What's her secret?: 'Never give up ... and teach your children the same'

abredeson@islandpacket.comJune 8, 2014 

Michelle Elliott of Beaufort is pictured with her husband, Steve, and her children Sarah, Marshall and Shelbey.



    The moms featured in this column are not bragging about themselves. They often have no idea they are even being selected for the weekly feature until they get a phone call. Most are recommended by readers. Please send your suggestions of Lowcountry moms to features writer Amy Bredeson at abredeson@islandpacket.com.

Name: Michelle Elliott

Husband: Steve

Town: Beaufort

Children: Sarah, 13; Marshall, 11; and Shelbey, 4

Occupation: I spent 12 years as a technical writer, writing everything from computer software manuals to meeting minutes for the Department of Energy. Over the past year, however, I have chosen instead to home-school my children, as the need seemed greater.

Favorite mommy moment: When my daughter Sarah and I look at each other and laugh because of some little joke between the two of us. When my son, Marshall, is misbehaving and he gives me that gorgeous smile of his, knowing that on some level, it works. Lastly, it is when Shelbey, my youngest, climbs into my lap, gives me a hug and tells me that she could stay like this forever.

Most challenging moment: Trying to unravel the mystery of my son's learning disability has been the most challenging to me. Like many moms, I knew something was wrong when he struggled to learn the alphabet, yet I listened to the teachers, who all said, "Relax; he will learn." Well, he didn't, and eventually, I trusted my own instincts and started pushing our educational system to work with me. It took four long years â€" which included doctor appointments, school intervention, tutors and eventually eye therapy â€" before he made progress. When he couldn't cope with the middle-school class structure, I researched other solutions and did the only thing that I was sure would work. I chose to home-school him. It has been a year since that crucial decision, and I am proud to say that he is not only on grade level, but even excelling in some areas. I don't expect this challenge to be over, but I do think that we have turned a corner, and he is now capable of achieving anything he sets his mind to.

Go-to lunch: While I try to be health conscious, I must admit that two of our favorite lunches in this household are the all-American grilled cheese and the classic BLT. There is nothing better than those fresh tomatoes from the farmers market.

Favorite kids' book: How about anything that my children will read? Seriously, I love the old classic, "Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes." They are short, so the children each get to pick the ones they like, and there are so many of them that Mom doesn't get bored. There are pictures for the younger ones to look at, and what is funnier than hearing Mom try to read about Betty Botter's butter?

Best household tip: Teach your children and, if necessary, your husband, how to clean the house. I find that a few minutes of my time teaching helps all of us have more free time to do something fun.

What is something your child said that amazed or inspired you? When my daughter Sarah was in kindergarten, she came home from school talking about Hurricane Katrina and how the school was collecting money to send to the victims. The next thing I knew, she came struggling from her bedroom with this big piggy bank full of money. She simply said, "Mom, can we take this to school? I think they need the money more than I do." In that moment, I was truly amazed at the generosity of my little girl. The memory still serves as a reminder to me to be more aware of moments where I, too, can be more generous.

How do you keep up with all the kids' stuff -- all the papers, projects, activities and appointments? First, I keep everything on my computer's calendar and then I make sure it syncs up with my phone. I do have a good memory, but I feel more confident if I simply write it down. Second, at the beginning of every school year, I label one folder for each activity. I have a dance folder, a karate folder and folders for each child's important school papers. Everything that I have to keep track of goes into those folders, and then I clean them out at the end of the school year. Those folders may end up overflowing, but at least it is in one place and I easily find what I need.

I want to pull out my hair when ... everyone needs my attention at the same time. You know, the phone rings, there is someone at the door, two of my children need help with schoolwork, my little one is hungry and the dog needs to go out. Those are the moments when I just want to scream.

I feel my best when: I have time to myself. As I have gotten older, I realize that for me to be a good mom, I need my own space. When I have that, I am much happier and far more patient.

Advice for other moms: First, as a mom, never give up and teach your children the same. Sometimes life is hard and things don't come easy. It is in those moments that, as a mom, you can do the most good. Teach your children that determination is sometimes the key to succeeding. Second, don't be afraid to tell your children something they might not want to hear. If you cannot talk to your children about their shortcomings, who is going to tell them? You don't want your children to grow up thinking that they have to be perfect, and you certainly don't want someone else pointing out something that you should have told them yourself.

Follow reporter Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.


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