Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's no secret: Parenthood is full of heartache and joy

From today's Briefing:

I have two secrets to share.
A few nights ago, Katie sidled up, put her arm around my shoulder, moved my hair out of the way and whispered in my ear: “Mommy, I need to tell you something. Sometimes it feels like you like Cooper more than me.”
Oh, my heart.
Who hasn’t felt that way? That a parent favors another child over you. That the boss prefers another employee — or several — over you. Regardless of the truth, the feeling is real.
I pulled her onto my lap, squeezed her close and said: “Katie, I am so sorry that you feel that way. It’s not true at all, but I believe that you feel that way. Thank you for telling me.”
She snuggled for a moment then bounced away.
Mom guilt was slightly buffered with gratitude. I’m thankful that she trusted me with her concern. I grew up with similar worries, but I would never, ever have said them aloud.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Before church yesterday

(Poor Cooper is suffering from awful allergies this spring -- his eyes were very swollen this weekend.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Big dreams are important for kids and parents alike

From today's Briefing:

My children have formally declared their college choices.
Cooper plans to attend the University of Michigan, the alma mater of his father, grandfather, great- grandfather and more. He says he’ll study some kind of science with the goal of being an engineer or inventor.
Katie has set her sights on the University of Texas, the alma mater of no family members as far as I know. She originally declared paleontology as her major but now is considering art. Or maybe both. She’d like to create art with artifacts she discovers. Preferably in Africa, though she’s worried about working in the heat.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No pressure to grow up, but he's doing it anyway

From today's Briefing:

A few days into the diagnosis process that revealed my husband’s inoperable brain tumor, I sought the advice of a trusted play therapist. I needed help on the best way to explain to our children, then 6 and 2, what was happening to their daddy.
I relied on her advice over and over during Steve’s illness and death. As we continue to grieve, I continue to rely on her words — on how to answer questions, on how to be hopeful yet realistic. And especially on how to take care of Cooper.
She stressed that he should never feel that he has to be strong for me or anyone else. That he shouldn’t be burdened with being “the man of the house.” That he needed to be a child, not a little man.
So I’ve been careful to tell him explicitly that, yes, he is the only male in the house but that he’s not the man of the house. He’s a child and shouldn’t shoulder the weight of adult problems. That’s my job.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Siblings call for different kinds of parenting skills

From last week's Briefing:

One of the simultaneous joys and frustrations of being parent to more than one child is recognizing the startling similarities and striking differences among siblings.
At our house, that means that some parenting jobs become routine. Cooper stated asking questions — lots of questions — about the world around him as a toddler. He hasn’t stopped.
Cooper trained me and vice versa. He asks a question, and I answer as directly and simply as I can. If I don’t know the answer, I say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
I’ve tried to remain patient with his curiosity, and on just a few occasions I have to declare myself too worn out or too busy to answer. Asking questions is how you get answers, and I’m thankful that Cooper genuinely loves learning.
Little sister Katie is exactly the same. She’s been quizzing me and anyone else who will listen since age 2.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tip for exhausted parents: Kids have energy to share

In tomorrow's Briefing:

My family, probably like yours, has silly traditions and inside jokes.
Many years ago, Steve and I developed a word that means “I love you” and “I’m thinking of you” and “you’re the best” all rolled into just four letters: blub. We’d sign notes and e-mails with “blub.” Send a text with the word alone. End phone calls with it.
When I’m especially missing my late husband, I search for the word blub in my e-mail inbox and randomly open an old note from Steve. Our children have co-opted the word and have assigned it their own reverence.
Blub is not to be used haphazardly. It’s a family word, used just in our little circle of three on Earth and one in heaven.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Before Ash Wednesday services tonight

Hoping this royal wedding brings 'happily ever after'

In tomorrow's Briefing:

Women who were girls in the 1980s tend to share an affinity for a few defining pop culture icons.
They include Madonna, who influenced our fashions and tape decks and challenged our notions of feminism and femininity.

Jake Ryan, the fictional, dreamy, totally awesome hero of Sixteen Candles.
Diana Spencer, who became the Princess of Wales while we were dressed in pajamas.
Almost 30 years ago, giddy girls and their mothers all over the U.S. woke up really early on a summer morning to watch a real-life fairytale wedding.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Together We Can

Together We Can

Together we can
Build skyscrapers
Reduce, reuse
Stop landfills
Do food drives
Help the community
Not pollute
Save energy
Walk to school
Donate money
Pick up trash
In one short sentence, make the world a better place.
-- Cooper Damm

Cooper wrote this poem for the PTA Reflections contest in the fall. His piece earned a blue ribbon at the school level and advanced to the council level, where he earned honorable mention.

He and other Bledsoe students received their council awards at the Monday morning assembly this week.

Before church this morning

Thursday, March 03, 2011

What kids teach us: It's the journey, not the destination

From today's Briefing:

My late husband and I decided early in our marriage that travel would be a priority.
Steve and I didn’t covet fancy cars or flashy jewelry or the biggest house in the neighborhood. We preferred to save money for experiences instead of things.
When we had children, we didn’t slow down. In fact, we traveled more with children than without.
Cooper has traveled to 15 states plus the District of Columbia — not bad for a 9-year-old. Katie’s not far behind.
Even when Steve was undergoing treatment for brain cancer, we fit in trips to ChicagoDisneyland andPalm Beach, Fla.
Just five weeks after Steve died, the kids and I skipped town for Southern California and a Legoland adventure. A trip for the three of us seemed a fitting way to mourn together and to start creating new memories.
We talk about our past travels all the time. We reminisce during meals and car rides. There are photos throughout the house of favorite moments — Cooper near the Golden Gate Bridge, the four of us on the beach in Gloucester, Mass., just the three of us at Legoland.
Even if the children don’t remember the actual moments because they were too young at the time, they certainly are aware of my recollections and our growing family lore.
So imagine my surprise when talking with Cooper immediately after school Tuesday. He’d just taken theTAKS writing test, for which he and his classmates had prepared for months. The prompt — the topic to write about — is kept secret until the day of the test.