By: Liz S
As a parent and a nanny, I have spent years of my life working with children to get them to their next milestone or goal. Whether it is crawling, walking, talking, weaning them from a bottle, potty training, sleeping in big kid bed, learning letters and numbers, or having good manners, you name it, there is an endless to-do list for parents. Our little ones just reach one goal only to have another one facing them. Such is the life of a parent or care giver. Our role is to teach, support and encourage all facets of a child’s development.
My daughter Charlotte is 9 years old and in fourth grade. My husband and I have seen her successfully navigate through all those early childhood milestones and start to be a more independent being. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels, oh no. There is still so much to be done. And time continues to fly by, weeks at a time, doing homework, playing sports, having play dates, doing chores and more. I often say how much faster time flies by now that I have a child. And although I would love to savor each milestone and achievement as it happens, life moves on and there is always more to be done. This brings me to my Ah-Ha moment from the other night…take the win.
Let me explain. About 6 months ago I was determined to get more vegetables into my daughter’s diet. It is a simple mothers wish and I hear this a lot from other families too, “How can we get the kiddos to eat better?” Well, this was my goal and I knew I had a bumpy road ahead. My daughter would eat salad (with Caesar dressing and croutons of course) and had come to like summer squash we had grown in our garden, but that was it. No broccoli, carrots, corn, peppers, onions, or mushrooms- you catch my drift. No veggies. I had sent her to school with carrot and celery sticks and if I was lucky she would dip them in some ranch dressing, but who knows if it was really eaten. I have always put our nightly vegetable selection on her dinner plate and had tried some bribery and threats along the way to get her to eat them. I guess I was looking for her to not only eat them on occasion but perhaps even enjoy them? Dare I think that was possible? We took our pediatricians advice to always have a variety of color on our plates to get the best nutrition. We never made two dinner options, one “kid friendly” and one for the adults- she ate what we ate. We tried to expose her to many ethnic food choices (she has loved hummus since she was 2 yo) and not always go for the chicken fingers or mac and cheese.
After talking to Charlotte about her veggie likes and dislikes I dug a bit deeper and asked why she did or did not enjoy these foods. I had been pushing some sweeter vegetables on her thinking that would be an easy sell, offering corn, carrots and butternut squash. Turns out she did not like the combo of hot and sweet. She would eat raw carrots but not sautéed. I also found out she did like snow peas. I also heard her when she said absolutely no broccoli. I had tried to sneak broccoli in on many occasions thinking if she only had more exposure to it, she would come around. That never happened by the way, so I changed my tactic. I used snow peas as a base for my nightly veggies and started making a stir fry type of mixed veggies. I used onions, peppers, mushrooms, scallions or anything I had on hand. I picked out a yummy soy teriyaki sauce from Trader Joes to ease her into it and we were on our way. Charlotte would help slice and chop the vegetables and started eating vegetables each night. I noticed she would pick out less and less “unwanted” veggies from her plate and there were no bribes or threats to be had. I guess I took this in stride as I had most of our other parenting victories. Until Saturday night. Some new friends invited us to their church’s family night pot luck dinner. As Charlotte was sitting with some other girls her age, the parents noticed her plate. She had taken more vegetables, salads and healthier options that some of the other girls, which sparked a conversation. My friend said, “I wish my daughter would eat like that”. Charlotte proceeded to tell the adults at our table how much she likes onions, peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables. She went on and on about her love of red onion and how she has come to enjoy Greek salad. I sat there nodding, as it was all true, then I noticed the surprised parents faces. They looked at me like I was so lucky to have a child who wasn’t a “picky” eater and would eat veggies. That is when it struck me. I was partly responsible for helping Charlotte expand her food choices and eat vegetables. I had set out with a specific goal and we had accomplished it. And I should take the win. I should celebrate this, even just with myself, that I made a positive impact on my daughter and ultimately her health.
This simple thing really resonated with me. I look back on all we have been through as parents and thought maybe time is flying by in part because we have not taken the wins as they came. Acknowledging, reflecting and yes even celebrating that milestone is important. It could help parents increase their confidence and support our desire to parent in a more conscience and engaging way. Parenting is a life long journey and commitment. You can feel like a hamster on a wheel. One day, one month, one year can roll into the next. If you have recently had a win in your family, I urge you to celebrate it. Did your little one give up his binky? Is your child now sleeping through the night? How about getting rid of all those diapers- woo hoo! Is that transition from a crib to a toddler bed finally paying off? No matter your children’s age and ability, there are milestones to be met and celebrations to be had. I do not want to look back on Charlotte’s childhood like a blur. I need to slow down and take the wins.
By: Liz S
The holidays are a wonderful, magical time of the year. They are also an expensive and hectic time for families. I am always looking for a way to save some money while sharing an experience and making memories with my family. I love decorating inside and out for Christmas! Wreaths and swags are a festive favorite, but the price tags are sky high. Stop by any garden center and decorated wreaths can run up to $50. The bows alone can give me sticker shock, and all for something that gets tossed out after New Year’s Eve. We dabble in DIY projects but nothing hard core, yet we took on the task of making our own wreaths and swags. I promise you do not have to be super crafty to get a “WOW” result.
Step 1- Where to start? We went to our favorite local garden center and bought several plain-jane wreaths, 12-14” in size for about $8 each. You can use whatever sizes fit your need and of course, the plastic wreaths work if you are so inclined. I hit the Christmas Tree Shop and bought a bag of starfish, $5, and the Dollar Tree for ribbons, $1 each roll. I had some wire from an old ribbon making kit, but you can buy it locally for under $2 a roll. I wanted a Cape Cod feel to our wreaths hence the starfish. I used some pine cones that my daughter collected around the yard, and we sprinkled silver glitter on them.
Step 2- We simply attached the pinecones and starfish to the wreaths using the wire. Do as many as you like, placed wherever looks good to you. It’s all about self-expression and having fun. It is easy, I promise J I tied the bow around the wreath and we were done.
Step 3- My family was so proud of our wreaths, we decided to try our hand at swags. I grabbed a basket and pair of garden clippers and went off to our front yard. As many of us do, we have Leyland Cyprus trees and Holly bushes in our yard. All I did was cut a bunch of branches off. We played around with the branches to get a nice, full set, and then tied together at the stem with our wire. We added ribbon and in less than 5 minutes we had swags.
Making our own decorations was fun and festive. My husband, daughter and I had such a blast. The wreaths came in under $10 each and the swags were under $1.00!! Saving money allowed us to make some of these handmade gifts for friends and neighbors. We enjoyed being able to spread some holiday cheer and everyone loved them.
Whether it is making wreaths, a gingerbread house, cookies or candles- I hope you and your family can share a fun activity together this year. You may stumble on a new tradition like we have. Happy holidays from our family to yours.
Peace and Joy,
By: Liz S
July 2, 2012: As we sit in the doctor’s office waiting for my biopsy results, I am not feeling confident. Something is not right. I am panicking inside but smiling to reassure my husband while we hold hands in silence. Then my doctor enters the small, sterile room and smiles at me, even makes a little small talk. I am suddenly relieved, phew, all of this worry over nothing. I am obviously fine. Then he sits and says, those deadly, dreaded words, “You have cancer”. What? Excuse me? I must have heard that wrong. But sadly as he continues to talk, I realize that I had heard him perfectly. At 42 years old, I have cancer, RCC he called it, Renal Cell Carcinoma a.k.a Kidney Cancer.
I had come prepared with a notebook, ready to ask questions and collect as much information as possible. I had thought of so many questions ahead of time and had written them out knowing my mind might go blank after hearing potentially bad news. And it had. In fact, I could barely speak. My mouth went dry, my stomach turned and my mind began to race. I had only one thought… how would I tell my 8 year old daughter that I have cancer? I quickly decided that I wouldn’t. No, I would spare her this traumatic childhood memory. I would be fine. I could hide my illness, downplay my surgery and continue on with life as she knew it. For the next 45 minutes I nodded my head, took notes, and I asked some of those questions. It is all a blur, and after a while I looked at my husband and said, I am done. I could not process any more information and I wanted to leave. The doctor understood and we made a follow up appointment in two weeks, providing us the much needed chance to digest this life altering diagnosis, regroup and make decisions on my treatment plan.
We had been so confident in a positive outcome that we had dropped our daughter Charlotte off at my parents’ house and were meeting up with them after my appointment. We had always been the three musketeers and went everywhere together so this was no different. Now I had to call my mother and tell her this news. I had to say the words out loud and then ask her to put on a happy face in front of Char. That was one of the worst nights of my life. I dried my tears, walked into my mother’s house and smiled. The four of us adults sat through dinner, making small talk and trying to hold it together. It was brutal but for the love of Charlotte, we did it.
I soon realized that living with a secret like cancer was not easy. Covert phone calls, whispered conversations and stepping outside to chat in private had caught the attention of my daughter’s radar. She knew something was up. I started to imagine her sitting in bed, wondering what was going on. Were we getting divorced? Was the house going up for sale? Was something wrong with her? I realized then that I
had to tell her. Not us, not my husband and I, but me. I called our pediatrician who had known us since Char was 2 days old. I asked for a call back, and when she did I laid it all out for her. I was sick. We were scared.
How would I tell Charlotte? Should I sugar coat it? Should I use less scary words? I did not want to use the word cancer. I needed help. She was amazing. She told me I needed to be 100% honest. I would use the C-word, I would cry and let Char cry and ask questions. She explained that fighting cancer was one of the hardest things a body can go through and I would need every ounce of my energy to get well. If I was spending energy keeping secrets and shielding Char from the sadness and reality of my situation, I would
be hurting myself. For Charlotte’s sake I had to tell her. Children are so tuned into their families and she assured me Char was probably imagining worse things were happening. She told me Char was more
stressed out trying to guess what was wrong then to actually find out the truth, deal with it and move on. It was about empowering Charlotte to some extent and that made sense to me. My husband, David, was amazing and did not try to insert himself in this personal decision. He had faith in me to pick the right time and say the right things and believed I should have this experience with our daughter.
It took me a week or so to tell her. It was not exactly planned, and all the words of wisdom I had thought of were lost to me in that moment. We were just hanging out alone at home one morning, doing some crafts and I thought to myself, now is the time. I had been dreading this moment. Sobbing, wailing, and just consumed with guilt and anger over having to have this conversation with my precious girl. SO I just began, I put one word in front of another until I had spoken the truth, I had cancer. Somehow I mustered the strength to stay
calm and not start crying. I did not want to scare her more than my words already were. As I quickly found out, what she knew of cancer was mostly from movies and TV shows. It meant death; it meant losing your hair and being in pain. I quickly assured her that my diagnosis was not terminal and my prognosis was good after completing my treatment. She asked if I was in pain. No, I answered. How did I know I had cancer, she asked? It was a fluke, a small finding from another test I had. It was a miracle that it had been caught so early and I was sure I would make a full recovery. After that many questions came one after another. Some seemed almost silly to me, others were painful. Was it contagious? Would she get it? Would I still be able to volunteer at her school? Would she have to buy lunches now? Was I going to die? Did I believe in heaven? I answered every question that day, and those that came later on, with honesty and love. It was a long summer and fall. My surgery was in September of 2012 and the reality was, everyone suffered. I was not able to shield my closest loved ones from the pain, fear and reality that had come into our lives. I still have a lot of guilt over this. I did give Charlotte choices around my surgery. It was attempt to give her some power over her life during this helpless time. Did she want to be in school that day and have a sleepover with her friends? Would she like to be at the hospital or in Boston nearby with family? In the end, my awesome mother volunteered to take Char to the Museum of Science and kept her occupied that day. They were in contact with my family at the hospital and came back once I was out of surgery, in my room and ready for
My recovery was extremely painful and it took a couple of months before I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. After the first few weeks in bed, I began getting up to see Char off to school. Then I would rest
all day and get freshened up to greet her after school. I would last about half an hour then it would be back to my bedroom while David cooked dinner and helped with homework. Some days I could not even do that. Some days Char walked in to chat about her day only to find me in tears with such pain on my face, that she
just quietly walked away.
The partial nephrectomy that I had on my left side was successful! This year has been a much happier and healthier one and we are even closer from surviving it all together. We have spent time giving back, making
dinner for those in need and paying it forward. We are more engaged with those around us and involved in our community. We saw the good in people and cherished the out pouring of support we had. I have since talked to many cancer moms who do not want to tell their children about being sick. I encourage them to do it and share the words and advice that helped me through it. Dealing with your own mortality is a scary thing and having support is essential. My daughter knows I trusted her enough to tell her the truth. She saw friends and neighbors step in to support us. Dropping off dinner and baked goodies, sending flowers and cards, and her favorite gift was a shoe box filled with candy, popcorn and a DVD- movie in a box, from a thoughtful friend. We do not talk about it much these days. It is not a happy memory for us. But it is part of our families’ history and I am proud that we made it through together, the three musketeers, all for one and one for all.
Welcome to Liz S., our latest Cape Cod Mom who has joined our blogging team! Read more below her blog for her bio!
By: Liz S
*My 9 year old daughter and I made this together. Kids of most ages could participate in some or all of the steps I.E. unwrapping crayons, gluing them on the pumpkin, holding blow dryer etc
Supplies needed- pumpkin, craft glue or hot glue gun, crayons, hair dryer, newspaper to put down under the pumpkin. We were outside to avoid a splatter catastrophe :)
1. Take the wrappers off of the crayons
2. Break crayons in half depending on size of pumpkin
3. Glue pumpkins around the top stem of your pumpkin
4. Once crayons are secured, use hair dryer on high.
5. Blow the hot air directly on the crayons one at a time, moving around a bit once you get a feel for it. Some crayons splatter, some pool along the stem- just play with it to get the look you want.
This takes some patience! About 30 min of blow drying. Once they melt, the crayon wax hardens and you can instantly move the pumpkin around.
Liz Smith is a wife and mother living in Harwich. After growing up in Scituate, MA she lived in Boston and Salem before meeting her husband and moving to Cape Cod in 2000. She is a licensed preschool teacher working as a nanny. She attends Bridgewater State University as a full time student studying Early Childhood Education and Psychology. Liz returned to school at age 40 after being laid off when her company downsized. After 20 years as a successful retail manager, she started at Cape Cod Community College focusing on a new career and graduated with high honors
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