Saturday, March 23, 2013

Last post

Spring has sprung and my new website is in full bloom.  

When I came up with the idea for Beyond The Crib five years ago, I was looking for an outlet for my writing talents.  I was a mom with a few little ones and I enjoyed participating in online conversations about parenting.  Over the years, I cultivated a national network of moms and families with whom I still remain very close.  At various times, Beyond The Crib has been a blog, a product review site, and a local parenting forum, but somehow these never felt complete to me. 

I am now the mother to eight children, ranging in age from 17 to one year.  If my two teenage daughters have taught me anything, it is that the journey beyond the crib doesn't end when they are out of diapers. They need us every day, and the challenges they face are far different and come at them faster than they did for me.  As moms we might worry that we are not guiding them correctly, but one thing I have come to realize is that no one judges us as hard as we judge ourselves.  June Cleaver may have been the perfect mom in the perfect little family in her perfect little house.  In reality, life is not perfect, and there are dishes in my sink that I need to tend to. 

I became serious about blogging when Linus was diagnosed with Plagiocephaly and needed to wear a cranial molding orthosis for a few months.  This is when "Adventures From Beyond The Crib" was started.  I used this format to chronicle the time Linus spent wearing his helmet while taking whimsical pictures of him in different situations.

After Linus graduated from his helmet, I continued blogging about parenting, my kids, and life with a large family.  It is now time for Beyond The Crib to evolve into something larger. 
The new site is intended to be a community resource for parents bringing together my experiences with those of my peers.  I hope you will find it useful and become an active participant. 

Please come follow my new website:

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Celebrations and Holidays

Two nights ago a blog post by Rage Against the Minivan popped up in my Facebook news feed.  The author, Kristen, implored, "Let's bring the holidays down a notch."  As the night grew on, more and more of my friends were sharing this post, usually preceded with "let's stop celebrating everything" or "Amen."  As for myself, I tend to go all out when it comes to celebrations. 

I love holidays, parties, and just about any celebration.  I am hooked on Pinterest.  Plus, I am guilty of taking hundreds of food pictures which I then upload to Instagram and post to Facebook and Pinterest!  I send goodie bags to school sometimes too, but I swear I didn't invent those darn colorful cellophane bags filled with candy, and stickers and other assorted knick knacks.

There are a few things I refuse to do.  I will never have an Elf on the Shelf.  I have been using the threat of invisible elves since my oldest was little - and it works.  I don't need to worry about crafting the escapades of a little plastic elf every night.  Some people even create funny, more adult situations and post the pictures on Facebook.  Sometimes, I think the elf is more for the parents then the kids.

My kids roped guilted me into celebrating St. Nicholas Day when they went to preschool with the nuns.  They were told to leave their shoes out and they would receive coins and chocolates (which they interpreted as chocolate coins) in their shoes.  Do you know how hard it is to find chocolate coins in the middle of the night?  It would have helped if the kids had given me fair warning and not just put their shoes out before bed expecting St. Nicholas to come.  I spent a small fortune on those little mesh bags filled with chocolate coins.  When they came asking me for hay, I knew I was in trouble, but there I was sending my husband out to Walmart in the middle of a snow storm because the three kings were coming that night.  I was young and foolish then.  Guess whose kids do not celebrate either of these holiday anymore?  

This year was the first year I didn't spend hours gluing masks and capes on lollypops or melting crayons into little mottled hearts.  My kids wanted Fun Dip - little pouches of green and red sugar that dyed their classmates mouths rainbow colors for hours.  Josie had cute handmade Valentines, with a lollypop, of course.  A plethora of goodie bags as well as a cool clear cylindrical tube filled with gumballs all made their way to my house.  I like handmade Valentines the best.  Who doesn't love a construction paper heart glued to a doily?  I was told by my kids that every Valentine needs to have a piece of candy attached.  I teased them and told them I was going to buy pretzels instead.  Yes, I have been THAT house on Halloween.

I celebrate Pi day with my nerd husband and math loving kids.  They love math.  I enjoy pie.  It works for all of us.  Who doesn't need an excuse to eat pie?  Last year, we celebrated Platypus day, complete with Platypus cakes.  Opening ceremonies for the Olympics were celebrated with finger foods and Olympic torches.  It is an excuse to have fun and make memories.  Someday, my kids will think back and remember the afternoon I sent them out to play while I iced Twinkies with green frosting and added cookie tails and candy eyes.  I will always remember the excitement gleaming in their eyes.

St. Patrick's Day is about wearing green (if we have something green AND if it's clean.)  My son takes this to extremes.  He has this one pair of green pants that must be magical, because they have fit him for years, which he pairs with a green shirt and a green baseball cap.  One year I found him stringing green beads on a cord so he could have a green necklace too.  The Shamrock cupcakes I had hoped on baking last weekend never happened.  Maybe, next year.  No Leprechaun has ever set foot in our house and the kids have never looked for him.  Two days later, on St. Joseph's Day, we eat pastries.  I am an Italian girl.

The Easter Bunny visits and leaves a basket of chocolate goodness (which I do enjoy sampling).  Sometimes he throws in a stuffed animal or bubbles, or chalk.  Eight colorful Easter baskets look great lined up on the mantle.  I found a few ideas on Pinterest that I hope on trying this year. I like cutting out shapes and creating fun banners to hang on the fireplace.  I used to have an Easter tree, until all my ornaments met an untimely death. We have a lot of fun using food dye, rubber bands, crayons, and six to eight dozen hard boiled eggs.  If we are dying that many eggs, we need to make it fun.  I think I may need to research a few new ways to serve hard boiled eggs this year.

I understand where Kristen's exasperation is coming from.  I was overwhelmed all those years ago as I dug through the snow to find some grass underneath to leave for the three kings and their camels.  Kristen's essay spread like wildfire - people either agreed wholeheartedly or were offended.  I simply saw this post as a mom's plea for support, not a demand to stop celebrating.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lean In

After a morning of packing snacks, brushing hair, and locating lost folders, the kids were finally on the bus. The door had barely closed when my phone started ringing. "Were you watching the news this morning? You need to go out and buy Lean In, for yourself and for your daughters."

I had caught bits and pieces of the interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in between conversations with my little ones.  Every morning, once the house is quiet, as quiet as it can get with a one year old, I will start catching up on the news and current events of the day.

Without having the chance to read Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I quickly perused my "go-to" news sites.  “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and men ran half our homes,” writes Sandberg.  She says that women are being overlooked for positions due to poor negotiating shills and a lack of confidence.  She feels women are responsible for why men dominate at the highest levels of corporate and political leadership.  Sandberg believes one of the main reasons women don't "lean in" is because of children and family, even if the woman does not have children yet.  This causes them to look for flexible positions which will provide reduced responsibilities in preparation for the future.

I have been reading many responses to Sandberg.  Bloggers, especially some mom bloggers, seem to have taken offense.  By leaning in to their careers, is Sandberg telling women to lean away from family?  In some respects, yes, she is.  If you look back at my life and choices there should not be any question as to which direction I am leaning.  Certain people, who shall remain nameless, have gone out of their way to tell me that I am not successful because I do not work outside of the home.  They have gone as far as to tell me that I am wasting my college degree and that I am not worthy of having nice things because I am not going to an office.  I am wondering if that was the reason for my early morning phone call?  Did they miss the big picture?

Sandberg's intention is to encourage people to lean in to overcome obstacles to achieve a goal.  When I received Josie's diagnoses I leaned in to my computer screen to do as much research as I could so that I could be her best advocate.  Bedrest, pre-term labor, and parenting a micro-preemie caused me to lean in to the uncertainty and fear that came with not knowing what the next day would bring.  I lean in as far as I can reach as I stand my ground when dealing with editors.  I have learned that the more I lean in, the more others start leaning in with me.

How do you lean in?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Open House 2013

Open House is my favorite day of the school year.  I love to visit all the classrooms, read the essays hung up around the rooms, and read the letters my little ones have stuck in their desks for me.  

My favorite this year was Alice's description of her favorite place in our community. 

She loves gymnastics as much as her big sister.

The kids wrote descriptions of themselves on the front of these fish.  We needed to guess who was who and then fish to find out.

It wasn't too hard.  Alice is the only one with five sisters, two brothers, who loves gymnastics in her class!

The first graders were learning about volcanoes.

  They worked hard to create their volcanoes out of papier mache.  How exciting to watch it erupt!

We are big Eric Carle fans at our house.  I hope to be able to bring the kids to the Eric Carle Museum this summer.  I love the lesson Lucie learned - sometimes you have to search for good friends, but it's worth it when you find them."  I know that Lucie has found some very good friends at school.  I hope all my children learn this valuable lesson.

Evan's favorite subject is art and he talks about becoming an art teacher like Mr. Lumia.

I am already looking forward to next year's Open House!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Honorable Mention

Do you think children should receive an trophy just for showing up?  I cannot tell you how many medals, trophies, and ribbons adorn my home, but how many of those awards were deserved?  Is it really worth celebrating 10th place or giving an Honorable Mention to everyone who shows up?

Two weeks ago, Evan attended the district-wide science fair.  He had an amazing project about Roller Coasters.  He worked for weeks with Pierre discussing the physics behind roller coasters.  Together, they built a roller coaster model to run marbles through while Evan learned how to calculate different mathematical formulas.

At the award ceremony, his name was called for "Honorable Mention."  I could see the excitement in his face as he went up to get his gold ribbon.  After he sat down, I could see his mind starting to figure things out.  There were countless 3rd Place, 2nd Place, and 1st Place projects.  By the time the award ceremony was over, everyone was either holding a gold Honorable Mention" or a medal with a slip of paper allowing them to go on to the Dutchess County Science Fair.  The smile was no longer there.  He was not proud of himself anymore.

As we left the ceremony, he looked at me and demanded an honest answer to his question.  "Did everyone get an award?"

With my answer, his gold ribbon turned into a consolation prize.  It didn't mean anything to him.  Just looking at his ribbon made him feel like it should have said, "Sorry, better luck next time" instead of "Honorable Mention."

I understand that they want to get the kids excited about being in the science fair, but what happened to having one winner in each grouping - 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place?  Why does each kid need to walk out of the science fair with a ribbon?

Maybe most kids don't look too much into it.  They proudly display their ribbon and feel a sense of pride.

I explained to Evan that the ribbon was to honor his hard work.  He deserved recognition of a job well done.    None of that worked.  In his mind, all the ribbon represented was that he showed up that day, and he was right.

After looking at the judges' comments, I saw that he became a little nervous under pressure.  He stumbled a bit on his words and forgot the formulas.  He's ten.  It happens.

Not every kid needs an trophy to say they played soccer, showed up for a dance competition, or ran a race.  Not everyone who goes to the Olympics receives a medal.  Doesn't that 1st Place award mean more when only one person wins?  

My son is an amazing young man and he doesn't need a ribbon to prove it.