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The Howe To Blog

Parenting Advice from the Unqualified

The Art of Living Simply and Taking Your Time

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“Move it! Move it! Move it!”

These are the words I chant most mornings as my lovely, 5-year-old dawdler goes under her bed to look for her shoes, or decides to make homemade dog treats at 7 am on school day, or literally stops to smell the roses as we race to get out the door and get to school on time. And as I nudge her toward the car, her response is always the same, “But, Mom, you have to take your time.”

My daughter has been trying to teach me this lesson for almost six years now, but there’s been a steep learning curve for me. We’re all wired the way we’re wired, and I’m wired to do things frenetically. So when my little one warns me to take my time and to let her take her time, I realize that in my efforts to rush her, I’m forcing her to approach the world in a way in which she is not wired, and I’m potentially missing out on all the little treasures that come with a slower pace.

Continue reading “The Art of Living Simply and Taking Your Time”

The Things We Didn’t Say

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My dad and I had this little ritual we shared about every fourth time I was at his house for a visit. When he sensed our time together was coming to an end, he would say, “An, would you trim my hair before you go?” I’m no hair stylist, nor have I had even one second of professional training, but for some reason, about 15 years or so ago, my dad decided I had the steadiest hand in the family and entrusted me to tidy up the edges of his hair in between haircuts. Each time I did this, I’d follow him into the bathroom and drape a towel over his shoulders, him facing the large mirror and me standing behind him. He would hand me his hair brush and his clippers and I’d brush his hair, then clean up the nape of his neck and sideburns, brush off the loose hair, pat him on the back and say, “You look good, Dad.”

This past September, my dad attended his 50th class reunion. Reunions were a big deal for him, as he was one of those people who had a close circle of about 50 or so friends he had known all his life and loved dearly. He lived for nostalgia and for reminiscing about their glory days in the 60s. His 50th reunion was especially significant to him as he had only a few months prior been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and had just finished his 6th chemo treatment. He hadn’t lost much, if any, hair — both his hair and goatee, though whiter than they had been only a few months before, were still impressive for 68 years old. But he had lost a lot of weight, and he knew his appearance would elicit concern from his classmates. He also knew he was facing a more emotional reunion than usual and was bracing himself for the point at which the reunion with beloved friends turned into a goodbye. So when I visited the day before the reunion and he asked me to trim his hair, I knew it was more important to him than the hundreds of times I had done it before.

Continue reading “The Things We Didn’t Say”

How to Survive a Day at the Beach with Kids

Snack food inequity. Things are about to go south with a quickness.
Snack food inequity. Things are about to go south with a quickness.

My family recently planned and pulled off (ish) a massive outing to our local beach — cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents all put on their sportiest swimwear and their SPF 50 and packed their coolers for a long, hot day by the sea. Based on the crowds at the beach, it looked as if everyone was trying to squeeze in a last trip or two to the beach before school starts. The beach is my happy place. In fact, sometimes when I’m trying hard to relax and I can’t quite get there, I visualize waves crashing on a sandy beach and I feel my tension ease. But you know what I don’t picture on that peaceful, sandy beach? Children. Because a day at the beach with kids is about as far from relaxing as you can get.

We live a few miles from several beaches and have made every kind of beach trip there is – day trips, night trips, short visits, all-day visits, bike treks, hikes, swims, you name it – and we’ve done them all with our kid in tow. Along the way we’ve learned a lot about what makes the difference between a crappy day at the beach with kids and a successful one. Often, we haven’t taken our own advice and the results have been hellish. To save you from that agony, I’ve come up with a list of tips for going to the beach with kids:

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Adventures in Babysitting: Round 1

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We recently moved further away from my family — AKA our free and readily available babysitters — so we decided it would be wise to hire a babysitter that we could rely upon in a pinch on those rare occasions when the hubs and I actually venture into public to dine/be entertained/drink ourselves stupid with other grown-up folks. So we signed up with a legit babysitter/nanny service, waded through some applications, found some good candidates and commenced interviews. The next few posts will summarize the very strange, difficult and often befuddling task of inviting a stranger into your home and asking them personal questions to determine their ability to care for your child.

Round 1: “So…I work at a weed dispensary…will that be a problem?”

Keep reading.

Bible Stories and Meat Pies

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We have a long and storied history of misfires when it comes to discussing issues of God, religion and spirituality with our daughter.

During our first real substantive conversation about God when she was 3, we managed to scare the bejeezus out of her and leave her thinking she had a little man living in her tummy.

Then there was the time she thought church was called “cheech,” which made our spiritual failings glaringly evident every time she said, “Hey, Mom, let’s go to cheech this Sunday.”

We’re doing better these days, mainly because she’s older and there are fewer risks of miscommunication when discussing the complexities of God and such. But, from time to time, things still get lost in translation.

Last night at bedtime when Daddy was reading to the child from a book of nighttime blessings, they settled on a story about Jesus and shepherds. She seemed to be paying attention, but when the story ended, she jumped up and ran around the house chanting, “Shepherd’s Pie! Shepherd’s Pie! Shepherd’s Pie!” We think she may have missed the point of that story. Either that or she was hungry for pub food.

My Kid is Having an 80s Kind of Summer

I waited for my daughter in the school’s courtyard on her last day of class, chatting with the other moms about summer plans. Our family’s plans included little more than long, lazy days at the beach and some ballet lessons.
“What else?” one mom asked expectantly.

“That’s it,” I responded, garnering a look of disapproval.

“But what will you do with her the rest of the time?” she inquired.

“Well, we’ll swim, hike, play with her cousins, cook, shop, hang out…” I trailed off when the other mom wandered over to talk to another group, too disappointed in my lack of scheduled summer activities to even feign enthusiasm. I shrugged and went to fetch my kid and take her to do nothing in particular.

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A 5-Year-Old’s Movie Reviews

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Our 5-year-old has an uncanny knack for summarizing and reviewing movies in just a few short sentences — no doubt this skill will have no real-world, practical application whatsoever, but we’re damn proud anyway. And it’s funny, and my child is my main source of amusement. So I thought I’d share a few of her recent movie reviews with you, in case you’re on the fence about seeing any of these delightful children’s films. After reading them, I’m sure you’ll agree that A) my child is the next Roger Ebert; B) her understanding of movie plots is borderline genius; and C) these movies all sound horrible (or awesome, depending on how weird you are).

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Love at 21 vs. Love at 42

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I haven’t written anything in a long while; in fact, this is the first time I’ve opened my laptop in over a month for anything non work-related. We’ve had some significant life changes in our family, one of which I’m not quite ready to write about. The other was moving to a new home. It’s been rough–roughest, perhaps, on our barely 5-year-old who doesn’t understand what’s happening or why everything has changed and all her grown-ups aren’t smiling as much as they used to, and she’s launched into a behavioral nosedive of some kind. But this, too, shall pass, and we will get through it with the same love, support, consistency and gratitude that we try to apply to our family life in general.

These types of stressors can often drive a wedge between husbands and wives, but the mister and I have actually grown closer these past couple of months, spending most evenings after the kiddo has gone to bed checking in with the other, supporting one another and discussing ways to help ease our family through these transitions. We remind each other that the marriage we’ve worked so hard to build these last six years provides a sturdy foundation to carry us through any challenge we face together.

As we talked, I got to thinking of something I did when I was 21. One night in college while sitting around with girlfriends and bemoaning our romantic lives, one friend announced that if we made a list of all the qualities we were looking for in a mate, then put that list in a Bible, said perfect mate would show up on our doorsteps, or in our O-Chem classes or at Coffee Bean, somewhere, anywhere, and soon. After a few pints of Guinness, and who knows what else, everyone thought this was the best idea ever. As a former Catholic school girl, this might as well have been witchcraft, but I had a Bible on my bookshelf, so I was in! We got out some pens and notebooks and wrote furiously. I put my list in the Bible and I didn’t look at it again until I was about 30 and I came across my Bible during a move.

Continue reading “Love at 21 vs. Love at 42”

Lower Your Standards, Mommy

20160503_124852May is always a hectic month for us: Mother’s Day, birthdays, and end of the school year stuff all come at us in a matter of weeks. And this year, we’ve added moving to that list. Huzzah! The other day, the husband was stressing about our May calendar of events, in particular the fast approach of Mother’s Day, and I decided to do everyone a favor and play the Low Maintenance Mommy card (This is not my natural state. I’ve been known to say things like, “I need crushed ice, not cubed!”) But Mother’s Day is no biggie to me, and something I certainly don’t want anyone stressing about. So we had this conversation:

“You know what I’d really like for Mother’s Day, guys?” I say. “I’d like the kiddo to draw a special picture just for me.”

“I’m going to draw you a picture of poop and farts,” she says.

“Maybe you can draw something a little more Mother’s Day-ish…” I say.

“OK. I’ll draw you a picture of a unicorn….pooping.”

“Can it at least poop rainbows?” I ask.

She considers this for a good while.

“No.”

I ask for too much, guys. I ask for too much.

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