Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Passage

Summer Passage
By Kenna McHugh

“It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong.” John Cheever

One early summer morning, when I was nine years old, I had my first unexpected lesson about the birds and the bees. When I was young, kids went outside and played in the neighborhood. Today, with the overscheduling of kids and dangers that lurk around us, these aimless mornings seem like a thing of the past.  

“Let’s go fence walking. It’s still so early. It’s the perfect time,” I whispered to my older brother. Two years seemed a big gap back then and he was pretty much in charge. Fence walking is when we would take short cuts through neighbors’ yards to get to a friend’s house to play or say hello. Not every neighbor wanted children cutting through their yards so there was a little thrill to not getting caught.

My brother thought for a moment. “We can walk the fences to Randy’s house, and he can walk back to our house.”

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Our dog, Tami was scratching and whining at the sliding glass, refusing to be ignored or left behind. “Shh, quiet… you, stupid dog,” my brother said. Then, he looked at me. “She’s going to wake up the whole neighborhood. We’ll have to bring her. Fence walking is out. Let’s go.” My brother grabbed her leash and we set off.

“To the park?”

Tami was straining, pulling us toward the park. The sun was quietly starting to shine on the horizon, but we didn’t experience any moment of serenity because Tami was dragging us behind her.
I looked at my brother, “I’ve never seen her so excited.”

She pulled us to a house we didn’t know. Tami fixed her eyes on the house and barked. We heard a loud bark from the backyard, then a dog suddenly leapt over the fence and came running at us. We were so startled that we took off running. Tami pulled us to stop a couple of times, but my brother yanked the leash, pulling her along.

The other dog caught up to us and before we knew it, the two dogs were locked butt to butt.  My brother yanked and yanked, but we couldn’t pull them apart.  We had never seen anything like it. My brother pulled and pulled on the leash, but he just couldn’t get Tami free.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here. 

Finally, they came unlocked, and we went home. Our mother was up, and we told her what happened. 
“Oh no…Tami is going to have puppies.”

Two months or so later, my brother and I sat together and watched Tami give birth to 5 puppies.

Looking back, I was fortunate to be able to learn about life as it opened up to me. I hope the same scenario can unfold for my children. That they can learn a life lesson naturally, and, without anyone scheduling it in. But, I do need to be aware of their safety while giving them enough freedom in the summer for these opportunities to occur in their lives.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Family Road trips: Good and Not-So-Good

Written by Guest Blogger Schelle Lenssen

An old proverb talks about “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” My new spin on this classic wisdom is “a family road trip of 500 miles begins with the toddler throwing up in the back seat.” It certainly doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? But pretty or not, it's exactly how we kicked off the summer travel season.

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Every Memorial Day weekend, our family’s tradition is to travel to a cabin near Yellowstone National Park. Most years, this is one of our favorite vacations and we have accumulated many happy and fun memories after nearly a decade of trips. Unfortunately, as can happen when traveling with kids, we also have some not-so-great memories. When our oldest was a baby, we rushed her to Urgent Care when her fever got scary. Two years later, we called the Poison Control Center when she discovered, and sampled, a box of mouse poison. We've had vehicle issues, been caught in snowstorms, and now can add "cleaned up vomit on the roadside" to that ever-growing list of near-disastrous events.

Looking back on all the things that went wrong over the years (and almost caused me to lose my temper or sanity), it would be easy to just cancel the trip. But we don't. We truly love that tiny spot of paradise in the mountains. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy sitting next to each other on a boat, fishing for trophy trout while our daughters get spoiled back at the cabin by their grandparents and whatever aunts and uncles made the trip. Our little girls collect wildflowers, explore streams, and talk to tiny baby bison. Our oldest daughter sometimes comes fishing and when she caught her first fish a few years ago, I could actually see her confidence and strength build with every turn of the reel. These are the reasons we keep going back year after year. A little bit of vomit from the youngest isn't going to stop us. All the memories we make on this summer adventure – good and bad – become part of our collective family history.

Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find Eileen Wacker's award-winning family book series by clicking here.

The rest of our summer is nearly all planned out. A collection of overnight camps, day camps, local Vacation Bible Schools, and sports camps will see us rushing from activity to activity. We’ve also got plenty of time for blanket forts, sidewalk chalk murals, backyard camping, and family water fights. New swimsuits and flip-flops are waiting, ready to be worn for days on end. Summer certainly doesn’t have the same structure and routine of the school year, and we try to embrace that whimsy and make the most of it. Although, if the two-year old could keep her stomach healthy and not vomit in the backseat for the remainder of the summer, that would be great too.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Mom's Code Chronicle #6 Survival Tips for this time of Year

Written by Eileen Wacker

Every year at this point in time, I’m just trying to survive the end of the school year. Intellectually, I know the big bang of stress and crushing amount of must do’s are coming, but I still get caught unaware. My four kids are exhausted so I’m dragging everyone to the finish line. There are field days, class parties, end of year tests and projects, sports celebrations and more. I’m holding out hope for a strong finish, even as mounting evidence indicates that they are melting down.

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Part of my survival strategy is kicking some cans down the road. What gets pushed out is my fabulous get ready for summer diet and cute dresses to go with it, working out, organizing the house, me time, catching up on work. I work from home for flexibility but there is no barrier and all the chaos leaks in continuously. Bottom line, all my stuff gets pushed because I can’t push off getting all the items on the packing list for the sports broadcasting program, the tennis camp, the basketball and acting camp. The average number of items on each packing list is 42. It’s not drop off sun screen with a water bottle; it’s sheets, towels, footwear, shirts, shorts, swimsuits, hats, medical forms, risk clearance and countless other items.

I recognize and accept to some degree that summertime has now become about being strategic. It’s not all ice cream and bicycle rides; they have to get scheduled in. There is no way around it. Tutors for standardized tests, relatives fighting for the little precious time, summer school, sports and acting camps, and volunteer projects for each child to the degree possible. This year we have an 80th birthday party, a high school graduation, a college graduation, a cousin’s wedding, a one-year old that we have not met. Every relative from both sides of the family lobbies for us to come. We try but it’s never enough and I have to avoid feeling guilty that someone feels short changed and someone always does.

So how do I survive?

1   1)   My family is almost too tired to celebrate, but I insist we do. Because we have to. We are running so fast that we have to stop and reflect, even for a moment and recognize the accomplishment. So I’ll go to my little girl’s favorite restaurant and let her order the cheese fries and mac and cheese, even as my bathing suit self protests.
 
      The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here. 

2   2)   I make an agreement with my kids that I will try to say yes as much as I can but each one of them has to be nice and appreciative. No fighting and complaining. I tell them, “You want the one off ride to the beach, movie, friend’s house, pool, mall or wherever, make it charming for me in the car.”

    3)   I pull out little happiness tricks. For example, I’ll wake my little girl up with a Starbucks run or put a $10 itunes card on my son’s pillow. Whatever small item I can think of. I do this for teachers and coaches so I do it for my children as well.

4
 4)   I find a small window to see my girl group and also the female relatives I’m close to over the summer. Engaging in meaningful discussions that have nothing to do with the advancement of any one or anything is cleansing and feels like a cold glass of wine on a summer’s night. We all understand that we are venting and would not change out our reality for anything. Our souls know each other and it’s wonderful to reconnect.

5   5)   I vow to stay nice to my husband who is honestly a good guy, when he says, “How long are you gone? What about the dogs? Everyone is abandoning me to have a fun summer while I work like a mule. I can’t take care of dogs.” I just smile, make some arrangements, and continue to text him heart emojis while I’m gone.


Congratulations to all the moms who are surviving yet another year end and into the summer cycle.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Mom's Real Mother's Day

mothersday-momscode
Written by Guest blogger
Shelle Lenssen

I know Mother’s Day is just around the corner because my first-grader is getting tight-lipped about the big project she’s working on in art class. She’s also nonchalantly asked if my favorite color is regular pink, light pink, or bright pink, and if I have ever eaten breakfast in bed. Likely my future contains a lovely pink handmade gift and my bed covered in spilled pancakes and orange juice. This reality of what my upcoming Mother’s Day will look like is a far cry from what I visualized before I actually had any kids.

Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find Eileen Wacker's award-winning family book series by clicking here.

Before children were in the picture, I imagined my future Mother’s Days would be filled with fancy brunches, pampering, extravagant gifts, and lots of love and adoration from my husband and kids. Now that I’ve got 7 Mother’s Days under my belt, I can say my real version of Mother’s Day is a far cry from the fantasy. We tried going out to brunch one year, but the crowds were overwhelming to the kids, and what was supposed to be a leisurely meal was actually rushed and uncomfortable. While my husband has surprised me with some very extravagant gifts, in recent years, they’ve become much more practical. Last year, for example, we decided a repaired air conditioner was a better use of funds over a new pair of designer boots.

mothersday-momscode
Since my oldest daughter started attending preschool, she’s made me many fabulous gifts and cards that she’s presented to me with much gusto and enthusiasm. Over the years she’s given me handpicked flowers, macaroni jewelry, handprint art, a decorated picture frame, and a lovely “coupon book” filled with sweet intentions. My two-year daughter old isn’t quite up to speed on Mother’s Day, although I’m sure she’ll finger paint a project with lots of zeal and passion. Whatever gifts these two offer on that special Sunday morning, I will receive them gratefully and love on these two babies that bring me more joy than I can possibly contain. I’ll do my best to spend some individual time with each of them, and make sure they know I get to be celebrated because the two of them made me a mother.

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The most pleasant and enjoyable Mother’s Days have been the ones where I kept my expectations in check and therefore didn’t get disappointed when things weren’t perfect. Grilling steaks, eating out on the patio, and laughing at the toddler gnawing on a T-bone were the highlights of last Mother’s Day. If this year’s celebration is just as simple and lovely as last year’s, I’ll be more than satisfied. I enjoy my family more when we’re low-key and casual, and they like me best when I’m not stressing about unrealistic expectations, and having a loving, happy family really is the best Mother’s Day gift I could ever hope for.