That Brown Vest

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Adolescence, Advice, Attitude, Childrearing, Cleaning, Clothes, Communication, Confidence, Connections, Conversations, Daughters, Encouragement, Memories, Mother, Motherhood, Mothering, Parenting | Posted on 27-03-2017

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Every few years I get the urge to go through my closet and get rid of stuff. You can read about the last time I made such a purge here. Here is how I decreased the surplus population of my clothes. My goal is always to get rid of:

1. The ugly stuff.
2. The stuff that will never ever fit again.
3. The stuff that makes me feel uncomfortable, unconfident, and ugly.

I have had surprisingly a lot of stuff in each of these categories.

I filled three giant trash bags with jeans that are too tight, ruffled blouses that are hideous, pleated slacks that look shiny, and that sort of thing. All kinds of ugly.

I proudly announced to my daughter my feat: I got rid of all my ugly clothes!

What about that brown vest? She asked.

That. Brown. Vest?

Oh that. I guess I didn’t get rid of ALL my ugly clothes. That brown vest might be ugly, but it makes me happy, warm, and comfortable. In fact, I wore it on my last zoo outing with my youngest.

I think you look pretty in that ugly, brown vest, she said.

Well then, it’s a keeper!

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Sweat, Braces, and Love

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Adolescence, Advice, Communication, Confidence, Connections, Conversations, Growing UP, Life Lessons, Sports, Teenager, Teenagers, Women | Posted on 15-11-2016

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The question was posed in email by the head soccer coach to all of the parents: Can any of you help out this season? I need an assistant coach to help run practices and be at the games.

I can. But I will not.

I mean, I have other things to do. Like work, like family, like my own exercise. Surely, another parent can volunteer.

Then I thought: I have coached my daughter and son’s soccer teams before. I play on a rec team as an adult. I know a thing or two about the game. I do love to be around kids. Maybe it won’t be too much of a time suck: practice twice a week, one game every Saturday. And whaddya know, my nearly-14-year-old daughter encouraged me to coach. (That was enough for me to say yes right there…um, my teenager wants me there?!)

I’m in!

I filled out the background check and took the concussion test and sudden cardiac arrest test. I showed up to the first practice a little begrudgingly. I mean, it was still hot August and I could have been kicking back at home with Otis in the shade. Plus. So many teenagers. It was a little daunting.

A few fathers showed up to volunteer and then disappeared after the first practice. Looks like they are stuck with me!

I was warmly welcomed and surrounded by 17 young women full of chatter, giggles, hormones, and braces–as it is with 13- and 14-year-olds–and I was instantly comfortable. I made the right choice.

Within 10 minutes, I knew everyone’s name.

Throughout the season, I gave feedback, high-fived, shouted encouragement, joked, gave pats on the back, talked 1:1 on the sidelines. Assistant coaching was so much more than helping the players improve their soccer skills. I was a supporter, a listener, an encourager, a guider, a trusted friend (and occasional chauffeur).

Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays. Those were soccer days! A chance to make connections, be a positive influence, and build confidence.

Navigating life can be tough for young teenagers struggling with self-confidence, peer pressure, school demands, family issues.

Sure there were foot skills and dribbling, conditioning, building a strong defense, and taking shots. But there was oh so much more. It was a supportive team that built each other up. The players as individuals truly cared for one another. We learned and grew.

That Fall soccer season, I received so much more than I gave. I know for a fact that I was surrounded by sweat and braces, and love. #winning

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The Sheep Connection

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Advice, Animals, Attitude, Communication, Life Lessons, Love, Relationships | Posted on 22-08-2016

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One of my favorite things at the county fair is to visit all of the farm animals. I say hello to each and every one of them, without leaving any out. Goats. Cows. Rabbits. Chickens. Horses. Bunnies. Ducks. Geese. Pigs. Llamas. Alpacas. Sheep.

The goats look at me longingly and always get lots of lovin’ from me. They have warm eyes, big hearts, joyful spirits, and like to “kid” around. I talk to the bunnies and poke my fingers into the cages to pet their soft fur. They are often shy. I scratch the pigs’ snouts. We could chat for hours. I talk to the llamas and alpacas and they rudely stare back. Sometimes showing me their yellowed teeth. Llamas are assholes. I compliment the chickens and roosters on their beautiful plumage and they are agitated. Some of the horses are sweet, some are aloof. Their stalls have bars: communication barriers. I am especially kind to the cows, especially the beef cows, because I know their lives will end soon.

And then there are the sheep.

I walk into the sheep barn with eagerness. I walk down the rows greeting them with a friendly Baa Ram Eew (giggle) and I reach out to give their fluffy curls a scrunch. I compliment those who are freshly shorn. You sure make beautiful wool! I exclaim.

Each summer, it’s the same. The sheep snub me. Like the llamas, they are assholes. I pick up clean straw to hand-feed them. Like an olive branch offering.

This time, there was a sheep connection!

I met lovely sheep who smiled at me. I talked to them. And they listened. They looked into my eyes. My heart reopened. They invited me to scrunch their wool, so I did. I gently moved their bangs out of their eyes.

I like to make connections with animals and people. If the connections fail, I keep trying. I’m an optimist (sucker) that way.

Animals have personalities like people (or is it the reverse?). I forever encounter people who are kind, thoughtful, funny, loving, honest, and respectful. I also encounter people who are rude, selfish, aloof, condescending, cold, and mean.

I try to have an open mind and an open heart and be kind and forgiving. But I am often disappointed by people who are condescending, selfish, cold, and mean. Sometimes I wonder:

Is it worth reaching out even if I will be let down? If I do get let down, do I continue to forgive and give another chance?

Next year at the fair, I may skip the llamas. But, I will keep visiting the sheep. As proven this summer, through kindness and forgiveness, I made new friends and they warmed my heart. Renewing my faith in sheepmanity.

Ewe never know when you’ll make a connection.

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

Days Like This

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Childrearing, Children, Communication, Connections, Conversations, Mothering, Parenting | Posted on 17-09-2014

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As a parent, I have learned am learning that it’s not my job to make everything all sunshiny and happy for my children. Because–gasp!–in day-to-day life, not everything is all sunshiny and happy. We learn from bad days, dealing with tough situations and mean people, heartbreak, disappointment, and feeling overwhelmed.

I read an article, Top Mom Stresses and How to Relieve Them, in Family Circle and a mother commented, “My trick is to have compassion for my kids. I remind myself they are little people who have rotten days and bad moods just like I do.”

Yes! In fact, this is what I heard the first week of school:

1st day: “I love school!”
2nd day: “School is so fun!”
3rd day: “School sucks shit.”

So instead of, Let me fix it for you and make it better.

I tried to be a good listener (not a fixer) and was like Aw. I’m sorry to hear you had a sucky day. Tell me about it.

I listened. We talked. And I could relate. Maybe he learned more about how to handle bad days. And maybe I learned more about parenting.

There will be days like this.

First day of school…high five!

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13 Plates of Sushi and 20 Tips for My High Schooler

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Adolescence, Advice, Children, Communication, Connections, Conversations, Mother, Mothering, Mothers and Sons, Parenting, Teenagers | Posted on 20-08-2013

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My son starts high school in two weeks. He starts high school football this week.

He is ready academically. Smart as a whip*, that boy. (*I think that is something my grandfather would say.) He is ready physically. Hello, six pack.

Not sure he’s quite ready mentally. Not sure I am, either.

We stopped by today to pay some fees and bam. If nerves (and excitement) were dollars, we’d have a wad. Yeah, both of us. The school was giant, with sprawling halls. It was also quiet. It’s gonna be a lot different in two weeks, when he may interact with 18-year-old guys with muscles, Abe Lincoln beards, and cars. And 18-year-old girls with attitudes, tight jeans, and good smells.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a big step, socially. Yikes!

I wrote about 20 things I would tell my high school self here. But today, at our favorite lunch spot–where we downed 13 plates of sushi–we also talked about what to expect in. High. School.

High school. It’s one of those foundational building blocks that help form you. You start at fourteen and end at eighteen. This is the transition to young adulthood.

My advice to him kinda went like this:

  1. Be yourself.
  2. It’s OK to be smart.
  3. Try something new (but not drugs).
  4. Show kindness.
  5. Try your hardest.
  6. Raise your hand.
  7. Be a good friend.
  8. Fresh breath, always.
  9. Stay true to your beliefs.
  10. Speak up.
  11. Have fun.
  12. Girls. They are wonderful. Get to know some.
  13. Join a club or two.
  14. Take chances.
  15. It’s OK to make mistakes. Learn from them.
  16. Don’t bad-mouth others. It always comes back.
  17. There will be drinking. But call us. No driving drunk.
  18. Don’t worry about what other people think.
  19. We believe in you. We are here for you.
  20. Enjoy the journey.

Yeah, no. We didn’t discuss all of that. That’s far too much talking, what with California Rolls and all.

I savor these lunches (and it’s not just the tasty, savory miso soup). But I savor the time to talk and laugh with my son–and stuff our faces. I look forward to many more of our sushi outings. One sushi roll at a time, one parenting tip at a time.

sushi plates

Maria Rocked The Sound of Music

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Communication, Love, Marriage | Posted on 02-10-2012

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It was a decade ago when my husband gifted me a guitar for my birthday. It was the sweetest birthday present ever. Sweet because he was supportive of my “musical dream.”

You see, I kinda wanted to be like Maria from The Sound of Music.

Dorky, right? Are you kidding? Maria was freaking awesome.

I wanted to learn to play Do Re Mi Fa and Old MacDonald Had a Farm for my young son. I was eager to strum along in his Kindergarten class down the line, to entertain the children with my forthcoming talents.

A glistening, wooden acoustic guitar smiled at me, beckoning. With new red picks, a tuner, a guitar case, and everything!

I tried to pluck. I tried to strum. I watched the DVD Playing Guitar for Dummies.

But I couldn’t do it.

I tried. For days. Weeks.

I just couldn’t get the hang of it.

Then, I got pregnant with my daughter. And I got busy with other things. Years passed. My guitar sat lonely in the corner of our living room, gathering dust.

Years later, people would visit and see the guitar and ask, “Cool. Do you play?” “Yeah, I play,” I would lie. Because saying “No, I never learned,” sounded so lame.

I later tried playing from time to time, but I didn’t have the patience (or the skill). I tried Guitar Hero. And I sucked at that too. Red. Green. Blue. Green. Red. Red. Yikes!

Now my daughter is nine and is learning to play the “fancy guitar in the corner of the living room.” We dusted it off. Bought her some new strings and neon picks. She has the patience. And she seems to have some talent.

I smile at her enthusiasm as she strums. And I smile that it was my husband who bought me the guitar in the first place.

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The Girl With the Handprint Tattoo

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Childrearing, Communication, Daughters, Family, Mothering, Mothers and Daughters | Posted on 15-08-2012

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The girl? My daughter when she was five, who was scared to perform at her tap dance recital.

She wore shiny, patent-leather tap shoes. Her hair was in “doughnuts” with ribbons. Her father, siblings, and grandparents were all in the audience waiting. And she wouldn’t budge. She had stage fright.

The handprint “tattoo?” Uh, that was from me. From gripping her wrist. Just before she was supposed to go on, I tried sweet-talking her. Encouraging her. Bribing her.

Nothing worked.

So, I transformed into Mommie Dearest. I gripped her wrist tightly and hissed under my breath:

YOU. GET. YOUR. LITTLE. BUTT. UP. ON. THAT. STAGE. AND. DO. YOUR. TAP. ROUTINE. NOW.

She did not argue. She did the routine with the others. There was no smile on her face. Were those tears in her eyes?

Ugh. Pit in my stomach. I felt horrible for the way I acted. I returned to my seat. And clapped when she was done. But I was pissed at myself. Why did I let a stupid little tap dance recital take priority over being supportive and reassuring? And kind?

Her “tattoo” quickly faded. But I’m not sure if my actions did.

We have talked about this. I apologized with tears in my eyes. My daughter forgave me.

Yet I wonder if she will remember the Mommie Dearest behavior long after the shuffle-hop-step fades. Because a mother’s words and actions are like a tattoo.

I Think People Don’t Really Wanna Know…

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Attitude, Communication, Connections, Relationships | Posted on 12-07-2012

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Sometimes I think people don’t really wanna care what you have to say…take a few basic-conversation questions:

  1. How was your vacation?
  2. How is work going for you?
  3. How are the kids?

Does the other person really want to know about your vacation? That you had potato skins as an appetizer, that your hotel comforter was comfy, and that you had perfect weather? No.

Does the other person really want to know about your work? That you’re working too many hours, that your deadlines are crazy, and your boss is cranky? No.

Does the other person really want to know about your kids? That one child had an eye infection, one got a B+ in science, and the other skipped to the next level in swimming? No.

I think people are so entrenched in their own lives that they don’t really want to hear much of anything care about the other person. What they really wanna hear is simply:

  1. How was your vacation? Great!
  2. How is work going for you? Busy!
  3. How are the kids? Happy!

And…you’re done. No time for details. No interest in two-way conversations. Where did the empathy go? It’s now sometimes more like a check-off-your-list: did I ask and did they answer? Check.

I think some people have forgotten their manners. Forgotten how to converse. Forgotten how to listen. Forgotten to care.