I am not good at playing games.
Years ago I won at bowling and was so ecstatic, I jumped for joy. When my future husband pointed out that I wasn’t a graceful winner, I apologized and explained that I’d never won before. Not bowling, not mini-golf, not anything. Growing up, it seemed my father always won the games we played. If it were just my older brother and I, I still couldn’t compete. I told my fiance that I had plenty of practice losing. “I’m a good loser,” I promised.
The other night, however, I wondered if this were true. My husband and I had bought the board game Clue for our seven year old daughter. In elementary school, I’d played it a couple times at a friend’s house and enjoyed it. After all, it had colorful characters like Mrs. Peacock and Professor Plum, miniature revolvers and candlesticks, and it offered the chance to play detective. I was excited that my daughter was finally old enough to play a game I’d truly enjoy. No more Candyland or Don’t Break the Ice for me.
She requested we play every night and more often than not, my husband set aside the papers he was grading and took his place around the table. It surprised us the first time our daughter solved the mystery. Then she won again. And when she didn’t win, my husband did. Wait a minute.
I noticed a pattern developing. My husband won because of his exceptional deductive reasoning skills. My daughter won because she wasn’t afraid to guess and be wrong. But me—I waited to accuse a suspect until I was 100% sure. By that time, someone else would beat me to the punch.
Last night my daughter wanted to play again and I suggested we take a break. This game that I’d fantasized about as a child turned out to be yet another one in which I had no skill. Then my husband teased me, “Momma doesn’t want to play because she always loses.”
Here the Mommy Guilt kicked in. Everything I say and do is setting an example.
How could I expect my little girl to smile and say, “Good game” after she lost when I didn’t?
So I took a deep breath and agreed to participate. Right away I could tell I was going to lose again. I rolled plenty of ones and twos. I got trapped in a room I didn’t want to be in. The fates conspired against me. Too soon my daughter bragged that she knew the weapon and the guilty party. All she had left was to figure out the location of the crime. My husband said he had it narrowed down to 25%. Ugh! I told them both to be quiet or people wouldn’t like playing with them. (And by “people” I mostly meant me.) My husband “Awwww” ed in my direction.
That’s when I realized that after plenty of experience, I hadn’t even mastered the art of losing gracefully.
Sensing that one of my opponents would soon win, I was frustrated that they seemed closer to a solution than I was. But I did have a pretty good guess. I decided to take a page from my daughter’s playbook. For the first time ever, I dared to make an accusation without 100% certainty.
Fate smiled upon me and I was right. I’d won! Finally I felt the rush of victory. I reminded myself not to smile too broadly. Good sportsmanship (and good role modeling) take effort.
What amazes me is how well my daughter handles it when she guesses the answer and is wrong. Patiently she waits for the game to end, giddy because we are doing something together as a family. She doesn’t let her mistake stop her from taking a chance the next time, either. Perhaps those who excel at games, like in life, are those willing to risk failure.
Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. What matters is that we had fun along the way--together.Are you a good loser? I'd love to hear your comments!If you'd like to be the first notified about book giveaways and new releases, please click here and leave your e-mail address. I plan on giving away several copies of my novels soon!
Have you already watched Miracle on 34th Street
and It’s a Wonderful Life
and every other Christmas movie you can think of? I love the classics, but I also enjoy discovering a family film I’ve never seen before. If you’re like me, longing for a heart-warming story in which you don’t have all of the lines memorized, check out Prancer
Sam Elliott plays a financially-strapped widower who spends more time scolding his precocious daughter, Jessica, than talking to her. He’s at such a loss, he’s planning on sending her to live with her aunt. Before he can go through with his plans, his eight-year-old daughter finds an injured reindeer that she’s convinced is Prancer. Hiding and stealing food for this reindeer puts Jessica even more at odds with her gruff father.
This precious movie reminded me of the innocence and unconditional love of children. It almost made me cry while leaving a big, Santa-inspired smile on my daughter’s face. For a Christmas movie that speaks to the reality of hard times and the magic of the season, treat your family to Prancer
. Be sure to treat yourself to A Sister’s Promise which provides a Happy Ending with a Twist. For a chance to win a free autographed copy of “What Happiness Looks Like”, click here. Please "like" and "tweet."
How did I miss “the best film of 2005” according to the Los Angeles Times
? Oh, yeah. I had a baby. I probably didn’t go to the theater more than once that year. But I don’t even remember hearing about this film. I'm so glad I stumbled across it at my local library.
Now my baby is seven and she loves to watch movies. In fact, if I let her eat popcorn in the living room while watching a DVD, I’ve elevated the event to something special. She still likes animated films, but I especially enjoy a movie that entertains us both. (You know—one with actors, not cartoons). That’s why I’m writing about “DUMA.”
Duma is the name of a cheetah that wanders into the road in South Africa where a father and son find him. (All we ever find in the road where I live are squirrels and skunks!) Since the cub is orphaned, the family takes him home to their farm miles away. The gentle squeak that comes out of that cheetah’s mouth is not what you expect. Soon the cat grows bigger than the boy and proves to be better than a watchdog. Unfortunately, the father dies and the boy, his mother, and Duma must leave the farm. (Be aware that the sad parts of the movie are off-screen. We do not see how the father dies, which works well for my sensitive daughter and me.)
Before the dad died, he told his son, Xan, that Duma needed to return to the wild. (What a great name! I think I'll name my next kid Xan, although he'll probably have to explain to everyone that it's pronounced Zan.) Xan decides to fulfill his dad’s wishes and runs away with the cheetah. African deserts, lions, crocodiles and a suspicious stranger provide plenty of obstacles for the twelve-year-old boy to overcome. He is amazingly resourceful, reading a compass and making a canoe out of sticks. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have fared nearly as well as he did, but I guess it is
fiction. There was drama, but no tears until the very end when Duma finally remembers what it means to be wild.
This film would entertain children from ages seven on up and I highly recommend it! What’s your favorite family film? I'd love to know, so I can watch it! Would you like "Movies you Might've Missed" to become a regular feature? If you're looking for a "sweet read with depth" after the kids go to bed, check out my 99 cent novella, Made for Two.
“Are fairies real?” my five-year-old daughter asked. She’d been playing with the fairy house she’d made out of a saltine cracker box and dollhouse furniture. She’d also checked out every fairy book she could find from the library. I didn’t hesitate to say, “No, fairies aren’t real.”
Her blue eyes grew wide. “What about the Tooth Fairy?” she demanded.
Oops. “I thought you meant Tinker Bell. She’s not real. But the Tooth Fairy is different.” Ugh.
Is it a mistake to let your kids believe in the magic of pixie dust? I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to ruin the fun of placing a baby tooth under her pillow or the anticipation of waking up to discover a prize, either. Besides, I read that the Tooth Fairy was invented to calm children’s fears about their teeth falling out. So that seems like a good thing.
But where do I draw the line? My daughter, now seven, is fascinated with mermaids. She has a book detailing the folklore in different cultures and in the back of the book, there’s a map. To her, a map of where mermaids live means they’re real. She looks to me for confirmation. I hesitate--having learned my lesson from answering too quickly about fairies. “Well, this map doesn’t tell us any places we could find on a real map. No names of oceans or countries to help us locate it.”
“I’ll get a real map and figure it out.” I smiled at her determination and told her to look in the car.
She came back with a roadmap of Ohio. “There aren’t any oceans in Ohio,” I laughed. Then she opened an atlas. I liked that she was giving herself a mini-geography lesson, but felt guilty that it was mixed with a myth. Would she someday be teased for her faith in mermaids? Would she write her college admissions essay on the magical world beneath the sea? Surely it wouldn’t go that far.
She studied the maps and I savored the moments of quiet. I was looking forward to an afternoon of her carefully examining all fifty states. Wishful thinking! In no time, she determined that a bay in Alaska matched the one in the mermaid book. (Why did Alaska have to start with the letter A?) She showed me the similar oblong shape and opening to the ocean.
“Hmm. Could be,” I said. “What do you think?” (I tell myself this is good parenting--letting her form her own opinion.)
Even though she could tell I was cynical, she thought definitely yes. Mermaids must live in Alaska. At this point, her dad stepped in. He told her it’s awfully cold in the water there. She didn’t care. She held firm in her belief.
In fact, after swim lessons one day, I praised her for swimming like a fish.
She grinned. “No, Mom. Better than a fish. I swim like a mermaid!”
I chuckled. She had a point.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Karen Lenfestey's novels, "A Sister's Promise" and "What Happiness Looks Like." Click below to read excerpts:
What comes to mind when you think of Niagara Falls? Daredevils? Newlyweds? Well, add to those ideas butterflies and kids because Niagara Falls provides an amazing family vacation.
If you visit the Canadian side of the falls, you’ll be delighted to find that the Niagara Parks Department offers a stress-free experience. Just purchase their Adventure Pass which provides transportation on a “People Mover” bus, admission to four wonderful activities along the Niagara River and discounts on many others. There’s no need to worry about navigating a strange city or searching for parking.
Our family of three enjoyed two days of fun for $139 ($100 less than the “VIP” package our hotel offered for pretty much the same thing.) So, don’t listen when they tell you about the long lines and hassle of doing this on your own. Go directly to the park’s Welcome Center right next to Horseshoe Falls to buy your pass. If your hotel isn’t within walking distance of the falls, there’s a Park and Ride lot, which offers the People Mover bus to the falls, too. If you simply want to take in the breathtaking views, you’ll be happy to know you can do that for free.
At the Welcome Center, you can experience a 4-D movie about the formation of the falls told by a cartoon beaver, which the kids seemed to enjoy. (Plan on getting wet!) I recommend you try an English toffee coffee at the center’s Tim Hortons or dine at the Elements Restaurant that overlooks the falls. (The restaurant service was weak, but the bison steak and views were delicious.) Then walk the “Journey Behind the Falls” tunnels to get up-close to the mist.
Hop on the People Mover when you’re ready to hike the “White Water Walk” along the rapids or ride the famous Maid of the Mist boat. Whenever you want to move on, there’s never more than an eleven minute wait for the next bus to stop.
The Butterfly Conservatory is a must-see along the route. Over 2,000 butterflies in every color imaginable flutter around you. My seven-year-old declared it “amazing” and didn’t want to leave after one and a half hours because she hoped more butterflies would land on her. Another fun activity is riding the Whirlpool Aero Car on suspension cables across the gorge.
As we drove away from the park, I told my daughter to take one more look because it might be the last time she ever sees Niagara Falls. Her eyes lit up and she said, “It won’t be the last time. Some day I’ll come back. . .and bring my kids!”
Remember, you need a passport to cross the border, so plan ahead. Pay for tickets, hotels and meals with Visa and you won’t need to exchange any currency. For more information, visit www.niagaraparks.com
Award-winning author, Karen Lenfestey, writes about families and friends in her novels, “A Sister’s Promise” and “What Happiness Looks Like”, which are available at amazon.com. To read an excerpt, click below:
We’re planning a family vacation and I must confess, I’m a little scared. Even the research shows that happiness surges most when anticipating a trip rather than during it. I suspect that’s especially true if you’re bringing along the munchkins.
Until now we’ve only ventured a few hours from home with our little one. We took the South Shore railroad (how cool is that?!?) to Chicago. On day three, our toddler had a tearful meltdown in Shedd Aquarium because she was so tired. (All right, I might have had a meltdown, too, but it was because I had an untreated sinus infection.) We stayed home the next summer.
But inevitably, the vacation bug bit us again. Recently we visited Jack Hanna’s zoo in Columbus on a day the forecasters marveled would be sunny and in the seventies. Instead, it was in the fifties and during lunch, thunder and lightening forced us to bolt for the parking lot where we searched in the pouring rain for our vehicle. On the ride home, our daughter choked on a sip of water and threw up in our brand new car. (My husband had a meltdown that time.)
So yes, I’m afraid. But I’m excited too. Today we ordered our seven-year-old her first passport. (I didn’t get mine until I went on my honeymoon!) I’m tickled at the opportunities we are providing for her. She’s going to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. She’s going to mine for “diamonds” and visit the chocolate-scented town of Hershey. What could possibly go wrong?
No--please don’t tell me. It’ll ruin the surprise. What was your most memorable vacation? When did you get your first passport?
If you enjoyed this blog, please click “tweet” or “like” below. If you’re looking for a book to read on your vacation, check out novels by the author Glo Magazine
said is "a charming writer. . .with a gift for storytelling”: A Sister’s Promise
or What Happiness Looks Like
I remember as a little girl, listening to my heart with a stethoscope then announcing that I wanted to be a doctor. My grandmother paused and said, “Well. . .I guess these days girls can do anything boys can”. I remember thinking, “Of course they can!”
That’s why I feel lucky I have a daughter. Girls can go to medical school or beauty school, wear pants or dresses, and choose whether to work or be stay-at-home moms, without (too much) societal judgment. So when my daughter came home from school and informed me that only boys can play soccer, I told her that wasn’t true. I encouraged her to join the boys on the soccer field during recess if she wanted to. And she did. I was so proud.
But last spring my five-year-old daughter challenged my can-do attitude. This was a request I had never anticipated from a little girl who enjoyed ballet and pretending to be a princess. She asked if she could learn karate.
Teaching children—girls or boys--to hit and kick didn’t sound like a good idea to me. Instead of saying that, I asked her where she heard about karate. “Sesame Street,” she said.
(That darned PBS! I’d trusted them.) “Why do you want to learn karate?” I asked. “Because it looks like dancing.” I assured her it wasn’t at all like dancing and waited for her to forget about it. She didn’t. Almost daily she asked if she could learn karate. Eventually, I called about an introductory lesson.
Once at the local tae kwon do studio, I felt conflicted. The instructor wasn’t what I expected—a black belt with red toenails. Talk about busting gender stereotypes--the owner was a woman! (I admit I kind of liked that.) The teacher told my daughter when she enters the studio, she should bow and greet the instructors with “Hi, ma’am. Hi, sir.” The instructor also said it’s important to listen and respect one’s parents. (OK so far. . .)
But when the instructor asked what my daughter would do if a stranger grabbed her arm, my stomach clenched. I didn’t want my little girl to fear strangers. I didn’t want to squash her naturally outgoing personality and I didn’t want her to grow up afraid. Yet, heaven forbid she should need to, I did want her to be able to defend herself.
On the ride home, we discussed whether our family wanted to add tae kwon do to our schedule. In between “Hi-ya!” yells, my daughter said she definitely wanted to try it. Overall, I was impressed with the program, but still couldn’t wrap my mind around my daughter learning to fight. My husband, however, said since girls are smaller than boys, it made sense for them to learn how to outsmart an attacker. I still wasn’t anxious to start something in which I figured she would quickly lose interest. After all, I’m pretty sure she’s the only kid to ever learn martial arts because they like to dance.
When I parked the car in our garage, I told my daughter to clean out the trash in the backseat. “Aww, Mom,” she protested. I headed for the mailbox. Half way down the driveway, I heard her yell, “Yes, ma’am!” I turned around and saw her smiling at me.
I was sold.
IF YOU'RE LIKE ME, YOU'RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK TO READ AFTER THE KIDS GO TO BED. CLICK HERE TO READ THE OPENING CHAPTERS OF "A SISTER'S PROMISE"
OR "WHAT HAPPINESS LOOKS LIKE"
. For more information on tae kwon do, visit: http://ataonline.com
I must confess, I’m not one of those naturally fun parents. I don’t have a trampoline in the backyard or a season pass to Cedar Point, and when my daughter starts to look bored, I don’t invent a new game for her to play. Instead, I tend to focus on the logistics of parenthood—deciphering when to call the pediatrician because a cold has probably turned into a sinus infection, scheduling just the right amount of after-school activities for enrichment but not exhaustion, and obsessing over what would be a healthy meal to cook for dinner. The other day my five-year old asked me to sport a milk mustache to match hers and I actually had to think for a minute to remember how. After all, I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid leaving food on my face.
So imagine how much fun I was when I started taking my daughter to classes at SweetArt Country Kitchen. For some crazy reason I thought we’d leave the class with the same adorable creations that the teacher demonstrated: rainbow cupcakes with leprechauns on top or Valentine chocolates rivaling DeBrand’s. But my daughter didn’t have the manual dexterity or the inclination to do so. Instead of just painting a smile into a bunny mold, she would squirt pink icing to fill the entire face. Then she would pick up the blue and swirl it together to make what she felt was a masterpiece. Sometimes she would eat the miniature candy meant for eyes and I would cringe. When the instructor came by, I felt the need to apologize and explain our one-eyed pink and blue bunny, but the teacher, bless her heart, would praise my daughter’s originality.
I started to wonder why I was so uptight. Who was I doing this for anyway? After more classes than I’d like to admit, I embraced a new attitude. I relaxed and accepted that my daughter would decorate in her own way. Wouldn’t you know it? The next class she studied the teacher’s example and insisted that we follow those color choices to the letter—our puppy had to have brown fur and green eyes because the teacher’s had brown fur and green eyes. My daughter had figured out that you were supposed to do what the teacher said because that was the “right way”. My heart fell. Had I already crushed my daughter’s creative spirit?
We returned in December to decorate gingerbread houses. I could see some of the other moms directing their kids on how to place the peppermints along the roofline just so. Obviously, they intended to keep this project on display for others to see and it needed to look good. I proudly leaned back in my chair and let my daughter do whatever she wanted. She made a 3-paned window out of Chiclets so she could chew the fourth piece. She assembled a pretzel fence that went nowhere. When she commented that the miniature Christmas tree in the front yard was lop-sided, I offered to get her another gummy tree. She smiled and said, “That’s OK, Mommy.”
I felt an incredible sense of pride. All of this time I had been trying to teach her how to follow directions while she had developed an equally important skill—the ability to accept life’s imperfections. In the end, I was the one who learned something from our cooking adventures. The secret ingredient to a happy childhood is to stop worrying about how it looks and just have fun.
Your Turn to Comment: When did you have an a-ha moment in parenting?