Too Much Praise!

So I remember reading an article similar to this one back when Maria was a toddler. And I remember thinking “that is such bullish–! You can never praise a kid too much.”

If there is one fu– up that I have had as a mom, I think this ranks up there (god knows I have had quite a few). I am able to completely verify the accuracy of the study in this article.

My sweet Maria has only ever been told since birth what an amazingly wonderful, special, fantastic, incredible girl she is. Any project she works on warrants a “what a spectacular job” no matter if it’s mediocre or truly spectacular. Any sport she attempts warrants a “you are a machine out there” no matter if she tripped over everyone. Any drawing she created warranted “that is gorgeous” even if she scribbled and put in little effort. Get my drift?
And I thought “what a great mom I am lavishing all this praise on my girl.”
And she did and continues to do, wonderful things. She’s passionate, adventurous, caring, loving, aware, funny, smart. But she’s also hesitant to try new things or to push herself beyond her known capabilities. She will, at times, but it takes work to get her there. That is why after reading this article, I was beating myself up. It’s hard to think of Ri as having low self-esteem. She is boisterous and not afraid to talk to people and always ready to take a trip and see new sights. She asks questions of adults when she doesn’t understand. She introduces herself to strangers.
But she also gets worried that she’s not as good a reader as her classmates. That she’s uglier than her girlfriends. That she isn’t motivated like her colleagues. That her teacher thinks she’s stupid. When I ask her to try soccer, she doesn’t want to. When I tell her to try to finish a long article, she complains (now that could be pure laziness!). When I tell her to draw an animal she hasn’t drawn, she hesitates.
Is it because I praised her so much that she doesn’t want to risk disappointing me with a new project she doesn’t know if she can complete well? Have I inadvertently caused her to avoid challenges?
Errhh. It’s so frustrating. It’s also humbling. Here I am praising my kid left and right and inadvertently judging the mom who doesn’t – when all along I could have learned some tips from her. It also can’t be the end of the world. There are plenty of “right” things I have done with that baby girl. I’m over the delusion that I will be the perfect mom. I just don’t want to screw her up too much (by the way, Mario is a whole other story – he thrives with excessive praise but there are quite a few other areas that I need to work on…).
So, I will keep this article in mind when I have told Ri for the 10th time how incredible her drawing looks of two stick figures. And I will continue to work on exercises that raise her self-esteem because I know my girl can reach the farthest star in the sky if she believes fully in herself. And I will continue to appreciate myself as a mother trying my hardest to raise intelligent, thoughtful, confident, and empathetic kids.

Amen!

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Girlfriends

Friend. Good.

I saw these two words written on a greeting card along with a silhouette of a big dog staring at the silhouette of a puppy. I immediately thought of my Cincy girls.

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I’ve known these babes since the womb it feels like; actually it’s more like 1st grade. I’ve had many a crazy experience with them both individually and as a group. Lisa and I used to cheer the Reds on at the old Riverfront Stadium (and had the biggest crush on Dave Parker); Jill and I used to play house at our old kindergarten; Ericka used to catch my fast pitch softballs in high school; and Kathy and I used to get rowdy and break car door windows (actually that was just Kathy on my car window!).
We all are very different at this stage of our lives having pursued different life paths, different cities, different hobbies. But oh doesn’t that make for some fabulous conversation and some hilarious moments.
I took Maria Grace with me on the five and a half hour trek to Midland, Michigan where Kathy resides. She couldn’t wait to babysit Kathy’s kids and hang with her “aunts.” We, of course, had to stop off for some snacks along the way…

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And we had to hit the Michigan welcome center…

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Ri knew her father would enjoy those pictures. We were the first to arrive at Kathy’s sweet abode. What a magnificent house and location. Ri was excited that Grace was so excited to see her. And she adored Rose from the minute she set eyes on her. Kathy and Andrew were off the hook from feeding her, reading to her, and bathing her as soon as Ri walked in the house.

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Lisa arrived a couple hours later with Josh and Emma. Maria was a bit irked at first because she liked having Emma and Rose to herself but she quickly bonded with Ms. Emma and babied Josh so all was good.

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The kids played while we caught up on life. We chatted about Christmas presents, school, work, hubbies. Ericka and Jill finally arrived and we broke out the wine and snacks and cozied up on the downstairs couch together. Such a quaint setting with a fireplace and wood siding. Ms. Maria hung in with us until 12:30 am contributing quite often to the conversation. There is no doubt she will be engaging on the same all-night conversations with her friends years to come.
I woke up to a winter wonderland on Saturday morning. The neighbors had their snow blowers revved up but they had not cleared any snow yet. I walked in an all white landscape and listened to the ice crackling and the random bird singing. Heaven.
When I returned, Ri was playing away with the other kids. I watched her laughing with Emma and I was taken back to being 8 years old and playing with my girlfriends sitting in the next room. It was pure joy to see my daughter with my girlfriends’ daughters. A new generation beginning life-long friendships.

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We got dressed and headed out to lunch in downtown Midland. The kids drew pictures for us in their booth, ate their food, and ran around like maniacs. We talked about our lives, our irritations, our blessings. It was like we had never moved away from one another.

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We had to do the funny face picture after our meal. I knew all these gals and kids would participate. Next we headed to the mall. We all did some last minute shopping and let the kids sit on Santa’s lap. I was el cheapo and did not buy a picture. I was pissed at myself when we left because I remembered I had a Buddha picture of Ri when she was seven months old on Santa’s lap and it would have been a hilarious contrast seeing her now on his lap. Next year….
We hit Barnes and Noble to look at books and that was where we experienced the epic Grace meltdown. It was classic. At first, all was well. Ri read to the kids and they were all smiles.

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Then I wanted a picture of the moms in the same pose. Kathy sat in Grace’s seat. Oh my. Ms. Grace let us know her anger at that move and went to town on Kathy. All the rest of us could do was laugh our a–es off because we’ve all been there. Kathy packed it up immediately and we all followed her. On the way to the car, Josh had a follow-up meltdown that rivaled Emma’s because he dropped his gum on the floor. There’s one big difference between Lisa and me. I would have brushed it off and popped it right back in his mouth but Lisa promptly discarded it. By the time we all got back to the cars, we were ready for the comforts of home and wine.
We broke out pizza. wine, guacamole and my beloved sheet cake and went to town after singing happy birthday to E.

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We decided to head out to a wine bar at 9 pm just like we would have done in our twenties. We still got it. Except we only lasted until 10:45 pm. Ri was so sad for us to leave and all the other kids were going to bed so we let her go with us. She was ecstatic. She played on the iPad the entire time until she passed out on my lap at 10:30 (from exhaustion, not wine).

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On Sunday morning, we ate sheet cake for breakfast and packed up our things dreading the ride home both because it was nasty outside and because we wanted a longer stay. These gals are my soul sisters who I can trust to be there for me no matter what. It’s hard to believe we’ve known each other for 35+ years and we still love each other so much! However, there are tines when we are just like an old married couple – committed but on each other’s nerves! But that’s the beauty in a long, thriving relationship – you take each other for who you are. I can’t imagine my world without these gals and I’m awfully glad that Ri got to share in the love with me.

Doing something right

I have been reinforcing to Maria how special and unique she is since she arrived in this world.

I managed to score a personalized autograph from Gloria Steinem to Ri before Ri could say her first word. I read stories about strong women to her while we rocked to sleep. She met throngs of incredible female role models through her life: grandmas, great grandmas, aunts, cousins, colleagues, friends. Recently, after she made some quip about not “being skinny like other girls”, I taught her about affirmations.

“I am beautiful. I am funny. I am caring. I am strong. I listen to people.” These are a few of the affirmations she recited to me and her words were pure poetry to my mama/female ears.

So why would I be at all amazed at her response to me as I was fretting about mingling with my superiors at a work event Saturday evening?

“Mom, you just need to be yourself.”

I stared out my car window and smiled. Then I reached my hand to the back seat and felt her hand clasp mine. Our connection lifted me through the entire evening.

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Lovin’ the Reds 10K

On Mother’s Day, my girl cousins, Liz and Maggie came up to Columbus. Maggie recently started running and has been on a mission to get others to run. She succeeded at getting Liz to start up and they informed me that they were going to run the Reds 10K race on June 1. The race started near the stadium and ended in the stadium. In The Stadium?! How many years did I go to Reds games as a kid and dream of going on the field? Definitely a bucket list wish. But my non-committed self said “I will think it over” and went about getting dinner ready. As we sat at the table an hour later, Liz asked for my computer.

“I’m signing you and the kids up for the run because I know you won’t do it.”

She typed in my info, asked for my credit card number, and it was done. One thing about me is I don’t like to waste money. There was no way I was going to miss the run if I paid $50 for it. And so it was.

My little sis found out about it and decided she’d come in for it, too. Of course, she wanted to come in to actually race it. I was trying to avoid that piece. I get myself so worked up over these events so I just stopped racing in them years ago. But now Sarah was resurrecting that fire in my belly and I knew as much as I told myself I didn’t care about time, I’d try to win.

My mother and I engaged in much heartache for the three weeks between Mom’s Day and the race about what to do with Mario. We knew Ri would stay close to Julie during the race but were worried Mario may run off. We debated what we could do over and over until Jon finally stepped in and said that he was taking him to Mario’s house to shoot a beebee gun. Mario would prefer that over just about anything (going to Grandma Ionno’s house being the only exception).

Ri and I packed up on Friday night and headed to Cincy. We arrived to welcome arms from Gracie; she and Ri played house and baby dolls all night. Ri slept over at Aunt Julie’s house and got treated to goetta and pancakes in the morning. What a life.

Meanwhile, Sar and I got our sleep. I went to bed at 10 and woke up at 6:30 am ready to head downtown. Liz and Mag drove us and we got pumped up listening to some old school rap (those gals know how to do it).

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The Riverfront blew me away – completely different than the Riverfront I grew up with in the 80’s. Is that how you know you’re old, when you start reminiscing like that?! We all piled out of the car and took off for the porta potties before the race began.

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Sar found out that your time began when the gun was shot even though we wore chips on our shoes so we made our way to the front of the line. Sar got a heck of a start when the gun shot off and there was no catching up to her after that. We had made a pact to not feel bad if one of us ran ahead and she abided by it! I’m glad she did because it gave me additional incentive to keep my pace up and try to catch her.

I hit mile 1 at a 6:30 pace. Mile 2 at a 7 minute pace. On my way to mile 3, my mind really started to mess with me. A brief synopsis:

“You are over this ego thing. Who cares about your time?”

“Your body is gonna kill if you keep up this pace. Stop!”

“This is ridiculous. Just walk the rest of the race and stop torturing yourself.”

“Push harder. You can beat these gals in front of you.”

“Look at that guy running past me. Show him who’s boss. Catch him.”

“You only have three more miles. That is nothing. Run harder, girl!”

And so it went like a washing cycle – over and over again.

Until I hit mile 5 and saw 36 minutes on the digital screen. Holy cow. One more mile and I could stay under an eight minute pace. The mind games lessened and I concentrated on keeping pace with the guy in front of me. I could see the stadium ahead and then there was confusion. A lady holding a 10K sign told me to turn left onto the bridge. I didn’t think she was right but I turned. Someone yelled “no turn back!” I turned around and headed to the stadium entrance. There were a ton of people standing around and people walking in so I figured it was the end of the race. I was also amazed to be in the stadium – a place I had dreamed of standing when I was a girl. But then reality hit me, literally, as a female runner brushed by me. I looked ahead and saw the blue mat laying on the ground. Shit, the finish is up there! I bolted fifty feet and crossed over the blue sea. I made it. 45 minutes after I began.

I looked around in awe. The green field. The towering stands. Right field where I used to root on Dave Parker. And then I saw my baby sis making her way up the stadium steps.

“Sarah!”

She turned her head and we stumbled towards each other. We hugged.

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We posed for a picture.

And then we walked up the stairs talking about the hell we had just gone through. Sarah hated the last mile and was confused just like me at the finish. But she thought she got third among women based on a spectator yelling “You’re third!” as she crossed the blue sea. We found the white tent and waited for a print out of our results.

Meanwhile, Maggie called and had made it in an eight mile pace. Pretty impressive for just starting to run. Us Heile women are no joke.

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Sar was the first to get her printout. She came in 1st in her age group but it said she was 7th in females. She was bummed. How could that be? While we were contemplating that, I got my print out and saw that I was 1st in my age group! I couldn’t believe it. What a feeling of elation and pride.

We met up with Liz who ran almost the entire way (yet another Heile girl feat for just starting to run!) and their dad and sis and friend. We all gave high-fives and congrats. Then the phone rang. Julie and mom and Ri and Grace had arrived. We all hugged and laughed and took way too many pictures.

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Mags and I did some congratulatory push ups…

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while Ri performed her Strongman exercise and picked up Aunt Sarah.

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I found out Sarah won third place among women when I happened to see her name in the third place slot and confirmed it with the race worker. Her prize? To throw out the first pitch at a Reds game! So jealous! Sarah has won gift certificates, tvs, and the like but for this race she got a certificate to throw out a pitch, which would have been cool if she didn’t have to come back all the way from Pittsburgh. And what’s more hilarious is when we went up to the tent to ask what we got for winning our age division, the girl beamed at us and chirped “you get a Reds bobble head!” Sar and I about died laughing. It’s the simple joy of giving your all, I guess….

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Ri and Grace got to join in the fun, too and run the warning track. Poor Ri fell within two seconds of her run. Some six year old boy pushed her. Her little knees were scraped and one was bleeding pretty good. But she had her aunt and mom pushing her to keep going so she cranked it out. She’s got that runner in her when she needs it.

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Aunt Sarah and I were very proud when she got her medal. Gracie and the crew were up in the stands cheering Ri on as she walked up to them. What an awesome event with family. I was delirious with joy the entire day.

And to top it off, we got to go down the Fan Slide (something they never had when I was little!). Ri made me get a picture of Aunt Sarah because she found it hilarious that we went down, too.

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We drove home, put on our bathing suits, and headed to Blue Ash pool. Sar and I took turns heading to the whirlpool. That was pure heaven – I almost fell asleep three times.

A Mighty Girl

I have a son who at age four pulled a Maxim magazine off the grocery store shelf and proclaimed “she’s hot!”

Why? Not because I, or his sister, dress in tight clothes and short skirts. And certainly not because his dad is riding around with him whistling at women.

I have a daughter who put on a shirt yesterday morning and pronounced “my belly sticks out of this shirt. I’m not pretty.” This declaration after I have told Ri a thousand times that she is beautiful and amazing. And that has been reaffirmed over and over by her grandparents and dad and cousins. So why does she say such nonsense?

Hmmm…. could it be the magazines (Maxim is among many), the tv shows (“America’s Top Model” comes to mind), the media focus on all things thin and “perfect” and superficial, or the companies who market princesses with big boobs and size 0 waists to young girls.

When I was five and begged for a Barbie, I got Dusty. She was a flat-chested “barbie” with sandy brown hair cut in a straight bowl around her face, wearing jean sorts and riding a horse. And Ri wonders why I despise dresses to this day. She was my ideal. She’s who I played with every morning. I grew up in Clifton – I saw all sorts of women walking around town. Big, little, pierced, saggy, firm – you name it. And they were all beautiful in their own right.

But I still squeezed the fat rolls on my belly at night as I laid in bed. “If I could just lose this, I’d be so much prettier.” So even with my forward thinking, feminist parents, I still got caught in the trap.

I appreciate Mighty Girl drawing attention to Disney’s revamp of the young girl in Brave from a strong, every day looking heroine to a dress-off-the-shoulder, made-up princess. Sometimes I catch myself dismissing these pleas for action because I’ve heard them over and over again. But then I get one more plea and am reminded that if we didn’t have such over-glamorization and “sexing up” of our girls, there wouldn’t be so many pleas.

Mighty Girl is doing critical work to help our girls see themselves as soulful, intelligent, strong, courageous, opinionated people – not sex objects and eye candy.

When Ri squeezed one of Mario’s friends the other day, Mario yelled out “My sister is really strong, Quinn! She can hurt you!” And when Mario needed help on his bike, he knew Ri would be at his side (“you got it Mario; don’t be scared little guy!”). I appreciate that Mario sees his sis as a strong girl.

Most recently, Ri has fallen in love with softball. She is not the strongest batter but she has been persevering through missed swings and not giving up.

“Heile Menkedick Ionno’s don’t give up!” she chirps at me, repeating the words I have drilled into her head for years as she takes another swing.

Keep it up, Ri, and don’t worry about bellies. You are beautiful.

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Losing it

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A picture of Maria and Mario shocked and amazed to find our house keys in the door after we spent 90 minutes trying to track them down all over Grandview. I could do nothing more in the moment than laugh hysterically at the entire situation – the entire day as a matter of fact (which warrants a completely separate post). The kids thought their mom was turning into a lunatic in front of their eyes, I’m sure.

It all began with an emergency situation at work whereby I had to leave a field trip with Ri to head into work – that right there put me in a foul mood. I got into work at noon and did not stop until 5:30. I proceeded to bolt home in order to see Jon off to Michigan for a few days for work and get dinner ready for Ri and Mario. While cooking dinner, I worked on homework with Ri (and Mario who is determined to start homework now to be ready for kindergarten).

After homework drama and dinner, we searched for shoes and we headed out to walk to Orange Leaf. I had promised it to Ri when I left the field trip hoping that would somewhat cheer her up (she’s like me, food always comforts). We locked up the house and took off. Mario banged his ankle along the way which elicited an unwarranted amount of drama on his behalf. Later, we saw Doris and Kim, our old neighbors, working in another friend’s garden. We stopped and chatted with them for a while and then headed north for ice cream. Mario banged his ankle two more times which warranted more full-blown drama – falling to the ground, writhing in pain, crying, pathetic screams, the whole deal.

As soon as we walked into Orange Leaf, my phone rang. A colleague from work needed to fill me in on meetings for later in the week so I got stuck on that call while Mario filled his bowl past the rim with cotton candy yogurt that he’d never eat (and I despise). We left after watching Three Stooges and playing tic tac toe.

I went back and forth between carrying Mario and pushing him on his scooter during the travel back home. When we got to the top of our street, I realized I didn’t have my keys. Are you kidding me? Luckily I had my car key so we hopped in the car and went to the friend’s house to scavenger her yard for the key. We had no luck so we moved to Orange Leaf. We scoured the place with no luck there either. We moved onto the police department and struck out there, too.

As we drove home, Ri fretted about someone having our keys and breaking into our house. I continued to console her reinforcing that no one would know they were our keys. Mario consoled her by confirming that he’d beat anyone up that broke into the house.

We pulled into the driveway and parked. As we walked to the front door at 9:20 pm, we saw objects glittering in the door. My keys. And that’s the end of the story.

But it’s not the end of days like this, I’m sure. Jon counseled me on slowing down when he called me at 10 pm from the road and I told him about our night. To some extent, he has a point. I need to know my limits based on my day – maybe forego a walk if I’m exhausted; maybe let them watch tv for an hour while I read a book; maybe not start the laundry until another day. But on the other hand, there are times when multi-tasking needs to happen. Kids have homework, sports’ practices, playtime, reading. They have to eat. They need to bathe every once in a while. And you have to push that all into a three hour period of time.

A report on NPR concluded that moms tend to multi-task much more than dads. Women felt more overwhelmed and stressed because they spent 10.5 more hours a week on multi-tasking than dads – such as laundry, dinner, homework. Dads tended to view multi-tasking as talking on a work call while “watching” their kids and didn’t feel as much stress. Well, imagine that…!

Now I love my hubby too death but I think he would fit right into this study. He gets on me for doing too much but homework, dinner, laundry, and dishes need to be done. We always kid each other about me going overspeed and him going to under speed and needing a middle ground for both of us.

I think that can’t be clearer after last night’s insanity. My mind clearly shut down after 8 pm. The fact I didn’t even look at the front door before we took off for a 90 minute key search is scary.

So, how to make it better?

1. Take some breaths in a room without kids. Do some chants. Calm my mind before I do anything.

2. Leave the dishes for a later date.

3. Eat cereal for dinner once a week.

4. Wear dirty clothes more often.

5. Make Jon cook dinner while looking over homework and folding kids’ clothes and watch him lose it, too
– the more the merrier.

Mother’s Day 2013

Top Fifteen memories from Mom’s Day 2013

1. Watching Ri and Mario fight over who gives me my gift bag.
2. Using my Garmin GPS watch from Jon and the kids and clocking eight-minute miles.
3. Making frames with Ri to give to the Crutcher ladies.
4. Getting a voice mail from Meg and dad wishing me a great day and telling me I was the best mom (after Meg, of course!).
5. Hanging out with hilarious and loud women all afternoon (Patty fit in with us Heile women perfectly).
6. Scratching a winning lottery ticket from Patty for $8!
7. Receiving a ceramic painted mushroom to place in my garden and a flower basket from mom.
8. Eating chocolate truffle that Patty made.
9. Having Liz and Mag register me for the Reds Stadium 10K on June 1 (I finally get to go on the Reds’ field – I’ve been dreaming of that since 6th grade).
10. Getting a hug from Grace-Bug.
11. Watching Patty climb a tree.
12. Experiencing Lou running away from us after Ri accidentally let go of his leash. Pure madness on Bluff Ave. as mom, me, and the five kids chased Lou through yards and the street for eight minutes of intense emotion ranging from panic (“what if he bites that other dog!”) to gut-splitting laughter (watching the kids and mom try to pounce on the leash to catch him).
13. Learning how to angle the iPhone camera to hide a double chin (thanks Mag).
14. Eating leftovers when everyone departed.
15. Walking up to Stauf’s with M & M at 8 pm to get a coffee, bagel and giant chocolate chip cookie and hear them both say I’m the best mom ever (buying the chocolate chip cookie probably helped)!

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