A Lesson Learned from Happy Family Pictures

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective | 7 comments

Last night we had our family pictures taken.  Not only were we due (it’s been two years since our last pictures), but I also needed some current pictures to help promote my memoir Twin Turbulence.

Even though our appointment with Nicole Barczak-Photography had been on the schedule for almost two weeks, I waited until yesterday afternoon to prepare for our evening photo shoot.  I tend to approach life with the mindset that things will work themselves out.  I rarely stress about future events – I’m just not wired that way.

I really didn’t feel like shopping yesterday either, but it was a necessity to coordinate our outfits for the pictures.  The five of us started in the TJ Maxx kids’ department.  It’s close to our house, and Craig and I were confident we could find something in our closets to wear.  In all honesty, we were hoping to avoid a trip to the mall.

My only dress code requirement was that everyone feel comfortable in the picture – which automatically ruled out the possibility of our twins dressing alike.  At 8 years-old, their styles are completely different.  However they were quick to agree that they did not want to wear dresses.  I was surprised and a bit disappointed, but I took a deep breath and conceded.

I had no vision for the picture, so I let the girls dictate the color scheme.  Immediately Taylor found a pair of hot pink shorts that she had to have.  Then she found a navy blue Splendid tank top, and a sleeveless denim shirt that she could tie at the bottom so it would be short and tight, with the tank sticking out below – her current look of choice.  She already had a pair of  hot pink Sperry’s at home, so T was set.

As luck would have it, Sydney selected an adorable loose and flowing navy blue frock shirt with green and hot pink flower accents to compliment Taylor.  Sydney likes to layer too, but was content to wear the hot pink tank top and jean shorts from her dresser at home.

Meanwhile, Gabe and Craig spotted a khaki pair of DKNY cargo shorts for Gabe, but had no luck finding a shirt.  Gabriel’s only request was that he didn’t have to wear a collared shirt.  I took another deep breath and conceded, and off to Nordstrom we went to find a shirt for Gabe and shoes for Sydney.

When we got there, Gabe found a double layered v-neck.  It was gray on the bottom with tiny navy and white stripes on the top.  He looked handsome and felt cool – a win-win for my 10 year-old pre-teen.

We found perfect navy blue and pink Sperry’s for Sydney, and brown Reef flip flops for Gabe.

Craig and I both wandered through our sections, but neither one of us found anything that screamed, “This is it!  You must have this for family pictures!”  My mind was stuck on a lightweight green sweater at home, and I was pretty sure it would work.

On our way out of the mall, Sydney found me a hot pink belt to compliment the girls’ outfits; which then inspired me to wear my hot pink penny loafers.  It was all coming together and I was really excited.  Everyone hopped into the car happy with their selections, and we returned home in under three hours.

Craig rolled up the sleeves of a navy button-down from his closet.  He looked very handsome.  I felt comfortable in my green sweater and my hair cooperated fantastically.

The kids got themselves dressed, and I helped them with their hair.  Taylor wore her’s down and wavy.  Sydney opted to pull her bangs up with a decorative flower, and left the rest straight.  Gabe chose to brush his softly to the side, instead of his usual spike.

Believe it or not, we were ready early.  We were all comfortable and satisfied with our appearances.  No one was stressed.  There was not one single fight.  Even the weather cooperated beautifully.

I learned a very valuable lesson.  The deep breaths and concessions to honor the opinions of my children did not come easily.  However because I chose to let go of control, our picture preparation was not out of control.  We went into our family pictures happy for a change – which was a perfect reason to smile.

Read More

Pure Michigan – The Best Part? Finally some fun in the sun!

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective, Musings from the Mayhem, Raising Great Kids | 0 comments

Last night, the girls had a playdate with a friend named Ashley.  The weather was perfect.  One of those rare days in Michigan that makes living through the gray, wet, cold snow seem worthwhile.  The kind of evening that beckons you outdoors, as if there’s no choice in the matter.  Craig even came home early to celebrate the sunshine, which rarely happens.

The girls went inside just long enough to put on their bathing suits.  Then they flew out the screened door to find the hose.  They giggled with delight as they chased and sprayed each other with the cold stream of water.  They worked together to make mud puddles, and squealed as they dove in elbows deep.  Their fun was pure and uninhibited – they were high on Vitamin D.

It made me so happy to watch them.  So happy to see them that free.  Free from coats, hats, gloves and a pre-mature dark sky.  Free from homework that still had to be done, but just couldn’t compare to the importance of their first taste of summertime fun.  Free from electronics, television or messy art projects that help to pass the time spent indoors.

I texted Ashley’s Mom to see if she could stay longer.  The kids were having too much fun to send her home, and Craig and I were content just watching them play as we grilled out on the porch.

When it was time to eat, the kids had to hose their muddy selves down before coming to the table.  Conversation flowed easily as they devoured the steak with mushroom sauce, potatoes and broccoli.  As usual, Taylor proposed that we play “Best Part/Worst Part.”  I suggested we let Ashley go first, since she was our company.  She declined shyly, so Sydney and Taylor took the lead.  After they had taken turns sharing their best parts of the day, Ashley decided she was brave enough to participate.

“My best part of the day was doing a super cool science experiment!  We put a rock and a piece of paper into some water.  The rock got wet, but the paper didn’t!” she shared her story in true 7 year-old fashion.  We got the basic gist, and chose to be satisfied without needing all the details.

The girls both smiled politely as they listened.  When she finished sharing, they asked her questions about the experiment.  They reminisced with excited familiarity when they realized they’d done the same experiment last year, as they are one grade ahead of her.

Finally, Sydney couldn’t stand it any longer.  I knew it was coming, and was surprised it hadn’t already been brought up.  “Do you have any other best parts, Ashley?” she asked in an inquisitive tone that sounded leading.

Ashley could sense the expectancy in Sydney’s voice, but couldn’t quite grasp the direction of the question.  She offered an insecure smile to Sydney and raised her brow with quiet confusion.

“Like maybe another best part would be this playdate?” Sydney probed excitedly.

“Oh yeah!” Ashley agreed whole-heartedly.  “This is my best part too!”

Sydney threw her head back and giggled.  “I knew it would be!” she stated with certainty.  “But I didn’t want to say, Hey!  What about this playdate??‘ ‘cuz my Mom would have said, ‘Sydney!  That’s rude!!!’”  As she spoke, she waved her hands in the air and rolled her eyes dramatically while gesturing at me.  Her animated prediction made us all laugh.

I was amused by the forethought of her accusation of me.  She was exactly right.  I would have told her that it was rude.  I would have reminded her that Ashley’s best part of the day didn’t have to include her.  Ashley’s best part is about  Ashley – no one else.  They’ve heard it from me a thousand times before.

It was a great moment.  Sydney’s words reassured me that it is worth my time to repeat the important lectures.  It is worth the exhausting patience and persistence it takes to teach them how to be kind and respectful.  It is worth the effort to teach them how to be good listeners who can partake in unselfish conversations.

It made me happy to realize that my hard work is paying off.  The lessons I teach my kids not only shape who they are, but also determine how they treat other people.  They are learning to trust my voice even when I don’t speak.

I’m tellin’ ya…it was a great day in Michigan.


Read More