5 Tips for Kids on Writing Apology Notes

Jan 31 2013

We’ve weathered our fair share of apology note writing at our house. Just off the top of my head, our topics have included hitting, head butting, face flicking, and nut punching. Not to make you jealous, but we’re very, very experienced apologizers. It’s important as a parent, I think, to lead the charge by screwing up at least once a day — more if you can manage it — and then apologizing so your kid can see by example how it’s done.

Coincidentally, my kid wrote an apology note just last night.

It went like this:

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Dear _____,

Sorry for hitting you with the hole hop and sorry for hitting you MORE THEN ONCE.

So.

That was a fun family evening.

Given the fact that some of you are new to the parent gig and may not have as much expertise in this area, I thought I might offer some assistance. Some advice. Some guidelines. Some tips. Longtime parents like to do this sort of thing from time to time to convince ourselves we’ve learned something. Anything at all, really. Bear with us, OK? Be kind. Our advice may be obvious, but we need to give it.

5 Tips for Kids on Writing Apology Notes

  1. Say you’re sorry. It looks like this: “I am sorry.” I know it’s a terrible thing to have to do, kid, but everyone owes an apology from time to time. Suck it up. Get it done. Move on. It will prepare you for paying bills someday.
  2. Say what the apology is for. For example, “I am sorry I ended the last sentence with a preposition.” Make sure the letter recipient knows you understand what you did. It’s a stand-up thing to do, it helps diffuse anger, and, believe it or not, you’ll feel better when you admit where you were wrong.
  3. Don’t excuse your behavior with if’s or but’s. Not even when you have a really good reason for what you did. For example, “If you hadn’t stolen my colored pencil, you Mean Stealing Stealer Who Steals, I wouldn’t’ve had to flick you in the FACE” might better be expressed screaming into your pillow than in writing. Stuff in writing can come back to bite you. Don’t make it worse.
  4. Spell words correctly. Like “hula hoop” which is spelled H-U-L-A  H-O-O-P and is definitely not spelled H-O-L-E  H-O-P. Baby, it’s important for you to know I’m willing to talk to you about anything. Anything at all. That’s my commitment as your mama. Open communication. Answering questions to the very best of my ability. But, for both our sakes, can we wait on this one a few years? Yes? Oh, thank God.
  5. Express your commitment not to do it again. And then don’t do it again.

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P.S. “And then don’t do it again.” Hahahahahaha! I’m 39 years into attempts on that one. No luck yet. But if this apology thing was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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A Moment of Mamaraderie

Jan 29 2013

I’m going to a meeting tonight.  Just double checked with a friend to see if she’s coming, too.

Her response:

I may not be mentally there . . . this parenting thing is killing me lately. But my body will be present.

YES. This. Exactly. Empty shell. Wrung dry. Kaput. Finé. I’d hug her for this message of mamaraderie except that would take energy. Instead, we agreed we’d just prop each other up and drool. That propping and drooling are, in fact, our most recently mastered areas of expertise.

So, momrades, anyone else want in on the propping and the drooling? Vacant staring and couch sitting also accepted. It’s an open invitation. All are welcome.

B

Sleeping. In Surround Sound.

Jan 28 2013

I made you something the other night while I was busy not sleeping. I not-sleep a lot because my children regularly and expertly outmaneuver my Ambien prescription and my 50 pairs of earplugs. Frankly, I think Ambien and Earplugs should just admit defeat and quit embarrassing themselves, but they went to a Tony Robbins workshop one time and they insist they can achieve their personal dreams. I don’t have the heart to destroy them so we bumble along together, trying.

Here’s an audio file for you about sleep. It’s like a lullaby only better. For best results, listen to it at night when it’s dark and quiet. And with the volume all the way up.

Sleeping. In Surround Sound. a lullaby for your listening pleasure by Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids "Sleeping. In Surround Sound."

 

P.S. I was not kidding about the earplugs.

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They’re a nightstand fixture along with a half-read vampire novel, three candy wrappers, a pre-chewed piece of gum (not mine), a book about dinosaur record breakers, and a sock. Why? What’s on your nightstand?

P.P.S. We sleep trained our first child, by which I mean she neither slept nor was trained and she and I cried a lot. Then we slept with our next kids through adoption adjustment and night terrors, by which I mean we not-slept on the floor of their rooms, lost our poo with great consistency, and almost fled screaming to Mexico. Then we gave up with our twins and now our room is a free-for-all which means a lot of pointy limbs in my ribs and bladder and often waving good night to Greg over a sea of mouth breathers. We still don’t sleep but at least we don’t sleep to the sound of not-crying. Do what works for you and your kids is what I’m saying. Or what doesn’t work not as bad as the other stuff. Or ignore me. I haven’t slept in 14 years. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

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Weekend Plans, Insider Trading, and Making a Cleanliness Gesture

Jan 25 2013

I’m spending the weekend in Portland with my oldest baby at a dance convention. This is why:

Abby flies

I forgot to watch Dance Moms for inspiration before we left, though, so I’m afraid my behavior won’t be up to nagging and bullying par. This makes me feel sad. Like I’m destined to fail from the get-go. At least I’m failing in good company, though, ’cause none of the other moms I’m staying with meet the bar, either. Maybe I can hope one of us SNAPS this weekend! Is that too much to ask? That just one of us totally loses her poo and goes all DANCE MOM all ovah the place? Pray with me, OK?

In other news, Greg is leaving this weekend, too, spending it with our oldest boy child to belatedly celebrate his 13th birthday. I understand this will require fuel in the form of unlimited Taco Bell. Also, I’ll probably land in jail a la Martha Stewart for handing you this insider trading tip but buy stock in Frito Lay, friends; it’s not too late.

If you’re good at math, you’ll notice our plans leave 3 children unaccounted for. THANK GOD FOR GRANDPARENTS. They’re all chipping in to cover us.

Papa, the self-titled Old Marine, who raised me to be precise, organized, immaculate and prepared, agreed to overnight with the littles while we’re away. I think this means Papa’s going to sleep in our bed. I’m writing this entire post, actually, to ask Greg with a pretty, pretty please to change our sheets*. I mean, the rest of the house is a hideous mess, too, and I don’t want Papa to have to live with that, either, but in a move that will surprise no one I’m willing to let the toilets go if it means Papa doesn’t have to sleep on the 10 inches of dried toothpaste-stain that got on our sheets… um, I don’t know how it got there.  What I’m saying is, I’d like to at least make a cleanliness gesture here, yes?

If it can’t be actually clean, it can be gesture clean. 

OK?

OK.

I’m really glad we had this chat about standards and stuff.

Also, I’m really glad for family who love us for the raging mess we are.

The End.

Beth

P.S. What are YOU doing this weekend? Any stock tips you want to share? Remember, sharing time’s a happy time. Well, you know; ’til it lands you in slammer.

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*Psst… Greg, I know I should’ve changed the sheets myself before I left. That’s why we have the “If You Care, Then Fix It” rule. But I’m sort of banking on your twenty-year trend of unreasonable mercy. Now where’s that hopeful/convincing smiley face when I need it?

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UPDATED: On Accidentally Having 5 Kids and an Open Call for Joy

Jan 24 2013

Sometimes I get letters from readers. On Tuesday, I got one from Evan. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It moved me, Bob. And so I’m sharing it here with his permission because I like laughing and crying better when we do it together. And because Evan asks an important question at the end, one I thought our community can answer way, way better than I can answer alone.

(Also, his name’s not really Evan. I changed it and other minor details to protect his kids’ story. Otherwise, this letter’s all his. Read on…)

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Hiya Beth-

I’m guessing one of the biggest problems being a writer who “puts herself out there,” as you do, is the fact that you get e-mails from people who assume that they know you… or can go to you for advice… or want you to go above-and-beyond what you provide with your blog and request personal inspiration… or whatever.  How annoying that must be!

(It’s not annoying. I love getting letters. I occasionally suck at answering them, though, and I admit I sometimes shove my inbox under my bed, swear to my dad that my room’s clean, and hope desperately I don’t get found out. I’m working on it; pinky swear.)

So, Hi.  I’m here to ask for your advice.  Oh, and to request personal inspiration.

I’m Evan.  I’m a foster parent.  My partner and I got ‘the call’  last year. A baby needed a two-day placement. I figured, “Heck, I can skip the gym for two days and care for a baby.”

That was 401 days ago.

As we settled in to be parents of our little guy, we also learned he had four half-siblings placed in other foster homes.  Our caseworker mentioned it’d be great to have them all in the same home.  We said, “That would be great… but no.”

Then I met them.

Our caseworker reminded us that it’d be great to have them all in the same home.  We said, “Okay… let’s do this.”  After all, we thought, we’re both teachers.  We’re organized.  We’re patient.  If anyone can do this for these kids, it’s us.

So now we’re a family of seven.

At this point in the e-mail, things are about to turn, so I want to clarify by saying this:  We consider ourselves very lucky to have these kids in our lives.  But… well…

We’re still sorta organized.  And I’m a little less patient than I thought I was.  And I do try to remind myself that we’ve done something good for these kids.  Yet, it’s not always easy.  Sometimes I just need to hear from someone who ‘gets it.’

Now these awesome kids are free to be adopted.  And They. Are. Awesome.  My doubts and fears do NOT come from the fact that one kid makes me repeat directions 1,000 times before complying.  Or that another likes candy so much he steals it from daycare and eats it in the bathroom.

My doubts and fears come from the fact that… you know… being a parent is hard.  And the learning curve in which we find ourselves is pretty steep since we didn’t get to grow up with some of our little ones.  And that some of our little ones are relatively big.  And those bigs already have, like, personalities and stuff.  And some of those personality traits are… umm… not always awesome.

We will soon begin the process to adopt them.  And as excited as I am, I am also a little nervous.  I worry that I won’t be able to give them all the time and attention they need.  I worry that I sometimes feel like we’re running a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory rather than a family.

And I don’t want to let the worry consume me to the point where I can’t see the joy.  

And, so I reach out to you.  Mostly, I want to thank you for your blog but I also feel like I need someone to get past the “what you’re doing for these kids is great” and get into the parts where I hear some of the joys of having five kids from someone who has five kids.

So… what can you tell me?  Besides what you’ve told me in your blog posts?  Anything?

If you can pacify me with a “Five times the sparklers on the Fourth of July!” comment… or something more… I would appreciate it.

If not, I get it.

And, if nothing else, thanks for just letting me send my thoughts ‘out there.’  (It’s very freeing)

Evan

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Parents Everywhere, did this part slay you?

I worry that I sometimes feel like we’re running a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory rather than a family.

And I don’t want to let the worry consume me to the point where I can’t see the joy.  

It pierced me right in the heart. Killed me dead. Because this? Is Parenting, friends.

I fired off a quick response Tuesday night.

……….

Evan!

a) Your email was rad. I’ll respond at length later but I only have my phone with me right now which makes for a lot of PBS finger typing. (See? That was supposed to read “one finger typing.” I think I’ve made my case.)

b) You & your partner are rad. I know, I know – we’re supposed to be all “we’re not heroes” and “oh, the kids aren’t the lucky ones; we’re the lucky ones!” But can’t we just acknowledge? We’re ALL the lucky ones — us AND the kids — and hot damn we’re rad for standing up for these kids! Yes? Yes. Go, us!

c) Thank you for asking Opinionated Me for advice & inspiration. I have two teenagers, so I’ll take all the People Who Think I Know Something I can get.

d) Dude. Sparklers with 5 kids sucks. That’s 5x the sticks of potentially raging inferno or eye loss. There’s a lot I like about having 5 kids. Giant batches of cookies, for example. Excuses to never have a clean house. But sparklers aren’t one of them.

K. My PBS fonger is all worn out. (Fonger? Seriously, Spell Check? That’s not one you’re going to catch? I love you, SC, but I DO NOT GET YOU.) More soon. Give my live to your partner, too. Or my love. Either way.

Beth

Sent from my iPhone

……….

You guys, once upon a time, Greg and I accidentally had 5 kids. I mean, we can be held intentionally responsible for 3 out of the 5, but the other two crash landed in our crop field before we really knew what was happening, and it’s been a wild, wild ride and trampled corn ever since.

Now Evan and his family are joining the magic and the chaos, which is what happens sometimes when you let Love run roughshod over your Plans, and I’d sure love to gift their family with JOY.

Would you join me, friends? Whether you have 1 or 100 children, would you share just one thing about this crazy kid-life that brings you joy?

……….

UPDATE: Thank you and thank you and thank you for showing up in a big way for Not Evan, folks. You made a difference to a dad in need. A big difference. Over the last few years, I’ve come to truly, deeply trust your hearts, and it was my utter privilege to get to share you with Not Evan. He wrote a letter I’ll share with you below, but I wanted you to hear my gratitude, too. Thank you for making this place awesome. I am so proud of our Village.

Hiya Beth…
 
As much as I appreciate your blog for many, many reasons, I most-recently appreciate you using your powers for good and helping me in my moment of need.  Your village assured me, lifted my spirits, gave me hope, and helped me see myself and my family more clearly.  I owe your readers a ton.  I owe them for getting me through some bummer-thoughts I had a few days ago… and their words will give me a boost for the bummer-thoughts that lay ahead. 
 
I know the saying is ‘Joy cometh in the morning…’ but too many of my mornings seem to include the deep breathing and mental preparations of a marathon runner about to hear the starting gun.  There are kids to wake up and dishes to set and dishwashers to empty and food to prepare (i.e. pouring cereal) and work-stuff to gather and reminders shouted throughout the house… and, you know, all the other family/factory things that need to get done. Yet, amidst all the chaos, morning was also the time when I was able to steal a few moments to check-in with your blog.  The posting of my letter allowed me to gobble up everything that your readers could share.  Each person’s comment gave me a little of what I need. 
 
Life has not gotten easier.  My 8-year-old still needs directions repeated.  And just when candy-stealing has ceased, sister-insulting has increased.  There is and will always be something.  And that’s normal.  That’s the day-to-day. That’s parenting.  And that’s where you and your readers remind me to find the joy.  And, I promise, I’ll do my best.
 
Thank you.

Not Evan

How to Prepare a Winter Driving Survival Kit

Jan 22 2013

It’s winter here in Oregon, and it’s cold. Like, unusually cold for our region. Like, instead of our typical grim, gray rain, it’s more sub-freezing, Dementors-are-coming-to-suck-your-soul kind of cold. All of which got me thinking about how well we’re prepared in case we find ourselves stranded while we’re out.

What if the car breaks down?

What if I’m stuck on the side of the road with my whole chaos of children?

How will we stay warm?

How can we avoid going all Donner Party on each other?

So I took a look around my hip minivan with an eye to survival, and I realized we’re more ready than I thought. I mean, sure, we could stock up on a few things like road flares, a flashlight, water and a move to the Bahamas, but we’ve got some of this stuff nailed.

For example, we’re prepared to stay warm

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with a child’s coat, a child’s Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, a dishtowel, two paper napkins, and, of course

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three left gloves.

And we’re prepared with food.

Foods that are high in carbs like crackers

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and toast.

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Foods that are high in protein like half a Luna bar

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and a meatball.

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Foods that are high in carbs and protein like week-old pizza.

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And foods that are high in French fries and cupcakes, like, um, French fries

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and cupcakes.

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Look. I don’t want to brag too much about our level of preparedness, and I certainly don’t want to bore you, so I’m not including photos of everything I found in my car. All the silverware and bowls. And half-sucked mints and banana peels. And paper plates and dried out markers. And plastic toys and Pokemon cards.

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But I do want to encourage you to be prepared as much as possible. And being prepared starts with attitude and training, friends. Preparation for anything as a family requires buy-in and a sense of team spirit. Every single person in our family contributes to this effort, often anonymously. Even when I say, “Hey! Who left this in the car?” no one hogs the credit or seeks any recognition at all, and, in fact, it’s not uncommon for my kids to try to shine the light on their siblings’ efforts with a kind “he did it” or a sweet “not me!”

Now please don’t worry if this all takes your family some time to learn. More than any of the items listed above, the most important thing to have on hand is consistency. For example, we cleaned our car out just a couple weeks ago, but because we’re committed to consistency, we’ve restocked every single thing and more in that amount of time.

Remember, practice makes perfect. And I believe you can do it.

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P.S. If you’re looking for a more, um, thorough (read: real) Winter Driving Survival Kit, check out this one put together by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. I figure Minnesotans know more about being frozen than Oregonians. If you ever need to know about Vitamin D deficiency, though, we’re here for you.

P.P.S. Sorry I didn’t picture the M&M’s I found. I ate them. There’s a reason I’m heading to the gym, folks.

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So! What’s in your car right now? For *ahem* winter survival? Spill it. You know, just like that sippy cup of milk. 😉

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On Finding the Gym and a New Comfort Zone

Jan 18 2013

I bought a trial membership at the gym this week which was harder than you might think and not just because it’s a gym and also, Oh Sweet Baby Jesus Smiling Sweetly in His Manger, a GYM.

No. It was harder than you might think because I forgot how to get there.

That’s right.

I’ve been to the gym before, folks, but it’s been so long I couldn’t remember how to find it. Also, I forgot that my fancy phone can hold my hand, whisper assurances, and take me there if I but ask. I often forget this about God, though, too, so at least my phone’s in good company, eh?

I drove around the industrial part of our little town for a while, stomping my feet real loud, hoping to scare the gym out of the brush, but all that scampered out was the ACTION Vibratory Equipment building…

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… and the CLIMAX World Headquarters…

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which went a long way toward proving we have the Very Best Town Ever (Where do I live? Well, you know CLIMAX World Headquarters? There.), and gave me a robust Immature Laughter Workout, but did little to help me find my way.

Eventually, the gym quit hiding, and yesterday I went to a group weight lifting class.

Traditionally, I’ve loved lifting weights as much as I’ve loved having all the kids barfy at once. I’ll do almost anything to avoid it, and, if I get caught doing it anyway, I’m pretty sure  it’s going to kill us all.

Oddly, though, group weight lifting wasn’t awful. Almost as though free weights with good music, better friends and easy-to-follow instruction can be fun. I know; I hardly know what to do with this information, either. It’s like the mountains moved without any warning and I’m still reeling a little, trying to get my bearings. It helps that there was a fundamental flaw in the instruction; Bryanna kept saying things like “use your abs” like she believes we all have some.

Finding a gym to join is a strange thing for me. I don’t consider myself a gym kind of person. Several people have asked if it’s because of the mirrors in the group classes or not yet knowing the right moves. You know, the self-consciousness questions. And I can see that those things might be intimidating but that’s not it at all; I’ve been a mama for far too long to be dissuaded by the little things like public humiliation or making an utter fool of myself. No. My problem is the fact that I’m introverted to the point of being reclusive, hiding in my house and in my head by preference. I interact with friends more often in writing than face to face. I see my neighbors most often when we run into each other at school functions. So a gym? Crowds of people on purpose? This is a push for me. But an important one, I think, to choose to be part of an active, healthy community.

Running worked for me for a long time. Three years or so. I loved putting on my shoes and heading out the door on no one’s schedule but my family’s. Listening to no one’s music but my own (by which I mean my teenage daughter’s because I have no music of my own – I know lots of One Direction songs, is what I’m saying.) But I haven’t run much in the last 6 months, and, while I hope to get back to it, my scale keeps griping at me and it’s time for a change. With my youngest in full-day school this year, I have to acknowledge I’m headed into yet another season of life and adjust accordingly.

Life, y’all. And seasons! And our needs. And adjusting. It’s like it all keeps changing because that’s the way this whole thing works.

So I’m curious. Are you doing anything lately that pushes you outside your comfort zone? Anything that makes you draw on the wealth of abject humiliation you’ve experienced as a human being? What are you doing? And more importantly, why are you doing it?

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P.S. Yesterday was free weights. This morning was Zumba. Now, I’m immobilized on my couch. Frozen. Muscles immovable. Apparently, Bryanna was right and I have abs, gluts, quads and all kinds of other whiny, complainy muscles. I can probably get up, but I’m pretty sure I can’t get back down, so I’m staying here. I’m experiencing some discomfort at this time due to a steady increase of bladder pressure. I’m not sure how, exactly, to explain to my bladder that squatting all the way down to toilet depth is simply not possible right now. It’s not that I don’t hear you, Bladder. You’re making some excellent, convincing points. It’s that my quads can’t do anything to help you. Sorry, buddy. You’re on your own.

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