The Cabbage Patch Doll

Last week, while I was running on the treadmill and trying to avoid looking at the clock, which was ticking the seconds by ever so slowly, my daughter skipped into the room, dragging an old Cabbage Patch doll behind her. During the next twenty minutes, I watched her change the doll’s diaper (five times!), feed her three bottles of milk, take her for a stroller ride through the maze of toys left on the floor, place her in a grocery cart to go “shopping” at the play kitchen, and then tuck her into a cradle and sing her a lullaby.

(Watching all of this was actually more exhausting than running!)

It was a sweet scene to witness – my baby taking care of her baby doll. And, not just any baby doll, but one I cherished for many years. I don’t have many toys from when I was a child, but this one seems to have stood the test of time.

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My mother purchased the doll during the “Cabbage Patch Doll Craze” of the early 80’s. Due to doll shortages (yes, this was actually a thing!), she had to place her name on a waiting list. When she finally received a call that the Cabbage Patch doll was ready to be picked up, Christmas had long since come and gone.

She was instructed to drive to Toys “R” Us at a designated time, pull up to the back of the store, and select the doll.  Upon arrival, an employee held up two different dolls from which she could choose.

When she returned home with her selection,  I complained that she picked the one with the short hair; I wanted the long haired doll like my sister’s. I also remember being initially disappointed by the name printed on the doll’s birth certificate:  Elna.

How frustrating it must have been to go through such efforts only to have your daughter just complain. Now, as a mother, I know this all too well!

Elna quickly became my favorite, though, and hopefully my mom was able to recognize that. I wish, some thirty years later, I could tell my mother that her efforts to secure the doll were not wasted – even on the next generation.

My daughter now prefers my old Cabbage Patch doll over the abundance of her newer dolls.  Most of her dolls have shiny hair, fancy dresses, and accessories like shoes and headbands. She even has a doll that pees! However, she often chooses Elna, who has none of these things.

Elna is a bit raggedy around the edges, properly worn out from years of being loved. Ribbons still hang from her hair, but the once bright white has faded to gray. She is missing her original outfit but now wears a set of overalls that one of my aunts sewed for her when I was a girl.  More often than not, my daughter drags her around the house without clothes anyway, exposing the green signature on her backside – Xavier Roberts.

Elna often sleeps in my daughter’s bed and travels with us in the car. Sometimes, she even walks with us to the bus stop, so my daughter has something to hold tight as she watches her brother drive off on the bus.

cabbage-patch

Elna in her glory days – celebrating Christmas with my siblings’ dolls.This was also the last photo taken of my brother’s dear Barnaby, who went missing in the late 80s – my brother still seems traumatized by this.

My daughter, she reminds me of my mom sometimes. She has the same blonde hair with a crazy cowlick in the back. She’s impatient and quick to annoy, but she is also really quick to laugh. And, her laugh? It’s the type that people notice; it’s loud and generous – just like my mother’s.

Sometimes when I see my daughter playing with the old Cabbage Patch doll, I like to imagine that the doll is a gift from my mother to her, a granddaughter she was never able to meet.  I imagine my daughter saying thank you with a warm smile and giving her grandmother a hug before skipping off to play.

But most likely, because kids are kids, she would probably say something like, “Oh, I wanted the one with the blue eyes, not green.” But, at least I would be able to say thank you. Thank you for the doll, and thank you for a million other things that it took me being a mother to fully understand.

***

Do you have any of your childhood toys? Do your kids play with them? I also have a nice dollhouse that I can’t wait to break free from the attic and give to my daughter, but the pieces are super fragile, so I’m going to wait a couple of years.

 

 

 

My Introduction to Being a Soccer Mom

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Both of my children recently started their first season of soccer. I approached this venture with a mixture of both dread and excitement. We have dabbled in organized sports in the past, but success continues to elude us.  And by success, I don’t mean wins. I mean happiness, as in we are all happy with the experience. To me, if this doesn’t occur, sports just don’t seem worth it.

THE GIRL

La soccerAs  we walked across the parking lot toward the field, I feared my daughter would become ultra-clingy. We had some difficulties during ballet this winter (Her Dissapointment or Mine?) – mainly because she simply could not function if she was not directly attached to me in some way.

I also worried she would be too hesitant on the field and lack the confidence needed. When put on the spot, she tends to shut down and become the opposite of the loud, cheerful, and energetic girl I know.

However, as she walked onto the field, looking way too old in shin guards and her new dry wick shirt, she surprised me.

No, she wasn’t the best on the field, but she actually stayed on the field.  On a team of four-year-olds, this is not always the case. One of her teammates was so distraught he wandered back to his parent, cried, and never returned to the field. Another player would simply sit down on the sidelines and refuse to play at times.

As the parents desperately tried to coerce their children to return to the field, I wanted to call out, “Been there! Done that!”

But this time, I wasn’t that parent! Not only did my girl stay on the field, but she owned it. She ran fast. She tried hard. She didn’t even complain!  Every time the coach told the team to take a water break and she jogged toward me, I waited to feel the snake of arms around my leg or hear pleas to stay with me on the sidelines.  Instead, she simply chugged her water, high-fived me, and ran back to her team.

She has grown this summer, and not just in inches. As summer flowers are fading, my daughter’s confidence is blooming. It is a beautiful site.

 THE BOY

sawyersoccersMy  son also has a poor track record when it comes to organized sports. Twice we bailed before the end of the season. I had thought sports would be good for my over-active boy, but apparently attention and an ability to follow directions was also helpful.

So, we took some time off sports until he was actually ready and eager to play. In July, when we signed up, I decided that we were going to finish the soccer season no matter what. It’s important for him to learn the value of finishing what you start.

Of course, the very thought of making him finish a season that we both hated had me on edge for weeks.  I feared he wouldn’t be able to pay enough attention to the coach.  I worried he wouldn’t have fun and would complain about going to each practice.  I was also concerned that he would be too behind the other players who have been playing for a couple years now.

But then, the unthinkable occurred: he loved it and I loved it. He ran, he kicked the ball, he followed instructions, and he had fun. As the hour and a half wound down, I realized I was having fun, too. After the first twenty minutes, I stopped gripping my chair in fear, I started chatting with some parents, and the best part? I got to watch my son be part of a team.

Toward the end of practice, the boys divided into two teams to scrimmage. My son was running around sort of blindly chasing the ball, and I was just hoping that if he found it he would kick it in the right direction.

Then suddenly, out of the swarm of skinny, kicking legs, my  own son’s skinny, kicking leg took control of the ball. And that ball? It ended up in the goal!

I’m too practical to credit this goal to skill because logically I know it was mostly luck. However, I am also too much of a mom not to have glanced at the other parents, smiled, and pointed to him and back at me indicating, See that? That was my kid!

His coach yelled for the boys to congratulate him and added, “He’s the only one that scored a goal!” The pack of boys surrounded my son in a celebratory ritual of back patting, high-fiving, and hugging.  His little face turned toward me, and that is an expression I will remember always. It was an expression of pride, accomplishment, and belonging.

This was one small moment on the field, and it may be his only moment like this on the field this year. But even if it is, I would say, without a doubt, that the season was a success.

These moments are why you sign up your kids for sports teams. Why you give up one night a week and Saturday mornings to watch your child play soccer.  Not to watch him win, but to see happiness fill his face as he gains confidence and begins to find his place on a team.

Lydiasoccer

 

Kindergarten Back-to-School Night

After many years of participating in Back-to-School night as a teacher, tonight I attended for the first time as a parent. While surrounded by alphabet posters, new crayons, and other anxious parents, I contemplated my new, unfamiliar role as a parent of a school-aged child. Because of my interactions with some over-zealous parents during Back-to-School nights in the past, at least I knew how not to act as a parent.

I ran through my mental checklist: Do not ask tons of questions in front of the group that really only pertain to my child. Do not interrupt every point the teacher makes to relate it back to my own child. Definitely do not corner the teacher at the end of her very long day to outline the life history of my child.

Knowing all of this, it came as quite a shock to me that during the next thirty minutes I struggled to avoid doing all of the above.  Here are four of things that I desperately wanted to do … but didn’t:

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1.  The teacher informed us that there will be no newsletters this year because she discovered that parents weren’t really reading them. Instead, she will send text reminders.  I immediately wanted to object, “Wait!  I will read them. Please! I want to know about his day! Newsletters will be my only way!”

You see, it is very likely that I will never know what happens during my son’s school day because the only thing he managed to tell me about his three days at kindergarten camp this summer was:  “I peed in the bathroom.”  Because of this, and the fact that I know that much, much more goes on during a school day, I really wanted to voice these thoughts and request a detailed newsletter … but I didn’t.

2.  The teacher then explained her discipline policy. The classroom does not have a time-out chair, but instead there is a “re-fill station” for students. Students who struggle to cooperate or interact with classmates appropriately take a break in the back of the room to re-charge and calm down.  At this point, I wanted to jump in with, “Do you think you could put some dinosaur books back there? I’m sure my son will be visiting the “re-fill station” on occasion, and he really calms down when he reads his dinosaur books.” I wanted to offer my input … but I didn’t.

3. When the teacher mentioned that there will be opportunities for parents to volunteer, I wanted to stand up, wave all of my volunteer clearances in the air, and sign up immediately for each party and event … but I didn’t.

4.  At the end, when the teacher asked if anyone had any more questions, I desperately wanted to raise my hand and ask, “What will you do if my son looks sad? What about if he takes too long to answer a question? Could you please just wait a few extra seconds? And, what if he falls and gets hurt? Will you give him a hug?” I wanted to ask all of this, and more …but I didn’t.

***

There are thousands of things that I want my son’s kindergarten teacher to know because suddenly I feel that my son is completely unprepared to function in a classroom (despite a very successful year of pre-school!). For instance, during kindergarten orientation earlier in the day, the principal introduced herself and reached down to shake my son’s hand. My son looked quizzically at her hand, reached up with his own LEFT hand and gave her an awkward T-Rex claw grip. How did I neglect to teach him this?

And earlier this week during library story time, a guest speaker came to play a dinosaur quiz game with the kids. My dino-loving boy was in his element, quickly identifying obscure dinosaurs such as Baryonyx and Zuniceratops. However, during the “meet the players” section of the game, he couldn’t answer the question:  “What’s your favorite cereal?”  He froze, mumbled incoherently for a bit, and then answered, “Sticky and dry.” What?! How about the Lucky Charms you beg for every time we are in the grocery store, kiddo?

dandelionboy

Logically, I know that he is ready and that kindergarten, and this gradual letting go is a natural rite of passage (for him and for me). He will be fine in kindergarten despite not being able to identify a favorite cereal. And, his teacher – his enthusiastic, smart, and kind teacher with 29 years of experience! – will guide and encourage him to succeed to the best of his abilities.

But, it is hard to be the quiet parent when every inch of me is suddenly screaming, “Wait! Not yet! I don’t think he is ready for this.” Of course, what I really mean is:  “Wait! Not yet! I don’t think I am ready for this!”

Trusting someone else to teach and care for your child is a giant leap of faith. I know this, and his teacher knows this. So, as I stood to leave the classroom, I restrained myself from telling her about the time my son counted to 199 all by himself. Instead, I simply smiled, said thank you, and waved good-bye. I know this will get easier as each day of school passes, but right now being the quiet parent is so very difficult.

A Narrative Shift

Today I took the kids on one of our summer adventures. We visited Nixon Park, a county park located in York, Pennsylvania.  I’ve been experiencing a bit of writer’s block this summer, so when we arrived at the park and started to hike along a small stream, I thought to myself, Perfect. Today I will be inspired.

***

bridge

As I watch my kids run along the path together, they hold hands for a moment and then race over a small bridge. I contemplate writing a piece about their bond as siblings. They are nineteen months apart, and this summer, although they spend a great deal of time arguing, they have been inseparable. But then, my son accidently hits my daughter in the face with a stick, which produces tears, vicious accusations, and statements like, “I’m never going to be your friend!” 

***

microscopes

When we enter the nature center, they are immediately mesmerized by a set of microscopes with slides. They take their time to look at the various samples of feathers, fossils, and animal fur with great care. I start to brainstorm a piece about how they are so eager to learn new information lately and seem to soak it up so quickly. Then my son realizes one of the knobs on his microscope is slightly broken and loses interest. He would rather spend ten minutes at the water fountain. 

***

tree

After we eat a picnic lunch outside, sweaty and annoyed with all of the bugs, I am ready to go home, but the kids wan to go on another hike. I agree, excited that they are agreeing on something, and we set forth on the Geology trail.

A new idea comes to mind as I watch my surefooted children scamper over rocks and climb trees. I will write about how they have grown up in nature; they learned to walk on the rocky hills of our own woods, and this summer they have run barefoot through are yard and spent more time picking up rocks and acorns than toys.

I suddenly realize that their are different colored symbols on the tree; I seem to have led my children onto a new trail.

***

tworoadsI am somewhat directionally impaired and apparently can’t read (or notice) signs. I also forgot to bring the map (not that I can really read one anyway!).  My passive aggressive solution? Keep walking. We walk … and walk … and walk. Meanwhile, I am desperately hoping we have not wandered onto the three mile loop I remember seeing on the map because there is no way these kids will make it three more miles. 

I feel my anxiety building. Perhaps, I should write a reflection on how trying one new thing a day this summer has finally pushed me to my limits. (Click here to read all about that!). Maybe sometimes, sticking to the tried and true is the best course of action. Or, maybe I should write about how people who tend to panic in these type of situations should probably NOT take two young children on a hike alone in an unfamiliar woods.

***

sawyernature.jpgI eventually decide we should just go back the way we came. I say it in a cheerful voice, trying to calm the panic building in my chest and trick my children. Of course, the kids quickly start to whine and say things like, “I’m too tired!” “Are we there yet?” and “Didn’t we see this tree already?” 

Then my son runs ahead to “investigate,” but falls on the rocks and begins crying and screaming. As I rush to reach him, I frantically hope that my inspiration won’t be something that results in a post entitled, “What to Do When You Are Lost in the Woods and Need Medical Care.”

It won’t be … it’s just a scrape.  He finally calms down enough to continue our walk. At this point, I finally start to recognize where we are and feel some of my tension slip away.  I return to thinking how much I love exploring with my kids. 

Then my daughter points to my son and states in horror, “Your knee is still bleeding!” He looks down, sees a trickle of blood, remembers he hates to see blood, and starts intermittently howling and crying for the rest of the ½ mile trek back to the car.

***

snowball

Finally, we arrive at our car and drive out of the park. I decide to sooth my frayed nerves with a snowball, one of my all-time favorite summer time treats from growing up in Baltimore. As I walk to the stand to place our order, my Fitbit vibrates. Awesome! I already met my step goal, and it is only 1 pm. 

Of course, that slight vibration on my wrist is also a reminder of why I’ve been hiking more and why I should not be indulging in treats. Hmmm… perhaps I will write about my weight loss journey this summer and how I still succumb to the “eating to make myself feel better” mentality.

Nah. I’m just going to enjoy my snowball. I am done thinking of ideas today. I suppose that I have been inspired by our adventures today, but I just don’t have the energy to develop any of my ideas. Adventuring with kids can do that to you!

7 Months of Blogging: What I’ve Learned

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You are reading my my 30th post! I began my blog as part of a New Year’s resolution to start writing more, and unlike many failed resolutions in the past, I’ve stuck to it!

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but in recent years had not made it a priority. I could blame work and kids, but in reality, I just wasn’t very motivated.

In the past, I’ve also been rather hesitant about sharing my work. Making my writing public and setting a self-imposed deadline to post once a week was the best thing for me to do to help kick-start my writing and my confidence.

After seven months, I am so thankful that I started this blog. It has made me write more than I have in years and taught me much about myself and my goals.

Seven Months of Blogging.jpg•  It is hard to keep up with it.  For instance, this was supposed to be “What I Have Learned During SIX Months of Blogging,” and by now it is more like 7 1/2 months of blogging!

•  It is time consuming. MUCH more time consuming than I thought it would be. I obsess over every post, every paragraph, every sentence, and every word.

This summer I am starting to realize how much time I am spending writing, revising, and editing, and I am having a harder time balancing writing time with kid time. I’ve been trying to do one new thing a day with the kids (My Experience Trying One New Thing a Day with My Kids), and well, me sitting and writing while they play in the playroom could only be considered new for one day…

•  I don’t have the tech savviness to actually make a living doing this. I barely can figure out how to put a picture in my post. Okay, that’s exaggerating a bit, but when I tried to add the Pinterest button to my photos, it truly was like a 48 hour endeavor.

•  During weeks that I write more, I feel like I’m not as good of a parent. My kids watch more episodes of Lion Guard than is probably good for them and do not get as much of my attention. I am in constant turmoil about this since last year I resigned from teaching to spend more time with them.

However, writing and seeing a completed piece on my blog (or published elsewhere!), gives me a sense of personal satisfaction, which in turn makes me feel more worthwhile and happy. That does make me a better parent.

It’s all about finding a balance, I suppose. Like most things, some weeks I am better at this than others.

•  There is a whole community of bloggers – funny, inspirational, and positive bloggers. I wish I had been more into reading blogs when my children were younger – I would have felt less alone. I may have laughed at my children’s antics a bit more, as well!

•  My priorities have shifted. I know longer care if my house is a mess, and walking through my kitchen pretty much guarantees that you will crunch on something left behind on the floor.  When I have a free moment while the kids are coloring or playing stuffed animal school, I don’t waste it on housework anymore. I write.

•  I write about dinosaurs … a lot.

•  It has made me focus more on the small moments. This is probably the number one reason I will continue blogging. Without making a concerted effort to write, I may never have paid particular attention to my son’s fascination with flowers (Daffodils and Dinos) or noted my daughter glaring daggers at me during library story time (Story Time at the Library).

Ironically, I enjoy and find it easier to write about these smaller moments than the larger, seemingly more significant ones. I feel there is a message here. Something about not letting the little moments pass by. But, I don’t want to be too cliché…

The future of my blog:

I will continue to write.  I enjoy my self-imposed deadlines for the most part, and I like having “work” to do that I enjoy. “Work” that lasts much longer than the floor I cleaned only hours ago but is now covered in a sticky  mess of yogurt.

I will probably slow down on the frequency of my blog posts. My aim is to continue to write weekly, but try to get published more on other sites or publications. I am thrilled that starting my blog also opened up other avenues, and I finally had the courage to send my work out into the unknown to get accepted or rejected. There have been both, and that’s okay.

Lately, there are some ideas swirling in my head and an itch to perhaps start a bigger writing project down the road. I’m not ready to commit to anything yet, but I’m hoping with the return of Fall and a more orderly schedule, I can start writing a bit more seriously again.

But for now, I’m feeling a pull to slow down as the lazy days of summer come to an end. More time is needed to not only soak in the sun, but also bask in the smiles and giggles of two children who I love more than all of the words in the world.

MY BLOG IN A NUTSHELL

So, a question to my blogger friends: How do you balance your writing and family time? How often do you write a post? Any advice for this blogger who fears she might be losing her motivation?

Watching the Olympics with Your Children: Fun and Educational

I have always loved to watch the Olympics. There is just something so exciting about watching an event that only occurs every four years and features the best athletes in the world.

This year I will get to share the excitement of the summer Olympics with my own kids (4 and 6) for the first time.  I’ve already started to get them excited by coloring in flags of various countries to make a banner to hang in our living room during the Games.

Olympicbanner

Watching the Olympics with your children is a fun way to bond while also teaching them a great deal. Check out my article on Parent.co where I discuss some of the benefits of watching the Olympics with your kids. Here is the link:  6 Reasons to Get Excited About Watching the Olympics with Kids.

In the article, I include some activities I plan to do with the kids. Here are a few other ideas I intend to do to make the Olympics even more exciting:

  • Make a chart to keep track of how many medals the United States wins.
  • Make some Olympic rings. Check out this easy pipe cleaner version I found on Pinterest: Easy Olympics Craft for Toddlers and Preschoolers
  • Play our own version of Olympic games. Maybe try some timed races around the house, or diving (more like jumping) competitions in our pool. And, I’m sure there will be some type of wild gymnastics going on in the living room. Anything to keep them moving during commercial breaks!
  • Make our own American flags. I like the idea on this site:  Simple American Flag Craft for Kids

Any one out there have any other ideas to make the Olympics fun for young kids? Share below. I would love to try some new ones!

I will be posting any Olympic themed craft or activity we do on Instagram. Follow along! OneMileSmileBlog

As always, thanks for reading!

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A Mother’s Comfort

flowers

A faded purple comforter with raggedy edges can often be found crumpled in the corner of our family room sofa.  Upon investigation, there is nothing overtly special about this blanket. In fact, the general wear and tear on it would suggest that it is a blanket that one should strongly consider getting rid of.  It was never of high quality to begin with; I’m sure my mother picked it up at Walmart or Kmart in one of those bed-in-a-bag deals.

However, the blanket is almost twenty years old, and over time a series of memories and feelings have been woven into its fabric making it hard to throw away.

The only word that I can think of to describe my feelings about this comforter is HOME.

My mother surprised me with the comforter the first time I came back home from college during my freshman year. It was Thanksgiving break, and I missed home desperately. Although I had insisted that I wanted to go away to college, I was homesick as soon as I watched my family pull away from the dorms.

My school was four hours away, so I had only seen my parents once since settling into my dorm room in mid-August. They had visited during parents’ weekend, but the visit had only brought news of my mother’s newly diagnosed disease and none of the comfort and familiarity that I had thought it would.

When I arrived home during that first break, I was filled with a mixture of relief, anxiety, and incredible sadness. After greeting my family, I lugged my bags down the stairs to my bedroom and was surprised to find my ridiculously bright, geometric-patterned comforter replaced with a pale purple one printed with swirls of flowers. Purple was my favorite color.

I spent most of that break crying into that comforter as the reality of my mom’s diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) set in. The following year, I transferred colleges and came home to spend more time with my mom.  Another year passed, and again I found myself crying into the purple flowers after my mother’s funeral.

***

After several moves and almost twenty years later, I still have that comforter. It bounced along with me from apartment to apartment before it was replaced with a new comforter.  It was then relegated for use during camping trips and guest visits.

Now, my family and I use it when we watch movies in our cold, downstairs family room. My kids and I cuddle underneath it, a tangle of warm limbs, while it catches the piles of popcorn that somehow do not make it into their mouths.

blanketreading

It’s falling apart now.  The threadbare fabric is torn in some spots, and recently the seam of one side completely ripped apart. As its cotton filling spilled out into the dryer, I suddenly realized how much the blanket meant to me.

This comforter reminds me so much of coming home during my first break all those years ago. It doesn’t necessarily recall the sadness and heartache I felt over my mother’s impending death, but it reminds me of the warmth of stepping into my childhood home again, the comfort of just being close to my mom.

My mother knew what the news of her disease would do to me, knew that her middle child was excellent at holding in her feelings and would shy away from overt attempts of comfort. She knew that I would pretend everything was okay when really it was far from it.

She knew that she could do little to make the situation better for me.  Purchasing the comforter, making my bed, and giving me a soft place to land was her hug to me. A hug that unexpectedly lasted for years, and one which I get to share with my own children, her grandchildren, now.