Saturday, December 29, 2012


Since moving the kids to public school I have struggled with playdates. Actually it is since I moved Leif to public school a year and a half ago.

During this time we have found one boy whose parents willingly let him come over and play on a regular basis. Of course this year the boys are in different classrooms and not so close anymore.

Maybe it was being in a small private school that gave parents more trust in each other? Maybe it was that I worked "with" (at least for the same company) as many of the other parents? Or were we just a much more trusting bunch?

Last year (when Leif was in 1st grade) Leif picked out a few boys in his class and I sent notes home with them through the teacher requesting playdates and sending my phone number and e-mail address. Not a single taker.

This was near opposite of our experience at the Montessori school where the kids' social calendars were things to be reckoned with. Playdate on this day with this family, on this day with another, sleepover with E on this Saturday...

I started Leif's second grade year in the same manner - he picked out two kids (a boy and a girl) he was close with - and is still close with - and sent in a sheet of paper for each with my phone number and e-mail address and a note requesting a playdate. No reply.

I volunteered in Leif's class for the Christmas party and Leif introduced me to the boy who said, "you sent home a pink piece of paper with your phone number!" Probably so - I didn't remember it being pink. I told him I would love to have him over to play with Leif still.

He dropped his head and said, "yeah, I am not allowed to go over to anyone's house".

I decided to inquire - "at all, like ever? Or are you just grounded or something."

He replied, "ever, I can't ever go to anyone's house".

How sad.

If this is the 2nd grade mentality - you can imagine that the kindergarten situation isn't better at all.

Skadi has a girl in her class two houses away from us. She walks home from the bus stop with us and her mom. Her mom loaned me her Doppler so I could listen to the baby's heartbeat whenever I wanted. We exchanged phone numbers - but the little girl has never been allowed to come to our house.

At open house this year Skadi introduced me to another little girl and her mom. We exchanged phone numbers and her mom has never returned my phone calls requesting a playdate.

I had started wondering if it was just me? Do we come off as creepy? Am I way too lax in that if my kids were invited to another family's house for a playdate one Saturday afternoon that I would be dropping them off and waving goodbye? When I was both my kids' age I was constantly walking to someone else's house to play. In kindergarten it was 4 houses down, or my friend whose grandmother lived next door.

My kids are still used to the small Montessori reality that we lived for so many years - and thankfully I still have phone numbers for many of those kids. But it seems nowadays that unless you know the parents pretty dang well - playdates are off limits.

Other thoughts/experiences?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Elf on the Shelf

We have done this tradition for at least three years in our house – maybe more? Basically when it hit the shelves, it hit our house. My kids have latched on to our elf Mina in ways I never expected. One of the worst punishments ever is having to go tell Mina what you did, because just maybe she might pass the information onto Santa who could lower their ranking from good list to bad list.
Our Elf has morphed as our kids have grown – from simply moving around the house and the kids had to find him/her (we haven’t assigned a gender to Mina) to this year being a bit more of a prankster towards Leif and into dressing up – like Skadi. We don’t bend over backwards… some nights the elf is lucky to change shelves and some days she packs the kids’ lunches (soy sauce, mushrooms, nasty stuff they will never eat) or makes breakfast (a bowl of candy for each kid – which, no, they don’t get to eat). Or sets up a science experiment from the kids' science kits.
There is a ton of bashing out there of the Elf on the Shelf tradition and I routinely see citations from friends on Facebook that he is “creepy”. There are two divided camps – the people who have one and whose kids love it and those who proclaim it “creepy”.
Every time I see someone proclaim it “creepy” I want to post back, “so what is your opinion on Toy Story?” Are Woody and Buzz and their friends creepy because they come to life and play around the house and get into mischief? $1.9 BILLION in gross revenue surmises a guess that those of the “creepy” camp bought into a little bit of the Toy Story mania that started in 1995. The difference here? Adults actually playing it out and a story that the Elf reports transgressions to Santa? Is that what makes it creepy? Really, I just don’t get those statements. But whatever.
This year Leif told me that he thinks that the elf is actually just a stuffed animal that parents move around. My response to him was, “but isn’t it more fun to play along and believe?” He nodded and I haven’t heard another word out of him. I expect that when baby #3 is to the age in a couple years of engaging with Mina (3.5 or so?) that I will no longer have to set my phone alarm with a reminder and that Leif at least will embrace the tradition and will relish in coming up with hiding places and pranks.
Skadi is full on into the Elf tradition this year. I have leveraged this to my advantage – she must get dressed before finding the elf. Because, well, we wouldn’t want Mina to see her nakey. So every morning she whips out of bed (sort of) and pulls off her pj’s, finds clothes and goes racing around the house. Then screams an announcement of where Mina is and giggles about what mischief he/she is up to now. The other night, Mina made it to the top of the tree somehow and is hugging our angel. A few days ago Mina graffiti’d Skadi’s gingerbread house a bit with frosting by writing her name and the word “YUM” on the lawn. Hilarious laughter. Leif’s favorite was when we hadn’t yet decorated our tree and Mina decided to help us along – by decorating it with Leif’s underwear. And occasionally there are notes – but not too often because it is really hard to disguise my handwriting and the kids are getting wise to that. Laughter and frivolity from my kids – not creepy.
Honestly, whether or not another family embraces or rejects the Elf has no bearing on my family. We love it, we go with it and have fun. I might leverage it to my advantage in certain cases and maybe that makes my holiday season a touch easier at times (like I don’t have to tell my daughter umpteen times to get out of bed and get dressed) and there are certainly people out there who think that is wrong – just as there are people out there who think that driving an SUV is wrong, or putting my kids in daycare is wrong. Get over it. It works for us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

No Crying Over Spilled Milk

I got an e-mail from Skadi’s teacher yesterday.
My daughter is opposite my son – she is a food snob and wants nothing to do with the school lunches. “Their cheese pizza is gross mommy, it doesn’t taste anything like what pizza should.” So every day I pack her a lunch. She is also a milk fiend. We have been out of milk boxes and I have been a slacker about going and buying more (plus, they are freaky expensive) and so lately I have been sticking her milk in a sealed cup of some sort – a Sigg, a Camelback mug, something of that nature.
Well I won’t be doing that anymore!
Her teacher e-mailed me letting me know that her milk spilled in her lunchbox, which was in her backpack. She “instructed me” to wash her bag tonight and told me that she wouldn’t send home her library book or folders or any work until the backpack was washed since there was an odor.
Nearly all my communications with her teacher are via e-mail and I have to say that the first third of the year went by with me bristling every time I got an e-mail from her. Her written communications aren’t the best. Then I had Skadi’s parent teacher conference and my opinion of her changed – she was warm and friendly and actually seemed to like and appreciate my daughter and her strange sense of fashion and wow, she really is a VERY, VERY smart little girl (too bad she doesn’t choose to show it very often)! Then I got the choppy e-mail from her regarding the milk incident and I tried hard not to bristle again.
I responded that the bag would get washed tonight and I was sorry to hear about the spilled milk and left it at that.
Then Skadi got home.
“Mom, my library book got ruined and Mrs. W said that we have to PAY for it!” she tells me.
At this point I am confused – there was no mention of the ruined library book in the e-mail. But Skadi is adamant that she needs to pay for it. So I send back a quick e-mail – “Skadi tells me her library book was ruined by the milk. Obviously we will pay for this, please tell me who I should contact to send a check to or to plan for a replacement book.” And she replied quickly with a name – and yes, the library book was ruined.
Ok, so all that is dealt with despite my being a little irksome that the ruined book wasn’t mentioned the first time around, we are moving on. Then there is bedtime.
I went in and Skadi had all her change piled onto her bed and proceeded into a conversation I would NEVER have with my money-grubbing son.
“What is this for?” I ask her.
“I am getting all my money together to take to school to pay for the library book,” she tells me.
“No honey, mommy will pay for the library book,” I tell her, grabbing the change to put it away.
“No. Mrs W says that I will have to pay for it and I AM going to!” she grabs the money back.
“Honey, mommy will pay for the book, when Mrs. W says that you will have to pay, she means ‘your family’”, (or at least she dang well better mean that).
“No mommy, I have my money, I will pay,” she insists again.
“Skadi no,” I tell her. “You are my daughter, I am responsible. You save your money.”
“But mommy, I don’t want to waste your money,” she cries.
“You aren’t wasting it honey!” I tell her, “I was the one who packed the milk in the leaky cup.”
“Yes, you are right, you did do that, it wasn’t me,” she said.
The conversation went on a bit longer as I finally got her to accept that *I* would pay for the book and that she wouldn’t.
I left impressed with my daughter’s determination to pay for the ruined book, something we are pushing with our kids "take responsibility", but at the same time dismayed at her teacher. Why does she tell Skadi she needs to pay for a book, but didn’t convey that to me in the e-mail? She is 5 years old, the spilled milk was an accident, but it made a strong impact on her day. Why, oh why, could she not have dealt directly with me on something that was ruined and needed replaced?
I think I am back to bristling at my interactions with her – starting to think the conference meeting was a good show put on for my benefit.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Leif has a friend named Izabella. Cute little girl – I see her at gymnastics. They enjoy each other’s company but Leif is at that stage where most girls aren’t really worth his time or energy and he gets horribly embarrassed at anything involving kissing or boyfriend/girlfriend. Hans has taken to harassing him by saying “smoochie smoochie” at random times just to see the flood of red up our son’s face.
Last night’s dinner conversation:
Me: “So who did you play with at recess today.”
Leif: “Cody had to stay in and do his work so I just rolled down the hill until N came and chased me.”
Me: “Sounds good. How is Izabella?”
Leif: “Good, she wanted me to play with her at recess, but I didn’t.”
Me: “Why? I know she is your friend, is everything ok?”
Leif: “Yes, but she and Adriana wanted me to be the groomer.”
Me: “Groomer, what do you mean?”
Leif: “You know, groomer.”
Me: “Well I am not sure, like a dog groomer.”
Leif: “No mom. You know. Dad was one once.”
Me: “I don’t think dad was ever a groomer. He cut Winny’s hair once recently since we don’t want to stress her out at the groomers.”
Leif: “No, that’s not it. He was a groomer in your wedding.”
Me: “Oh a GROOM! They wanted you to be the groom!”
Leif: “Yes. They said it was just pretend, but I don’t trust Adriana, she might make it for reals or something bad like that.”
And at this point the conversation just dissolves because I couldn’t stop laughing.