Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Not an End, Only a Beginning

Day 365
Wow.  We did it. 

I’ll admit.  I’ve been dragging my heels a bit in the sand anxious to type up our last random act.  Although this year has clearly changed the way we think about kindness and finding ways to incorporate it into our daily lives, typing Day 365 still felt like an end to something. 

That’s when I realized it was only the beginning. 

For the last several weeks, I’ve met with some folks to help plan a permanent kindness club for Cincinnati.  (The real kudos go to Kasey and Meghan.  I’m more the idea-person and the person-who-brings-people person.) 

From our cluttered table at Panera filled with community-minded folks who want to see kindness spread sprang the Cincinnati Kindness Movement.  This grassroots initiative will bring strangers together on a regular basis to commit a service project and reinforce the idea that kindness is a seed we plant and nurture if we want it to blossom and grow.

We have big plans, Cincinnati.  Plans so large, Cincinnati might not be able to contain them.  My deepest hope is that similar clubs will take root in other cities.  It could happen.   

This Sunday we held our inaugural meeting. 

The boys came.  Chaz, of course, was there.  My friend Victoria braved the snow and found our gathering.  Kasey and her family were there.  Meghan, Emily and the Starfire girls.  I’m giving a shout out to Susan who tried to come but wrote down the wrong address and ended up somewhere across town.  Her intentions were good.  In total, nearly two-dozen folks gathered to celebrate kindness. 

The movement’s growing.  Every day more join us on Facebook.

 People stop and ask me how they can get involved.  It’s an amazing feeling to see it germinate from idea to actuality.   

When the boys and I started our year, we didn’t have any expectations.  I wanted us to live this experiment one day at a time and see where it took us.  The road less traveled led us to a community where kindness wins.  The boys and I started looking for kindness in others as we searched for ways we could be more kind. 

All around us, we saw others helping strangers, neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends.  The experience has forever changed me because I know no matter where we go or whatever we do, we can find ways to make something better by being kind.  

For those who found my blog offensive or self-serving, I say this.  This year was about finding ways to incorporate kindness into my children’s lives and to make it as natural to them as playing ball.  We, as parents, can teach our kids to find opportunities to help in their community.  They watch us with big, open eyes.  They mirror what we do.  Yes, this was a public platform to show them, and show them I did.  For that, I’m not sorry. 

People ask me what did I want my boys to learn from our year.  To this, I answer to be kind.  To always be kind. 

So what now?  Besides The Cincinnati Kindness Movement?  I’ll be shifting my energies to finishing The Bully Antidote, a fiction book aimed at middle school readers.  My son’s promise to his class that I’d read it to them weighs on me.  I always did do better with a hard deadline. 

I’ll be posting chapters on this space so I hope you’ll be back to visit.  Feel free to comment and/or share.  I don’t know how the story ends but am confident I’ll figure it out.  If I can type Day 1 with no plan, I can certainly figure out how to get to The End.    

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friend Wagon

Day 364
I’ve always said that no one knows what happens inside a marriage but the two who are in it. 

Still, when my friend tells me last week that she and her husband are divorcing I feel sad: for her, for her husband and for her daughter.  I’m sad for all their dreams they shared as they started their life together as a couple.  I’m sad for all the plans they made as parents of a young child, a new family of three.  I’m sad for how those dreams shifted and split as years and circumstances changed both them and the things they wanted or needed. 

“Don’t be sad,” she says, promising me that she is thrilled for her future and excited about starting this new chapter.  I tell her I won’t.  Ultimately, I want what’s best for her. 

Being a friend means supporting choices.  Whether it be divorcing or staying together, parenting styles or lifestyle choices, a friend is a friend. 

It’s been a crazy day with the boys but I know without a doubt that I need to make the effort and stop by my friend’s housewarming party.  A. and I pick up something to bring and we schlep over. 

My spirits and energy immediately lift as I see her in her new kitchen smiling and laughing.  “Welcome,” she calls from her barstool throne.  “Welcome to me new home!” 

She offers me hot tea, something to eat, a hug.  All things that say home.  She outlines her plans for her new space as we walk from room to room.  “I’m going to knock out this wall,” she says pointing.  “And redo this bathroom.” 

I offer my SUV for moving this week.  “Whatever you need,” I say.  “You’ll call?” 

She smiles yes.  And I know, without a doubt, that she’s going to be OK.      

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Teacher. Teacher.

Day 363
Each spring, Montgomery Elementary hosts a staff appreciation luncheon for the hard-working folks at our sister school in Over-The-Rhine. 

I drag A. along to Costco to pick up sandwiches and enough cake to feed an army.  Another mom shops for several door prizes and gift cards to be given away.  Other parents work from home, chopping and creating salads they’ll bring to school for today’s feast.

I explain to A. that it’s a team effort.  Lots of hands will help today.  My friend and I are only lucky enough to be the delivery crew. 

“Why us?” he asks.  He wants to know why Montgomery Elementary.  Why our school?  Why our families? 

What’s the right answer?  Because when you have a lot you have a responsibility to share?  Because teachers pour their hearts into their kids and deserve our thanks? 

“Because teachers help all of you,” I say.  “You, your brothers, your friends.”  I search for words to explain. 

“Teachers everywhere, right now, are helping to shape all the little people who will one day grow up and be all the big people.  All those big people will be what our country becomes.  All the doctors, lawyers, electricians, plumbers.  Even the president.  Somewhere, the person who will be president when you are an adult is sitting in a classroom somewhere listening to a teacher.” 

A. considers this. 

“Important job those teachers have, right?  A good reason to say thank you?” 

A. nods yes. 

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for making this luncheon into a lesson that stretches farther than our little five-mile radius town.  “Any questions?” 

A. looks at the sheet cakes stacked in our cart.  “So teachers must really like cake.”

Pride is a dangerous vice.  

Snow Day Surprise

Day 362
When you’re a kid, nothing brings joy to your heart like the announcement of a snow day.  Sledding.  Hot chocolate.  Movies with hot, buttered popcorn.

In a neighborhood filled with kids, a snow day also means a houseful of friends.  It’s not yet 8:30 am when the first knock on the door announces the arrival of our first friend.  I’m moving slowly and the effort to find mittens and scarves seems like a job better suited for later in the morning so I send the kids to the basement to play. 

There’s squealing and laughing and general mayhem.  It’s pure joy of a found day nestled in the middle of homework and piano lessons.

I. dashes up the stairs to find something but stops short in the front hall.  “Mom!” he yells “There’s a dog on our porch!” 

I don’t doubt him but walk to the door to check. 

A large black and brown dog stands by the door, his nose pressed against the window sidelights.  His friendly eyes beg to be let in to play. 

“Should I let him in?” 

“Why not?” I answer.  Once the volume hits a certain decimal range the ear ringing becomes a non-issue. 

The dog bounds into the house.  Our two dogs (Did I mention we have two golden retrievers?) bark in welcome.  About time we had a play date of our own, they think and wag themselves silly. 

Our focus shifts from finding mittens to finding the dog’s owner.  The kids feel for a collar.  They find one but it contains no contact information. 

“Go play,” I say.  “Let me think for a minute.”  The gaggle of kids and dogs romp around the house. 

I have an idea who of the dog’s owner.  I call out to the kids to bundle up because we’re going on a dog hunt.

The kids forge a trail in the snow down Jolain.  The dog whom they’ve named Snickers hops alongside them.  We knock.  Once.  Twice.  Three times. 

“No one’s home,” I say. 

“So we get to keep him!” the kids cheer. 

“For a little while longer,” I laugh and our parade marches back in our trodden down path towards our house.     

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lost and Found

Day 361
“Have you seen Cameron’s dad?” Chaz asks. 

Maybe, I think.  Since I don’t know what he looks like he may have walked past.

As a Cub Master, Chaz knows lots of dads that I don’t.  He often refers to Ethan’s dad or Zack’s dad.  I nod and try to follow.  I’m sure he feels the same when I start doing a mom roll call.

“Is he missing?”  I ask looking from Chaz to Cameron.  We're standing in a packed high school gymnasium full of kids of all ages and their families.  I understand how easy it might be to turn your head for a second and lose sight of someone in the crowd.  Still, it’s awful when parents go and get themselves lost. 

“Stay with the boys and I’ll make a loop,” Chaz says.  This seems like a good idea since sending me out to look for someone I don’t know doesn’t sound like a promising plan. 

“So,” I start looking at Cameron.  “Lost dad?”  He nods.  “Bummer.” 

He gives me a small smile. 

“Don’t worry,” I continue.  “They always turn up.”  

As I say this, Chaz and Cameron’s dad walk through the high school gym doors.  Lost parent found.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unexpected Hero

Day 360
Sometimes it’s nice to be the hero.   

I order seven large pizzas for lunch for F.’s second grade class expecting each child to eat two slices.  Some do but many don’t.  Everyone finishes lunch and I still have one large pizza left over. 

“Take it home,” suggests the teacher.  She knows I have three boys and three bottomless stomachs. 

“How about the custodial staff?  Do you think they’d like pizza?” 

She agrees they would and I box up the remaining pie and head downstairs. 

To get to the custodial office, I cut through the cafeteria.  My timing couldn’t be more perfect.  I’s class enters as I do and he waves hello. 

“You brought me pizza?” his eyes light up in surprise.  We’ve been having a rough few days.  Life is hard when you’re ten and your mom keeps telling you what to do. 

“Would you like pizza?” I ask.  I think of the packed lunch in his hand of sliced oranges and a turkey sandwich. 

“Yeah!” he grins. 

Luckily, along with the pizza box, I also carry a stack of plates.  I pile two large slices and hand them to my child. 

“Lucky!” shouts a friend from the other side of a lunch table.  No, I think.  I’m lucky.  I have this great kid and I happen to walk through the lunchroom during his assigned time with a large cheese pizza.  What are the chances?    

“Hey,” I mock whisper to I. and he steps closer.  “Have a great day, okay?”

My friend and I continue our trek to the custodians to deliver the pizza. 

“You are a hero!” she jokes. 

For parents, our status of cool to drool drops faster than a lead balloon.  

Hero?  Hardly.  But if he wants to believe it for the next five minutes, I'll happily let him.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Snooty Fox

Day 359
“Hello?” I start.  “I’m returning your call.” 

“Were you in our store earlier?” the sales clerk asks. 

I tell her that I was.  I recently rediscovered The Snooty Fox, a high-end consignment shop with insane deals on finds such as 7 for Mankind jeans and Prada shoes.  I’d stopped in earlier to return a pair of pants and ended up purchasing a few can’t-live-without shirts. 

“I made a mistake,” the clerk explains.  “I forgot to run your card.” 

I open my wallet and search for a receipt.  I remember signing something at the store but didn’t look at it in great detail before tucking it into my purse. 

“You’re right,” I say.  “I’m only looking at the return slip.” 

I give her my card number over the phone and wait on the line until she completes the transaction.

“Thank you,” she says again.  “Thank you for calling back.” 

The number of times she repeats these words gives me pause.  Did she think I wouldn’t?  Is it an assumption today that a person will jump on any opportunity to benefit from another’s mistake? 

Author C. S. Lewis wrote that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  I would add the same about kindness. 

Doing the right thing and doing the kind thing are often the same.  Even when no one is watching.   

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Advocare Advocate

Day 358
When you try a new restaurant or find a steal on Groupon, we women are the first to share.  Try this!  Go there!  We herald the good news and it spreads like a fire through dry grass. 

That’s why I can’t help telling everyone I meet about Advocare. 

It starts with a shocked, “What are you doing?” to which I smile and give a small spin. 

In January, I started a 10-day cleanse and followed it with a 14-day regiment of vitamins and supplements.  I did it because of too many spins through the McDonald’s drive-thru lane.  I did it because I wanted to sleep better at night.  I did it because I plan to live to 100 so I can spend as many days with my husband and boys as possible. 

I did it for better nutrition.  It’s a happy coincidence that I’m down 15 pounds and into some smoking skinny jeans.       

More than that I feel great.  I’m making healthier choices for my family.  I enjoy more energy.  I feel like a 20-year-old with the wisdom of a 43-year-old.  Could there be anything better than that?  Except maybe getting all my friends to feel the same? 

Kindness means wanting others to succeed and doing what you can to help them.      

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Speak to Me

Day 357
Every spring, the high school in our town hosts a district-wide art show.  It’s a chance for students of all ages to show off their talent.  One lap around the gym and it’s clear that there’s no shortage of amazing in our town. 

From kindergarten drawings to middle school ceramics to furniture to fashion, the creativity blows me away.  Every year.     

The center section of the gym showcases the senior AP Art students’ portfolios.  F., my artist, pauses in front of each display and soaks it in. 

“Do you think I could do something like that someday?” 

“Without a doubt,” I say.  There are no limits to what that boy will achieve.   

As we walk, I notice notebooks and pens lie in front of each display.  Please leave comments the artist scribble in a black sharpie across the cover. 

I pick up a pen and notebook and turn to a blank page. 

“What are you doing?” A. asks, walking up to join F. and I at the display. 

“I’m telling the artist which pieces spoke to me and what they said.”

“Art talks?” he asks confused. 

“It says all sorts of things if you’re paying attention,” I say and point to one of my favorites of the showcase.  “This one says, “Look out, World.  Here I come.”  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Slow Wins the Race

Day 356
I spy the older woman as I edge closer towards my car and purposely slow my pace.  I intentionally stand back hidden from view and give her space.

The woman struggles with the passenger side door.  She grabs the doorframe for balance and with some effort pulls herself into the large SUV on the second attempt. 

I watch all this from behind my car’s back window.  I’m parked beside her and don’t want her to feel rushed or worried that she’s too slow. 

This woman now safely tucked and buckled into her SUV, I wait for her to pull out of her spot.  Only then do I turn the corner of my car, unlock my door and drive away. 

When I’m out shopping with the boys, I feel obligated to scoot them into the car if another driver who parks next to us arrives.  “Move, move, move,” I scold and rush, rush, rush them into the car so that another won’t be inconvenienced 30-seconds. 

I may be projecting.  These other drivers don’t tell me to hurry.  They stand patiently with their keys at the ready waiting for me to finish.  But why not stand back and out of view so the person can enter their car without feeling rushed?

It seems such a small act of kindness, this awareness of others and our surroundings.  But then again if you add all the little things together you get something big.       

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Odd Jobs

Day 355
When temperatures drop below 40-degrees, the boys’ school cancels outside recess and instead herds the kids back to their classrooms following lunch.  As a mother of three boys, this adds up to trouble-trouble-trouble.  A week of no midday running around makes for three wound-up boys. 

The squeal of the school bus brakes alert me to their arrival.  Five-four-three-two.  “YAAAA!” they yell, running and whooping through the house.  “Snack! Snack!” they cry, jumping in place as I finish placing oranges and cookies on a plate. 

“So,” I start, “how was indoor recess?” 

“How’d you know?” A. asks. 

Oh, sweetie.  Some things Mommas just know.  “What’d you play?” 

“I did odd jobs,” he answers.   

“Is that a game?” I ask. 

“No,” he says, rolling his eyes.  When did my first-grader learn to roll his eyes?  “Odd jobs?  Like clean up things?”  He explains that he emptied the trashcan, put away crayons, tidied up the reading corner.  

This stops me.  “You chose odd jobs instead of playing?”

He nods.  “I like helping.”   

I throw my arm over his shoulder and pull him into a hug.  “That is so nice.”

Just when you think you’ve figured them out, your kids go and surprise you all over again.     

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book By Its Cover

Day 354
I try hard to not prejudge or hold stereotypes in my heart.  Sometimes I fail.  It’s in those imperfect moments that Life shows her cards and I realize once again I’ve played the wrong hand.   

Ian and I wait in the green chair lift line at Perfect North.  The chair holds three so as a party of two we shimmy our skis closer to the front of the loading line and wait for a single rider to make us a party of three. 

A black ski mask obscures everything but his eyes.  Bulky headphones cover his ears.  He slides his snowboard towards us and turns away.  Nothing about him invites conversation.  

The chair swings around and the three of us board.  I. grips the side rail.  His face reads TERROR.  WHAT DID MY MOM MAKE ME DO?  WHY AM I ON THIS MOVING CHAIR?  SO HIGH FROM THE GROUND? 

I immediately do what I do in high-pressure situations.   I talk.  I blabble in an effort to comfort but also in an attempt to distract.  It’s working.  I. looks at me oddly as I go on and on about the lunch selections in the lodge and how hot does hot chocolate have to be before it’s deemed undrinkable. 

We’ve halfway to the top when the chair stops.  Our feet hang precariously in the air. 

I.’s on to my tricks.  His grip tightens on the side rail. 

“First time skiing?” the masked snowboarder asks.  “Having a good time?” 

I judged you wrong, I think, and listen as he engages my frightened son in exactly the thing I didn’t think he liked: conversation. 

The chair lurches forward as we chug up the mountain. 

“Tips up, just like last time,” I instruct as we near the top. 

I.’s left ski veers one way and his right ski the other.  By the time I realize what’s happened, gravity pulls me down the ramp and off the lift.  The snowboarder hops over on his board, extends his hand and pulls my child from the ground and out of the way of the next three skiers. 

So what’s my random kindness in all this?  Nothing more than to remember that books can’t always be judged by their covers.  Shame on me for forgetting.  And a heartfelt thanks to that snowboarder for reminding me.     

Monday, February 25, 2013

March. March. Jazz Hands.

Day 353
Thin Mints.  Samoas.  Trefoils.  Do-si-dos.

Oh, let me count the ways.  Or to be more accurate, let me count the boxes.

In total, 28 boxes of Girl Scout cookies have lined our shelves over the last two weeks.  Not all at the same time.  They don’t last long to get to know each other. 

“Why so many?” people often ask.  Or, “Were you a Girl Scout?” 

My elementary school didn’t have a Girl Scout troop.  We had Campfire Girls.  And I joined.

At least once a month, or more frequently if requested, I entertain the boys with a song and dance routine I do to When Every Campfire Girl Walks Down the Street.  It goes something like this:  

When every Campfire girl walks down the street (march, march)
She’s just one-hundred per from head-to-feet. (okay sign with my hand, touch head, point to feet)

She’s got that style, that smile, that winning way. (beauty queen pose, cheesy grin, clasped hands shake over one shoulder then the other)

Just one look at her,
You’ll recognize her and you’ll say, (shake finger in a knowing, authoritative way)

“Now there’s a girl I’d like to know.  (more finger-shaking)
She’s got that good old Campfire pep and go. (turn to the side, locomotion dance move)

Just to look at her is quite a treat! (jazz hands)
Oh to be a Campfire girl!” (pull out all the stops and throw in old cheerleading jump)

While different in many ways, I believe these two groups are alike in the ways that matter most.  They create community. They introduce girls to new challenges and adventures. They build girls’ self-esteem and self-confidence. 

These lessons last a lifetime.  Deep down that Campfire Girl still exists in me: a young girl willing to try new things and brave enough to fail.  Is there any better lesson we can teach our girls?  Or a better reason to buy Girl Scout cookies?     

For the record, I also do a mean Camp Tialaka chant.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Valentine Life Saver

Day 352
I love a kid with an entrepreneurial spirit. 

That’s why when I receive a flyer created by a neighborhood junior high student toting her babysitting skills I tuck it in my calendar to hire her the next time Chaz and I go out. 

I text the girl two weeks before our Valentine’s weekend dinner and receive a yes reply.

For those who don’t yet text the sitter; oh, honey, get with the program.  Texting makes booking sitters 100-times more efficient.  Gone are the days of leaving a message and biding my time waiting for a reply.  Today’s youth are about now-now-now.  This translates to me having an answer within seconds of hitting send. 

Flash forward to tonight.  We’re ready.  Pizza’s on the table waiting for the kids.  Emergency numbers are neatly written on a piece on notebook paper by the phone along with bedtime instructions and the address of the restaurant where we’ll be.  All we need is the sitter. 

The minutes tick by and I wonder why the sitter isn’t here.  Seven.  Seven-fifteen.  Seven-thirty.  I start to worry.  Our reservations are for eight at a restaurant 20-minutes away. 

I double-check my phone and the message I sent.  Yes, she said she was available.  I scroll back through our exchange.  For March 16th.  I’ve given her the wrong date.  

Before I go into full-blown panic (and before my husband finishes dressing and walks down the stairs), I call the girl. 

“Hi,” I start, trying to slow my breathing.  “I know I said I needed you to sit on March 16th but I made a mistake. I meant February 16th.”  Silence.  I battle on.  “So I was wondering,” my voice turns high and excited like I’m inviting her to a party, “are you available?  Umm,” here’s my closer, “now?” 

“Now?” the girl asks.  “Sure.”  Just like that.   

“Really?  You can come?” I nearly faint from relief. 

“I just have to call my mom for a ride.  She’s at Kroger.” 

“Whenever you can get here is great.  You’re a life saver,” I say and hang up. 

This isn’t how I imagined introducing this new sitter to our family.  On the up side, I now know she’s available for last minute sitting jobs.  Sigh.    

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Party Girl Lives On

Day 351
When I was little my parents dubbed me their party girl.  I don’t think they meant it as a compliment.  Their tone and delivery made me think “irresponsible” and “party” must be interchangeable.   

Here I am, thirty odd years later, still the party girl.  With a husband, a house, three kids, two dogs and a guinea pig, I have more responsibility than I can handle.  Somehow I’ve managed to blend the two into a working definition of happy.  And that’s OK with me. 

If you ask any kid within a three-block radius of our house, they’ll tell you.  I’m the cookie mom.  I keep ingredients on hand to whip up a batch of chocolate chip treats and a refrigerator full of icings ready for eager hands to decorate. 

Most mornings, you’ll find pencils and crayons scattered across our kitchen table as the boys craft whatever last-minute project I’ve concocted to keep the masses happy and the television off in the hour before the bus comes.

I’m not saying it’s a full-on party all the time but I do believe in putting on the sparkle when an opportunity presents itself.  

This Valentine’s Day week, I’ve been especially busy baking for class parties.  One of my neighborhood favorites is over playing and sits for a while on a kitchen bar stool choosing to watch me fill in cookies with corn syrup icing than run around with the other kids. 

“Mrs. Ellis?  When you were in college, did you get your degree in baking?” 

I smile up at her.  “No, honey.  But you might think so, right?” 

I tell her I have plenty of baked heart-shaped sugar cookies and if she wants her and her sisters can come over after school on Valentine’s Day and we’ll decorate cookies together with the boys.   

I see her dad that night at a school program and he tells me that they have a conflict.  “Thanks for the invite,” he says.  “She’s really disappointed it’s not going to work out.”   

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m up at 5 am finishing class party treats, packing lunches and making icing.  I think of my neighbor’s daughter and think why can’t it work out?  No one says parties have to be after-school, do they? 

I. calls his friend at 8 am for an impromptu before-school Valentine’s Day party. 

We crank up the Taylor Swift.  I giggle as the country crooner belts out “We’re never getting back together.  Ever.” as we celebrate a holiday built around love.  The irony’s lost on the kids. 

We laugh.  We dance.  We decorate cookies.  We sample a few.  All in all, I say it's a success.  I might go as far as saying a new tradition.  

“Five minutes until the bus,” I call from the kitchen. 

There’s a scramble of backpacks and a search for shoes but we all make it to the corner with a minute to spare.  Inside, two hungry dogs stare longingly at a countertop of drying cookies.  

What Would Alex Do?

Day 350
Years ago I borrowed a book from my grandmother and forgot to return it. 

That’s not true.  I took it from a bookshelf without her knowledge (with every intention of returning it) but spilled water and destroyed the cover to a point past recognition that it was once a book.  So I tucked it into my book bag and snuck it home.  Sorry, Mom Mom.  Twenty years late. 

I can’t lie now.  I’m glad I stole that book.  It forever changed my life. 

Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life by Alexandra Stoddard does exactly what it promises.  From making breakfast special to making paying bills more fun (really, she writes about this), it’s a great guide to making life more enjoyable by upgrading the mundane to magnificent.   

I need to channel Alexandra because Houston, we have a problem.  Family arrives in two days and the guest-room-turned-office-soon-to-be-transformed-back-to-guest-room is buried in a year’s worth of clutter. 

Chaz and I spend hours sorting through books and boxes.  We recycle a mountain of used computer paper.  Organize office supplies.  Remove a desk and bookshelf and schlep in the bed frame and mattress.

What would Alexandra do, I think as I smooth on fresh sheets and lay a pretty bedspread across the top.  I fluff the pillows and find a decorative pillow to add to the pile. 

I hope the room says welcome to our weekend guests.  I hope it says we care about you enough to make this room inviting and comfortable.  I want it to say we’re lucky to have you here.    

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Opps, I did it again.

Day 349
“How much do you charge for cupcakes?” my friend asks.

“It depends,” I say.  I’m not purposely stalling but I wonder why she’s asking.    

“We’re having a Casino Night for Kindervelt,” she explains. 

She doesn’t need to explain any more.

“Tell me what you need and I’ll give them to you,” I say. 

“You will?” 

Kindervelt brings together hundreds of Cincinnati’s best volunteers to raise money for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. 

I’ve wanted to get involved with Kindervelt for a while now to thank Children’s and it’s amazing staff for the care they’ve given to my boys over the years.  Diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis at two-days-old, A. had surgery when he was smaller than a football.  He continues to see a cardiologist at the Heart Center. 

When I. fell from the slide at our city pool and broke his elbow, nurses and doctors cared for him as if he were one of their own.  They calmed a scared boy (and mom) with their competence and confidence that everything would be fine.  It was.    

I’d love to join a Kindervelt chapter but can’t add one more thing to my life.  Between family, PTO, writing, baking and Advocare (oh, yeah, did I mention I’m now selling Advocare?), I can’t do it.  I simply might lose my mind. 

It makes me realize that no matter how busy one is, one can find small ways to contribute.  I may never attend a Kindervelt meeting or sit on one of their several fundraising committees but I can do something. 

Cookies?  Cupcakes?  This I can do.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Passing Notes

Day 348
“That’s his desk.  Right there!” A. says and points to his friend’s pint-sized table and chair.  “I’m going to leave him a note.  To find when he comes to school tomorrow.” 

“Go for it,” I say.  I think it’s a great idea.  Who doesn’t want a nice note to start your day? 

I love little kid notes:  I like you.  You’re nice.  I’m glad you’re my friend.  They cut to the chase.  Strip everything down to the basics. 

What would happen if adults started leaving notes for friends?  At work, I imagine Chaz slipping a torn piece of computer paper under the office adjacent to his: Let’s have coffee.  Or me handing a card to a mom who I don’t know well but think we could have bunches in common: Let’s be friends. 

Ah, if life were that simple.     

“Done,” A. says. 

“High five!” I raise my hand and wait for the slap of palm hitting palm. 

“You know it.” A. smiles and struts to the hallway.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Birthday Bear

Day 347
It’s nearly dinnertime and the boys and I are still at school.  It’s not our usual routine. 

I’m helping with kindergarten registration and loving meeting this incoming group of fresh-faced almost kindergarteners.  Little pig-tailed cuties hop from foot to foot, unable to contain their excitement as parents wait to turn in their pile of paperwork.

Around the corner, the boys join the after-school childcare program, a first.  (I’ll admit to being a tad offended when they react with unabashed glee when I tell them the plan.)

By five, I’m ready to go.  I’ve been at the school for PTO things off and on a majority of the day. 

“Let’s go!” I cheer, hoping to rally the kids quickly to pack it in and head to the car. 

“I’m going to say hi to Mrs. H.  OK?” F. yells and bounces down the hallway before I give an answer.  The other two boys bound after in a mad dash to catch up. 

I can’t blame them.  Mrs. H is one of my favorites, too. 

I walk to the kindergarten wing in to find the boys feeding the class fish and filling in Mrs. H. on the latest and greatest. 

After a fun ten minutes I convince the boys we need to start home.  Walking towards the door, A. spots something on the floor.  “Brady forgot the birthday bag!” he says. 

The birthday bag contains several birthday-themed picture books, a birthday journal where kids record how they spend their special day, a package of crayons, a birthday hat and a stuffed bear.  Brady told us at the bus stop that he’d be bringing it home. 

Without missing a beat, A. offers to bring it to him.  “He only lives across the street,” he explains.    

“Oh, good,” says Mrs. H.  “He’s a worrier.  I don’t want him to worry.” 

It’s just the push the boys need to get them moving towards the car.  Homebound.  Finally.  Thank you, Birthday Bear.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bulletin News

Day 346
We live in a community of 10,000 people.  Depending on where you live, this may sound like a metropolis.  Raised outside of Chicago, to me, it feels teeny tiny. 

Living in a small town takes some getting used to.  There are things you learn over time.  

1.   It’s impossible to go to Kroger without running into someone you know.  Don’t wear your pajamas.  Even at 6 am.

2.   Don’t cut anyone off on Montgomery Road.  You probably know them.

3.   If you go often enough, the lady at Algamesis Brothers Ice Cream will learn your name.

Another fun thing about living in a small community is opening The Montgomery Bulletin, a newsletter published monthly by city hall, and finding your neighbor’s daughter smiling proudly from the front cover.

I slip the issue into a manila envelope and the boys and I drop it in my friend’s mailbox on our way to karate lessons.  I’m certain extra copies will find their way into the hands of grandparents or far-flung relatives.   

I pull the car to the curb.  F. rolls down the window and leans towards the mailbox. 

“Don’t fall out the window,” I say.  This advice may seem obvious.  I’ve got boys.  Never assume. 

He struggles with the mailbox but manages to pull it open and shove the newsletter in.

“Gentle,” I say.  Again, obvious but have to add.   

Monday, February 4, 2013

Follow The Leader

Day 345
I hit confirm and five registrations sail through the Internet (to whatever wondrous place these things fly) for the March Mini Heart 5K.

I’ve known about the race for years.  Once, I even attempted to run it. 

This year we’ll all be walking to support F.’s friend Heath.  Born with a congenital heart defect, he’s had a long list of surgeries and continues to receive therapy today.  We thought about making a donation instead but want to teach the kids that one of the best ways to support a friend is to show up. 

We’ll stride side-by-side for 3.1 miles.  (Last summer a doctor recommended Heath’s dad have heart surgery.  He did.  We’ll be walking for him, too.)  More than that, we’ll teach the boys a little something about being a good friend. 

I imagine the kids will outpace the adults as we wind our way through downtown Cincinnati.  With Heath and F. in the lead.  Or that’s my hope.