Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Mommies

I am sure by now you are tired of hearing about the royal wedding. It’s everywhere we turn, all over our media.

I on the other hand, have loved the attention the royal wedding is getting. I am a notorious wedding lover; I love attending weddings, planning weddings and getting caught up in all the details. I am also a Mom to a Princess myself and that Princess has been looking forward to watching this event for awhile.  Thanks to DVR I didn’t have to get up at 3 AM to allow her to watch it. Instead, tonight we will have makeovers, dress up, and watch the royal affair.

Far away from London this morning, in our "palace", we were in our typical morning rush. So we could only watch a few minutes of the festivities. While the beautiful bride, now a married Princess, stood and waved at adoring fans from the balcony, high on her pedestal, there I was, on a mission to find a clean shirt for the kids, juggling L climbing up my knee with one hand while combing J’s hair with the other and listening to my husband yell down from upstairs “Where are the kids’ socks??”.

As a Mom, I am anything but “Royal”. Sure I had my chance to have my princess wedding day, but after I became a Mom, I walked away from my crown and joined the life of a servant. Now instead of being swept off my feet by my Prince Charming, I am sweeping up after him and three kids in my kitchen. The only royal Caravan I travel in is brought to you by Dodge. The only time I get the door opened for me anymore is when I hit the automatic door button on my keychain!

Now I am not complaining, as I would never trade my life for anything. But you can’t help but watch a royal wedding and not wonder what it would feel like to have the world in awe of you, to be treated like a Princess, to have everything done for you.

The life of a Mom is about as far away from a Princess as it comes. There the Princess stood adored by millions of people. Here I am handling the lives of three children, one husband, a dog, and two cats without any notice or recognition. My children and my husband are completely oblivious to all I have a hand in in their lives.
If you ever want to put this to the test, for one week go a little lax on what you normally do. There was a particularly busy week in my life awhile back where work was crazy and so when I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was clean the house, or organize anything. And all I would hear that week was “Mom, I can’t walk in my room, why is it so messy?”; “Honey, I can’t find any of my t-shirts”; “Mom, didn’t we have mac and cheese on Monday?”; “Honey, I can’t figure out if this bill was paid this week”. During that week my kids and husband got a taste of just how much I am doing behind the scenes to keep this house going. Yes, I can assure you I was well recognized that week!

Moms are a lot like directors of Hollywood movies. They run the show, create everything, make sure it runs smoothly, direct everyone where to stand and what to say. But think about it,  when a movie makes it big it’s the actors that get all the credit and no one even knows who directed the film!  Instead all of the director’s vision, all her hard work is boiled down to a name that is rushed on the screen at the beginning of the movie.

Now of course there are exceptions, the James Camerons, the Steven Spielbergs; directors who no matter what get their due credit. And with Moms it's no exception; for we all know those Moms who we idolize, who seem to have it all, have healthy, well-behaved, and always smiling kids. The Moms who’s kids in unison say “You’re the best Mom”. The Moms that can balance a schedule that would make most of us go cross eyed.

But for the remainder of us Moms, we remain behind the scenes, living our normal, un-royal, un-regal lives. We do it all and wait for the small moments of recognition: a “this dinner is amazing honey” from our husband, or a “You’re my best friend Mommy” from our three year old or the look in our baby’s eyes when he reaches for us. Those small gestures provide us a glimpse of feeling royal.  

So, my fellow behind the scenes Moms, try not to forget that we are the true “royals” the true “princesses”. We are the ones that should be waiving on a balcony for all the world to see. We carry the world on our shoulders, we juggle 1000 balls, and we do it all without getting our day in the sun.
So I hereby dub myself Mandi: Baroness of Bedtime Stories; Duchess of Laundry; Princess of Boo-Boo Fixing; Highness of Hugs and Kisses. Hmm…maybe I should borrow my daughter’s tiara the next time I vacuum.

 Have a great day royal Mommies!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rock Star Moms

Top Ten Ways Being  a Mom Is Like Being a Rock Star:

10. Lots of late nights. Rock stars are known for late night gigs. Babies aren't known for sleeping either.

9. Interesting wardrobe choices. Rock stars dress to make a statement. Moms dress in things they hope are still clean. 

8. People throw stuff at you. Rock stars dodge undergarments and flowers.  Moms dodge matchbox cars and Barbie shoes.

7. You suffer from exhaustion.  The only difference here is that rock stars have the luxury of being hospitalized for it.

6.  Unbeatable Compensation.  Rock stars make millions.  Moms get paid in sticky hugs and "I love yous."

5. You're always on a diet. Rock stars diet to stay "Hollywood" thin. Moms "diet" because between cutting one kid's chicken and catching the other kid's milk, there's no time for mom to actually eat.

4. You're peppered by the paparazzi. Rock stars dodge questions from reporters about drugs and dates. Moms are pestered by well meaning strangers suggesting your child is too old for a pacifier or should not be eating a cookie so close to dinner time.

3. Sometimes, you have an off night.  Whether you are a rock star or a mom, the show must go on.  So after a particularly bad night, you have no choice but to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and vow to do better tomorrow. 

2. You travel. Rock stars travel around the world in their private jets. Moms travel from school to soccer to band practice all in the comfort of their mini vans.

1. Adoring fans.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Well, its Tuesday, and I am finally getting over my “Easter hangover” which I have had the past couple of days.

Is it just me, or is Easter becoming Christmas Part Two? Yet another chance for us Moms to run ourselves rampant, attending countless Easter parties and egg hunts. Another chance for us to run up the credit cards we just paid off from Christmas. As the years pass I’m finding myself running around just as much and getting exhausted just as fast as I do when I am preparing for Christmas.

When I was a kid, Easter meant a pretty dress, Sunday Mass, and Cadbury Easter Eggs. Now, its exactly like Christmas, only warmer and without the annoyingly addictive Christmas carols filling the radio.

Now I am just as much to blame for commercializing Easter as the next. I spent my Good Friday in line at Toys R’ Us. My cart was overflowing with toys, a new bike for H, roller skates for J, a Winnie the Pooh rider for L. A few hundred dollars later I left Toys R’ Us. So much for a basket of Peeps and Malted Eggs huh?

Easter is also “my” holiday, meaning I host it every year. My sister-in-law hosts Thanksgiving, my Mom hosts Christmas and Fourth of July, and I get Easter. So each year my house is full of family. We do egg hunts, eat Lamb Cake, and shovel in enough brown sugar ham to feed a small town. For weeks I start the preparations to make our annual Easter Party a hit. This of course means I'm running around everywhere, trying to find the perfect dress for Miss J, heading to another egg hunt, trying to master hard boiled eggs for coloring eggs.

So Friday night and Saturday I spent my time cleaning carpets, stuffing eggs, making pasta salads and of course packing baskets for J and H and L. I started to feel that Christmas exhaustion taking over. I tried to shake out of it…I think I can, I think I can!

By Saturday night, as I drafted rhyming clues to the Easter Bunny’s game of hiding the kids presents, I found myself getting burned out of one of my favorite holidays. I realized that I hadn’t even thought about the true meaning behind the holiday. I was becoming a charter member of the "let's commercialize yet another christian holiday" club!

So Easter morning, after we had our hunt and the kids saw their prizes, I decided I wanted to take my daughter to church. I wasn’t ready to take the risk of bringing H to a crowded Easter service yet, so I decided just J and I would go. We got all dolled up and headed off to church.

Just walking into a church Easter morning made me feel better, somehow renewed about the holiday. It was a safe haven where I didn’t have to see dozens of chocolate bunnies staring at me with gum drops eyes or eye one more Peep (that I secretly want to smash through the wrapping). I sat there with my daughter and was just happy to experience the true meaning of Easter.

After the brief hour of Easter renewal, I was ready for the party. I had an amazing time with my family, had a blast watching the kids hunt for the golden egg, and laughed as the kids fought over who was going to eat the head of the Lamb Cake!  My love of Easter was definitely back full swing.

That night after everyone left I instantly took my Easter decorations down. I have now put all the eggs, baskets, and rabbits safe in their Rubbermaid bin home to hibernate for a year. The exhaustion of planning and running around will fade, I’ll eventually vacuum up all that damn Easter grass from my carpets, but I’m going to try and hold on to that feeling I felt sitting there in church with my daughter. Those are the Easter memories I hope we both keep.


Monday, April 25, 2011

And The Top Ten Things I Learned from Easter 2011 Are…

1. Seven additional people in my house (including a 1 year old) are just too many.
2. Everyone’s Easter basket should have at least a little chocolate in it

3. Hiding and finding Easter eggs is fun for both kids and adults

4. I can cook – I just need a bigger oven and don’t expect all the hot side dishes to all be ready at the same time

5. After giving up my bed to my hubby’s grandpa, I realized A & B need new mattresses!

6. Thank goodness I did not have any more children. A & B are not quiet during nap time/early bedtimes.

7. My hubby has perfected my strategy of finding all sorts of random tasks to complete when his family arrives.

8. Sometimes all someone wants you to do is listen

9. I miss my grandparents.

And the #10 thing I learned from Easter is (drum roll please)

10. My family (and you know who you are) is amazing!

Well, as you can tell from this post, I survived the weekend. And I did it mostly on my terms! Now maybe, I did a little more smiling and nodding than I wanted to, or I made my mom run to Hy-vee at the last minute to get a cake in case my apple pie didn’t turn out, but for the most part, it turned out ok. And someday I will perfect getting everything ready to serve at the same time (and the hot dishes will still be hot!). But at least I didn’t have to run to Hy-vee for Chinese dinner for 10!

Additionally, (and maybe this should be #11), I am a better person. While I have been named Susie Sunshine at work, I do truly believe that a positive attitude makes a world of difference. And I don’t need to get involved in the negative drama, even when it is going on at my house.

I hope the Easter Bunny brought you a great Easter basket!

Jean Anne

P.S. And just to top it off, I started running today for my 5K in October.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day Off

Today is one of those days I treasure the most...I'm taking the day off! Yes, I am starting my Easter weekend today and its an amazing feeling!

Today is a big day in our household, as our first child, Miss J, has Kindergarten Round-up! I can remember J as a baby when I just heard the term “Kindergarten Round-Up”. Now I am mere hours away from walking my daughter into elementary school for the first time. I wanted to make it a special day and spend the day with her. Plus, I couldn't possibly miss the Easter Egg Hunt at day-care later today! So today is just one of those happy days where I can stay in my jammies until 9:30, look in my kids' eyes and say “Mommy is NOT going to work today!”

Like most people, I complain about my job a lot. On the weeks I have back to back appellate briefs, or a travel schedule that crosses my eyes, I often get down on my job.  But, I’m reminded on days like these how lucky I am. Sure, its hard work, sure its stressful, sure it means a lot of late nights. But, because of the career I have, and the firm I have chosen, I can make an entire day out of Kindergarten Round-up. Days like this remind me that I have chosen the right career path.

Because of my job, I rarely have to miss a parents’ breakfast, rarely miss a field trip, never send my child to daycare with a cold.  I work with people who happily cover court appearances and depositions when I have to head to a school party, or a morning doctor appointment.

My husband punches in at work, and can't miss work without incurring a "hit" which could (if enough hits are accumulated) lead to termination. Watching him deal with the time clock has made me very aware of how truly blessed I am.

I was in an all day mediation yesterday that took about 9 hours to complete. It was a huge case with a lot of parties. We worked hard to settle it and because of that we did not finish until 6:30 p.m. I had scheduled this mediation on a day when Todd was home, so I didn’t mind having to stay longer than my usual end-of-day. But one of the clients at the mediation was walking out and stopped to thank all the attorneys at the mediation. He looked at us and said “This is why I could never be an attorney, too many late hours”. I smiled, keeping my secret that actually, this career CAN be one of the best to raise children with.

Now before you roll your eyes at me, remember I said it CAN be. I know that it is not the norm for this profession to be the perfect fit for a family. But this career comes with a special gift...flexibility. Flexibility is a working Mom's best friend.

The flexibility, the ability to choose your corner of the legal world, is what I love the most about this career. That flexibility is not necessary easy, but its there. Sure it takes career sacrifices, often less pay, less respect, fewer accolades.  But, because of this flexibility a lawyer can be anyone from a sole practicioner working 3 days a week to a big city lawyer billing 80+ hours. There are so many ways to make a career out of the legal profession. This is the reason why I sat bored to tears in constitutional law, why I didn't sleep for a week before the Iowa bar exam. It's the reason behind the mountains of school loans, the hard work, the tears, the stress.  Like I have said before, in order for me to be a working Mom and leave my kids everyday I had to find a job I love. So, legal profession, please accept this blog as my love letter to you!

Days like this, where I can have the day off to make Kindergarten Round-up memorable for my daughter reminds me that I'm lucky to be J.D. Mom.

Now, off to celebrate my day off!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

This week’s post is slightly selfish. See, this week is BUSY! And yes, as working moms, most weeks are busy. But this one seems especially, well, busy!

Monday: Work, daycare, laundry, dinner, clean up guest room for Easter guests

Tuesday: Work, daycare, laundry, A & B softball practice, tickets to Rock of Ages at the Civic Center (which I have been waiting for ever since the show was announced in October!)

Wednesday: Work, daycare, laundry, dance class for A & B, grocery store run for Easter weekend, continue cleaning up house

Thursday: Work, daycare, soccer practice for A & B, tickets to Sawyer Brown (did not realize when I purchased tickets it was the same week as Rock of Ages)

Friday: Work, daycare and Easter guests here!!

Wow – what a week! We have been so busy getting ready for Easter (and finishing up our dance season with Spring shows on Saturday and Sunday last weekend) that we have barely had time to breathe! Plus, Easter guests…well….since it is my hubby’s family…’nuff said!

Additionally, I feel guilty that I have been “neglecting” my happiness for 2 (yes, 2!) date nights. It has been so long since my hubby and I have had a date night, and yet, at this point I am just ready to take a nap! And getting dressed up for a night out – HA!

So, please excuse me for this short post. Next week, I’ll be sure to fill you in on all of the Easter extravaganza (well, as long as I have not been driven crazy!!).

Happy Easter everyone!! I hope you find lots of chocolate filled Easter eggs! (Oh shoot, that reminds me I need to add chocolate to my grocery list!)

Jean Anne

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flex Time Friday

Today, the Juggle has an article about how women can ask for flex time:  The title is slightly misleading in that the article is actually more about when a person should inquire about flex time - during the interview process or waiting until the offer is in hand - but as someone who faced this very question exactly one year ago - and who needs to renegotiate her own "flex time" in just a few weeks, the timing couldn't be better. 

Asking for flex time at work is a stressful thing.  Sure, many employers have written policies allowing for four-day work weeks or telecommuting, but in my experience, written policy bears no resemblance to the real working world.  Sure, you're allowed to move to a four day work week, but the minute someone figures out that you are not there every Friday or Monday or whatever, you are immediately labeled as "not a team player" and the better cases with the higher dollar values start going to other associates. 

Despite the negative connotation, I went to a four day work week while I was at my last job.  I knew that working a reduced schedule would result in some career setback, but I was willing to take the penalty to have a little more time with my kids and to recooperate from the year of Sweet Pea's sickness.  For three months, I worked a four day week.  And for three months, I did everything in my power to hide that I worked a four day week.  Even partners that I worked directly under did not know until I had my goodbye party on a Thursday that I was not working a full schedule.  In other words, I had work/life balance on paper, but not in practice. 

Some of my reasons for taking my current job included  finding a firm that would allow me true work/life balance.  But in order to figure out if this firm would allow real work/life balance, I had to treat the interview process in a way that no recruiter would recommend.  I needed to talk about my family and what I needed in a job.  In my interview, I talked about my kids.  I talked about my commute.  I talked about how I found the lower billable hour requirement refreshing.  I talked about how I understood the need to work late for pressing projects, but how I needed flexibility to go to school plays and soccer games. 

But I did not talk about a four day work week until after I had an offer. 

There's something about the four day work week that is slightly scary to employers.  They worry about how you'll handle things - like what if there's an emergency on a Friday?  Are you going to make yourself available or are you going to steafastly hold on to your day off?  How will you handle your work load the rest of the week?  What is there is a court appearance?  Will you be there?  If they give you a four day work week, will everyone else ask for one too?  The concerns of the employer are all understandable.  Giving a new employee a non-tradtional work schedule is a bit of a risk.  But it is one they should be willing to take. 

Women who ask for a non-traditional schedule from the get-go are taking a risk too.  They know they are asking the employer to do something slightly unsettling.  But the request itself shows that the woman has really thought about the job and how she will manage it with her other obligations.  It shows that she has considered the impact of the job on her family and is realistic about the competing demands.  It also shows that she wants to be dedicated to her employer, and make sure that all expectations are clear.  She knows she's taking a risk.  In my opinion, it's one that employers should reward. 


Monday, April 18, 2011

Just Run Faster Mommy

Last night was a typical evening in my house. Todd was working, so I fed the kids, picked up the kitchen, and then took the kids outside. We played on the driveway, until J suggested we take a walk. I loaded up L in the stroller, J mounted her bike, and H grabbed his Spiderman scooter.

We started to walk down our normal path. Normally, I walk behind J and H walking or riding. They start down, but constantly check to see how far back I am and then stop and wait.

Well, this peaceful routine took an unexpected turn tonight. We left the house and started down the sidewalk. H was in front and started to go fast on his scooter and pulled ahead of the “pack”.

“H, slow down”. I said calmly. No big deal. He does this all the time. He’ll turn around, see where we are and stop.

But, he didn’t. Instead of listening to me, he started to go faster…and faster...and faster yet. At the bottom of our hill is a very busy intersection so I was scared when H kept pushing faster.  I sealed my spot yet again as the neighborhood crazy as I started to yell louder for him to stop, while starting to run with the stroller.

“H, STOP!”. I yelled.

He got so far ahead of me I could hardly see him. I was terrified as I knew he was headed for the very busy intersection. My heart was racing (probably the fact that I was now sprinting behind my stroller wasn’t helping). I kept yelling to him to stop...and he kept ignoring.

Suddenly, he stopped at the end of the street. One upset, ignored, crazy-yelling mother finally caught up with the new found Dale Earnhardt of Scooter riding.

Now I’m not telling this story just because H disobeyed me, tested my patience, or ignored me…because honestly if I wrote about everytime one of these things happened well, let’s just say we’d have to change the name of the blog to something like “I have a 3 year old boy…please send help!” because I would write about that all the time! H is at the stage where he seeks his independence all the time. He pushes the boundaries, tests his father and I. Yes, we are smack dab in the middle of the “I can do it myself”, “No I don’t wanna” stage.

What happened later that evening, however, was something worth blogging about. After H came home, reluctantly turned over his scooter that I think he knew he’d be grounded from for awhile, angrily took his time out, took a bath, ate a snack, watched his beloved Monster Trucks it was time for bed. We did our standard routine… Potty, Brush Teeth, Story Book, Tuck in, Lullaby, Prayers, Hugs and kisses, Good-night…oh wait one more kiss. But instead of heading out of the room before he could ask for “one more story”, I sat by his bed for a minute.

“H, you scared me tonight. You need to listen to Mommy when I tell you to stop. You could have been hurt, could have been hit by a car. I couldn’t catch you and that really scared me”.

H looked at me with his sky blue eyes, almost puzzled in a way, clearly giving me a “Who me?? Couldn’t be” sort of look. I expected to hear his classic “I surrender” comment of “Okay Mommy”, but I didn’t. Instead, H looked me in the eyes, inched closer to me on the pillow and said…

“Just run faster Mommy.”

I looked at my little boy, growing up before my eyes, and chuckled a bit. I walked downstairs to start catching up with some scrapbooking. I couldn’t get his line out of my mind. I started to look back at some old baby pictures of H…I couldn’t believe how fast he has grown.

Now I’m part of the M.O.B. (mother of boy) so having a hard time with my sons growing up is par for the course for me. For those of you who have girls only, let me explain: Mothers have a harder time dealing with the fact their sons are growing up than their daughters. We get a realization, after years of watching our husbands and brothers, that our time with our sons is more “limited” than with our daughters. With girls you know they will always be with you forever, fighting with you…probably, but there none the less. Girls get married, start their lives, but always seem to stick close to their mothers regardless of who or what enter their lives. Boys are different. They grow, get married, and suddenly Mom takes a back seat to their wives, their lives, their adventures. The baby boy who idolized you now has to be reminded by his wife to send a Mother’s Day card. Don’t believe me? Come on even the Bible tells us that, a man shall leave his MOTHER but a woman just needs to leave her home (for as we all know her Mother will come with her)!

Before I know it H (and L for that matter) are going to get to the stage where riding down the end of the street without me will be the least of my concerns. My little baby that never left my side is now running fast away from me.

But, it’s amazing how much wisdom can lie in the mind of a child. H is right of course. As he grows, he won’t wait for me, he won’t stop growing, stop challenging me, stop seeking his independence. He’s exactly right, I can’t stop him from growing up. Whether I want to or not (and you know for me it’s NOT), I’m going to have to let him “run”. Yelling down the street, so-to-speak, isn’t going to stop him. Nope, he’s only going to get faster, only going to go farther, only going to turn his head to look to see if I am there less and less.

So, H reminded me that its time I start to realize that I better become a marathon runner (figuratively of course, let’s not get crazy here). Yelling for him to stop is pointless, instead I need to “Just run faster Mommy”.  Well, I guess I should look on the bright side of things... I have two boys,  so I should be super skinny after this journey!


Friday, April 15, 2011

Truly Blessed

Unfortunately, I missed Tuesday’s post, as I it was not a typical day in the life of Jean Anne. Tuesday morning I got up approximately the same time as always, but instead of heading to work, I headed to a local college to volunteer for the Special Olympics Spring Games. And what a day it was…

After a nice relaxing drive with the sun shining and the radio cranked up, I parked near a co-worker and we headed to the registration area. It was amazing to see all of the volunteers lined up, ready to help out in this great event. After checking in, we headed to our assigned area on the track – the 50 meter walk/dash.

While I was walking to our designated area, I noticed all of the different kids walking around. College kids on their way to class, Special Olympics athletes getting ready to compete, and siblings ready to cheer on family members. And on almost every face, a look of happiness, a carefree look, one that I rarely have.

At the beginning of the event, the athletes were ready to go. Talk about excited! In a time when sports seem to be more about money, drama, and texting scandals, it is so refreshing to see kids just wanting to have fun and do their best! There was no pressure to be number one, nor were there numerous parents yelling at their kids. (Sorry for the soapbox – but it annoys me!).

As the day progressed, I didn’t feel like I was the one helping out. In fact, it was quite the opposite – these kids and parents were helping me. Watching the smiles and cheers as each athlete made an attempt at the 50 meters made me feel as if I were a part of something special. It didn’t matter if a runner came in first or last, what mattered he/she tried AND was cheered along the entire way!

Additionally, the patience these parents/guardians had with the athletes was amazing. As a busy mom, I often lose patience or get frustrated over the littlest things. When A or B don’t listen or are too busy watching TV or coloring, I often get annoyed. But I tend to take for granted that A & B can walk, talk and function with no limitations. At almost 5 years old, they don’t struggle with calling me Mommy or running 50 meters. I am blessed with 2 miracles that, although born early, are basically “normal.” (I put quotes around normal, as I am not sure what normal truly means.)

Each time I volunteer I am reminded that I sometimes I need to take a step back from the frantic life I have and give thanks for all of my blessings, no matter how small or basic. And to borrow the oath of the Special Olympics:

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

I hope everyone has a wonderful day and takes time to count their blessings. And if you ever have a chance to volunteer at the Special Olympics, please do. It will have a great effect on your outlook.

Jean Anne

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Inner Beauty

 For a few years in college and law school I was overweight.  There's no sugar coating it: I didn't eat well and didn't exercise enough and it showed.  But after my first year of law school, I did something about it.  Over the course of two years using diet and exercise, I lost over 40 pounds.  And I was proud.  Of course I struggled with gaining a few pounds here and there, but overall I was able to maintain a healthy weight that I felt comfortable at  for about 4 years.  And then I had KJ. 

Like so many women, once I had a baby I struggled to get my body "back."  Although I lost all the baby weight, my tummy still sagged, and I just didn't feel quite as good about my body as I did pre-baby.  Yes, I thought it was amazing that I could grow and deliver a perfect baby boy.  But I missed my old body a bit.  And then I got pregnant with Sweet Pea.  After delivering a second child in as many years, my body really went on strike.  Even now, when Sweet Pea is two, some tummy and a few extra pounds are hanging around.  I know I don't have my pre-baby body back. 

But I'm missing my pre-baby body less.  Of course I wish I were smaller and that my tummy was flatter.  I wish I looked better in some of my clothes.  But I also know that in exchange for some size 4 clothes, I got to carry and deliver two amazing children.  I was blessed with the opportunity to feel the first flutter of little feet.  To watch hands and feet push at my stomach from the inside.  To endure the pain of childbirth (which didn't seem like such a blessing at the time).  And to meet the person I had literally carried with me everywhere for 40 weeks. 

Being a mother is amazing and an honor. We mothers who are able to carry and deliver children are given one of the greatest gifts in life.  And yet, we are so hard on ourselves when our bodies bear the battle scars.  We moms are so much more than dark circles, sagginess and stretch marks.  We are beautiful, inside and out.  We should see that beauty. 

This year, Blogher is promoting an own your beauty movement to change the conversation about what beauty means.  Women all over the world are writing about ways they are beautiful, both traditionally and non.  I encourage you to read about it here: and think about what beauty means to you.  For me, I see my beauty in two blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids with mischievous smiles and a pure love of life.  No size 4 tag can ever bring me anywhere as much joy as KJ and Sweet Pea do. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Uncool Mom

I never thought I’d ever be typing this blog…but here I am. I learned a painful lesson this month…

I’m an Uncool Mom.

I know, I know…first I’m old, now I am uncool. See, aren’t you happy that I blog with two other extremely talented bloggers so you actually hear from young and cool Moms?

Now I must preface this blog by stating that my “uncool”ness has surprised me a great deal. See, I always thought of myself as a pretty cool Mom. I try and do “out of the box” activities with my kids, I am constantly pretending to be a princess or wicked witch in games, we have “crafty Sundays”, music time, dance parties, make believe outings to the moon. So for the past 4 years I’ve thought…hey I’m pretty cool….

Well…my “cool” meter has been riding in the red lately…

It was a Saturday. I was doing yard work in my backyard. My daughter asked me if she could have the neighborhood kids over while we were outside. Of course, I said yes, because well…that’s what cool Moms do, right? So, there I was doing yard work while my daughter and son played with three of my daughter's friends. One girl is a few years older than my daughter, the others are her age. At first, nothing too exciting was going on…however as the afternoon went on my daughter's friends were going crazy, jumping off swings, teasing our dog, screaming. I kept trying to curb the behaviors but I can’t stand to discipline someone else’s kid. So for the most part, since J and H weren’t partaking in these activities. I let it go, maybe rolled my eyes a bit, and continued to rake.

Then, the group made it to our playhouse. They started barreling down our slide full speed on their bellies, head first. They bonked their heads on others coming back up, fell face first into the grass. The lawyer in me couldn’t bear to watch this. “Someone’s going to get hurt Mandi, you’re going to get sued Mandi”. Then I saw J. She went to the slide and started to get on her tummy to head down head first.

“J, we slide down on our bottoms ONLY, you can’t go head first”.

The second the words left my mouth, I knew the reaction they would get. J got quiet, hung her head, and looked at me with sad puppy dogs eyes. There she sat while the other tummy-sliders were going down over and over. Her eyes said it plain as day… “Not cool Mom”. “Why can’t I do it Mommy, everyone else is??” My response of “Well, I’m not their Mommy and so I can’t tell them what to do” did not ease the sadness of my little girl.

I couldn’t bear to look at her disappointed eyes and so I continued to rake. But I couldn’t help but notice out of the corners of my eyes that J sat there pouting while all her friends continued barreling down head first.

It was official, already by the age of 4, I had lost my “cool Mom” status.

And it only got worse. The group of kids made it over to our newly purchased trampoline. They started to jump all five together and the older kid started instigating a game of crack the egg where one was supposed to lay down and the other kids jump all around.

“No, we can’t do that on the trampoline guys. No jumping while someone is down and you can’t jump five at a time”.

Yes, I know…. “Not cool” AGAIN.

My guilt escalated when one of the girls looked over two houses down (the other house with a trampoline) and saw that the kids were home and getting on to their trampoline. The girl turned to the other girls and said “Let’s go over there, they play crack the egg all the time”. They quickly said bye to J and H and headed over to the cool house, with the cool trampoline, and the cool Mom standing by laughing while the kids played crack the egg.

I know, I know, REALLY not cool.

J jumped off the trampoline and went to swing on her swing. I felt horrible. I walked over to her: “You know, J, Mommy was just trying to keep everyone safe. I worry about you”. J said quickly “I know Mommy” and went off to play with her Barbies. She didn't look sad from being abandoned for the "cool trampoline" but I still felt terribly guilty.

“Mandi, could you not have let her just slide down once head first??”, “Mandi you grew up playing crack the egg on a trampoline with no enclosure and you were fine”.

Then, the inevitable question came up… “How did I become the Uncool Mommy???”

My shock at this relevation comes from the fact that I was raised by the queen of “cool” Moms. If there was a club for Cool Moms, my Mom would be the President. My Mom was THE “cool” Mom. I heard it 1000 times growing up “I wish I could have your Mom”.

And it wasn’t just my friends that thought my Mom was cool…I myself am in awe of her. See, she did “cool” Mom right. She wasn’t that Mom that was more worried about being a friend than a parent and so let her kids do everything. She parented with such grace, such talent. She has always been the best friend to my brothers and I, yet she is our role model as well. I can seriously tell her everything, and I do. I grew up with really no rules, I never had a curfew, I was never put in a time out, never grounded. I ate sugar, drank from hoses, rolled in dirt, went off exploring with my brothers in woods all alone behind my house, and yes I’m sure I even went down slides head first.

But, yet strangely enough with my Mom’s relaxed parenting style, my brothers and I were NEVER in trouble, we were still always home early, never arrested, always good grades, just good kids. She was able to “discipline” and teach us right from wrong, without any one of us having to give her a dirty look like the one J gave me. How did she do this?

So okay, I’ll be honest, after being raised by this woman, and best friends with this woman, I really thought I was genetically prone to being a cool Mom. I have been told 1000’s of times that I am just like my Mom. Okay then, so what happened to me?

And since the incident on the slide, I just keep noticing more of my uncool moments. I don’t let my kids drink pop, even though most girls at J’s dance class have a Pepsi or Mountain Dew in hand. I don’t let my kids chew gum because I think they are too young and don’t want them to choke, my kids order apple dippers instead of fries. The other kids in our neighborhood run around unsupervised…I’m the queen of saying “Stay where I can see you”. I am that Mom that won’t let my kids watch a show called Kick Buttowski because I don’t like the name, even though their Daddy turns it on for them all the time.

Now I know what you may be thinking, its good parenting to discipline and watch what your kids eat or watch. But I can’t help but want to be a “Cool Mom” in addition to that. So how do you parent properly and be cool at the same time? How do I walk the line my Mom did in a society that is more dangerous than I grew up in?

This cool Mom v. good Mom balance has been the hardest part of parenting to me. And because of my husband’s relaxed nature…I am the one that has to be the “bad cop” most of the time. I would love to just go with the flow, let them do as they will (and pour them a Mountain Dew as they do it) but as their Mom, I just can’t.

So, I’m just going to stop wondering how to strike this balance and just parent one day at a time. Okay so maybe I don’t own the “cool trampoline”, maybe I won’t be the “cool Mom” on the block, and maybe I’ll never be able to find that seamless and perfect balance my Mom did…but if I have three happy, healthy kids at the end of this journey I think that’s going to be “cool” enough for me.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Running Me

There's a line in a Lady Antebellum song, "I run my life. . . or is it running me?"  More and more often, I'm finding that no matter how hard I try, my life is definitely running me. 

I've pretty much been having "that" day since Friday.  Like every weekend, we were over scheduled this weekend.  KJ and Sweet Pea had gymnastics, hockey and a birthday party to attend all on Saturday.  On Friday night, KJ got sick with what we thought was an ear infection.  So between gymnastics and hockey, I squeezed in a visit to the pedi.  He did have an infection. . . in each ear.  But the ear infection symptoms quickly turned into flu-like symptoms and before you know it, we had a miserable little guy who couldn't keep any food down. 

Sweet Pea, meanwhile, went rouge on the potty training.  Once a happy potty-going girl, she now is not only not telling us she has to go, but is taking off her diaper because it's yucky.  Yucky for her, yes.  But even yuckier for me to have to clean it up.   Between the vomit and other stuff, my washer pretty much ran from 6 am yesterday until the kids went to bed. 

While we were managing all of that, Husband was trying to fix our fence, which has apparently rotted in two different places, causing two entire sections of the fence to almost fall over in a recent wind storm.  While not an emergency, the strain from the broken parts on the rest of the fence meant that it needed immediate attention.  So, while I was primarily taking care of the kids, Husband was outside, trying to drill rotten wood out of concrete some 18+ inches in the ground. 

And then there was this morning.  Just in case I thought Monday might bring me some relief from the craziness that had been our weekend, I got on the train this morning only to learn that all of trains on my line were "substantially" delayed due to a fire in an engine on an earlier train.  Normally, I take delays in stride.  But today I had court.  So I had to call around the office to see who could cover my court call in case I didn't make it in time.  Thankfully, I did make it in time.  But ironically, the judge wasn't sitting today, so my motion was continued to another day.  And when I reported this to the partner, he was irritated at me because the next court date was so far away. 

 And it goes on.  I have no hope for the week getting better.  KJ is still sick.  Husband is home with him today.  My work week that had been free of deadlines now has three separate Friday deadlines for involved, complicated matters.  And we're trying to squeeze in a visit to my in-laws who we haven't seen since Thanksgiving and who have been too sick to travel to see us.  It's pretty much a mess. 

 I don't how I can change things to make our lives more manageable, but I can tell you that I cannot continue on this pace.  I'm exhausted and pretty much at the end of my line.  Adding in things like travel to see the in laws (who deserve a visit and are wonderful to our kids) and I start to feel like I just can't do it all.  We aren't really living our lives right now, we're rushing around from one thing to the next.  What I need more than anything is to slow down for just a minute, and enjoy the moment, even if it involves vomit.  But with all of these obligations, I just don't know how I can afford to do it.  Any advice from you other working moms out there?  How do you make it happen? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Quality Control Department

Every large company has a quality control department, a division to monitor the work of the company and make sure the products produced are of the highest quality. The quality control department monitors the company to ensure it keeps on the right track.

As a Mom, I am constantly concerned about whether I am a "good parent". Constantly worried about how my parenting will affect my children. Am I a good Mom? Am I raising my kids correctly? 

But unfortunatly for me, I don't have a quality control department. I don't have a monitoring system to keep my parenting skills in check. No one to ensure my kids will turn out "normal" under my watch.

Of course, some parents follow studies, parenting articles, books, etc. as a sort of "quality control" check. But after a couple years of watching other parents do this and get so bent out of shape if their child did not do exactly what Dr. So-n-So said he would do at age 2, I decided this was not a route I would take. I ignore those sheets the doctors give which state what a child should be doing at a certain age.  How is some doctor going to know exactly when my sons or daughter should walk, talk, or learn something new?? In fact, the only reason why I read parenting magazines is to get some new ideas for games to play or recipes for an easy weeknight supper.

Now for me, I have retained my own panel of parenting experts. Three experts that can truly tell me if I am being a great Mom: J, H, and L.

Now this quality control department admittedly does not act like regular departments. Instead of providing me a report, written warnings, or survey results; they provide me my information in suttle ways.

My favorite way I gain information on how I am doing as a Mom is by watching or listening to my children play. When they are pretending to play Mom or house I watch carefully. I smile when I see my kids saying as they play...."I love you to the moon and back", "Make sure and eat your veggies", "Always sing the ABCs when you wash your hands".  I will never forget watching my daughter from a doorway (where she couldn't see me) as she sang the lullabyes that I sing to her to her favorite doll. And I'll never forget the first time H looked at me and said "Momma, you're my best friend".

I also listen for clues on my parenting from people that are with my kids when I'm not around. A classic example is a sleepover at Nana's house. I love when my Mom will report that my kids said so many great things about me or missed me and just wanted to give me a hug.

I wish I could tell you its only good things I see, but alas I have to see the bad as well. After a busy week of work one week I found out from my Mom that my daughter was playing house and asked my Mom to watch her kids because she said: "I have a lot of depositions this week". I must admit that although my Mom thought it was quite cute, I paid extra attention to her for the next couple of days as I felt guilty that I was working too much. One night I overheard H having a nightmare, and heard him saying "I didn't do it Mommy". It made me immediately question: was I being too hard on him? Oh and yes, who could forget the time I went to the Mother's Day Luau at my daughter's school and was handed a little interview that my daughter took about me. When asked: "What does Mommy always say?" My daughter responded: "Go to your room". Well, at least it was better than the Mom who had "Don't talk to me" on her paper.

So, the good, the bad...I really listen to my kids and determine what I should keep on doing and things I need to change. By their words and actions I can tell what I need to do differently and what they need from me. And so while others are rushing out to buy the next best seller on top parenting tips, I will learn from the source and take their feedback to help me be the best mother I can. I don't need a doctor to tell me if my kids are happy, "normal", "on track", they tell me each and every day in there own creative ways.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Just Not That Cool

After 2 fantastic posts by Mandi and Karen, I am not sure how I can post anything more exciting! Although, I did just buy fish oil pills last night at the grocery store and made sure to put on my anti-aging skin cream this morning!!

Multiple times on this blog, we have discussed clothing for working mommies. From what is appropriate to wear at work to staying fashionable, and throwing in the number of cardigans in my closet (8), sometimes I just don’t know what to think. Plus, factoring in my baby weight of 4+ years and a wardrobe budget that gets spent on A & B, you have one stuck mommy!

I recently went all out at the church garage sale and outlet mall – yep - still Year of the Mommy! I’d like to say that I went wild and crazy, but, at least I replaced the 3 pairs of shoes and boots that had holes in them or were severely lacking soles! I, however, did splurge and purchase a Coach purse for $40!! Woo-hoo!!

(For full disclosure, the new purchases will not be featured on the covers of Vogue or In-style magazines anytime soon. I purchased a pair of comfy loafers, slip on black flats and short brown boots, all of which will get years of use, but don’t resonant with the fashionable crowd.)

In addition to the recent shopping spree, I also had a $15 coupon for Sports Authority. In working towards my goal of running a 5K this October, I planned to use the “free money” to purchase another pair of running shoes I could store at work. But then I saw North Face jackets on sale.

Lately, that is all I see around town. Everyone seems to have a black North Face jacket, especially those put-together moms who are thin, smiling and have well-behaved children in their shiny SUV. It has become a running joke between my hubby and I that I need a North Face jacket.  And secretly, I have always wanted to be a cool mom.  I don't want my kids to be embarrassed of me. 

Now, truly, do I need a North Face jacket? No! I have a great Columbia jacket, multiple fleece pullovers and cute spring jackets. Plus, you throw in my hubby’s Abercrombie and Fitch gray fleece pullover and I am set!

So there I am, in the middle of Sports Authority, with 2 bored and crazy children, digging through the sale racks with my hubby looking for my size. And I find an olive green one for $40 ($25 with the coupon). Great, I think – what a bargain.

I quickly head to the shoe section, already knowing what size and style I want (thank goodness New Balance makes wide widths!), praying that my kids don’t break anything. And as I sit there with my $40 North Face jacket and my $40 shoes, all of a sudden it hits me – I don’t need this jacket. I love my Columbia jacket!

I promptly round up everyone and head out for ice cream. I may not be the coolest looking mom, but I can be the best mommy to A & B. And hopefully, that is good enough for now.
And to those of you with North Face jackets, can I borrow it sometime? I am totally jealous!!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Birthday Party Etiquette?

So if you haven't noticed, I've been having technical difficulties with the site lately.  On Friday I posted, but it showed up as posted on March 11.  There already was a March 11 post, so yesterday, I tried to move that post to today.  But instead of posting today, that post was posted over Mandi's post yesterday.  Oy vey.  In the end I deleted the post entirely, believing that the universe was sending me a sign that that post was not meant to be.  So here I am today, onto a new topic and hoping for better results! 

This weekend, KJ attended a friend's birthday party.  While my kids have been to friend birthday parties before, this one was a little different for us in that it was the first "stranger" birthday party.  The birthday girl was a friend of KJ's from daycare.  That meant Husband and I didn't really know the girl, and didn't know the girl's parents. 

Of course, this was bound to happen.  At some time all kids get invited to a birthday party where the parents don't really know each other.  It's part of growing up.  But this was our first such invite, so with it came a bunch of new hurdles.  For example, the party was 30 miles away - and Sweet Pea wasn't invited.  I wasn't bothered that Sweet Pea wasn't invited.  There was no reason for her to be invited.  The birthday girl was KJ's friend, not Sweet Pea's.  And while I knew birthday girl's mom knew that Sweet Pea existed (Sweet Pea and birthday girl's sibling are in the same daycare room), that didn't result in an automatic invite for Sweet Pea in my book.  Birthday parties are expensive, often with a cap on the number of kids that can come.  Birthday girl should have her friends there, not her friend's siblings. 

 At least, that's what I thought until I actually went to the party.  After leaving behind a sobbing Sweet Pea, we arrived at the party only to find that we were the only family not to have brought along a sibling.  Siblings were so pervasivee that KJ actually came up to me during the party and told me that he missed Sweet Pea.  I guess I should have emailed birthday girl's mom and asked if Sweet Pea could come along.  I felt terribly guilty for not doing so.  The worst birthday girl's mom could have told me was no.  I totally would have respected that.  And if I had been in birthday girl's mom's shoes, as long as it wasn't overly expensive or impossible to accommodate, I would have totally welcomed a sibling.  I should have asked. 

Then, there was the present.  KJ and I literally talked about birthday girl's present for weeks.  As I've stated, Husband and I didn't really know birthday girl, and we didn't know her parents.  So when it came time to buy her a present, all I had to go on was KJ's word as to what birthday girl liked.  Thankfully, he said Barbie, which seemed reasonable, and we went on a special trip to the store to pick out a gift for his friend.  In the end, we found a (what I thought was) super cool Barbie drawing toy.  KJ was SO excited to give it to his friend.  So I made a big deal about how he had to keep it a secret from her until her party, and then he could watch her open it. 

Except, she never did.  As we walked into the party, all of the guests put their presents in a dumpster.  At the end of the party, birthday girl's dad just rolled that dumpster out to their SUV.  Birthday girl didn't open one single gift at the party.  KJ was disappointed, and so was I.  He had waited days (which to a three year old feels like an eternity) to give his friend something that he picked out especially for her.  And then, he didn't really ever get to "give" it to her.  And he didn't get to make her happy.  Which he was pretty excited about.  And, in my opinion, by not opening presents at her party, birthday girl missed an opportunity to learn about gratitude and giving thanks.  Some things that I think are pretty important. 

When I came to work on Monday I asked my colleagues with kids about the not-opening-gifts-at-the-party thing, and it seems like this is a common North Shore practice.  But it still just doesn't sit well with me.  Kids should learn about being grateful and expressing thanks.  And there are few better feelings in the world than watching someone open something you gave them and truly loving it.  I want my kids to get to experience both.  So while it may make my kids freaks in the future, when they start having birthday parties, it'll include opening gifts.  And it will include giving thanks. 

What's the practice in your area?  Gifts opened at the party or no?  Automatic sibling invites, or party faux pas?  Anything else I should be on the lookout for as we delve into the world of friend birthday parties?


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'm Getting Old?

The other morning I stood in front of the mirror in my usual morning rush. A couple swipes of mascara, a couple turns with the curling iron. As I stood there looking at myself I had a big question come across my mind..."Am I getting OLD???

When I turned 30, I just batted my eyes, without the normal fear of the year that most women have. But lately…I feel, well, older. Strangely though it has nothing do with finding a wrinkle on my face, and I have yet (knock on wood) to find a gray hair. I’m just noticing more and more that I feel older. Now, I’m not saying at 32 I am an old woman (contrary to my 29 year old husband's constant teasing), but I guess I'm finally hearing that voice inside me that says “Psst…hey Mandi…not sure how to break it to you...but you aren't as young as you used to be". Of course my inner voice would never call me old!  

So could it be true?? Could I actually be getting old?? Well, I’m a lawyer, so let’s look at the evidence. 

Your Honor we offer to admit into evidence the 32 reasons that Mandi feels old at age 32....

1. I don’t even bother with lipstick anymore because it just wears off in 5 minutes.

2. I actually enjoy doing yard work.

3. I can’t sit and watch tv as long as I used to.

4. I dye my hair brown instead of my normal highlighted bright blonde.

5. For some strange reason, I can't eat eggs anymore.

6. I don’t remember the last time I was “carded”.

7. The size of the purse is more important to me than the label.

8. I vacuum more than once a week.

9. First thing I do when I get in my husband’s car is turn the volume of the radio down.

10. When I cleaned out my medicine cabinet, I threw away the pre-natal vitamins and kept the fish oil pills.

11. I actually watch the 10:00 news.

12. My closet has enough cardigan sweaters to make Mr. Rogers proud.

13. I was actually excited when my husband bought me a Snuggie for Christmas.

14. I can relate to about 95% of country music songs.

15. I call my husband “Daddy” more than “Babe” or “Honey”.

16. I pray to thank God for the blessings in my life not to ask Him for something.

17. My proudest accomplishment this year was finally mastering meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

18. I used to HATE I add Dijon Mustard to everything.

19. I find myself saying something my Mom says at least twice a day.

20. I dust the back of my TV.

21. I used to love bright bold colors…now my house is full of earth tones.

22. When I watch a classic movie with a love triangle, I root for the opposite one I used to. For example, I watched My Best Friend’s wedding the other day. I used to hate the end of that movie because he didn’t pick Julia Roberts. Now I think it was the perfect ending.

23. I can actually appreciate a good glass of wine.

24. I watch the History Channel more than E!

25. It doesn’t bother me to be called “Ma’am”.

26. I realize more and more that my father was right.

27. I worry about what time we get to a restaurant as I am determined to beat the crowd.

28. I use the name Amanda more often than Mandi.

29. I chose a body wash over my favorite because it said “Anti-Aging” on the label

30. I check for fiber grams on boxes of cereal.

31. I actually know how much is in my 401K.

32. The majority of pictures I show my kids of me when I was younger are yellowed.

Okay, so the evidence is highly stacked in favor of a "Yeah, you're old" verdict. But you know what? That's okay.  Luckily I have 3 balls of energy to keep me young for many years to come... and if they don't work, well at least I have the Fish Oil pills!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Love of Learning

My girls love to try new things. Well, let me clarify; they love to try new activities. (Trying new foods is not top of their list of things to do!). This summer we have added soccer to the mix and a trip to the beach! 

Additionally (and luckily), most museums currently have highly interactive demonstrations or displays. A & B love to test out new gadgets, games and building crafts. And any place with animals is sure to be a winner (even the reptile house!).

I want to continue this love of learning and/or experimentation. When I was much younger, my family would travel to all kinds of museums, historical sites and new places. I loved seeing the USS North Carolina or petting a porcupine (front to back). And I am currently hooked on watching the Decorah eagles.

But what about activities that don’t enthrall them? Keeping the attention span of a 4 year old can be very difficult. How do I keep them involved? Especially, if it something I know they will like after a few minutes.

And because I always try to offer full disclosure, how do I keep myself enthralled? I have to take certain educational classes every year for work that I just have no desire to complete. How can I set a good example for my kids, if I have the same issues?

Thanks for your thoughts! Have a great Monday!

Jean Anne