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Outgrown Shoes? Donate Them!

So many shoes...

So many shoes…

Looking inside my little one’s closet always surprises me. Where did all those shoes come from? How is it possible she has so many shoes. Then I remember that most of them were handed down from her sister. It makes me feel better, but not completely better. After all, I still bought way too many shoes. Anyway, a few days ago I was pulling all Little Girl’s outgrown shoes out wondering what I was going to do with them. I came back into my office and found an email from Stride Rite. The shoe company this month is running something called “Big Hearts, Little Shoes.”

The company, in conjunction with Little Gym, is collecting gently used shoes for donation to Soles4Souls, an international charity that collects shoes and distributes them to people in need across the world. It’s a lovely charity, and one that I’ve written about in the past. Parents can bring their unwanted shoes to any Little Gym or Stride Rite store and drop them off until the end of this month. Everyone who donates gets a coupon for 20 percent off any same-day purchase of new shoes. However, even if you don’t need new shoes, it’s still a worthwhile donation since you’re helping a child who is probably going without shoes right now. (Many of the donations go to third-world countries where lack of shoes can lead to disease and parasite infection.)

Worn but still have plenty of life.

Worn but still have plenty of life.

So, although we don’t need any more shoes right now I will be taking a ride to a Stride Rite store over the next few weeks to drop off about 10 pair of shoes. I may even go up to the attic and pull down what I’ve saved over the years and cull the stuff that I know my little one just won’t wear.

 

Our used up markers.

Our used up markers.

I cannot believe school starts in four weeks and six days. How is that possible? The summer is flying by. Last week we even pulled out our school supply lists and started allocating last year’s supplies. Can you imagine? Yes, you read that right. I am the mean mom who doesn’t just go out and buy all new stuff. I make my kids reuse a lot of the items. Scissors, binders, backpacks and lunch boxes get reused over and over again. Pencils and crayons, too.

Sometimes I feel sort of bad about it. Sometimes I don’t. This stuff isn’t cheap but it’s also hard to recycle so I figure the longer we use it, the better it is for the environment. Still, there are some things that simply wear out or need to be replaced. Markers come to mind. We have a large box of markers that are worn out and don’t work anymore, so I made it my business to figure out what to do with them. One visit to the Crayola site and I found my solution.

Crayola has launched a ColorCycle program that takes unwanted markers and turns them into energy. The program, which is completely free for schools, asks people to collect markers, weigh the collection box once the collection is complete (or count the markers), and call FedEx. That’s it. Crayola handles all the rest including paying the postage charges. This is one of those programs that it’s hard not to get behind. Yes, I’d like to do a little more research about how the markers are processed, but I love that our markers aren’t just going into a landfill. I’m so excited about the program I asked our PTA president and vice president if we could run a school-wide recycling program. (As the newly minted chair of the environmental committee at our school I figured that would be a fun first project for us, especially as we, as a school, are replenishing our supplies.) I’m still waiting to hear back, but hopefully some of you will take this idea and run with it, too. Every marker counts, after all!

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Asking for Help

Finding your way home is easier with a little help from your friends.

Finding your way home is easier with a little help from your friends.

“Hey, guys! Can one of you help me find my way back to the house?”

We were sitting in the children’s room of a local library waiting for Big Girl to finish a program. Little Girl was sitting at a newly-installed pod of iPads playing Minecraft. She didn’t know the four other boys who were playing, but in the span of 20 minutes she asked for help about four or five times, at one point relinquishing her screen so one of the kids could get her back to where she wanted to be virtually.

I sat there watching, impressed at how easily she interacts with strangers. Amazed and happy that she not only asks for help but takes it willingly. At one point I caught another mom’s eye and we smiled at each other. How cute was it that she wanted to know if any of the boys wanted to come and help her pick the “pretty flowers” in the game.

She didn’t learn that from me. I don’t ask for help. I could give you all sorts of psychological reasons why, but the point still remains that — in the past — I would suffer alone rather than ask for help. Even though I have seen time and again how freeing it is to ask for help, and how the people around me really want to help.

This weekend was not the best weekend. My mother was in the hospital. I had a car accident. My friends were right there for me. The offers of support and help pinged into my cell phone. Texts from friends asking if I needed anything, offering to drive me anywhere or stay with my kids so I could go see my mom. I turned everyone down. I didn’t want to put anyone out.

My little one, she’s got this accepting help thing down. The big one, not so much. In order to help her, I need to help myself. I need to model good behavior, letting people help and accepting help willingly and with gratitude instead of feeling like I am bothering people or letting them down by not being perfect. Can someone help me figure out how to do that?

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summermovieexpressbanner

The summer stretches out in front of us. Two and a half months without structure. I plan on taking time to hang out with my kids a lot and one of the things that’s on my to-d0 list is the Summer Movie Express, a program that provides $1 movie tickets for second run flicks.

You can get more information by clicking through here, but basically, Regal Cinemas is offering deeply discounted movie tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting in July. The movies include fun family favorites like The Smurfs, Turbo, and Rio 2 — stuff you’ve seen but that look better on the big screen. At at $1 a person, you really can’t lose out.

What do you have planned for your kids? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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Vehicles at the Beach

Our view from the boat.

Our view from the boat. Wish I got a shot of the shiny blue quad!

Yesterday while at the beach a friend’s son pointed out the shiny, new quads that the dockmaster was driving around. They were a nice improvement on the ramshackle golf cart-looking things that they used to drive, but what struck me was that they were still gas-guzzling, fume-spurting vehicles. Here we were at a beautiful town park and we still had to inhale gas fumes.

I wondered why we didn’t have electric vehicles. I wondered why they weren’t hybrids. I guess cost is probably an issue, but at some point, in my opinion, human experience has to be worth more than saving a little money. Besides the fact that it has to be expensive to keep those quads running around. How often do they need to fuel up?

It’s a question I intend to get to the bottom of the next time we visit the beach.

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She Drank the Pink Milk

Our district’s lunch program is pretty much like every other district’s: The cafeteria workers need to find a way to provide lunch for $2.30 while staying within national guidelines. As a result, there’s very little on the menu my kids will eat. Everything is processed and, as my kids tell me, “disgusting” as far as they are concerned. There are a few days they will buy, though. Big Girl likes nacho taco day, which is taco meat heaped on nacho chips with lettuce, tomato and salsa. Little Girl likes brunch for lunch — frozen pancakes or waffles with some type of meat, which she won’t eat. Either way, both girls get Mommy-packed snacks to eat with their purchased meals. Fruit, a natural cookie, some yogurt — nothing too fancy. Big Girl brings her own drinks. Little Girl has always bought the milk, despite the fact that it’s not organic.

Yesterday I gave Little Girl enough cash for her lunch. She came home with a slip that said she needed to bring in money. She didn’t have enough cash to pay for what she ate. I started asking her questions. Did she lose her quarters? I knew she didn’t buy snacks because kindergarten kids are not allowed to buy snacks at her school. And then she came clean: She bought strawberry milk. I wasn’t pleased.

First, it is bad enough that I am letting her drink non-organic milk, but the fact that she drank something loaded with sugar and (potentially) high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and preservatives really made me mad. She eats lunch around 11. That means she went back to her classroom to learn all hopped up on crap.

We had a discussion about what we, as a family, allow, and she promised that she wouldn’t buy strawberry milk at school again. I put the extra money into her backpack and it was over. But I am still not pleased. Jamie Oliver has a good PDF about the dangers of flavored milk. (You can read it here.) It bothered me so much I actually called the district offices. The person I spoke to told me that the school had made a special request for the strawberry milk. It wasn’t a regular thing, he said. I asked him who our supplier was. He told me. I called over there and got someone to send me the nutritional information. Here it is:

milk

So you’ve got a drink for kids that not only has 22 grams of sugar — four grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar so my daughter drank almost six teaspoons of sugar — but also has corn starch, artificial color in the form of Red #40, artificial flavors and salt. I know many people might say, who cares? It’s just a little sugar and food coloring. Except it’s a big deal for someone like my daughter, who weighs 37 pounds and is sensitive to food coloring. I am sure she bounced her way through the afternoon.

So yes, it’s a problem. At least for me. It’s June, so I’m not going to do anything about it now. I just don’t have the time. But I am going to bring it up at the first PTA meeting in the fall. It’s worth a discussion. I wonder how many parents, especially those parents in my district who have special ed or food sensitive kids, know what their kids are drinking?

June Makes Me Anxious

Last year I was a mess from the middle of May until after the first day of school. Not a lunatic mess. Just messy enough that I didn’t feel like myself.

I had reasons for my messiness. The little one was graduating preschool. I was attempting to work half-time over the summer. I got food poisoning. Oh, and my aunt had just died. When I am anxious my dreams get vivid and detailed and long, and my sleep suffers, which makes things worse. I settled down over the winter, though.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of vivid dreams I am having. They involve people in my life and situations that make me nervous. Just this morning I awoke from a dream about a social situation. These dreams tend to follow me throughout the day. My mind is always on. I notice it more when I am meditating or standing on a yoga mat. During those times my mind gets clearer and everything slows down, making me realize how fast I’m running the rest of the time.

Last night is a good example. I went to an amazing yoga class. One that made me feel like my bones and muscles had separated from each other just a bit. (Something I consider one of the best feelings in the world.) Anyway, at the end of the class we mediated. It was then that I became aware of my breathing. It was so slow I felt like I was pausing between breaths. Everything was clear and sharp. I was at total peace. It felt amazing. But then I got into the car and my mind started going again. The difference between me in yoga and me sitting in my car is so stark, so extreme that I realized I had to figure out what was making me so anxious. I thought and thought the entire way home, mulling over it since then, too. I’ve decided that it’s just June and the changes that it brings.

My little one is moving up to first grade. All this year I’ve still thought of her as a baby — my baby. Now, as she bridges up to what I consider real school, I have to face the fact that I don’t have a baby anymore. Meanwhile, my big girl is moving into sixth grade. Yes, she’s a late birthday and in a different state she’d only be moving up to fourth grade, but still. I remember who I was as a sixth grader. I was more my adult self than my child self. My first born is truly growing up. Summer also brings more social situations and more decisions. Do I put my kids in a camp on any given day for an assignment? Which camp should they go to? How do I decide? Do I want to go to the beach or stay at home and read? And if I go: How long will it be until I feel stupid for being the whitest woman in the room?

I’ve been trying to thwart all the crap in my head by doing a few things. Yoga, of course, and spin class, but also making sure to make more physical connections. I remind myself to hug my husband and tell him how much I appreciate his love and devotion. I’m taking more time with the kids. At night I lie in bed with them, telling them stories and listening to them talk. I grab those opportunities to squish and hug them, pulling them in and showing them as much love as I can. I’m opening myself up to new experiences and people, too. Yesterday, I accepted an after school invitation to someone’s pool, even though I am on deadline this week and it is someone I don’t know at all, really. It was nice to sit and chat, watching my kids enjoy themselves.

So yes, I’ll admit it: June isn’t my favorite month. But I am being proactive this year. That’s all I can do. That, and the yoga.

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Only a few years ago Big Girl was driving me nuts by chewing her clothing. Whenever she was nervous — and she was nervous a lot — or distracted by a good book she chewed the neck or sleeves of her shirt. Back then I was obsessed with Gymboree clothing and the cute little outfits I picked up at Denny’s, a local trendy shop. I loved dressing her up, so I would get crazy when I saw chew marks, holes and stretched out fabric on her pretty outfits. Inevitably, I would yell or make a face when I saw the damage. She would get upset, too. It was a vicious cycle.

The little one had a bad habit, too. In Little Girl’s case it was her reliance on her lovey, her special blanket with a soft, satin patch. As soon as she touched that patch, intertwining her fingers in the patch and the downy chenille, her fingers would go right in her mouth. By the time she turned five we worried that she would never stop the nasty habit.

They did, though. In Big Girl’s case she simply outgrew it. She stopped chewing on her clothing. Little Girl had a little help. She got impetigo in September. One morning she left for school with a scratch on the inside of her nose. By the time she came home she had little crusty scabs forming on the outside of her left nostril. Recognizing it immediately, I called the doctor. I was smearing cream on the infection only an hour after she got off the bus.

The doctor stressed to me that it was important to keep her from touching her nose since it could spread far and wide — to us, to other parts of her body. I was worried because her fingers often sat on each side of her nose when she was sucking on her fingers. Worried that we’d end up with impetigo everywhere. Desperate to make an impact, I showed her a photo of what a full-blown case of impetigo looks like, and explained to her that she really needed to keep her fingers away from her nose and mouth. (Google it if you’re curious. It doesn’t look pretty.) She took one look at the photo, shrieked loudly and swore she would stop sucking on her fingers immediately. She stuck to her promise. Today she still has her lovey, but her fingers don’t go anywhere near her mouth.

What’s the point recounting these stories? As parents we often sweat the small stuff — the stuff that doesn’t matter all that much in the big picture. Looking back, I wish I could get in a time machine and tell my uptight worried self to leave those poor kids alone. What did it really matter if Big Girl chewed her shirt? Who cared if Little Girl fell asleep sucking her fingers? I can’t go back, though, so I’m passing along these words of wisdom: Most kids don’t go to college doing [insert bad habit here]. And if they do? It isn’t a reflection on us as parents. It doesn’t usually hurt the child, either. So let them have their loveys and their sleeves. Before you know it they will be having their first sleepovers and getting ready to graduate kindergarten. Time goes so quickly. Enjoy the ride, loveys and all.

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The wrapping from just one trip to the dry cleaner.

The wrapping from just one trip to the dry cleaner.

Although I’ve been sort of quiet about it, I am still doing my part to recycle, reuse and reduce. One of the easiest things I do is recycle dry cleaning plastic. My husband works in a job where he has to wear dress shirts four days a week with dress pants, so once every two weeks or so he drops off his shirts and pants. When they come back they are encased in thin plastic to keep them clean — I assume — from the dry cleaner to our house.

Before they go into our closet I strip off the plastic and put it into our plastic recycling. This plastic goes in with the juice box and toilet paper wrapping, bubble wrap and plastic grocery bags that find their way into our house even though I use reusable grocery bags. Once a month I go and drop everything off at one of the plastic bag recycling stations you can find at a supermarket or home improvement store. Other plastic wrap items that get recycled include bread bags, Ziplocks and produce bags such as the bags that potatoes and oranges come in.

This is probably one of the easiest things you can do since there are literally dozens of drop off points in every neighborhood. You can learn more about what you can recycle — and find a location near you — by checking out this site, which is co-sponsored by the American Chemical Council. (Go figure!)

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She Slept Out

 

She came home and left her sleeping bag on the porch. One down, many to go...

She came home and left her sleeping bag on the porch. One down, many to go…

Long time readers of this blog know about my struggle with sleepovers. (I have blogged about it here.) Anyway, over the years my older daughter has hosted sleepovers, but we never took the next step and let her sleep at a friend’s house. She has been invited, and we’ve even come close. Once, she was supposed to sleep over at a dear friend’s house, but it didn’t happen. I think someone got a stomach bug. Then she got invited to sleep at one of my Girl Scout’s homes. The mom is a single mom with two girls. Perfect, I thought. But Big Girl was too nervous to stick it out, so she came home at midnight.

This weekend we were supposed to host my cousin’s daughter for a sleepover. My cousin was my best friend growing up and our girls, who are only three months apart in age just like we are, absolutely love each other. It’s sort of spooky how much their relationship mirrors ours. Anyway, we were all set for them to arrive when the plans got thwarted. My uncle decided he wanted to come for a visit, too, and it just didn’t happen. My daughter was heartbroken. I told her to make some calls and salvage the night, not even thinking about a sleepover. Just call and see if anyone wants to hang out, I told her.

She called one of her good friends who just happens to live around the corner — literally. The mom answered and told my daughter that a few other girls were already there, but she should come around. Her earlier disappointment forgotten, she headed over to my neighbor’s house. My husband and I went out to a comedy club.

Around 11:15, the mom texted me and asked if my daughter could stay over. I struggled with it internally for a few minutes, but realized that I need to trust in humanity so that my daughter could learn to do the same. She had her iTouch with her so I texted her directly and asked her if she wanted to sleep over. Her reply: “Yeah, I guess.”

After the comedy show we went home and I sent my husband around with her sleeping bag and toiletries. I didn’t want her to see me and feel the anxiety dripping off of me. (Besides the fact that I had a head cold and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.)

I wish I could say it was a completely uneventful sleepover, but it wasn’t. My daughter was really nervous, texting us for the next few hours:

“I don’t know if I can stay.”

My reply was that it sounded like a fun night. I asked her why she was upset and told her I trusted and loved her and trusted my neighbor. She replied:

“One moment when we are up talking I am fine, but then when we are lying in the dark my stomach hurts and I am sad.”

I asked if she was okay and if she was letting everyone see she was upset. She said:

“I just kinda miss you. Everyone else is fine, so I don’t want to make a scene, but I am just sad and I don’t know why.”

I told her the following: “Look inside yourself and see how strong you are and how nice it was to be included by these kids who really like you.”

Her reply: “Okay, I love you so much and Daddy, too.”

I fell asleep soon after, but she texted with my husband a bunch more times. In the end she was able to stay over the entire night and had a wonderful time. I was so proud of her — and of myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t be nervous the next time she asks to do a sleepover, but with one down I can see a summer of fun for my daughter. And that’s a good thing, right?

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