Moments Matter

A 21st Century Concert as Mother and Daughter

The cell phones were a sea of twinkling lights. The music and singing blared. The piercing shrills of young girls reminiscent of the Elvis Presley concert I always wanted to attend deafened my ears. I sat motionless at first, in awe of this modern 21st century concert. This day was a milestone for many reasons.

My older daughter's photo opp with Taylor Swift before the concert.

My older daughter’s photo opp with Taylor Swift before the concert.

First, it marked my first “big” concert in 15 years. My eight-year-old daughter stood next to me holding her iPod high in the air while moving in sync with a crowd of 15,000 adoring Taylor Swift fans. I noticed the packs of mother and daughter duos at the sold-out concert. They were singing and swaying side by side.

In between the next song, the giant concert screens encouraged the crowd to share their experience on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The crowd did just that. Over the next hours, I witnessed concertgoers recording and sharing their experience with the world via technology during every nanosecond of the concert.

My daughter capturing her first concert at age 8.

My daughter capturing her first concert at age 8 via iPod.

It donned on me that this was the modern version of concerts. This is what people do at concerts. In my Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band, Ziggy Marley, James Taylor, Black Crowes concert days, we danced and sang hard and loud (among other things…ahem). And then you went home with aching, dirty feet and a cracked, strained voice. There were no cell phones. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. No YouTube.

How times have changed.

My daughter was, of course, at the ready with technology in hand. I observed her trying to record video and take photos. I decided to lightly yell in her ear: “Just enjoy the moment.”

Quick self shot snap!

Quick self shot snap!

She looked at me, and smiled. She put her iPod away. We danced and sang our hearts out.

However, the night did not go without a few tears. My tears. Which brings me to the second milestone of the night. This was my firstborn child’s first concert. During the concert, I saw her look of wonderment as she panned the massive arena. The lights reflecting in her big brown eyes, I knew this look. This was the look of my baby girl. My heart ached and tears filled my eyes.

Oh, how she’s grown up so fast. Another “first” vanished before my eyes. I now soaked in the moment. A moment that required no social media sharing – because it was meant for just the two of us.

As mother and daughter.

Do you remember your first concert? What was most memorable about it? As a parent, have you taken your children to a “first” big concert? If so, how was it? Did you soak in the moments? How?

My little baby in wonderment of the sand between her tiny fingers.

My little baby in wonderment of the sand in between her tiny fingers.

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Lifelong Learner

Growing up I hated school. Really.

I couldn’t stand anything about school. I despised the bland, stale classrooms and hard desk chairs. Dragging myself out of bed only to breathe in the cold morning air was unbearable, which is where the note writing came into play following a day of “hooky.”

Little hippie girl in second grade, 1977'ish.

Little hippie girl in second grade, 1977’ish.



noun informal 1. 
stay away from school or work without permission or explanation.

I suppose technically speaking that missing school when there was permission was not hooky, but rather delaying the inevitable: going to school.

I remember after a day or two of “missing” school, I would crawl to my mom’s bedside in the morning with a blank piece of paper and pen in hand. She would scribble: “Please excuse Kristal. She had the flew.” In another note she wrote: “Kristal had dierehea.” (Clearly, my mom wasn’t much of a speller, but instead had a heart of gold).

Hippie Outcast
The traditional educational system – both inside the classroom and on the playground were foreign compared to my free, unstructured communal life at home. The day-to-day conformity and structure of school was stifling.

Coming to school with dirt under my nails, wearing Marijuana leaf T-shirts, flared pants and tousled hair, I was taunted and teased with the nickname “ugly duckling.” I was not a Jenny, or Debbie. I had a weird name; and it was even spelled funny too. During most recesses, I sat on the bricks in elementary school. I would wistfully watch kids jumping rope and playing ball. Staring out at the blacktop, I would daydream of catching frogs and climbing fruit trees.

Academically, I struggled during most grades throughout elementary school – nearly being held back in fourth grade. The teachers grew weary of my spacey, unfocused behavior. I wasn’t a troublemaker, or obnoxious child for the most part. I was simply unmotivated and uninspired. It was no wonder, as most of the teachers were not “there” for the students. Rather, they were tired, and counting down the days until summer – and the finality of cashing in their pension and retirement dollars. (This does not ring true of a lot of teachers.)

The Gift of Learning
I finally did realize the gift of education in sixth grade when I met the teacher who changed my life, Mrs. Dixon. Check out this post to hear about this incredible educator. It was then that the light bulb of learning clicked.

“Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.” ― Oprah Winfrey

Why am I even talking about school, and its meaning? With school just days away, I am reminded that I want my own children to be inspired in school. I want them to understand that school is more than just reading, writing, math, history and science.

School should be about exploration. School should open doors to other worlds and cultures. School should be about beauty. School should be about the light and the dark. School should be about failing – not rewarding everyone who “participates.” But it is – unfortunately – about those stinging moments of pain. We all have them.

Once a Student, Always a Student
I recall one substitute teacher in my seventh grade sewing class, who explained that she returned to college for another degree. I looked up at the woman, who was in her mid-forties (that’ really old to a 12-year-old) while she said poignantly: “Throughout life you’ll always be learning. You’ll always be a student.”

I took that knowledge to heart and applied it directly to my life. I became a lifelong learner. Throughout my life, I have done my best to apply this motto of lifelong learning, and it is largely because of my willingness to learn and fail that I continue to grow.

As parents, we should be role modeling our willingness to be a student. This is good for the parent and the child. However, parental instincts trigger an automatic protective nature of our children. Here’s the hard part for parents (me included): But only by failing, do they grow. If I could give my children this one piece of wisdom for the school year (and life) it would be to approach life as a student.

But, it’s okay to play hooky sometimes too.

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” ― Clay P. Bedford

What piece of advice, or wisdom would you impart on your children for this coming school year? Is there a moment in time where you realized that you would be a life-long learner? How about failure? Did you learn from failing (and growing)? What lessons did you learn?

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Nowhere to Be But Here

I sprinted through the sand barefoot in my two-piece green and blue bathing suit. “Beat you!” I called to the other girl, as I threw myself into the black swing. Gaining momentum, I could almost feel my head reach the sky. I began to swing back and forth to the rhythm of the waves. With each crash of the wave, my swing would go high, and then retreat. I felt a quiet peacefulness.

Photo attribution:

Photo attribution:

“Jump! Do it!” she dared. Hesitating, I jumped from the swing to the sand, and fell to my knees. I could feel the shock in my ankles from the daring leap.

At the age of six, my eyes slowly panned the long strip of beach towards the endless horizon. The world was my oyster. I had no limitations, no obligations, no restraints.

Nowhere to be – but here. NowIn the moment.

“Hey, want to build a sandcastle?” the girl asked. “Sure,” I said. We spent hours building, creating and carving our masterpiece sandcastle. After a few hours, it began to grow dark. “Are you hungry?” the girl asked. “Starving,” I said. We walked up to the restaurant where her dad was ponied up at the bar. He ordered us the most delicious, juiciest cheeseburgers and fries. Sitting at the bar, I could still hear the soothing rhythms of the crashing waves.

Life was good.

A few minutes later, my mom strolled through the doors of the restaurant to pick me up from my play date. It was time to go, but I pleaded for one last swing with my playmate. My mother relented for a final swing. With the brisk chill of the salty ocean breeze and the darkness settled in, I was happy and carefree in that brief moment.

The Joy of Play – Both as Parent and Child
Flashes of my day of freedom at the beach as a child flooded back when my husband and I recently took our own children to the beach for the first time this summer.

For many parents, the beach is a time for relaxation, and the children entertain themselves. With the exhaustion and hustle and bustle of the week, the beach can be the perfect reprieve for some much-needed relaxation for families. And, we are no exception.

However, this time at the beach was different. Something new had entered my heart. With the familiar crashing of the waves and salty sea air, this was a time for savoring the precious moments of childhood – of my own babies savoring in the joy of play. Watching them, I felt the same carefree sensations of my time as a child at the beach. I thought of those moments while they frolicked and giggled.

Glancing over at my husband, who was leaning back in his beach chair, I knew he was exhausted from a long week. I decided to share my story of the priceless time of playing at the beach as a child. He, too, shared some of his fond childhood memories of playing for endless hours at the beach.

I then explained that our children won’t always be here, and some day, we’ll sit on the beach, just him and I with no kids. They’ll be off at college, or with friends. We’ll wish they were here – like they are right nowin this moment.

Our girls with dad sandcastle building. Serious business.

Our girls with dad sandcastle building. Serious business.

Selfishly, the mere thought of being without my children made me sad. I know time is fleeting and short.

A few minutes later, my five-year-old daughter walked up with her bucket in hand and asked, “Mom, do you want to build a sandcastle with me?” Smiling, I jumped up from my chair, “I was waiting for you to ask me!” I said. Later, my husband and other daughter joined in the fun as well.

We were all there – in the moment. And life is good.

 “Your treasure – your perfection – is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, American Author & Speaker 

What are some of your favorite summer memories as a kid? Do you ever take the time to listen to your heart and be in the moment? As a parent, is there a special time of ‘play’ that you savor? I’d love to hear!

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An Affair With Marie Callender’s

Editor’s Note: The following post is my own opinion and I was not paid/sponsored by any of the companies or organizations cited below.

He leaned back in the wooden chair while comfortably clasping his hands together around his bulging stomach. “I sure would like a piece of chocolate pie,” my Grandpa Clyde announced. This was his standard line after every meal.

Grandpa Clyde and me (love the 80s hairdo!).

Here I am with my Grandpa Clyde. (Love the 80s hairdo!)

And with impeccable timing, the server approached the table as if she heard the call for pie. “Can I get anyone dessert?” she asked. “That’d be mighty nice. Some chocolate pie,” my grandfather answered in a smooth southern twang.

My grandfather, who has since passed more than 15 years ago, had a love affair with our local Marie Callender’s restaurant. One filled with chocolate cream pie and just the right amount of whipped cream. Which explains how I, too, became an avid customer at Marie Callender’s during most of my childhood and young adult life.

Feels Like  My ‘Home’  Restaurant
Since graduating from college, and moving throughout California over the past 20 years, I had never quite reestablished a “main” Marie Callender’s location since leaving my hometown.

However, fond memories of my grandfather and our family pie and meals at Marie Callender’s came flooding back recently when I was invited to attend a luncheon at Marie Callender’s graciously hosted by the co-founders of OC Mom Blog.

Shelby Barone and Amy Barseghian of OC Mom Blog.

Shelby Barone and Amy Barseghian of OC Mom Blog.

I joined several other bloggers, and we enjoyed a lively discussion – from family, professional, parenting, personal and other giggly topics. In addition, we received a lovely gift bag filled with goodies from Sifteo and GoGoSqueeZ – all major hits with my two young daughters.

And then, Marie Callender’s did what it does best. It served up some delicious grub. My mouth salivated at each plate – from Tri-Tip Salad, Black Bean & Chicken “Chimis,” to the Fresh Avocado Shrimp Stack.

While sampling the wide selection of food items – many from the “Backyard BBQ” menu and enjoying some wonderful conversations, I realized something: this is not the Marie Callender’s it used to be.

Yes, the restaurant chain is still dedicated to providing the “freshest and best tasting pies,” but they have stepped up their variety and quality of meal choices since the days of selling pies and bar and grill-style food. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised.

Looking around the room, the burgundy and dark wooded decor was reminiscent of my old hometown Marie Callender’s. And the food tasted even better. I may have found my new go-to Marie Callender’s right here in Irvine.

The Fresh Avocado Shrimp Stack from Marie Callender's.

The Fresh Avocado Shrimp Stack from Marie Callender’s.

Tri Tip Salad from Marie Callender's.

The Tri Tip Salad from Marie Callender’s.

Towards the end of the meal, conversations slowed at the table. I then realized there was something amiss.

The pie.

Within just a few minutes, the table was adorned with pies galore. And of course, one of my Grandpa’s favorite’s – the chocolate pie with whipped cream.

Naturally, the group made a beeline to the pie. Of course, would it be so wrong to try the chocolate cream pie?

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

My Grandpa Clyde would have wanted it that way.

Did You Know?
Marie Callender’s was founded in Long Beach, California in 1948 when Marie Callender was encouraged by husband, Cal, and son, Don, to pursue the American dream and roll her prodigious pie-making skills into profits. The restaurant chain employs more than 10,000 workers across the United States.

Do you have any favorite restaurants that you loved going to as a child? If so, why? What is your favorite kind of pie?

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Parental Confession: Sibling Rivalry Karma

Everything was perfect. Flowers carefully swaged each row. Of course, the minister was standing at the ready with his black leather-bound Bible reverently placed across his chest. Guests eagerly waited for the ceremony to begin. Minutes later, the minister gave the organist a nod, and the ceremonious off-key wedding music blared.

My two younger sisters at my grandfather's wedding. Little angels. I think not.

My two younger sisters at my grandfather’s wedding. Little angels. I think not.

I sat on the groom’s side during my grandfather’s third (and last) wedding wearing a short-sleeved cream-colored dress with tiny flowers. At the age of 10, my mom informed me weeks before the ceremony that I was too old to be a flower girl.

Alternatively, I pitched myself as a ring bearer, poem reader, programmer distributer – but all the wedding jobs were filled. “You’re just too old. Your younger sisters are the right age. I’m sorry,” she said.

The best man and maid of honor then strolled down the aisle. Since this was a “third-times-a-charm” wedding, the bride and groom decided to forgo the large wedding party (thank Goodness), however, I secretly dreamt of a bridesmaid spot “opening” for a blossoming 10-year-old.

But here’s the good part. Remember my disappointment of not being a flower girl?

As the music changed tempo, my sisters held their wicker baskets and proceeded down the aisle and slowly dropped flower petals. My older sister led the way with my youngest sister just steps behind. But then the inevitable happened: sibling fight.

Right there. Down the aisle.

In their precious pink dresses they began to throw punches at each other. The crowd laughed, while my parents shook their heads with nervous embarrassment only a parent could give.

It was awesome. It was redeeming.

I beamed with this thought: “I am still the most loved child. They are such brats and now everyone can see what I have to ‘deal’ with everyday.”

Best day, just about, ever. Until…32 years later.

Lock Me in the Closet?
“Mommmm, get her out of my room!” my older daughter yelled.

“She hit me!” the younger one screamed.

And on, and on. It’s been like this since the beginning of summer. However, these past few weeks, it seems to have reached an all-time high on the infamous sibling fighting scale.

I just can’t help but think that years of retaliating against my two younger sisters is finally coming back to haunt me. Karma is a…well, you know…

So, I went searching for answers to the phenomenon of sibling rivalry. As a parent now, how can I beat this maddening sibling bickering? How do I stop from locking myself in the closet (if it had a lock)?

Researchers have found about 70 to 80 percent of families report some level of physical violence during conflicts between siblings. And that doesn’t include the verbal face offs that come with sibling rivalries.

A few tips I uncovered:

No one likes comparisons. And neither do your kids unless it’s comparing their favorite Cars or Princess character. Celebrate their unique qualities. When you are tempted to compare children, stop yourself.

Strive for unique, not equal. Siblings often want things to be equal, but it’s a losing battle. Focus on the individual needs instead.

Never stereotype kids or lock them into roles. Give them freedom to change. Children readily absorb these descriptions of ‘shy’ or ‘talkative’ – and they become defining moments for them.

Spend time with each child separately. Date time is critical for staying connected (just like you need alone time with your partner). A different dynamic and level of connection happens between groups when more people are added.

Recognize their feelings. Siblings need to have their feelings about one another acknowledged. Not dismissed. If your child says, “He is so mean!” You can say, “You sound really upset.” Resist the urge to turn this into a teachable moment with, “He really isn’t mean”.

Model healthy anger management. Demonstrate conflict resolution skills. Teach your children how to express disappointment, frustration, or sadness in a healthy and productive manner.

I am slowly working in these strategies into my own parenting style. I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I know this crossed your mind: Will I allow my two angel daughters to be flower girls at a wedding in the near future?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Do you have ‘memorable’ sibling rivalries during childhood? If so, how did your parents handle these conflicts? If you’re a parent now, do you have any suggestions that have worked with your kids? Please. Help.

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