NWI Parent

Mommy/Daughter Day at the Mall

March 14th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

Now that I’m married and Isabella has to share me with Justin, it’s important that I spend some quality one-on-one time with her every once in a while, just to give her that undivided attention that she was used to having for the past eight years. Justin had to work yesterday, so I saw it as a fitting time to have a spontaneous mommy/daughter day.

Once I announced this to Isabella, we excitedly started brainstorming things to do. “Let’s get our nails done!” I suggested, thinking there’s no way my little tomboy would go for it. But:

“Yeah! Mom, yeah, let’s get our nails done!!” she said. I was shocked.

We decided to go to a nail salon located inside the mall, which upped the girliness of the day by a gazillion. Let the female fun begin…

Stop 1: Nail Salon

Isabella’s favorite color is blue, which is why she chose this electric shade. And we splurged on the white swirly designs that only look cute on girls under the age of 10.

BellaNailsClose

As for me… I rarely ever wear colored nail polish, so Isabella implored that I pick not only a colorful shade but a completely unique one—”not something boring like red or pink.” I’ve noticed that Kim Kardashian wears black nail polish a lot and it looks fabulous on her, so I thought I would try it. What I hadn’t considered is that KK has bronze Armenian skin and I have pale white skin, which is only further illuminated by the black nail polish. So, not the best pick, but Isabella got her wish for mom to be outside the box.

MyNails

Stop 2: The Trampoline/Bungy Jumpy Thing

Isabella used to be terrified of anything that a) launches her high into the air, and b) puts her on display in front of gobs of people, so when she asked if she could go on this apparatus, I was so excited about the overcoming of her fears, I couldn’t say no.

BellaJumpDown

Look how high she jumped!

BellaJumpUP

Stop 3: Claire’s

When we walked by this signature mall staple, the litany of pink sparkly things drew us in. We spent a good half hour in the store, just trying things on and having fun. Here, Isabella proudly claimed the throne of Rock Princess.

RockPrincess

I’m pretty sure we tried on every single pair of sunglasses in the store.

MyShades

BellaShades

Stop 4: TGI Friday’s

After spending a little more time shopping, we worked up an appetite and ended the day at TGI Friday’s. I love going out to eat with Isabella because she gets just as excited about food as I do. Particularly cheesecake…

Cheesecake

This girl loves cheesecake more than anyone I’ve ever met. I love that about her. What 8-year-old kid likes cheesecake? This one, that’s who. And to say she talks about it every single day is not an exaggeration. I rarely indulge her desire for the expensive treat, but today, it seemed the perfect way to end a perfect day.

Cheesecake2

Both our tummies and our hearts were full as we drove home. My wallet, on the other hand…

Filed under: parent.

Blah Blah Blues

February 28th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

I’m in a funk.

Between the permanently gray skies, the cold, damp air, and overall stress, lately I’ve just been . . . not myself. By the time I get home from work every night, I have no motivation to do anything other than eat, sleep and watch TV. I knew things were really bad when I played Wii MarioKart for over an hour. All by myself. On a Wednesday night. (*cringe*)

Growing up, my siblings and I were always expected to be busy—usually cleaning the house. We weren’t allowed to lie on the couch and watch TV unless the place was spotless. Laziness was simply not an option in our home. I hated it at the time and still feel a little like I missed out on a “normal” childhood. But mostly I’m grateful that my parents instilled such a strong work ethic in me.

Of course, that work ethic is not evident lately, as I lounge around in my Snuggie watching reality shows and eating cookies. While I tell myself this behavior is only temporary, I see how easily it can become a habit without realizing it. And I don’t like the way I feel. I’m eating poorly, so physically I feel heavy and sluggish. Plus, because of my upbringing, I have this looming sense of guilt whenever I sit around doing nothing. It makes me feel like less of a person. And of course, I don’t want Isabella to follow my example. Luckily, she has a lot of energy, so she’d rather be bouncing around the house than lying low. But still I don’t want her to think that her mother is a sloth.

In the end, I know this is just a funk, a phase, and that I’ll snap out of it when the weather gets better. But until then, if anyone has any suggestions on how to get my mojo back, I’ll gladly take them.

Filed under: parent.

Laugh Out Loud

February 3rd, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

We laugh a lot in our house. Justin has a dry, quick wit; sometimes I’m in awe that he can think of funny comebacks so quickly. And Isabella is quite the comedian herself. She wears outlandish outfits, makes funny faces and it sounds like she’s becoming a class clown at school.

One time, Isabella had a friend over. While we were eating dinner, Justin was cracking jokes left and right, and the friend says to Isabella, “Your family’s funny.”

Isabella clarifies, ever-so-nonchalantly, “Oh no, my mom’s not funny.”

Ouch! I guess I know now what my daughter thinks of me. I’m just boring ol’ Mom. This wouldn’t be such a big deal except I’ve always been insecure about my inability to make others laugh. I grew up in a funny family myself, yet I seemed to have missed that gene. Now I’m building my own family, and I’m STILL the odd man out! I just can’t win.

There is one trick that gets Isabella every time. Whenever I employ this tactic, a wide smile spreads across her face and before you know it she’s belting out belly laughs.

All I have to do is sing and dance.

I discovered this one night while Isabella and I were driving home from somewhere. I started singing along with a song on the radio and then began dancing a little. Isabella was chuckling and I was having fun, so I amped it up a bit—I sang louder and danced more dramatically. Before I knew it, Isabella was laughing so hard she could hardly breathe. I was in heaven.

After we calmed down a bit, I asked Isabella what I was doing that was so funny.

“No offense, Mom,” she said in between laughs, “But you’re a horrible singer. You’re worse than Taylor Swift.”

That might be a harsher insult than saying I’m not funny at all. But hey, if the one weakness lends strength to the other, I’ll take it.

Filed under: parent.

Have no fear

January 18th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

I’m a big scaredy-cat.

I don’t know if it’s because I work for a media company—where I hear bad news all the time—or if I’m just wired to be afraid, but afraid I am and I can’t help it.

It started when Isabella was a newborn. I would be in another room and a gripping fear would overcome me, fear that my baby had been stolen, or is choking on her blanket, or some other awful scene that comes straight from a horror movie. I’d rush into her room, only to see Isabella lying peacefully, nowhere near harm’s way.

These kinds of fears never really went away. Every time Isabella and I are home alone and I hear the slightest noise, my spine stiffens and a cold chill sweeps through my body. When we’re walking in a crowded place, I grip her 8-year-old hand tightly, just in case a stranger wants to take her away from me.

Justin teases me about my constant paranoia. He encourages me to relax, to just trust that bad things won’t happen to me. But what if they do? I see at work every day that bad things happen to people all the time—innocent, unsuspecting people who didn’t know what was coming. I could be one of those people!

I know this is no way to live, however, and I’m taking small steps in an effort to relinquish my constant fear. The biggest hurdle I’m trying to overcome right now is the bus stop.

For some reason, Isabella’s bus driver isn’t allowed to pick her up at the end of our driveway. Instead, she is picked up at the corner, which is about 100 feet from our house. But our house is built in such a way that I can’t see the corner from inside the door. So, unless I walk outside and peek around, I have no way of seeing Isabella get onto the bus.

This makes me a nervous wreck, but I’m trying to let go. After all, the bus driver has several stops along that road, so she can see Isabella the whole time. Plus, we live in a historically safe neighborhood. But still I imagine a strange man pulling Isabella into his car, all while I’m sitting in my warm, comfy home. I wouldn’t know until a couple hours later when the school would call to tell me Isabella’s not there. I imagine what I would tell my co-workers, my family, Isabella’s dad. I wonder how I would go about the search efforts, and if I would be one of those parents who searches night and day for years until I found her. (Or didn’t find her. *shudder*) I imagine the regret I would feel for the rest of my life. Why didn’t I just walk outside to see her get on the bus??

See, I’m warped.

But every day, Isabella does get on that bus. And she comes home every day perfectly happy and unscathed. She goes to bed at night and is still in her bed every morning (despite my constant fear that someone’s going to take her in the middle of the night). The track record indicates that nothing bad is going to happen to her. And even though the possibility does exist and I need to be prepared for that, I also need to loosen up and trust that God’s going to take care of us no matter what. So, when Isabella walks out the door every morning, I stay inside the house. Not because I want to but because I need to. I need to give up control and let life take its course.

Filed under: parent.

The 12 days of Christmas, for real

December 23rd, 2010 - By Julia Huisman

The only time of year when I’m happy for Isabella for having two separate families is at Christmas time, which is followed closely by her birthday. The girl banks. She gets both Christmas and birthday presents from me and Justin, her dad, my parents and siblings, Justin’s parents and siblings, and her dad’s parents and siblings. When her dad gets married, there will be yet another family to buy her gifts! That’s just craziness.

Justin and I celebrated Christmas with Isabella this past Sunday, because she’ll be with her dad’s family on Christmas Day this year. She looked a little disappointed when she finished opening her gifts that morning. I know every kid feels sad when it’s all over. But we quickly reminded her that this was just the beginning and a slew of presents were still awaiting her. That made her perk up but also made her slightly greedy for the rest of the week. “I hope Santa brings me [insert every single thing she could ever want] at my dad’s,” she’d say. Whenever she saw a newly wrapped present under the tree, she’d run up to it and check the nametag, assuming it was for her. When she learned that it wasn’t for her, she’d slump away and pout.

Finally, I said something. I lectured her on how grateful she should be for getting so many gifts and that instead of sitting around ready to pounce on the next gift she sees, she should think about what she can give to other kids who aren’t as fortunate as her. “You have everything you could ever need,” I said.

“You have everything you need too,” she said quietly. That hit me like a ton of bricks.

Her comment reminded me that I am just as responsible for being grateful and for giving to others as Isabella is. While I know that I too have everything I could ever need, I’m not proactive about giving away the things I don’t need—unless it’s giving clothes to Goodwill, which is really more selfish than selfless. After all, my main motivation for that is to clean out the closets.

One of my goals for the New Year is to look for new ways to donate the things I don’t need, and to involve Isabella in that mission, so that she will not only do as I say but also do as I do.

I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

Filed under: parent. Tags: .

Pretty girl

December 9th, 2010 - By Julia Huisman

All of my life I’ve been known as a girly girl. I love clothes, jewelry, shoes, doing different things with my hair, etc. So you can imagine my dismay at the fact that my 7-year-old daughter is . . . a tomboy.

This is a recent development, within the last year or so. When Isabella was 3 and 4 years old, she frequently could be seen in a princess dress/tiara getup. She would beg me to let her wear some of my makeup and would don every hair clip she owned on her curly little locks. But now, she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing lipstick. Getting her to wear a dress is like pulling teeth. And her hair . . . oh, her hair. It clings close to her head on the top and gradually cascades into a bird’s nest of curls at the bottom. In the winter time it’s a dirty brown, and when she wears it down, it looks as if she hasn’t showered in days.

I know these are probably mean things to say about my daughter, but I’m saying it about her hair, not her, and what bugs me is, it doesn’t have to look like that! If she would let me style her hair a little, she’d look more put-together. But if I suggest so much as a barrette, she shakes her head adamantly. “No, Mom. I don’t want to look pretty.” What girl doesn’t want to look pretty?!?

So the other day I came up with an idea. I went online and looked for girls’ hairstyles, and Isabella and I went through the ones that would make her look proper but not pretty. *rolls eyes*  I then tried some of the styles on her. My favorite one is fast and simple. I just separated the hair three ways at the part, twisted each section and bobby pinned them together. It looks cute but not too cute, and it keeps Isabella’s hair out of her face.

This is her hair before I styled it (and the way Isabella prefers to wear it):

Before

And this is what it looked like after:

After

Now isn’t that lovely? It’s not too drastic a difference but enough to make her look nice, like every other 7-year-old girl we know.

She took the bobby pins out 30 seconds later.

I realize I’m being a bit like a crazy pageant mother about this, so I’m trying to back off. The last thing I want is for Isabella to become insecure because I make her feel like she doesn’t look good enough. But I also want her to look presentable when we go out in public. Is that too much to ask?

Filed under: parent.

A Family Affair

November 30th, 2010 - By Julia Huisman

Now that I’m married, Isabella obviously is adjusting to having a stepfather. But she also has to adjust to having an entire stepfamily. I’m incredibly fortunate in that I married into a kind, loving family. They have welcomed me and Isabella with open arms. There are times, however, when I can tell that Isabella feels a little out of place.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we spent a lot of time with Justin’s family. He has five nephews and four nieces, ages infant to nine years old. Most of them were in town this weekend, making for a whole lot of kids in the mix. I thought Isabella would be thrilled to finally have cousins to play with. On my side of the family, she has only one 2-year-old cousin, so she’s used to being bored at family events. And, trust me, she is definitely grateful to have suddenly inherited several new cousins. But what happens sometimes when they all get together, is she becomes self-conscious about the fact that all of these cousins have known each other since birth and she hasn’t. It’s almost like she understands the concept of blood relation and becomes very aware that this is not a blood connection.

This is something that newly married people everywhere experience—the sometimes awkward transition into their in-law family. And I knew I would be going through it myself. I guess I never really thought about how it would affect Isabella. Justin’s family has been so wonderful, I didn’t think it’d be a problem for her. But her discomfort has nothing to do with their behavior; it’s just her awareness of the situation that makes her feel like she sometimes sticks out like a sore thumb.

But, before I panic about it, I have to step back and recognize that I’ve only been married for three months. These kinds of transitions take time. All I can do is build up Isabella’s confidence in every way that I can, and thank God that I married into a family who loves her, blood relation or not.

Filed under: parent.

“Needs to stay focused”

November 17th, 2010 - By Julia Huisman

Isabella recently brought home her first report card of the year. (She’s in second grade now.) Her grades were great; I was pleased. There’s also a section on the card where the teacher can highlight pros and cons about the student. Isabella’s “pro” was that she “completes her assignments on time.” Um, okay. So now kids get special recognition for doing what they’re supposed to do? Maybe that’s the only good thing the teacher could think to point out about Isabella. Or maybe the rest of the students in the class turn their assignments in late and by comparison, Isabella excels in that area. Either scenario makes me sad.

In the “cons” section, the teacher highlighted “Needs to stay focused.” I was actually relieved to see this, because it proved that it wasn’t just at home where Isabella goes off into la-la land. And it also brought back memories. I remember way back when Isabella was in preschool and her teachers told me she gets easily distracted. I was devastated at the time. I thought they were insulting my daughter and therefore me. But now it doesn’t bug me at all. It’s just the way Isabella is. It’s an everyday occurrence for her to have conversations with multiple imaginary friends, and to be so engrossed in those conversations that a hurricane wouldn’t even shake her. She makes up songs, words, worlds. She changes subjects mid-sentence, which makes perfect sense to her but leaves the rest of us feeling bewildered and also kind of in awe.

So here’s my question: how does one make a creative kid more “focused?” How do I correct this “problem” that her teachers keep pointing out? I know better than anyone how frustrating it is to corral such an imaginative child, but it’s not like she’s being that way because she’s not disciplined. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) She’s just a dreamer. And who am I to take that away from her?

I did have a long conversation with Isabella about her teacher’s concerns. I encouraged her to try very hard to keep her mind on the task at hand and to use recess and free time for playing. I gave her examples of times at home when she was distracted and how that made things difficult for me. And she’s gotten a little better, at home anyway. So I’m not sure what more I can do to. Ultimately it’s up to her to find that balance between dream world and reality. I just hope she doesn’t leave dream world altogether, because it’s what’s made her the wonderful visionary she is.

Filed under: parent.

Two is better than one

November 9th, 2010 - By Julia Huisman

Probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed, now that I have a parenting partner, is that discipline is a whole lot easier. Already, there have been several moments when I’ve thought, “So THAT’S why there’s supposed to be two parents!”

This became most obvious one night at bedtime. I don’t even remember what caused Isabella to be upset, but she was throwing a full-on temper tantrum. She was crying loudly and uncontrollably; I tried to calm her down but to no avail. Fed up, I turned off her light and left her bedroom. I had learned from previous experience that there’s really no other way to handle such episodes.

I went downstairs and attempted to talk to Justin, but Isabella’s wailing was very distracting. I kept thinking that any minute now she’d stop crying, but she didn’t. So, ten minutes later, Justin went upstairs.

I was a little nervous. At that point he had never really disciplined her before. I wasn’t sure how she would react, and subsequently how he would react to her reaction. I suddenly felt embarrassed that he had to see this side of her, this side of me, the pushover parent side.

Isabella immediately stopped crying, thank goodness. She was probably surprised to see Justin instead of me. I sat very still on the couch, turning my ear upward in an attempt to hear their conversation, but all I could hear were murmurs of Justin’s steady deep voice followed by sweet sounds of agreement by Isabella.

A few minutes later, Justin came downstairs and Isabella stayed quiet. He told me about their conversation, about how he explained to her why such behavior is unacceptable and that she needs to respect me and listen to me. Tears welled in my eyes; at that moment I finally knew what it felt like to have the help of a husband. My mind flashed back to similar tantrum episodes Isabella and I had gone through in the past, how I had walked away from them feeling completely helpless and at a loss on how to make it better.

When a child has only one parent to listen to, sometimes that parent’s voice becomes ineffective. Especially if that voice is a wimpy female one. It just doesn’t have the same effect as a confident masculine voice. Of course, it’s not just about the voice. Justin backs me up when Isabella tests me. He takes over when I just can’t do it anymore. So finally, I can breathe a little easier, knowing that I no longer have to carry all the weight of discipline on my shoulders.

Yeah, two parents are DEFINITELY better than one.

Filed under: parent.

I’m back! And I’m married!

November 1st, 2010 - By Julia Huisman

It’s been months since I’ve written this blog, and A LOT has happened since then.

For one, I am no longer a single mom.

My boyfriend Justin proposed to me on Mother’s Day and I married him nearly four months later. This is obviously a huge life change that happened quickly, but it’s a great one. And it makes for excellent writing material, so from now on, I’m going to write about my new life and the many wonders it brings. Of course, I’ll also continue to tell my usual stories of Isabella’s wild and imaginative antics.

And speaking of Isabella, she’s dealing with the transition very well. She had been pushing me for a long time to get married because she desperately wanted a stepdad. Before I met Justin, she was even begging encouraging me to go on The Bachelor so that I could find a husband. So when we told her that we were getting married—and soon—she was elated.

Of course, there are many nuances that require some adjustment, for all of us. Justin’s not used to having to share the TV with a little girl. Isabella’s not used to having to share her mom with a boy. And I’m not used to being in the middle, walking on tiptoes sometimes to make sure I’m giving adequate attention to both child and husband. It’s a delicate balance, to be sure.

But there are also times when I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe that what I’ve been wanting all these years—a husband, a complete family, a “normal” life—is actually happening. I’ve been waiting for it for so long and now that it’s here, it’s almost surreal. When Justin, Isabella and I have dinner together at the kitchen table, when we laugh together at a movie, when we sing together in the car… all of those moments are so much more fulfilling now than they were when it was just me and Isabella.

Isabella recognizes it, too. Every once in a while I’ll catch a glint in her eye, a sparkle that shows she’s thinking the same thing: “Finally, things are the way they’re supposed to be.”

Filed under: parent.

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