Saturday, April 30, 2011

A League of Their Own

Well, team 1003 had their first official game. It was a real nail-biter. Actually, there were no outs, no score, no winners, no losers. My idea of a good game. In typical Sara fashion, she redefined a "home run". In her world a home run is when you get to each base throughout the "inning". There was much playing in the sand and dandelion-picking. She was quite disappointed to realize that her games were not televised.

After only 2 practices, I was impressed with the girls' skill and team spirit. Some have played before but were patient with the beginners. They were very supportive and encouraging of one another. Only a couple dads seemed to be taking too seriously. It made me wonder if they had money riding on the game. I don't think they realized that the players cared more about their pink gloves and snack time than the actual game. The girls had a great time learning the basics of the game and cheering each other on.

After the game, Sara said she was happy they didn't keep score because no one lost and felt bad. I like that team spirit!

Grandpa to the rescue

Sara had a rough couple of days. Yesterday, she peed in her pants at school. Luckily, no one noticed and it was the end of the day so I could just bring her home. Understandably, she was upset and embarrassed. I explained that it happens to everyone, even me. This perked her up. "Really?", she asked. "Can I call Grumpy (her grandpa) and ask him?". I explained that he was up north fishing with some friends. Being a quick thinker, she replied, "just call him on his cell". Anyone who knows my dad and his fear of and dysfunctional relationship with all things electronic will understand why I couldn't stop laughing. Her next tragedy was at dance class. It was observation day and I couldn't stay and observe. Then came softball practice. Having exactly 1.5 practices under her belt, she is not Babe Ruth. She was frustrated because some girls clearly have more experience. She is still running to third from home while carrying her pink bat. Today is her first official "game". She wanted to call Grumpy so he could wish her luck. This time, I was a little quicker on the draw. However, my father, who does own a cell phone, rarely uses it. He can place calls. I think if his phone ever rang, thinking it was a ticking bomb, he would toss it and run away. So, I called my aunt, who knows how to operate a cell phone. Here is the process that ensued: I explained that I needed her to call her husband at their cabin to ask him to have my dad call my house to wish Sara good luck on her first game. She said she wasn't sure my uncle would answer the cabin or cell phone. I forgot these are 60 and 70-something old lawyers. Technology is not their strong suit. If I needed to sue someone, they are my go-to men. Cell phones and voice mail are another story. Miraculously, they answered the phone on the second try. After assuring them no one is sick or injured, we explained that we had a Grumpy emergency. He swiftly jumped into action and left a massage for my little leaguer. You can run but you can't hide, Dad. When Sara needs her Grumpy, we will find you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fairytale Wedding

The world watched as a commoner became a princess in a fairytale wedding. There were carriages, horses, queens and cheering crowds. She wore a fancy dress, a crown and beautiful flowers as she wed the man of her dreams. Every little girl dreams of marrying a prince and becoming a princess. As we get older, things change (slightly). We still want to marry the man of our dreams and have a "fairytale" wedding. There is no such thing as a fairytale wedding. Something will go wrong - whether it's a flower girl bawling (you know who you are), a church without air-conditioning making the bride sweat through her dress (me), someone tripping on the altar (not me, I swear). But those things don't ruin the "big day". It's not about having the 'perfect' wedding. It's about marrying the person you love and celebrating it with your friends and family. By that criteria, I had a 'perfect' wedding, even if my beloved niece ate my piece of cake, leaving me high and dry (and hungry).

I've been married to my prince for almost 11 years. He will be the first to tell you that I am no princess. Being married is no fairytale. It's not very glamorous and a lot of work. You will be faced with many challenges - health, finances, jobs, family to name a few. You don't need a prince. You need a partner. Someone who understands you. Someone who has seen you at your worst and loves you through it. Someone to be in the trenches with you. Someone who will pick you up when you are down. Someone you can lean on and count on. I married the man of my dreams. And I'm living happily ever after.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brain Rules

Tonight I attended a lecture by Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of "brain rules - 12 Principles for Surviving & Thriving at Work, Home & School". I have no idea what his fancy title means but it was a fascinating and illuminating evening. He discussed the effects and advantages of what he calls "emotion coaching parenting". He encourages parents to set consistent rules set in stone that are repeated consistently. He also encourages parents to remain fearless in the face of their child's heightened emotional states. In other words, when your kid is have a 9.9 hissy fit, don't react. Stay calm and in charge. Easier said than done, I'm sure. I'm just paraphrasing a scientific expert with fancy degrees and a dozen years of research to back up his statements.

Another effective parenting method is to consistently be aware of your kid's emotions and help them verbalize those emotions. Are they sad, disappointed or angry? Kids understand rewards and punishments. Use them consistently and effectively.

A parent's first response or action to an upset child should be empathy. Kids can learn that their actions can help others. Has your child ever tried to comfort you when you've been injured or upset? They learn by seeing us show empathy to others.

With older kids (the dreaded teenage years), he recommends that you do not try to 'fix' the problem. Verbalize the emotions you see them displaying and try to determine where they are coming from. Did they have a fight with a friend? Fail a test? Not get invited to a dance?

I highly recommend his book. He calls himself an "angry scientist" but I found him grounded, entertaining and informative. Even as an "expert", he doesn't claim any fail-proof methods. Parenting is an instinctive, constantly changing roller coaster. It's the best and hardest job in the world.

Mother-Daughter Club

Sara and I had our first book club meeting and it was a great success. We read "Betsy-Tacy" by Maude Lovelace. Reading these books again as an adult and sharing them with my daughter is a wonderful experience. My mother introduced me to these books and I am thrilled to have the same experience with my daughter. Like me, Sara is a bookworm. Once she has a book in her hands, she is in another world.

Being the only 2 members of our elite and exclusive club, we got to make up any rules we wanted. Here they are and they are strictly enforced:

Both members must agree on the book
Meetings must involve food and dessert
No one else is invited (especially little brothers)
We take turns reading our favorite parts aloud
No interrupting
No arguing about the book
Costumes are encouraged

As usual, Sara had a unique perspective. At first, she treated book club like a book report for school. Then I explained that we are sharing the book and our thoughts with each other. She can do it any way she wants. She was thrilled. When we sat down to discuss the book, I was amazed. We had a great discussion. She asked me what I liked best about the book, what was my favorite part, what I liked about each character, what it would have been like to live back then. She put a lot of thought into this. It was wonderful to have these conversations with her. Once again I was shocked at how bright she is. I love the way her mind works. She really put a lot of thought and effort into this experience. I cannot wait until our next meeting.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The mind of a 2 year old

Christian is a man on a mission. He wants to ride his bike day and night, rain or shine. He tries to chase down joggers, other bikers, anything in his path. When I picked him up from school on this cold, rainy, windy day, he announced that he needed to ride his bike. I told him we had to go home so he could eat his lunch and take his nap. Unswayed, he declared his agenda consisted of lunch, bike riding and NO nap. With my back against that wall, I tried another tact. I explained that it was too cold, rainy and windy to ride a bike outside today. This didn't faze him at all. He told me "mommy, I wear coat. I no be cold.". Have I just been outmaneuvered by a 2 year? Not wanting to engage in a battle of wits with a stubborn 2 year old, I decide we do not live in a democracy. I'm the dictator and I have the final say. Against his will, bike riding has been called due to rain. I'm hoping for a sunny day tomorrow. A 2 year old with a severe case of cabin fever is not good company.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrity Apprentice

I admit it. I get sucked into Celebrity Apprentice occasionally. My husband is too smart to mock me for this because he is a die-hard Trekkie. I'm embarrassed and it is my dirty little secret. It's horrifying to watch grown people attack, belittle and sabotage each other. I can only hope they ratchet it up for the cameras and the entertainment value. It's like a horrifying glimpse back at high school with fancier clothes and loads of plastic surgery. Week after week I watch the women back stab and insult each other. There is a control freak, a drama queen, a victim, a lay low woman, a doormat, and a bully. No one owns up to their mistakes. They are too busy blaming each other. If two women don't see eye-to-eye, they take it as a personal affront and go on the defensive. They personify petty, catty and malicious women. When someone goes too far, they toss out an insincere apology then revert back to their old ways. The men seem to work well together. They don't have the petty, emotional squabbles. They don't attack on a personal level. Do women ever really grow up? Can they work cohesively in a group? Do we revert back to our immature, teenage years? Can we embrace people's differences and skills and work toward a common goal?

I'm not a competitive person. I never want to be in charge of a group. I hate bossing people around (husband excluded). I've been a member of the Junior League for 15 years. I've served on many committees but never been in charge of one. I served on our school's fundraising committee and was very successful. People give me money, products and services to go away. I love being a grunt. I like being given a task and running with it. I don't feel comfortable with the amount of responsibility that comes with being in charge. It would be very easy to stage a coup and take over. I like flying under the radar and taking orders. Let someone else take the credit.

You can be assured I will be sucked back in next week to watch the drama continue. I guess I prefer my drama on TV instead of in my life. With 2 young children, I have enough drama day to day.

The thrill of the hunt

Yesterday, like millions of parents, we did the traditional egg hunt. Easter was a mix of secular and religious traditions. Sara sang in the church choir before the hunt. She was terribly worried that her younger brother would get a head start on the egg hunt. I assured her that we wouldn't start the hunt without her. Less than reassured, she marched off the church. Back from church and hopefully filled with the Holy Spirit, the hunt was on. Christian, being a typical 2 year old, was clueless. But, once he saw that Sara was excited and that food might be involved, he rallied to the occasion. They grabbed their baskets and searched the house with a skill and determination rarely seen except in bomb-sniffing dogs. We should send thousands of kids to find Osamba Bin Laden. Seriously, tell them it's a giant egg hunt in the dessert and they'd find him in no time.

Sara was a good older sister. She made sure her little brother got his share of eggs. She'd point some out to him. When she saw that she had collected more, she quickly hid them again so he could find them. Then came the counting and sorting of the loot. With the skill and focus of a neurosurgeon, Sara quickly had her stash organized. Christian spent the rest of the morning dumping his jelly beans in and out of his basket. Sometimes kids surprise you in a good way. They can fight like sworn enemies over the littlest things. Then, she turns into protector and takes cares of the little guy who loves to pull her hair and steal her toys. As a bonus for her, he announced that jelly beans are icky and gave them to her. I think she is still on a sugar high. But, she earned those jelly beans.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Murphy's Romance

Last night, I watched "Murphy's Romance" on TV. It's a fabulous movie starring James Garner as an older man, settled in his ways, comfortable in his own skin with a no-nonsense view of life. Sally Field is a young, single mom determined to make a better life for herself and her son. I love this movie's message. James Garner is amazing as a low key man who figured out a long time ago that the meaning of life is family, friends and being true to yourself. He can see through all the nonsense and clutter that people worry about. He calls it like he sees it. He puts a lot of importance on loyalty and honesty. He is a kind and supportive friend. Sally Field is hardworking, firm yet gentle with her son. Her main concern is raising a 'good man'. She strives to always do the right thing and stand on her own two feet. Every time I see this movie, I'm reminded how easy it is to get caught up in the unimportant things and forget what is really important. As a parent, I constantly wonder if I'm doing the right thing with my kids. Am I too strict? Too lenient? Am I instilling good values in them? Do they care about others? Am I setting a good example?

I'm lucky to have several people in my life who have these qualities. No matter what life throws at them, they handle it straight on with grace and dignity. They don't complain about every little thing that goes wrong. If someone they love is in need, they are the first in line to help. Nothing is too much.

More often than I care to admit, I fall short in these qualities. When I'm having one of those days where it seems like every little thing happens just to annoy me, I'm the first to feel sorry for myself. In reality, I've had a pretty easy life. I just need to stop and remember that when the days seems to be designed to test what little patience I have.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Does Size Really Matter?

I grew up with 5 older brothers. That's right. No typo, 5, count 'em, 5 older brothers. We are as Irish Catholic as they come. Growing up in our neighborhood and parish, this was the norm. Pretty much everyone had a gaggle of kids. We were not unusual. No one looked shocked when they found out how many of us there were (except our teachers). And, you almost had to feel sorry for them. Every time they thought they were in the clear, another one shows up. When it was my turn, there was a double take when the attendance card read "Roche, girl". I got used to it.

Nowadays, families are smaller. When we moved to Indiana, we were surprised to find larger families are much more common here. I've met families with 7 or more kids. Each one of these families has had comments made about the 'absurd' size of their family. "How do you handle so many kids? Why so many? Isn't it hard to raise so many? How do you afford it? Do the kids get enough attention? Did you want a large family?" Is it really any one's business how many kids you decide to have? It's as intrusive and rude as asking someone how they got pregnant. Personally, I don't have a stake in how you got pregnant, how many kids you have or how you raise them. I'm too busy raising my own.

Paul and I are happy with our family of 4. That number works for us. People are surprised that, coming from a large family, I don't want more children. I know my limits and my limit is 2. I get scared when I am out-numbered. Don't get me wrong, I loved my childhood. I never felt left out or neglected. My parents made sure we all knew we were loved and valued. I had 5 protectors and was the ultimate tomboy/Daddy's girl. He only had one and I milked it for all it was worth. Hint, dads never know how much dresses should cost. They are defenseless against tears, too. I learned well and early. I have passed this skill onto my daughter. Her grandpa is putty in her hands and not the least bit ashamed about it.

In today's Wall Street Journal, there is a review of Bryan Caplan's book "Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids". Really? Selfish? Unless you are breeding to land a reality show and exploit your children, how is having multiple children selfish? Is it any of our business how many children people choose to have? I have never met a child from a large family who resented it or felt neglected. I speak to at least one of my brothers daily. The holidays are big, loud, chaotic and fun. My dad spends most of his time travelling from state to state to visit, go on fishing trips, attend baptisms, First Communions and graduations. And, if you asked him, he wouldn't change a thing. The man has 6 kids living in 6 states. The airlines love him.

Everyone knows what is right for them. Parents have a limitless capacity to love, care for and nurture their children. When it comes to love and nurturing your family, is there a limit to your supply? As a mom, I never run out of hugs or kisses. As a father of 6 and grandfather of 10 grandchildren, I think my father would agree. Go ahead, have a baker's dozen of kids. Just don't ask me to babysit or change diapers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Unsolicited Advice

I'm not a parenting expert. I don't play one on TV. I don't pretend to be one. Everyone around me is, however. When you are pregnant or have children, these "helpers" crawl out of the woodwork. They assume I am completely unprepared to raise a child and feel obligated to point out the most obvious things. I have been around children. I have read books. I've spoken to parents. I prefer to follow my own maternal instincts and the advice of my O.B. and pediatrician. I have been told what stroller to buy, how to dress and feed my children. If I wanted to raise a lot of children, I would have more children. I'm too busy raising my children to tell you how to raise yours. I'm no hero. If I need help or have questions, I'm the first person to speak up. When I had my first child, I had mastitis three times and post-partum depression (a lovely combination). My dad was called in to drive me to the doctor several times. He ran errands and brought me food. With the 3rd round of mastitis, I called my sister-in-law, made her leave work, drive me to the doctor, put me to bed, fill my prescription, feed and change my infant.

When friends get pregnant, I have a list of products I recommend. I also send them a chart my husband made to keep track of eating, sleeping and nursing. I'm happy to answer questions but I do not presume that anyone is incompetent and needs my advice unless asked directly.

Having said all this, I'm still sometimes shocked that God decided I would be a good parent and gave me 2 wonderful children. He must truly have an interesting sense of humor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who are You?

What defines you? How do you define yourself? Is it your marital status? Your parental status? Your career? I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, just to name a few. If you ask an American man or woman what they "do", they will tell you their profession. Interestingly, if you ask a European the same question, they will tell you about their hobbies and interests. Hmmm.....What does that say about Americans? Of course,around the world we are labeled "ugly Americans".

As a full time, stay at home mom, I am first and foremost a mother. Sometimes I am a cranky and stressed out mom. Sometimes I am a happy and fulfilled mom. I hope this does not diminish my other roles. I am a devoted wife, daughter and sister. I talk to my dad daily. I am in constant contact with my brothers. I like to keep up to date about what is happening in my extended family. Ok, so I am also very nosy.

Everyone has labels. Some are given to us. Some we give to ourselves. I think how we see ourselves influences how others see us. I have been labeled as "the funny, organized one" for years. My husband is the "MacGuyver, patient professor". My daughter is the "bubbly and curious one". My son is the "stubborn and silly one". Do these labels ever change? Are we put into a box? Can we break out of the box?

Motherless Daughter, Motherless Mother

My mom was amazing. She raised 6 kids, attended little leagues, was a brownie troop leader, sang in the choir, ran hot dog lunch day at our school, put Martha Stewart's sewing to shame and could out-cook Julia Child. She had an amazing sense of humor and never lost her cool. Friends were always welcome at our house and would usually find their favorite snacks in our fridge. The boys' girlfriends loved coming over because they were so welcome. Of course, I was sent to the basement to spy on them. My mom was no fool. She had foot surgery but didn't let that stand in the way of our family ski trip. She came along and everyone had a great time. Nothing slowed my mom down. She chaired the high school fundraiser and still cooked dinner every night. When she got sick, my dad stepped in. He worked full time, visited her in the hospital and we still had family dinner. After she died, he had big shoes to fill and he did it. We still had family dinner every night. When he traveled for work, I usually tagged along. He flew home overnight to see me off to prom. His secretary had firm orders to put ALL calls from children through immediately. She also knew never to leave a message "your son called". With 5 sons, this would only lead to confusion.

When I had my kids, I missed my mom more than ever. She would have loved being a grandma. All the grandkids love hearing about Grandma Bobbie. One of their favorite stores is when my dad complained about the neighbor kids' bikes ruining our grass, she calmly told him "we are growing kids, not grass." For her birthday one year, he had a plaque made with this phrase which she promptly hung up in the kitchen. The other favorite story was when someone pointed out that she was wearing 2 different shoes. She shrugged and went to the grocery store anyway. She loved people and didn't care what people thought. People still approach me and tell me how great she was. We were lucky to have her and miss her everyday.

My father a.k.a. Grumpy

Someone recently asked me why my father comes up so frequently in my blogs. Here is the history. I have 5 older brothers and my mother died when I was 15. Even as a small child, my dad made sure we had our special time together. I would go to the office with him on Saturdays. This was a big deal. I got to get dressed up, drink hot chocolate and play with the copier. We would go out to breakfast before and the bookstore after. When I had my daughter, Sara, I became a stay at home mom. We started having weekly lunches when Sara about 3 weeks old. We had it down to a science. My dad would arrive early and get a table. After lunch, we would go to Costco to stock up on various necessities - diapers, wipes, books, diet coke, etc. As Sara got older, she would insist we park next to Grumpy's car. Heaven help the person who dared to park next to him. She would race into the restaurant, leap into his arms and sit next to him. Next came a lenghty debate about what he would order because he had to share it with her. This tradition got Sara over her hatred of pickles and tomatoes because he eats both. It also introduced her to pepper. My dad foolishly asked me once if spicy shrimp pasta was okay to order. The waitress couldn't figure out why grown man couldn't order for himself. Sara reassured him she could eat it because she is part Mexican.

As a grandpa, my dad rocks. My kids can do no wrong in his eyes. He has 3 defenses for them. One, they are falsely accused. Two, it was completely justified. Three, they were framed. I don't bore my friends with every little milestone or funny story about my kids. Nope, I reserve that privilege for my dad. He gets calls from potty training kids frequently. He responds each time like they cured cancer. These kids can convince him to do just about anything. Once Sara moved to a booster seat, she had to ride in his car as often as possible. She would announce they had to listen to music and drive around the lake. I'm left wondering why a drive home from Costco takes 25 minutes. She would have some new accomplishment to show off and he would race over. When he puts her to bed it takes 45 minutes because many extra stories have to be read. Then they must discuss their plans for the next day. And he always has a stash of M&Ms for potty training rewards. And he makes a fine short order cook and will cook ANYTHING they request.

Where was this blind devotion and servitude when we were growing up? Just kidding, Grumpy. You rocked then, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The third rail

My family loves to discuss, debate, and dissect politics. The funny part is they are all on the same side of the aisle and ridiculously well-informed. Nothing is more amusing to me than watching a group of well-educated white males who have the same political ideology try to create an argument. Since they are all cut from the same conservative Republican cloth, they have to make up the other side's half of the argument just to make it interesting.

For the most part, I manage to stay out of these entertaining discussions. I try to stay informed about current events. I like to consider myself a fairly well informed citizen. But, let's face it. There is nothing of value I can contribute to those discussions. I can guarantee that my brother, a resident of Ohio, is better informed about your state's politics than you are (unless you happen to be governor of your fine state). I usually get my news online after the kids are in bed or from the TV at the gym while I'm running. Who am I kidding? If I really want to know what is happening in the the world, I can just called my Dad and get a full synopsis on just about any subject, except Charlie Sheen (and I couldn't care less about him). After staring at the TV for an hour, here is what I have discovered. First, Democrats and Republicans are never going to see eye to eye. Each side truly believes they are right and the other side is the root of all evil and the reason the country is in such dire straights. Second, these discussions lead nowhere. I have never met anyone who was actually swayed by another person's political position. Have you ever heard anyone say "oh my God, you are right and I'm wrong. Thanks for pointing that out and setting me straight.". No, that doesnt happen. People want to tell you their beliefs. They don't necessarily want to hear yours.

So, I will tell you what I believe, my captive audience. I believe you are entitled to your beliefs as long as you are well-informed and know why you believe what you believe. But, as my dad says, you are not entitled to your own facts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Just right

I took Sara to get her First Communion pictures taken last weekend. We were both very excited. Paul straightened her hair. She was wearing her baptismal necklace from Uncle Luis, new sparkly shoes and a big smile. When she changed into her dress and veil, the photographer's wife said "wow, she is too skinny. Does she eat?".

Yes, my daughter eats, as most people can attest. She eats anything and everything from clam chowder to zucchini. She is 'blessed' with a high metabolism and boundless energy. Her record was 4 helpings of meatloaf in one sitting. In preschool she would eat lunch at school and then again at home. She has no qualms eating her food then zeroing in on the food of those around her. I don't think my father has eaten his entire meal in the last 7 years. Our friends are accustomed to her begging for food at their homes.

Her pediatrician is fine with her weight. She eats very well and takes vitamins. She is a normal healthy little girl who eats like a horse but burns through her energy. We are very careful not to make weight an issue in our house. She knows I enjoy excercising because I like to be healthy. I don't discuss dieting around her.

My daughter is 7 years old. We monitor what she watches and reads. I don't want her developing a complex about her body. We all know how women are portrayed in the media. We hear about girls developing eating disorders earlier and earlier. Later, Sara asked me if she is too skinny. (ironically, this conversation took place at Moe's, where she devoured her lunch) I explained that her body is just fine and the lady didn't mean anything by it. I'm sure she meant no harm but it planted a little seed of doubt in my daughter's head. Kids should be focused on school, friends and family. At 7 years old, they should not be worried about 'being too skinny'. I want my daughter to focus on being a good and happy child, not worry about being skinny or fat.

Sara is a bright, beautiful, caring, funny girl. She loves to read, swim, dance, cook, write and play. I want her to care about who she is on the inside. I want people to notice her for who she is, not what she looks like. To us, she is beautiful inside and out.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Puddles and toddlers

We went to Sam's Club today and Christian noticed the retention pond out front and instigated the following conversation.

"Wow, that's a big puddle, Daddy". We decided to be proactive and point out that he shouldn't jump in the "big puddle".

"I'd get lost, Daddy?".

"Yes, buddy, you are two years old and cannot swim."

"You couldn't find me?". That's right, little man. You would sink like a stone. (We didn't tell him this.)

"Mommy would miss me? Daddy would miss me? Sara would miss me? Lala would miss me? Grumpy would miss me? Molly (neighbor's dog) would miss me? Be sad? Cry?"

Yes, my dad ranked above the neighbor's dog but below the infamous Lala. He seemed comforted by this conversation and reassured us that he wouldn't jump in to the "big puddle". Then, he sagely advised Sara to avoid it as well. She rolled her eyes at him and gave him a "duh". Ahhh, sibling love at it's finest.

Big brother is watching

Somehow, without intending to, I got my whole family onto Facebook. It's been a great way to keep in touch and find out what everyone is up to. Otherwise, how would I know my 16 year old niece has a boyfriend or that my nephew is a track star and an A student? I was also using the "check in" feature on Facebook until recently. One of my many old brothers (there are 5 of them), called me because he was concerned. He pointed out that I may not want everyone and their creepy neighbors knowing where I am and when. He finished the conversation by saying "I know you won't listen to me but as your brother I had to mention this". This is the same brother who seemed to have a special skill for tormenting me as a child. His ways were extensive and quite stealth. Maybe it is because he has a daughter now. Maybe it is because you never outgrow "big brother" mode. Whatever the reason, I decided to take his advice and go underground. Now, if you want to find me, you will have to use your imagination.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Club

I recently joined a book club. We read "The Thirteenth Tale". It's a fabulous book that I highly recommend. Sara, being incredibly curious, wanted to know what goes on in a book club. When I explained how one operates, she promptly announced she was starting a book club. She and I are going to read the classics from my childhood. We are starting with the Betsey and Tacy books by Maud Lovelace then moving on to The Anne of Green Gables series. We are going to read the books, go out for dessert and discuss the books. She added a fun twist to the discussion. We are going to write questions for each other about the books. She decided we should "play fair" amd take turns choosing the books. Any activity that includes quality time with my daughter, books and desserts sounds like a good plan to me. So, if anyone has suggestions for book for us to read, I'd love to hear them.

Sara's best day

I recently wrote about my perfect day. I asked Sara, my 7 year old, what her best day would be. She thought about it and then reeled off a list of activities that would easily last 3-4 days. She wants to play outside with her friends, cuddle and read books with mommy and daddy, go for a nature walk with Grumpy, take a bubble bath, sing, dance, write in her journal and bake cookies to name a few. What struck me was how simple these activities were. There was no mention of trips to Disney or the toy store. She ended the conversation with this thought - "Mom, my best day would just be fun with friends and family". It's nice to see Sara values and appreciates the simple things in life.

Growing up, my family had certain traditions - Sunday breakfast before church, Sunday dinner with grandparents, weekends up north, weekend visits to the bookstore. My parents emphasized family time. We ate dinner later than most families because we waited until my Dad got home from work. Then the kids were banished from the kitchen. Mom would cook dinner and they would chat about their day. Then we sat down to eat as a family. A perk to Paul's new job and shorter commute is family dinner most nights. We also have Sunday breakfast together. Lucky for me (and the kids), Paul has the role of chef for these meals.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Playing by the rules

When I pick Christian up from preschool, he is excited to tell me about his day. He tells me that he read books, played cars, had snacks, played outside and drew pictures. The other day, he added another activity. He proudly announced "Mommy, I hit Nick. Nick cried.". So, how to react? Do I bring down the hammer or do I not make a big deal out of it and hope he doesn't end up living in a shack like the Unabomber? I chose the middle of the road. I explain calmly that we don't hit. Hitting isn't nice. He looks up at me with his enormous blue eyes, holds his hands up and asks "Huh? No hit?". He is genuinely surprised we have thrown this curveball at him and invented this wacky new rule. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. He was so innocent and cute.

Now, when I pick him up, he proudly tells me "Me no hit Nick. Nick no cry". I'm very proud of you, Christian.

In my 7 years as a parent, I've had to invent more than my fair share of wacky rules. Here are some of the better ones:

No one can be naked at the dinner table.
No stealing anyone's food without asking first.
No jumping or sitting on your sister.
Sitting on the coffee table is allowed but standing or jumping isn't (I've learned how to pick my battles)
No kissing or hugging your food.
No kissing your male friends in the basement
No running when wearing mommy's shoes

I can't wait to see what rules I invent when they are teenagers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Good vs. Lucky

If I had to choose between being good or lucky, I'll choose lucky every day. I consider myself a good person (mostly). I have (some) flaws. I have a short fuse. I'm impatient. I'm insecure. The list could go on and on. But, I'm also a good friend. I'm supportive and giving. I like to help others. I care about other people. And I truly appreciate my good friends. They are the most generous, supportive and forgiving group a gal could find.

We celebrated my birthday this weekend. The guest list included my dad, a friend I've known since preschool, a high school friend, several Junior League friends, teachers from Sara's old school, many former neighbors and a friend I stole from Paul. Sorry, Val, that's your label for this blog. This eclectic group has seen me through many good times and bad times. They have seen me at my worst and liked me anyway. They have been there to share the good times. I've called on many of them and they have all come to my rescue without fail. I only hope I am half the friend they have been to me. (Not that Ii want them snooping through my jewelry box unsupervised). I'm lucky to have them. I hope I am a good enough friend to deserve them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm a lousy houseguest

Have you ever read the books "If You Give A Mouse...."? They are great books about the pitfalls of befriending a greedy little rodent who spends the whole book manipulating and mooching as much free loot as he can before people catch on. He is my role model. Well, this weekend, we were the mouse. We started our weekend at my dad's house. We scored dinner, breakfast, a truckload of books, lunch, cookies, magazine, and a set of West Wing DVDs. Then we hijacked my aunt's car and headed to our next target - the Tisch family. We took over every room in their house, used their babysitter, made them feed our kids and I "borrowed" a necklace. Their 3 year old daughter was helping me get ready and we decided my outfit could use some bling. So, i wandered into the master bedroom. Tim was busy brushing his teeth so I helped myself to the goodies in the jewelry box. I did give it back at the end of the night. At my birthday party, despite a strict "no gift" policy, I scored some fabulous homemade cookies (No, I won't share), a charm, several gift cards, a purse, and a bottle of wine. The next morning, the two families had breakfast. When the Tisch family remodeled their kitchen, my unsolicited input was that there was room for both families at the kitchen table. Luckily, they ordered a big enough table.

I'm a lousy house guest because I hate being treated like a guest. I want to be at home in your home. I want to be a part of your family and don't want to be a burden. I will help myself to food and drink so you don't have to wait on me hand and foot. I will go hunting for what I need rather than pester you. (I don't usually steal jewelery - that was a one time deal, I promise). For the record, I 'sort of' informed her husband I was "borrowing" her necklace. He was caught off guard because he was brushing his teeth and I barged in.

When I was growing up, we had a cabin up north. We were allowed to bring friends with us. My mom had 2 firm rules. One, the friend had to call home to check in every night. Two, the kid wasn't a guest. He/she was family and would be treated as such, good or bad. My mom must have been on to something because our friends loved coming with us and begged to come back.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One Fine Day

If you could have a "do-over", would you? If you could change or relive one day, what day would you choose? Would you relive a perfect day from your past? Would you change a bad day? Or would you create the perfect day from scratch? What would it look like? Who would be with you? What would you do? Where would you be? What would you change about the bad day? What made the perfect day so special?

My perfect day would be very simple. My mother would be alive and we would spend the day playing with the kids. We would do all the simple everyday things - bake cookies, read books, and play outside. I'm not a big believer in dwelling in the past but I do wish my mom could meet my kids.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A New Frontier

We've been watching Disney's "Earth" and "Oceans" with Sara. She is completely mesmerized. I'm amazed at how much she already knows. She keeps up a running and very informative commentary. She has added some new career goals to her ever-growing list - oceanographer, deep sea diver, and archeologist. She informs us she needs to go to each and every place filmed so she can explore and observe for her field journal. (She may actually con my dad into a few trips). Nothing fazes her or intimidates her. She firmly believes she can be any of the things she dreams of - or all of them. She is always on a quest to learn more. I love that courageous spirit. She doesn't let anything stand in her way. I hope she never outgrows it. And I hope my dad has some serious frequent flier miles. He may need them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life's Lessons

Experts claim that you learn more in your first 3 years of life than the rest of your years. I guess my 2 year old is smarter than I am. Truthfully, I'm not very surprised. I always had my suspicions. I am blessed because I get to learn from my kids everyday. Sara, age 7, is fearless and perpetually curious. She has no qualms walking up to other kids and saying "wanna be friends?". And she wants to know about everything. Christian is fiercely independent and determined. When he is doing a puzzle, he will not ask for help or walk away. Nope, he will plug away at it until he solves it. He is bound and determined to keep up with his big sister. He is completely unaware that she is 4 years older. Anything she does, he will attempt and damn the consequences. I am amazed at how quickly they bounce back from life's little disappointments.

I believe you learn from the people in your life. They come into your life for a special reason. Everybody has something valuable to teach. Sometimes I learn the hard way. From some, I've learned that keeping things bottled up and not talking about them can be the wrong choice. I've learned to swallow some things because they are not as important at the relationship. You have to accept people for who and what they are. You have to overlook their shortcomings and hope they overlook yours. I've learned many things from many people. The most important lesson is value the people in your life. You are lucky to have them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ocean of regret

An ocean of regret. We all have regrets. They can be shallow, deep, endless, intimidating and overwhelming. How much of what we do and how we act is rooted in fear and/or regret? Is that really for the best? Since no one I know can walk on water, maybe we need to find another way to tread water in our lives. I've never seen regret accomplish anything. It doesn't solve anything. It doesn't motivate anyone. It certainly doesn't inspire anyone. Yet, it is a powerful force. How do you overcome your regrets? Can you learn the lesson, put it in the past and move forward? It would certainly make life easier and happier.

I have regrets everyday. Could I have been more patient with my kids? Did I spend enough time with them? Was I the best mother I could be today? Did I show them that I love them? Was I a patient and loving wife or was I so caught up in the mundane things that make up my day that he got pushed aside? Could I have been a better friend to someone going through a hard time? Was I a good listener? Was I attentIve to the needs of those around me? As my day comes to an end and I try to switch off my brain, what do these questions and regrets accomplish? After all, as Scarlett O'Hara says, tomorrow is another day. I can start over with a fresh slate. Even if I was the crankiest mom and most oblivious wife on the planet, no one seems to be holding it against me the next morning (except maybe me).