Monday, October 3, 2011

Tonight Is Golden

After a whirlwind of a month it is an absolute treasure to be at home for a leisurely evening. My life has never been so jammed packed full, well beyond capacity, as during these past four weeks. Every single second of the day was spoken for, there was literally not a moment to spare, and if there was, I was using it to gain some eensy, teensy ounce of energy back into my weary bones. From 6 in the morning till anywhere between 9-11 at night my beloved minutes were occupied.

On top of all my normal duties as mother of three and household executive, I was swamped with the kids school work (this already takes about an hour a day and they’re in 2nd grade and Kindergarten! Sheesh!), school activities (volunteering in the two classrooms as well as evening engagements for the parents), sports practice for two boys (twice a week), sports games for both boys (which now take up our entire day on Saturday), soccer games for my husband who plays twice a week (super duper sadly, I am out of commission until about January due to an ankle injury. I’m feeling rather sorry for myself.), a weekend soccer tournament out of town, and the overwhelming task of running a sports league for the first time. This undertaking alone has consumed countless hours of my life recently.

I thoroughly enjoy every item I just listed. In fact, I freely volunteered myself (and my family) for each and every one of them. But the magnitude in which I have been involved lately has significantly increased, thereby depriving me of any time leftover. The main source of all this extra work has been, without question, the sports league my husband and I are now a part of. We love it. It is definitely a joy to be involved with the club and we are glad to do it. But we didn’t necessarily ease ourselves into the process. We weren’t given an orientation or a person to shadow on the job, or anything of the sort. We dove in entirely, way, way into the deep end of the pool, blindfolded and holding weights. To say we hit the ground running is an understatement, we hit the ground speeding at a full sprint, with a propeller pushing us forward, and a strong wind at our back. There was no easing about it. We’ve stumbled our way through by acting in the moment, asking a billion questions, and refusing to give up. It’s been fun, educational, exhilarating, confusing, frustrating, exhausting, time consuming, rewarding, challenging, but absolutely worthwhile. Like I said, we love it. And I’m convinced it can only get better, now that our trial by fire is over. (and we only have some minor burns to show for it!).

So, all that to say…. It’s been four weeks and we finally have a night at home where we aren’t rushing off to some place or other, or where my husband and I aren’t drained entirely of our will to live. It’s a normal, easy going, average evening at our house. I am in heaven.

From the kitchen I watch my kids dance around the living room as I prepare dinner. So far they’ve busted their moves to LMFAO, Queen, AC/DC, Saliva (yes, these are all songs from my husband’s ipod) and a few others I don’t know the names of. The fact that I’m cooking dinner at 5:30 so we can eat at 6:00ish is a miracle in and of itself, since most of our meals have been at the early-bird-special time of 4:30pm (no joke… I know, so sad), or 7:30pm (the time we usually begin our bedtime routine).

We sit to the table at 6:05pm, the kids are nice and tired after their dance party workout, and I dish up the plates. We linger. Ahhh, we linger. No rushing, no leaving half-eaten plates on the table to clean up later, no yelling (ahem! I mean, strongly encouraging) at the kids to hurry-up-and-eat-for-the-one- hundredth-time-because-we-have-got-to-leave-and-I’m-not-kidding! Just a relaxed meal with smiles and giggles and story-telling and sharing. No one cares that it’s been 30 minutes and the boys have yet to touch their asparagus. Heck, we could wait here all night, we actually have the time! Well, the boys do eat their asparagus, every last bite (they like it), they were just busy telling us joke after joke after joke. And we listened to each one, pretend laughing at every punch line (I mean really, they don’t even make sense), but fully relishing the quality family time we’ve missed out on.

After dinner I actually get to snuggle up on the couch with my daughter who’s been waiting patiently all day to watch a movie. We pop in the DVD and half-watch, half play silly games. It’s beautiful.

The kids are now in bed snoozing peacefully. As I sit at my desk with a hot cup of soothing coffee and reflect on the experience I’ve just had I realize that tonight has been one of the most precious nights of my life because I was able to enjoy the simplicity of it all. I was able to take in my surroundings completely in the moment, to truly connect with my kids and just soak it all in. No craziness, no looking at the clock in despair, no flying out the door at lightning speed, no sitting at the computer answering email after email, or hushing the kids so I can talk business on the phone. Tonight was just about us. Tonight is golden.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Night Of Talent

I was inspired by a song I heard. My dad sings the chorus of this hilarious song to my kids, he really plays it up with crazy vocals and silly movements and they absolutely adore it, giggles galore! He sent the original version to us via itunes a while ago and as I listened to it for the 15th time (they played it repeatedly for themselves and again for every one of their friends who stopped by the house) I had an idea… I thought this song would be perfect for a talent show! Its upbeat tempo, nonsensical lyrics and catchy tune make it ideal for entertainment.

So, what to do when you have a supreme talent show act and yet no talent show in which to perform? A dilemma I pondered a mere second or two until I was magnificently inspired: I would hold my very own talent show!

We like to get together with friends for dinner and games. I thought this would be a great group to invite to my talent show. Instead of dinner and games we’d enjoy dinner and a talent show! I got everyone to agree to a date and time before I told them that this time around the evening would be slightly different. Initially my awesome idea was met with some hesitancy. For instance, my husband’s response was “What kind of crack are you smoking?” And several others were convinced they had no talent to share. But I held my ground and assured them it would be so much fun, plus they couldn’t back out since we already had a confirmed date! (yes, intentionally sneaky on my part)

The night of the talent show proved to live up to my prediction. I, along with everyone else, laughed for hours on end. Of course some of my laughter was encouraged by the margaritas I was drinking, but even without the liquid courage, it would have been just as full of joy and livelihood. Every single person participated (a requirement), shedding new light on their creativity. We had singing, dancing, a magic show, juggling, a game we all took part in, musical body parts, yoga poses, guitar, and more. It truly was a special evening, not to mention highly entertaining!

I encourage everyone to add a little spice to their dinner-with-friends nights. Next time mix it up a little and do something out of the ordinary. Tradition is marvelous and serves to create wonderful memories, but so does the unexpected. Every once in a while throw a curve ball and have some major fun!

The song of inspiration? Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it’s Flavor (On the Bedpost Overnight)? By Lonnie Donegan and His Skiffle Group (Thanks, Dad!!)

Look it up and listen. It will bring a smile to your face!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Lesson For Mommy

This entry is difficult for me to write because it emphasizes my own immaturity. Even though it’s a little embarrassing for me to share my shortcomings with everyone, I still feel as though it something worth discussing.

I was at Old Navy shopping today. I was super excited because I had a Groupon for $20 that I was planning on using. The best part of this Groupon is that I didn’t even have to pay for it, I got all $20 for free! This is because I received a $10 credit from Groupon a while back and used it for the Old Navy offer ($10 for $20). Score! I am a huge bargain shopper so deals like this totally make my day. I mean, you can’t beat free!

After dropping off my boys at school I strolled into the store with my daughter in tow. Of course, I made a bee-line straight for the girls clearance section. After carefully perusing the clearance rack, I made my way through the various sales and began meticulously searching for a steal. I then copied my tactics in the boys section and ended up with a nice little pile.

On the walk on to the register I was mentally congratulating myself on being such a savvy shopper, once again making my dollars, my free dollars, stretch. I placed my prizes on the counter and happily handed the Groupon to the cashier. She rang up my items and scanned the Groupon then proceeded to stare at the computer screen for a while. Then she punched some buttons, removed a few items from the bag she had placed them in, deleted them from the purchase and scanned the Groupon once more. She again stared at the computer screen, waiting for the discount to go through. It did not. At this point she got on her nifty walkie-talkie and radioed the manager to request assistance. The two of them, to their credit, made several attempts to get the order to be accepted by the computer system, all the while shaking their heads saying “Well, it looks like this particular item is excluded from the Groupon.” Or, “This must be an ‘every day’ item because those are not included in the Goupon.” This whole time I just stood by patiently with a smile on my face knowing it was just a technical glitch that would soon be remedied. I don’t know why exactly I harbored this belief. Maybe because I had used Groupons before and had never experienced the slightest bit of trouble? Possibly because I never expected there to be any sort of complication? I read the Groupon terms a while back and hadn’t noticed any exclusions, I just figured it was the same as cash, good towards anything.

As it turns out my assumptions were wrong. Of the nice little pile I had accumulated only one girls 3T tank top counted towards the $20 I had. What?! One measly little tank top priced at $1.97? (I know, can you believe that price?!) Nothing else worked? What kind of messed up Groupon was this? I asked if there was anything they could do to override the system. I was met with baffled stares. “I’m sorry ma’am, there’s nothing we can do. These items just won’t work. I’m afraid you’re going to have to find something else.” I asked to see the Groupon so I could read the fine print. And then I saw it: “Some restrictions apply” was written in there plain as day. I had overlooked this small statement earlier, but this did give them the right to exclude basically whatever they wanted without giving specifics. Man, I was stuck!

This is the point in the story where it turns ugly. I didn’t yell and scream and huff and puff and cuss everyone out. A little part of me wanted to, but I have more than enough self control to stop that behavior in its tracks. The manner in which I did respond, however, sure wasn’t very polite. I grabbed the three items from the pile I wanted to keep, Groupon dollars or no, and walked away saying, loud enough for others to hear, “Well now I have to search the entire store again. I already did this once and I know there is nothing else in here I want.”

Ok, so that statement wasn’t even true. I had visited the sale racks of only two sections of the store, and quite honestly, given free reign there were actually quite a few things I would have been glad to take home with me. I responded purely from frustration and disappointment. I was looking forward to sharing about my thriftiness and showing the kids their new clothes. And now it was taken from me, or so I thought. I was angry and felt cheated. You see, I hate being taken advantage. Some may argue that in this case I wasn’t being taken advantage of at all, but at the time this is how I felt. It’s not in my nature to roll over and permit others to walk all over me, so I wanted to let them know how I felt about the matter. I could have made my point by quietly and calmly letting them know I was disappointed by the vagueness of the ad and hoped in the future they might be more clear so as to avoid misunderstandings. Instead I stomped off like a disgruntled teenager.

To make matters worse I immediately whipped out my cell phone and called my husband to inform him how awful this Groupon was. I was looking for some sympathy. Right as the words, “Old Navy sucks” came out of my mouth I turned to see a woman next to me trying to get my attention. As it turns out she was the store manager. I hung up the phone and was greeted with “Are you the customer with the Groupon?” Gee, how’d you guess that one? “Yes, I am.” I replied. “I am so very sorry” she said, “we’ve been having quite a bit of difficulty with the Groupons. A lot of people have been unhappy with them. Here’s a $5 gift card on us towards your next purchase. Again, we’re really sorry. This was our first Groupon and we’ve since realized we’ve hit a few snags. But we’re already working on another one that will be much easier to use and much more clear on restrictions.”

Instantly I was ashamed. What a baby, pouting that I didn’t get my way! Oh my gosh, I am a mother of three, constantly trying to instill values in my children and here I was acting inappropriately in front of complete strangers. I couldn’t apologize fast enough. “No, it’s ok, really. I’m sorry, I just had no idea there were limitations on the Groupon. I’m sure I can find something else.” The manager was very kind and even helped me pick out some jeans I was looking at for the boys. She rung me up at the register when I was ready and apologized again while handing out stickers to my daughter (her arm was plastered in them by the time we left). I assured her it was ok, really, no big deal, don’t even worry about it, trying desperately to save some teeny, tiny ounce of face.

As I was walking towards my car I felt deep regret for my actions. There was no need for me to make a scene, and even though I was embarrassed I also felt that same great feeling I had as I made my way to the register initially, of having been a super-duper-saving-shopper. I ended up getting a tremendous deal and was able to leave with a bag full of clothes I only paid a few dollars for, thanks to my free Groupon. I was reminded yet again that things always turn out ok, even if for moments life appears to be disastrous, or in this case, if the coupon doesn’t work exactly as I thought it would. If we just stop for a moment in the midst of chaos, confusion, hardship or while standing at a crossroads and breathe (remember how we’re always told to count to 10? It’s because it works!), just breathe and relax, we begin to feel a calmness, some clarity, a way that will help our situation. It doesn’t have to be a life changing event, it can be as something as small as trouble at the cash register. If we breathe and seek clarity we will find it.

I would have found this to be true had I taken a few deep, cleansing breaths instead of choosing to stomp off in frustration. Hopefully I’ll remember this lesson and choose differently in the future.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Proud To Be An American

What a great day to be an American! The 4th of July holds a special place in the hearts of patriots and brings forth a sense of community and solidarity in people. Having lived in other countries I can say with sincerity that I truly am glad to be an American. I’m not saying anything against other countries or putting them down, not at all. I lived very formative years overseas and have a great fondness and respect for other peoples and cultures. Every place on earth has much to offer and is unique in its own way. And yet, there us something different about the good ‘ole U.S of A. We are a special nation, we stand out in a variety of ways.

I spent Independence Day up at my parents cabin with family. They own a place in a small community just south of Flagstaff, it’s a marvelous getaway for us all! The town holds a parade on the 4th that anyone can take part in. On Monday my boys rode their decorated bikes in the parade for the second time. It’s a wonderfully festive time, full of fun and laughter, good spirits, camaraderie, and a general sense of well being. After the parade we enjoyed a long-lived American traditional meal, grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings and sides! Yum! My mom, a model hostess, had the table decorated with all sorts of red, white and blue cheer.

When our bellies were full and we sat back to enjoy our mountainous surroundings, my mom asked us to share one reason we were thankful to be an American, something we were proud of our country for. Here are a few of the answers given: “Because even though it’s cliché, we really are the land of opportunity. People still seek our shores to take a shot at their dream.” “Because we are a giving, generous country, eager to help others, whether it be our neighbors or someone in a foreign land.” “Because we are free to express ourselves, we can dare to be different or unique, we can question and seek for further, deeper meanings and answers, we can push the limits and break free from the mold, we can dream.” “Because we are a safe nation of refuge for those persecuted.” “Because our founding fathers made the effort to create an unparalleled constitution which is the basis of our greatness.” “Because we respect and honor every generation and both genders.”

My boys, 7 and 5, even joined in with their thoughts. My oldest said he likes his country because here you can pick as many flavors of ice cream you want and can mix them if you wish. He said he learned in school about a boy in a foreign country that was not allowed to mix his flavors of ice cream, there they were only able to choose one flavor. My other son stated he likes his country because he can swim in the pool. These may be considered small potatoes to some, but when compared to many parts of the world, they are indeed luxuries, and I’m proud of my boys for their gratefulness. I’m also thrilled they live in a land where ice cream and swimming pools are a part of their everyday life, as opposed to pain, suffering, lack or violence.

I know our country is not perfect, I know we have plenty of areas to improve in, I know we make mistakes, but overall we do a good job at providing for our citizens. I am proud to be an American. Are you? Why?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ah Vacation...

Ah vacation, how I love you so….

How is it that merely one week away from the normal daily grind can work wonders in a person’s soul? I swear, I was close to losing my mind for a few months prior to leaving for vacation. A few weeks ago I even wrote about how desperate I was for a break. As a (mostly) stay at home mom (I work part time from home) I never get “time off” from the kids. After over seven years of working the same job day in and day out with very, very little time off I was drowning. I love my kids more than anything, but I hadn’t been getting enough time away from them in order to refresh myself. I was slowly slipping into insanity.

So, when our vacation week finally arrived I was ecstatic. Granted, I was also a bit apprehensive since this vacation was a family one, just our family. No friends, no other extended family members, just myself and my husband and our three kids, the same three kids I needed a break from. However, I was determined to enjoy the time away and release myself from any sort of normal responsibility. My daily life is fiercely regulated by the clock, I’m on a strict schedule that requires me to race through the day in order to remain on time.

I didn’t want any of that. I wanted my brain and my mind to be free, relaxed, calm. I wanted to savor the moment and distance myself from time management efficiency. I wanted to actually enjoy every moment I spent with my kids and not worry about running late or mentally strategizing the rest of my daily tasks while engaging with them. I wanted my kids and my husband to have all of me and I wanted to do so gladly and whole heartedly, not with reservation. In my busy life I have a tendency to have fun and be in the moment but with one eye continuously glancing at the clock. I don’t really know how to fully relax but I wanted to, I needed to. My goal was to shed that restricting mentality and be absolutely free for the entire week.

AND IT WORKED!!!! It was the absolute best medicine, exactly what I needed to expel the stress and tension and then replenish with renewed energy. My week was perfect. All day, every day with my wonderful family, relaxed hours on the beach, playing in the surf, morning bike rides, collecting shells along the sand, evening walks at sunset, fun and meaningful interaction, and lots of healing leisure. No clocks, no cell phone, no Internet (ok, I did check my email once), no itinerary, no expectations, no responsibility, just a genuine enjoyment of every moment of every day. (I did all the planning beforehand so we had details taken care of, giving us the ability to go with the flow).

I feel much better, renewed and refreshed, and packed with magical memories. Now I just have to wait another 355 days till the next time, approximately…

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Toddler Translator

My daughter is two and is talking up a storm. She chats to everyone and, as most toddlers do, points out every single object, person and pet she encounters. It’s as though her activities and sights need a continuous verbal relay. I hear about every plane that passes overhead, every dog that walks by, every bird that crosses our lawn, and pretty much every other action taking place. Her new one is “Mama, watch this!” which is followed by some sort of action on her part, usually a tumbling move she picked up from observing her brothers “break dance”. (Her tumbling maneuver, more often than not, consists of her lifting her arms up, straight into the air then dramatically swooshing them down, bending over and kicking her feet all of two inches off the floor. It’s priceless!)

On the whole, I love to hear her talk. I’ve waited for this day for a long time. Once kids begin speaking it makes life, generally speaking, easier. The only problem is, as is the case with beginner talkers, she speaks her own language. By this I mean she doesn’t always pronounce words correctly (sometimes she’s not even close!), making it a challenge to decipher her intention. She is extremely precise and knows exactly what she wants to say, and she says it, only I don’t always understand her. We play this game throughout the day endlessly. I have to go through a list of every single word she could possibly mean and say it out loud until I hit the right one. Now, being her mother and with her all day long I’m usually quite adept at picking the winning word quickly. However, there are instances where we spend a good chunk of time attempting to understand each other.

This morning, for example, she kept saying “Pez! Pez!” I looked all around the room for something that might sound similar to “pez” but couldn’t locate anything. I asked “Birds?... Cars?... Books?... Brush?... Pants?... Bed?...” until I finally hit the jack pot with “Brothers.” Turns out she was inquiring after her two brothers while I was getting her dressed for the day.

My daughter has the habit of just repeating the word (or phrase) over and over and over until I get it. She doesn’t tire, she’ll just repeat it incessantly like a broken record. When she’s not feeling patient and is frustrated with me for taking too long she’ll continue with her repetition but then she’ll throw in a loud “No!” of exasperation in between guesses, scrunch up her face, stiffen her body and then arch her back in protest, as though I am wasting her time and could I please hurry up and get with the program already! Sheesh! (I have no idea where she gets that from, by the way… Ha! I can’t even type those words without laughing!)

I usually make an attempt to exercise my own patience in this situation because I know she’s trying hard to speak to me. I can relate to just how wearisome it is when either people do not understand your words or when you lack the vocabulary to properly express yourself. It can be maddening. Of course I also make a point to encourage her to remain calm and let her know I’m doing the best I can, thank you very much!

However, even with the challenges involved I do really love the learning-to-speak stage. It’s a point where you can see your child grow and develop right before your very eyes, from moment to moment. It’s fascinating! I think at this stage every parent proudly states their child is pure genius for being able to identify, pronounce, express, and relay meaning. It’s a remarkable time in a child’s life. Witnessing such leaps and bounds in mere days more than makes up for the Monopoly-style guessing games and frustrated toddler tantrums.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Calling In Sick

I wish I had a cute story to share, or a funny moment, or an inspiring thought to help you through your own parenthood journey. I wish I could be witty or clever or humorous. I wish, for that matter, I could keep my eyes open…

The last few months have been little more than a blur. Every moment of every day has been full and I have been running full speed ahead with very little recovery time. I’m exhausted. I’m overworked. I’m barely keeping my head above water and my patience with the kids is wearing very, very thin. In short, I need a break!!! (As a side question, how do the kids always know when I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown and choose these moments to pull their worst stunts? Or is it that they normally act this way but I’m better equipped to handle it when I’m not functioning on an empty tank?).

Most days of my life I am perfectly fine. I have my better days and my not-so-great days like everyone, but overall I entertain a good life. These past few months have really thrown me for a loop though and I’m at the point where I need a well deserved vacation. I would settle for a personal day. Heck, I’ll even call in sick! Oh wait, I can’t. I don’t have any of these options. I don’t even get weekends as a respite from my full time job. I’m on duty, or at least on call, twenty four hours a day, seven gosh, darn days of the week. It’s too much. I can’t perform my duties properly if I’m never afforded a break.

Now, before you think this is a boo-hoo, poor me story, let me assure you it is not. It is an honest, vulnerable sharing of my heart. And I choose to share this today because I know there are many that can relate. We’ve all had times of overwhelm, of too much on our plate, times we feel the insanity creeping in. Life can be too much sometimes even if no catastrophe has occurred. The activities that consume my day are all things I like and want to do (except for the house cleaning!). I volunteered to work two side jobs and to coach, and all the running around for sports, school events, appointments, etc is all a part of caring for the kids full time. I asked for all of this and normally I love it all but recently they have just overtaken my life. Now I am saying, “Whoa there, Nelly! I need a break! Where do I punch out? Who approves my vacation time? When is my day off?” And the sad, but very real answer is, “Sorry, dude, no break for you.”

Usually I’m not this crazy-busy and I do get a few minutes here, an hour there to do something of leisure, or to relax and remove myself from the kids. Lately, however, any break from the kids I get is occupied with a plethora of other time-sensitive duties that must be tended to, leaving me about an hour at night of free time. The only problem is by this time I am very much brain dead and physically worn out.

So I’m not really sure the point of this entry, but this is what has been on my mind and heart lately. If nothing else, when you read this you’ll know you’re not the only person completely drained and overworked. We all need breaks and moments of relaxation in order to recover. I know this. Recovery is an essential part of life, without it we’ll burn out entirely. We must rest and recover in order to adequately perform again. Athletes know the importance of recovery. Imagine if they trained and trained and trained and never allowed their muscles to rest? They sure wouldn’t last very long. The same concept applies to the rest of us.

My only problem is that I don’t know how to rest and recover right now….. There is no temporary replacement lined up for my position of Mommy. Therefore I must persist until the craziness subsides. I hope I make it! In the meantime I heavily rely on my two (maybe three?) glasses of red wine on Saturday nights… This is my own blessed heaven and refuge for now. I know it’s not ideal but this truly is my reprieve from reality for the time being. Soon enough I’ll be able to recover properly… I must have hope!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Show Me The Money

After a long day of dealing with the kids yesterday I was getting close to my wits end. My daughter has hit the terrible two’s with both feet running. She keeps me on my toes as far as setting and enforcing limits as well as being a good example of the type of behavior I do want. The boys are simultaneously deep in training for the debate team and the wrestling team. By this I mean they are constantly fighting with each other, both physically and verbally. The mayhem takes its toll daily. By the time my husband returns from work I’m usually ready to retire and in need of some major back up.

In the middle of getting dinner ready last night I was pouring out my woes to my husband, filling him in on the day’s upheaval. I finished by declaring “I wish we lived in one of those countries where stay at home parents are paid. I mean I work so hard every day without any compensation. I’m a teacher, a life coach, a doctor, a personal chef, a chauffeur, a housekeeper, a cheerleader, a judge and a maintenance worker. Sheesh!”

As I spoke I released some of the tension I carried and felt better. I just needed to vent and get a little sympathy from another adult. The evening wore on and I never gave my conversation a second thought. But just before he went to bed, my oldest son, who is seven, came up to me ever so slightly sheepishly and extended his fist to me. It was full of coins. He said, “Mama, this is for you because you are such a good mom to us.”

He had overheard my earlier complaining and after contemplating his thoughts on the matter he decided to pay me for my work, from his own piggy bank. My heart melted. I felt so terribly guilty by my unnecessary behavior and yet so full of love for my thoughtful son. His handful of pennies and dimes was more than sufficient payment for all my years of hard labor. Of course, he needn’t pay me any amount of money at all, that wasn’t even really the point of my complaints, but his gesture of gratitude was all I needed to keep me going. A simple thank you or a hug of appreciation from my children is worth more to me than bags of gold for my work as a mother.

I am holding on to those pennies and dimes though! You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Precious Moments

Some of my most treasured moments as a mother are the simple ones. It doesn’t require bells and whistles to create precious memories with your children. In fact, the easy, seemingly mundane activities can have a more influential impact on your child as a person as well as strengthen your relationship with them. Here are a few examples of recent pastimes I’ve enjoyed with my children that stand out as special and memorable.

Last week my two younger children and myself embarked on a leisurely bike ride, something we do regularly. At the halfway mark we made a pit stop at a park in order to stretch our legs and play on the swings. The day was perfect, mid 80s, clear blue skies with a gentle, cooling breeze. We ended up playing a game of Duck, Duck, Goose in the shade, just the three of us, so obviously it was not a “real” game, just a fun diversion. My son, whenever he was “it”, would tag one of us as Goose and then tear across the park at full speed, not even attempting to complete the circle, as the game intends. My daughter and I got some nice sprints in while chasing him. When my daughter was “it” she not only took full pleasure in smacking us as hard as she could on the head as she called out either “uck” or “oose”, but when she chose a Goose, she ran around in circles until she fell from dizziness or from tripping over her own feet, heedless of whether or not she was tagged or even circling about us correctly. I’m usually a stickler for rules, but this day we played according to our own made-up-on-the-spot rules. I laughed so hard and my heart was full of joy watching my children in complete bliss absorbed as they were in our simple, messed up game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

My oldest, seven, true to his firstborn tendencies, is always looking out for his two younger siblings, as well as myself and his dad. He’s a pretty caring kid. He earns pretend money at school for turning in homework and good behavior which he is then able to use to buy items from the class store. Without fail he brings something home for his brother and his sister every week. It melts my heart. He is more excited about what he shares with them than with what he gets for himself. He takes great pains in selecting items he thinks they will appreciate and explains his picks to me before passing them on. A couple weeks ago he also gave me a dollar from his own piggy bank telling me as he handed over the bill, “Mama, you get so many things for me I want you to get something for yourself now. Here’s some money. Go get something nice.” I almost cried.

My daughter watches me get ready every morning. She has my routine down cold. She turns on the hair dryer for me, she hands me the hair clips I use at the appropriate times as I dry my hair in sections, then she gets my make-up out of the bag for me in the order I apply it. She does all of this without me asking or prompting! She anticipates my next need and supplies it. If I ever forget and reach for an item on my own she flips out and scolds me. It is adorable.

My middle child is expressive and impulsive. If he likes something he exclaims it with gusto. I often hear him saying things like, “What a beautiful day it is today!” and “Mama, I love you so much!” or “This is the bestest dinner I’ve ever had!” His simple, yet completely sincere words brighten my day every time.

I help my oldest son with his homework and reading every day. Although homework has never been a point of interest for me, I have come to cherish this daily time with him. It’s just the two of us working on his knowledge and skills. Witnessing him learn and progress is thrilling and brings me much pride in his accomplishments and improvements. I can see his wheels turning as he muddles over a math problem and I beam with joy as he seemingly effortlessly reads advanced books. What a miracle it is to observe my child growing in all facets of life day by day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Top Of The World

"I’m on the top of the world, looking down on creation…"

Wow, there is nothing that compares to the feeling of being hurled through the sky towards earth. It is almost indescribable, but I will attempt to accurately share what the skydiving experience was like for me (I just went this past weekend!).

Firstly, my nerves never ceased. I was nervous for several weeks leading up to the jump as well as throughout the actual jump itself! The nerves were a constant companion. However, they did not consume me. I worked hard at keeping them at bay and relaxing myself. I made the decision that I was going to enjoy myself and have fun with the whole adventure, despite my anxieties.

A few days before the jump I began to mentally prepare myself. I envisioned falling through the sky with a smile on my face. I tried to feel the wind against my body and see the world grow larger before my eyes as I floated closer and closer to the ground. My heart would race and I’d stifle a small panic during these mental images, but I continued with slow, deep breaths to remain as calm as possible.

The night before my big leap of faith (trust me it is definitely that!) I ran through three possible scenarios in my head, beginning with me walking towards the plane and ending with me landing on solid ground. The first scenario I imagined the worst: my parachute failed to open and I died. I let myself feel the feelings of knowing I was going to die and allowed those last thoughts to float through my head. When I finished I had tears in my eyes. I moved on to scenario two. This is where my parachute opens and it all goes off without a hitch but I was so frightened I didn’t allow myself to enjoy anything. I was withdrawn and somber, face drawn tight with worry. I landed with relief but also with a sense of having lost out on something spectacular. I then began scenario three in which I embraced the day and went for it full steam ahead, determined to enjoy and make the most of this gift. I was nervous to be sure, but excited and ready as well. This scenario, out of all three, felt the best within me. This third visualization was the most comfortable one, it just felt right.

Therefore I made the simple conclusion that this is how I was going to face the day. I wasn’t going to deny or suppress my nerves, I couldn’t get rid of them, but I wasn’t going to let them dictate either. I would focus on my strength, my excitement, my anticipation and go for it!

In the morning when I awoke I inserted earphones and listened to a short, calming meditation all the while invoking feelings of peace, focus, and anticipation for the excitement that lay ahead. I listened to it once more just before getting in the car in an attempt to focus my thoughts and set a clear intention for what lay ahead.

My method worked! I was nervous as all hell but I did it with a huge smile on my face. I even have video to prove it! I alternated between screaming and laughing all the way down. Well, in the beginning it was mostly just screaming. That free fall is insane! It was so surreal, I couldn’t believe I was actually falling through the sky without any sort of container or vehicle. It was just me, Mark the instructor, and the parachute, a tiny dot in the vast blueness, almost impossible to locate. I was later told they knew where I was because of all the screaming but they couldn’t see me till I dropped a few thousand feet. A massive rush of adrenalin hit me hard, compelling me to yell over and over, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Actually it was more like, “Ahhhhhh!!!!! Oh my gosh! Ahhhhhh!!!!! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Ahhhhhh!!!!!!” We were even spinning round and round like a top during the free fall. Mark raised one hand and we spun to the right. I screamed even louder. He stabilized us for a split second then raised his other hand and we flew to the left, the earth speedily circling below me. My brain was telling me it was madness, my heart was jumping for joy with pure exhilaration.

Seconds later (it felt like an eternity) Mark pulled the chute and I was jerked upright. This initiated our peaceful, graceful descent. I felt weightless, like a feather, gently drifting down, down. I tugged on a rope and we swung around to the right again, spinning and spinning like the teacups, only it was just me, I was free in the air, flying, floating, gliding. Again a powerful sense of surrealness enveloped me. Was this really happening? It was dreamlike, but not hazy or distant as dreams can sometimes be, it was jolting, it was electrifying, it was energizing. I was still shaken with fright but awed by my impossible reality. This is where the laughs came in (alternating with the screams). Laughs of amazement, of joy, of delight, of exhilaration, of disbelief.

I should note that during my descent I intentionally and forcefully expunged all thoughts of doom and disaster from my head. If any sort of negative thought began to form I immediately shut it out and replaced it with one of excitement, exhilaration or joy. I was determined to permit only good thoughts to flow. This was key. If I hadn’t done this I would have panicked for sure.

When my feet finally touched the graveled ground I could barely contain myself. I felt like I had conquered the world! It was incredible! The feeling of astonishment at what I had accomplished poured through my core, mixed with pride, joy, satisfaction, exuberance, and appreciation all powered by a huge sense of relief that I had made it safely. I was thrilled to be alive, I was thrilled to embrace my children as they ran to greet me, and I was thrilled by the extreme experience. My body shook with emotion and adrenalin, as though I had worked out hard for an hour, drank five cups of coffee and then learned that I won the lottery. I was one happy girl! What an incredible experience!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"My Body Just Felt Like It"

I was sitting eating lunch with my 23 month old daughter. Her face and hands were plastered with red sauce as she happily devoured a plateful of spaghetti, with carrot sticks on the side. I was enjoying left over grilled chicken and a salad. About half way through lunch I noticed the house was suspiciously quiet. My middle child, who just turned five, refrained from joining us for lunch stating he was not yet hungry. The three of us normally eat our midday meal together but on occasion my son just isn’t hungry. No big deal, I just whip him up a plate later.

Today, however, instead of playing with toys or talking to us as we ate, he managed to disappear, undetected. I called for him and a minute later he materialized before me, saying “Mama, someone, NOT me, wrote with marker upstairs. NOT me, I don’t know who it was.” Obviously this adamant denial about an occurrence I knew nothing about triggered some major alarms in my head. “What happened?”, I asked. “Someone, I don’t know who, but it wasn’t me, wrote with marker upstairs. It was NOT me.” More alarms began to sound. I must admit that this statement had me somewhat confused. My kids rarely intentionally destroy the house, or any sort of property for that matter. Of course they have many times but it’s usually accidental. Their preferred form of misbehavior is to fight with each other. I am constantly working with them on name calling and physically hurting one another. But deliberately ruining an item then outright lying about it is not typical for them. Still, I was pretty convinced he was guilty of the crime.

“Where did you see the marker?” At this point he actually handed me a marker, a black Sharpie (oh, great) that he’d been holding behind his back. “Here.” He plopped it in my hand. “Is this the same one the person used to draw?” I asked. “Yes.” Now I am convinced of his guilt. “And exactly where did they draw?” He shifted uneasily but I gave him the mom glare with a slight tilt of my head indicating I was not messing around and he better answer me now, thank you very much! “Um, um…” He stalled. I tilted my head further. “Um, on the mattress and on the bathroom floor.” I leaned down and looked at him directly in his eyes. “You did it, didn’t you?” I asked. His better judgment finally emerged and he confessed.

I exhaled loudly and deeply but surprisingly didn’t get upset. I was more focused on the fact that I wanted to keep eating so I told my son to wait and show me the markings after the meal. He sat on the floor behind me. A few minutes later I looked over at him. He had a most peculiar look on his face, as though he were staring off into space, deep in thought. “What are you thinking about?” I asked. “Nothing.” He replied and grinned, having been caught thinking this secret thoughts. “Are you thinking about how you’re going to be in trouble?” I inquired. “No”, he said, “I’m not getting in trouble.” This answer caught me off guard. I thought for sure he was busy running all the possible scenarios of discipline through his head. “Oh, you’re not?” I asked curiously. “Are you sure about that? Did you do something naughty?” The grin faded from his face and he replied, “Yes.” He looked very sheepish now. “And when you are naughty you are disciplined, right?” His head lowered, “Yes” he whisperd.

I completed my lunch, cleared the table and cleaned up my messy daughter. My son raised his head and I saw huge tears in the corner of his eyes, threatening to spill over. “Mama”, he croaked, “My stomach feels scared.” I quickly stifled a giggle at his expression and said, “Well, yes, that happens when we know we are in trouble. Let’s go upstairs now and you can show me what you did.”

We walked into the bedroom. He pointed out the squiggles he drew on the mattress. It wasn’t very bad, hardly noticeable. “Ok” I said evenly, “Now show me the bathroom floor.” The door to the bathroom was pulled shut. He opened it and looked down. Three dark circles were drawn in the middle of the floor. “Why did you do this?” I asked, incredulous. He started to cry then shrugged and said “My body just felt like it.”

Again I forcefully refrained from smiling and instead dealt with the issue. He had to clean up the marker, all by himself (yes, it was hard work for him, but that was the point) then he was further disciplined for lying to me. I made a clear distinction between the two. He had two separate punishments for two separate acts. After completing his discipline he was back to his normal sweet self within a matter of minutes.

I understand the kid though, it is hard to fight tempting urges when the body just feels like it, but acting on these urges does come with consequences, for all of us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Facing Your Fears


My heart is racing, I am flustered, I am nervous, I am scared out of my mind, to the point where I am actually shaking and all I did to induce this state was make a phone call! Ok, not just any phone call, as you can probably guess, it was extremely nerve racking. I just made an appointment to go skydiving!

My husband “gifted” me with a skydiving jump for my birthday. I use quotations because I would NEVER purchase a jump on my own. I am terrified by the mere thought of willingly (or not so willingly) hurling myself out of a plane, thousands of feet above the solid earth. I mean yeah, the remote idea of free falling through the air does have an exciting ring to it and yes it actually does look like fun when I witness other people doing it on TV. However, entertaining a casual thought about an adventure and being face to face with it are two entirely different things. I now have a reservation with a date and a time. It is very official. This is happening, thus the racing heart and shaking limbs.

My husband keeps telling me I’ll love it, it will be a super high, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. He went skydiving a few years back for his birthday, but he’s an adrenalin junkie and thrives on adventure of all types. My dad went last year for his birthday as well. He was extremely nervous beforehand, as I am now, but also tells me I’ll love it. He did. Just prior to going up he was close to vomiting, but when it was over he was overflowing with exuberance and contagious energy. He loved it.

I’m pretty confident my experience will be similar to my dad’s and logically thinking, when it’s over and I’m safe and sound on the ground, I know I’ll be glad I faced my fears and went for it. I do enjoy excitement, thrill and adventure. But there is something horrifically unnatural about a human being falling through the sky. We aren’t made to fly and my brain knows it! Every fiber of my being is screaming “This is ludicrous!! Save yourself! DO NOT JUMP you suicidal maniac!”

I have nightmare visions of my parachute failing to open (the backup chute fails as well in this dream) and I die a gruesome death, gone in the blink of an eye, never to see my family again, never able to realize my life potential or be there for my children as they grow. I know, it’s a horrible vision! Who thinks like this? Well, I do. I rarely focus on doomsday scenarios as I consider them a complete waste of time and mental capabilities, yet in this instance I can’t stop! It seems as though I’m willingly and knowingly putting myself in a death trap.

Now if I take a step back and contemplate this rationally I know that overall skydiving is pretty safe. There are tons of precautions taken and I am strapped to a professional. I also know that my life can end at any given time for any given reason. There is no guarantee that I will live through the day, any day. However, I NEVER entertain this thought. I never consider the fact that today might be my last day. It’s a ridiculous way to live.

Since the idea of skydiving scares the crap out of me and yet I am choosing to do it, I am indeed facing my fears. I believe that we should face our fears because usually they are unwarranted and only serve to hold us back from accomplishment and growth. Therefore I support the notion. However now that I am facing one of my own fears I am truly terrified and I must admit, I do want to bow out and continue on with my life as is. But there is a small part of me, a teeny tiny part, deeply hidden way down in there, that is cheering enthusiastically, encouraging me to go for it and have some major fun! This is the part of me that is ready to overcome this fear, to grow, to mature, to experience and consequently enhance my life on a variety of levels afterward.

Since I want to live the fullest life I possibly can, I choose to listen to my itsy-bitsy cheering section and jump out of the stupid plane. (Oh man, it better be worth it!) Of course I do have some motivation in the form of an there-is-no-way-you’re-getting-out-of-this plan to ensure I actually appear on the scheduled date and time: a friend is jumping with me! My husband knows me well, I need this motivation! I think she’s there to actually physically push me out of the plane if I have second thoughts. We all need friends like this, right?

So, I encourage you too to face your fears as they appear in your life. Grab a buddy who will hold your hand on the way up then push you out of the plane at the appropriate time. As long as you live through it (and chances are very good that you will) you’ll be happy you jumped!This is what I'm telling myself anyway... :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not A Laughing Matter (well it kind of is)

What do you do when as a parent you see your own inappropriate behavior displayed in your children?

My middle child has recently developed the habit of laughing when he’s being disciplined. He is not trying to be disrespectful, this is just the response discipline is currently triggering in him. How do I know this? Because I used to do the very same thing! As a child, even in to my teenage years I would burst into giggles at the most inopportune moments. I never meant it as disrespect, but certain instances would ignite laughter nearly impossible to hold back. For instance, the time I was singing a duet in church (there were a few years way back when I thought I could sing) and totally sang the wrong part. Instead of continuing despite the slight mishap like most people would do, I began to giggle and proceeded to sing/laugh for the remainder of the number. Or one of the many times in school I was caught talking when I should have been listening. If the teacher called me on it I my shoulders would start shaking and the laughter would well up inside me.

I do not know why this happened. I never intended it as rudeness. I didn’t intend for it at all, it just spontaneously erupted. It wasn’t my typical response to embarrassment or scolding but it occurred often enough to present a problem. I did my best to will myself to stop but I rarely succeeded.

Now my son who is 4 (days away from turning 5!) is following in my footsteps. I see it in his face. I know he’s doing his best to gain control and listen intently to my words, but the chuckles are a mighty force to be reckoned with. I understand this entirely so even though I get annoyed since it seems as though he’s being outright defiant, I overlook the shaking shoulders and stifled giggles and focus solely on the incident or behavior I am addressing. Of course when I‘m done doing my parental duty I tell him to stop laughing, but I know he physically can’t.

The worst part about all of this is that every time he starts laughing I want to laugh too! Being a grown adult and a seasoned parent I am able to control myself and maintain my composure, but man is it hard! I am so tempted to join in! It literally takes all of my well groomed willpower to deny myself the urge to laugh. The corners of my mouth twitch in protest. I’ve even had to look away for fear of caving.

How can I instruct my child on more appropriate responses when he’s being guided or disciplined when I can’t even do it myself? I guess some reflexes are so ingrained in us they continue to require conscious efforts to master even after years of work. I don’t know…. Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No Way, Jose!!!

This past weekend my oldest son participated in a soccer tournament for the second time. We belong to a recreational league so tournaments are not a part of our soccer system. However he has had the opportunity to join a competitive tournament with his recreational team twice. I blogged a while back about the first tournament. It was painful and joyful at the same time. Our guys got the crap beat out of them repeatedly. They played well, they worked hard, they had admirable attitudes, but they just didn’t measure up. There are many different factors that contributed to this but bottom line is they were outplayed.

This weekend was different. In fact it was 180 degrees different. Our recreational team beat the pants off of every team they faced. They didn’t just win, they annihilated. Everyone, ourselves included, was blown away. Our boys improved leaps and bounds in just a matter of months. No one could believe that our little rec league team from nowhere showed up completely unknown and actually swept the tournament. It was surprise, elation, joy, disbelief, pride, excitement, entertainment, appreciation all rolled into one. A movie-worthy weekend.

But here is the part that stuck out to me the most. Yes, it was AWESOME to witness our team kick some butt. However, this fun is not the feeling that has stuck with me throughout the week. These past few days I’ve been contemplating some major differences between our team and the teams we competed against.

Our boys received constant positive feedback, both from the coaches and the spectators. We cheered and encouraged relentlessly throughout each game. This is nothing new for us. We do the same thing during each of their normal soccer games played at our rec league. Our coaches and parents for all our teams provide a consistent positive learning environment for the players. In our league we believe that this is the best and most effective means of teaching. We further believe that this approach will have positive long lasting effects on the child. We groom, we guide, we encourage. Within this framework there is also room for correction and discipline. We do not permit any degree of unsportsmanlike conduct, yet our focus is highly geared towards positive reinforcement.

During the tournament I was shocked to see and hear quite the opposite from the opposing teams. Their side only cheered when a goal was made. One coach yelled repeatedly at his team that they were better than us and they should easily beat us (we could hear every word). Many of their players unnecessarily roughed up our boys and used excessive force (I understand that some physicality is expected but trust me, this was well beyond the norm). One player was ejected from the game completely and then his coach tried to sneak him back in later on. The list can go on and on, but this is enough to make my point, which is this:
What in the hell are those coaches and parents teaching their children? Because let’s not forget, they are children, only 6 and 7 years old. They are being taught to lie, cheat, disrespect and presume themselves superior to others. Yes, it’s a soccer game, but the values (or lack thereof) are being absorbed into these children’s beings and will affect their person for years to come. Instead of improving their skill they will resort to low blows and cheating. They won’t feel accepted or worthy unless they succeed or win. They will look down on others who are different or who don’t qualify. They will play to win, not to enjoy. They are not learning from their mistakes, they are being told not to have any mistakes. It’s ridiculous!

I realize that I am oversimplifying and that not all those kids are destined to doom. But after observing the vast differences displayed over the weekend I am so very grateful to be a part of our rec league. We may not be as big as the other guys. We may not have the swanky attire and paid coaches. Heck, we don’t even belong in the same skill bracket. And yet there is no way I would switch to any of the teams we played. No way, Jose! To me instilling lifelong values and creating a supportive, nourishing environment is much more important in the long run than winning a particular game. But the best part is that our boys do have the same skill level as the other teams! They beat the snot out of them! Yet they did so with dignity, respect, hard work and outstanding attitudes. This is the way to play, win or lose. This is the basis for a productive, healthy, happy person.

I am so very proud of our team that exhibits skill and sportsmanship. I am proud of our coaches who do not criticize, but construct. I am proud of our parents and friends and family members who encourage and support no matter what.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thirty Something

I am officially a year older. My birthday was on Saturday and I have graduated to the wonderful age of 34.

When I detach myself from my own age and objectively consider people in their thirties I picture well put together adults, people who have life figured out for the most part, people leading happy, productive lives, with either a booming career or a full family life, or both. I envision responsible, contributing members of society. I mean 30 sometihng sounds so mature and groomed. Gone are the fun more adventurous years of your 20’s. And long gone are the reckless and crazy teenage years. By your 30’s you should have sewn your wild oats, lived dangerously, made mistakes and taken risks. Anyone who is in their 30’s, especially mid thirties is definitely an adult now and should behave accordingly.

So these are my objective, detached thoughts. But do they coincide with reality? Do I consider myself responsible, productive, contributing? Do I have my life together? Am I on the right track? Have I left my carefree days behind me? And more importantly, do I have to? Honestly, I think the answer to my questions are both yes and no.

Yes, I feel more confident as a person, in who I am and what I want my life to reflect. Yes, I do lead a full, productive life. Yes, I am more responsible. But at times I still long to be wild and crazy, to throw caution to the wind and say “to heck with it!” I embrace my life and am so very grateful for it, I believe it to be on the right track and yet I also have so much more I want to be, do and see. I’m not anywhere near reaching my full potential or finishing my “bucket list”. And there are still times I feel lost and confused, unsure of what path to choose when I reach a fork in the road. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t necessarily mean I have it all figured out. In fact, I’m pretty sure I make a real mess of things more often than need be.

As a young girl I remember when my parents were in their 30’s. I thought they were geniuses. To me it appeared as though they knew it all and had their lives completely together. Maybe this is why I have these feelings about what a person in their 30’s should look like? Now that I am in my 30’s I’m not so sure that my understanding of my parents at this age was accurate. I think they did they best they could with the knowledge they had, just as we all do. But I suspect that if I were to go back in time and ask my 30 something year old parents if they feel mature, confident, responsible and together they would respond as I do: yes and no. (I must clarify that I do believe they were well above average though).

It seems to me that a person in their 30’s has acquired enough life experience to know that yeah, they know a lot, but also to know that there is so much more to learn and they are eager to learn it. In other words they know that they know, but they also know that they don’t know and they are willing to accept and admit this fact. They no longer harbor the need to prove themselves and are mature enough to seek growth, probably for the first time ever, and therefore are open to developing as a person. But they are also confident in what they have learned thus far, making life a great balancing act.

Reaching this understanding is intensely liberating. This is probably why 30-something adults give the illusion of having it all together. There is no more (or at least a lot less!) pressure to impress or prove. You are free to be you, knowing you aren’t perfect but not trying to be either, just working to do your best and be the best version of you.

As a 34 year old woman I am happy to be me, to live my life, to care for my children, to pursue my dreams and goals. I have a firm foundation to lean on. I am confident and content. However, I am also open to new ideas, to growth and change. I am eager for excitement and fun. I crave to learn more, to be more, to do more. I am blessed by what I have and also look forward to what’s to come. I rarely feel intimidated or insecure anymore, or if I do, it’s not for long. I know I don’t have to impress everyone or prove myself. I can’t be everything to everyone, it’s a ridiculous notion. But I can be the best me, which is important, and I can work towards improving me as I continue to journey through life. This is what being 30-something means to me.

I wonder what 40-something will mean….?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This Or That?

I know that most people are going to relate to this sentiment: I don’t seem to have enough time to get everything done I need to! I feel as though I am continually behind on my to-do list. Part of the problem is that there is never an end to the to-do list, it is added to regularly. Life just keeps getting fuller.

I love my life, well most of it anyway, and a good portion of my to-do list is comprised of tasks and events I willingly engage in. I love blogging (or really any form of writing), I look forward to playing outside with my kids, I get excited to work on my book, I anticipate soccer games, I relish our weekend getaways, I enjoy helping my kids with homework or school projects, it makes me feel good to work out and of course, I’m always game for dinner time (yum!).

The problem is that these things only make up a part of my life. I also am swamped with all the items I don’t particularly like or want to do, namely cleaning. Everywhere I look there is something or someone for me to clean. Between my three children and two dogs the floor is continually a mess. Spills, stains, crumbs, dirt, toys and clothes litter the floors. They appear as if by magic! I’ll turn around from cleaning one mess only to find a newly formed one in front of me. How do they materialize so quickly? If I wanted to I could spend my entire day removing stains and clutter from my floors. It’s actually quite depressing if I think about it…. So, moving on!

My daily dilemma is that I must choose between items I want to do and items I need to do. I am not lazy nor do I procrastinate. I am organized and responsible. I don’t waste time or neglect my duties, and yet I seem to always be playing catch-up. I’m always rushed and busy and there is always another chore waiting for me.

I long to write my book and work on my business but being a stay at home mom means that my children come first, therefore when they need me (which is constantly) I must put my wants (namely my writing and my business) on hold and care for them. Finding the available time for me, for what I want to accomplish poses a real challenge. When the kids are in bed for the night and I am finally granted uninterrupted time my body is exhausted and my brain is completely fried rendering it almost useless. This makes it difficult to successfully accomplish anything. So then my dilemma becomes, do I trudge through and try to get some of my work done anyway or do I sit and let my body rest?

I think the answer is I just need more time, just a few more hours each day. Or no, maybe a housekeeper is the best solution. Then again a part time nanny would be nice…. Hmm, another dilemma.

(BTW, I had to stop and help out my kids 9 times while writing this!)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dangerous Beauty

We’re in our car, the whole family plus our two dogs, on the freeway headed North out of the city towards Flagstaff. And we’re at a complete standstill. No cars are moving. Snow is falling furiously all around us, blanketing the road in soft white. Daylight is fading. It’s cold. Our immediate situation is slightly alarming, but a simple glance out the frosted window reveals a breathtakingly stunning world of snowflakes, almost too pretty to be real. The trees and hills give the impression of absolute peace, quieted by the snow. It is beauty and danger in one. My family is stuck right in the middle.

Our day began like any other Saturday. We rushed to the soccer fields where we spent an exciting morning of play. Afterwards we came home, ate lunch and packed up. Our plan was to spend the long weekend up at the cabin, a favorite family getaway. Shortly before we left our home the skies broke open and let loose a downpour of rain on the Valley. Big, fat drops of steady rain. It rained continuously and impressively on our journey through Gilbert, Scottsdale, Phoenix and well beyond the city limits as we crept North to our destination.

Roughly 40 miles before our exit the rain abruptly turned to snow. Thick, full snowflakes fluttered down from the sky and buried the road at an extraordinary rate. We proceeded on undeterred in our efforts, eager to reach the warmth of the cabin. Little by little, however, the roads worsened, until all traffic lurched along at a stop and go crawl. Several cars stopped altogether, unable to handle the thickening snow-filled street. Other cars, better prepared ones, pulled over and hurriedly strapped chains on their tires. Most of us continued to swerve around on the increasingly icy conditions, hoping and praying to make it.

At 20 miles South of our exit all cars did indeed come to a full halt. I have no idea what caused the total obstruction but it was definite. We sat here for what seemed a very long time. In actuality it was probably close 20 minutes. All we could do was sit and wait and watch. We watched the intimidating clouds loom above us. We marveled at the sheer amount of snow falling, hiding the road we were supposed to travel on. We worried at the speedily fading daylight. We hoped for the best but quietly, mentally made plans in case we came face to face with the worst. Yet, we also enjoyed the exquisite white wonderland growing and expanding before our very eyes. Dangerous beauty indeed.

Miraculously the cars in front of us began to move again. Well, at least some of them did. Other cars remained firmly in place, stuck despite heroic efforts to break free from the icy, snowy cage they found themselves in. All of these stranded drivers were on their cell phones, calling for assistance. Those of us who were able to get our wheels moving eased our way at a snail’s pace, weaving in and out of our fellow travelers forced to remain behind. After initially swerving and skidding without actually producing any forward movement, our tires caught hold of some traction and pulled us out. Whew!!! A BIG sigh of relief was audible from everyone. We joined the train of creeping vehicles and inched our way out of the mess.

The rest of the drive continued at this pace, never exceeding 20 miles per hour. The roads were entirely white, no concrete visible at all. It was slippery, it was scary, it was a tense drive to say the least. But we did finally make it to our treasured cabin, safe, sound and whole. I couldn’t have asked for anything more and I’ll tell you, that little cabin never looked so good as we rounded the corner and pulled in the driveway. Blessed refuge!

The rest of the weekend turned out to be full of unexpected adventure as well. Craziness sprung at us right and left, keeping us on our toes, but also adding to the experience. There is way too much detail to include in this blog entry. I guess you’ll just have to wait for the book! (Yes, I really am writing a book and the happenings of this weekend will be included in its pages).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chocolate Hog

I pick up a few items from the store for my oldest son’s Crazy Hair Day at school the next day. The plan is to spike it all up using hair glue then color it blue with colored hair spray. Driving home from school I tell him about this which of course makes him want to inspect the products as soon as we get back. Upon arrival we all stumble out of the car and make our way in. The boys both run straight upstairs to see who can catch the first glimpse. My daughter (21 mos), who takes much longer to make her way up two flights of stairs, holds back at the bottom, hoping for me to carry her. “Come on”, I say “You can do it, follow us up.” Then I bound, up eager to witness my son’s excitement.

I enter the room in time to hear exclamations of “Oh this is so cool!” and “I want to color my hair blue too!” and “I can’t wait, let’s put it on now!”. “Whoa boys” I reply, “All this is for tomorrow, not right now. You’ll have all day long to wear it, don’t worry.” We continue conversing about exactly how we should spike the hair and what it will look like. A few minutes later we’re done and head back downstairs. I never even realize that my daughter has failed to make an appearance.

As I walk down the stairs I spot her. She is all the way across the room, on the far side of the kitchen where our table rests. She has pulled a chair back and climbed up. Her face is crammed so full she is unable to close if fully and she is laboriously chewing as fast as she can. When she looks and sees me she chews even faster.

It is just a few days after Valentine’s Day and our sons both returned from their prospective schools with huge boxes full of candy. These boxes have been temporarily stored at one end of our kitchen table. This is where my daughter is now. I see candy wrappers, at least five, strewn about the table in front of her. She has a chocolate trickle running down her face and onto her shirt and she is in the middle of unwrapping yet another chocolate heart.

“Stop!” I yell. “No more candy! Do not put that piece in your mouth!” She eyes me and ever so slowly begins to move her hand, which is desperately clutching the candy, upward toward her mouth. “I said no more.” I say in a low, even tone. I am not messing around. “Put it down”. She continues her slow movement, intent on snabbing just one more bite of yummy. What, does she think if she moves slowly I won’t see her? “Put it down now. That’s enough.” This whole time I am approaching her as I descend the stairs and cross the kitchen. I reach her just in time to snatch the chocolate piece out of her hand as she is about to jam it into her already over-crowded mouth.

My question is, how long did it take her to hatch this plan? Did she make a run for it as soon as I bolted up the stairs? Or did she sit and ponder for a second. “I don’t want to climb the stairs. It takes me forever. By the time I reach the top they’ll all be coming back down again. It happens every day. What should I do? Wait here or begin my climb? Aha! I know! The candy! They left all the precious candy at the table. If I hurry….”

Well regardless of the thought process, hurry she did. We were only away from her for about five minutes, max. Her mouth was so full it was comical. I wanted to burst out laughing. She looked like a cute, blonde chipmunk! I can’t blame her though. Anyone who knows me can surely attest to the fact that she is indeed my daughter. I would have done the same, I think. Chocolate is my great weakness.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vomit In My Hair

My back aches, my legs are cramped, the house is a mess and I have a small amount of vomit in my hair… And yet, my heart is full and I feel great.

A nasty virus has been making its way through our community. So far our family has steered clear of the bug, until this morning that is, when my baby daughter (21 mos) woke up and promptly vomited. The rest of us are still healthy (fingers crossed!).

Initially I was bummin’ pretty hard upon learning of my daughter’s illness. Firstly for the most obvious reason, a sick child is distressing and difficult to care for. I’ve heard horror stories of this flu bug from others. It’s violent and completely miserable. Enduring such agony yourself is hard enough. Watching your child suffer through it, knowing they don’t understand what is wrong, is heartbreaking. As a mother, I hate feeling helpless as my son or daughter is struggling.

Another reason I was bummed out this morning is because I had to stay home and miss out on soccer. Both my boys have soccer games Saturday mornings and I am even the coach for one of them. I love these mornings. They’ve turned into a fun-filled family tradition for us over the years. Missing out on cheering for my kids and coaching my team is a big disappointment. (My husband did not have the option of remaining at home with our daughter because not only is he also a soccer coach, but he’s the Site Coordinator for the league, making his presence kinda necessary. )

However, I pick up my sick daughter and clean her up. We make our way downstairs and head directly for the couch. She is clearly miserable and wants nothing more than to crumple into my arms. I oblige. I then survey the area. I cringe. The house is a mess. Friday nights are late for us as my husband and I play our own soccer games. Then we’re up and at ‘em again first thing in the morning for the boys’ games. This means that the house is usually left in disarray until I clean it up properly after returning later in the day. Last night the dishwasher was full of clean dishes and due to our tiredness, instead of clearing it out and re-filling it, we just piled up all the dirty ones in the sink. Some got left on the surrounding countertops as well. Yuck. A few toys are scattered about the floor that the kids failed to tidy appropriately and a pile of clean, folded laundry is patiently sitting on the couch just waiting to be put away.

I sigh audibly. I hate messes. I spend a good portion of every day cleaning up after everyone in order to keep a clutter-free house. In reality I fail miserably at this task, having three young, active children plus a husband. But I try, nonetheless. So I’m sitting here holding my precious little girl, getting a good look at my littered house, and every fiber in my being is yearning to break free and clean it all up. I literally have to force myself to remain seated. I know I need to be a good mom and be with my daughter, but I am dying to rescue my house. As I’m contemplating my mental conflict my daughter begins to throw up again. We race to the sink and I hold her frail body over the side as she empties the contents of her stomach. Poor thing.

I spend the next three hours repeating this procedure. I hold her for about 15-20 minutes, then we rush to the sink just in time for her to hurl. I wipe her face off, give her a sip of water, then sit back down. About thirty minutes into the routine I begin to let go of my cleaning obsession and relax. I realize, quite suddenly how fortunate I am at this precise moment. I get to spend uninterrupted hours alone with my baby. This never happens! I never just sit with any of my kids. They are way too active to sit. Not only are we sitting, but I am holding her closely. Her body molds into mine as she lays back against me, completely trusting her being to me. It’s a heartwarming feeling.

Now, instead of feeling anxious about my unkempt house and disappointed at missing out on the soccer games, I feel exhilarated that I have this special time with my child. She needs me and I am here for her, completely and wholly here for her. No distractions, no other obligations, nothing. Right now she is my only concern. I release everything else and relish this bonding. My boys are with their father, I secured another coach to sub for me, and the dirty dishes will still be there later. There truly is nothing hindering me from giving my all to my daughter. So I do.

Three hours later I am still holding her, in basically the same position, thus the aches and pains in my body. We have made numerous trips to the sink (the poor girl is definitely not well) but she has dozed off and been blissfully snoozing for a half hour. I’m so glad she’s asleep. She can finally get a break from the horrendous vomiting. I slowly stand up and carry her upstairs to bed. My heart is full. And I will be here still when she wakes up. In the meantime I’m just going to quickly wash her vomit out of my hair…

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be A Player

Today’s entry is an invitation for you to participate in some type of physical activity, be it a regular class at the gym, a community sponsored class, or an organized sport. Take your pick: volleyball, softball, soccer, basketball, zumba, tennis, roller derby, lacrosse, boot camp, anything.

I think everybody should play a sport or participate in some type of organized physical activity. The reason stems from my own experience. I play on a soccer team and I have a blast even though I am horrible and have no idea what I’m doing. It’s true. I joined a recreational coed soccer team a few months after my daughter was born. I’ve played three seasons and just began my fourth. However, I have never had a real practice, nor have I ever been taught how to play by a coach. My skills (which are nothing to brag about) have been entirely acquired on the field. I learn as I go. But the important part, and the entire reason for this blog entry, is that it is FUN!

My very first soccer game I was so nervous I couldn’t even see, I was blinded by black spots that invaded my vision. I wasn’t even informed of the rules. I had a general understanding of the basics: no hands, kick the ball towards the goal but I harbored no strategy and I could not get my feet to do what my brain was telling them to do, they just never had to perform in this manner before and were completely unaccustomed to these new moves.

I have slowly gained knowledge of the sport over the months although I’m still very rookie-like in my performance. But for me that’s not the point. You see I know I suck, I know I look goofy, I know I make many mistakes. That’s why I only play recreationally. For me, even though I am super competitive and absolutely love to win, I don’t make soccer about winning. I can’t. I’m not trained and I have minimal experience. I have no foundation to compete from. Instead I have fun. I choose to simply enjoy the game, the exercise, the interaction, the company.

Engaging on a weekly basis with people I would otherwise never see, and some who I would never otherwise meet, does marvels for my well being. There is no pressure to be awesome on my team. We just play. If we win, fabulous, if we lose, no biggie. We’re not there purely for competitive points, we’re there to enjoy, really enjoy, the experience. Win or lose, good game or bad, I always walk away feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, happy and fulfilled. Obviously I would rather win and I strive to play well, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s ok. I still have fun.

Being involved in this type of team effort boosts my morale. I cheer for my teammates, I get excited for the challenge, I burn a lot of calories, I laugh, and heck, I even improve my game and learn a little bit more each time. Plus, as a stay at home mom, the adult interaction is wonderful, an added bonus .

As human beings we crave physical stimulation. We are created as physical beings, built for activity. Our bodies, minds and spirits all respond well to action. Energy is allowed to move freely and abundantly, releasing endorphins and producing health and vitality.

Playing organized sports is more than “just a game”. It’s exercise, bonding, learning, challenging, engaging, rewarding, interactive. It’s emotional, technical and physical thereby involving all parts of your person. Therefore, even if you suck like I do (or think you suck), even if you’ve never played before, even if you don’t know anyone on the team, I encourage you to at least try. You may just find a new love. 

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Time Of My Life

We celebrated my husband’s birthday over the weekend. It was a fantastic evening. The house was overflowing with people, kids were running around everywhere, the food was delicious, the conversation was upbeat and fun, and an overall sense of excitement filled the air. It was one of those nights thoroughly enjoyed by all.

My husband and I are experiencing a stage of life where our friends are almost all couple friends, meaning he and I are friends with both spouses of the other couple. For many years I had my group of girlfriends and he had his group of guy friends. On occasion we would get together with the other person’s friends, but for the most part our outings were separate. They were mainly Gils Night and Guys Night.

Over the course of the years a string of occurrences have taken place which have resulted in us losing contact with most of our separate groupings of friends and instead forming friendships with other couples. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s been a very natural progression as our life continues to change and evolve. Right now is actually a great time in our lives because most of our activities involve either our entire family or my husband and I together. Our couple friends have children as well so family activities are frequent. We host or attend pool parties, BBQs, birthday parties, sporting events, park days, game nights and the like on a regular basis. These gatherings are chaotic and crowded to be sure but they are also some treasured memory makers.

Engaging in such activities with my husband and children as well as with friends makes them all extra special. This means that a typical soccer game for my sons on Saturday has now also become a morning spent with friends, complete with conversation, playful banter and fun times.

I am blessed to count my parents and siblings in this group as well. All my siblings are married and all have kids, excepting one. My family is a consistent part of my life and we routinely all gather together.

Every phase of my life has been an important one. Every stage has held meaning and has prepared me for the one to follow. I am overjoyed as I embrace this particular time in my life, the young family stage. I feel so lucky to be where I am, to know such wonderful people, to engage with other families, to watch my kids grow and form friendships, to laugh with and be with my husband and our friends together, to share in life so fully with my entire family. It is such a treat.

Looking around the room the other night at our house full of people, all there to celebrate my husband’s life, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. I am blessed with an amazing family and superb friends. This is a good phase in life, one of my favorites. May it continue for years to come. 

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