Teenage Girls – Part 2

I obviously didn’t spend enough time in heartfelt prayer last Thursday.

Wednesday night when I went to bed my daughter and her two friends, Malky and Pnina, were all happy with their Shabbos arrangements. 

After school on Thursday, my daughter called Malky to see if she would, indeed, be staying with us over Shabbos. Malky said that Rena’s parents had changed their minds and she would be staying there. My daughter then decided to go to another friend’s house with her sister. Everyone was still happy.

On Thursday night, during supper, our phone rang. Since we do not answer the phone while we are eating, we let the voicemail take a message. After supper, at about 8:30 pm, I listened to the message. It was Pnina’s mother telling me that she had spoken to the teacher who in turn spoke with the principal and it was decided that Pnina would stay here as originally planned and Malky would go to Rena’s. Are you kidding? No way, NO way! I will admit that my response was less than perfect.

Before I had a chance to decide on an appropriate response and course of action, the phone rang again. It was the girl Pnina was supposed to stay at for the Shabbaton. She spoke with my daughter and explained that, actually, she couldn’t have Pnina stay at her house. My daughter told her that she had made arrangements to stay at a different friend’s house. Hmm. 

I decided to call the principal and seek advice on this delicate matter. She advised me to ask my daughter if she had any preference – to stay at her friend or to have Pnina stay here. Once that decision was made, I would call Pnina’s mother to discuss.

I was walking down the hall to speak with my daughter when the phone rang yet again. It was Pnina’s mother. She launched right in, explaining about her earlier message and the progression of events that led to the current phone call. She told me that the classmate who was to host Pnina had called after speaking with my daughter to tell Pnina that my daughter was staying at another friend’s house and that she had asked her mother again and Pnina would be able to stay there after all. Pnina’s mother and I chatted for a few minutes. When we ended the call, everyone was happy again.

I called back the principal to thank her and let her know the result.

I was exhausted and emotionally drained from this roller coaster ride but one thing was crystal clear. Hashem works everything out. There is never any need to worry on that front.  

This is yet another example of a situation where my procrastination (although, to be fair, the first delay was due to our dinner time and the second delay was caused by my seeking advice) paid off. I was able to just let the situation resolve itself. As it so often does:)

In the end, the girls all enjoyed the Shabbaton – and that is what really matters.

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The Wonders of Developing Language

This morning, my toddler and I went downstairs to wake up my teenage son and get the laundry going for the day. This is part of our daily routine. Also part of our routine is the trip back upstairs, usually with too many things in both of our hands! Today, I was carrying  a load of clean laundry and my toddler had a toy lego lion in one hand and a bee hat on his head, though it kept falling off. As we started up the stairs, he realized he also wanted to bring a ball up with him.

“It’s Ok,” I said. “Shai will bring a ball up when he comes.” We proceeded up the stairs with my toddler stopping every step or two and calling out “Yaiy! Ball!” When he got no response, He called again, “Yaiy!”

“Yes.”

“Ball!”

“OK.”

Eventually we got to the top of the stairs where we await the arrival of Yaiy and the ball, as per command:)

Amazing how well he can communicate with so few words and sounds!

Note: He bounced the lion in the hat for several minutes and when it fell out, he proceeded to slap it around on the floor with a hockey stick. I thnk he will manage just fine without his ball…

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Ah, the world of a teenage girl

Last night, I was honoured to overhear/observe my daughter’s sterling middos (character traits) in action. The school is hosting a mini-Shabbaton this week. As many girls live too far away to walk back to school Friday night, those of us living close offered our homes so that each girl could enjoy the program.

One of my daughter’s best friends (Malky*) made arrangements to stay at a third friend’s house (Rena*) and my daughter invited yet another friend (Pnina*) to sleep here. Everything was organized and everyone was happy – or so thought I, the old and out-of-touch mother:)

The phone rang as my daughter and I walked in the door yesterday evening. It was Pnina wondering if Malky would be staying at our house too. My daughter came into the kitchen and asked me. Now, I was very confused – what was going on? I thought Pnina was staying here and Malky was going to Rena’s house. My daughter patiently updated me. Malky’s plans with Rena had fallen through and she had asked my daughter if she could stay here. Ok. I said. No problem.

Hmm. Apparently, Malky and Pnina don’t really get along that well and Pnina said that if Malky is staying here, she (Pnina) would just stay home. Oh, the drama! My daughter was distraught. You could see the cogs turning in her head as she tried to appease everyone involved. Obviously, she wanted both of her friends not only to come to our house but to like each other. As she explained the dynamic to me she came to her own conclusion. “They just need time to get used to each other. I think that by next year, they will be friends.” Ever the optimist:)

My daughter got on the phone to see if there was anywhere else Malky could stay but it seemed that everyone already had full houses. I suggesed that they could both stay here, sharing one meal and a night of sleep broken up by the school Oneg Shabbos. On Shabbos day, I suggested, maybe Malky could go to Rena’s house. My daughter thought this sounded reasonable and called Pnina to see what she thought of that.

Pnina was not happy. Pnina decided to call around herself and see if there was somewhere else she could stay, thus allowing Malky to stay with us. My daughter said that was fine, but only if she wanted to. We had made the arrangement with Pnina and my daughter was not changing that unless that is what Pnina wanted. Pnina called back later on to tell my daughter that she would be staying with another classmate and to apologize to my daughter and thank her for being so understanding. I only heard one end of the conversation, but my daughter didn’t sound too thrilled to hear that Pnina would not be staying here but she perked right up when Pnina explained that she had found somewhere else to stay and would be participating in the Shabbaton!

And so, in the end, all three girls were happy – let’s just pray they remain that way! I was so proud of the way my daughter handled the situation and the sensitivity she exhibited towards her friends. And, I am sooo glad that my middle school days are far behind me:)

* not their real names, obviously:)

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The Power of Suggestion

Yesterday, I took my two youngest sons for a long walk in the crisp fresh fall sunshine. It was glorious, refreshing and relaxing all at once. We ended our walk at a playground so that they could have some fun, especially the baby, swinging and sliding and generally running around.

I took said baby out of his stroller expecting him to run to the slide. He just stood there whimpering. My older son and I encouraged him, coaxed him, lifted him, cajoled him. He laughed at his brother’s antics and enjoyed a ride in the swing and on the bouncy whale toy but refused to propel himself with his own two feet! Every time we put him on the ground, he cried. We decided maybe his feet were cold and packed it in for the day.

In the van, on the way to pick the girls up from school, we blasted the heat. At home, my daughter bundled his feet in her warm fuzzy socks. Still, he refused to stand and cried everytime we forced the issue. I massaged his feet and legs. No crying, nothing seemed to be wrong other than that his feet were cold. OK. My kids took him to their room and played with him (sitting). Eventually, we moved on.

Until my husband came home and the entire story was repeated for his benefit. Our little boy chiming in with his whimpering at the appropriate moments. My husband declared that enough was enough and banned further conversation or reference to this “problem.” Sure enough, he soon resumed his regular mobile activities.

Amazing that a flair for dramatic, attention-seeking behaviour can be mastered at such a young age! Or maybe his feet really did hurt every time we mentioned them:)

Our minds are powerful tools, never to be underestimated. We are quite capable of convincing ourselves of almost anything. When things are within a normal range, why not harness that power to create a strong, beautiful and meaningful day?

Each and every moment, we are given the opportunity to choose how we will live it. How will we respond? How will we fill our moments? With what mood and atmosphere will we infuse them?

As mothers, our powers are even greater, with all the little eyes glancing our way and drinking in all we have to offer.

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It has been too long

As parents, we want our kids to be consistent in their good habits. At least, I do.

That is why, last January, I issued my family a 50 book challenge. My husband and I are firm believers in the myriad benefits of literacy. We put our money on the line and offered each child $1/book read in 2011 and if they reach the 50 book goal, we will add an additional $25 to their total. The money is a jumpstart and a motivator, as is the satisfaction of reaching a stated goal. My goal, was to see them reading every day, to facilitate them making reading one of their consistent good habits.

For November, my two oldest children and I have taken on another literacy challenge – National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org). The stated goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. My parental goal, is to make writing another consistent daily good habit.

Seems ironic that I am pushing consistency so fervently. The only thing consistent about me is my inconsistency! My husband lovingly calls me spontaneous – though I know my scattered approach to life often drives him crazy.

Take this blog, for example. Well, you know where I am going here:) Perhaps you are wondering, rather, where have I been? I have been busy being spontaneous – enjoying and supporting my children and myself over the summer, back-to-school, and holiday seasons. It was a long and arguably irresponsible hiatus. I hope you will forgive me and keep reading as we continue this beautiful journey of parenting together.

This is the consistent time of year and I will endeavour to be more consistent in my posting. After all, we have to practice what we preach for it to mean anything at all.

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Tech Tips for Teens

I recently purchased an iPod Touch for my teenage son. He has been eyeing them for a very long time, and he actually has the money to buy one for himself. At the beginning of the school year, my husband and I told him that if he worked hard all year at school, we would buy him the iPod at the end of the school year. (After reading his persuasive essay on why he wanted the iPod, naturally.)

Late one Saturday night, he completed his coursework and so on Sunday, we set out to the Apple Store for the big purchase. My son and I had discussed the iPod many times and so I felt that I knew what I was buying and how it worked. I told my son before we even left for the store that there would be rules to accompany this gift (responsibilities to go with the privileges). One of the rules was that I was equipping it with parental control. He readily agreed. Though, that close to getting the iPod, he probably would have let me dye his hair fuschia!

At various stages in the transaction, my son reminded me to ask about the parental control, and I did. I was assured that I would be able to enable such a thing on the iPod. When you purchase something at the Apple  store, they open it with you and get it started so that you go home with an item that is all set to go. During the set-up, I again asked about the parental control. The person serving us showed me what to do. I could either enable or disable the internet. That’s it. I explained to the clerk that this was not satisfactory. Obviously, since I was buying this particular product, I was allowing my son to use the internet; I simply wanted to filter it, like I do on our home computer. The clerk had no idea how to do what I wanted. He called over another, slightly older employee. This man heard what I was saying and said “I don’t know. Let’s do some research.” He turned to one of the store computers and discovered an app called “Surf Balance”. It looked like what I wanted and so I bought it for $4.99 and we went home.

For the next several hours, my son and I tested the iPod. WHat amazed me the most was that he could access anything at all through the iPod browser, even though I had set all sorts of filters on Surf Balance. The only way that Surf Balance has any effect is if I turn off the browser that comes with the iPod. This forces him to use Surf Balance to surf the web as there is no other browser available. Now, my restrictions were on effect.

Except, he could download any app at all and go wherever those app would take him. So, I disabled the app store. Now, anytime he wants an app, he needs to go through me.

I am not fool enough to think that we have thought of everything, nor that he hasn’t somehow outwitted me. But that isn’t really what this is about. As parents, we have a dual purpose: we must protect our children (from harmful influences); and we must prepare them for life in this world. In our efforts to prepare our children for the world, we need to be building a trusting relationship with our children. We need to be able to trust them as human beings. They need to be able to trust that we are there for them – to listen, to guide and to support. 

I am blessed with a son I can trust, and one who appreciates that I must, at the same time, protect him from harm.

 

 

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Some Great Summer Reads

For those of you who know me, you know that I am a huge fan of children’s and young adult literature. This year, my family has embarked on a  50 book challenge wherein each of us is trying to read a total of 50 books over the course of the year. I have been reviewing my books on my kid lit blog. Unfortunately, I have fallen behind in the last few weeks. Not to worry, though, I have been reading some wonderful books lately. Here is a quick look:

Mirrors of Our Lives by Holly Pavlov. I have been rereading parts of this incredible book as part of my preparation for the bas mitzvah lessons I am doing with my daughter and nieces. Rebbetzin Pavlov shares her wisdom and knowledge by pulling out important themes and ideas from the lives of our biblical women. An informative and fascinating read.

The Fire Within by Chris D’Lacey. This is the first of the Last Dragon Chronicles. I just borrowed the sixth in the series from the library and wanted to reread this one before launching into the new one. I absolutely love this book. It speaks to all of my passions. The characters are fun, real people pursuing their passions and living their lives with meaning. There is a drop of mystery and magic, to keep the sparks flying, and an environmental edge that satisfies my save-the-world mentality. While the rest of the series gets more dangerous and the stakes are higher, The Fire Within is a light-hearted adventure that entertains while it enlightens.

Green by Laura Peyton Roberts. This was a silly but fun book. Lily is abducted by leprechauns on her thirteenth birthday only to discover that her past isn’t quite what she thought it was. There is more to Lily than meets the eye. Like many comingof-age stories, Lily finds inner strength as she travels through her adventures.

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. Another magical and somewhat mysterious book. For some reason, I cannot recall the plot or characters. Not a good sign, I know, but I am convinced my memory was wiped as I closed the book – so that I would not be able to reveal the book’s secrets, of course;)

The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts. This series was pure escape! I NEVER read these kinds of books. This particular series was sitting in my house for many, many months. My mom sent it to me as she read them and I just glanced at them in disdain every time I passed by. Well, my neighbour started reading them and kept telling me how funny they were. She was borrowing them one after the other. I was looking for something light to read and thought I would give them a try – she seemed to enjoy them so much. Once I started, I couldn’t put them down. I read all four in about two weeks. I really loved the premise of the series. It is essentially the story of four friends who combined their passions into a thriving business. Imagine doing what you love and being paid for it! It is a dream come true for anyone. (These are adult books, and very girly-girl.)

Parking Lot Rules by Tom Sturgess. This is a non-fiction parenting book. I started it as it looked interesting and full of practical, common sense parenting ideas. I got about a quarter of the way through it and put it down though. While I did like some of the tips, like having your child squeeze your finger to indicate how much pain she is in, I wasn’t crazy about the tone of the book as a whole. I found Sturgess to be a little condescending and some of his advice a bit paranoia-inducing. Way too much hand washing, for example. I am all for hand washing but I do not think it is healthy for kids to become too reliant on it, like in an OCD kind of a way. I get a little nervous when people are completely unwilling to expose their kids to germs. They need some exposure in order to build up their immunities.

Lighting Their Fires by Rafe Esquith. Esquith is a veteran teacher who gives his whole heart to his students. He is innovative and enlightening. I blogged about him and his book a few weeks ago on a Friday post. One of the early chapters of the book speaks about punctuality, and its vital importance. This topic is still rolling around in my head – that is how powerful Esquith’s argument was.

Fire World by Chris D’Lacey. This is the latest installment of the Last Dragon Chronicles Series. I was worried I would have forgotten too much of the previous books to read this one but I took a chance (after rereading the first one, of course). This book took an entirely different path than its predecessors. It was truly fascinating. I don’t want to say too much because you REALLY have to read this one. It is magical, philosophical, intriguing and exciting all at once. I love this series and this book in particular. I would reccommend reading the series in order. I may go back and do that, reading this one again with the others fresh in my mind.

I hope you will enjoy a summer of wonderful books. Let me know which ones you liked so that I can read them too :)

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