As a single mom, dinnertime for me can be stressful. With my daughter’s crazy gymnastics schedule, it can be difficult to get dinner prepared and served in enough time for her to eat and get ready for bed at a decent hour.
I’ve been buying food at Costco and separating the bulk items, vacuum-sealing them into portions for two and freezing them for future dates. But nowadays it’s not always just two of us eating in my kitchen; sometimes “Brad” eat with us, too. Occasionally that means I have to defrost more than enough for the three of us and then use up the leftover portion the next night or so. It can leave us uneven for a few days.
Tonight I had an “Aha!” moment.
I’d bought some tri-tip last week and put it in the fridge with the thought that I would cook some on one night and freeze the rest for another time. Just as I was getting ready to put them into the oven, a thought struck me: why don’t I cook all of the meat but leave the ones we won’t eat tonight slightly undercooked? My mom had suggested that to me when we first moved out of their house, and I’ve done that many times. But I took my food prep one step further: individually vacuum-sealed pieces of meat!
It really seems like such a “duh!” moment. But I’m quite glad I finally thought of it!
Score one point for Mama! Or, rather, five points. One for each portion.
Consistency is key in parenting. If you make a rule, you have to stick to it. Every time. When your child is in school, you should try to stick to the teacher’s rules and methods, too, if possible. As much as some of us (ok, a lot of us) thought homework to be a punishment, its design and purpose is to teach something new or to reinforce something recently learned so the lesson will hopefully be retained for a long time.
Today, Em forgot to pack the homework her teacher assigned. Em was supposed to study in preparation for a science test tomorrow, so in addition to having double homework tomorrow, she’s also just learned how important homework is for her success in class. For punishment at home, Em will have to mark a negative on her behavior chart for not completing her homework correctly and we will not be going out to watch Oz The Great and Powerful as I’d planned.
After explaining to Em the importance of and reason for homework, I assigned her my own homework - NOT as a punishment, but to keep consistent with her afternoon routine. I asked her to read 3 chapters in a particular book she has on her Kindle and write at least 1 paragraph for each chapter summarizing what happened during each of them. I also explained the purpose of this, to make sure she stays focused on her reading, to make sure she understands and remembers what she read, and to help her work on proper sentence and paragraph structure. For Em, reading is never a punishment, but I made sure to emphasize that this is just in place of what she should have been doing for class.
I’m bummed that Em and I will not be able to go out to see a movie tonight and I’m sad for her that she will not be able to study properly for her test tomorrow, but I am glad to see that she understands the importance of bringing home the assignments from her teacher and is willing to accept my consequences as well.
My daughter is in love with a 27-year-old man.
Or, at least, he would be 27 if he were real.
The summer of 2011 Em expressed interested in the Harry Potter series. As a bibliophile, I am usually very strict (for myself) on reading books before I see the movies that follow. However, since Em was only 7, I decided to show her some of the movies first. It sounds backwards, but being that Harry and his friends are British and in a world of magic that Em had never seen before, I though it best to help her understand why certain characters spoke the way they did and help her to understand some of the words that Americans don’t usually hear in day-to-day conversations. We ended up watching the first 6 movies. When she whined a bit about not seeing the last 2, I told her I wanted her to read the whole series and then we’d watch the last 2 together. Deal!
Over the past year-and-a-half we have borrowed books from friends and family to continue Em’s love affair with Harry. Then last year some relatively new friends/family gave Em the entire set in paperback as a wonderful gift!
This past Sunday night, Em finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The only reason it she didn’t finish the series sooner was because she doesn’t get points for them on her school’s reading comprehension computer program (they only have 1 of the HP books downloaded for the test), so Em had to read her beloved Harry Potter when she was between school library books. Em devours books like the rest of my family does: whenever she had a chance to pick up where she left off, she’d disappear into her room or snuggle under a blanket on the recliner and she was off in her own world. Or Hogwarts, as the case may be.
When she came out of her room Sunday to tell me she was done, she was literally dancing around the living room! She said she’d cried a little when Harry’s friends thought he was dead (seriously, if you get mad at me for spoiling that – 6 years after the final book was published – we need to rethink our relationship) and that she was upset that there aren’t more books left in the series.
We are really looking forward to watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 & Part 2 together soon. I’m glad I waited until she finished reading the series before showing her those two movies; they do not split the book exactly in half and much of the second half of the book would have been spoiled for her. And I wanted her to experience the death of Harry and the battle on her own time; let her re-read parts if she needed to rather than be forced to process them in the time the movie allows.
I’m so excited that she loved the series and I’m sure she’ll be glad to tell anyone who asks what she thought about it and her favorite parts.
The last week or so has been full of ups and downs for me, the downs mostly coming from two states away.
I have the ability to get so completely focused on one thing that I don’t see other things around me. This ability allows me to accomplish more at my office than most because I’ll “tune out” and get a 3-day project done in 4 hours. But sometimes I focus on the wrong things.
To help me re-focus…
- I have a beautiful daughter. From an early age she has been able to identify those who need the most help, need a kind touch or need justice. She is intelligent and eager to learn. She is athletic and hard-working. She is generous with her love and accepting of all people. Her giggle never fails to make me laugh along with her. She is independent and helpful. She is selfless and giving. I am so blessed to have her as my daughter. I am proud of who she is and her future.
- I have a beautiful immediate family. My parents who live less than 5 miles from me and my sister and brother-in-law who live almost 2000 miles from me. My family is always there for me, no matter what. Whether it’s advice, hugs, laughter, mutual tears, babysitting services, transportation, food…I can always count on them. My mother who is my best friend, a second mom to my daughter and my toughest coach. My father who always has sage advice and new ways of thinking around problems. My sister who loves me no matter how much she might “hate” me at times. I am blessed to come from a wonderful family of lovers and givers.
- I have a beautiful boyfriend. The never-ending patience he has while I slowly mend the hole in my heart never ceases to amaze me. His calm voice and gentle touch keep me grounded when I over-analyze things to the point of hysteria. His humor and laughter are just as contagious as my daughter’s. He is constantly reminding me that I am beautiful, loved and worth all the trouble I cause. He treats me as his equal in all aspects of his life, even though I feel like he is the better half of our relationship. I am blessed every day to have him in my world and in the future I imagine ahead of me.
- I have a beautiful church family. Whether it’s people I see every Sunday, people I see once a month, or people I haven’t seen in years – the love and support I get from these people is overwhelming. I know that I can call on any one of these family members to help me see the other side of things, to stand beside me, to comfort me, to get me out of the house, to pray for me… What a remarkable blessing to have so many people ready and willing to help me in any way possible.
- I have beautiful friends across the world. Some of these I’ve known practically all my life, some I’ve known for a little over a year and some I’ve never met and don’t even know their real names. These people have entered my life through school, family, work, the internet or happenstance. These people send me notes of encouragement and stand up for me. These people recognize the goodness in others before they recognize the goodness in themselves. People who believe strongly in the power of prayer and people in whom I see a bit of God even if they do not believe in the same God I do. People who know that I cry – a lot – and that it’s OK. All of these people touch my heart on a regular basis and I feel blessed that all of these friends accept me for who I am and continue to choose to be in my life.
I need to focus on that list. When it seems that my life is spiraling out of control, that I’m going to lose everything I have, that my whole world is going to turn upside down, THIS LIST will help me to remember that I am not alone no matter how many walls I put up between myself and others. THIS LIST needs to be my main focus.
I’m writing in the hopes that you will understand how important gymnastics is to Em. NOT to me, to our daughter.
Em has been taking gymnastics classes for a little over 1 year. It started out as a gift from my parents, a trial summer once-a-week-class to see if she enjoyed it. Em loved it SO much she dropped dance in favor of twice-weekly sessions. She learned quickly and worked extra on her own at home and at my parents’ house to improve her skills. This fall she was invited to compete in 3 competitions. At her current level, the gymnasts are awarded ribbons of color instead of the standard number score you see in televised meets. There were 5 different colored ribbons you could earn based on the individual’s performance and execution of the apparatus: rainbow ribbon was the best, pink 2nd, purple 3rd, blue 4th and green 5th. Out of three competitions with 4 apparatus at each, Em earned 6 purple ribbons, 4 pink ribbons and 2 rainbow ribbons! Her personal best was the rainbow ribbon she earned for her beam routine at her final competition which was an improvement from the purple she earned at the first competition! She was so excited and proud of herself for earning that ribbon!
I’ve attached videos of each of her apparatus, the best of all three competitions.
Em has been invited to move up to the next level, almost tripling the amount of time she currently spends in the gym and making her eligible for competitions with formal numbered scoring. Em knows how much time and work this will take, but she wants to do it. Please reconsider your request to have her with you all summer vacation. There are intensive gymnastics camps that are available during the summer that really help the gymnasts to grow and strengthen their skills. While attending both camps is not mandatory, attending at least one is recommended. If Em cannot attend an intensive camp, it can really set her back among her peers, increasing the amount of work she has to put in to catch up to their level and decreases the likelihood that she’ll be invited to more competitions.
I ask you to talk to Em about her gymnastics the next time you two speak on the phone. Listen to the excitement in her voice when she talks about what she’s learning. And if possible, ask her to show you IN PERSON what she can do when she visits this Christmas. Some of the things she can do, like back walkovers, she learned outside of the gym; many of her peers in her level cannot do that yet.
Em knows that I am sending you this email with the videos, so be sure to tell her if you enjoyed watching them.
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