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54 Inches

  • July 10, 2012 2:20 pm

When the kids were little, we would frequent any fast food restaurant with any indoor playground so they could run their little hearts out, and I could enjoy their running while also enjoying air conditioned awesomeness instead of 110 degree blazing un-awesomeness of the Texas Summer.  The people that had that brainstorm are GENIUSES!

Because of my vast experience with various chains and their play areas, I became a bit of an expert (I believe anyway).  I knew which playgrounds were best for the crawling/toddling types–there you want a “soft playground” where the bigger kids aren’t allowed to trample the smaller, sweeter ones.  There are mid-sized playgrounds for the 3 and 4 year olds–those have perfectly spaced steps so the kids can crawl to the top of the jungle gym without freaking out and forcing their mothers to accompany them on the climbing and sliding journey (been there, done that.)  Finally, there are the bigger, more advanced playgrounds for the kinder-perhaps first grade kiddos–those structures have GIANT steps (way to big for the babies and toddlers to master), rope bridges, and possibly even whisper phones of some sort.  I have a cartoon map in my head of my area of the metroplex, and a good idea of which playgrounds reside in each given location.  This is a skill that has come in handy countless times–I promise.

But honestly, since I have returned to the classroom full-time, and all three hoodlums have entered school themselves,  our fast food field trips have reduced considerably–I guess I should say have stopped entirely.  I haven’t missed this little adventure at all, but today I was reminded of them and of when the kids were smaller and sometimes a little sweeter.

We were adventuring in the big city for a baseball camp for my oldest son, and because of that, did a little shopping, and treated ourselves to a fast food lunch date–we even went INSIDE instead of throwing bags of food through the car.  As I placed our order, my youngest son excitedly ran to the play area and began making best friends with all the kids already “in character.”  My daughter scoped out a table so she could no doubt text a few important messages to friends, and my older son looked at the play area before joining my daughter at the table.  It was all so civilized!  We ate without spilling.  Everyone opened their own ketchup.  We each refilled our own beverages–my son even refilled mine for me!  After lunch, my youngest hooldum had to “finish up the war” inside the play area, and the three of us watched him from the outside–noting the 54 inch guideline to play.   There were a few sighs of “I wish I could be in there,” but after that we continued a NORMAL conversation and they talked me into ice cream WHICH THEY ORDERED THEMSELVES.  It was like an out of body experience.

Because I’m a reflective type, I couldn’t help but remember all the playdates, rainy days, blazing days, daddy-working-late days, catch-dinner-before-gymnastic days, and even mommy-doesn’t-feel-like-figuring-out-a-healthy-dinner days we’ve had at the Fast Food Playground.  It looks like we are soon graduating from this experience as my younger son (who doesn’t know it) is fast approaching that 54 inch guideline.  Who knows…maybe we next summer on a mommy-kid adventure we will tackle a REAL treat like Pei Wei, and I will hopefully discover the new ways these big kids can still find their sweet selves.

3 Cheers for Chick-Fil-A!

  • May 16, 2012 6:27 am

Yesterday while in the Big City, we had the opportunity to actually SIT and a fast food restaurant, and chose everyone’s favorite, Chick-Fil-A.  Of course the chicken was super yummy, and the fries were perfectly salted, but what really caught my attention was this display–perfect little containers of cheerios for the mom on the go that might have forgotten to reload her cheerios stash in the crazy getting the kids in the car moments.  Genius!!

Not only Genius, but how incredibly Thoughtful!  These kinds of gestures tap into my sappy factor every single time, but to think that an actual place of business is so in tune with their customers REALLY makes me stop and smell the roses.

And just think if everyone did something so simple, but yet so HUGE.  (And the moms with the cheerio eaters will agree!!)

Other People’s Shoes

  • April 17, 2012 8:59 pm

I’m wondering at what age do kids learn empathy-or understanding what it means to be in someone else’s shoes.  Is there a magic time where kids realize that there is a world outside of their own–that other people have up, down, and even sideways moments the same as they do?  It’s something I try to define in my classroom, and it’s something that can take ALL my energy.  We actually practice manners in the first six weeks–repeating specific complimentary phrases so students who don’t know what to say can have something to say.  But, I want to take it a step further and have them realize that not only can they BE NICE to other people, but they can also UNDERSTAND another person’s situation, and even offer comfort if needed.  I want this realization for my students, and my own Scroggins Hoodlums.   So, therefore, I’m hoping and wondering if I’m doing everything I can to model it for them.  They’re always watching, right?

Sometimes I stand back and watch the middle-aged kids mingle in their social situations.  I watch their awkward, silly, clumsy, shy, funny, loud, and even callous moments.  I cringe when I see a “mean girl moment” or and equally harsh “tough guy moment.”  I know these are the growing pains of childhood and adolescence.  I know that in my HEAD, but in my heart I really just want to see people being nice to other people.  I want them to think of other people’s feelings, and try to understand another person’s perspective.  I know teenagers are by definition the center of their own universe, but they do realize that they are PART of a universe, right?  And, I’m looking at my own hoodlums who aren’t quite to the teen or even tween stage yet, and wondering if they should know and understand that they too are PART of something more. 

As a completely and utterly sappy and sensitive person, I know I probably take this emotion to the extreme, and perhaps am setting the emotional maturity bar a little high for these blossoming grown-ups-in-the-making.  I can concede that point, but I don’t think I can concede the importance of noticing, admiring, and even trying on someone else’s shoes–at any age really.  Without trying on another pair, how else can you possibly know how well your own shoes fit?

Disappointment is harder than Potty Training

  • March 8, 2012 11:09 am

My mantra these past almost eleven years of parenting has been that NOTHING, I mean NOTHING is as hard as potty training.  For us, and the Scroggins Hoodlums, this was by far the most difficult skill to master.  Even given the current status of my oh-so-not-into-school-kindergartener, I’d rank potty training as harder.

Until now.

Yesterday, our oldest hoodlum competed in the Regional Spelling Bee.  Reading, Writing, Spelling, Acting…anything with words and letters is completely her thing.  She’s a dog with a bone when she’s talking plot or word parts.  Because of that, she was pumped for the contest, completely high on her ability to put letters together in the correct sequence of a word.  We studied.  She studied.  We studied some more.  We were all prepped and ready.

When we arrived at the contest, I think we all were a little overwhelmed.  It was held on TCU’s campus, and was quite an official event, with printed signs and ready made name tags.  After a light breakfast snack, all the spellers and families headed into the ballroom to hear the rules, and the spellers took the stage.  At that point I realized we might be in over our heads.  The contest was held for third through eighth graders, and from the looks of the spellers, most were very mature eighth graders.  When the contest began, I knew we were in over our heads.  Many of the spellers asked for root words, definitions, parts of speech, etc.  It was exactly like all the Spelling Bees I’ve seen in movies–this was the real deal.

Watching our hoodlum walk across the stage to the microphone, listen to the words, and tentatively ask questions was…difficult.  On her final word, she looked at the moderator, asked for the word again, and turned three shades of red.  She held on to the bottom of her shirt and started to spell…A.  It seemed like hours while I watched the gears turn in her head, and her mouth say the word as she fidgeted on stage.  Finally, she finished…uria.  But, it was Aria, the soprano solo in an opera.  She was crushed, disappointed, and deflated.  It was heartbreaking.

I know it built character.  That’s what my mother always told me when something like this built my own, but it broke this mommy’s heart.  She recovered through the day, but I still saw the ghost of disappointment pass across her face as we celebrated all the successful words spelled up to that point.

She’s vowed to return to the Bee again next year, and to begin studying now, which is an amazing feat for her really.  At times I wonder if she thinks she was born with the ability to read.  I know she looked to those older girls with respect, and hopes to strive for that kind of success again.

I knew there would be moments like this.  I knew there had to be moments like this.  I didn’t know that it would feel like my own heart fell out of my chest and onto the floor as someone stomped on it.  I didn’t know that I would wish for superpowers, and hope for time to freeze as I snuggled my hoodlum to a safe, cozy place to recover.  I didn’t know that I could will something to happen with every cell in my body, and feel the hurt in those same cells when it  didn’t happen.  I know there will be more moments like this–probably many more.  Next time I will try to prepare The Mommy as much as I prepare The Hoodlum.

New kittens

  • October 3, 2011 8:37 pm

Because we don’t have enough crazy in our lives with the three kids, one dog, one cat, and fish running around the house, this weekend we fell in love and welcomed two new baby kittens to the family.  It was love at first sight, so we can’t really be blamed.  We fell victim to their cuteness spell, and for me, I fell victim to a “he looks just like my favorite cat” spell.  They snuggled in our laps and on our shoulders while we visited with friends Friday night, and before we knew it, we were calling Gran, and hoping she wanted a few “barn cats.”  But, since they are so sweet and cute, and Gran is headed out of town for the week, they are snuggled in and quite cozy in my room. 

And, they are just the cutest.  I do love welcoming the new members of the family, and the snugglier, the better. 

The crazy comes later.  I just never learn that part.

How do they know?

  • September 26, 2011 6:29 pm

We are pet people.  Before we had our own children, we had dogs, cats, and fish.  In college, we took the dog and cat with us everywhere–walking at the park, camping in the woods, to friends’ houses, and back home to mom’s house, and yes, the cat, too.  People knew if they invited us, they were getting a dog and possibly a cat as part of the package.  They were given free donuts and chicken nuggets at fast food windows; they were our study partners; they were our Friday night dinner company.  They were our family.

And really, not much has changed.  We’ve thrown in a few kids on top of the dog and cat, but for the most part, they are still part of the family.  I know for those non-pet people out there it’s like I’m speaking another language as I try to convey the sheer joy they bring to our lives, but it’s true.  We know them.  We talk to them.  They really do try to talk back.  They are always excited to see us, and they also seem to always know when something is not quite right.

As I sit here trying to talk myself out of having a stomach bug, I have the big, sad eyes of our Marley looking up at me, and nuzzling my knee.  Our Chrissy is sitting near me, but not on me-swatting my fingers as I type.  Rarely are they both so close to me at the same time.  And, because I love them, I’m going to feel comforted by the fact that they know I’m not 100% right now–and that they are trying their best to get me back on track.

Pets are good like that.  They just always seem to know.

It’s hard to be five…

  • September 20, 2011 8:59 pm

As predicted, my kindergartener has settled into school, and the bumps are popping up in the road.  He’s realizing that school is EVERY DAY, and that we have to leave EARLY every day.  He’s learning the rules of walking in lines, staying in desks, and obeying his teacher.  Granted, these should be things he already knows, and in my perfect world, he does.  But in the imperfect world of actual school, his perception of “being good” doesn’t always jive with the norm.

Today was Day #2 of the sad face in his character binder–one day last week for telling his teacher, “no”, and then again today for playing when it was time for learning.  I know this kid, and I know he was probably engaged in imaginary international warfare–complete with explosions that obviously can cause imaginary soldiers to crash to the ground.    If you look back, you will remember I was already nervous about the year of Kindergarten, and it seems my powers of ESP are highly tuned.

As he got ready for shower and bed, we talked about what happened at school, and the expectations we have as a family and the expectations his teacher has in her classroom.  Of course, since he is so filled with drama, he reminiced about “the days when he was four, when there was more time to play.” I tried to talk up the fun of Five, the Fun of Big Boy Stuff, and he just sighed and said, “it’s hard to be five.”

But, this one time, I was actually prepared.  I just so happen to own ”It’s hard to be Five” by Jamie Lee Curtis.  It’s a great little book giving perspective to both moms and kids on just how hard it is to sit still AND remember your manners.  I fell in love with this book when my daughter was only three.  It seemed to perfectly say how the little adults-to-be must be feeling when all the changes of school take place.  Sometimes I get a little too wrapped up in how hard it is to be thirty something that I probably forget a little just how hard it is to be five, when all you really want to do is run around with your favorite NASCAR driver or follow Luke Skywalker wherever the force takes you.

Compliments

  • September 5, 2011 5:17 pm

For all of the crazy, embarrassing moments my children bring me, there are a few shiny heart-warming moments that make me feel that perhaps, just perhaps this parenting thing might just work out.

Last week, I received three, THREE (3!!!) compliments about the hoodlums, and as luck would have it, one for each of them.  Someone must have known I was hitting rock bottom with the pre-pre-adolescence, the middle child drama, and the youngest’s tantrums.  That Someone is super smart. 

So, since I do broadcast their mistakes quite often, I thought they were due for a little polishing and bragging on this little forum.  First, one of my friends complimented my oldest on her very “grown up” conversation skills and manners.  I was FLOORED!  This is something we work on all.the.time.  For some reason she feels that reverting to toddler-speak is cute, and I’m constantly reminding her that it so is not.  But, the lectures must have sunk in.  When I was not around, she used her practiced good manners, and actually used them very well.  Wow.

The Middle Guy was complimented on his writing skills, but more importantly the message in his writing.  His class was assigned to write about “the most important thing about them as a person.”  My son, the most sensitive eight-year-old on the planet, wrote that the most important thing about him was “being him.”  I totally agree, and am so proud.  Wow.

And finally, after a mildly bumpy start to kindergarten, last Thursday, my crazy man’s teacher greeted me with a very happy smile, and told me he was having a great day.  I’ll take it.  It’s not much, but I’ll take that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Yay.  and Wow.

My cup runneth over.

Haggard

  • July 5, 2011 6:14 pm

We are back from our July 4th Lake Extravaganza–a little sunburned, a little sore, and a little exhausted…but a lot happy.

The Lake is one of our favorite Family Fun Getaways.  We take a break from work, daily routine, cell phones, most electronics (with the exception of late night wind downs with maybe an itouch or two), and even air conditioning.  We trade all those luxuries for lawn chairs, life jackets, tubing, swimming, tetherball, and lots of family bonding.  We share yummy sandwiches (because sandwiches are always yummier at the lake), “lake nachos”, iced drinks, good music, great conversation, and lots and lots of frozen popsicles.

It’s nothing fancy, but it’s something special.  My husband grew up playing in the lake.  He looks forward to Lake Time more than anyone else I know, and rises to Cloud 9 as soon as he sees the water line.   He can tell story after story about his cousins and their adventures in the same yard, on the same road, and in the same waters.  Before we had kids, we would spend days at the lake just the two of us–me trying to learn to ski (unsuccessfully), him cooking a barbeque treat, and the both of us planning our future.  Once we entered parenthood, our babies were on the lake before they could walk, literally.  We held our daughter’s 2nd birthday party at the lake, and my son was one month old.  All three kids have had countless baths in the Lake Sink, the same sink my husband was bathed in as a toddler.  We’ve taken unofficial family vacations at the Lake.  Cousins congregate, and new adventures take place on the same little piece of ground.  It’s almost like a continuous family reunion.  Stories are retold year after year.  Conversations are revisited, and plans are always made for the next visit–the next summer.

It’s a favorite Summer Tradition–just as special as decorating the Christmas Tree in December, or hunting Easter Eggs in the Spring.  We look forward to it every year, and always wish for more Lake Time when we leave–even with the occasional dysfunctional moments of throwing rocks at eachother’s heads (true story).  Like I said, it’s not fancy and the hoodlums are far (very far) from perfect, but between the two it’s perfect for us.

An End to a Hand-Me-Down Era

  • June 23, 2011 6:12 am

Kid wardrobes have constant turnover–mostly because the little hoodlums keep growing (darn vegetable eating!), but sometimes the clothes simply wear out (boy clothes specifically on that one).  So, when my daughter was a baby, and I realized just how fast she was going to grow out of the adorable outfits we had painstakingly collected, I quickly devised a Hand-Me-Down Plan.

The Plan:  a big plastic tote at the bottom of her closet.  As she grew out of clothes, I’d put the “keepers” in the tote (for future bundles of joy), and the stained, worn out, or just plain bad fashion choices in another pile (for future garage sales).  And, so it went.  As our second bundle arrived, I continued the Tote Plan–this time saving boy clothes for any third bundles that might come our way.  By year five in our parenting adventure, our attic was a virtual clothing store for any newborn-5T wearing fashionistas.

The totes came in quite handy for our third hoodlum/bundle of joy.  With both the Big Brother clothes, and generous offerings from friends, we have virtually clothed my youngest on about a five dollar budget.  Which, I thought, was pretty awesome since I was clothing three evergrowing bundles.

But, this week, during the every-six-month-whether-we-need-it-or-not-closet-clean-out, I unpacked the last tote of clothes.  (Sniff, Sniff)  My boys are now so close in size, that as I cleaned out my older son’s closet, I simply moved the clothes from Big Brother to Little Brother’s closet.

It makes me a little sad to know that I don’t have a box of clothes ready and waiting for me to unpack and remember all the cute things that were done in each outfit-from summer vacations to Christmas traditions.  But, I suppose that’s what happens to these kids.  They eat their vegetables, grow, and eventually get their own wardrobe–that I guess I will need to purchase!

It’s just the Mommies that are left with empty totes and pictures of fashion memories.