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Friday, December 30, 2011

When You Can't Afford Gifts

Many single parents find themselves in a predicament when it comes to purchasing gifts for special occasions. I was (and still am) one of those parents. Reasons vary. For me it was always a matter of working for people who never paid me enough to meet my bills AND have money left over for gift shopping.

When it came time for birthdays and other occasions, I was often left with very little and sometimes nothing. My kids would want to go to friends' birthday parties and I knew that I would have to sacrifice a gallon of milk, a box of cereal, and a couple of cans of Beefaroni in order for them to bring a gift.

I never wanted my kids to feel poor, though, so when they were invited to parties, they went, and I learned to sacrifice. I also became inventive with leftovers. (For information on Hiding Leftovers and Candy From Your Kids, click the link.) 

Allowing your kids to think you aren't poor takes sacrifice. You may make less than everybody else on your block, but you don't want your kids to FEEL poor. 

So, yes I was sacrificing, but before you crown me a saint, let me explain that I am one of those women who could care less about the latest fashions or the latest shoe style. I can't wear glamorous shoes anyway. My feet are too small and my right foot is persistently swollen. Throw a pair of 5" heels on my size 4.5 foot and, as tall as I am, I would topple to the ground. 

No, sacrifice for me, means taking the kids where they want to go, having them work for their own money (one of my daughters found a job as a dishwasher when she was only 15, and all of them worked while they were still in high school), and teaching them how to respect money.

Giving so little feels terrible, especially when you find yourself at a birthday party for your own grandchild and everybody else is giving gifts that must have cost at least $50 while you sit there with your $10 present wishing you could melt into the floor.

For years I felt so bad about my lack of money, I almost stopped going to the parties. Almost. Until I played out conversations in my head. My fear was that others would judge me for giving so little, but then I realized that if anybody truly thought so little of me just because I couldn't afford to give expensive gifts, their judgments said more about them than it did me. My kids and grandkids know I love them. What else matters?

Photo borrowed from Snapfish.com


And so this past year for Christmas, knowing I could afford only $10 gifts, I logged into my Snapfish account, chose photos I thought were cute, slapped them on a mug and sent away for them. Sitting under my tree were cups for 12 of the youngest grandchildren with photos and an inscription that read, "(Child's name)'s Mug".

That gift will last them for years – or until they drop it and smash it to pieces. And I've learned to stop feeling bad about something over which I have no control. Unless I sell a screenplay or one of my blogs goes viral, or I come up with an idea that's going to make me instantly wealthy, I will forever be in the lowest tax bracket. My grandchildren will learn that love does not equal money. What matters to me is that they feel loved, and I can give them all the love their little hearts desire without denying myself food, shelter, or clothing.

You may not be able to afford gifts, but you can afford to demonstrate your love by reading books to your kids, playing games with them, taking them to the park, coloring with them, having picnics on the floor with them, watching their favorite movie with them … Giving them your time is the best gift of all and it doesn't cost you a thing.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thank You, Nurses!

Many of you working single moms and dads are nurses. I admire you. I truly do.

When my kids were babies, I had no problem changing poopy diapers, but I had a nearly impossible time cleaning up vomit or blood – I still can't handle vomit and I panic when I see red (blood).

I had such a hard time cleaning vomit, as a matter of fact, that I just didn't do it. I taught my kids very early how to respond to a sick tummy. At the first sign of a gag reflex, I brought out the bucket and wrapped it around my babies' heads. By the time they were two years old they were comfortable grabbing the bucket and wrapping their heads inside it.

But if by some freak of nature one of them vomited anywhere other than in the bucket, I had their father clean it up. Fortunately I was married at the time.

And when it comes to taking care of wounds, I'm the last person on Earth capable of handling trauma. My oldest daughter, for instance, got her foot stuck in the spokes of her bicycle when she was a little girl (she's in her 40s now). Dangling flesh hung around her mangled ankles. As you might expect, I rushed to her side, donned my custom scrubs, grabbed my bandages and antiseptics, and went about carefully cleaning her wounds.

I lied. That was a fantasy. I couldn't even look at the wound, let alone clean it. I gave that job to both of her grandmas. Now I have grandchildren of my own who rely upon me to care for them. And I'm more than happy to do that as long as they don't vomit or bleed.

Lucky for you (and for them), I chose another profession. Can you imagine walking into a hospital with me as your nurse? Me either, because I was never nurse material.

So to all of you who bandage and clean wounds, who clean up vomit, and who work longer hours than most people work, I thank you.

http://www.blueskyscrubs.com/categories/Scrubs/Scrubs-for-Women/Original-Scrubs/

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Differences in Learning Over the Decades

Kaden with his younger brother, Zac
Kids learn very differently today than they did when I was a kid. When I was in first grade, I read things like, "Run, Jane, run." My first-grade grandkids, on the other hand, read interesting stories, and the books they read include words that span more than two syllables.

A couple of months ago, I opened Kaden's book bag. Kaden, 6, had homework due – a book report. So we sat down on the couch and he read the book to me. With no effort whatsoever, he smoothly read all the words, even gliding by "triceratops" as if he had read it a million times.

What made the book more interesting to me were his interruptions as he instructed me, "When you read, you make predictions. What do you predict will happen?"

OK, I admit, I couldn't help but laugh. He ignored my reaction and very seriously continued, "Check for understanding. If you don't understand something, we'll back up and reread."

Good, because I was kind of distracted by his pedagogic demeanor. He had memorized all of his teacher's instructions and knew exactly how to teach me the proper way to read.

"Now, as I read," he told me, "I want you to tune into interesting words." I was impressed. I wished my teachers had taught me as well.

"For fluency, we may need to reread the text. Accuracy is important." Again, I was impressed, not only by his ability to retain all of the information his teacher had taught him, not only by his comprehension of the book he was reading, but also by his vocabulary.

He continued to read, interrupting every so often to make sure I understood what he was reading. "Look at the pictures," he suggested. "They will give you a clue about the text." Another laugh erupted from Grandma. I wished I had learned that very helpful technique when I was a kid.

When I was about 9 years old, after my classmates and I had learned the two distinct sounds of the letter, "C," our teacher had us all read to ourselves a story from our books. Afterwards, she told us, we would discuss the story.

Page after page after page, the same word appeared with two C letters. I panicked. PLEASE DON'T CALL ON ME, I pleaded with my eyes, because I had no idea what a kirkus was, nor did I know what a sirsus was. I didn't know the rules of English allowed two DIFFERENT sounds of the same letter to appear in the same word, despite all of the pictures of clowns, tents, elephants, and acrobats on high wires that accompanied the words on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. (I later blamed my parents for my anxiety attack because they never took my sisters and me to a circus. If I had made up the name, circus, I would have spelled it C-I-R-K-U-S, to alleviate the anxiety of all children who didn't understand the same rule I didn't understand.)

But back to the story of Kaden. He read and we discussed and he continued to read and we continued to discuss the book as he measured my comprehension of the text. And when he wrote his book report, he faithfully placed one finger between each word to make sure he wasn't crowding the words.

Great teaching technique, Bourbonnais schools! We should all demand of our teachers this same type of instruction.


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