Handmade Christmas

Janie Kathryn had some very interesting and seemingly difficult requests this Christmas. From Santa, she requested "a purple polka-dotted baby doll, a nightgown, and Barbie furniture" to fill the dollhouse that Daddy and I were supposed to create for her. 2011 proved to be a very creative Christmas, but I can only take credit for the project designs. I had help with the execution. The nightgown and Barbie furniture were easy enough. Though 90% of the Barbie furniture was vintage, purchased on eBay. Modern Barbie furnishings belong in a doll-brothel, not a dollhouse! The custom dollhouse and baby doll specifications required clever thought and precise execution.

I thought the best route to take for a purple polka-dotted baby doll was to search for just the right rag doll, which I found on Etsy. I fell in love with the dolls at Mon Petit Amour and reached out to the shop owner, Vanessa. She turned out to be an absolutely delightful person and was eager to assist Santa with the special request. I shipped all of the materials to Vanessa, who worked hard to complete the request in time for it to be shipped back to Santa. Keep in mind it had to be packed into the sleigh before Santa left on Christmas Eve!  After all of this was set in motion, Janie Kathryn began to further specify that the doll should have WHITE polka-dots. I don't know if it was Santa himself or one of his elves, but someone hand-painted every dot on that doll. Janie Kathryn named her Sally. Sally is a treasured gift in the Skeen house. I can't thank Vanessa and Santa enough!

The Barbie House couldn't be outsourced to Santa or Etsy elves... at least not within my budget. We already had a house-shaped bookcase that I purchased unfinished and decorated for Janie Kathryn, years ago. So, I made a plan for Jorma, bought some wood, and put him to work.

Jorma did a wonderful job! It's was exactly what I wanted. Um, what Janie Kathryn wanted. Besides creative control, you're probably wondering about my part with these handmade holiday happies. Why decorating of course! I finally put to good use all of those quarts of paint samples I refused to purge.  The end result was a beautiful, albeit colossal, dollhouse!

...and one day, when the Barbie phase has come and gone, this beauty of a dollhouse can go back to being a bookcase. Perhaps, in someone's classroom.


A Teacherrific Christmas

The best part about being a teacher at Christmastime is V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Perhaps, the second best thing about being a teacher at Christmastime is the bounty of gifts exchanged during the days leading up to the holiday break. Okay, so I'm not a teacher yet, but I do work in 8 different classrooms with a total of 123 students.

I wanted to give my students a little Christmas treat, but needed to by mindful of my budget. Shopping or crafting, as it was, for 123 kids can be pretty costly! I got a jump start on this project, trolling the clearance page at Oriental Trading in September. That's right, September. I found some really cute snowflake buttons and star stickers. On their own, neither was particularly special. However, they were deeply discounted and together I thought they had gift-worthy potential.

More recently, I purchased coordinating candy canes, which turned out to be the most expensive piece of my gift (especially if you consider the ratio of broken canes). A couple of packages of clear treat bags and a few pieces of festive paper and I had some cute little gifts, if I do say so myself.

I know "it is more blessed to give than to receive," but I think both acts are equally fun! And I was certainly on the receiving end of some delightful holiday gifts this year. One of which really warmed my heart. One of my third grade students was concerned that since I do not have my own class, I wouldn't receive any gifts. So, she made me a Christmas ornament.  
One day, when I am a teacher and have many classes under my belt, I suspect I will have an entire Christmas tree dedicated to the ornaments given to me by my students. And I will always remember that it started with this one glittery red ball with black polka dots, given to me by a sweet student, when I was still a student myself.


Teacher Gifts

 I work very closely with eight awesome teachers. Naturally, I want to present them with a little happy for Christmas. So, I asked myself what would I want? Since iPads for everyone isn't in the budget, I changed the question. What do I need?

Not surprisingly, throughout the school day, there are several things I need and never seem to have at hand. Emery boards! At least once a week, I wish I had a nail file at my desk. And then, there are those crazy mornings, tantrums abound, when nothing goes smoothly. I never know if it is the five-year-old, bad hair-day tantrum or the thirty-something, my clothes-don't-fit tantrum, but it all results in the same mid-morning realization. I forgot to put on deodorant! So, I decided to go for equal parts practical and resourceful, with a dash of humor, and create emergency kits for my teacher friends.

Diet Coke for a caffeine fix. Deodorant for crazy, forgetful mornings. Sanitizer to battle the kid germs. Emery boards for snags and chipped nails. Tissues for when a student says there's a bat in the cave. Chap-Ice for dry lips. Certs for bad breath (also called out by said student). Band-aids for when you can't get to the nurse's office. Nail polish for a run in your pantyhose (circa 1988). Chocolate for when the mood calls for it. Assorted pins for MacGyver-ing just about anything!
And this is when my hoarding pays off. 
This girl never throws out an egg carton, paper towel roll, bottle cap, or coffee can!


The Cupcake Mom

I've been waiting to debut my new blog, until I had a post worthy of all the effort that went into my peachy design. Thanks to my dear Scott Moss for hosting my domain name. Could there be a better topic than baking, more specifically baking for the cookie swap at school

3 dozen petit fours, 
6 dozen mint chocolate chip cookies, 
5 dozen turtle cookies, 
6 dozen cran-rosemary rounds with orange glaze, 
and 5 dozen Mexican brownies with cream cheese frosting
- for a grand total of 300 yummies!

It's true, I love to bake. I can spend hours (6 today) in the kitchen, listening to music and making a huge mess that eventually looks like this (minus the ugly ones that Jorma and Janie Kathryn get to eat). I was thinking about the origins of my beloved pastime today.  
I wasn't always fond of the kitchen.  

When I was growing up, I remember being so envious of my friends who brought cupcakes to the class parties because their moms would walk them into class. It was an unfortunate disaster to send a child to school on the bus with cupcakes. Those cupcakes looked so delicious and I could just picture the mom happily baking them. I so wished I was assigned cupcakes to bring to the party and that my mom would have to tie on an apron and crank out a few dozen sprinkled confections. Alas, I was always assigned something like soda. Yep, that's right. We drank soda at school parties in the 1980's.

From the second I found out I was going to be a mother, I knew I wanted to be a cupcake mom. Bake sales, birthday celebrations, school parties- I was going to bring the prettiest, sprinkliest, yummiest baked goods anyone had ever eaten! Okay, so I'm no Cake Boss, but I sure do try and I have so much fun. It makes me wonder...
25 years from now, what will Janie Kathryn say she envied about her classmates? 


Back to School, School, and School!

And so it is- the unofficial end of summer! Oh no, do I keep the blog? Change the name? Hmmm. Jorma spent the last day of summer vacation waiting around the house for the AC repair man. Goodbye 85° indoor temperature, hello new and expensive air conditioning unit! At least we're going back to school, school, and school in a cool way.

This school year, Janie Kathryn and I both started new adventures. Janie Kathryn is an official Kindergartner. Not pre, not junior, but a larger than life SENIOR kindergartner. And believe me, she won't let you leave off the senior part. 
On the very same day that she entered the world of state-mandated educational practices, I entered the second part of my degree program- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Before I know it, I will be part of the state-mandated institution of education. In fact, an opportunity came a little sooner than I expected.

Not only are Janie Kathryn and I entering new learning routines, I am also beginning  my first job in education. I'm an official educator! After spending some time volunteering for the the lower school teachers at Janie Kathryn's school, I was offered a part time position as the Lower School Teaching Assistant! I will be working with 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades! I don't think I have ever been so excited to start a new job!

Back to school (Kindergarten), school (Bachelor's Program), and school (new job)! Whew. Janie Kathryn had a fabulous first day. Her teacher told me that she helped make the new students feel comfortable in the classroom. And I enjoyed my first day at work. Tomorrow I will meet my students- all 125 of them!  Farewell Summer.

Now, it's time to download a syllabus and figure out what's to become of my blog...


Beach-y Skeen

Vacation brings out the best in children, right? My child is at her best when we are on vacation...NOT, or should I say NO, which seemed to be Janie Kathryn's favorite word. It was as if she regressed to being three years old. I know that the root of the problem is the vacation itself- no routine, loose standards, too much sugar, late bedtimes...I get it. Don't get me wrong, we had an amazing time. Piña coladas, sand castles, America's Funniest Home Videos, Go Fish, George R. R. Martin ...  
It was a family fun to the max!

When we were a little over half way to the beach (an 8 hour drive) the portable DVD player died. It wasn't the battery that died, it was the DVD player. I thought that was going to be the downfall of the beach-y Skeens, but we made it a collective 12 hours in the car without a movie. Impressive.

We use the portable DVD player for long trips, though I have mixed feelings about that. Sure it brings peace and quiet for 90 minutes at at time, but I struggle with the fact that she watches too much television already. Do we devalue the vacation experience by allowing her to tune out? I mean, why shouldn't we have to endure the irritating road trip antics that we inflicted on our parents? Are we there yet, Are we there yet? How much longer? Then there are the pediatric researchers that link anytime-anywhere media to ADHD.
Ugh, how can something so wonderful be that bad? C'est la vie. Part of me takes it as a sign that we should bury the DVD player and be more actively engaged during our travels. This vacation proved it is possible. There's nothing like driving through Mississippi, gazing at kudzu or finding shapes in far off clouds, all the while a 5-year-old voice belts out, from the backseat, the lyrics of Queen's We Are the Champions. Then, my more cynical side thinks about our upcoming autumnal drive to Virginia (14 hours) and... Well, it's time to go shopping.


Were the 90's really that long ago?

This week I left Jorma and Janie Kathryn to join my oldest friends, who happen to be my cousins, for a girls' weekend in Atlanta. Judging from the leftovers in the fridge when I returned, Jorma's mom kept them fed while I was gone. (Full disclosure: Jorma does more than half the cooking when I am not gone.)
It's always nice to reconnect with close friends, especially when close friends are also family. With these gals, I don't have to excuse my neuroses. They understand my need to be the last person on the escalator. They think it's perfectly normal (for me) to plan Janie Kathryn's birthday party 6 months in advance and Jorma's 40th birthday 8 years in advance. And most importantly, no matter how it dates us, we all openly share a love for music from the late 90's.  

"At home, drawing pictures of mountaintops..."
Girls' Weekend is awesome- amplified by the fact that it can be broadcasted on facebook to prove that our lives are every bit as interesting as yours. [insert smiley face icon here]

It's a bittersweet thing to be away from my loves- my wonderful family who so affectionately cared for my stray kitty and welcomed me back with open arms (clean dishes, made beds, and a fresh pot of coffee). What more could a girl want?  Perhaps a 2012 Girls' Weekend.


Artfully Disappointing

Eight weeks of summer gone, three weeks to go. I'm ready for school to begin!

Janie Kathryn spent week 8 at Memphis College of Art (MCA) Camp. I do not recommend this camp for younger kids. I was very disappointed! Before I elaborate, I will say that Janie Kathryn had fun and wanted to return each day. So, she did enjoy it. With that said, I cannot express how disappointed I was with the organization of the camp and the lack of professionalism on the part of the MCA Camp staff. 

The Skeen Family will attend the MCA Summer Art Camp Showcase to see and collect what our budding Picasso created. However, we will not recommend this camp to our friends and have no plans to try it again...at least not until she is A LOT older. This is the short version of the story. 
[Please feel free to stop reading here.]

On day one, we arrived to wait in a line that spanned the length of the lobby (30-40 people long), to sign in. After I wrote Janie Kathryn's name on a line and signed my name next to it, I was told that Janie Kathryn needed to go downstairs to the auditorium.

So, down the stairs we went in, in search of the auditorium. At the bottom of the stairs we found a dark auditorium full of every child registered at camp, ranging in age from 5-17. While all the campers congregated, a movie (Marma Duke) played on a large screen at the front of the room. When it seemed like the room was nearly full, camp instructors began to appear and call role. When a camper's name was called, he or she would line up and follow their instructor to the classroom. Janie Kathryn's class was the next to last of a dozen classes to be called. Nervous, Janie Kathryn asked me to walk with her to class, where she kissed me and said her goodbyes outside the door.

Janie Kathryn was signed up for a morning and afternoon class. So, when I showed up to retrieve her, she was with a different teacher. A teacher who required no identification, who let every child comfortably wander off with the adult that came for them. This bugged me, but not as much the first days as it did later in the week. We repeated these steps the next morning, though the sign-in line was shorter and the movie was different.

On the third day things changed.
As I turned to walk down the stairs with Janie Kathryn, a young woman stopped me and said, "You cannot go downstairs, it is too disruptive." Confused by this, I explained that we are merely repeating the routine from the days before. She replied, "I understand, but you were not supposed to do that. It's in your contract."  Shut the front door! Are you seriously talking to a parent like this? I paid 300 freakin' dollars for this camp. This chick is either a really pretentious art [insert bad word here] or a clueless moron with no social skills! I maintained my composure and explained that it is a little unreasonable to expect a 5-year-old to walk into a dark auditorium, where she knows not one person, and has to find her own seat next to a stranger. (Mind you, she could be seated next to a 17-year-old boy!) This woman offered no solution and was ready let me walk out the door, since Janie Kathryn was not about to walk downstairs alone. Irate at this point, I suggested that she have someone walk Janie Kathryn to the auditorium and at the threat of missing camp for the rest of the week Janie Kathryn relented and disappeared with another camp employee.

I want to interject here, to say that there were several upset children in the midst of morning roll call. Janie Kathryn was not one of them. And I can understand how parents walking their children to the auditorium could be disruptive. Children who do not have a parent present might begin to cry when they see another child reluctantly saying goodbye to a parent that is present. However, if the camp was organized better, perhaps campers should congregate by age, there would likely be less nervous children!

When camp was over on the third day, Jorma conducted the pick-up. And once again, the sign-out sheet girl required no ID and the afternoon teacher was releasing kids right and left to the adults that came to collect them. Craziness!

In my experience, parents of only children can be more uptight. In my experience, younger parents can be a little more high strung. However, I refuse to believe that I am the only parent that had a problem with this camp! In the future, MCA would do well to take notes from the Memphis Zoo on how to effectively run a summer camp program.

The Skeen Family will attend the MCA Summer Art Camp Showcase to see and collect what our budding Picasso created. However, we will not recommend this camp to our friends and have no plans to try it again...at least not until she is A LOT older.


Oh Baby!

This post departs a little from our summer adventures, it's just that I know so many people that are pregnant this summer. The baby shower invitations are plentiful! Now, I'm not complaining. I enjoy a good baby shower. I get to buy the wittle, itty-bitty, cuteness that my child has outgrown. I participate in the cutesy little games- the appropriate ones, anyway. Ask me to smell a "soiled" diaper and identify the odor and I'm out! But my favorite thing about baby showers is when guests are asked to impart advice to a new mother.

There's nothing like getting a room full of women together and giving them permission to offer advice. I often find that the advice from the people who do not have children is the most entertaining. For instance, I was recently at a baby shower... the mother-to-be was showing off her new and pristine burp cloths, when someone asked, "what are those for?" Obviously, the question came from a person who has not been around babies. I explained, "They're burp cloths, they help catch all the stuff that comes out of baby, like when she spits up." To this explanation another non-mom replies, "Oh, that [spit up] doesn't happen if you do it right."  Touche, Oh wise one. Please go on... do diapers never leak either?

FYI: If you ever want to find out what you did wrong (err, should I say what others do right?) from pregnancy to birth to kindergarten, go to a baby shower! And let me just tell you- A mother has no harsher critic than another mother.

My words of advice to new mothers...
If you are constantly second-guessing your parenting decisions, don't worry, everyone else is second-guessing your decisions too! Just  know that there is no right way. There is just your way.


A Day of Doctors

WARNING: This post may contain unabashed bragging about my child. You have my apologies in advance. 
This is a two-part story, about visiting two different doctors.

Doctor #1: Dr. Mallory Mattice, Dog & Cat Clinic
I needed to take our fostered feline back to the vet and decided to let Janie Kathryn tag along. She's so interested in animals, I thought maybe she'd get something out of it. While I prepared the kitty carrier and the car, Janie Kathryn adorned her self with grown-up accessories. I suppose she wanted to look the part of a girl who gets to go to the veterinarian's office.

When we arrived at the Dog & Cat Clinic, I was pondering how badly the day would be if it started out with a cat pooping in the carrier on the way to the vet and would end with Janie Kathryn's kindergarten shots. Janie Kathryn walked in with her jewels gleaming and her purse on her arm, excited about all the animals she was about to see. 

When it was our turn in the examination room, I asked Janie Kathryn to sit on the side lines with my purse. The wonderful staff at Dr. Mattice's office cleaned the kitty carrier for me. When the examination was over, I went to Janie Kathryn for my purse, at the same time asking, "Dr. Mattice, what do we owe ya today?"

Janie Kathryn stopped me in my tracks and insisted, "I'm going to pay, Mommy." Awwww. I told her that I didn't think she should spend her money on the kitty and that she should save it for something she wanted to buy for herself. Yet, she insisted and, to my surprise, pulls $20 out of her purse that she swiped from her piggy bank before we left the house! I don't know if he was moved by her gesture or if he was just being generous to a couple of gals who are saving a stray, but Dr. Mattice interrupted our payment squabble, "No charge today, ladies." 

Doctor #2: Dr. Lelon (Bubba) Edwards, Peds East
When I was five, my dad took me to get my kindergarten shots. I remember every traumatic moment (even though it wasn't that bad). Afterward, we stopped by a house where there were a half dozen kittens playing on the front porch. At the time, I had no idea why we were there, but when we left, my dad told me I could take my favorite kitty home with me. 

A fond memory like that, combined with the fact that Jorma has taken Janie Kathryn for all of her shots until now... I was really stressed out about this whole vaccination thing. I wasn't sure how to approach the subject, so I checked out a book at the library and we started talking about it a couple weeks ago. On the way home from the vet, I dropped the bomb; Today is the day. She panicked a little at first, but fear gave way to bravery- a chance to prove herself a big kid. And what a brave, big kid she was! Not one tear. Two shots in one leg, two shots in the other. Times like these, tell just how much she is her father's daughter. 

As for a reward for her courage, we met up with Daddy and went out for ice cream. Come on, it's not like I could get her a kitty. We already have one too many! 


Perfunctory Photos to Picture Perfection

Oh man, oh my, oh me, there are a lot of photos taken by this family! And let's get this straight- It's not just that I take a lot of pictures. It's also that there always seems to be no less than 4 cameras directed in the general direction of my offspring. 
Digital Age= Opportunity & Affordability= Photos of Everything 

Do you think there exists a photo of the volcano I made in 
Mr. Lippiatt's class, my fifth grade year? I think not. 
And what about the time I was riding my bike and a horsefly was taunting me...Do you think there are any photos of the resulting crash when the handlebars of my bicycle twisted and turned with the rest of me? Noooooooo. 
May 22, 2010

Consequently, is it weird that I have these photos of Janie Kathryn? I mean, she was really proud of that wound, when she finally stopped screaming. For the record, this photo tells more than the story of her first skinned knee. It also reminds me of that bear, Pinky, which Janie Kathryn so loved, and on which I had to sew a pink cotton ball tail. Pinky was a boy, like most of Janie Kathryn's pink loveys. (However, Pinky is more gray than pink these days). Besides being weirdly nostalgic...what would you do with all the photos!? I try, very diligently I might add, to keep our memories organized and appropriately chronicled. 

It's not as easy as it sounds. I've been stressing out all week about using my photo book Groupons that are about to expire. I stayed up all night, one night last week, to complete an entire book! I needed to get it done before we left for our annual Independence Day weekend in Van Buren, Missouri...where there were no shortage of photos taken. 
Oh man, oh my, oh me. What will I do with all these photos? Does anyone order 4x6 photos anymore or do these pictures only exist on facebook? And if they only exist on facebook, where will they be in 25 years? 

I guess, I should get back to my to finishing my photo journal!


Oink, Oink

I remember the first time I rode in a car with my little brother, after he got his driver's license. It was at least a decade ago. He had this PETA sticker on the glove box. It had a little cartoon image of a lobster and it read, "Being Boiled Hurts! Lobster Liberation." I think I was giving vegetarianism a try at the time. At any rate, the sticker left its imprint on my memory. And while I do eat a variety of animals these days, lobster is not one of them.

It's funny, until you have tried vegetarianism (or married a vegan) you can't possibly know how judgmental and rude meat-eaters can be about not eating meat. And when you tell someone your child is vegetarian... There is no shortage of unsolicited advice and judgmental suggestions, like "Vegetarians are not healthy because they don't get enough protein" or "God created animals for humans to eat." You don't have to be as brilliant as my 5-year-old to contradict such idiotic statements.

So, Janie Kathryn was born to a carnivorous mother and a vegan father. We agreed to raise her vegetarian until she chose otherwise. I have to admit that I thought "otherwise" would be creeping up on us right about now. However, she seems independently steadfast in her decision not to eat meat. 

"Mommy, do you know that chicken on your plate is from a farm- It was alive and now it's dead?"
I get questions like this quite a bit. I nod and agree and she is satisfied. I'm strangely proud of it, I think. I see her struggle with her conviction, but her decision to remain vegetarian always prevails. When she is invited to parties or play dates where meat is served, she sometimes tells me that she "ate chicken nuggets," but later confesses that she didn't even want to try it. 

Just yesterday, she asked me, "If a person cooks fish do they have to eat it? I mean,like if a vegetarian makes meat, they don't have to eat it just because they made it, right?" I knew exactly what evoked these thoughts- Experiments in the Kitchen Camp. I explained that most vegetarians do not cook meat and that she can choose not to cook or eat anything that bothers her at camp! So, by choice, her blankets were pig-less. We made up for it later, when we prepared her camp recipe with Smart dogs instead of hot dogs.



Camp Miki

So, Janie Kathryn and I had some friends tagging along on our summer adventures this past week. If asked in advance how I felt about being responsible for three kids, I would have said, "No problem, I'm happy to help." Meanwhile, the voice inside my head would be screaming, "ARE YOU CRAZY!?"

Surprisingly, our back to back play dates went off without a hitch. Yes, there were a few of the usual tattles and an occasional frustrated shove (among the children, of course). However, we spent nearly a collective week together without incident. There was swimming and bowling and playing and picnicking. It was a veritable Camp Miki, at the very least rejuvenating my dedication to a fun and educational summer. 

When things went back to normal and, once again, it was just me and my not-so lonely only, we had a renewed energy for summer vacation.

We enjoyed crafting a gift for Father's Day and preparing a delicious breakfast of French Toast with Gingered Applesauce for Daddy. We spent time with dear friends, picking blueberries at The Nesbit Blueberry Plantation (breakfasts for the coming week will include blueberry muffins and pancakes, for sure!).

We even brushed off the dust on the ol' library card and joined Summer Reading Club. I mean, how can you go wrong with rewards for reading? 

Ah, a renewed energy for the summer- an important component, when there are still SEVEN weeks of summer vacation remaining. Perhaps, I should further explore this "Camp Miki" idea. Maybe the challenge of summer fun for a small group is just what I need to prepare myself for a career in teaching. Of course, I may need to revisit the whole minivan issue again, if I'm going to be busing a half dozen half-pints from one spectacular place to another. 

Now enrolling, Camp Miki: Session II


Hello, My Name is Miki and I Have an Irrational Fear of Visiting the Dentist

The honeymoon phase of Summer Break officially ended. When did it end, you might ask- It ended on Week 3, Day 1, in the dentist chair of Dr. Pat Clark. 
I have an irrational fear of dentists. To make matters worse, my adoring husband convinced me that, since I was only going in for a consultation for sedation dentistry (yes, that's right- sedation), it would be okay if I took Janie Kathryn to her semiannual appointment. While I was being counseled on the meaning of conscious sedation, Janie Kathryn was having her teeth cleaned. That was all well and good until they persuaded me to do x-rays. 

Janie Kathryn finished first (because she is the picture-perfect patient) and got to watch my x-rays. There is nothing like dental anxiety, a mouth full of plastic, and a 5-year-old asking 20 questions. And then, when I thought my level of anxiety had peaked an appropriate level in the presence of my child, the dentist tried to use the pick to scrape my teeth (GASP).  When I contested with two uncontrollable tears, he relented and began calling out to the hygienist all the irregularities with my teeth. One, occlusion. Two, cavity. Three, occlusion... Nine, crown...

Meanwhile, Janie Kathryn is in my peripheral, with her picture-perfect patient attitude, chanting "Mommy has a cavity, Mommy has a cavity," in between questions like, "Mommy, why did you wipe your eyes with that tissue?"
It was my own little version of hell. 

I suppose it is good that this was the beginning of Week 3. It was all downhill from there. And I've had two additional children in my charge this week. Three kids...piece of cake compared to going to the dentist. In fact, I'm thinking about starting a summer camp.
To Be Continued...


Reward or Bribery?

Ahh, the second week of summer. Is the honeymoon over? Surprisingly, it’s not (yet).  

This past week included ballet recital portraits (photos forthcoming). We went to the movies to see Kung-Fu Panda II- Janie Kathryn has declared that she will become the Kung-Fu Master of the Skeen House by summer’s end. We took our maiden bike ride on the Greater Memphis Greenline (awesomeness). Janie Kathryn caught her very first firefly and was over the moon! We spent A LOT of time swimming (and reading) at the JCC and rounded out the week by shopping for a new bathing suit for me. Note: If you ever need an unsolicited, honest, straightforward opinion of what you look like in swimwear, look no further than my daughter. Five-year-old girls are very (very) direct. 

We’ve had a great time this week, even squeezing in work with math, sight words, and science. However, I have been pondering the parenting puzzle of reward v/s bribery, in regards to successful piano practice and lessons. Recently, I instituted a new house rule (effective the day school dismissed for summer). Janie Kathryn does not receive a reward if she asks for it. This new rule nullifies the age old question, "Mommy, if I am good at the grocery store, can I get a treat?" No, you cannot get a treat for something that I expect of you anyway!

I mean really, she is five, she has to learn at some point that the world is not going to reward her for being a well-adjusted human being. In fact,  Reality TV tells us opposite. This brings me back to the perplexing parenting of piano practice...

Janie Kathryn is very musically inclined (this comes from her piano teacher, not the bias of her parents). However, as of late, she is getting lazy about it. She doesn't want to focus at lessons and fights practice at home. So, I've resorted to rewards- rewards which she, of course, anticipates for doing something that is expected of her anyway. You can see the hitch. 

If this were ballet or karate or soccer, I'd let her quit. However, I cannot let her give up on a gift. For now, I guess I'll tread lightly with my contrasting principles and hope that she thanks me for it later.
Fudge Pop anyone?


Bring on the Summer

We've been going non-stop since school got out, one week ago. Janie Kathryn and I spent a few days with friends in the Ozarks, Jorma and I attended the best party EVER, in celebration of the Majestic Grille's 5th anniversary, I hosted a baby shower for Jorma's sister, we spent time with extended family...AND my brother's fiancé asked me to be her Maid of Honor (and yes, I mean maid...I'm too young to willingly refer to myself as a matron!)

So, now that we've gotten this first week out of the way (and all the petits fours are consumed), it's time to settle into a peachy Skeen summer! I think this presents an accurate picture of what that might look like...