Tuesday, May 31, 2011

School is out! When did that happen?

Sara is no longer a 2nd grader. Where did this year go? How did that happen? She has grown and changed in so many ways. She has learned to stand up for herself more effectively. She has learned to work in groups better. She has learned how to resolve conflicts with friends better. She has learned to handle gentle teasing from classmates without jumping to the conclusion that they are bullying her. She seems older, more mature and more independent. She is starting to do things for herself more around the house and take on more chores. She even negotiated effectively for the implementation of an allowance. It amazes me that she has this whole life away from me that I am not a part of. She gets on the bus, goes to school for 6+ hours, comes home and does homework with little input from me. What does she do all day? How did she manage to grow up right in front of my eyes without me noticing? What's next? A job? Apartment? Husband? Kids? I think this whole growing up thing is completely over-rated and should stop. Or at least, slow way down. She will still cuddle with me but it's not the same. I'm very proud of my not-a-2nd-grader but I miss my baby.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Locks of Love

Today, my 7 year old daughter, Sara, donated 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love (http://www.locksoflove.org/). She has been growing out her hair for over a year. She was very excited yet nervous to donate her hair. When we explained that it will go to a little girl who lost her hair because medication made it fall out, she was sold. She was thrilled with her new short 'do. I couldn't stop staring at her in amazement. She looked like a completely different girl - older, more mature. She was so proud of herself. Everyone in the salon told her how happy her beautiful hair was going to make some little girl. All the attention made her a little embarrassed and suddenly she was my little girl again.

When we read the instructions for donating the hair, Sara asked if she could write to the little girl who would receive her hair. She wrote the following note: Dear Child, I hope you like my hair. When I grew up, I thought it was very pretty. By the way, my name is Sara. PS - Feel better. PPS- enjoy styling my hair.

She asked if she could make friends with the little girl. We had to explain that we don't know where it will go or where the little girl lives but she will definitely get the note.

I have never been more proud of my daughter. She showed more concern about someone less fortunate than herself and gave of herself without thinking about herself at all. These are the parenting moments I cherish.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Walk the Line

When we were children, we played with boys and girls and probably didn't think much of it. As we grew up, we started noticing the differences between boys and girls. My daughter just finished 2nd grade and still plays with boys and girls. I know that will change in the coming years. She has plenty of "secret" crushes and enjoys playing with everyone.

Growing up in a household with 5 older brothers, I know men. I may not always understand all their quirky antics but I get along with them. Some of my best friends are men. Guys make great friends. They don't engage in drama or mind games. They don't pout and get upset about little things. They are honest about everything but not overtly-sensitive. You always know what they are thinking. You can tell them what you think and they take it in stride.

My husband grew up riding horses and made lots of female friends. I have no problem with him having female friends. I know and like his female friends. He knows and likes my male friends. His best childhood friend is a woman. Trust me, if they had wanted to date, they would have done so years ago. They have spent enough time together over the years to know that they make great friends, nothing more, nothing less.

We understand this and accept this about each other. We trust each other. In every adult male/female friendship, there is a line. There is a distinct line between a friendship and a romantic relationship. We know there is a line in those friendships that is never crossed. Having friends of the opposite sex has been very educational and beneficial. To avoid sitting through a Star Wars movie, I've been known to send him with one of my female friends so I don't have to sit through a movie about a gold robot with a British accent. I've had dinner with my friend's husband (I paid my own way but snacked off his plate).

Many people do not understand these relationships. They are not comfortable with these relationships. I understand that. Everyone's line is different. Paul has had dinner with my female friend, who is also our opthamologist, after an exam. These are not exes. We have never dated our friends of the opposite gender. They have always been and will always remain just friends. Our rule for these friendships is simple. We both have to be comfortable with it. Our spouses, our love and respect for each other, always comes first. I think we are able to have that line and friendship with men and women because we love, trust and respect each other.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Friends are Family

My friends are not like family. They are family. They know me inside and out. They've seen me at my best and my very worst. We've leaned on each other, encouraged each other and cheered for each other. We've had fights, celebrations and everything in between. I have friends I have known since I was 4 years old. My friends have grown up with me. They have been with me through childhood, the teen years, my mother's death, my marriage, the birth of my kids, job losses and changes. My friends know not to treat me like a guest in their homes because it makes me uncomfortable. My friends know to stock (cold) Diet Coke for me. We stock weird light beer for our friends. We are the same age and our kids are the same ages. If we live in the same neighborhood, we see each other every day. They know Sara will probably need to mooch food from them. We see each other's kids temper tantrums and share barbecues. We have taken care of each other's kids. We've spent summer days watching the kids play outside.

In some ways, I have more in common with my friends than my family. My father and brothers like to fish, golf, hunt and partake in other manly pursuits. I'm a book worm who loves to run. My family wouldn't run unless they were being chased by a large animal. But, my family has shared memories and many of the same traits (some good, some bad). We are all compulsively punctual. We walk around the house while brushing our teeth. We cannot do any household repairs. We all drink Diet Coke first thing in the morning. We can laugh over Christmases and vacations past. No one else was there. No one will get the inside jokes. Only we can laugh over Mom's "roadkill" fur hat. No one else knows that when I laugh, I sound just like my mom. No else knows where the childhood nicknames come from. Only we know that my brother ate chicken noodle soup for breakfast every day of high school. We know my nieces inherited my mom's singing voice. I am blessed because I have wonderful friends and family. I am blessed because they know all my quirks and put up with me anyway.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

College Days/Daze

They are called "the good old days". For most of us, those 4 years of college are our first taste of independence and freedom. It's our first step out of the nest into the world. But it isn't the real world. It's an in between place. You are too old to still live at home and too young to be out in the real world. You are just becoming the person you are destined to be. You are discovering your voice and path in life. In a lot of ways, they are the good old days. You are living on your own but surrounded by friends. You get to set your own schedule. You can stay out all night and try new things, both good and bad. But I remember the stress and fear associated with all that freedom. You are entirely responsible for your self. You have to get yourself to class, study, clean your room, cook for yourself, do laundry and all without a parent nudging you along. You are living in close quarters with lots of people from many backgrounds. So you have to learn to coexist with people who have different attitudes, beliefs and lifestyles. Some students have the added burden of financial pressure. In addition to attending classes and studying, they have to earn money to help pay for college. They are learning the valuable skills of time and money management. All this will serve them well in the future but it all comes at a great price. Get good grades, help pay for college, make friends, take care of yourself. That is a lot to put on 18 and 19 years olds who are used to living under their parents' roofs with the sole responsibility of attending high school and bathing yourself on a semi-regular basis. I loved my college days. But I'm very aware of what a bubble I lived in. I was one of the rare kids didn't have to help pay for my tuition. Even so, I found college fun but very stressful. Going to class when I wanted to sleep in, study when I'd rather be partying and no parent standing over my shoulder laying down the law was a confusing place to find myself. I didn't always make the wisest choices but I learned from my choices and mistakes. Sometimes I feel that I learned more from my mistakes because I had to pay the price. As I get to know our college sitters and listen to their stories, part of me misses my college days. Part of me is glad they are behind me.

A rainy day and a soldier to the rescue

Christian and I ventured out to Sam's Club today. While we were shopping, the thunderstorm of the decade erupted, trapping us inside. While we waited for it to subside, we struck up a conversation with a man in uniform. Noticing Christian was getting restless, he graciously offered to run to his car, get his golf umbrella, bring it back and escort us to our car. How nice is that? I insisted that we were fine and it was an appreciated but unnecessary gesture. He told me he has been in worse weather and he wanted to help. Christian saluted him and he was off. We dashed through the rain huddling under his umbrella. While I strapped Christian into his carseat, my knight in a uniform loaded my groceries and returned my cart. This man has devoted his entire life to protecting America and his fellow Americans. He extended this simple and kind gesture and thought nothing of it. It meant a lot to me. I hope my son grows up to be a man who thinks of others and realizes that little things and actions speak very loudly. I hope he treats his fellow man with respect. God bless our men and women in uniform.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Children and their split personalities

Is it just my kids or do they all seem to have split personalities? They can be the sweetest and most angelic things on the planet. The next minute, they are spawns of Satan. Nothing makes them happy. They complain about anything and everything. Yesterday, we hosted the worst pay date I ever had the misfortune to witness. My kids refused to share, play nicely, take turns, be polite or anything assembling behavior of a respectable member of society. Today, they played outside together nicely. They played hide and seek, blew bubbles, collected rocks and picked flowers together. Afterwards, they took a bath together and had a great time laughing and playing. Are there evil twins lurking somewhere in my house that take over the minds and bodies of my kids when my back is turned? What causes these mercurial personality changes? When, if ever, do they outgrow these mood swings? Are these normal moments in their childhood development or does the Unabomber have better social skills than my children? Will I get a break from temper tantrums and general bad behavior in group settings before the dreaded teen years? Each night, as we hug and kiss them and put them to bed, I am hopeful that tomorrow will be drama-free, tantrum-free, and fight-free. What can I say? I'm an eternal optimist.

Summer approaching - Yikes!!

The countdown to summer break has begun in full throttle in our house with mixed emotions- excitement, fear, anticipation, and dread. On the plus side, summer means no alarm clocks, no rushing to meet the bus, no making lunches at 11 p.m., no bullying at recess, no learning bad words on the bus, and no homework. On the down side, it means bug spray, sunscreen and daily baths. Any mother of a 2 year old boy knows they splash more than Shamu. How am I going to keep these 2 little bundles of energy occupied for an entire summer? How do I keep the cries of "I'm bored" to a minimum? How do I keep them entertained without killing each other? Because there is a 4 year age difference, it can be difficult to find things to do that they both can enjoy. Sara is very leery of activities and outings that are "for babies". (Christian bristles at being called a "baby" because he is almost 3. Apparently he is ready for college and his own apartment). On the other side, the things that interest her can be beyond the scope of a 2 year old's interests and capabilities. Paul will be traveling for work for part of the summer, so it will be 2 against 1 and my kids know they hold a majority and attempt to abuse their temporary power. I will have to plan some fun extracurricular activities to pass the time - morning, noon and night. My plan will include shamelessly inviting ourselves over for dinner and playdates to the homes of our very kind and unsuspecting friends.

Growing up, my mother didn't fret over our summer activities. She would feed us breakfast and kick us out of the house until dinner time. We were expected to keep ourselves amused and alive. Sadly, times have changed. Gone are the days of letting kids have such freedom. I don't think I'm allowed to send my 2 year old out into the cornfields to fend for himself. My 7 year old would march herself over to her (not-so) secret crush's house and never return. I know by mid-August we all be ready for school to start again. But, we will also miss summer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Playdate Gone Awry

It's official. No good deeds ever goes unpunished. Invite some friends over to play with my kids. Sounds like a good idea, right? Wrong. Sara immediately declared her room and her all her possessions off-limits. Christian took a less subtle approach. Anytime the other boy touched a toy, Christian retaliated with screams of terror and sucker punches. Not my proudest parenting moment. The other kids alternated between horror and abject fear. After repeated failed attempts to referee, we tried to let the kids work it out for themselves. Another really bad idea. Luckily, the other children escaped with no visible injuries. It's really a Catch-22. My kids need more play dates to get used to having kids over. But, if they keep acting this way, no one will be brave enough to come over. Guess I'll have to find some new victims, um, friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Day as an Amish Girl

Sara has entered a new phase in trying our patience. She is trying to lie to us. We have caught her lying about reading bed after lights out, hitting her brother and doing chores. Luckily, she has a terrible poker face and lacks the foresight to hide the evidence. And her brother will rat her out. Yesterday, she lied to Paul, got caught, lied again about getting caught. Her punishment? A day without electronics or sweets. He knows how to hit her where it hurts. She compared this trying day to life as an Amish girl. We reminded her she didn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn and do farm work. She just had to amuse herself in ways that did not involve batteries, TV, Wii, computers, Ipad, or leapster games. I'm not feeling very sorry for her. We do not believe she will starve without sweets for one day. She had a pancake breakfast that would choke a horse, then lunch. We do plan on feeding her dinner - not gruel and stale bread. I'm hoping this phase is short-lived. When we remind her that even if we don't always know when she is lying that God always knows, it causes her to fess us with a sad little face. If anyone objects to this cruel and unusual form of punishment, please feel free to plead her case. Not you, Grumpy. You always believe she is innocent.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Girls are not all sugar and spice

Girls can be mean. Everyone knows this. What still shocks me is how mean they can be and how early they start. They are stealth, blatant, manipulative, obvious, sneaky and passive-aggressive about it. How do they develop this sophisticated and twisted sense of emotional warfare? Who is teaches this stuff to them? Sara has tried to be friends with a girl for the last 2 years. On paper, they are two peas in a pod - very smart, articulate, book lovers, and highly imaginative. When Sara discovered this girl had read the first Harry Potter book she begged us to let her read it so they could talk about it. This girl wants nothing to do with my daughter. She has no qualms making this clear in every way imaginable. Sara is excluded from any group she is involved in at recess, during lunch, on the bus, etc. Any friendly overtures made by Sara are swiftly, adamantly and rudely rebuffed. She even had her parents call us to ask Sara to "not try to be friendly anymore because it bothers their child." I wish I was making up the last part. I have the voicemail to prove it. Some may call me overprotective but I have never called a parent to ask their child to stop being friendly. How were they not embarrassed to make that call? If my kid was bullying their kid, I could understand receiving a call. But being friendly? Explain to me how I am supposed to instruct my daughter to stop being nice to someone? Should I tell her to start bullying this girl instead?

A more philosophical mother would use this as a "learning opportunity and teachable moment". I know I should use this experience to teach her that no matter how hard you try, not everyone is going to like you. Throughout your life, you will have to learn to co-exist with these people. I've told Sara to remain polite and respectful towards this girl but maintain a discreet distance. My heart breaks for my daughter. It drives her crazy that no matter how hard she tries, no matter how she reaches out, this little girl does not want to be friends. Well, it is that girl's loss because my daughter is an amazing, wonderful, sweet , funny and loving kid.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giving Unsolicited Advice to Amish Women

Last weekend I was shopping in Shipshewana and met a spunky Amish lady. She was very friendly and chatty. We bonded over pie. I expressed my thought that anything with rhubarb is just sick, wrong and a crime against baked goods. Apparently, the whole Amish population and the rest of America agrees with her. Then we commiserated over the construction in downtown Shipshewana. She lamented the fact that it caused her to go 5 miles out of her way to get home. I suggested she barrel right through the construction. She considered it briefly. I guess it would be hard to outrun the long arm of the law in a horse and buggy. But, on the plus side, they can't publish a photo of her on America's Most Wanted since the Amish forbid "graven images" of themselves. Maybe this wasn't the advice she was hoping for. But, I'm trying to make friends. That counts for something, doesn't it?

A lifetime with my mom

I only had my mom for 15 years. I miss her every day. She was an amazing woman. She loved Rolos, Revlon's Heather Silk nail polish and Hitchcock movies. She loved baseball and sewing. She never met a stranger. She loved people and they loved her. Even now, people still remember her and tell me stories about her. She had an infectious laugh and used it often. She had a beautiful singing voice (that clearly skipped a generation). After losing her sister to cancer, she quit smoking cold turkey, was president of the Mothers' Clubs at our high schools, a member of the church choir and a bowling league. She taught me to think of others, always lend a helping hand and a smile. She taught me that being happy was more important than being rich or right. Money doesn't matter. People matter.

I wish I had a lifetime with her but she gave me a lifetime of memories.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Moms are from Mars, Daughters are from Venus

Raising a daughter is scary, intimidating, hard, wonderful and rewarding. It's terrifying to see bits of yourself in your child. You see the good and not-so-good. Like me, she loves to read and devours chocolate. Like me, she is stubborn and outgoing. If I had a magic wand, I would make sure she doesn't make the same mistakes I did. I would raise her to be confident and believe in herself. Unlike me, she has a beautiful singing voice and real artistic talent. I would teach her to stand up for herself and be willing to try new things. She would not shy away from confrontation. She would not babble when she gets nervous. She would be more patient with people. She would not be so sensitive to criticism. She would study hard in school. She would not be afraid to ask for help. I would tell her to be strong yet gentle, firm in her beliefs but flexible. I would like her to be courageous but cautious with the feelings of others. I would raise her to reach for the stars but stay grounded. I want her to see the world but always come home. She would be independent and dependable. I want to give her the world but I don't want her to take anything or anyone for granted. Being a mother is my most important job. The pay stinks. It's a 24/7/365 job. It's messy, confusing and challenging. I love it. I have the greatest job in the world.

Let's Set the Record Straight

I feel the need to clarify some things for my children. Contrary to what you think, we do not sit up at night thinking of ways to torture you and deprive you of joy and happiness. We do not make up rules just to annoy you. We do not throw lavish and thrilling parties after you fall asleep. We do not enjoy cleaning up your toys day in and day out. We do not enjoy doing load after load of laundry. We do not make you eat veggies just to watch you suffer. We do not enjoy being woken up at 3 am to find "lost" stuffed animals under the covers. Doing chores will not kill you or scar you for life. We do not enjoy getting soaked while bathing you. I'd rather take my own shower. We'd prefer to use the restroom in privacy. We don't need your company in there. Combing your hair, clipping your nails, giving you medicine is not a form of cruel and unusual punishment akin to water-boarding. We do not love listening to whining and breaking up fights over toys. We do these things for you because we love you. We do these things so you will grow up to be amazing, thoughtful, happy adults. We do all this so you can take care of us in our old age and we can watch you go through the same things with our grandchildren.

Peaceful Playdate

Sara is enjoying a play date with a friend. It's been loud, messy, chaotic and I don't care. Why? Because they are having a great time. They are playing together nicely. Since Sara is so much younger than the rest of her 2nd grade classmates, sometimes she overcompensates by being a little bossy or controlling. I've always heard that 3 is a deadly number for girls. So, I typically invite 1 girl over at a time. I try to be the super cool mom. They can have junk food, make a mess, and be loud. As long as they play nicely with each other and don't pick on Christian, I pretty much let them run free. It's reassuring to watch Sara interact with her friends. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to a brick wall. I'm always reminding her to be considerate of people's feelings and remember to play fairly. She listens with one ear, if I'm lucky. But, when a friend comes over, she shares, takes turns, and is very solicitous of her friends. She wants them to have a good time. She is the hostess with the mostest. Now, if I can get her to play with her little brother that way, I'll be the happiest and greatest mom on the planet. I know. Wishful thinking.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's your story?

Everyone has a story. It might be an adventure tale, an inspirational tale, an entertaining story, a sad story or a story with a happy ending. No one has a real life fairy tale. No two stories are the same. The characters are different. The plots vary. Everyone wants to tell their story. Not everyone wants to hear it because they are too wrapped up in their own lives. But you should take a minute to listen to their stories. You will learn, be inspired, and challenged by the stories of others. I have learned things in the most unexpected ways from the most unexpected people. I've traveled in Asia, Europe, the Caribbean. I've had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Interestingly, the people I click best with are sometimes the people I have the least in common with (on paper anyway). The most important thing I have learned? My life isn't as difficult and tragic as I like to think. My husband is gainfully employed at a job that he loves. We are happily married. We have 2 healthy children. We have good friends and family. We have a place to live.

After a lot of thought and observing other people, I've decided that the moral of my story is this: surround yourself with people you care about and who care about you. Take chances, be open to new ideas and experiences. Never judge someone at first glance. Be willing to forgive and give second chances. It will open doors for you. You will be glad you did. It will make your story a better one. It will make you a better person.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Botox and Parenting

We all have days when we doubt our ability to parent our children lovingly and effectively. I have many of those days. But, when I read an article about a mother giving her 8 year old Botox injections, I feel better about my parenting skills and decisions. It makes me worry less about the junk food my kids consumed over the weekend. My question is - how do you wake up, decide that injecting botulism into a healthy little girl is a smart parenting move? How do you then convince someone to sell you the said poison? How do you convince this unsuspecting child to sit still for it? I've tried giving my kids regular oral medicine, clean their ears, and clip their nails. These were down in the mud wresting matches. I think if I came at my child's face with a needle full of poison that she would run and hide until she was 18.

After a busy weekend of family in town to celebrate Sara's First Communion, 2 late nights, multiple parties and servings of cake and pie, my kids were exhausted. They displayed their sleep-deprived state by being extra-whiny and fussy. This made my 2 year old a brief guest at our party yesterday. I decided that the best remedy for their cranky and tired moods was an afternoon of couch time with some cartoons. Then I spent the rest of the day worrying that their brains were going to fall out and stain my carpet. Despite multiple reassurances from multiple sources, I'm still convinced I've done irreparable harm to their IQs and overall childhood development. After reading about the Mother of the Year with a syringe, I'm feeling slightly better about my parenting. My heart goes out to this little girl. I think she is going to have a tough time in life trying to make her mother happy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's in a name? A lot.

Our son's middle name is James. We named him after my grandfather and favorite uncle, two of the most amazing people I've ever met. My grandfather left school at the age of 12 to help his widowed mother support the family. Through hard work and determination, he went on to become the Chairman of the Board of General Motors. My Uncle Jim married his high school sweetheart, ran a fleet of car dealerships and raised 2 amazing boys. Until the day he died, he referred to his wife as "his bride" and his eyes lit up when she entered a room. When his health prevented him from joining her on her travels, he sent her off with a hug and a kiss. Knowing her need to check in with him, he never once told her how much a ship-to-shore call really costs. (Sidebar - they cost A LOT!) He felt it was money well spent so she could have peace of mind.

If you asked either man what is the most important thing in the world to them, the answer was a quick and emphatic "family". Family always comes first. When my mom died, my grandparents, aunt and uncle were the first ones on our doorstep. They stepped in, took care of meals, arrangements, you name it. They were there for us in every way. My aunt even took on the dreaded job of cleaning out Mom's closet. She did it with a quiet grace. My entire life she has been there for me every step of the way. Not as a surrogate mom. She was always "Aunt Joan". And, let me tell you, she is an awesome Aunt Joan. My kids worship her. She flew in to surprise Sara for her First Communion. I can't remember the last time I saw Sara that excited. The idea that my aunt flew all the way from Florida to Indiana just to be with us for Sara's special day was unbelievable to Sara. To my family, that is just what family does.

If my son becomes even just a little bit of my grandfather and my uncle, he will be an amazing man, capable of anything, filled with dignity, grace, compassion and a devotion to family that is remarkable. It was a blessing to have these men in my life.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spending time with the Amish

Shipshewana is an Amish town in Northern Indiana about 30 miles from where we live. It's a wonderful town with shops, restaurants, farms, theater, festivals and flea markets. It's a great place to spend the day. We love taking friends there to explore. The Amish are very friendly and engaging. They handle the curiosity and questions about their life style, clothing and habits very well. While browsing in a candy store, Sara spotted an Amish family with a girl her age. She exclaimed, "Mommy, I think they are Amish!" They laughed and confirmed her suspicions. Sara walked over to the little girl, introduced herself and asked if she wanted to be friends. The Amish girl responded with an enthusiastic "yes"! They held hands and explored the candy store. They bonded over their love of sugary treats and the woes of having younger brothers. The Amish are so different in so many ways. But, they are very similar to us as well. The mother and I chatted about large families, toddlers, sibling rivalry, diapers, feeding, etc. I admire and respect their lifestyle. They live by a simple and honest code. Be faithful, respectful, considerate, don't judge, don't be jealous or prideful. While I don't think I could handle their dawn to dusk, no electricity lifestyle, I am truly in awe of their way of life. They do not judge others. They are not jealous or competitive. They live simply and honestly. They fully embrace the idea of community. They pitch in and take care of each other. People often wonder if they judge our modern and extravagant lifestyle. They do not. They believe everyone should live the life they choose.

We went on a buggy ride with an Amish driver. Sara sat next to him and told him all about her imaginary horses and how she cares for them. She had millions of questions about his horses. Interestingly, she didn't ask about his clothes or the Amish lifestyle. She understands that they dress differently and don't use cars. She accepts their lifestyle for what it is - theirs. I'm trying to convince her she would enjoy a couple weeks of "plain" living. She says as long as she could bring her stuffed "lambi" to sleep with, she'd be ok.

The Art of Entertaining

I figured out how to entertain and still have fun. Put your guests to work. Too often hosts are too focused on everything being "perfect". No one has fun. The hosts are stressed and cooped up in the kitchen. We had 11 family members over for dinner tonight. I spent the day shopping in Shipshewana with my sisters-in-law, niece and Sara. We had lunch, went on a buggy ride and had a great time browsing through the shops. I didn't spend all day in the kitchen cooking. Paul and I didn't want to slave in the kitchen over dinner. We wanted to mingle and spend time with our family. So, we made the brilliant decision to make dinner a super casual and communal effort. I flung place mats and silverware at people so they could set the table. I put people in charge of setting out the food and serving themselves. My dad played bartender. Sara took dessert orders and my sister-in-law served it. My aunt kept the kids entertained. Ok, mostly they chased each other around the house and she laughed. But, everyone was happy. Guess what? Our dinner party wasn't fancy. It wasn't perfect. It was fun, easy and relaxing for everyone. I'll take that kind of party over a fancy perfect one any day. We have 25 people coming tomorrow to celebrate Sara's First Communion. I hope the guests are prepared to sing for their supper. And have fun doing it. I may not make them do dishes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

For Better or Worse - Vows to our children

When you get married, you make vows to each other. You promise to love, honor and cherish each other in good times, bad times, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer. When you have children, you make similar vows to them. They are completely dependent on us for all their needs. We vow to take care of them, love them, and cherish them no matter what. We need to be there for them when they are sick, happy, sad, scared, tired, or fussy. They need to know their parents will always be there for them and love them no matter what. Being a parent is hard, challenging, constant and rewarding. It is a lifelong commitment. It can bring more joy and sorrow than anyone can imagine. We need to teach them how to succeed in life. We need to show them how to be a loving person. We can teach them honesty or deceit, trust or skepticism. We must teach them strength and ethics. We need to be an example to them in every way. Children are "magical thinkers". They believe in fairy tales, Santa Claus, and monsters under the bed. This can be a blessing. We need to nurture that magical thinking and encourage them to keep the hope and joy in their lives as they grow up and forge their own path in life. Letting go as they grow is not an easy task. But, being a parent is the most exciting, terrifying, joyous and fulfilling experience in the world. It just may not feel that way every minute of every day.

The shallow end of the gene pool

I must be a delicate flower. I seem to catch every plague, sniffle, cough and flu that comes near me. I am not stoic about it either. When I'm sick, I want to crawl into my bed and hide there until it's over. Right now, I do not have that luxury. Paul has been out town and working late so I'm on double parent duty. Yesterday was school for both kids, Sara's baseball game, registering her for Bible camp, 2 baths, 2 dinners and 2 bedtimes. I had to accomplish all this while clutching a tissue box like a security blanket. Getting 2 kids to leave a baseball field while carrying 2 water bottles, a beach chair, a bat, glove and helmet was a challenge like none I had ever faced. Storming the beaches of Normandy was easier and less complicated. Both kids found it necessary to pick up and examine every rock that crossed their paths. Somehow we managed to load the car and head home. The kids immediately capitalized on my compromised and fragile condition and declared a "movie night". Guess what? If you park a 7 and 2 year old in front of the TV, you can actually lie down and relax. Sold!!!!

The timing of my latest affliction couldn't be worse. This weekend is Sara's First Communion. We will have 9 family members visiting for the weekend. We will host a party for 25 people. I may have to wear a hazmat suit to avoid starting a pandemic. I may have my sister-in-law mow my lawn because right now it has more dandelions than grass. And she claims she enjoys the exercise. Just so Paul's sister doesn't feels left out, I may have her cooking for the party. My goal is to give everyone a chore or job this weekend so I can kick back, recover and enjoy the party. I have laundry that needs folding and a dishwasher begging to be emptied. I may save those glamorous tasks for my dad and aunt. Just so they don't feel left out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For Better or Worse

When you get married, you make vows to each other - to love, honor, cherish each other in sickness & health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad. When you have children, you make the same vows to your children. You promise to take care them no matter what - when they are sick, whiny, tired, sad, happy, no matter how old they are. Some days those vows are easier to keep. Today was not one of those days. Husband is out of town so I'm outnumbered. The morning started with Sara moving slower than molasses before getting on the bus. Christian decided instead of doing gymnastics during his gymnastics class he would rather pummel his little buddy the whole time. Luckily, the little dude could stand up for himself and dish it right back. Next on my agenda was helping at Sara's Brownie troop meeting. Three adult against 15 hyper 7 & 8 year old girls. I knew we had met our match. Chaos reigned supreme. Then we decided to case our neighbor's garage sale. Sara and Christian thought it was a free for all - grab everything you can and run for it. Nope, sorry, kids. We are not buying 56 stuffed animals and every toy the three girls own. The next tragedy I inflicted on my poor, long-suffering children was making them leave. They took off and hid better than Osama bin Laden. With the promise of dinner, dessert and reminding them we will see their friends again in 2 days, we were on our way. Dinner, 2 baths and 2 bedtimes were all that remained between me and peace and quiet. Saying that trying to get a 2 year old boy out of his bubble bath is difficult is the understatement of the century. Getting a 7 year old to put down her new fairy book is even harder. Eventually, I was home free. Yes!!! Peace, quiet and bad TV await me. I settled in with my laptop and prepared to fritter away the night. Suddenly, I hear little footsteps behind me. Yup, a thunderstorm has rendered my daughter incapable of sleep. When threatened with loss of many cherished privileges, she discovered she was utterly exhausted and bid me good night. Today was not "for better". Hopefully, tomorrow with be better.