Teaching Your Kids to Deal with Disappointment

Teaching Your Kids to Deal with Disappointment

I know that one of my jobs as a parent is to teach her how to deal with disappointment – but not like this; this isn’t what I had in mind.

We should be working on learning how to gracefully accept that she gets what she gets for dinner, and not necessarily a doughnut.


We should be working on accepting the fact that she’s not getting a pony for her birthday.

We should be working on understanding that all fun activities end eventually, and when the playdate is over, we need to gracefully go home.

Instead, we had to cancel our vacation last minute because I came down with influenza. She was so excited about our trip to Alaska, but I was far too sick to take her anywhere.

I sat down in her kid-sized green and white polka-dot easy chair and pulled her into my lap. “I have some bad news,” I said, “we can’t go to Alaska tomorrow because Mommy is sick.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” she repeated several times, and then she stopped. “It’s okay, Mommy. I know sometimes we can’t do things when you get sick.” She rested her head on my shoulder a bit, then ran out to the living room to play as if nothing had happened.

That hurt.

It hurts the way she has normalized my illnesses, Mommy being sick is just part of her life. Stupid cancer keeps messing with me, even when it’s not cancer.

But as much as it hurts, I’m proud of her, too.

Meanwhile, she still wants a doughnut.

And this time, she got one.

Here’s to the Moms – a Celebration of Motherhood

Here’s to the Moms – a Celebration of Motherhood

To the mom who brings her child their own cup cake to a kid’s birthday party:

I know you get looks from the other parents, but I understand.

Food sensitivities are nothing to mess with.

I know you stayed up late working on that cupcake. You made it extra pretty.

You brought it, not because you were trying to make your child feel excluded, but just the opposite, you wanted her to be a part of this party, and you wanted her to have a treat, just like all the other kids. But you had to make it safe for her.

It’s not easy to see your kid on the outside, and I promise you, I will not take your kid’s special diet lightly.

To the mom who’s wondering when she will start to feel like a grownup and have all the answers:

I’m sorry, but we only have all the answers about how other people should parent their kids.

The moments of feeling like a grownup are rare, but most of the time you have the bills, the responsibilities, the mouths to feed, the guilt about your own shortcomings, and conflicting advice from all the usual suspects, but not so much with the answers.

You feel like you haven’t quite arrived at being a grownup, until one day you wake up and realize you’re old.

Of course, feeling old is no guarantee you’ll have the answers. Same old questions, new arthritis.

To the mom of the toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store:

I’m sorry I was staring. I promise I wasn’t judging you; I’ve been there, and I was reliving it. The world is full of people who think the wailing and kicking are because the parents always cave, but I know that that little fit was because you didn’t cave.

Or maybe it was just because the store was out of Spiderman toothbrushes and the Incredible Hulk just wouldn’t do.

I’ve encountered so many people who believe children should be seen and not heard, and for that matter almost never seen except for when they’re being perfect and adorable. They would never admit they believe this, but they give themselves away… “why don’t they just take the kids home when they fuss?” people wonder.

But I know.

I know you and your children would starve if you took the kids home every time they threw a fit.

To the mom who is tired:

The mom who will go to bed soon, but first she has to make sure the clothes make it from the washer to the dryer before they sour, load the dishwasher, and get the kid up for a midnight potty so she doesn’t wet the bed…

I know you’ve been told before that you need to take care of yourself first, so you have the strength to take care of the kids.

I also know you’re just going to keep doing what you feel like you need to do.

I hope, sometimes, you get the rest you need.

The kids will grow, and soon they’ll be able to pour their own bowl of Cheerios. They’ll destroy the kitchen in the process, but at least you’ll get to sleep in for 20 minutes or so.

To the mom who is living with cancer or another life threatening or chronic condition:

I’m right there with you.

I know what it’s like to wonder how much time you have with your kids.

I’ve listened to my baby cry, unable to pick her up and waiting for someone to come bring her to me, feeling helpless and maybe a bit useless.

I’ve had those dreams that ended with someone else raising my child.

I’ve wondered if I was enough.

I’ve wondered if I could hang on long enough that she would be old enough to have memories of me. I’ve wondered if it would be easier for her if I didn’t.

I worried that I was letting her watch too much TV, but let me tell you something, TV is awesome. Besides, SuperWhy taught my daughter how to read.

Now I worry about my relationship with my own patchwork body, and how I can help my daughter develop a healthy body image when I still feel like my body betrayed me. My husband and I joke about my million dollar body, but I still miss those missing parts, I’m still anticipating the next body part failure.

To the mom who apologizes to her kid after losing it:

Thank you for showing your child that adults make mistakes too, that making mistakes and learning from them is part of being human.

Thank you for teaching your child that what you do after a mistake is often as important, if not more important than the mistake itself.

Thank you for modeling that behavior. It’s so awesome for kids to have a real live example, so they know what a meaningful apology is supposed to look like.

To the mom who is lonely:

I’m lonely too.

We’ve got the kids, but there’s only so far I can follow a conversation about My Little Pony or Minecraft before I really need to talk to another adult, and my husband doesn’t get home till late.

How do you connect with the parents of the other kids at the playground? Even when your kids hit it off and you have a nice conversation, there’s that awkward moment where you work up the nerve to ask about a playdate.

Sometimes you’re just not able to work up the nerve at all, but when you do, It feels like you’re asking the mom out on a date. You give her your number and wonder, will she call?

And they don’t always call.

Sometimes you meet up and it’s awesome, up until it’s time to go home and then your kid is the one who throws the epic tantrum that can be heard from 3 blocks away.

But every once in a while, you make a friend.

To all these moms, and to all the other moms out there:

Let’s stick together, lets have each other’s backs. Raising humans is hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s often a thankless job so let me just take this moment to say thank you.

I hear you.

I see you.

Thank you.

Listen to Your Mother

I originally presented this piece at the inaugural Listen to Your Mother show in Seattle, 2015.

You can catch the video here.

Genuine Smiles

Genuine Smiles

I have the hardest time getting good shots of my daughter these days. When she sees me coming with the camera, she either hides, makes a face, or she pastes on a fake smile that just doesn’t look like her at all.

I can relate. I have a hard time looking natural in front of a camera as well. I get all self-conscious, and end up looking awkward, or weirdly intense, or both.

My favorite photos are the ones where the subject is going about their business, so caught up in what they are doing that the photographer, whether they’re aware of her or not, is irrelevant to the moment.

Lately, I’ve been going through some old family photos, many from the mid-century and earlier. This is well past those days when every photo looked stoic because the people in them had to freeze for long periods of time, but most of these photos still have a staged formality to them.

Then I stumbled across this photo:


Doc McKinley Family


This was my mom’s family, she’s second from the left in the front. This would have been in the 50s, I believe, and probably in Palmer or Anchorage, Alaska. It looks like a celebratory night out, and everyone looks so happy together.  Such natural, genuine smiles. I wonder what the story was.

Show me your photos.

The Haircut

The Haircut

Yes, my daughter had the most beautiful, long, golden locks.


Did I say had?

Oh, yeah, we cut them off.


She still has beautiful golden locks. Just not so long.



She was ready. And so tired of me insisting on brushing her hair.

I was ready. And ready to let her take over hair brushing duty.

And the hair? It was donated. She is so proud of the fact that even she can participate in helping people.



The stylist who cut her hair took before and after photos for us.



She’s a happy girl. So happy about her new haircut that she spent a while dancing around and showing it off.

With her super hero cape, of course.


She even wrote about her haircut for her writing assignment on Monday.




What is going on in your life?

Gem’s Gems 2014 Wrapup

Gem’s Gems 2014 Wrapup

My kid says some funny stuff, and every year I post a round-up of some of her best lines.





G: I can be anything I want when I grow up?
Me: Sure, what do you want to be?
G: A unicorn

Me: wanna watch a movie?
G: No. I must rule the world.

Me: you talk about being a princess a lot. do you ever think about being an engineer or a teacher?
G: Princesses never lie to their mommies
thus endeth the career counseling session

g: “I’m gonna be a kid for a long time?”
me: “yep, you are going to be a kid for a long time.”
g: “I love being a kid! Grownups work while kids play.”

G: Do you know what my superpower is?
Me: What is it?
G: writing… and thinking. oh, and snoring.

G has decided that now that she is a kid instead of a baby, we are going to have to change the nicknames by which we refer to her. The list is long and I won’t go through them all, but Baby is out, Sweetpea is still ok, and on and on.
So what do you really want me to call you? I asked.
Genevieve. Or you can call me the Judge.



That’s my girl!

G, on the way to the party last night: “I’m bringing the party with me, I carry it in my heart.”

G, fists in the air: “Even though I small on the outside, I big and powerful on the inside!”


this is the space alien that lives in the space volcano. they are not monsters, they are just not from here. I learn new things from my little one every day.

“I want to keep doing this mischief thing forever”

G’s word of the day: Accigently – when you make a mistake, but do it carefully

card shark | CoffeeJitters.Net

card shark

G: DADDY! daddy DADDY! daddy
Me: Genevieve! Daddy’s office is not a yelling place
G: I was trying to find him using echo location

“when I see a baby, the love goes right into my heart and then I sing it out”

applause sign | CoffeeJitters.Net

what? your living room doesn’t have ann applause sign? she hung this sign a couple days ago when we failed to perceive that her dancing was a performance. sign says: if you like my dance, clap.

Me: when you wake up tomorrow, it will be your last day of being 4
G: Oh, good, I’m REALLY tired of being 4

train to Denmark

she arranged the stools into a train, and she has her trusty atlas. the library thinks its time to close, but we are on a train, on our way to denmark to see a pig

G, to another kid at the playground: “That’s my mom and dad over there, and they both love me and I both love them.”

“it’s a good day for dancing”

invincible yoga girl

it took some doing, but she finally climbed up on that boulder – then she stood up and started in on yoga poses ‪#‎invincible

Very angry little girl in time out: I’m just going to take a sharp saw and cut off my room from the rest of the house and sail away.
apparently she likes to travel in style: with dress-up clothes, fancy bed, and toys.


I told her about Get Smart, and the shoe phone…

G: what does BFF mean?
Me: that means Best Friends Forever
G: like you and me?

picnic -2

my girl packed us a picnic

G, clinging to my back: “Can you turn your head around and look at me?”
Me: “no, my head only goes side to side, it doesn’t go to the back”
G, grabbing head: “I can fix that”
Just one of the many things that my kid says that would totally creep me out if it was anyone else

G: I would be happy to trade my computer for your computer
Me: my computer isn’t working very well right now.
G: Then I will trade this lego figure for your computer

G: close your eyes and I will sing you a lullaby so you can sleep better tonight
Me: awww, that’s sweet
G: ♫ Old McDonald Had a Farm… ♩ ♬


For the love of books


waiting for the library to open

waiting for the library to open

riveted | CoffeeJitters.Net


G: I want to give these books to other kids who don’t have any books.
Me: That’s a very nice thing to do.
G: Well, these books are bad
Me: why are they bad?
G: Well it’s not nice to hop on people, its not nice to mess up people’s houses, and kids should never cross the street without holding a grownup’s hand

G picked up an English/Russian dictionary and tried to read it. After a few frustrated minutes, she throws it down, stomps away, and pouts with her arms folded across her chest…
I ask her about it…
G: “that book is for a different day”


attempts reading while walking. at least mom was there to pay attention to boring details like stairs

“when you learn about light, that’s called light reading”

G just told me she is writing a book. The title: The world of make believe is real… ly cool


People just don’t measure up to animals

G, reading a book about different kinds of birds: “not all birds lay eggs”
Me: “sure they do, all different kinds of birds lay eggs”
G: “the boys don’t”


Awwwww. it’s a cute little baby butterfly

the kid is campaigning for a pet at our new place, so I asked her what kind of pet she wants
me: do you want a pet rhinoceros?
G: no that’s to big
me: how about a pet whale?
G: no that would splash too much and get everything wet
me: how about a pet orangutan?
G: no that would throw poop everywhere.
We’re running out of options here

pig farmer

you might think those look like toy trucks, but you’d be wrong. they’re pigs, and shes a pig farmer

“Butterfly to the rescue!”

rescuing worms | CoffeeJitters

rescuing worms from the sidewalk


The parenting books didn’t warn me about this

G: Why wont you make another baby so I can have a sister?
Me: my body has too much trouble making babies
G: you just need to practice more

G just informed us that the guards at her office called and they really need her to come in to work right now.
most creative attempt at getting out of bedtime yet

spider brush

I was enjoying G brushing my hair till Aaron walked by and suggested she use a real brush. Me: why? what is she using?

“Mommy, how do you spell body parts?”
– she was searching for something to watch on Netflix

“ok, mama, I’ll be good, but just to make you happy”

Me: tell you what, I will let you watch one tv show before you go have some quiet play time in your room
G: if you can decide to let me watch one show, you can decide to let me watch two

G, deadpan, to me: were you there when the Earth was still flat?

G: You’re not my real mom!
Me: Is that so? Who is?
G: Maleficent

G informed me that last night she had the best dream ever. she dreamed that she was Snow White. I asked her if she cooked and cleaned for the dwarves, and she said yes. I asked her if she was going to clean up her mess in the living room… “Mom! It was just a dream!”
Just trying to make her dreams come true

“I’m serious, Mom. I’m as serious as a first grader.”

“my little tooth is so excited to get out of my mouth”


 My little chef

G, at dinner: have you made this before?
me: yes
G: and you made it again anyway?

G: I want to make Daddy a cherry pie for his birthday
Me: I just bought ingredients for coconut cream pie, because it’s his favorite
G: I think Daddy wants cherry
Me: did you ask him
G: Daddy, do you want a surprise?

G: Mommy I’m going to watch over you forever
ME: that’s sweet
G: I’m going to watch to make sure you never make this food again

G: I’m so hungry I don’t care what you give me – except if you give me something I don’t like.

G, to me: When I grow up and have a restaurant, you can be one of my chefs
Me: what about Daddy?
G: he can clean and eat

ice cream

ice cream is deliciouser than ants on a log

G: when I grow up and have a restaurant it will have a special room with comfy chairs for sick people, and I will give them special tea to make them feel better, and daddy will play guitar.


The Fashionista

G: “I don’t even know who St. Patrick is. Why does he get to pick what color I wear?”
nothing bashful about the pink she’s wearing today


favorite mode of transportation: dancing

G, to Aaron: too bad you don’t have my glorious hair


oh how I love these outfits she puts together


 Ready for Kindergarten


she wanted to practice wearing her new backpack today so she would be ready for kindergarten

picnic | CoffeeJitters.Net

breakfast picnic: she wanted to test her new lunchbox to make sure it works. kindergarten countdown: 8 days

G: Every time I look outside, it’s still dark out
Me: Because it’s still night time
G: But how will I know when to wake up for school? I don’t think morning will ever come

Gem's first day of Kindergarten | CoffeeJitters

first day of kindergarten

end of first day of kindergarten

the end of the first day of kindergarten

dancing on the way to school | CoffeeJitters.Net

dancing on the way to school

Kindergarten school picture | CoffeeJitters

kindergarten school picture


I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next year.

Gem’s Gems 2013

Gem’s Gems 2012

Outside looking in: a flash-forward peek at my future in parenting

Outside looking in: a flash-forward peek at my future in parenting

My daughter recently competed in her first chess tournament. I was more nervous than she was.

She’s only 5, and I worried about sportsmanship, I worried about whether she would have fun. I worried about whether she would get bored, or scared.

She was just excited that she would get to play chess: Five games of chess  – with other kids.

outside looking in

And trophies!

outside looking in

She wanted one of those trophies.

So we got up at the butt-crack of too early to get up on a Saturday morning, and still had to run to school to get there in time to check-in, because, of course, late check-in means forfeiting the first game.

So, we get all checked in, and wait. Why is it that the big days in life seem to involve so much waiting?

Finally, we got the pairings, and the judge for the Kindergarten tournament introduced himself, recapped the rules,  reminded the little ones about sportsmanship,



ushered all the parents out of the room.

So we sat on the floor in the hallway, we parents of the 25 kindergarteners duking it out across chessboards in that classroom. The door to the classroom had a thin window, and the parents rotated throughout the game play, taking turns peeking through the window trying to get a glimpse of what was going on in our child’s game.

outside looking inI got a little glimpse that morning – a preview of my future in parenting.

More and more, as she gets older, her important events will take place outside of my control. I can lead her up to the door, but she has to take it from there.

I don’t think they’ll let me in the room when she takes her SATs either.

I’ve said it before, and I still believe that parenthood seems to be one big, long, excruciating yet joyous exercise in letting go.

And the chess tournament? That went very well. The kids were all well behaved, and gracious winners and losers. As a whole, they seemed to be pretty good at getting their pieces into the middle of the board, but only a few of them were closing the deal. There were a lot of stalemates.

Gem had one draw, lost 3, and then because there were an odd number of kids, there was a bye every round. Gem got a bye on the fourth round. She was more disappointed about not getting to play that game than any of her losses.

But in the end, since this was kindergarten, she did get her trophy, along with all the other kids.

outside looking in


And she still loves playing chess.