Thursday, June 30, 2011

Better parenting or better kids?

Last year when Paul went on his 10-day trip, we barely survived. I felt like a horrible parent who couldn't function without backup. The kids ran all over me. I felt like a parental speed bump. We were all climbing the walls and suffering from severe cabin fever. They didn't listen to me. They fought constantly. I felt like putting them in a boxing ring and putting money on the outcome. We were all counting down the days until Paul, sanity and stability returned.

This year it's been easier. Am I better parent or is it just getting easier because my kids are older? I've been able to take Christian to a museum, an indoor play area and a farmer's market without him trying to escape. Sara is able to amuse herself around the house more with very few complaints of "I'm bored". She is better able to resist her brother's torments. She has mastered the art of realizing he is annoying her for sport and escaping to the safety of her room. I've been able to keep them fairly clean, fed and reasonable happy. We've enjoyed pool time without (much) chaos. No one was running off, falling into the pool or crying for ice cream snacks. There are no fights when it's time to leave.

Have they changed and matured or have I? Am I better at keeping my cool? Are they better listeners? I'm not sure but I'm enjoying a less chaotic summer.

Well behaved women rarely make history

Who do you admire? Who inspires you? Why do they inspire you? I have many women in my life who I admire. To start, I admired my mother. She is my daily inspiration. She was an amazing mother and woman. She raised 6 kids. She helped coach Little League, was my Brownie troop leader, President of the Moms Club, member of the church choir, and head of the high school annual fundraiser. While doing all this, she cared for our family, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and helped with homework. She was never content to sit on the sidelines. She dove in and tackled any cause she was interested in. She created family traditions. She made Christmas ornaments, cooked Christmas breakfast and dinner. She cheered at all our Little League games, went skiing with us, taught us all to drive. She taught us how to do laundry and iron. She did all with a smile and a firm hand. She listened. She cared. She was happiest when helping others. Of all the things I learned at my mother's side, I learned that to be happy you need to find what and who you love and make that your priority. She was an amazing example of love, kindness, laughter and patience.

My aunt is also an amazing woman. She has the energy of a toddler hyped on espresso. She is there when you need her. Since my mom died, she is my shoulder to cry on, my sympathetic ear and my cheerleader. She is a surrogate grandmother to my kids. She took care of my grandparents for years without a single complaint. I admire her positive outlook on life no matter what is happening around her. She is one of the most giving and compassionate people I know.

My sister-in-law is a (very hard) working mother. For 16 years, she has managed to get 2 kids and herself dressed, fed and out the door every day. She gets them to their after school events, supervises homework all while taking care of their home and pets as well. She also got her degree while doing all this. She also does it without complaining. If I did half of what of she does daily, I'd be the most exhausted woman on the planet and everyone in a 10 mile radius would hear about it. I watched her kids for a weekend. It took me 3 days to recover. I didn't shower. I barely got the kids dressed. And I left the house a complete mess. I may have even taught them some words they weren't supposed to hear until college. I guess no one is wondering why they never asked me to babysit again.

I have friends with special needs children. They don't whine about how hard their lives are. They love their children and their lives. I have friends who are single moms. They are on duty 24/7/365 and never whine or complain. My friends who are working moms amaze me. They do everything I do as a stay-at-home mom plus commute to work and put in a full day. When they come home after a long day at work, they are in full mommy mode with no chance to sit down and take a moment for themselves. I have friends with disabilities. They accept it and make a wonderful life. They are not defined by their disabilities. It is one aspect of who they are.

They say life is what happens when you are making other plans. I think we need to stop making plans, embrace what life hands us and move forward. I admire women who know who they are. I'm inspired by women who know what they want from life and strive to achieve it. I am inspired by women who are strong, confident and keep a positive outlook no matter what they are facing - job loss, divorce, health issues. Each day they count their blessing and forge ahead. I admire these women. They are my inspiration. I hope to borrow a little of these traits I admire and incorporate them more effectively into my daily life. I need to be more aware of the blessings I have and less focused on the challenges I face. Because, let's face it, my life ain't so bad.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Survival of the fittest

Paul has been gone for 9 days. Only 25 more hours. It's gone much better than I expected. There have been some bumps in the road - fights, temper tantrums, meltdowns, a broken toilet and an unexpected doctor appointment. I think I've found the right balance of activities and relaxing at home. After dinner, we cuddle up and watch a movie before bedtime. Bedtime has gone pretty smoothly. I've been able to stagger their bedtimes so I can spend time with both. I've managed to keep the kids fairly clean, fed and under some control.

I was foolish enough to think the kids wouldn't fight as much because Sara is in day camp this week. Wrong! They still have some fight in them at the end of the day. I guess it's how they show they missed each other. I'd prefer they just hug and kiss then keep their distance from each other.

Sara has been begging me to do a sleepover with her. Once our kids outgrow the bassinet, they get banished to their own rooms. Unless traveling, we don't share a room with our kids. We even try to avoid sharing a bed, if possible. It stems from self-defense and self-preservation. It is a physical mystery to me how someone can take up more than 3x their body size in a bed. I agreed to let her sleep in her sleeping bag in my room a couple times this week.

We will all be happy to see Paul when he returns. We have survived his 10-day absence. The house is a wreck. There are toys everywhere. The dust bunnies have become family pets with names. The lawn is a jungle. Laundry is piled up in every room. But, we survived. I figure if the house is in one piece, the kids are alive and I'm still relatively sane after 10 straight days, it was a success.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Second Chances

Sara started camp this week. She loves going to camp, trying new things and meeting new people. Yesterday when I picked her up she seemed a little down. When I asked her what was bothering her, she told me that a girl was mean to her. Sara has a tendency to be 'slightly' over-sensitive so I wasn't sure if this was an over-reaction on her part. One of the reasons I chose this camp is for its diversity. She will be with kids from all walks of life - different races, backgrounds, cultures and religions. Where we live is not the most diverse place so it'll be good for her to experience new people. We talked about giving people second chances and trying to make new friends.

When I picked her up today, she was smiling and skipping. She was very excited because she made friends with the girl. I asked her to tell me what happened. She walked up to the girl and asked her if they could be friends today. She also complimented the girl on something she made. It worked. They were buddies all day for group actuvities. I was proud of her for trying again with this girl. It just shows that everybody has an off day and deserves a second chance. It also showed my daughter that giving someone the benefit of the doubt and trying again usually pays off for everybody. I'm proud of her. She learned a valuable lesson today.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mommy jobs vs. Daddy jobs

In our house, there are divisions of labor for certain dreaded tasks - baths, taking out trash, toy assembly and repair, bill paying and lawn care clearly fall into Paul's jurisdiction. Others, like laundry, cooking, and dish washing typically fall into mine. When Paul is gone, I get to do double duty. It feels like triple duty sometimes. I've given so many baths that I have nightmares about being attacked by soap bubbles. I've taken out enough trash to be Oscar the Grouch's idol. I've paid enough bills to give Warren Buffet financial advice. I've done more dishes than a dishwasher at Buckingham Palace. As for laundry, I feel like Charlie Bucket's mom in Willy Wonka. I've assembled and repaired enough toys to put Santa's elves out of work. I have new found appreciation for Paul's ability to assemble or repair any toy (without instructions) in mere seconds. I knew I called him "MacGuyver" for a reason. As for lawn care, I found a neighbor kid who needs money. If she wins the lottery and flees the country, I'll buy Paul a scythe because he will need it. I've been cooking during his trip but I may start calling Spaghettios and macaroni & cheese "pasta". I may also seek an early retirement upon his return. Or go on strike.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Someplace in between

Is there a middle ground when it comes to parenting? All around me people comment about other parents being too strict or too lenient, too attentive or too inattentive, hovering too much, hovering not enough, too structured or not structured enough. Where is the line? Am I too strict with my kids? Not strict enough? Is it ever OK to give in? Is it OK to let some things slide sometimes? If it is OK, WHEN is it OK? What is ok to let slide? Do you pick your battles? Or do you draw an absolute line in the sand? Sara is a strong personality - bright, creative, intelligent, determined, articulate and imaginative. These traits have their pluses and minuses. It can be exhausting. "Because I said so, now stop talking" is used often. She has a million questions about a million things. Yes, that is a good thing. Most of the time. When you are tired, cooking dinner, trying to get out the door, get her brother down for a nap or change a diaper it is less admirable. Her innate curiosity is a beautiful thing to watch. She wants to learn about everything. However, when you are in Target with friends and in a hurry to get home, it is more than a little bit annoying that she needs to stop and observe everything (including watching herself dance on the security monitors). There are days when I think everyone else has this parenting thing nailed down and I missed the boat. Other days, I think I may be doing an OK job. Today during Christian's nap, Sara decided what she wanted to do was snuggle and read on the couch with me. Let me tell you, cuddled up and reading with my kid is a great way to spend a couple hours. No ifs, and or buts about it. I'm not a great parent. I'm not a terrible parent. I guess I must be someplace in the middle.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My son the artist

Today Christian and I attended his first art class. There are very few summers classes/camps for 2/3 year olds, so I was thrilled to learn that the South Bend Museum of Art offers a wife range of classes for kids. It's going to be a great class. The teacher is energetic and patient. The classroom is set up for them. Tables, chairs, everything is at their level. She had them start with paper, paint dots, chalk, and pencils. They could draw whatever and however they wanted while we waited for class to start. The kids loved it. They got freedom to explore, create and be messy. Each week she introduces a theme to the kids. This week was black & white and lines. The next project was glue sticks and strips of paper. Christian loved cutting and gluing his project together. Being a lefty, it took some maneuvering to figure out how to use the scissors. But the kid is determined and eventually got it to work. I sat back and let him discover and create at his own pace. He was proud of his creations. A couple times, he got upset because he had paint all over his hands. I told him art is messy and fun. The last project was a group project. The teacher rolled out a long sheet of paper and roller brushes. Each child got to roll paint on a section and use different scrapers. I loved watching my son explore this new experience. Seeing him learn how to use scissors, create unique art and work with kids his age on a group project was exciting. He is edging out of the toddler parallel play. He was asking for supplies, sharing, taking turns and saying thank you. I am proud of my budding artist. I'm glad I found a class we can enjoy together. It's going to be a colorful summer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Needing To Be Needed

I love helping people. I love feeling needed. I love feeling like I made someone's day a little better, easier or brighter. I don't do it for their appreciation. I don't do it so they will feel indebted to me. I do it as much for me as I do for them. I love my friends and family. I am very blessed, lucky and fortunate. If a loved one is going through a hard time, I'll rack my brain trying to think of ways to help out and pitch in. I'm not bragging. In fact, I'm wondering if this makes me selfish. If doing something for someone else makes me feel good about myself, does that make me selfish? Is it wrong that it makes me better about myself?

On the flip side, I also won't hesitate to ask for help when I need it. I have wonderful friends and family who will jump to my rescue when called upon. My dad has met me at the ER at 10 pm to be a sound and rational person so I could fall apart when my 7 week old was having seizures. I needed a family member in the room when they poked at prodded him and I knew I couldn't watch it myself. It had to be almost as hard on my dad but he stepped up to the plate, covered his ears and did it. I've had neighbors run to the drugstore for me. I've had friends extend a visit to keep me company with my newborn because I was afraid to be alone. I had my sister-in-law rush me to the doctor.

I guess, at the end of the day, I believe what goes around comes around. If you are a good friend then you deserve good friends in your life. But, if it comes to sharing dessert, I'm a lousy friend and you should keep your distance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Parenting for Show

It's no surprise that I cannot stand Kate Gosselin. She is whiny, demanding, rude and annoying - just to name a few of her traits. On the plus side, she makes me feel like a better mother. She alternates between ignoring her kids, shrieking at them, and belittling them. She recently dragged her kids to Tennessee to "help" at a food bank and a soup kitchen. First, why not help in your hometown and save all the travel expenses? Second, why film it? Just so the world can see you "helping"? I feel sorry for the kids at the soup kitchen that were filmed. I hope no one teases them for eating at a soup kitchen. Kate, as usual, made it all about her. She could not stop bragging about all the "help" they provided and how good it made her feel. Basically, her children whined, got in the way and coughed on the food. Very helpful. The icing on the cake was a radio interview Kate did where she dropped the not-so-subtle hint that she would love the chance to drive a race car. Umm, I thought this trip was about giving back and helping those less fortunate - not about you getting yet another perk from your fame. Here's another brilliant idea - turn your kids into a zoo exhibit and have hundreds of strangers in their faces taking their pictures. That had to be a lovely experience for those children.

Through the entire episode, Kate and her huge brood chewed gum with their mouths wide open. Always a lovely visual. I can't help remembering her screaming at a friend for giving the kids gum and threatening to toss out a favorite security blanket because it had gum on it and she was too busy to clean it. Like my father, I believe gum is a product of the devil. Gum is gross. Rarely can people chew it discreetly. I've seen cows chew their cud with more grace and subtlety.

Having had my rant, I will follow up with this. In the end, I am glad that these wonderful charities and families in need will benefit from this experience. They are truly fabulous organziations. I just wish Kate Gosselin would stay home and actually be a (halfway decent) parent to her kids.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Don't get me wrong, I am all for celebrating my husband as a father. He is a wonderful father. But, try finding a gift for him? He becomes a giant pain in my neck. He is the ultimate "I don't need anything" guy. Gee, thanks. That's really helpful when your kids have been plotting for 2 months. He is a computer guru so buying technology in any form is out. He has some fancy iPod thing that has all his music on it. He hates to be waited on. He is not a clotheshorse. Cook a fancy breakfast for him? Brilliant. Except he is a better cook than I ever hope to be and he enjoys it as a form of relaxation. I announce I'm going to make breakfast for him anyway. Great idea (in theory). Midway through scrambling the eggs, my kids announce they need to call Grandpa. Forgetting about eggs on the stove, I'm refereeing who gets the first turn wishing Grumpy a happy father's day. Paul takes over the eggs. Sheepishly, I inform him that if he'd like sausage with his breakfast, he's safer cooking it himself and saving himself a trip to the ER. We own a coffee pot. I have no idea how to use it. So, Father of the Year has now finished cooking his own eggs, made sausage and coffee for himself. He also got the portion of eggs with the extra eggshells. Yummy. I spoil that boy. I tried to pick up the slack and asked what he'd like for dinner. He looked embarrassed and announced he was making ribeye steaks for us. The man is no fool. He wants a good meal and knows he stands a better chance if he makes it himself. Then came gift giving. In the past, I've given him a child backpack so he can lug our children around on his back and a bike trailer so he can take the kids on bike rides. That's right. His gifts provide him the opportunity to cart our kids around so I don't have to. What can I say? I think of others. This year I got him a double photo frame with a recording device so the kids can record a message for him. Guess who is going to have to figure out how to set it up? Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Too Much Information

As I always say- a real lady doesn't over-share. I know - me giving advice about being ladylike is amusing and ironic. However, when I read a headline "Bristol Palin Lost Virginity In Drunken Moment", I have to wonder two things. First, why would anyone share that information with the world? Second, why does the world care? Newsflash, Bristol, no matter how you lost it, you were too young. Learn from your mistakes and stop over-sharing. Stop trying to be an example. By putting yourself on the national stage, you are a not a role model for abstinence. The girls who are intrigued by you and your life will be encouraged by the fame you now experience as a result of your drunken moment. TV shows like Teen Mom only encourage girls to seek fame by making motherhood into a reality show joke. Stop trying to be an example and focus your time and energy on being a good mother. Here is another newsflash. Motherhood is difficult, stressful, exhausting and lifelong. Some things that are needed to make it bearable - maturity, stability and selflessness. I know few, if any, teens who have those characteristics. I could barely handle babysitting as a teenager. It was temporary and I was getting paid. Mothers do it all day, every day for years for free. I also have to wonder- how is her son going to feel years from now knowing the world knows that he was the result of a "drunken moment"? I hope she has enough money for diapers, Little League and therapy. I think her son is going to need it.

That's the way the cookie crumbles

Christian asked nicely to play chalk outside. I agreed. We put on shoes and headed to the driveway. After a few minutes of chalk art, he announced he wanted to play in the sandbox. I told him we couldn't because we were going inside soon for dinner. He was welcome to continue with his chalk masterpieces. However, 2 year boys are notoriously incapable of handling disappointment in stride. An epic temper tantrum ensued. Chalk was thrown. Toys were kicked. I warned him to stop his dramatic antics or head inside for a time-out. Like the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he chose unwisely. Impressed with my own upper body strength, I carried him inside. We are now experiencing a temper tantrum of epic proportions. Add the fact that we are blatantly ignoring his histrionics, he is one very unhappy boy. But, in this house we have rules. If you ignore them, there are consequences. That, my dear boy, is how the cookie crumbles. Not that you are getting a cookie after dinner tonight.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Home alone

Paul is on his annual 10 day excursion to South America. This leaves the kids and me home alone for an extended period of time with no adult supervision. My plan of survival is to keep the savages calm, cool, happy, busy, entertained and fed. Many rules go out the window during this time frame. Things are very laid-back. We do not have a set routine. Pajamas stay on for extended periods of time. Much comfort food is consumed. Many meals are taken poolside. We play lots of board games, bake, draw pictures and do very few chores. "Because I said so" is used often as a way to ward off debates or arguments. I attempt to use "peaceful parenting" so the time passes without drama without letting the kids talk back or get away with things.

I try to find interesting things to do around town. We have been to a pioneer cabin, the zoo, the parks, the pool, the art museum. If there is a child-friendly activity in this town, we have been there.

Laundry is done when no clean clothes can be found anywhere. I try to have more patience because I know they miss their daddy. The one unbreakable rule is bedtime. After a long day of refereeing sibling battles, fending off countdowns to Daddy's return and complaints of "I'm bored", I have reached my limit of maternal devotion. I need a couple hours of alone time -no talking, no thinking, no being in charge of anyone or anything. I usually escape with a book and stay up way too late. But it's time well spent.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The price of freedom

Sara is 7 years old and bucking for independence in many areas of her life. It's a delicate balance. We want her to stretch her wings, have some freedom but still be safe and secure. It's a learning process for all of us. As we give her more freedom, we also give her more responsibility and accountability. If she makes the wrong choice, she is learning there is a cost - loss of a privilege or that specific freedom. She has to help with laundry, setting the table, vacuuming, dusting, keeping her room semi-clean, get ready for bed and camp/school with minimal assistance. I'm letting her play in the backyard alone if she stays within certain parameters. If she wanders off, she doesn't get to play outside for a couple days. Last week, we tried something new. She and I went to the library. I let her wander around the children's section while I hunted for my books. All went according to plan. She didn't run away to join the circus. Later that day went to the park and I let her play on the adjacent playground to the one Christian wanted to play on. I reminded her to stay within my eye sight and come when I called for her. She has been known to get distracted and wander off. All went well. She was thrilled and proud of her new found freedom and responsibility. The next day at the zoo, she wandered too far in the wrong direction and was forced to stay clutched to her brother as a punishment. We also skipped a couple exhibits because she didn't listen or stay close by. We are having multiple conversations about choices. If she wants the freedom to make her own choices, then she must make the "right" or "good" choice. It is never to early to learn that actions have consequences. I want her to learn to think about her actions and their effects on herself and those around her. I also want her to be an example for her brother who worships the ground she walks on. He calls her "my Sara". I hope we are on the right path to her becoming a caring, thoughtful, intelligent and considerate woman.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


At tonight's Business School awards dinner, many people gave speeches. Luckily, I was not one of them. Several themes appeared and spoke to me. Here are some that I hope to implement in my life.

Courage - courage is required in all areas of our life. We need courage to try to new things, to make changes, to face difficulties.

Peace - it can be challenging to maintain a level of peace when life is difficult, scary or challenging. We need to try to be a source of peace for those around us.

Confidence - a little bit goes a long way. Too much can be dangerous. Most people I know need more. For me, having enough confidence is a constant struggle. Standing up for yourself, your beliefs and your principles can be daunting but always worthwhile. I've never heard anyone say they regretted standing up for what they believe.

Humble - all the award recipients were leaders in their fields yet remarkably humble. They were more focused on what their accomplishments meant for the greater good. They do not focus on themselves. They feel gratified to have a skill or insight that can be used to inspire others or accomplish something significant.

Self-awareness - While humble, these people had an incredible sense of self-awareness. They recognize their strengths and abilities. They also know how to minimize their weaknesses. I think this also means you need to be aware of how your words and actions can affect those around you.

Clarity of purpose - this is different for everyone. It is ever-changing. To be successful and happy, you cannot let people or issues cloud your focus. You need to know what you want to achieve and understand the best way to achieve it.

My purpose in life is to raise happy, healthy, thoughtful and independent children. I want to be a good person who can be trusted and counted on. I want to be a good, faithful and loyal friend, mother, wife, daughter, and sister.

Girl Power

Today Christian starts his day camp. He will go 2 times a week for 2 hours. He is excited because this means he is a big kid like his older sister. He has already outlined his agenda. He will play with Lola, the pet guinea pig, Play-Dough with his new buddies, play outside but not hit anyone.
Sounds like a great plan to me. When Sara discovered we have 2 brother-free hours, she was positively giddy. She immediately started making plans for us. After proposing and rejecting dozens of ideas, we agreed on our plan. We will go to the local grocery store cafe for muffins and book club discussion. Now that location and subject have been determined, the only remaining decision is outfit. She started planning last night. Many outfits were tried on and rejected.
Apparently, the outfit is just as important at the activity. This morning, Christian sat in his pajamas obliviously eating his breakfast while all this planning took place. The end result was a snappy ensemble of a twirly skirt, knee high black boots, a jaunty hat and multiples pieces of jewelry. While Christian is off exploring new and exciting worlds, Sara and I will be exploring the "old fashion world" of Betsy-Tacy-Tib.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Career Goals

As we were driving today, Christian was listening to a Sesame Street CD. The topic was "what do I want to be when I grow up". Christian proudly announced he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. I told him this was a wonderful idea. He thought about it for awhile and changed his mind. First he said he just wants to be Christian Velasco when he grows up. I said that was a good idea, too. He thought some more. Then he came to the brilliant conclusion that he doesn't want to grow up at all. He just wants to stay Christian Velasco, 2 years old forever. I don't blame him. The kid has it made. He sleeps 11 hours a night, takes a 3 hour nap, plays, eats and has few chores beyond cleaning up his own toys. He takes bubbles baths, plays in the sand box and swims in between meals and naps. I want to be Christian Velasco, 2 years old, too.

The Monster at the end of this book

This is, by far, Christian's favorite book. He loves it and can read it 100 times a day. We have made it into a special Mommy game. He asks me to read it but I refuse because it is just too, too scary for me. This cracks him up and gives him a sense of power. He reassures me that it isn't too scary and holds my hand while I read. He has to encourage me to be brave and turn the pages. Every time we reach the end, I am shocked and amazed that the monster isn't scary, after all. I love having a special game that is just for us. In a small way, the roles have changed. He is the one encouraging me to be brave and comforting me. I love being silly with him in this way. It's our little way of connecting every day. I love how animated he gets each and every time we read it together. Now, we take turns reading it. He has basically memorized it and makes up his own faces and gestures for each page. He is almost three and I can see him starting to become a "big kid". But, I love when he can still be a silly little boy with me. I will be sad when he outgrows this book but I look forward to sharing other books with him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My bucket list

Everyone has a wish list for their life. It can be a list of anything- goals, desires, dreams, plans for what they'd like to do, experience or accomplish during their lifetime. Here is my "bucket list:

Travel around the world
Live in Italy and/or London
Run an 11:00 minute mile
Live on a lake or ocean
Be published in the New York Times
Learn sign language
Learn to play the piano
Do stand up comedy
Fire a gun
Have dinner with Meryl Streep and David Sedaris
Achieve and maintain my goal weight
Be a mentor to someone
Make a surprise visit to someone
Ride a gondola in Venice
Overcome my germ phobia
Become financially literate
Raise happy and healthy children
Road trip across America
Learn to be less 'sensitive'
Learn to stand up for my self
Swim with dolphins
Bury the hatchet/find closure with people
Spend a summer living in Chicago
Learn to sail
Ride the world's largest Ferris Wheel
Take a train ride through America's National Parks
Learn to be a gourmet cook
Learn to knit
Learn to meditate
Learn to sing
Celebrate our 50th anniversary in Europe

I know some of these are entirely within my reach while others remain a wishful fantasy. What is on your bucket list?

Jekyll and Hyde

Yesterday I was fully convinced that my kids were either bi-polar or in dire need of an exorcism. There was no other rational explanation for their behavior. My kids are far from saintly but yesterday pushed the envelope. And, of course, it was the first time for a new babysitter. Normally, my kids loves babysitters. They are young, fun and energetic girls who devote all their time and energy to them (and get paid handsomely). They are not distracted by dishes, laundry, phone calls or other mundane household chores. Their one and only job is to keep my kids happy, alive and entertained.

Christian woke up from a 3 hour nap beyond fussy and inconsolable. He had no clue what he wanted and nothing was going to make him happy. Sara tried to help but that fueled his rage to new heights. When she pushed my buttons and got in trouble for doing so, she pretty much laughed in my face. The laughter stopped abruptly when she lost ALL bedtime privileges. Sorry, kid. Mommy means business. Christian had barely simmered down by the sitter's arrival. I escaped amidst a flurry of apologies for his less-than sunny-disposition. She assured me he calmed down and the night passed smoothly. When arrived home, he was distraught because they had not had the promised sand box time. No problem. I paid the sitter and send her on her merry way (hoping she is brave enough to return) and take the kids out to the backyard. A sand throwing fight ensued. We now have a nice little sand trap to accompany the golf course that backs up to our yard. Bath and bedtime were, in short, a traumatic, sobbing, chaotic mess. For all of us. Finally, kids are in bed and mommy is happy. Not for long. My 2 year old normally rolls over, hugs his stuffed horse and isn't heard from again until 7 a.m. Last night, he started fussing at 11 pm and didn't stop until 3 am. No, he wasn't sick, wet, dirty or any other reasonable possibility. I know because we checked him more thoroughly than an expert pediatrician. I'm not sure if it was a full moon or he is going through male menopause, male PMS or just wanted to mess with us. Thankfully, today was better. We even made it to the zoo without incident and no one was fed to the lions. I've been lulled into a false sense of security. I'm going to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Hero's Welcome with extra baggage

Delta airlines made news when they charged returning soldiers $2800 in baggage fees. Regardless of your political views, you have to admire these men and women in uniform who willingly sacrifice of themselves and their families to serve their country. These brave men and women spend months and years living in daily danger and missing their families. When they are finally returning home, some airline has the audacity to charge them for "extra" baggage. Sorry, Delta. Some rules are meant to be broken. There are exceptions to every rule. If you serve our country, put your life at risk and leave your own family for months on end, you deserve the red carpet and royal treatment when you return to American soil. Not everything has to be about "making a buck". These soldiers did not enlist in the military for the fabulous pay or luxurious travel. They do it because they feel called to it. The least they should receive upon returning home is a Hero's welcome. Maybe I should be relieved that Delta responded to the public outcry over their glaring misstep. But, I'm not. I'm shocked that it was even an issue. I know it isn't always feasible but when a soldier is returning home, they should be handed a first class ticket, a glass of champagne and a heartfelt thank you- not a bill for their luggage. So, I'll say it. Thank you and your families for all you do and all your sacrifices. God bless you and your families.

Great Expectations

Ok, go into a store. Stay by my side. Don't touch, fiddle and/or play with everything in your eye line and/or reach. Are these unclear or difficult rules to follow? Am I setting my expectations too high? I'm not talking about my 2 year old. No, I strapped him into a shopping cart because he would make a break that would put Jessie Owens and an escaping convict to shame. No, I'm talking about a 7 year old. I explain the rules in the car on the way to the store. I repeat them walking into the store. She goes selectively deaf and feels the need to dance for the in-store surveillance monitors and examine every product in arm's reach. Repeated warnings and reminders didn't accomplish much. Losing privileges got the message across. So, with a glimmer of hope of better behavior I decide to brave another errand. Both children swear to me that they will be model citizens and make me proud. We march boldly into Home Depot's garden center. They both make a beeline for an active garden water fountain. Under threats of dismemberment, they reluctantly walk away. Briefly. While I explain to the clerk what I'm looking for, they both zero in on a display of watering cans. Apparently, my kids have never seen one. I have never witnessed 2 children so enthralled with an empty watering can. One more order for hands in pockets goes unheeded. Another privilege is lost. Good behavior is restored. We leave without further incident. But, I have to ask. Why is it so hard for a 7 year old to walk through a store without handling all the merchandise? Stay by my side so you don't get snatched by some Amish family who will put you to work from sun up to sun down. Why do I have to resort to threats? Are my expectations for behavior so unrealistic? To set the record straight, when we threaten a loss of privilege, we carry through 100% of the time. No excuses, no exceptions. So, why do we have to go through the whole process every time we go to a store? Better behave, Sara. Because tomorrow is grocery shopping day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Under the weather

Last night Sara said she was sick. Was this a tactic for getting out of bed? Was it a ploy for extra attention? Unless the child is projectile vomiting, parents are stuck playing the guessing game with their kids. Are they really sick? Can they go to school? Do they need to go to the doctor? Luckily, we are on summer vacation, so I didn't have much to worry about. I knew something was up this morning when she asked to go back upstairs and read. She stayed up there for 3 hours. She has no real symptoms other than feeling "icky". Not finding that in "Grey's Anatomy", I decided we would stay home and lay low. This includes snuggling under a blanket, watching a movie, lots of books and playing Wii. I think she is on the mend. I just broke up WWIII between Sara and her brother. I always feel terrible when my kids are sick. In addition to worrying about them, I try to keep them comfortable and happy. Not an easy task when they feel miserable. The healthy child resents the extra attention the sick one is getting. The sick one refuses medicine. The healthy child begs for it because, heaven forbid, one child gets "special". So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for no vomiting and no plague spreading through the house. I'm looking forward to 2 healthy children driving each other and me crazy by tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Want to be friends?

"Hi, I'm Sara. Want to be friends?" That is how Sara makes friends. In the 30 minutes we spent at the indoor play area, she made two friends with this direct and simple approach. 9 times out of 10, it works for her. I wish it were that simple for grown ups. Making friends as adults is hard. Where do you meet people? How do you approach them? How do you know if you have anything in common? If I'm out with the kids, I'm chasing one and reprimanding the other. So, sitting down for a chat is usually out of the question. Or, even worse, my kid has just thrown a rock at your kid at the park and my introduction will include marching my not-so-sorry toddler up to yours for an apology. Not the best ice-breaker. I know this from experience. With age comes experience and wisdom. But, maybe kids have the right idea with their no-nonsense approach. I'm not saying I'll try this approach next time I'm out in public but I do wish there was a grown-up equivalent.