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Jen, Kristen, and Patience

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Kristen: April 2010 Archives


Travel Pillows Make Traveling Better

Posted by Kristen on April 26, 2010 at 6:44 AM in Sleep
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I don't want to stepping on any of Vicky's toes over there at Craft Apparent but I did have this awesome thing I whipped up that I wanted to share.

We decided to take a road trip today. As in, we decided last night that I would take the boys on a road trip today. Fresh with antibiotics for sinus infections and ruptured ear drums, what better time to set out on the road than when everyone is on the mend?

The last time we road-tripped, I noticed one thing. Anyone who did not have a pillow that he liked was more likely to wake up repeatedly as his head fell forward onto his chest. No matter how many times I would prop up a pillow, heads would roll off. It was then that I decided to make travel pillows. Someone actually recommended I buy those ones that are shaped like a frog trying to strangle you but at $15.99 a pop, I was pretty sure I could do better.

First off I found fleece that was 60% off at the fabric store. I bought a half yard. Hello, $2.75. I bought a bag of Fluff for $1.99 and I knew I had plenty of thread at home. I went home and made an elaborate pattern. Okay, really I just eyeballed it.


People. You are only limited in this project by your own level of anal retentativeness.

I cut the pieces out (I didn't even pin them, oops) and then I sewed around the edges.


I left a hole at the bottom to add the stuffing. Once that was done, I threw it back on the sewing machine and sewed it close. You good people would close it with a needle and thread. I'll bet though that you wouldn't be done in 20 minutes with 3 of these cute little travel pillows.

Here's to better sleeping...


Really, he likes it. I don't feel bad in the least.


PBS Supersisters Great Day of Gratitude

Posted by Kristen on April 19, 2010 at 9:09 AM in Great Day of Gratitude
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The Great Day of Gratitude is May 5, 2010

Everywhere you go, the story is the same. Funding for this program or that program at school has been cut, because the money just isn't there. In the old days, funding cuts meant the disappearance of programs that taught our kids a foreign language or how to play the tuba or the thrill of check mate.

Not anymore.

Funding cuts today mean that thousands of teachers will not have a job in the fall. Thousands of teachers will have to find another job to pay the bills.

We cannot make the funding for teachers miraculously appear, but we can certainly do our part to show our teachers that they matter to our community, that they matter to us, and that they matter to our children.

The Supersisters have decided to host a Supersisters Great Day of Gratitude. On May 5, 2010, Supersisters everywhere will join together to show their children's teachers that we are so thankful for the investment they have made in our families and in our communities. What can you do?

We are only limited by our imaginations. Moms in Alabama will spend the morning in the resource room of their elementary school. They'll run copies or cut out construction paper animals that the second grade teacher needs to have but just doesn't have the time or help to get it done.

Moms in Ohio will stand in the preschool pick up line, so that the teachers can have a day off from this dreaded duty. Moms in Virginia will bring armfuls of fresh flowers to decorate the teacher's lounge and baskets of fresh muffins for a wonderful morning snack.

Children everywhere will cut out homemade cards and write their words of thanks to the teachers who took the time to value their accomplishments and to cheer them on to even the smallest victory.

We would love for you to be a part of the Supersisters Great Day of Gratitude on May 5. So make a plan, grab a badge and tell us in the comments what great ideas you have for showing our teachers how much they mean to us. With your help we can make this a truly Great Day of Gratitude!!

Badge: just cut and paste the following!

<a href=""><img  src="" border="0" alt="The Great Day of Gratitude is May 5, 2010" /></a>


Sesame Street's "When Families Grieve" and a Chat with Supa Dupa Fresh Widow

Posted by Kristen on April 14, 2010 at 12:41 PM in When Families Grieve
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Blogger Supa Dupa Fresh had an opportunity to preview Sesame Street's special which premieres tonight at 8:00 p.m. In addition to her fabulous review of the special at her blog, Fresh Widow, Supa agreed to talk to us a little more about how she and her daughter dealt with the grief of losing her husband to terminal cancer in 2006.

Your blog recounts stories of your journey as a young widow and mother. It is, dare I say, irreverent at times. You actually printed up widow cards which you described as "not as useful as a 'get out of jail free' card, more powerful than a hall pass." By virtue of being a mother, we are all open to everyone's opinions and judgment. I can only imagine how magnified that is when you are overwhelmed with grief. Did you find acceptance or judgment in how your grief was perceived by others?

You say irreverent -- thank you! -- but I think, even stronger, contempt is a really common response for folks who are widowed because our experience seems, to most people, just inconceivable. Of course, I got rude looks from others when my kid was having a fit in the checkout line... so I'd just say, "Her father just died," and boy did that change the mood in the room. It doesn't occur to anyone that you could be widowed with a 2-year-old, that there could be an explanation for my inability to cope with a grocery store. I liked being able to force compassion in public in this way. So the widow card is both a handy excuse (when I was doing badly, I needed every excuse I could get) AND a tool to turn people's minds around.

In general, people who've lived through a major loss reserve an even higher level of contempt for those who judge how we grieve, but that's a whole nother topic. Let's just say that if you think there's a right way to grieve -- or a schedule -- you haven't been there. Consider yourself lucky and keep your thoughts to yourself if you want to retain your friendship.

On the other hand, I can be just as catty as anyone if I don't approve of what another Mom is doing. I suppose I'm less likely because I've practiced all the laziest techniques and cut all the corners already -- so there are fewer parenting shortcuts left for me to criticize...

In a way it's a relief to not make some tiny detail into a source of stress, like, silicone or rubber pacifier, or OMG, none at all? Even in the depths of my grief and disability, I knew that caring about little junk like that was out of my life forever. It's been four years and I'm remarried, and glad to say I spend a lot less time on keeping a clean house or selecting consumer goods than I ever did before.

Your daughter was just a baby when your husband was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, and two years old when he passed away. Now she is six. Having seen the special, do you think she could have understood the show if she had seen it at two?

At 2, she would have understood the basics, that Jesse's father died too, and that people were talking in a friendly way about it. Like now, I would have hugged her and listened closely to her questions. But two year olds don't understand permanence, and no matter how well it's stated or presented to them, the idea simply can't sink in. The validation of seeing another kid who's lost a parent (even if they are a Muppet) would have been good for her, and she would have caught other bits, the concrete parts, like the memory box with the light-up bow tie in it. She'd see all these different families sharing stories and pictures of the loved one.

Kids' grief is interesting, we all know how kids watch a show over and over again: sure, Cinderella has a cute dress, but part of it is that as your child grows, she learns something new each time. My daughter and I would likely have watched this show over and over again (as we watched everything), and as she entered the stages where is learning rapidly, at about 3 and a half, she'd have started to ask different questions. As she began to understand what it means to not come back, she'd start to "get" some of the other conversations in the show.

I think our experience would have been almost the way it was, only with this show as another, very focused topic. But I am unusual in that I sought out and received expert advice and reassurance about my grieving child. I knew what her limits were and learned to listen to her really well. (I blog about this a lot. She taught me many things about loss!)

Most widowed parents don't get this information and reassurance, either from school, peers, family, or church so this show is really, really valuable. People are really, really scared of talking to kids about death. Adults magnify everything. Children observe, and are 100% honest. Your goal in talking to them is to keep them that way and not project your own needs! The book, "How to talk so kids will listen, and how to listen so kids will talk," based on the work of Dr. Haim Ginott, is probably the best guide to low-pressure, child-led communication and I encourage all parents -- and all people involved in stressful communication -- to read it and keep it close.

Many communities have terrific resources for grieving kids, but people don't know how unique kids' needs are -- or even that they need special support, especially if they appear to be developing normally. But kids really do need more information about these programs such as grief camps, in-school programs, and counseling. I encourage folks to reach out to counselors, school system experts, non-profits and community organizations to find appropriate help for their kids. It's never too late: kids benefit even ten years later and a lot of programs are even free.

One in twenty kids will lose a parent by age 15 -- families like yours will come out of the woodwork if you look, and you'll feel less alone. A recent study showed that the effects of parental loss affect children through adulthood, but it's never too late to talk and listen.

These conversations are really vital and I think people will be surprised, once they start to talk, at how easy and fun it can be to share this stuff with a child. It's not all heavy and dark. It's just real.

Is there a "right" time for children to see this special? (right after a loss, years after a loss, somewhere in between?)

For kids, this show is appropriate at any time. It's important to remember it's just a first step, but you can learn a lot about what your kids need from listening to them. It's also good viewing for other family and community members, and families of your child. Most people think widowed people are cocooned by our families and close friends and "don't want to bother (them)." But actually, we often have big differences with those people, who may also be grieving and are often judgmental. In our contempt, we break a lot of ties, or they get broken for us. An "end" is a very large turning point and changes everything. Emotions run high. A surviving parent is doing double duty WHILE severely impaired AND tackling paperwork that you wouldn't believe. Many families face bankruptcy after a loss. It is BIG STUFF and there's no time for the niceties of thank you notes or the norms of polite society, sometimes. And we know our kids come first.

Because of these massive disruptions, a neighbor, a cousin, a classmate you weren't very close to may turn out to be your family's superhero or your new best friend. That's why I *encourage* everyone to learn more about grief and get more comfortable with grieving people. It isn't contagious!

If you could give one piece of unsolicited advice to another widow or widower about helping their children deal with the loss of a parent, knowing now what you didn't know then, what would it be?

Meet some peers -- online or in person -- they will help you realize you're not alone, you're not crazy, and serve as evidence that others have survived.


According to Supa, "loss is something you get through -- not over. "Closure" is so Hollywood. Some of us may turn lucky enough to use what we've been through as a springboard for revelation, renewal, or reinvention." Thanks so much for sharing just a small part of your journey. We are glad you are a Supersister!

For more resources on families dealing with grief, PBS Parents provides a place for you to share your story, tips on how to open the dialogue with your children and caring cards to use as a family to find strength together.

"When Families Grieve" premieres on PBS tonight, Wednesday April 14, at 8 p.m. EST and runs for one hour. Check your local listings. It's appropriate for all ages, even grown-ups.


Snakes, Spiders and/or Bare Feet

Posted by Kristen on April 12, 2010 at 7:04 AM in Raising Boys
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masonoutside.gifMy neighbor would have been mortified to see all the bare feet in my back yard yesterday. The woman is afraid of nothing other than copperheads. We have a LOT of copperhead snakes in our neighborhood. People tell stories of year-long recoveries from snake bites the way those people who get Lyme disease talk about recovery.

You go to the local zoo and there is the CAUTION: POISONOUS sign overhead. Ethan says, "Enough with the poisonous copperheads already. We KNOW they are poisonous." Nathan pipes up with "I KNOW they are red. Stop telling me that."

The neighbor graciously reminds us that the huge pile of sticks over there? Great place for baby copperheads to hide out. She's right. And she's not even trying to tell me in a way that know-it-all-ish. She just doesn't want to have to do babysitting duty for the ER visit that is related to a snake bite in lieu of the usual stitches run. She's not exaggerating either. Last year I killed two copperheads on the front walk. Nate called out to warn me about the one but then he lost it because he saw a daddy long legger.

He was freaking out. Losing it.

K: Nate, what's wrong? Are you okay?
Nathan: MOM!!! I was telling yout there is a copperhead but then I saw a 'PIDER. A 'PIDER!!!!
K: Nathan, please move away from that snake.
Nathan: I CAN'T (wailing and pointing to the harmless spider between him and the door).

I snatched him up and put him in the house. There was no use trying to reason with the child about a poisonous snake at his feet when clearly the harmless spider had emotionally crippled him. I went back outside and beheaded the snake with a shovel (which is as fun as it sounds). Nate jumped over the spider and came to stand beside the writhing body of the now headless snake.

Nathan: MOM!!! You have to kill the spider.

I didn't. I have a LOT of atoning to do in my lifetime for the amount of legs I have pulled off of spiders in my childhood so I'm just going to leave well enough alone. We have snakes to cause concern. They are far more interesting.

I know that other than cleaning out my entire back yard of all yard debris, the next best way to stay safe is for everyone to wear shoes. But the wearing of shoes is a losing battle in my house. I started to chew everyone out today about safety since 4 out of 5 family members had shoes strewn across the lawn rather than on their feet when someone brought it to my attention that I wasn't wearing shoes. It's kind of awkward to be the parent who tries to pitch the "parents are allowed to do things kids aren't allowed to do" when really you are just a big fat hypocrite.

My children don't buy the hypocrisy. It was worth a try though.

You would think from this picture that I could also take a little time to be worried about the wooden stakes, the leftover piece of sharp gutter cover, the potting soil around his mouth or even the plastic cup that is most likely a #3. But I don't want to get ahead of myself...


Putting the Toddle in Toddler

Posted by Kristen on April 5, 2010 at 6:06 AM in Raising Boys
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He's at that age. You know the one. One, actually. The age where you turn your head for just a second and all of the contents of your lower cabinets are in a pile on the kitchen floor. Someone forgets to close the bathroom door and you either hear the splashing that sounds like a 200-pound man doing a cannon ball into a pool or worse, you find all manner of objects floating in the toilet because they just wouldn't flush.

When Ethan was this age, we put on a toilet lock. Sure he was able to figure out how to undo the latch when he was 14 months old. It made us feel better for a little while, so that's all that matters. Now we just regulate the door being closed. Or I regulate the door being closed. If I can make it a day without finding a baby trying to swim in the toilet, it's a good day.

Then there is the laundry. Just the other day I walked around the corner to find the baby flinging neatly folded clothing over his head as fast as he could. When he saw me coming, he stepped up his speed and laughed with glee. I snapped at him and gave him my meanest look. He gave me a great belly laugh and moved even faster. I lunged for the basket and put it out of his reach. He sighed and toddled around the corner to see if one of his brothers had forgotten to close the bathroom door.

There is a gate at the bottom of the stairs and a gate at the top of the stairs. Cut off from taking his show on the road to a different floor of the house, the baby (can I still call him that?) now tries to get his brothers to open the front door or back door for him so he can escape. I hear him yelling to Ethan and banging on the front door. Ethan patiently explains to him that we all have to go out together if we are going to go out. Mason moves on to to trying to convince Nathan to open a door. Nathan just bowls him over and suddenly they are rolling on the floor.

Nathan has forgotten the purpose of their conversation but Mason has the mind of a steel trap. He climbs out from under the pinning and smacks on the door with his hand. Nate shrugs his shoulders and leaves.

The baby wanders off again to check the bathroom door. You just never know.

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