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Do Needles Always Hurt?

This past Wednesday I took my 3-year old daughter, “Beanie” to the doctor for her annual physical. It is that time of year again when doctor forms have to filled out and immunizations have to be given. Side bar: Thank God for her school reminding me when her medical form is about to expire. I would never remember when these types of things are due.
Either way, I was fortunate enough to get an appointment in the evening so I didn’t have to miss a day of work. So that morning, my daughter and I began with our regular morning routine. As usual, I began by letting her know what the plans for the day were going to be.

I explained to her that after school, we were going to visit the doctor for Dr. D to give her a check up.

As she brushed her teeth, she just nodded as if to say “Got it, sounds like a plan”.  When she finished brushing her teeth, she gave me a rundown of questions as she tried to get an idea of what her visit was going to entail “Is the doctor going to look at my eyes?” “Yes, I’m sure she will”, I responded.  “And my nose?”, “Yes”, “And my ears?”, “Yup, everything. She is going to make sure that your whole body is healthy”  She smiled, jumped down from standing on the toilet seat and we continued to head out the door.

After school let out, I picked her up and we were off to the doctor.  At Dr. D’s office Beanie was her usual quiet and observant self which she becomes in settings that she is not very familiar with. Occasionally, she asked me questions, pointing to the equipment hanging on the walls. “What’s that mama? Is that to check my mouth?”  I explained as much as I could, hoping that I got it right.  Ophthalmoscope, Otoscope, Stethescope. They all scope something!

After her check up, we were sent to the lab for bloodwork, so I explained to her where we were headed next. She looked at me quizzically, as if to ask, “what do you mean?”

So I went on to explain that she is going to have a chance to see her blood go through a really long tube and into a long glass container. “They are going to take your blood to make sure that your blood is healthy” She simply replied “oh”, and we continued on to the lab.

When we got there, the lab technician immediately informed us that she was ready for us, so we went straight to the back. “Mom, you need to sit here and put baby on your lap” the lab tech instructed me, “Then I will need you to place your arm around her body like this” she demonstrated, holding my arm gently. As she prepared her tools, Beanie watched quietly. I also watched quietly as I held her in what felt more like a soft embrace than a restraint.

Just as the tech moved the needle towards Beanies arm, I said “Okay, now you are going to see your blood go through this tube right here.

What color do you think it’s going to be?” “Red!”, she replied with a smile. “Do you think so?”, I said smiling back at her, “Let’s see!”

As the blood flowed through the tube, she watched it, mesmerized to the point of salivation, then she broke from her trance and said excitedly, “I told ya it was gonna be red!”  “Yup, you were right!”, I gave her a big squeeze as the tech took out the bandaid.

“Wow”, said the tech as she placed the bandaid on Beanie’s arm “You were so good with that needle.” Then the tech looked at me and said, “I have never seen this before.  She didn’t even flinch!”

Then my child actually said grinning from ear to ear, “I like needles!”.  While I found that reaction to be a bit awkward, I couldn’t help to also acknowledge that she had a huge smile on her face, which was the total opposite of what was obviously  the norm in that lab.  And guess what people? They didn’t even give her a sticker OR a lollipop. She was genuinely happy because of her amazing experience.

My technique may have encouraged a little bit of a strange reaction but it worked to prevent a flood of tears.
The nurses acknowledgment of my big girl’s casual behavior made me realize that none of my children have ever cried over receiving any needles. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some very important things that I DONT do and other things that I always make sure to do, which definitely contribute to a calm, cool, and collective visit to the doctor:

I always let my children know that we are going to the doctor on the day of their appointment. Knowing what to expect helps one to prepare in whatever way they need to.

I am very careful with the answers to the questions that my children ask. As my children got older, sometimes they would even ask, “Am I getting a needle today?” My answer would usually be “I am not sure” because the truth is I never really did know. However,
there was no point in answering definitively, which could lead to disappointment and mistrust or unnecessary anxiousness.

And, I also never ever answer the question “Is it going to hurt?” with any definitive answer, because the truth is what’s painful for one person is not necessarily painful for another.

I have received many needles in my lifetime and none of them ever hurt to me so, from my perspective, the answer is “No, they don’t hurt (me)”.  But I know some adults who cry at the thought of a needle for one reason or another, in which case, from their perspective, needles hurt a lot. Either way, as parents, we must be mindful of projecting our own fears of things onto our children.

And last, but certainly not least, I don’t make sad and nervous looking faces at the idea of a needle. I like to keep a “nuetral” face, which looks rather blank. Children can read faces and they look to us more often than most people realize to determine how to react to a situation. Therefore, it’s important to avoid misleading them based on an experience that is very personal to you as an individual. It’s best to let them come to their own conclusion about and based on their own experiences.

Talk to you soon!

-Serene “Sweetpea”

Share with Me: Are there any experiences that you and your child react to in very different manners?

 

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Laugh at Yourself

Tuesday morning started the way pretty much every morning begins in my home. The iPad alarm went off at 5:30am. I hit snooze repeatedly until I eventually dragged myself out of bed at 6:15am, reminding myself that I have to go to bed earlier the night before.

Doing loads of laundry, a sink full of dishes, preparing dinner, putting a toddler to bed, looking over a few work documents, paying a couple of bills, and checking homework all in the evening somehow never add up to me going to bed at 10pm like I aspire to do.

Either way, I dragged myself out of bed, walked in the room to make sure the boys were awake, then I shuffled back to my room to get myself dressed. At 7am I made my way into my Beanie’s room. She was already sitting up on her bed ready to start the day. Seeing her little 3-year old “just-woke up smile” always takes the place of a cup of coffee, which works for me, since I don’t drink coffee. I just love that little face! As I begin to pull out her clothing for the day, her smile grows wider as she notices that I picked a new dress that she has never worn before. She loves her tights and dresses. As I help her to dress herself, she can hardly speak clearly because her excitement over her dress is just too big. But from what I could make out, she is speaking of her plans to show Daddy her brand new dress. Once she is fully clothed, I then attempt to put her school shirt on her. It’s a cute little blue number that the children are required to wear everyday. Well, she is not with this plan at all! She does not want me to cover her dress. She grabs the shirt as if it is attacking her and screams “NOooo!!, I want to wear my dress”. I start to engage her in a conversation to explain that technically speaking, she will still be wearing her dress if I put the shirt over it, but then I think, it would probably be best not to get into this power struggle with her. It’s just too early for that.

So I decide to just pack the shirt and persuade her to wear it once we get to her school. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

As she runs out of her room to show Daddy and “her boys” (as she likes to call her brothers), I brush my teeth, pack my lunch, and grab some last minute things to pack for the office. I throw on my coat, I put baby girl’s coat on her, and we are out the door.

When we arrive at her school, I immediately remember that she has to put on her uniform shirt. I begin searching through my many bags. No shirt. Under the stroller? No shirt. Her book-bag? No shirt. I search those same places once again, hoping that somehow the shirt would manifest in round 2. No shirt.

What the heck!! I just know that I packed that shirt!
My daughter’s teacher watches as I look frantically around for the shirt and after a few moments, she explains to me that it is fine and not to worry about it. “Just have her wear it tomorrow, mom.” her teacher says to me with a gentle smile. While I appreciate her understanding, I can not find peace within myself because I just know I packed that darn shirt! But either way, I have a bus to catch, so I kiss my Beanie and I head on to the bus stop, all the while, scratching my head about this shirt situation.
When I arrive to my office, I remove my jacket, say my good mornings to my teaching staff and head to the main office to check my mailbox.
As I enter the main office, which is not yet filled with all it’s staff or the hustle and bustle of the many guest that visit on a daily basis, I reach into my mailbox, pull out a stack of mail, and step back on what I immediately recognize is not the hard floor that I had been walking on all this time.

I look down and discover what I am stepping on. It’s none other than my daughter’s uniform shirt!! What in the world!!?

I look around the empty office to see who could have placed this there to mock me about the confusing morning that I had just had. Who placed that shirt behind me on the floor? But there is no one in the office. I’m standing there alone.
As I reach down to pick up the shirt, the entire memory of my steps from this morning come flooding back to me all of a sudden. I remember exactly what happened this morning. It all make sense to me now.

I hadn’t lost my mind. I did pack that shirt. I just didn’t pack it where most people would have normally packed a shirt.

It wasn’t in my bag, it wasn’t under the stroller, it wasn’t in my daughter’s bag. I had “packed” her shirt under my arm!! Yup. You read it correctly. In my effort to multitask this morning and keep my hands free, I had shoved her shirt in my arm pit. This was a practice that I had done many times before since becoming a mother of three because well, you don’t get another set of hands when you have more than two children,which is just not fair. And while this is something that I truly don’t understand, I have to just become more creative to move from point A to point B. And so, like some kind of winged bird, I tucked the shirt under my arm, threw my sweater on, and kept it moving. With that shirt nestled in a safe place, that morning, I brushed my teeth, my daughter’s teeth, packed lunch, opened a stroller, and put on my coat all without that shirt budging from between my armpit and my sweater.

Yes, this morning, I had displayed a special set of skills that had helped me to maneuver through my morning and avoid the tantrum of a three year old. The only problem is… I had forgotten.

As I picked the shirt up off the office floor and interestingly enough, tucked it back under my arm so that I could carry my mail in my hands, I was thankful that the office was empty at that moment, because the laughter that erupted from inside of me would have surely concerned any staff member that was sitting there. I could not stop laughing at myself! As I walked back to my office, I replayed the morning over and over in my head and amused myself at how many things I had done with this shirt under my arm. Do you know how tightly I had to be holding that thing there while popping open a stroller and not allowing it to budge one bit? Come on, that’s skills!!!
This situation had absolutely made my morning. For the rest of the day, every time I thought about it, I smiled at the thought that as a mother and wife, who is also a full time director of two schools, sometimes I just have to juggle. I do what it takes to make sure that I don’t drop not one ball. However, sometimes in the process, I’m finding, I might occasionally lose a marble. And when that happens, I just have to laugh at myself. After all, it’s better than crying over a misplaced shirt, that will eventually turn up one way or another.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: Tell me a time that you had to laugh at yourself.

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T’was the Night Before Fifth Grade

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This “Back to School Eve”, my 10 year old son, “Munchkin”, made my heart smile. My children, more times than not, do things that impress me. They oftentimes make me proud with the decisions they make and how they navigate themselves in certain circumstances.

However, on the night before the first day of school, I was especially impressed by and proud of my Munchkin.

Normally, the night before the first day of school, I am doing last minute preparations. I am labeling notebooks with names and subjects. I am color coordinating folders to match subjects areas, if that even makes sense: The science folder has to be green because green equals earth and the study of the earth is geology, which is a type of science, right?? Right??
Don’t judge me.
I am usually popping tags off of new shirts that were purchased, and peeling sizing labels off of new pants. You get the picture.
My need to organize all of their things takes me to my happy place and usually leaves my children staring at me, wondering if I sniffed the new bottle of glue or the sharpie marker that I am using to label said bottle of glue.
But this year was totally different. This year I was not in my happy place. This year there was no new glue, no new folders, and definitely not as many tags to pop and labels to peel. This year my household took a financial hit and an unexpected household repair that did not allow for my husband and I to make the purchases that we are normally able to make each year. So that night as I placed my 10 year olds freshly washed backpack from the previous year on the living room sofa, I felt like I had let my children down. All children want to feel prepared for their first day of school and I had failed in helping to make this possible. I was disappointed, my 13 year old Papi was disappointed, and my Munchkin actually said out loud, “we are so unprepared!”
But then something amazing happened….
My Munchkin remembered all of the many notebooks and folders and pencils and erasers that we have stashed down in the basement stationery drawer. Yes, I have a stationery drawer. It’s filled with the overage of notebooks, folders and things that are purchased each school year. I hadn’t thought of that drawer in my “no school supplies funk” because I always expect to buy new things for the new school year. But my Munchkin remembered. He went downstairs and came up with five folders, four notebooks, and a marker. He began labeling his own notebooks and pairing them with folders that he designated for each subject. He did not color coordinate them, but I had to let that go. He was in his own happy place. He smiled from ear to ear as he pieced together his own supplies. “This is for my math class, and oooh, this is my folder for science, and look mom, I found this pencil case so I’m putting all of these erasers and new pencils in here!!” He was so excited. He was in a zone, people!
And slowly but surely, I realized a few things. I realized that I had been demonstrating a lack of faith in believing that everything would work out. I had almost allowed a lack of material items to put a damper on a special milestone day in my life and the lives of my children. And I also realized that my children don’t need me to organize their materials for school anymore. They got this! They no longer need to be spectators as their mom goes “label crazy”. I realized something else that evening, which was probably the biggest epiphany of all: I probably should have stopped being “label crazy” mom a while ago. My boys should have been a part of the folder and notebook designating process from the time they were able to write. Getting ready for school should have never been about my happy place to begin with. It should have always been about their happy place. It should have always been about their growing independence and maturity. My Munchkin made me so proud with his silver lining response to what I saw as a dark cloud. It’s amazing how on the day before school, I was taught a great lesson by my own child.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: How do your children partake in the preparations for the first day of school?

Review Time: Fuerza Bruta

Show: Fuerza Bruta

Location: Daryl Roth Theater- 101 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003
United States

My Show Time: 7pm

I may be getting old.

Wow, this is powerful.

I may be overthinking this.

I’m a little confused.

I’m very confused.

These were the thoughts that raced through my mind as I stood there in the show Fuerza Bruta. Yes, I said stood. Stood…along with 100 other people. I may be exaggerating. It may have only been 60 people, but as a person who gets anxious in a crowd, it felt like 100 people. And it was all types of people: older people, middle aged people, teens, and a few older children. The point is there were no seats. But what there was…., was a lot going on. There was drumming, there was dancing, there were strobe lights, there was a D.J., there was water, there was wind.

I’ve never been a “club-type” person so the call to jump up and down was not one that I felt the need to answer; not in my teenage years, and definitely not now. Though, I must admit, the rhythm of the drums did evoke me to shake my groove thang a little bit.
But back to the “a lot going on”.

There was a man running on a conveyer belt, which at first just seemed like a pretty cool scene until he gets shot and the “blood” runs down his shirt only for him to reveal a clean shirt under the stained shirt. At this point I can’t help but to notice that he’s a black man and the suspension device used to ensure that he doesn’t fall off the conveyor belt, now reminds me of a noose. So now I’m wondering if this show is about the struggles of being a minority in this society. Am I overthinking this? I wonder. But then the man begins to run and break through props that remind me of the many barriers that black men have to encounter and overcome on a daily basis. And I think, surely this is what this is all about! This is deep!!
Then comes the extremely thick plexi glass ceiling that is durable enough to support gallons of water and the 4 women who are belly flopping and sliding like penguins over our heads. And I think, “huh?” What does this have to do with the struggle? Perhaps I have overthought this (side-eye).

No, I can’t be overthinking this because now there’s a segment with women who seem to symbolize a liberation movement, as they shed half of their business attire to break out into some serious drumming. (I’m moved to dancing again. The drums always get me!)
Then the ceiling lowers once again and the “penguin sliding” resumes, and the audience is encouraged to reach up and touch the ceiling as it gets closer and closer to the crowd (A claustrophobic person’s worse nightmare).

And I’m confused again.

But the crowd around me is shouting and jumping and I’m wondering perhaps I’m missing something. Perhaps I too should have purchased an alcoholic beverage that is available for sale in the lobby. Perhaps the secret to the point of the show is found at the bottom of the cup.

By the time the show is over I’m left trying to read the looks on the faces of the guest that I invited, hoping they don’t beat me up for wasting an hour of their life. But they smile and say, “It was fun. It was interesting. It was good. It was different. I liked it.” I just smile in return and wish that I could have an opportunity to talk, just briefly, with the creators of this show to ask “What the…?”
But the show has been around since 2003, when it originated in Buenos Aires, and it has been running in New York at the Daryl Roth Theater since 2007, so there is definitely a crowd out there who thinks dancing and tapping into a deep level of consciousness, all while getting misted with water, slapped by confetti, and hit by gusts of wind from giant fans is an amazing experience.

So, why did I go see it in the first place, you ask, because there were definitely many opportunities for me to have seen what the show was all about before stepping foot in the theater. Yes, this is certainly true. However, the tickets were a gift to me and although I read about it, I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. You never fully know some things until you try it. Well, I came, I saw, I conquered, and I scratched my head in confusion.

There’s something out there for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me, but it may be for you.

Talk to you soon,
Sweetpea

Share with me:
Have you seen Fuerza Bruta? What were your thoughts? Do you plan to see it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

 

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Review Time: That Physics Show

Review: That Physics Show

Location: Elektra Theater,  300 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036, United States                                                                                                                        Our Show time: 3pm

“I learned  more in these 90 minutes than I learned in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade”. 

These were the words of my 13 year old as we walked out of “That Physics Show”, an off- Broadway production that my family and I were fortunate enough to be given tickets to see. The premise of the show? Well, the name says it all: “Physics”. It was 90 minutes of Einstein meets Bill Nye the Science Guy. My son’s reaction to the show took me by surprise. Throughout the entire show, he looked less than amused. I guess it was that “don’t let them see you smile, laugh, or enjoy anything about life” thing that teens do. His 10 year old brother, however, knelt in his chair, sat on the edge of his seat, stood blocking the people in front of him, all to see experiment demonstrations, one after the next. He also whispered the occasional “I know what’s about to happen” in my ear, followed by a sped up narrative of what was about to go down so that he could beat the experiment to the outcome and have the satisfaction of saying “I told you!!”

As for me, I was pleasantly surprised that both of my boys ended up enjoying the show. My first instinct upon sitting in the small theater was concern that they were going to be bored. Well, actually, my VERY first instinct was to scout out the “Exit” signs. Having all three of my children (and my mom) in the small space automatically triggered my anxiety and had my spider senses tingling. But once that was established, I was concerned that the boys were going to stare at me some point in the show and say “Really mom? Really?” They were already giving me that look when I told them we were going to a show about science.

“That Physics Show” was carried out primarily by one man, David Maiullo, with appearances by his two assistants who said very little, but provided him with all the props needed to set him up for each of his “tricks”. When the show first began, he explained to the audience that he is a physics demonstrator at Rutgers University and that it is his belief that physics (and practically all sciences), would be a lot more interesting if they were taught in a hands on manner. While I definitely believe in that theory, I thought that his college vernacular would have my children snoozing in no time. With terms like “Laws of Conservation of Motion”, “Inertia”, “Isobaric Pressure”, and “Uniform Circular Motion” I thought surely they would lose interest. However, this was not at all the case as he presented some pretty amazing demonstrations to go with each tongue twisting term. Furthermore, as he performed each experiment, he tapped into the audience members’ inner scientist by posing questions like “what do you think is about to happen?”, followed by an enthusiastic  “let’s find out!” My ten-year old was always up for the prediction and waited to see if his hypothesis was correct. I, on the other hand, stayed silent not wanting to predict anything and run the risk of looking silly in front of my son. For example, did you know what would happen if people filled balloons with hydrogen instead of helium? Well, I didn’t know! (Don’t judge me). But my son knew and when it happened, the wide smile that filled his face was enough to indicate that this show was right up his alley.

After the show was over, everyone had an opportunity to take a picture  with the star of the show. My 10 year old stared at him with respect and admiration. My 13 year old gave him his props and told him how he wished all science classes were taught in this manner. My mom was just happy to get out with her grandchildren. And my 2 year old was able to keep it together with a little help from the iPad and some headphones for the last 30 minutes of the show.

Yup, it was a great 90 minutes: an outing with my kids, educational, and fun. Definitely time well spent.

Would I recommend this show?: Yes.

Who would I recommend this show to?:

1. Parents of a curious child

2. Middle school students (it’s a great way to show them how the things they’ve learned actually applies to real life).

3. Educators who need a little reminder that teaching should not be filled with lectures.

Pros:

1. A very interactive show that keeps the audience engaged.

2. My teen liked it! A teenager liked something that his mother chose to do. Enough said.

3. Extremely accessible from the NYC train station. The “A” train to 42nd street Port Authority, followed by a 50 foot walk from the train station.

4. The different physics concepts were broken down into simpler terms so that children as young as 7 or 8 years old could understand and connect it to their everyday lives.

Cons:
1. The seating was all one level, making it difficult for shorter children to see the stage.

2. Some of the experiments/demonstrations were anti-climactic while others kept me in suspense. It was like an entertainment sandwich; great experiments followed by things that I could have done at home, followed by things that absolutely wowed me. I am not sure that this is a true “con” per say, because it still held the attention of my children, and I guess that’s all that matters.
Overall Rating:

Four peas in a pod! (Out of five)
Talk to you soon,

Serene
Share with me: Have you seen the show already? What did you think of it? Do you plan to see the show? Let me know you thoughts once you see it.

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My Mom: The Village Fashionista

My mother is all about appearances: your house must look good, your clothes must look clean, your teeth must look white, your hair must look groomed, your bed must look neat. Until recently, I thought she was incredibly superficial, only concerned about the surface of things. “Where’s the depth?” I wondered “And what if under the surface of these good looking things, everything is in shambles. I mean, really, what if your teeth looked white but the bleaching agents you were using were wreaking havoc in your body? What if your hair looked groomed, but the relaxer used was eating away at your scalp? What if your bed looked neat and made, but you had bed bugs? I know, that’s drastic, but you get my point.

I could never understand that aspect of my mother.I couldn’t understand her point of view. Our difference of opinions with this topic was usually the basis of all of our arguments.

And moreover, I became very frustrated by her need to throw these superficial ideals on my children. One of my biggest fears is having children who are so obsessed with superficial images that they become shallow individuals who can’t see past the look of a person to their heart, so instead they become judgmental about everything that doesn’t look a certain way and so they begin turning their nose up to anything that doesn’t fit their standard. Not saying that my mother is one of those individuals because she truly is not; but when I have a fear of something it usually is way more dramatic than the average person could imagine (hence the bed bug reference earlier). But this was my thought every time my mother gave my children an instruction that called for them to tend to something that would only impact the look of themselves or something else. And many times, I’d voice my opposition to what I thought was so shallow.

However…..

It’s funny how a point of view could change after a little self reflection.

In thinking about the function of the village in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, I really had to reflect upon my small village and all of its inhabitants. My mother is definitely a part of my village. This I have known since the day I had my first child and she carried him back to his crib after I cried myself to sleep while nursing him. Sleep deprivation and postpartum blues had me a total wreck. But my mom literally detached him from my breast and placed him in his bed, then came back two hours later and latched him on again for his next feeding. But until recently I didn’t realize what an integral part of my village my mom plays in ALL of her roles. During a moment of reflection, I realized that I can’t acknowledge the value of my village and at the same time, discredit the value of the individual villagers. Amongst many other roles she plays, my mother is THE VILLAGE FASHIONISTA, which makes total sense when I put many things that I know about her together: she was a model in her younger days, she majored in photography back in high school, she used to like to perform at every block party when she was a child (she would STILL like to perform at every block party as an adult, if she could find a block party going down somewhere).

She has always been about the lights, camera, show of everything.

Its been embedded in her since she could walk, or so I’ve heard from her siblings. It’s woven into the fibers of her DNA to always be camera-ready. And now that I’ve connected the dots, I understand that my super, image conscience mama has an important role in my life and in my village.

Appearance IS a very important thing to consider. There are people out there who will judge a book by its cover and won’t even pick that book up if the cover is raggedy. They won’t walk in your home, or sit comfortably in it, if it looks messy. They won’t want to be in public with you if your hair is not brushed. From my mother, my children will learn to have a crisp book cover (even if the pages are tattered and torn). From my mother, they will learn the art of faking it until you make it, to not look like what you are going through, to look like a million bucks even if you only have fifteen cents. After all, wasn’t that what Vaseline on patent leather shoes all about? (Some of you wont catch that reference, sorry).

Until now, I never saw the value in these lessons. My theory was if you are going to judge me based on the surface, then I am better off without you. If you are going to judge the home of two full-time working parents, then perhaps you shouldn’t visit; I don’t like company too much anyhow. But I realize, sometimes the overall appearance of a person can be the difference between getting the job and not getting the job. Yes, this is a fact that I still find to be a little shallow, but at times, it is the way of the world and so, these are in fact great values for my children to possess. I am not sure if I can make a total 180 about an ideal that I am not 100% in agreement with, but that’s the great thing about a village: Everyone in the village does not have to focus on the same things. They just have to focus on the same children. If all the villagers focused on the clean roads in the village, who’d focus on the houses in the village, or the markets in the village? The most important thing is that all the villagers know and understand their role and do their best not to judge or criticize the neighbor whose carrying out the duties that they have been charged with doing. And if you see that neighbor not quite doing their job as effectively as you think they should be either lend them a hand, shut up and keep doing your job, or abandon post and exit the village.

Once we learn to accept one another’s differences, we can work cohesively towards the same common goal: To raise a child.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Are you a part of someone’s village? What role do you play?

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The Garden that Grew Guilty Flowers

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“I wonder what is at the root of your guilt… Serene?”

That was the question that was posed to me one Monday morning during an hour long conversation with a woman at my job. It was an impromptu conversation that came about from me just passing her office to say “good morning”. This woman happens to be a mom and a very spiritual person, so I always enjoy my encounters with her. However, this particular morning, my brief hello turned into an insightful conversation that left me in tears, with a new life-changing question to reflect upon: “I wonder what’s at the root of your guilt…Serene?”. I don’t even know how we got to the point where the conversation took such a thought provoking turn, but before I knew it, we were discussing our outlook on motherhood, work, and self care. It may have begun with the question, “How was your weekend?”, my simple response of “Oh, we went to church and I did the usual: Laundry, food shopping, etc”, somehow led to us both discussing the “Sunday Night Mommy Monster” that was all too familiar to us both. That monster, she came out each weekend due to the anxiety of only having two days to reset our homes for the week to come.

Until this conversation, I thought that I was the only one who transformed into that green creature with the purple ripped shorts around 6pm every Sunday.

I thought I was the only one whose family feel victim to the “Hulk Smash”, once she realized that she was not going to accomplish everything on her weekend-to-do-list. I thought I was the only one who single-handedly destroyed any trace of a great weekend, as I complained about failing to accomplish the goals of the weekend. I wasn’t the only one and this Monday morning conversation opened my eyes to that.

Then our conversation took another turn and, I was telling her about my insane need to sit at my desk all day at work, to complete a daily to do list that was longer than any human, or small team of humans could complete in a 7 hour work day. I revealed to her how hard it was for me to take a lunch break each day because I felt bad about abandoning my work for something as trivial as eating. She shared with me the struggle she once had with leaving the office on time to get home to her family. This made me realize that if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to pick my little girl up from the day care at 5:45pm each day, I probably would stay at work until the building closed. She explained how well she understood my struggles, because she had once battled with similar issues, but she went on to share how she had taken a stand against being a slave to her work and that she had even kicked the habit of coming to work on the weekends. She even shared how she had come to realize that it was so important to take care of herself and do the things that she enjoyed. She explained how by doing those things she had discovered a peace of mind that she had not known before.

I stood there looking at her with admiration, as my mind entertained all the things in life that I would love to do just for the sheer enjoyment.

I thought about how wonderful it would be to leave work while it was still light outside. I thought about how wonderful it would be to eat lunch without worrying about getting spaghetti sauce on the keyboard as I answered my work emails. I thought about watching a movie on a Sunday night with my family so that we can all feel relaxed before the new week begins.

Just as I started to feel comforted by all these thoughts, this awful feeling from the pit of my stomach began to rise up and dampen my whole mood. “I would feel so guilty doing many of the things that I would like to do because I would feel like I’m abandoning my responsibilities” I told her.

Her response was a sympathetic tilt of her head, as she looked at me and asked, “I wonder what’s at the root of that guilt? That’s the real question, Serene”.

She said those words to me.
We exchanged a few more words, she passed me a tissue for my tears, she gave me a few words of inspiration to meditate upon, and I went on to start my day of work. But that entire day, that entire night, that entire week I kept replaying that question over and over in my mind. What was at the root of my guilt? The funny thing about that question is that I actually knew the answer. Deep, deep, down inside I always knew the answer, but the voice was so small that as it whispered the answer, I always drowned it out by constantly keeping myself busy. Now that I was actually thinking about the question, the answer seemed to grow louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it.

At the root of my guilt, there was my idea of perfection. My idea that a perfect mom makes sure that the kids have everything they need and most of the things they want, a perfect wife gives her husband the time, the attention, the affection, the support that he needs at all times, the perfect daughter fits the mold that her mom intended for her to be. The perfect director runs her program in a way that pleases all her staff, all the parents, and keeps the company CEO pleased at all times with her work. The perfect friend calls her girlfriend multiple times a week to laugh and cry about life. And the perfect Christian woman never complains while achieving all of these goals. That was at the root of my everyday belief. I believed it because I thought this was how I was suppose to operate based on the responsibilities that were given to me.
However, the thing that stemmed from that root was disappointment in myself for falling short of that belief. At times, my children would want something that I couldn’t give them and on those occasions, I’d think: I failed them. At times my husband would want intimate time with me but I’d be striving to be the perfect director, so I’d be doing work in our bed, all the while thinking: I failed my husband. At work, teachers would complain, budgets would go off track, and I’d think, I’m not working hard enough: I failed as a director. My mother and I would argue over the simplest things and I’d think: I failed as a daughter. I’m not hanging out with my friends cause I can’t find the time: I failed as a friend. Then to top it all off, many days as I worked to achieve this perfection, I’d grow tired and weary, I’d complain and I’d think: AND I failed as a Christian.

Ideas of perfection at the root, thinking I failed everything at the stem. All that blossoms from this kind of plant is GUILT! And there it was!!!

My epiphany!! I discovered the root, I had figured out why my guilt had grown and why it was choking me so much. I had allowed the garden, that is my mind, to be inhabited by weeds. I had watered roots that needed to be pulled before they had a chance to flourish. Then the thought that I failed as a gardener started to cross my mind as well, until I quickly recognized what was happening again. I snapped that thought out my head. I told myself, I must be thankful for the revelation that I finally received and now I had to do something about. It was time to take back the garden of my mind. I declared from that day moving forward, I was going to pull every single weed that disguised itself as a precious flower.
And this is where I am in my life right now. I’m gardening. I’m detecting the weeds of my mind. I’m discovering that some of them are so big, they are so hard to pull, but I’m pulling. I’m clawing at them. It’s a messy job, but I know that I must do this. Not for my family, not for my friends, not for my job, not for my mother, not for husband. FOR MYSELF!!

Talk to you soon,
Serene “Sweetpea” Stevens

Share with me: What’s growing in the garden that is your mind? How are you nurturing it each day?


 

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Time-Released Lessons

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The other morning, my 13 year old Papi ran out the door to catch his 7:20am train to get to school on time. Like always, I locked the door behind him and turned to continue with my morning routines to prepare myself to go into the office. I hadn’t even stepped into my bedroom before I heard a rapid knocking on the window and the doorbell rang repeatedly. Whoever was out there clearly had an urgent matter. As I ran back to the door and peered out the window, I quickly opened the door for Papi who had returned for some reason. “I forgot to put lotion on. My hands are extra dry” he blurted out as he ran by me, then he yelled,  “Sorry!”, as he remembered that he had run in the house still wearing his sneakers, which is not allowed in our home. Normally, I would have given him an earful for wearing his shoes in the house, but as he retrieved a handful of lotion and ran back past me and out the door again, I stood there frozen for a brief second before snapping out of my trance and closing the door again.

My son had just run back in the house for lotion! Now to some this may not be a big deal, but this is a milestone in our home.

No one except for the people that live in this home could know the lengths to which I have gone to ensure that my children keep their skin moisturized. Not just because it’s good, healthy practice, but also because it keeps ones skin from looking dry, and “ashy” (a term some may not be familiar with, as it seems to be used predominantly in the black community). Yes ya’ll, I have my superficial moments where the sheer look of things can bother me, and ashy skin is one of my pet peeves. No one knows the countless number of times that my family and I have been out together and I turned to look at Papi’s hands and they look like he has just dipped both hands in a bag of flour. No one knows the annoyance I have felt as my son smiled proudly at his ability to scratch his name into his own hand as if he was some kind of human chalkboard. No one knows how many bottles of lotion I’ve purchased only to find full bottles behind the bed, in the clothing hamper, and other strange places that just don’t make sense.

When they were babies, I’d bathe my children every night, rub them down with lotion, ensuring to cover every nook and cranny. There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t have someone tell me how smooth and healthy my child’s skin appeared: “His skin has such a glow.”, “Wow, such beautiful skin, what do you use?” While those comments and compliments were never my driving force to keep doing what I was doing, they definitely served as confirmation that my efforts were paying off, as his skin was healthy, moisturized, and it was evident that he was being well-cared for.

Then he grew up.

Around the age of 7, he took his bathing into his own hands, and supposedly all the things that come with that territory. I would just make sure the house was stocked with all the things he needed to get the job done. However, what I quickly began to notice is that he wouldn’t use the things that were given to him. I never expected him to be as thorough as I was. That would just be silly. I was super anal about those things, and I don’t think anyone should be that crazy. But I did expect him to care a little more than he did. But he didn’t ya’ll, he just didn’t! Until the other morning. As I closed that door behind him, I was a proud mom. I had given him the tools from a very young age.

Over the years, I had purchased endless amounts of lotion, oil and cream. And though he never took the initiative to use his little dry hands to pick up any of those items, on this morning he finally did it!! He didn’t have to be told. I didn’t have to warn him that he was pouring too much or too little. He did it all by himself, people! All by himself! It was at that moment that I made a note to self. As moms, sometimes we teach our children lessons and we want instant gratification. We want them to show us that we taught them. Sometimes we even want them to do it to prove to others that we taught them well, that they have good “home-training”. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t work like that.

Sometimes we have to find comfort in the fact that we guided them, that we showed them the way, that we exposed them to the means. We have to trust that some day, one day, those lessons will show themselves.

In the case of the lotion he may have come back because on his walk to the train station, one glance at his cracked and peeling hands made a light bulb go off. Being in middle school, perhaps the day before, a classmate may have made fun of his dry, “ashy” skin and he didn’t want to be the center of a joke the next day. Or perhaps, being 13, there is a little girl who has caught his eye and he wants to show her that he can be well-groomed. Whatever the reason is, as his mom I can breathe easier knowing that I equipped him with what he needs and one day when he decides that he needs to use the tools that he’s been given, they will be in his utility belt because I put them there. And that’s enough for me.

Talk to you soon, Serene

Share with me: What are those lessons that you are teaching your child(ren) that you hope will manifest themselves one day?

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Little Packages, Big Gifts

Children are a blessing or so the saying goes, but have you ever stopped to think about why they are such a blessing? How exactly can something that takes so much energy, time, not to mention, money from you add so much value to your life? Well, during a moment of reflection I had a revelation of why my children are a blessing to me and why I am so very grateful for them. Sure, they bring me happiness (the majority of the time). The laughter of my two year old daughter “Bean” makes the very depths of my heart smile. And my boys (Papi,13 and Munchkin, 10) make me proud as I watch them grow to be intellectual and kind-hearted young men.

But it wasn’t until I looked at myself B.C (Before Children) and compared it to the present day Serene, that I understood that these three little people have helped shaped me to be the woman that I am and am still becoming, and it is because they are, that I am.

As I mold myself around who they are and who they need me to be, day by day I understand and accept my transformation that was meant to happen. All 3 of them were uniquely designed like special keys to unlock doors that lead to me fulfilling my life’s purpose. I am thankful for my big gifts in these little packages and while at times, they make me want to run for the hills, waving my white flag, I know that there is no “return to sender” and I am fortunate to be the recipient.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me:

Do you have a story to share of how your particular child (children) transformed your life, your mindset, and/or purpose? I’d love to feature your story in my new Sweetpeame.com series: When the Student Becomes the Teacher.

Please email me at 123sweetpeaandme@gmail.com
All entries are due by April 1st and stories will be posted throughout the month of April.

 

Make a Splash!

On Wednesday evening , just like any other day of the week, I left from work at 5pm to pick up my daughter (we call her “Bean”) from the day care. On this particular day however, I was more exhausted than I remember being in a very long time.  Work that day was quite strenuous. It was one of those days where all the demands of work that suddenly pop up that day stop you from doing the work that you attempted to accomplish that day. One of those days where your supervisor calls you in the office to have a meeting about the meeting that you just had 20 minutes before that meeting. One of those days where you begin the day with 20 things to do and leave with 45 including the original 20.  You get it; one of those days. Then to top it all off, It was a rainy day.  So if a day of being unproductive didn’t have me feeling like a complete failure, a dreary wet day (of frizzy hair) definitely wasn’t going to give me that extra boost of confidence that I needed.
So needless to say, when the clock hit 4:59, I ran out of the office without stopping to say a word to anyone at all.
After a 45-minute bus ride and walk I finally reached the day care and had to apologize for my less than cordial manner, puffy hair and slurred, tired words. I just needed to get home and to my bed as quickly as possible.

However, my Bean had a different idea. As I opened her stroller, stuffed my bags underneath, and lifted her to sit her down, she loudly exclaimed “No, I wanna walk!”  Ever since she turned two years old 1 month ago she has been really taking this independent thang to a whole new level.

I started to lift her again, hoping that she would just see the desperate look in my eyes that cried ” I need my bed NOW!” but she was too busy preparing for a tantrum to notice my plea. She was prepared to fight for her right to walk and I had no fight left in me after this very long day.
As I walked out of the building, I was very grateful that the rain had stopped and that at least it wasn’t freezing outside.   But the question then lingered “how was this 7 block walk going to happen quickly with this little girl sight seeing the entire time?”

And then it happened, while her eyes were occupied, she accidentally stepped in a puddle. As she looked down, her face went from shock to confusion. And as I gave her the new vocabulary word “puddle” to explain to her what she had literally just stumbled upon, the smile spread so widely across her face as she lifted her leg and made the biggest splash that that little could puddle could have produced.
And at that moment I took off my tired mommy lenses and saw the world through her eyes. She didn’t know how hard my day was. She didn’t know that my staff made me absolutely crazy that afternoon. All she knew is that her little feet had the power to make water fly in the air. The smile on her face made time stand still for a moment and caused my heart to smile.
It made me smile even wider as people walked by staring at me as if I was crazy to let her shoes and pants get all wet.  It’s not my fault that they forgot what it was like to be a kid! 
As my Bean became a “puddle finder”, my ten minute walk became a 30 minute walk but when her dad opened the door and she happily shouted “I stepped on puddles!!”, I knew it was 30 minutes well spent.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: What is one of your fondest childhood memories?