Carpool Lane

Carpool Lane - Meet Joline for a "CuppaJo" as she juggles two kids in school, homework, extracurricular activities and trying to find some "me" time.

 

 

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Snow Days. I'm Not a Fan.

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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WARNING.

I'm in a mood.

A snarky mood.

I do not, although it may sound like I do, HATE winter. Or snow. Or cold. Winter is winter. I learned the art of getting through winter from a 20 year stint in Chicago. Winter doesn't beat me. Yes, I'm cold. Yes, it's gray (nothing a light box can't help). Yes, there is snow. I get it. I'm cool with it.

But, then, there are the 2-hour delays for wind chill. And snow days.

I. Do. Not. Like. Them. Sam. I. Am!

I grew up in Northern Va., where my mom bundled us up to walk to school in 3 inches of snow, only to find the school closed. (We moved there from Albany, NY). I lived in Chicago for 20 years, and only once in 6 years of Harper being in school (pre-school to 2nd grade) do I remember ever having a snow day. I can't even recall if it was actually a full snow day. Come to think of it, it may have been a delay. Point being, it was so uncommon, that I can't remember.

But I'm not here to debate whether or not we should have snow days . . . so let me off the hook on that one. Walk in my shoes for a moment - I simply don't get them. (Really, save yourself the trouble of explaining it to me. I'm going in a different direction here.)

I don't need a snow day to create a memory with my children.

Yes, I love them.

And, it doesn't feel like they are growing up "too fast", and thus, I must treasure every single moment they are home.

Yes, I love them.

We are a TIGHT family. We are together a LOT. We are not over-scheduled and missing each other. We share each others burdens (Zane has been at no less than 3, 504 meetings for his sister), and we celebrate each others successes (Harper was super impressed with Zane at their karate test this week - and didn't hesitate to tell him). We cuddle and watch endless Dr. Who and Sherlock. We laugh with each other. We fight with each other.  We love each other. We annoy each other. We fold laundry together. And make messes together. Currently there are individual hearts on each of their bedroom doors with unique things I love about each one of them. I'm adding one a day for February.

We also have amazing experiences at the theater, vacations, skiing . . . heck, today, a snow day, we simply parked ourselves at the local coffee shop where they handed us a pot of tea, some milk, and sugar, and then we proceeded to watch Sunday night's episode of Downton Abbey.

But I have abandoned the pressurized stress (and guilt) that I must create a memory with every moment.

And especially moments with no school. Due to snow.

I work from home. My son is home-schooled. But when his sister is home from school, it's kind of hard to make the other one do his Language Arts. Plus, my children simply do MUCH better on a schedule. And one-day-on, the next-day-off (or delayed), and then back to normal, completely messes with them. Our mojo is off. The day after a delay or snow day is a difficult one.

"Back to the routine, kids!"

Maybe some don't understand this and are completely content taking long walks in the snow, sledding, and baking while sipping hot cocoa. That, sounds like a commercial to me. Or something the Bravermans would do. Only, they live in California. And they are fictional.

Me?

I'm all, "Enjoy the endless television, kiddos, and find something to eat. I know you say we never have "anything", but I think that fruit has your name on it. Find. Something. To. Do."

I am NOT their snow day cruise director.

Moms, if snow days/delays frustrate you, it's OK. If you adore them? And can't wait to do all sorts of neat winter things with your kiddos? That's cool, also.

But if you need to find me?

I'll be hiding in my room, reading a book.

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I'm a Parent of a Teenager

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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13.

She's 13.

I am now the parent of a 13 year old.


And as I sit here listening to the laughter and squeals and amplified voices coming from the basement during my daughter's slumber party, I am thankful.


My lovely daughter, asked for legos.


And another Egyptian excavation kit.


As well as an iTunes card. (A girl has to have her music.)


But so far, for the most part, we still have a kid. Her wardrobe isn't that important. Boys? Forget about it. We ain't got no time for that drama. And don't mention makeup. She'll look at you as if you have two heads.


She's a techie lovin', lego buildin', ski hat wearin', guitar playin', karate choppin' 13 year old. And right now, she's in the basement with the music blarin', while she and a small group of friends play "Model Mishaps" - a birthday party tradition.


I remember myself at 13. 7th grade. Already boy crazy. Mindful of what I wore. Wanting to be so much older than I was. She is so very different than I was at that age.


And I am grateful.


Take your time, Harper. There is no rush.
I love you just the way you are. I LIKE you just the way you are.


And I hope you do, too.


 

Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and is the founder of Daily Fast Fuel. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 12 and 8, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Scrapbooking Failure

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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"Mom, where are the rest of my books?"

My poor son.

My poor forgotten son.

Sigh.

Last night, my daughter had the sudden urgency to look through the scrapbooks I had made for her. Birth-2nd grade. (Note: she's now in 7th. Her books, however, stop in June of 2009.)

My son, while enjoying his sister's books, kept looking for photos of himself as we strolled down her Memory Lane. He didn't show up until she was four. So, truly, there wasn't much of him to see.

I do have a book of his first year. So, I enthusiastically whipped it out.

"Yes, I've seen this one. Where are the rest?"

Sheepishly. "Um, I have some pages done for your second year, also . . ."

He turns 9 tomorrow.

Here's the truth. When I was consistently scrapbooking with a group of ladies on a Friday night once a month - with dinner beforehand, long tables set up, tools, gadgets, and supplies on hand to borrow or purchase, the conversation flowing . . . I was ON TOP OF IT.

I then moved, and never found that community. Yes, I could make online photo books of their lives, but I truly enjoyed the process of creating with my hands: designing formats, choosing papers, and stickers, and writing personal sentiments for them. I liked that my children would have books made by ME. They would not be perfect. Or always polished. I just haven't found a space in my house, nor the time, honestly, to continue scrapbooking faithfully. I totally enjoyed that the scrapbooking events I attended were hosted by someone else who set up and cleaned up after just around 6 hours of hard, yet fun, work.

Last night, however, I felt awful. I still feel awful.

I apologized up and down to my boy.

And, as he usually does, cause he's such a love, he gave me a hug and grace.

"Mommy, it's really ok! Really!" (Quickly followed up by asking if I had more pictures of him - which I DO! Many . . . unorganized. The iPhone has been a thorn in my organizing side.)

I am actually considering hiring someone on Elance, to tap into my system, and organize all my photos.

No joke. While I won't hire someone to make my scrapbooks, I will delegate someone to do that remote system capture thing, and play around in my files to organize them all.

THAT I would pay for.

Are you a scrapbooker? Or a drop-out like me? And fess up. Are your digital photos completely organized in files by year, month, and event? (If they are, good on you. I'm envious!)


 

Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and is the founder of Daily Fast Fuel. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 12 and 8, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family.

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Christmas Aftermath

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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It worked!

It worked!

Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read.

I'll be honest. I was a bit worried. We REALLY limited the amount of "stuff" that our kids accumulated for Christmas this year. I gave their gifts a lot of thought and it "paid off". I didn't spend a ton - and THEY, loved what they received. Other than a bike, which was a "want" and paid for my two sets of grandparents and us, the gifts were low key this year.

As my kids went to bed on Christmas Eve, I reminded them each WHY they receive gifts.

"Why do we give you gifts?"

"Because you love me."

"Do I give you gifts because you are good?"

"No."

"Do I withhold gifts if you do something bad. Or disappoint us?"

"No."

"Do I give you gifts because you earned them? Or deserve them?"

"No."

"So, tell me again. Why do Daddy and I give you special things?"

"Love."

"Because God first loved us. And there is absolutely no way we could earn His gift of love. I can't WAIT for your to enjoy your gifts tomorrow. I'm so excited!!!!!"

That's the message I want to seep into hearts.

We give our children gifts because we love them. Not because they have done something to earn them. This is a big deal with us. Perhaps it's an issue of semantics, but in our household, the kids can earn privileges. They can work towards goals. But, gifts? In the truest sense of the word are never earned. They are simply given because we love the recipient. Period.

I loved their faces this morning. Their surprise. Their attitudes. They are seriously growing up. Which is hard. And fantastic. All at once.

I asked them both what their favorite gift were this year.

My son answered quickly. "The Rainbow Loom and the bike!"

My daughter?

"Probably the iTunes gift card. I was totally surprised this year."

Mission accomplished.

Now, guess whose kids have birthdays in January.

Time to start all over . . .



Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and is the founder of Daily Fast Fuel. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 12 and 8, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

We Don't Do Santa, and the Kids Are Just Fine

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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We've never done Santa in our house.

Our kids are 12 and 8, and Santa has never visited.

Now, before you gasp, and feel badly for them, (although I realize that's a huge assumption on my part) let me assure you:

They are fine.

I grew up with Santa. We always did Christmas at my grandmother's house in Brooklyn, New York. I remember, each Christmas Eve, after a blow-out of a food orgy with tables lined up from the kitchen at the back of the house to the front door, we would call a number that started with CL9 to hear a thick NY accent telling us where Santa was in the world at that very moment. "Thanks fuh colling." Click.

We would be hurried up to bed, only to be woken by the sound of sleigh bells, at what I  think was around midnight. We'd meet Santa downstairs. Santa was always played by some member of the family (one year, even my Nanny, my other grandmother), and would always enter from the front door. He, er, she would give us one present and tell us to go back to bed. I wonder how they chose who played the jolly fella? Flip of a coin? Whoever had consumed the most spiked egg nog?

After Christmas in New York, we'd drive back home to Virginia to find that Santa had also been to our living room! And to our Nanny's apartment downstairs. Absolutely amazing! After driving 6 hours, we'd stay up opening presents.

My parents must have been exhausted.

When I became a mother, and interestingly enough, when my sister became a mother, we both decided, independent of one another, NOT to go the Santa route.

Our issues stemmed from our difficulty with the idea of our children only receiving gifts for being good - that the gifts had to be earned based upon behavior. And, if the behavior didn't measure up? They got nothing.

The whole, "naughty or nice", "'I'm getting nutin' for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy are mad" or other well-meaning adults cautioning a young child with, "You better be good or Santa won't bring you anything," bothered me so very much.

It should be noted that my parents never threatened these traditional Christmas pressures. They just seemed to linger in the air.

Whereas, I want my children to know that real gifts are NOT earned. We give our children gifts because we love them. Not based upon what they have or have not done. Gifts are free. They should not come with a price. Or an expectation on the giver's behalf that the receiver will be perfect.

A gift, in its simplest form is not withdrawn if one makes a mistake. Even if that mistake is making "Tommy eat a bug". Who remembers that song?

Case in point. Jesus is a free gift given to us by God. We've done nothing to earn Him.

No strings.

Now, here is what I'm NOT saying.

I am not saying that Santa is bad. Or should not be done. Or that I believe everyone should approach Christmas as I do - using St. Nicholas as our example and reading stories about what he actually DID do, while leaving Santa in the dust because he's some kind of false god.

I. Didn't. Say. That.

Not a all.

But I have heard people share concern for the children of parents who don't do Santa. That they are missing the magic and wonder of Christmas. What about the creativity?! We can be creative without Santa.

This is exactly why we take 24 days to invest ourselves in Advent. A little trinket here. An outing. A baking surprise. A craft. Something small . . . (sometimes larger) every day leading up to Christmas morning. Heck, I even made cake pops this week. THAT, is a Christmas miracle. And a gift. Because, as as rule, I don't bake. ('Cause I suck at it.)

One day, if our kids choose to do Santa with their families - that's fine by us, too.

Meanwhile, my son is glad to know that some guy in a red suit is NOT watching him while he's sleeping or tracking his every move.

I'm glad I can relieve that concern for him.

(And don't worry, we won't ruin the surprise for your family. My kids have been taught not to blow the secret!)



Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and is the founder of Daily Fast Fuel. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 12 and 8, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.