Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Power of Pinterest

Yes! I am advocating how Pinterest can be a power tool in the mother’s bag of trick. Sure, you can get lost in the cute spring outfits you would love to see hanging in your closet. And it’s easy to find yourself searching through travel pictures of Italy and Australia.

For me, there are two weaknesses that get exploited by Pinterest: Food and Crafts.

You know how it is. You pop on, just to see what your friends have posted or to see some of the popular posts while you’re waiting for the dishwasher to summon you and then Bam! An hour has gone by, the dishes are completely dry, the kids are asking for a snack, which would be fine except it’s actually dinner time and there’s nothing even defrosting from the fridge. So you shoo the kidlets away and focus on finding a recipe that utilizes what you have on hand but get distracted by some yummy looking cookies that you know you won’t have time to make because the dishes STILL need to be put away, dinner is still TBD and of course, Dear Husband walks in to see you drooling over your monitor like Gollum looking for Precious. What? That’s just me. Fine, stick to your story, if it helps you sleep better at night, but I know I’m not the only one.

Pinterest can be an enormous time drain. Anything can, given the right circumstances. But it can also be an amazing way to help the less than perfect mom make up lost ground. Here are the top ten ways Kidletville takes advantage of this stellar tool:

1. Creative Ideas for Meals – Like I said, I can get lost in the creative ways the not-so-average mom decorates a cake, but I can also find recipes that both Kidlets, who apparently have opposite palates, will eat. Case in point: Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Vegetable Fried Rice. Kidlet #1 gobbled up the chicken, Kidlet #2 the rice, and Mayor Mom had leftovers for a week worth of lunches. And, just yesterday, while the wind and snow was blowing, I found a recipe for homemade mac and cheese that BOTH kidlets loved. In addition, I’ve started packing lunches for them and the numerous blogs out there with creative lunch ideas is mind blowing. I even found some cutters to turn sandwiches into cute cut-outs. Not that I have time to use them when we’re running late for school, but just in case there’s a day we’re on time, I can make us late by cutting PB&J into dinosaurs.

2. Coloring Pages – Free, downloadable coloring pages in a whole range of characters and designs. This past summer I created a coloring book with a variety of pages, added in some free word searches and mazes and handed them to the kids. Whenever the fighting got to be too much, I banished them to the art bucket for some much needed quiet time.

3. Organizational Tools – The art bucket, a pinterest inspired project, brings me to organization. I am horrible at organization. And not in the way that a modest person claims to be horrible but really isn’t. No. I completely suck at it. But here’s where Pinterest comes in… I WANT to be good at it. I really do. I want to walk into a room and everything has a place and the floor is void of clutter. Seriously, I’m getting chills just thinking about such a world. Pinterest has loads of pins for a helpless case like me. And it’s not just for the home, either. There are pins about time management. I even found inspiration for making my own daily calendar for 2013, based on what I need to keep track of (ie. Hours writing, blog posts, daily chore list, schedule, etc.). I also found a Blog Planner that is helping me even as I type this post.  Granted, a couple trees had to shed their bark to print these bad boys off, but if I can stay on top of things for the next year, it will be worth it.

4. DIY – There is one thing I am worse at than organization. CLEANING. Seriously, I could totally trounce Roseanne Barr is a Domestic Goddess cage match. The woman looks like June Cleaver next to me. But on Pinterest I have been inspired to make my own cleaning products and tackle the mountains of dust bunnies. Next week, I’m trying the homemade laundry detergent. And of course I have to prove to Dear Husband that they work… which means I have to USE them. And since they’re not toxic, I feel no guilt about slapping a rag into the hands of my adoring Kidlets and sending them on a cleaning spree while I kick back with a good book. Oops… sorry… I was dreaming.

5. Holiday D├ęcor – Now, before I say this, I must confess, when inspired, I can be quite the crafty person. However, inspiration would be hard to come by, if not for Pinterest. In 2013, I vow to add three to five permanent decorative pieces for EACH holiday we celebrate. Since we’re on a super tight budget next year, this should help fill me time I would rather be shopping and hopefully provide for some fun family bonding! Thank goodness I have the above mentioned cleaning products.

6. Summer Boredom Busters – This past summer we made sponge balls and had water fights in the backyard. We used the cheap swimming noodles to do marble races. This summer, we’re making a waterbed for some backyard fun in the sun. We’re also adding a bubble refill station so mommy doesn’t have to keep filling up the bubbles. And we’re going to spend a week doing “Olympic” inspired events with friends and family at the park. Without Pinterest, we would be sitting in the backyard, in the hammock, swinging with a good book and lemonade from a bottle, instead of homemade. Hold up. I may have to rethink my praise of Pinterest. The latter seems like a lot less work.

7. Traditions – I love the idea of traditions, but since I don’t come from a family who had them, I don’t bring a lot to the table. But I have found amazing traditions that we’re implementing for holidays and any old time alike. I see more traditions being put into place in the coming year as we celebrate being a family and making the most out of the time we have.

8. Harry Potter – I love Harry Potter, so yeah, I have a couple of pins that are favorite quotes and pics. It’s a guilty pleasure and I love it. Don’t judge.

9. Workouts – I am jumping on the “world didn’t end so I guess I better go ahead and get in shape” bandwagon this coming year and pinterest is helping. You would be surprised how many awesome, could be fun kind of workouts there are. Like movie workouts. It’s like a drinking game, but with sweat and puking… huh… a lot like a drinking game, I guess. Whatever. The point is, I can combine my love of being a couch potato and watch movies with my desire to get in shape. We’re talking major win here!

10. Parenting/Marriage tips: These have been especially helpful as I reflect on my parenting style. I don’t think you can look at how you function as a parent without including where you place your marriage in the hierarchy of importance. As a mom, it’s so easy for me to put the needs of the kids ahead of the needs of my husband. Or worse, view Dear Husband as Kidlet #3. I have come across some great ideas for how to strengthen all the relationships in my house.

There you have it. The top 10 reasons why Pinterest will not be banned from the computers of the office staff in Kidletville. And yes, I’m sure I will be distracted by ooey, gooey cakes and fashions I could only hope to pull off some day, but all in all, when used for good, instead of evil, Pinterest can be a great tool in running this crazy little village of ours. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kidletville is Tweeting

Kidletville has joined the Twitter Revolution! You can follow us at @kidletville. Blog updates and parenting reflections to tickle your funny bone are right around the corner!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Tearful Morning

Today was not like any other day. Granted, it started out with me getting up 10 minutes after my alarm clock had issued it's final warning, but from that point on, things have been different.

First of all, there was no yelling to get moving or threats to turn the kidlet's color from green to yellow. There was no chastising when the oldest couldn't find his shoes. And when I looked at the clock and saw we were probably going to be late, I didn't rush them out the door. I just accepted that we would be late and went on getting everyone ready.

Second, instead of spending the drive to school thinking about what I need to do today, I spent the time talking to my kids. Telling them how much I love them and how special they are. Giving them a pep talk about the day and reminding them to be good friends.

We were, in fact, eight minutes late. We arrived just as the classes were gathering in the gym for a prayer vigil. And I realized how incredibly lucky my kids are to attend a school where it's not only okay to worship your faith openly, it's encouraged. No, it's demanded, but in a good way.

And as I watched those beautiful little faces blend into the sea of lights, I pulled away, tears flowing freely down my face.

Like so many parents in this country, and I would imagine around the world, I did not want to send my kids to school today. I wanted them home, with me, safe and protected from the world. I wanted one more snuggle session before they headed off to take on a world that can be brutal and ugly. But I didn't keep them home. I sent them off into a world that can also be joyous and uplifting. Where compassionate people are more than willing to form a human chain to block out a small number of people who proclaim God sent the shooter into Sandy Hook Elementary School to kill twenty-six members of the human race.

Yeah, right. God wanted a little girl, so young she hadn't even lost her first tooth to be shot multiple times with a gun that should be in a war zone, not in an elementary school. And I'm sure God wanted the survivors to be traumatized as they fled the building with glimpses of their classmate lying dead in a pool of their own blood. Apparently I worship a different God then the Westboro Baptist Church members. I like my God better.

The God I believe in mourns with us. Though He welcomes those souls home, He weeps for the pain and fear they endured as well as the ones left behind. I believe there is a higher purpose for life... all life, but I do not believe God rejoices in death. Not even the death of a killer. All life is precious to Him.

Which is why I believe he sent those Guardian angels... you know, the ones we call teachers. Like the one who hid her students in closets and cupboards and then bravely said the class was in the gym just before she was gunned down. He sent a Principal to them with courage and grace to warn her entire school that evil was slithering through their midst. And a school psychologist who could have stayed behind closed doors, but instead headed toward the bullets in an effort to stop the gunmen, only to fall to his trigger finger.

We may never know what the true motivation was for this unimaginable reality our country faces. And I pray to God we will never know what the families and the community of Newtown are going through. But I do hope this is a turning point. I hope this is a chance for us to stop fighting over everything. To stop blaming each other because things in our lives aren't perfect or we don't have everything we want. It's time to remember that every day is a gift. That we are blessed to have people in our lives who love us and lift us up and yes, challenge and disagree with us. We are blessed to have one more day, one more minute with the people we care about.

Kidletville will, unfortunately, probably go back to the hustling mornings and the distracted drives to school in time. But maybe it won't. Maybe this is a turning point for our little village as well. Perhaps it's time that my citizens and I take inventory on what is most important in our lives and then begin leading a life worth living. Maybe it's time we create a living legacy. Why wait until we're gone to change the world. Why not do it now?

As Mayor of Kidletville, it's my job to lead the way, to light the pathway of hope in my family. Dear Husband is, without a doubt, the glue that holds us together. But me, I'm the heart. It's time that the heart shines hope.

And, if you could, tell the teachers of your children how much you appreacite what they do. I don't think there's a question that, had it not been for the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there would be a whole lot more funerals in the coming days.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kidletville has gone dark

I am a mom. No matter what I do or where I go, I will always and forever be a mom. And so when I hear of another mother losing her child, instinctively, I reach for the kidlets and hug them as close as I can and then let them go, because that's what I'm supposed to do. Raise them and teach them and send them out in the world with the tools they will need to become the adult-lets God intends them to be. I am their steward, nothing more, nothing less.

So, when I hear about tragedy of such unimaginable tragedy as the massacre in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, I hold them just a little tighter and a whole lot longer. I don't want to send them out into the world. I want to keep them with me. Close. Behind locked doors. With a T-Rex in the backyard instead of a watch dog. I want to shield them from the ugly in the world.

But I can't. Not when the ugly forces it's way into our life.

Like so many people, I watched for updates, hoping against hope that the reporters had it all wrong. And while some of the facts were off base, the one thing that remained accurate was that a man walked into a school, armed to kill. Which is what he did. He killed chilldren. He killed LITTLE children. He killed little children the same age as the kidlets. And as heartbreaking as it was, I could find some comfort in the fact that it wasn't here. It wasn't someone we knew or even the family of someone we know. Until all of a sudden, it was the family of someone we know.

That's when the ugly pushed it's way into Kidletville and cast it's coldness into our life. Suddenly, those heart wrenching pictures of people in agony were not strangers. They knew this little girl. They saw her on the playground. Their children knew her from the hallways. They may have even played with her at recess. Maybe they sat with her on the bus that morning. These were no longer strangers. They were now an extension of Kidletville. There was a connection and like it or not, I felt no choice but to tell my children about the tragic event.

Having some background in the way the minds of kids work, I started out simple. I told them someone went into a school with guns and he shot a lot of people. And then I waited for the questions. And they came.

Q. How many children?
A. Around 20.

Q. Where there any grownups killed?
A. Yes, they aren't sure exactly, but around 7 or 8.

Q. Did any children live?
A. Yes, not everyone in the school was injured.

Q. But of the kids who got shot, did any of them live?
A. I think there is one in the hospital, but no one knows if that child will survive.

Q. Why did someone do this?
A. I do not know.

Q. Did the teachers protect the kids?
A. Yes. some even died trying.
R. That's very brave.
My R. Yes, it's very brave.

Q. (The question I'd been dreading) How old were the kids?
A. They were between 5 and 10.
Kidlet 2's R. Hey, I'm 5.
My R. I know.

Q. (The question that brought me to full on crying melt-down) If someone shot us with a gun, would you be sad?
R. My heart would break and no one would ever been able to fix it.

Q. (The question that made me laugh) Can I have ice cream?
A. Yes, absolutely yes!

We have not told them that their connection to this tragedy. I suspect that will be something we will bring up tonight so we can process a little more.

And while little minds can compartmentalize things like this finding distraction in ice cream, the adult mind can not... at least not for long. We are a nation in mourning. We are angry. We are sad. We are in disbelief.  We lash out at the shooter, at society, at the NRA, at anyone we can think of to blame. But this is not the time for blame. This is the time to pull together and realize that those of us who can still tuck our children in at night are blessed. We have been given the gift of time and we squander it by pointing fingers.

Don't get me wrong, there will be time for productive conversations about gun control and access to mental health treatment and security in our schools, etc. But not now.

Instead of lifting our arms to rally a cry for change, let's lift up the families that have had their hearts ripped away from them. Let's pray for those souls that have gone to where ever souls go. (In our house, we believe it is Heaven.) Let's pray for the police and firefighters who were the first to see the carnage. Let's pray for the adults who gave up their lives to protect their charges and the one who huddled in closets trying to keep their students calm, even though their own fears were overwhelming. Let's ask for mercy on the shooter... yes, mercy... because only someone who is incredibly sick could do something so horrid, so yes, mercy. And let's pray for each other. That no other mother has to watch as her child is brought out of a school building in a body bag. Let's pray that no father has to walk down the aisle behind his child's casket instead of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day. Let's pray that we will never again see the phrase "School shooting" flashing across the news bulletin update and crossing our fingers that it's not someone we know, or worse, our children who are in danger.

For now, the color is gone from Kidletville, leaving only the start black and white, in honor of those who have lost their lives and loves. But love still abides in Kidletville, as does hope. Last night, Dear Husband had to work a third shift so I convinced the Kidlets to sleep with me. And even though I woke up with Kidlet #1 laying sideways on the bed, his foot smashed against my  face and Kidlet #2 fast asleep on my legs, making them immobile, the warmth of their little bodies reminded me that my cup overflows with blessings. Be at peace, my friends and remember to say thanks for your blessings in the same breath as you pray for those who can't hold theirs anymore.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sorry for my speedy departure

So, when we last talked, I guess I forgot to mention that I'm kind of a hermit in November. See, when I'm not being a mom, and trying to keep up with the endless laundry that multiplies over night even though my kids wear uniforms to school, I write books.

Please note that I said I am a writer. I am not an author. I have not been published. Not yet. It will happen. It's just a matter of when.

And in the literary world, November is what's known as National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). It's the time of year when writers all around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Remember in grade school when your teacher would tell you to write a 500 word essay and you would groan? Try writing 100 of those in a month. Yes, being a writer means volunteering to do homework for the rest of my life. And to think, when I was in college, I did everything I could to avoid it. But I guess that's life, right?

And this November, I was actually at the beginning of a novel, so I decided to take the challenge. Thanks to a couple of 7K nights, on November 19, 2012, I completed the 50,000 words. And today, I am thrilled to announce that I am finished... with the first draft. (In case you're doing the math, that would be more than the 50K.)

The first complete novel was written in seven months, the second in five months and this one... in 33 days. Now, I am the first to admit that I can already see some holes that need to be filled and some scenes that need to be beefed up, but that's in re-writes, which is even more challenging then writing the book, believe it or not. But it's kind of like building the frame of a house and then starting to put up the walls and and flooring.

So, in short, NaNoWriMo was the reason why I have been MIA. And now that it's over, I will begin posting more regularly. I've even got a couple posts in draft mode at this moment. So hang tight. Kidletville is a little hectic right now, but it's all going to be good!