Listen Earnestly

Posted by Barbara Rucci on April 14, 2012 0 Comments


I love this quote by Catherine M. Wallace.

The range of things my kids talk about with me is vast. My five-year-old asks me questions all day about how old I am, or do I know any real ninjas. My nine-year-old tells me about every inappropriate word uttered on the bus, or who is her new BFF of the week. My twelve-year-old is more quiet. Lately, I catch glimpses of the sullen, sulky teenager that she will inevitably become. But for now she's still thoughtful and carefree, my sweet oldest. This quote reminds me to be present for, and to care about, all of the little questions, drama and complaints of the day...for this is their life!

One thing I do to help me remember is write down all of the funny and wise things that they say. Well, not all...mostly the things I can remember at the end of the week, or month. These journals aren't pretty, that's not what it's about. I often just write on scraps and paste them inside later.

The best part? Looking through their journals when they are just a little bit older and watching them hold their stomachs, water dripping out of their eyes, as they bust with laughter at all of the outrageous and entertaining things they have said.

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The Easter Egg Illusion

Posted by Barbara Rucci on April 08, 2012 0 Comments

I woke up yesterday, two days before Easter, with a feeling of dread. It was time to dye the Easter eggs. I had put it off long enough and I knew it was now or never. I have never been good at this project, but why? I was determined to start fresh, remembering the hideous eggs we had dyed last year. This time our eggs would be photo worthy.

Grace and I started with the natural food colors. I admit I didn't do too much research on methods, but how hard could it be? I boiled some pots of water and sprinkled in some spices. Turmeric for yellow, paprika for rust, and some beets for red. Immediately I knew things weren't right. Maybe I should have read all of those posts on Pinterest instead of just diving in. The spices didn't melt, they were all clumpy. And the beets, well it turns out that boiling them actually takes the color out! We ended up with a few yellow eggs, one gray egg, and one white egg. So much for that. 

I dumped out the pots of water, washing away any evidence of my mishap. I had a trump card in my back pocket! I had gone to Michael's and bought six boxes of RIT dye. I was so excited to show Grace, and mix some amazing colors! But where was the bag from Michael's? Twenty minutes later, with all the kids now awake (plus a sleepover friend), I had to give up. Now what?

I stomped down to the basement. I dug in the Easter box and found four old packs of PAAS dye packs from the grocery store. It had come down to this, again. I felt unprepared and defeated.

We boiled some water and the kids split the packets into the muffin tins. Nate burned his finger as I poured in the water, and I filled the cups up too high. The kids dumped in the eggs and the color spilled out, contaminating each other. We took out the eggs and they were somehow covered with a sticky, waxy goop. What was this stuff, and which expired packet did it come from? We couldn't get it off our hands. I sent Ava to the basement to look for the Goo Gone. We all took turns spraying chemicals on our hands, rinsing and scrubbing away more evidence.

The kids ran upstairs to play a game and I was left with a mess, and three dozen un-dyed eggs. The doorbell rang, it was the Alarm Company. They spent twenty minutes testing my alarm system. It works now. As the house rang out "Fire, Fire, please leave immediately!", I finished dying the eggs alone. I took the Perfect Easter Egg photo. They look pretty, don't they? Now you know, it's all an illusion.

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One Thoughtful Dad

Posted by Barbara Rucci on March 11, 2012 0 Comments

From the blog No Time For Flash Cards:

Business travel and being separated because of military deployments are realities for so many families with young kids. While it’s true that kids are resilient, they are still affected by the separation, as are parents. For kids, keeping connections to parents who are away keeps their bonds strong and makes them happier. The author goes on to tell of one dad she knows and his brilliant and creative way to stay connected to his 5-year old son. She interviews him on his invention on "Lego Man":

"Who came up with the idea of Lego Man?"

"The idea for Lego Man was a spur of the moment thought when leaving on my last overseas trip. This was the first trip that my son had a really hard time with me leaving. He was full-on begging me not to go. He was trying to take my suitcase away, blocking the door, etc. It was the first time that my heart was truly breaking when I had to leave. He is typically a really resilient kid and it brought tears to my eyes knowing he was so upset. It made it even worse that he wasn’t throwing a fit, but was acting like I’d want him to act if he were upset about something. He was verbalizing his frustrations and telling me why it was important to him for me not to go. As I was giving him another hug and trying not to break down, I asked him to give me something to take with me so that it would be like he was traveling along with me. His eyes lit up and he went running into his room to grab something.  He came back with Lego man and told me that I couldn’t take any of his policemen because he liked them too much, but I could take Lego Man. That made me laugh and I felt better knowing he still had his sense of humor even when he was upset."

"As a parent who travels often, and not just to a neighboring town but across oceans and many time zones, what is the hardest part about being away from your kids?"

"The most difficult part is just trying to stay connected to their everyday activities. When I’m at home, at dinner we typically discuss our days.  I miss hearing the summary of their days as they often have hilarious interpretations of what they did that day....I also really miss participating in or attending events like their preschool plays that I know will be events to remember. At the end of the day, we do the best we can to try to keep communication as frequent as possible and keep me involved in their everyday life. Technology has come a long, long way in allowing people to stay connected and using Facebook to post Lego Man’s travelogue and using FaceTime to actually see each other are exceedingly helpful in maintaining a close relationship even when not physically together."

"How does it keep you connected to home by having a little physical piece of them with you?"

I like knowing the my son and his mom share time together going through the pictures online. Especially with time zone differences, knowing they are sitting together reading the captions and talking about what Lego Man and Dad are doing gives me a small bit of a connection to home. It also gives my son and I something to discuss when we FaceTime. I love seeing his face light up when he recalls something about the pictures that he found interesting or funny. The other component is that I keep Lego Man in my pocket at all times because I never know when a good “photo op” may come up. Knowing that a small part of J is with me gives me another bit of a connection to home when I’m away."

"Do you have extra lego men with you in case of mishap?"

"I don’t, but that is a great idea! Lego Man has a hat that seems to come off quite frequently so that may be the first casualty. I came across a Lego Store in Copenhagen and wanted to go and get a picture with Lego Man in his “homeland”, but ended up not having an opportunity. That would have been a great opportunity to pick up an extra without my son knowing!"

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Posted by Barbara Rucci on February 02, 2012 2 Comments

From the author Katrina Kenison, this passage struck home with me. 

"When I come to a stop myself, when I draw a circle of stillness around me, my children are drawn into that peaceful place. They visibly relax, as if my very calmness nourishes them. The impact of just a few minutes of quiet attention can be profound, changing the mood of an entire day, restoring equilibrium to a distressed child, and to a frazzled mother.

We might sit side by side and draw, or gather up a stack of favorite old picture books and read them, make strange creatures out of clay, or just cuddle on the couch and listen to music as darkness falls. These are the moments when my children reveal themselves to me, when conversation spirals up and out, from the here and now into the realm of spirit and imagination. There, in that place Tennyson calls the 'quiet limit of the world,' we connect with one another at a very deep soul level. My children know then that they have my full attention and, even more important, that there's no other place I'd rather be at that moment."

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I Know What You Put in That Brownie

Posted by Barbara Rucci on November 20, 2011 1 Comment

I can no longer fool my kids. I've been hiding flax seeds in brownies and calling fish sticks chicken for years. They are on to me now, and just in the nick of time. I recently read that experts say it's a bad idea to sneak healthy food into your kids' diet. They say it will lead to obesity because it teaches a child that brownies are a healthy snack. Sorry, Jessica Seinfeld, but your idea is so yesterday.

My own mother didn't bother to hide anything. She was the nuttiest health nut around when we were growing up. She still is. I remember waiting for the bus in first grade and there was my mother, literally shoving a giant spoonful of cod liver oil into our mouths. At lunchtime, I would open my sandwich and find bean sprouts inside my thick, dark brown bread. Sometimes she would butter the bread as a special treat.

Now that I'm all grown up, I cannot believe what she did to us! My kids don't know how lucky they really are (even though I make sure to tell them at breakfast, lunch and dinner). But I will admit, other than a small lapse in judgement in college, I have maintained a very healthy lifestyle. Without the nutty.

I will no longer hide healthy food. I am coming clean with my kids, starting with brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving. Unlike my eight-year old self who apparently didn't have the guts to utter Cookie Monster's choice words, I have no doubt that my own kids will let me know what they think. 

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