed, and go… and serve them their breakfast in the car so they can each get some extra sleep, instead of doing the breakfast routine at home.  This will require more planning by me up front, but I think it will work out.   But I’d love some ideas from you!!!!

Photo source:  Parenting.com
This is what I’ve been thinking:

  • bowl of fruit, side of bread/tortilla
  • fruit smoothie
  • cheese sticks, sliced apples
  • pancakes (made in advance, then reheated in micro-wave) and then placed in a “tortilla” warmer container
  • chocolate Nutella roll ups in tortillas (e.g., our Chocolate Tuesday, Chocolate Thursday)
  • home-made granola bars
  • fresh made bread with my bread machine… I can program in advance and have the bread ready and baked for when the kids wake up
  • Yogurt, granola, nuts
  • bagel quarters with cream cheese/jelly

There are also some great ideas I found at Parenting.com.  Some of them won’t work for picky kids or for REALLY needing to run out the door, but there are some good ideas in there.  Check it out.

Any other thoughts?   What kinds of fast breakfasts do you do for your kids?   Which of these are “portable” to your car without too much mess? 

Please share!

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Random Thoughts: Helping a child feel at home in a different house


I am going to draw on my brother for inspiration for this post.  As my own family has been coming apart at its seams, his family is coming together.  He will soon be welcoming his son and the mother of this child into is home. I won’t go into details, but this reunion has been in the works for quite some time.  So long, that many, probably himself included, thought that this day would not happen.  But it is.   Their Visas are in-hand, and they will be traveling this upcoming weekend to join him in his home, for the very first time, and hopefully for good.

So of course my brother is now freaking out.  He is used to living on his own.  But now there will be a woman there as well, and a 4-year old son.   Imagine this situation from this child’s perspective.  Leaving a country that he has known all of his life, and coming to a new environment and having a new home thrust upon him.

My children actually experienced something similar to this, albeit much less severe.   But there were things I did to help them through the change.  Help them accept a new place as a new home.  Things to make them feel like they had their own space.  And some sense of control in a situation where they actually had no control.

So of course, when I heard this news, I started spewing out all of these ideas for my brother to think about.   Just ideas.  Thinking from his son’s perspective.  And helping my brother through his “deer in the headlights” look.

And these types of suggestions can actually relate to so many of our own audience… think about moving to a new house.  Or the arrival of a new sibling.   Or a new routine as a mother goes back to work.   Change can be scary for a child.  And there are things that we do as mothers to help children manage through these feelings of change and help them gain their sense of space and some control in their little lives.

Here are some of my suggestions to my brother, based upon my recent experiences with my own kids.  I’m sure that you can think of other ideas as well:

  • Have one of the lower kitchen pull-out drawers cleared out, so he can put his cups, plates, bowls, utensils in there and organized in a way that he likes.

  • Develop a “small” / “manageable” shopping list, and go to a place like Target to have him pick out: toothbrush holder, toothbrush and paste, bedsheets, bathtowel, bathmat
  • Have a set of bookshelves/stackable bins/ baskets set up for him to organize and put his “stuff” (e.g., cars, Legos, play animals, etc.)

  • Have a plastic container or backpack or something for his art supplies – crayons, markers, some notebooks, paper, stencils, etc.
  • Have him decorate his room with wall stickers

  • Get a fun night-light in a character that he loves (e.g., Cars, etc.)
  • Have a step stool ready that way he can easily reach lights, the toilet, etc.

  • Have supplies ready for a jacket hook and shoe bin for the closet.  Ask him where he would like to put the hook (left side? right side?  how high?)

And some of the things my brother can do in advance – get the gear ahead of time, and then have his son place the things in the home — things like step stools, plates, cups, etc.   Things where the “choice” is not in the look of the item, but really the placement of the item.   And again, I’m a big fan of Amazon.com so a lot of these things could be purchased in advance and simply delivered to his doorstep.  His son could open up the packages and have fun organizing his new things around the home.

There are probably lots more to add.  I think the key here is to give him as much control and choice as is possible; and also show him that he has his own dedicated space in the new home.   That they are working together with him to help him set up his space, to the extent that he lets them.  They are together in this, he is not alone, he has his things, and he has choices.

What are some other ideas that you can think of to help this child in his transition to his new home????  Please share…

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

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