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My dad often called me ‘Gasoline’ as he wanted me to be called Kathleen, but my older brother and cousins couldn’t pronounce the ‘th’; then by the time I could walk – I mostly ran! My school nickname was ‘KK’ for Kathy Kennedy and Kathy was a popular name in those days and KK separated me from the others.
Q: You sew, craft AND you’re a phenomenal cook. How long have you been doing each of them and which is your favorite?
A: I joined 4-H when I was 10 with cooking, food preservation and sewing as projects that were continued until I left home at 18 for university/college. By the time I was 12, I cooked almost every week night meal having been left the menu and page numbers of cookbooks by my mother. I learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine and commenced making most of my own clothes. Until college, craft would really have been related to sewing. In college, I did a Craft unit where each week we choose a different craft and had to put a minimum of 10 hours to it. I did weaving, embroidery, knitting, crochet, tapestry, patchwork/quilting – some others that I can’t think of right now.
My husband bought hand woven Irish wool for me to make him a suit since I had a tailored a coat for myself as a senior in high school and another when in college. But I didn’t cut the fabric for almost 10 years, working up the courage by making him pants, shirts, and a cotton suit. That was probably my biggest challenge until my younger son was married and I made the wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, and my son’s suit – as well as my own dress – all in ten weeks while working full-time. There have been many times that when looking back, I’ve said, ‘How did I do all that then?’
I was recently at a second hand shop and bought an old table loom. My mind says that I should be able to continue weaving after I can no longer thread a needle! I don’t know but I will not spend my old age watching TV!
My current craft is patchwork/quilting. I Love handquilting. I primarily make baby quilts but with my mother moving into assisted living care, I now have 27 boxes of fabric and 9 boxes with the quilt pattern and all fabrics needed to make up the quilts of double/queen size. And I’m making a ‘two needle’ quilt with a friend, of pattern and fabric of her choice. I have my older son’s designed quilt top for his 21st birthday to quilt but that should be started to finish when he is 40 or 50 years old!
Q: You have two adult sons and now 4 grandsons (All boys!). It must be amazing to have 2 generations of boys grow up right before your eyes. How old are your grandsons? Are your concerns for your grandsons, now, any different than what they were for your own boys growing up?
A: 2 generations – I wonder if my sons, 36 and nearly 34, think they are still growing up….But they must be if their father is still maturing. (Have never used LOL but just did that!!! ) Grandsons are 2,4,7 and nearly 9. It is amazing watching the sons – they’ve picked up good and bad habits from their parents – both of us! And because my mother lived with us from the time they were nearly 7 and 4+ until they left home – some of her too (but I don’t see that as much).
- TV –[too much of it]
- Becoming responsible, kind, truthful and compassionate – these morals were hard to teach in the past and just as hard now.
- No bullying – be kind! Practice this with your brother(s). Bullying includes ignoring and not including them when they ask to join in. God gave us family to learn how to treat all people.
- Be a brother to all. Brothers protect sisters and look out for each other. Brothers are safe to be around.
Q: I have 4 boys of my own who will be teenagers in a couple of years? What was the biggest challenge for you as a mom when your boys were growing up? How did you handle it?
A: A thought provoking question! Was it how to get their father to spend more time with them? How to get my mom from scolding them so much? Building a ‘fence’ to constrain amazing creativity and energy without quelling the spirit? Was it the boat accident with friends when our son lived and their’s died and all the related questions of a 6 year old and 4 year old, let alone a range of other repercussions? Allowing our older son to travel alone from Australia to Canada through the US to represent Australia in a sailing competition when he was 18, knowing he would possibly fail that year in school, knowing this is the one who forgets/doesn’t pay close attention…..? Being considered strict parents by most everyone and yet wanting our sons to grow up to be men who were safe for our friends’ daughters to be with; strong to resist the temptations and seductions of girls and boys of any age; respectful, accountable and honoring of all people no matter how different; inquisitive, resourceful, and open to learning, even if only for understanding?
I think it helped a lot that my husband and I talked a lot before we were married about what we didn’t like about how we were raised and what we wanted for our children. We knew that our parents did what they thought was best from the experiences they had and how little they communicated with one another. We prayed together, with our sons, over our sons after they were asleep, before – during – after every life stage.
Because we talked out so many things and many of the ‘whys’ before they were asked, because we expected increasing responsibility as the boys grew up, the high school/teenage years were far better than we imagined they might be. We had ‘family’ time almost every morning – Bible reading and discussion over breakfast. Sermons, movies and the newspaper (especially history and social studies were discussed. Many people lived at our house over the years – usually from church but also university music staff and/or music students, summer schools with usually another 10 people crammed in our home – tutors, interstate/international conductors, students. Musicians who would come for after rehearsal snacks and really need dinner. Music students who would come to talk at all hours of day/night. as well as Japanese girls learning English. Many of these people have no idea the influence they had on our sons. We also traveled – both as parent helpers for scouts, and as a family. And to do that, many things that friends and cousins had, our sons did not and they knew why.
Q: There are so many questions that I’d like to ask, but so little space. How did you get involved with the Somali immigrant/refugee public school in Minneapolis? That’s a long way from Australia where you currently reside?
My husband retired in 2003. His college roommate called, left a message on our answering machine that there was a music position vacant at a private college he was teaching at and maybe they could teach a few years together if my husband was successful in the application. He was successful, I retired and we moved to Minneapolis. After a year and a half of temporary administration positions, I was successful in securing a Personal Assistant/Executive Officer position for the Principal and later the Director and Assistant Director of the school. My previous position in Australia was as the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the University of Tasmania and the school was looking for a basic skilled and minimum experienced secretary. I had skills they didn’t imagine they could get for the offered pay, and I got a very flexible secure position in an environment that for me was a dream (most of the time) to work in. I had experienced on a small scale the racism and discrimination these people were experiencing. I had advocated for better working conditions and led equity focus groups to propose changes to university policies and practices. I had chaired, set agendas, taken minutes at high levels of accountability. I had dealt with questions and complaints of harassment and discrimination, and had accompanied staff when they wanted to raise issues with their supervisors as well as speaking on behalf of students regarding harassment by other students.
Q. You seem to have fond memories of the experience. How long did you work there and what type of impact did this have on your life?
I worked there for three school years. Impact? It was great being able to talk freely about the differences I perceived in the 21 years I had lived outside the US. There was the ‘free speech’ which I argued did not mean you could say whatever you wanted about another or call them or their family members names nor harass or bully a person. I understood that knowing English does not mean that the words mean the same between cultures or ethnic groups. I understood that poor student behaviour is often a reflection of poor teaching skills. I understood that these immigrants/refugees were educated but not accepted by many of the Americans they were in contact with. I understood the need to keep their culture, their religion, their way of doing things.
When I gave my farewell speech that I was asked to give to the grade 8 students, I talked about how the school had enabled me to be valued for putting into practice what I had advocated to the University staff and students – fairness for all: dignity, courtesy and respect. That these are basic human rights which we should all model. And that here at this school it was possible for staff and students to develop and practice these social skills.
Q. You mention “home management” on your site. As a mom of young kids, I find managing a home well can be a great challenge. What advice would you give to moms who are looking to develop their home management skills?
A. I should ask my daughter-in-law mom for a picture of her refrigerator! She has posted there : a calendar with everyone’s activities (this year’s includes weekly Bible memory verses), chart of chores for each day and child, as well as her own chart of house cleaning/maintenance and time with each family member and a list of non-routine jobs.
Both my sister-in-law and I did something similar. I still make lists and find that most management – home or business – have that as a key feature of being organized.
Also develop a realistic budget to be, and remain, out of debt, give the Lord (be generous) 10%, and learn to save 10%. Do without, make do, use it up.
Learn to cook, clean and garden. One doesn’t need to be a gourmet/chef nor a professional cleaner. Basics – one step at a time. Its quite amazing to eat veggies you grew yourself or strawberries!
Q: Best mom advice?
A: Love, honor and respect your husband, the father of your children.
Thank you, Kathleen!
[yellow_box] If you’d like to learn more about Susan or just say “Hello”, follow this link to her site KMum’s Mutterings.
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