Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Week 31: Kids in Control

I have dressed my children almost every day for over 11 years.  And I remind them to do their chores, to brush their teeth, to wash their faces, to make their beds, to practice dance/riding exercises/soccer drills/piano/etc.  As though that weren't enough, in addition to all of the general bossiness that comes along with being a parent, my children are also homeschooled. 

In summary, my children receive my well-intentioned input nearly 24/7.  Poor kids.

I read an article on Babble a couple of months ago about a mom who had her young son pick out her clothes every day for a week...complete with mismatched shoes and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt.  My first reaction was, "This is so cute, I wish I had thought of doing that with my kids when they were younger." 

But if I'm being truthful, deep down, I think I was a bit relieved I thought the time had passed because, well, who wants to walk around feeling self-conscience?  

Hair, clothing and accessories have always been important to me.  They have never been as important as faith and family, but they have been highly-ranked for as long as I can remember.  Even in my childhood when money was tight and a portion of my clothing was shopped for at Goodwill, I managed to put some killer outfits together thanks to the lessons I learned from my stylish grandma and the love of classics I inherited from my mom. 

After having the Babble article percolate in my mind for a month or so I pitched the idea to my children as we ran errands for Week 29's activity.  I explained that I'd like to do something nice for them...to hand over some control.  I told them that each of them would have two days to plan my outfits, hair, jewelry and shoes and in addition, plan an activity for us to do during the day.  

The rules I laid out for myself were: I could tell NO ONE about this "experiment" until it was over and I had to make eye contact, smile, and interact with strangers wherever we went.  The latter certainly isn't out of the scope of everyday activity for me, but seeing as I had no clue what I'd be wearing for the next six days, I wanted to make the interactions a verbal requirement to hold myself to.

The kids LOVED the idea and were eager to begin making their selections.  I assume you, the reader, feel similar anticipation regarding the viewing of their selections, so, without further ado...

Day 1 - My 6 year old daughter was thrilled to have the first day!  She selected the shirt because it had birds on it, the pants because they were green (her favorite color), the shoes because they were "shiny and look like cheetahs" and a small braid framing each side of my face.  I wore this fun outfit on a walk to our favorite local custard stand where we got a few scoops with fun toppings.  On the way home we stopped at a playground. I noticed one woman take in my shoes and silently judge my selection while we waited for our custard.  When she looked up I smiled and said, "Hello, how are you?  Isn't it a beautiful day?"  She smiled awkwardly, said yes, and walked away. 

Day 2 - My 8 year old daughter was in control on day two.  Without any hesitation she picked out my silk-patched jeans (she has similar jeans and loves that we can match) and then a navy shirt with pick embroidery "to match the pink in the patches."  The shoes were chosen because they were colorful and my hair was instructed to go into a French braid (she's been obsessed since learning how to craft them last month).  Her planned activity was a bike ride to a local ice cream parlor for cones (are you seeing a dairy treat theme yet?) that we ate outside in the sun.

Day 3 - My 11 year old son, a huge Green Bay Packers fan, picked out my outfit and our outing on day three.  He made a beeline for my green and gold shirt and paired it with some teal chinos and moccasins.  I never would have put these pieces together, but I have to say I really dig it and just might wear this ensemble again.  My son wanted my hair "down and plain" for the day and instructed me to put it behind my shoulders for the picture "to really show the shirt."  We visited a local coffee shop for their baked Irish oatmeal (one of his favorite meals) for his outing which we ate outside. A man smiled back at me and told me he liked my moccasins and concluded with "Go Pack Go!" 

Day 4 - My youngest was back in the driver's seat for day four.  Later in the day, when I told my husband I was running out in my carefully-crafted outfit he asked, "Are you going to the grocery store or to the circus?"  My favorite 6 year old picked out gray wool trousers with a small plaid comprised of burgundy and cobalt blue and to compliment them she chose a turquoise shirt, bright orange belt, cross necklace and black high heels...and a turquoise ribbon to tie in a bow around my ponytail.  When she saw it all put together she gasped and said, "You look so pretty!"  Tears formed in my eyes as I smiled back and hugged her.  We went to Dairy Queen for cones dipped in a hard cherry coating and while I may have felt uncomfortable in this outfit otherwise, my daughter's loving words stayed with me and I thought of them every time I caught my reflection in a mirror or window.  And not a single person gave me an odd look the entire day.  Well, except my husband.  (:

Day 5 - My oldest daughter picked out my patched jeans again for day five and the same "colorful shoes," but this time she paired them with a "matching" colorful belt and maroon shirt.  She wanted my hair in a loose braid down my back "like I wear to Irish dance" she explained.  Her planned activity was a trip to a different local coffee shop for their monster cookies, which my kids go gaga for.  "Can we each get our own?" she asked.  "You're in charge," I said, even though the cookies are roughly the size of their heads.  We obviously ordered four cookies.  And enjoyed every bite.

Day 6 - For our final day my son picked out "just your normal jeans" and a gold-striped shirt that he said he thinks I "look nice in."  He picked out some coordinating taupe flats and instructed me to wear my hair down.  He also asked me to change from the cross necklace I had been instructed to wear the previous two days to my Tali Gillette mama necklace that has rarely left my neck since his baby fingers fit into the center.  Everyone cheered when he said we were heading to local caramel apple boutique for his activity.  We even saved a slice for daddy!  

So, what did we gain through this activity, outside of satisfying our sweet teeth? Quite a bit, actually:
  1. My children greatly enjoyed having control over their day and took pride in the selections they made.
  2. People you meet on the street don't really notice what you're wearing...but they do notice when you smile and engage in conversation.  
  3. My daughters (girls) prefer my hair back and my son and husband (boys) prefer my hair down.  I don't think this is a limited preference to only the males and females in my family.
  4. Children are not in a hurry to get places...the means of transportation to a destination is much more important that the timeliness of arriving there.  They chose to walk or bike almost everywhere we went.  Note to self: I need to slow down and enjoy the ride.
  5. Apparently my children don't appreciate my "plain jeans" as much as I like wearing them.
  6. Relinquishing control is healthy and feels good.  Waking up without any decisions to make over my appearance was very freeing.  
  7. My children have inherited my mom and grandmas' impressive sense of style. 
  8. Kind and encouraging words have the power to make you feel pretty and turn your day around.  Spread kindness. 
When tucking my children into bed on day six my daughters asked if they could dress me again in summer "so we can put you in skirts and dresses."  My son quickly added that mini-golfing will be one of his activities. 

I now have another reason to look forward to summer!

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” - Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Week 30: Supporting Our Servicemen and Women

I have many friends and family who are actively serving or have proudly served our country in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force.  I am in awe of their sacrifice and devotion to our freedom on a daily basis.  For week 30 of the Kindness Countdown I reached out to some of them to ask what the best way to honor their sacrifices would be...and they directed me to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

The donation that I made will help the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society's efforts to provide (free or interest-free) financial assistance and education to military members and their family members, widows and survivors. 

The main goal of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is "to help each person who comes to us get support for their immediate needs."  Their long-term mission is "to help Sailors and Marines become financially self-sufficient by learning how to better manage their personal finances and prepare for unplanned expenses."

Services provided by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society include:
  • Financial Assistance and Counseling
  • Quick Assist Loans
  • Education Assistance
  • Health Education and Post-Combat Support
  • Budget for Baby classes
  • Emergency Travel
  • Disaster Relief  
If you'd like to donate to the Society visit www.nmcrs.org.

"America's fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for the cause as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battlefield unscathed." - Allen Boyd

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Week 29: Wishing Well

The Kindness Countdown hit the road and traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for week 29!  My mom and I took a road trip to visit our cousin where I felt fortunate to not only have days waiting to be full of laughs and memories, but also to have her by my side as I gave wishes away.

We visited the beautiful fountain show above at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on our second day in Nashville before heading over to Broadway to listen to some music. 

In preparation for this road trip random act of kindness I wrote this little rhyme and laminated my sign to ensure it could hold it's own against the water in the fountain and the evening showers the Tennessee forecast corrected predicted. 

I taped the sign to a large plastic container and filled it with 500 pennies...500 wishes that I hope come true. 

I had intended to check back on the pennies later in the day but the city was quite congested due to a convention downtown and we weren't able to check on it's progress.  I hope the dreams of locals on lunch, musicians looking for their big break, and tourists on vacation come true!

After years of my mom reaching into her purse in search of change for me to toss into countless wishing wells, I finally had an opportunity to fund her wish.  I will forever remember watching as she selected her lucky penny from the bin and tossed it over her shoulder with her eyes closed. 

It was my wish come true. 

"Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck. 
Give it to a faithful friend, then your luck will never end."
- Origin unknown

If you'd like to download a sign to leave with some pennies at a fountain near you, click on the image below.  (:


Monday, April 6, 2015

Week 28: Parking Ticket Pass

The weather in southeastern Wisconsin has been lovely: in the 50s and 60s with loads of bright sunshine.  After a long winter, this welcome change in temperature brightens spirits and brings everyone outside. 

Restaurants and shopping centers are full, co-workers grab drinks after work, families flock to the parks, and large quantities of runners and walkers can be seen on sidewalks and trails, finally having an opportunity to abandon treadmills and elliptical machines.

Last week Wednesday I spent a rare night out with co-workers (I freelance and work from home 99.9% of the time).  I made a mental note to bring coins for the parking meter that morning to avoid a parking ticket...a lesson I've learned the hard way on more than one occassion.  And that's when I came up with this Kindness Countdown activity.

I grabbed my jar of quarters and decided I'd save others from the misfortune I've "suffered" in the past.

That night, after saying goodbye to my friends/co-workers, I set off on my task.  I visited the large outdoor shopping center, where the parking meters there remained in full effect, on my way home. 

There was an abundance of expired meters due to the growing dinner crowd and after work errand-runners.  I went down two stretches of the mall armed with $10 in quarters and added 20-35 minutes to all of the meters flashing red. 

"What are you doing?" a woman out walking her dog asked me.  "I'm just adding a few minutes to some expired meters," I explained.  "Where were you last week when I got a ticket?" she said, laughing

Sometimes lines are longer than you're expecting or the dessert menu looks too good to pass up.  It's easy to lose track of time.  And there few things worse than finding a parking ticket on your car after enjoying a delicious piece of molten lava chocolate cake or cracking into some crème brûlée

"Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out." - Frank A. Clark