What works

Last week, I schlepped Emma “over the mountain” for Irish dance camp, which she loved. but it was quite time-consuming. But I loved the fact that it freed me up from other responsibilities so that Tess and I spent time together chatting, shopping, looking at books and magazines.
This week, Tess will be doing ballet camp, right around the corner. Emma and I will have all afternoon together. Sometimes I look at Emma and want to grab her and say “Stay. Stay. Right where you are. No more growing.”
At 9-years-old, she is right at the edge of so many changes, most of which will take her slightly away from me. Hopefully not too far…
Some people keep their kids much busier than I do during the summer. I think they are afraid of too much time on thier hands with thier own children. Or maybe they want to keep thier kids busy for other reasons. We usually do one camp each and that’s it. Other parents don’t want to sign thier kids up for anything, and I certainly understand that, as well.
But for me, little touchstones of structure really help throughout the summer. Otherwise, I think  we could slide into a never-reachable summer abyss and be slapped really hard by the reality of fall. So that’s what works for us.

Checking In

It’s definitely summer break here in Waynesboro. The girls and I been to the pool almost every day. They have been taking swim lessons and now can out-swim me. I’ve been trying to get in the pool a lot, too, but it’s really not been very comfortable—just not quite hot enough. 

I’ve been doing a lot of reading. A friend of mine told me about A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel, which is fabulous, and let me just say WHERE HAVE I BEEN? (Oh yeah, writing my own books…) I love her writing. I read the second memoir first–She Got Up off the Couch. LOVED IT. It’s the voice, it just grabs you. But I think her novel, The Solace of Leaving Early, was brilliant. It hurt me to read it because moments in the prose were so clear, so delicately written, it just made me cry. The Used World is on my table—next to  read when I finish Zippy.
I also revisited on of my favorite contemporary novelist Jane Urquhart earlier in the month. I read AWAY for the second time. Her stories are always so poetic–I wasn’t surprised to find that she is also a poet. 
We haven’t done any camps yet. The girls want to do some dance camps and I am all for it. We just need to make up our minds. 

NPR Story Affirms Imaginative Play

There’s a great story on NPR today. My husband heard it first thing this morning and made sure I heard it on the next repeat. It’s about the way most children don’t play the way they used to and it’s preventing them from learning how to self-egulate, an important skill. We found this affirming for our lack-of-structured-play method of parenting. We do play with our kids—I am not saying we set them off on their own with no interaction with us. But we refuse to buy the latest electronic gadgets and doo-dads, try to limit their tv time, limit outside activities (like camps and lessons),  and offer them imaginative play toys. Like dolls. Our girls come up with elaborate plots and themes with (or without) their dolls. Some people might think it odd that my older daughter, Emma, at the ripe old age of nine still even plays with her dolls. I encourage it because it feeds her imagination. Even though her wild imagination has gotten her into trouble at times, I’d much rather go through those growing pains with her than not have helped her to have this wonderful inner life that will get her through life in a more enriching way. Our summers, for example, are not spent rushing from camp to camp. Even if I had the money for it, I would not go for all the summer running I see some of my friends endure. I also am not one to set up play dates a lot because I really enjoy my kids and especially in the summer when there’s no school work, we enjoy kicking back together. Play dates are wonderful-I am not saying we never do them. It’s good for kids to play with other kids, visit other families, and so on. This year, we’ve met a family whose imaginative play ranks with our own and even though there some age differences, they all enjoy one another’s company. In fact, we know several families like this. And recently we had a a birthday party during which I tired to impose some structure on these children and guess what…the day was just too beautiful to stay inside and watch a movie. They ended up in our backyard, tossing balls, chasing one another, and digging in the dirt. Nobody could deny that was much better for all.

Check out the NPR story.

Dance Camp Diva

Irish dance camp is now over. It’s been a great experience for Emma. She learned more about Irish dancing, which seems to be her passion, and was introduced to gumboot, clogging, and some other kinds of percussive dancing. She’s quite a kid. Not a shy bone in her body. The youngest student there, she spoke up, asked questions, volunteered to be first. I am in awe of her.
For me the biggest challenge was keeping her six-year-old sister occupied for two hours while Emma was dancing. Today, she stayed with my friend Paloma, and I took work along. I am working on my third book proposal. STILL working on it.
As I put the proposal down and stared at the walls of the Rockfish Valley Community Center, I wondered how many of these walls I’ll have to endure. The door of her percussive dance class was closed and I could hear the rhythms and jumps and dances. I peeked in the window as best I could.
Today, it all seemed manageable—maybe, with enough planning, patience and help, I can make the freelancing work. Sitting outside of a dance class and working seems like a logical thing to do for me, though I so often cannot manage because I usually have Tess with me. And well, Tess is another kind of kid. She wants all of me, most of the time.

So Far, SOOOOOO Good

We are three days into Summer break. So far, it’s been wonderful. The girls and I have scrapbooked, colored, danced, walked, played in the sprinkler, and talked about everything you can imagine. We’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing, as well as indulging Emma’s fascination with all things Helen Keller. We borrowed several books and a couple of movies from the library about Helen. Emma told the librarian that she is "researching" Helen Keller.  😉
Yesterday, we went for a walk with the girls still in their PJs, which they thought was really cool. This morning, I’m going to try to do some Yoga with them, realizing of course, it won’t be the blissful, relaxed Yoga, all about myself. This practice will certainly be interrupted. I will try not to become frustrated. It’s all about BALANCE—which I have found is not a constant thing. In fact, for me, balance is fleeting. How about you?

Dread and Longing

I have about a week left until school is out. On the one hand, I am so tired of the grind; on the other hand I fear having my kids home all summer with me. We all really need a break from school. In fact I feel like this week and next are kind of "lame duck" days at school. I am not sure the children are accomplishing anything.
In the mean time, I am querying editors and waiting for my royalty check. I know I won’t be able to accomplish much this summer. My girls want to swim this year, which means I’ll be dragging my bones to the pool every day. It’s so good for them to learn how to swim and I full support their efforts. We have not signed up for any camps. I know I better do that soon. But I feel like things are closing in on me and there won’t be enough time to work or really to even relax.

Sibling Rivalry, Sibling Love

One of the things that I worried about when I was expecting my second child was that she and Emma would have a relationship like my sister and me. We have never been close, but at least we talk and I think there is hope for a better relationship. My father and his one remaining brother, however, haven’t spoken for over 20 years.

Nobody really knows why and I wonder if they remember anymore what has been keeping them apart. We all know that they stopped talking around the time another brother died. But that’s all we really know.

This summer we all got together at Brady’s Run Park, in Western Pa., where I grew up, and had a family reunion; they have been gathering every year there. I have not been to a reunion since I was a child.

It was kind of surreal to see cousins I had not seen since childhood. Bizarre in some cases. People did not recognize me. And I found myself wondering who the certain individuals were. Time has not been good to many of us—failed marriages, health problems, and drug issues. You name it. The Cox Clan has its difficulties. But there was a lot of love there, as well.

But still, the one brother not speaking with the other brother situation was one that seemed to hang in the air. My cousin, son of my silent uncle, said. “This thing between our fathers is bullshit.” I said, “You are right.”

I wonder if the issue between them is just a surfacing of older yet wounds from their non-storybook childhood. I began looking around for some information on sibling rivalry.

I want to start good relationship patterns now. If something arises in my daughters’ relationship, I want them to talk it out, or fight it out, if need be. I want them to know the love we created when we made them is true and it can see them through anything. After my husband and I are gone, they will need one another.

Here is what I found from the University of Michigan Health System Website.

How can I help my kids get along better?

The basics:
Never compare your children. This one is a “biggie”.

Don’t typecast. Let each child be who they are. Don’t try to pigeonhole or label them.

Don’t play favorites.

Set your kids up to cooperate rather than compete. For example, have them race the clock to pick up toys, instead of racing each other.

Pay attention to the time of day and other patterns in when conflicts usually occur. Perhaps a change in the routine, an earlier meal or snack, or a well-planned activity when the kids are at loose ends could help avert your kids’ conflicts.

Teach your kids positive ways to get attention from each other. Show them how to approach another child and ask them to play.

Being fair is very important, but it is not the same as being equal. Your children need to learn that you will do your best to meet each of their unique needs. Even if you are able to do everything totally equally, your children will still feel as if they’re not getting a fair share of attention, discipline, or responsiveness from you.

Plan family activities that are fun for everyone. If your kids have good experiences together, it acts as a buffer when they come into conflict. It’s easier to work it out with someone you share warm memories with.

Make sure each child has enough time and space of their own. Kids need chances to do their own thing, play with their own friends without their sibling, and they need to have their space and property protected.