Friday, December 30, 2011

Link Up your family's 2012 Plan for Giving

“Family projects that involve giving to those in need during the holidays can be turned into powerful lessons that teach compassion, empathy, and meaning to children.”
  ~Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell

On the day after Christmas I wrote about the significant impact that the act of giving has on a child’s development. I also challenged my fellow bloggers to come up with an action plan to engage their families in the acts of giving and volunteerism. 

It’s time to share your family’s Plan for Giving in your blog!

Family Plan for Giving Linkup:

  • What? Create a blog post describing your family’s strategy for helping others throughout the New Year. 
  • How?  Your approach to giving may be as simple as donating your family’s gently used clothing to Goodwill on a monthly basis or going next door to help your neighbor with yard work.  Your plan may be as complex as having a new act of volunteerism coordinated with a monthly theme.  (GenerationOn is a great website that you can use as a resource for ideas)
  • Action. Be creative, thoughtful, and mindful.  Be meaningful.
  • Consider.  How will your Family’s Plan for Giving affect those you choose to help?
  • Consider.  What kind of impact do you anticipate your Family’s Plan for Giving having on you and your family members?
  • Action. Grab the button to add to your submission.

  • Action. Submit your plan, or blog post, by clicking the blue frog link, "add your link," at the bottom of this post.
  • Action.  Read as many plans, or blog posts, as you can.  The inspiration for this linkup is to share ideas and lend encouragement to each other as we embark on an important journey--positively impacting our communities and positively impacting our children’s development of empathy and enthusiasm for charity. 
  • Remember. The blogosphere is supportive, compassionate, and powerful.  If we do it right, we can change the world.
Be sure to come back on January 6, 2012  to vote on your favorites (do not vote for Sperk*).  The “Choice Plan for Giving” will receive a $20 donation in their name to a charity of their choice.

Don't forget to add the button to your blog!


Plan away. . .

Monday, December 26, 2011

Giving in the New Year

As you find a space in your top drawer for your new six-pack of socks, are you thinking about how to say thanks to the person who gave you that great necessity?  As your children fervently play with their new hand-held gaming devices, are they thinking of writing a thank you note to Santa?  It’s the day after Christmas and the kids are home on break.  There is plenty of time to establish ways to say “Thank you.”

Saying thank you by means of a hand written note, an email, or a cool video slide-show displaying how much your kids are enjoying their gifts can go a long way.  Dr. Price-Mitchell of Roots of Action, recently explained that our children gain the greatest “psychological rewards” through the act of giving, not through the act of receiving.  This may seem outlandish as we reflect upon yesterday morning’s squeals, smiles, and laughter.   But, in the quiet act of saying, “Thank you,” kids and teens are forming their values about giving—something that lasts longer than the novelty of a new gift.

After thank you notes are sent, we can find ways to sustain the spirit of giving all year.  Dr. Price-Mitchell  provides six ways to engage the entire family in the act of giving and volunteerism.  I am currently looking over one suggestion, getting involved at generationOn. GenerationOn has a great looking website that is bound to get your kids excited about helping others. There are sections for project tips, project ideas, and training with resources that make it easy to get involved in projects of your choice. It even gives recommendations to help your kids organize a Kids Care Club to involve their classroom community in the act of helping others. 

My kids called from their dad's yesterday and excitedly listed all the wonderful gifts they were given.  I am excited for them, of course, but concerned that if we do not do something to promote charity, they will miss out on a vital part of human development.   Dr. Price-Mitchell explains,, “Family projects that involve giving to those in need during the holidays can be turned into powerful lessons that teach compassion, empathy, and meaning to children.” 

Even though the gift giving is over, it is not too late to sustain our giving spirit.  There is another biggie coming up—New Year’s Eve.  When my kids return home on Wednesday, I am going to have a family meeting to discuss how we are going to give back to our community by helping those in need throughout the New Year.  I would like to include their dad's family too.  If we make an action plan as a family it will be more impactful than if I hand one down as a directive. 

I challenge you to do the same with your family.  Leave your ideas and/or what type of giving your family plans to implement for the New Year in the comments.  Thanks!

Or link up your ideas here! 

Price-Mitchell, M., Ph.D. (November 21, 2011). The gift of giving: How the holidays shape
        children's identities. Roots of Action. Retrieved from

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Two Household Christmas

“Communicating your love for your child is the single most important thing you can do.” 
 ~the editorial staff at

Our Christmas is tomorrow, December 23. My coupons are not printed and I still have bite size cheesecakes to make.  If I had until the 25th, I doubt I would have more accomplished—maybe more stocking stuffers purchased, but not more cookies baked.

Tree, by Antonia, age 11
We are celebrating tomorrow because we are a family of two households.  This year my daughters will be with their dad, step-mom, and step-sister on Christmas Eve and day.  This is problematic for some families and I understand why.  I can feel envious when it’s their father's turn to have them at his home on the calendar day of the holiday.  But this family is a baseball diamond with two home plates where the kids always come first.

This requires communication.  Technology has helped.  My ex-husband and I primarily text and email.  We call when necessary and it's pleasant.  When the girls are with him and his family on the weekends, he keeps me updated on their happenings.  When they are here with me during the week, I regularly update him on their school performance, personal issues, and activity schedules.  We both are aware of what’s going on with grades, crushes, friends, sleepless nights, tummy aches, and accomplishments—the big and the small.  We may no longer be husband and wife but we are still Dad and Mom.   

The girls know that their dad and I communicate regularly.  Our communication is apparent because the girls hear from their dad before dinner about a D- on a science quiz.  They know we have been talking when I ask, "How was going out for pizza on Saturday?'

Having two households is not ideal.  Divorce is messy and emotionally damaging.  But I remember my therapist of a few years ago telling me, "The most important thing you can do to help the girls is to give them respect and love."  I respect them as human beings.  I love them as my daughters.  Therefore, I never let my fear or anger stand in the way of communicating with their dad.  I do not always get it perfect.  And when I don’t, I forgive myself, move on, and try it another way the next time.

The other night, while tucking my 13 year old into bed, I asked, "Are you looking forward to Christmas?"

I thought she may express some uneasiness over the irregular schedule caused by her school break.  I anticipated hearing her express sadness caused from her parents being divorced.  I expected her to be upset that she was having two celebrations and only one of us on Christmas day. 

She said, “Christmas is magical, Mom.  Everyone is so happy.  I am really looking forward to it.”

I said, “Even driving to Wisconsin to see your step-mom’s family?”

She said, “Yes, I like going to Wisconsin.  I have fun there.”

Well, if the kid likes Wisconsin in December, we are doing something right.

There may be two home plates on this baseball field.  There may be two managers.  But there is only one team and the players are all-stars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Celebrate Family with Web 2.0

We have plenty to do.  There are more cookie recipes to try, presents to buy and the tree has been up with just lights and no trimmings for three days. But after the gifts are opened and bellies are full, what do you do?  You can gather around your technological devices and remember 2011.  Here's some ideas:

Make a family infographic.  I got the idea from My Life as Prose.  Each family member can make their own infographic based on 2011, then you can share and compare.  Find infographic ideas at, a site I came across in one of my daily reads Free Technology for Teachers.  Other Web 2.0 tools for creating infographics can be found at MakeUseOf.  (Always preview internet content before browsing with your kids or you may end up discussing things you haven't planned).

I quickly made a family themed infographic at Wordle.  My kids have used this application at school and love it.  The one below was done hastily but still turned out visually appealing.  You can copy and paste text from blogs, journals, and newletters written throughout the year or input words that identify meanigful people and events of 2011.  Once the text is entered, the app generates the infographic for you.  If you like, you can customize the layout, colors, and fonts.  

Get out the popcorn. Make a family film. Last year during the holiday break we made our own video.  We simply used our digital camera's video app and editing tools in Windows Live Movie Maker.  As an alternative, I know you can make some great video slideshows at Animoto.  My daughter made one for her dad of photos and videos from her birth to now and it brings tears to everyone's eyes.  This would be a great way to celebrate 2011 either by creating a video slideshow together or each family member making their own and comparing different perspectives of the same events.  Or you could film a "Year in Review" news broadcast, a cooking show demonstrating how to prepare the family's favorite meals of 2011. . . the possibilities are endless.

I haven't decided how we will make our family film this year, but it is fun to look back on the one from 2010:


Create a family treasure hunt based on family events that transpired in 2011 using the QR Treasure Hunt Generator.  This looks incredibly fun but I just stumbled upon it today via @russeltarr on Twitter and have not tried it.  It is definitely something I am planning to do for our New Year's Eve celebration.

Don't be afraid to incorporate Web 2.0 applications into your family time during the holiday break.  It's a great way to support your children's media literacy skills, which are vital to today's tweens and teens, along with sharing memories of 2011.  There are many more tools out there and if you have some to share, let me know!  Remember Ed tech is not just for teachers.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gratitude for Quirk'n It

Jennifer, who writes Quirk'n It, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Before I begin to compose the nomination criteria, I must confess I had not heard of the Versatile Blogger Award. I did a Google search and could not find its origin. Our friends at Wikipedia do not have an entry for it.  Therefore, I have surmised that it is recognition from a fellow blogger.  Acknowledgement rules.  I am grateful, humbled, and surprised.
The rules for the Versatile Blog Awards are:    
  • Nominate up to 15 fellow bloggers.
  • Inform the bloggers of their nomination.
  • Share 7 random things about yourself.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Add the Versatile Blog Award picture on your blog post

I could write a brief description of these blogs, but it is better to go to these places and see them as they are meant to be seen.

Honest Conversations
Stuff that Bugs Me 
Literal Mom
Do Sweat the Small Stuff
Mommy 2 Cents
Striving to be Bold

Seven Random Things about Myself

I love Monster energy drinks.
I am addicted to salt and vinegar chips.
Santa has never brought me a German Shepherd.
Music makes me happy.
My kids make me a better person.
In my former life I was a movie star.
I beat my addiction to Say Yes to the Dress.

And now I will thank Jennifer, the blogger who nominated me:  You’re inspiring.  Thank you. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Logo Maker on Web 2.0

A few days ago I wrote about my attempts to create a blog header that best represents Sperk*.   I wanted readers to arrive here and have an idea of what I am communicating through my writing.  Visual identity is essential in the blogosphere because it is saturated with millions who have something to share.  Standing out can seem impossible.  I simply wanted to be identifiable.  Even though my blog is still in a stage of development, I was able to discern that I wanted the header to be professional looking, simple, and not too formal.  I wanted to make sure readers felt comfortable and compelled to scroll down, read, and discover how Sperk* is unfolding.

Today I used LogoType Maker, a Web 2.0 tool that I discovered through Diigo's Hot Bookmarks, to create my header.  LogoType Maker was easy to use.  When I arrived at the site, I typed my blog title into the field labeled Type Here, clicked Generate LOGO, and it generated 12 logos that were ready to be saved in the bookmarking field.  I clicked randomize a few times to get some ideas and see if anything spoke to me.  I tried a few of the editing options on the ones that were stand outs.

Editing was easy.  I modified the generated font to one that visually complimented my existing blog layout.  I wasn’t happy with the font colors and was worried I would have to change the colors of my blog in order for it to match.  I was relieved to discover that I could easily input the #RGB’s from my blog to be applied to the logo font.  

Uploading my own photo was as easy as uploading it to Blogger, Facebook, or any other site that has photo uploading.  I did not like the way it looked.  This was an issue with my photo, not with LogoType Maker.  The photo was easy to delete.  I chose one of the provided images and liked it better than what I was going to use.

The application uses three layers for the font, photo and background.  Each layer is easily manipulated for placement and size.  I made five different logos and saved them as .png files to my laptop.  There are options to save your logo as a .pdf or a .zip file, too.  

I uploaded one of the five logos to my header and did not like how it looked.  No problem.  I easily removed it and tried another.  I did this until I decided on the one you see now in my header.

LogoType Maker was fun and easy to use.  It is great because it is free and has some features that come with purchased software.  I was able to quickly create a professional and relevant logo.  And I already have ideas for other LogoType Maker applications: to create my Facebook Timeline header (guide from Mashable) and a Christmas gift for my girls.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coupon Expires: Never

What started out as a day of observation for the ancient Christian church is now a day where kids sit by a perfectly decorated tree playing with what Santa has brought them for Christmas.  The evolution of the holiday and its traditions is not a fault of ours.  It became the day of the ultimate gift exchange at the turn of the 20th Century.  We can blame our ancestors for it.  But the commercial stress bomb of Christmas, we can blame on ourselves.  I have fallen for it many times.  There is insane pressure.  “What are you getting the kids for Christmas?” has replaced the ritual of asking, “How have you been?”  

For two-home families, giving Christmas gifts becomes a well-orchestrated event.  Dad’s giving the iPod Touch; I will give all the accessories.  "But wait.  I wanted to give them the iPod Touch.  They’ll think he loves them more than I do!" I have never said that aloud but I have worried about it.

It’s difficult to escape the message of over-commercialism.   It’s there every time I check my email and see another 50% off coupon code.  It’s there when my daughter comes home from school and says, “My friend Lucy is getting a pair of UGGs for Christmas.”  It’s there when I pick up milk at Kroger and see the wall of gift cards that gives subliminal suggestions.  It’s actually funny when they ask if I’d like to give one dollar to help end hunger.  “No, I can’t.  I have to buy my child this $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble.”  It's as if I am a better parent if I give my kids books instead of toys.

I am tired of the pressure.  I am tired of what it causes me to think.  I am becoming one of those people that do not agree with the tradition of giving my children gifts. Even if I couple the gift giving with a trip to the homeless shelter to help serve Christmas dinner, my kids will still think of Christmas as that day they get tons of presents.  But I am not to the point where I am going to announce, “This year there will be no gifts!”

They’re getting some clothes.  They need them.  Every year I get them a wall calendar for the New Year.  I am keeping that tradition. 

Last year I started another tradition:  making coupons.  I got the idea when I saw a romantic coupon book while in line at Barnes and Noble.  I thought, “why not make one for the kids.”

I didn’t have the time or the talent to make a book so I found a template at Microsoft Office.  I made 12 coupons for each daughter with the intent of them redeeming one per month.  I put them in coordinately decorated envelopes.  Coupons were  "Good For":

Day alone for Mom and Me  (Activities chosen by redeemer of coupon).
Mom takes a friend and me to the movies
One shirt from the Delia’s sale table
Breakfast in bed
Dinner out (Restaurant is redeemer’s choice).
Pizza Night
Sleepover with a friend at Mom’s house
One day of unlimited screen time
In-home pedicure

The envelopes contained one of each coupon with some of them duplicated to equal 12.  Some of the coupons, like the one for the sleepover, required planning, so I told the girls they had to let me know in advance--about three days--when they wanted to redeem them.  This worked out well because even if I couldn’t accommodate the coupon, I could plan for it the following month.  Then they selected an alternative coupon to redeem sooner.

Antonia has coupons left over that I am allowing to be rolled over into 2012.  Sophia lost some of hers and sometimes can be caught staring longingly at her sister's which are pinned to her bulletin board.  And both have asked if they are getting them again this year.

Yes, my girls will get coupons again this year.  I am looking forward to making them.  They are a yearlong reminder of the reason I give Christmas gifts to my girls:  because I love them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Driving Online Without A License

Last year my young teen daughter began whining “I NEED A FACEBOOK!” at a pitch that would drive even the well-adjusted ear mad. This happened at least once a day with exponential growth occurring in how often and how loud this exclamation was heard.  On the rare occasion that she could calmly speak about the topic, her argument was that all her friends no longer used email or Google Buzz.  According to her, there was “. . . no way to keep in touch with everyone.” 

I found this a bit silly at first considering that I survived my teen years without the internet.  And yes, she no longer went to school with her closest friends, but she could always pick up the cell phone I provided for her.  And all of her new school friends lived within 2.5 miles of the house.  Why Facebook?

She exclaimed, “Everyone is on Facebook!”

She was right.  Even though I frequently discuss the perils of peer pressure, I could not see keeping her from the place where her friends were socializing.  It’s no longer at the corner pizza place, on the phone, or even via email.  Facebook is a necessity.

I did not want her to begin interacting on Facebook before she had a clear understanding of the responsibility tied to using technology for social networking.  If I said, “Here are the keys to the car,” before she had driver’s education, I would be off my rocker.  So here’s what I did:

I created a social media research project that had to be presented to me in order to open a Facebook account.  

The project included short essays and presentations on various topics concerning computer literacy and social media.  She wrote about the history of the computer, the internet, Apple vs. Microsoft, Facebook, Google, LAN and WAN, netiquette and Socialnomics.  Presentations were made using either a Microsoft Office or Web 2.0 tool.  

Photo Credit
She was very resistant to the project, but the desire to have a Facebook account outweighed her disdain for the idea of the work involved.  Because of her school work and activities, it took her three months to complete the entire list of project components.  And some I had her edit or do over until she illustrated she had an understanding of what she learned and how to apply it.  

Was it a lot of work?  Yes.  

Was it fun?  I am sure she would say, “No.”  But I disagree.

The video recorded interview that she did with her dad, a retail executive, for her presentation on Socialnomics, looked fun to me.  And her use of PowerPoint, Windows Live Movie Maker and Prezi for other presentations exhibited signs of fun and creativity.  She was also required to create a web page using Google Sites.  Even if she would not describe it as fun, I saw some excitement in her face when she was researching facts about the Beatles to include on her site.   

There was more complaining to endure when she reached the final component of the project because the required length was longer than the rest.  It was the most important entitled, 

How do I want the world to know me?

I explained that once she enters the world of social networking, she’s there forever.  Every post counts.  This is how everyone, all of the friends she wants to keep up with and the world, will know her.  There is no taking it back.  There is no chance of a verbal explanation of what she intended to communicate.  Posts online are Polaroid snapshots of her life on her permanent record.

She tackled the How I Want the World to Know Me presentation by using the web camera on her laptop.  She toted her open laptop around the house giving details about why she likes spending time in each part of the home.  This was clever.   Even though it is difficult to go unnoticed in this small house, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the specifics in her final edited video.

She was elated when the project was approved.  She squealed with excitement that she could finally become social again. She thought, “Project complete.  Facebook account opened.  Done.”

She was wrong.  I set up expectations for using Facebook.  Online safety is crucial. But this was more unpopular than the research project.  

Some of the guidelines I set are that I am to know her password, do random spot checks while she is online, and limit her time spent socially connected until after homework is done.  The time boundary is difficult because social media is a powerful collaborative tool for homework.  This is where coming into her room and peaking over her shoulder, or ‘spot checks’, becomes effective.

Online safety issues continue to emerge and evolve as she gets older and her circle of friends becomes larger.  I recommend setting a limit on the amount of friends your child has on Facebook.  I also recommend you know who your child is friends with on Facebook and know who she interacts with the most.  It’s not an easy task.  It takes time.  But remember, you can’t drive by the corner pizza shop to see if your kid is hanging out with the wrong crowd.  It’s online.

We can’t keep our kids from socializing online.  We need to support it just like every other stage of development.  This is our responsibility as global citizens.  We must not be afraid.

Even if your kids are already using social media, I encourage you to implement a research project.  The project can include how they use technology for socializing, school, and entertainment.  It will give them opportunities to try new applications, develop critical thinking skills, and become aware of online safety.  It will support the development of media literacy.

It may be fun to do a project with your child.  You can brush up on your knowledge of your home network, new software, and your own online persona.  But do not go back and look at your old MySpace profile.  That is, unless you want to show your kids what happens when you get the keys to the car without a license.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Ed Tech is Not Just for Teachers

I spent the morning attempting to make the header on my blog eye-catching, representative of my writing, and professional looking.  I am not the most versed in design software so I chose to use a combination of Microsoft Word, Photobucket, and the snipping tool accessory.  It may have been easier to either install Photoshop on my laptop or open my daughter’s laptop that already has it installed.  However, I am not confident in my skills with Photoshop.

Although I don’t think it’s representative of how much fun adolescent girls are to parent, I got the header to look acceptable.  Then I continued with my morning reading of blogs and posts of interest.  During my stop at Diigo, I found the link for LogoType Maker in the Hot Bookmarks.  I need to give it a try before I give you any feedback on it but some of its listed features are: upload images; modify logo, drop shadow; outline; cliparts; export png, zip, and pdf; and FREE.  I am assuming that had I used it for my header, it would now be just what I intended.  

If I was not an educational technology enthusiast, I would not have come across LogoType Maker.  One year ago, I was in a computer literacy class required for my degree in Early Education.  There were several Web 2.0 sites that were mandatory to use and Diigo, a bookmark sharing site, was one of them.  Also included on the list were Jing, similar to the snipping tool but better, and Prezi.  Prezi, an application for creating lively presentations, was the most difficult for this digital immigrant to learn, but the results were incredible.  From there I came across Free Technology for Teachers, an educational technology resource blog.  And from there I . . . I am now addicted to educational technology.

Ed tech is important to everyone, obviously, because it is being implemented into our children’s schools.  Even if I didn’t have school-age children, I would still want to know what was being implemented in my community's school curriculum.

 Also, applications found across the web are great for use at home.  Parents can support their children’s engagement in media of all sorts.  This increases their media literacy skills, especially when parents spend time with their children as they interact with peers online.  There are even great applications for creating cool videos, interactive timelines, and ebooks that can be used for creating unique family memories.

I am finding that educational technology gives light to easy to use applications that are not just for the classroom.  They are tools that can be implemented into personal writing and parenting blogs.  Because ed tech writers introduce media-rich applications as they could be applied in a classroom, they break it down very simply because teachers don’t often have time to implement tricky tech stuff--nor do bloggers. 

If you want to get started following educational technology because you are a parent, a blogger, a blogging parent, or just someone who wants to know what’s new and hip, check out The Edublog Awards Blog.  There is a comprehensive list of ed tech teachers’ blogs that were nominated for awards.  You are likely to find something useful and fun.  And if you find a blog you like, go ahead and give it a vote!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zipper Binders and Braids

Heading into the weekend without an itinerary leaves opportunities for me to shift roles from task manager to parent.  The down time offers moments void of activity that foster the emergence of my daughters' true personalities.  This is a joy and gift, but sometimes can be overwhelming.  I have read that kids change in adolescence and become unable to listen and respond in a sensible way.  But I never thought my girls would actually exhibit this behavior as they morph into teenagers.

During a middle school orientation, the principal explained to parents that our children would lose things, forget things, and basically become unrecognizable.  I thought, “Sophia won’t.  She’s very organized, conscientious, and diligent at keeping up with things.”

Not long into the school year I began to hear, “I forgot my notebook in my locker or maybe it’s at Dad’s.  I don’t know, but I can’t even do the assignment anyway because the teacher hasn’t posted it on Power School.”

It was happening.  The principal's prophecy was coming true.  And it continues.

Sixth and seventh grade science classes seemed to be no problem for Sophia.  Eighth grade has been different.  Two weeks ago, after she explained to me she had to retake another test for mastery, I asked her how she studied for the tests.  She pulled out a folder stuffed with papers of several different scientific themes arranged in a motley mess.  

Then I asked if she kept a notebook, and she replied, “Yes.  I use one for every subject.”

I replied, “You mean you have a single notebook designated for each subject?”

She responded, “No.  I mean I use one notebook for everything.”

The notebook wasn’t even organized by subject or date.  No headings.  No sign of structure to be found.

I was puzzled for I now had no clue what was going on in that other note keeping device--that giant pink zipper-binder that is toted to and from school every day.  I guess it doesn't contain anything that is needed for studying.  Is it some sort of new fashion trend?

Not to fuel any sibling rivalry, I do have stories about Antonia that add to my astonishment.  I am saving them for later and I am sure more will emerge as we stumble through the next two days--the weekend.  These are the hours in which I can let go of task managing and become reacquainted with these young women who are testing the waters of independence.

Sometimes it’s scary to think they’ll have to navigate through life without me someday.  Until then, I will continue to tuck them in at night.  I will still braid their hair when they ask.  And I will always drive to school to retrieve forgotten notebooks.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I am a Role Model

I made it through the interview.  The most fun part of preparing was sharing the inspirational Wonder Woman Season 2 opener with the girls.  They giggled exuberantly and Sophia said, “That just may be the cheesiest thing I have ever seen!”  Their laughter made me feel like a super hero and I felt good going into the interview.  Self-talk switched onto positive and focused.

The one negative aspect of the interview was that I do not think I want to work for the company.  I posed a simple question to the assistant director: “How does your curriculum support the educational philosophy of your center?” She replied very ambiguously.  Was she unsure?  Knowing what impact early education and care has on the kids in that center, on their families, and on the community, this was disappointing

The facility was beautiful and appeared to be safe.  Because of the assistant director's inability to clearly explain their program, I surmised that it was typical to a daycare out to serve their bottom line and not their families.  Nevertheless, going through the interview process for the first time in 20 years and performing successfully was valuable. Success begets success.

Afterwards, I arrived home to my two daughters lying at either end of the couch.  They were home sick with strep throat.  I said, “I got the job of Executive Director of the center and will be making $500,000 a year!” 
They replied, “Really?”

I said, “Of course not, but it was a step in the right direction.”

It’s beneficial for them to witness me completing my degree and embarking on a new career.  It’s good for them to see me nervous, see me prepare, and see my reactions after interviews.  I’m a role model, I know it.  And when I do it right, it feels good.

Wonder Woman beware.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Judge it Mercilessly

I had a phone interview yesterday with a prospective employer.  I was nervous.  I thought I was more nervous than one would normally be during a phone interview.  Tomorrow I have a face-to-face interview with another prospective employer.  I am nervous.  In my mind, I am more nervous than normal.  But, what is normal?

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary nor-mal is: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle.  

What does the typical stay-at-home mom with a 13 year tenure usually feel like when she reenters the workforce and changes careers?

Probably like me.

What am I going to do about this nervousness before it becomes a paralyzing issue?

I am going to start by coloring my hair.  The last time I did my hair it turned out deep blue.  It is noticeable only in certain light and from proper angles.  But I do not want to spend the entire interview with my head propped in a certain way.  It seems that would be odd and make the interviewer uncomfortable.

I am also going to focus on positive self-talk.  Remember Stuart Smalley?  Well, he was onto something.

During one of the nightly talks I have with my 13 year old daughter as I tuck her into bed, she expressed severe worry about what people may be thinking about her.  It occurred to me that the pressure to fit-in in middle school is as real as it was when I was a teen, if not worse.  I told her,

“The only thing you should judge about yourself is your self-talk.  Judge it mercilessly.” 

I have no idea where those two statements came from.  If the message was in my arsenal of parental sayings, I wasn't aware of its presence.

I have been following up by asking her about her self-talk.  She’s been answering with descriptions of combating self-doubt like a true lady warrior:

“Mom, I realized that if I wear something nice to school, I feel good and am able to concentrate all day.  I don’t worry about how I look.”

OK.  Awesome.

Or, “If I hear myself putting myself down, I say, ‘that’s not true’.”

I can surmise that she is putting into practice valuable life-skills.  I couldn’t be more relieved.  Check mark in the column labeled, tools to give daughter so that she does it differently than I did.

Negative self-talk has plagued me like consumerism and debt has plagued America.  Even when I was performing successfully in my first career—dance—I had the compulsion to constantly and harshly self-criticize.  It was rare for me to embrace a triumph or celebrate a victory. I have carried this auto-negative behavior with me right into the second act.  

Why?  I could look around the room for someone to blame.  I could blame the nature of the performing arts industry in which I was an active participant for many years.  I could blame the president, but he probably is having the same issue.  So, the fact that I spontaneously came up with that little tidbit of motherly advice was a moment of parenting grace.

For tomorrow’s interview, I'm going to color my hair and get a new sweater in honor of my daughter's new-found skill of self-care.  It was she who said, “. . . if I wear something nice . . . I feel good. . . .”

I am going to update my resume because the last time I looked at it the self-talk that occurred was, “That looks like the work of a kindergartener.”

Lastly, and you won't find this tip on, I am going to watch clips of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman .  Yeah.  Wonder Woman.  Because there was a time when I believed I could be her when I grew up.  If I get the color of my hair just right, I will be.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Murky Monday

Mondays are typically awkward for the mere fact that weekends are too short.  I just get used to a more free-form schedule and the alarm goes off. 6:00 a.m. “What day is it?”  Oh yes, the murkiness that infiltrates my brain signifies it is Monday. Back to the rigid schedule. Up early to support children in their efforts to independently get ready for school.  The daze and confusion usually dissipates by the time they get out the door on their way to school.

I have worked persistently at encouraging them to do for themselves what they can.  Of course, Dr. Maria Montessori was correct when she said, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  This includes supporting them in doing the stuff in the morning routine on their own.  I always get up with them.  A parent’s presence is very impactful to the child.  But I will not do things they can do for themselves.

Except for today.  They have had sore throats and ear aches for a week.  Today they crawled out of their beds looking like they belonged back in their beds.  I brought Antonia her breakfast to her in bed.  Assured Sophia that if she can’t get through theater rehearsal, it would not be the end of the world.  I emailed the director of the musical explaining the sickness and asked what Sophia should do.  Sophia seemed relieved by this.  She also seemed relieved when I said I would make her a doctor’s appointment and get her out of school to attend.  Antonia is going, too.  They both WANT to see the doctor which makes me wonder if I should have taken them last week.

I had big plans for today.  Integrating new tools for organizing the week so that we operate more smoothly around here.  But, as it turns out, it will be somewhat normal today.  Taking it as it comes or flying by the seat of my pants. 

Tomorrow I’ll let go of the old clich├ęs.  Possibly while the girls are home getting well.  And without the murky Monday brain.