Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It Takes Three

I'm starting to believe that it takes a three day weekend for anything to really get accomplished in homes where both parents work.  A common theme in my recent posts has been how with each week I seem to be falling farther and farther behind.  But then came Memorial Day.  An important day for so many truly important reasons.  But also a much needed break from the grind. 

But "a break from the grind" didn't mean bbqs and bags for us.  It didn't even really mean a true three-day weekend.  Husband has to work 2 holidays a year and this year, he had Memorial Day.  I'm not complaining: Of course I wished I could have spent the beautiful day with him and the kids.  But Husband working Memorial Day is much preferable to him working Thanksgiving or Christmas, both of which he has done in the past.    Plus, he got to work from home.  And shaving off that hour-long commute meant we had just enough time over the weekend to make substantial progress on one of our most-dreaded, and oft-put-off chores: yard work. 

Yard work this Memorial Day meant planting the side of our house.  Our house is not a new one.  It was built in the early 1990s, and has gone through several owners.  But none of those owners apparently had a lick of landscaping sense.  I'm not saying I know a lot about landscaping - I don't.  But I do know enough to hire someone who knows about landscaping to get a plan made that works with our house.  So we did.  We've spent the past few years pulling out the hodge-podge of random plants placed too close to the house by previous owners and replacing them with teeny tiny bushes that will hopefully someday grown into a nicely landscaped yard. 

For our front yard, we hired the planting out to a local nursery.  Among other things, we needed a new retaining wall, so we knew were going to have hire someone anyway.  We just let them do the whole thing.  But the side yard was different.  We again went to a landscaper to get a plan made up with local bushes that would grow well, didn't have a lot of pollen and didn't need a lot of upkeep (our criteria).  But the cost of having it all installed was outrageous.  So we planned to do it ourselves.  Of course, as soon as we made this plan, our air conditioner broke.  We needed a new HVAC system.  So the plan for planting was out, and the side yard became a weed garden. 

But this year, the side yard was back on our to-do list (I'm sure, much to my neighbor's delight).  We went to a nursery, bought $800 worth of plants and broke out the shovels.  It took all weekend and a lot of hard work by Husband, but it already looks a million times better.  We aren't done, but serious progress has been made. 

There's no way we could have accomplished everything we did this weekend without that extra day.  And there are so many chores we still need to do that could really use an extra day.  Or at least an entire weekend without rain.  If only every weekend could be a three-day weekend. . . Maybe then I'd have a prayer of some day catching up!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Real Home Cooking

Happy Memorial Day everyone! When I think of Memorial Day I think of cook-outs, family picnics, and the start of summer.

Ahh...cooking. As a Mom, I am the chef of my own restaurant, a 24 hour short order kitchen that has to satisfy the finicky needs of 4 hungry people. I think every Mom has fear of the words: "Honey, what's for dinner?" . But working Moms who come home after a long day of work to 8 eyes staring up wondering what exciting meal you have planned for them tonight???? Well that's just plain terrifying!

I love to cook. Its something I have developed a passion for over the years. I have always chalked it up to my Polish heritage. In case you don't know someone of Polish decent, I can sum up the Polish cooking mind with two rules: (1) When in doubt, just feed them and (2) Everything tastes better when fried in butter.

But the problem for me is that although I love to cook, I face two large hurdles to my passion. First, I have absolutely no time to cook. In addition to being a busy JD Mom, most nights of the week my husband is gone when I get home from work and cooking an elaborate meal with 3 young children in tow is an adventure to say the least.

Second,  I cook for 4 extremely challenging "customers".  The most savvy of New York dining critic has nothing on these 4. My husband is the pickiest eater I have ever met (although admittedly he has gotten worlds better over the years). He hates all vegetables, onions, and tomato sauce. He also hates two of my most favorite things in the world: (1) Mushrooms and (2) Italian food. Before I met Todd I never even knew it was possible to hate pasta! J unfortunatly got her father's picky eating skills. She hates all vegetables, including corn which I am pretty sure is against the law here in Iowa. H will eat any vegetable you put in front of him, but he is not a huge fan of meat. And L, well he's a texture eater and refuses to try a lot of new foods.

Like most Moms, I am very big on healthy eating for my kids. We have fruits and  veggies every meal, hit the 100 calorie snack pack aisle for snack time, opt for apple dippers instead of fries. I try everything in my power to make sure I am instilling healthy eating habits. But healthy eating is nearly impossible when you are dealing with finicky eaters, neighborhood kids that walk around with pop in one hand and a Kit Kat in the other, and sheer lack of time.

But to be honest, although I want my kids to eat healthy food, I also really want to make GOOD food. I want to be the Mom whose kids can't wait to come home from college so they can eat. I want to cook like a Mom who has all the time in the world, instead of a busy working Mom.

I love reading cook books and absolutely adore watching Food Network, but I sometimes wish there was a show or a book about "REAL" home cooking. I mean, seriously, spend the day watching Food Network, each recipe you see will be full of onions, or other food my picky eaters won't eat. I swoop up every "Cooking for Kids" magazine or book in the grocery store check out only to give up after page 3: Salmon Cakes. I mean come on, Salmon cakes? Really?

And if you notice cooking shows and cookbooks really aren't geared for the working Mom no matter what title their creative creators give them. I have yet to find a 30 minute meal that takes 30 minutes.  I don't have a magic refridgerator full of perfectly chopped parsley or hand shredded cabbage. And if I brown my chicken for the 3-5 minutes they say, my food would be better suited for the Sushi Bar than my table.  In my house the 30 minute meal may be started at 5:30 but doesn't come out of the oven until 7:30 p.m.

So, I've had to go rogue on the journey of "Real" Home Cooking, and come up with strategies on my own to keep my family fed, my kids healthy, and my sanity in check. Here's a few tips I've learned over the years:

(1) Ask Moms, not Rachel Rays: A lot of people just focus on getting their recipes or cooking tips from the professionals, the Rachel Rays of the world. And yes, I do this too with good results. But, the best recipes I get for my family come from fellow Moms, especially fellow career Moms. These Moms understand cooking for little people that would be perfectly content to eat Mac and Cheese 365 days a year. Start or join Recipe Exchanges on Facebook, ask co-workers or friends for their favorite recipes.

(2) Plan Plan Plan - The key to having healthy and wholesome dinners all week long is to plan, plan, and plan some more. Every weekend before I go grocery shopping I come up with our menu for the week. Then I write my grocery list. If I get lazy and don't plan the menu, then it never fails that we eat out most of the week. This of course is just as bad on our financial bottom line as it is on our waistlines.

(3) You don't have to cook dinner at dinner time. This is the number one tip I have learned over the past year: Just because you are cooking dinner does not mean you have to cook it after you come home from a busy work day. I cook at odd times: a lasagna at midnight, a lunch time browning of hamburger for a casserole. Get a head start on cooking, cook on the weekends or the night before and freeze the meals.

(4) Crock Pots are not just for Pot Roast. I am a self-proclaimed crock pot chef. I use my crock pot all the time. I used to think that you could only make pot roast in the crock pot. Now, I use it to make everything from bar-b-que chicken to lasagna.

(5) Sometimes you can't take the high road. Okay, so I know the doctors will tell you that its important to put veggies on your kids plates so they learn to like veggies. Yeah, that might work in a Parents Magazine, but it doesn't work in my house. I have to hide veggies all the time in my kids' food. My favorite cookbook on how to do this comes from Jessica Seinfeld (love her). Yes, I am a sneaky veggie person... but it works. The easiest veggies to hide in things are: carrots, red peppers, and broccoli.

(6) Go off the card. After I married the world's pickiest eater I learned that you can't follow a recipe card to the T. I can never find recipes without at least one of the foods he refuses to eat. So I improvise a lot. I follow the general idea of the recipe, but I always go off the card.

(7) Learn your spices. I still am not a pro at this but I have learned over the years that a spice rack is not just something you can put on your counter so people think you cook (oh come on you know you have done that before). Learn about spices and what spice to use where. My favorite spice of all time is garlic powder. I use it in almost everything. I also use a lot of cumin and spice blends like "poultry seasoning". Experiment with the flavors as I cannot tell you how many recipes I have saved from disaster by adding some seasoning.

(8) Don't forget to KISS your food.  Another one of my favorite cooking tips is to always remember to use simple cooking...i.e. follow the KISS method in the kitchen (Keep it Simple Stupid)! Let me give you an example. I love Goulash. I have always searched for the perfect goulash recipe. I found recipes that spanned two pages of complicated steps and off the wall spices, recipes with 20 ingredients and long simmer times. But every time I'd make these complicated recipes they disappointed me. Then I discovered I could make Goulash with a box of Deluxe Mac n Cheese, Ground Beef, and a Jar of Spaghetti Sauce. I was shocked that such a simple recipe tasted so good. Another example, I always look for veggie side dishes with tons of ingredients and creamy sauces that I think my kids will eat.  Then my brother gave me a recipe to roast broccoli with just some garlic and olive oil. That's it.  You can imagine my shock to watch even my husband eat the broccoli that night.  Simple Cooking is best!

(9) Experiment. I don't think I became a relatively good cook until I learned how to experiment in the kitchen. I used to beat myself up when a recipe went wrong. But now I just learn from the mistakes of a recipe. It took my literally a year to make enchiladas my family loves, several months to master hamburgers. The best part of just trying new things in the kitchen is that you learn the ingredients that can "save" every dish. For example, I add Honey Dijon Mustard to almost every recipe if I think its bland. I know if I make something Mexican and it just tastes off, I need to add cumin. If a bbq or other sauce tastes wrong, I add in brown sugar. I think meat should be browned with onions, my husband hates onions, so onion flakes are the perfect compromise. So just try new things. I try and cook a new recipe every week or every other week. The more recipes you have in your arsenal, the easier it is to answer the "What's for Dinner" question.

(10) Cook with Sous Chefs - I always let me kids cook with me. Whether they are sprinkling cheese on enchiladas, or tossing lettuce, I try and let them get involved. When I do this, I find they eat more. For example, I'll serve cheeseburger chowder, but I'll let them "decorate it". It works as they always seem to eat what they create.

So, Mommies, good luck in your kitchens! And if you have any other strategies for REAL home cooking, I'd love to hear them!


Thursday, May 26, 2011


Mornings around our house are crazy. No matter how much preparation I do the night before, it seems like we are always scrambling to get out of the house. It doesn’t help that Husband and Sweet Pea are not morning people. Husband literally sleeps through the “buzzer” version of the alarm, despite the fact that it sounds very much like a fire alarm. And Sweet Pea almost always responds to my “good morning” greeting with a crabby “Walk away, Mommy.” I’ve tried to adapt our routine to allow both Husband and Sweet Pea to wake up slowly, but no matter how much time I give them, neither one will actually wake up until I drag them out of bed.

Things don’t get much better once Husband and Sweet Pea are out of bed either. Husband is just really not a morning person. He moves around the house s l o w l y. Never mind that he’s already running late or that I have a train to catch. Or even that he’s cutting it so close the kids might not make it to school in time for breakfast. Every morning he takes his time waking up, takes a long shower and then goes down to the kitchen to read the news on his phone. Husband claims he’s checking the weather, but more often than not if I ask him what the weather will be that day, he doesn’t actually know. In any event, I am left to wake up two kids, get them to go potty, brush their teeth and hair, get them dressed and get them ready for school. Even after all of that, more often than not I still have to say something to Husband to actually get him out of the house. Something like, “you HAVE to get in the van so I can get ready.” Husband almost always responds by saying I can go ahead and he’ll take care of the kids, but I know that if I go upstairs the kids will cry and the leaving process will just take even longer. So I usually wait until he actually loads the kids in the van, and then I rush around like a mad person to try to get ready and make it on time to the last express train.

Too often, I don’t make it. And one of the reasons is my hair. I am one of those lucky (sarcasm) girls who has very thick, prone-to-frizz hair. I simply cannot go to work without washing it. And if I wash it, I HAVE to dry it. Drying my hair alone takes about 20 minutes. And that doesn’t include the straightening, which I also have to do if I want to come home with anything less than an afro in the evening. And since I usually have 30 minutes or less to get myself together and to the train after my kids leave for the day, I very often run into a time problem.

Today was no exception. We were running behind, it was raining and I really didn’t want to get into work at 9:45. So I made a risky decision: I decided to wear my hair naturally. I figured that since it was a rainy day I had nothing to lose. I could spend thirty minutes drying and straightening my hair and get into work late, but I’d still probably have a frizzy mess by the time I came home anyway. Plus I had an office day. The only people who would see my horrible hair were the people I worked with. And I’ve been here long enough now that I was hopeful they could see past my big hair.

So here I am. Not quite curly, not quite straight and feeling like I made a mistake. You know those days where you take a little bit of a fashion risk, and end up at work all day long wishing to God you had put on something else? Yes, I feel like that. Thankfully, I work with almost all men, none of whom even noticed when I dyed my decidedly brown hair blonde a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure no one will notice or comment on the frizz today. Or maybe they’ll chalk it up to the weather. But I still feel silly. Thank God for my friend who probably lied, but told me my hair looked fine. I’m going to cling to her comment and pray that she’s right. And I’m going to have to start getting up earlier in the morning. . . or learn to embrace big hair. Sigh. If only that 80’s trend could make a come back. . . .


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Behind the Mute Button

I have always been one to appreciate technology. The IPod changed my life, the IPhone changed my world. Because of DVR I never miss a tv show, and I never forget to thank my GPS for "recalculating" after I miss my turn 6 times on the way to a court hearing in some dot-on-the-map county in rural Iowa.

But this week another piece of technology graced my "I can't live without you list"...the mute button on a telephone.  

If you've read my blog before, you know that my work-life has been taken over the past couple of years by a very large federal construction litigation. This case has 20 plus parties, mountains of blue prints and photographs, and so many documents that it has been given its own large filing cabinet in my office.

Two weeks out of every month the Court ordered us to set aside time for depositions in this case. And because of the size of this litigation, the depositions take place all over the country: St. Louis, Austin, Champaign. I represent one of the third-party defendants in this case and therefore most of the depositions do not have a whole lot to do with my case. And because I cannot possibly be away from my family to be in depositions 10 days out of every month , I do a lot of these depositions over the phone.

So this week I've been holed up in my office listening to hours of construction depositions. Monday morning I sat at my desk ready for a deposition that I thought would last about 4 hours. We started at 9:00, so when my clock hit 3:30 I started to get nervous.

My husband works 12 hour night shifts and therefore I have a very different schedule than most lawyers I know. My husband rotates, two days working, two days off, three days working, two days off, etc. I am literally held hostage to his factory's schedule. In fact, his work schedule sits on a large piece of paper on my desk and my assistant's desk. Because of his work schedule, while most attorneys stay after hours to catch up on billable hours or answer emails I have to be out of the door by 4:35 p.m. so I can get across town and pick up the kids from daycare. We don't have a backup plan, i.e. no family in town, no babysitter on call. Just me.

Now normally on this particular Monday I would not have to be nervous as Todd was off, but then as 3:45 passed I realized..."Oh crap, Todd's working overtime tonight". And as my luck would have it, the second this hit my mind the Plaintiff's attorney said "Okay Mr. [so and so] I think I only have a couple more hours to go so hang in there".

Over the course of my career I have pretty much come to terms with the fact I am the only attorney I know with this "tag team parenting schedule". When depositions go long, I look around at other women attorneys and they are calm as can be...sure some of them have to text the nanny that they will be late, but none of them seem to hear each minute of the clock ticking as loud as I do in my brain.

4:15 - Plaintiff's attorney still going strong. I text my husband..."Going late. Not sure I'll be done at 5:00 p.m., you'll have to pick up the kids". 4:35 p.m. - "I am still going. I guess you'll have to bring the kids here".

So there I was 5:00 p.m., sprinting out of my office to the elevators and heading down to grab the kids. The kids love being at my office, so I knew I could probably keep them entertained while the deposition finished.

And this is why I have a new found respect for the inventor of the mute button on the speaker phone. While other attorneys sat in their stuffy suits in a conference room listening about gutters and downspouts, behind the mute button several hundred miles away I was desperately trying to listen while J colored with highlighters, H decorated my file cabinets with post it notes, and L shook the rattle toy I keep at my office for him.

The deposition went on for nearly an hour. My kids did great. Sure there were times that L would fuss and I would have to stand up and dance around my office while the witness talked about windows and doors. But overall my kids were amazing (minus two unexpected bathroom breaks) and I was able to finish the deposition.

Now I'm not saying it was a piece of cake...in fact L learned to say SHH!! because I had to keep saying that to my three assistants that hour. But for 3 young kids to sit in a law office for an hour entertained only by office supplies and have no melt downs or tantrums is a miracle in and of itself!

But then of course at the end, the Plaintiff's attorney had to ask about an issue important to my case. And of course (because why would this be easy) the witness didn't really answer the question. Great, now I have to somehow ask a follow up question.  I looked at J and H..."Okay guys, Mommy has to talk on the phone for just a second...so let's see if you can 'blow your bubbles' and see who can keep their bubbles the longest (puff their cheeks full of air)". I picked up L, I knew if I kept swaying him around he'd be quiet...

"Okay, here we go...3, 2, 1 Go!"

J and H blew their cheeks full of air, I hit my mute button off...my protective barrier peeled away, and quickly asked  my question. As soon as I asked the question, I raised my protective shield again just in case the kids laughed or L squealed. The witness answered and thankfully clarified the issue to my satisfaction.

"Okay guys one more time, blow your bubbles REAL BIG..."

"No more questions". I said and POOF, back behind my mute button I went. The deposition finished and I gave each of my kids a high five for being perfect bubble blowers.

So thank you inventor of the mute button, you are my new favorite inventor. I wonder when you came up with your button if you ever imagined how much you would help a working Mom in a bind. Because of the mute button I was able to do my job, even when my Mommy world bombarded it for an hour.

Thinking back on it, I have to laugh because I am sure I was quite a sight finishing up that deposition that afternoon: making airplane sounds for L, challenging H to see how many pink post it notes he could find in my drawer, and running J to the bathroom, all while listening to the deposition to make sure my issues were not discussed. I don't think any of the attorneys in the case knew that three little attorneys had "entered their appearance" that day.

So, I guess you never know what's going on out there behind the mute button!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, Monday

The craziness that currently is my life can pretty much be summed up in the phone call I got at 9 a.m. from the guy I had come out and give us an estimate on fixing our fence:

Me: Hello?
Fence Guy (FG:):  Hi Karen. This is FG.  We're all set. 
Me:  What? 
FG:  We're all set. 
Me:  Do you mean with the contract?  I got it, and I'll sign it and send it back to you today. 
FG:  No.  I mean your fence is all set. We fixed it.  Didn't you notice? 
Me:  Umm. . . No. 

That's right.  We had a HUGE, gaping hole in our fence for months and I've been so distracted that I did not even notice that someone came out and fixed the thing. 

In fairness to me, I did not expect the work to be done already.  As the above conversation shows, I had not yet signed the contract (although I had orally authorized him to do the work).  And, I hadn't been home all weekend.  I got home at 9 p.m. on Thursday night and had to pack all four of us for a trip to Des Moines over the weekend.  We left for Des Moines around 5 a.m. the next day because I had a court call at 9:30 in the quad cities.  We then spent three days in Des Moines, and thanks to the crazy weather last night, didn't get home until 10:15 last night.  So I haven't really had a lot of opportunity to evaluate my fence.  But I did look outside this morning.  I just did not notice that the huge, gaping hole had been fixed.  Oops. 

Conversations like this morning's make me worried that I'm overlooking some other big, huge gaping holes in my life.  That I'm so distracted that I'm not noticing things that I really shouldn't be able to miss.  And if I'm missing these big things, imagine all of the little things that don't even cross my radar!  I wish I could say that I'm missing these things because I'm focused on the little things in life, but that certainly isn't the case. I haven't met up with a girlfriend or updated the kids' baby books or done any of those other "little" things that actually mean a lot in what feels like forever.  Nope, we're just doing the bare essentials to get by. 

Hopefully things will change soon.  We don't have travel plans for the first time in three weeks, and I have a list of around-the-house projects to do.  Hopefully we'll be able to make some progress in a bunch of different areas and start June off on a better foot.  In the meantime, however, I can't wait to go  home and take a look at my fence!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Rolling with the Wheezes

This week marked the moment I have been waiting for for several months, L’s first birthday! L’s birthday marks an important turning point as not only is it his first birthday, it’s the last of my first birthdays.

So for a couple of months now I’ve started planning the celebration. I am a notorious party planner. I love parties, especially theme parties. I look forward to planning my kids’ birthday parties every year. I love everything from the party favors to the cake. For a first birthday its hard to pick a theme, as a baby really hasn’t chosen favorites yet. But we chose to do a Pirate Party, in honor of L’s signature scowl face which I call his “Argh Face”.

And because L is my baby and this is my last first birthday, I went all out on the planning…I found the perfect invitations, ordered boxes of party supplies, and even built two replica pirate ships to sit in our back yard. I planned an outside party with plans to turn our trampoline in Shark Bay, our swingset into “Scalleywag island” and even have a piranha baby pool pond.

As the countdown went from months to weeks, and weeks to days, I was getting so excited! So May 18th arrived…I opened his door in the morning with a loud rendition of “Happy Birthday”. I dressed him in his “I’m the birthday boy shirt” and made Todd go and get cupcakes for his daycare class. I was high as a kite, excited to celebrate this special day with my baby.

Since his actual birthday was Wednesday and his party on Saturday, I wanted to plan a small celebration on his actual birthday. So I planned to leave work early, and take him to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate. I looked forward to the cheesy birthday hat, the cupcake smashing, everything. L went off to daycare, and I went to work. All day I kept telling everyone about my special day… “Oh its 10:45, I was just getting ready to head into the C-Section”, “Oh its 11:30 they started my epidural”…. “Oh its 11:57 a.m. my miracle was born!” I was one happy Mom.

That was of course until 3:00 p.m.. I got a call from my husband. “We have to go get L, he has a fever”. What? How did this happen? He was fine this morning. Okay Mandi don’t panic, maybe it’s teething. And its his birthday, isn’t there some rule that you can’t get sick on your birthday? Todd mentioned his teachers thought it was an ear infection. I stayed calm. “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll call the doctor and we’ll get him on some medicine”.

But when I walked into the daycare room, my heart sunk. L was sitting with his teacher. Instead of his bright eyes and melting smile greeting me, he was crying, which if you know L means something is wrong because he never cries. So, 4:00 p.m. instead of heading to Chuck E. Cheese for some skee ball, I was sitting in the doctor’s office. L was visibly worn down, but I was still sure I was just dealing with an ear infection. The doctor came in. Ears were fine. Throat was fine. But a high fever. What was going on?

Then she listened to his lungs and heard a wheeze. In a whirlwind, she left and came back with a machine to test his oxygen level. It was fairly low. An hour later we were still in the doctor office, doing breathing treatments. I have to admit that every nurse that came in and sang L happy birthday annoyed me more and more. This wasn’t fair…my poor baby should be smashing birthday cake all over, not breathing in some medicine fog and dopey from a fever.

He was diagnosed with viral bronchitis. I looked at the doctor as if to ask for a miracle… “But he has a party on Saturday, should I cancel?” The doctor smiled at me probably used to a dozen Moms like me with sick babies on their birthdays. “No, he’ll be fine. Give him a few days”.

I loaded L in the car. Fever or no fever, I was determined to give him a happy birthday. We went home and ordered pizza. I had balloons waiting for him. I got him a cake. And L, sick as a dog, grinned and beared it and tried to have a good birthday.

That night I put L to sleep, I was sad. It felt to me like he was being cheated, this is his first birthday! Okay so maybe to be honest I felt I was being a little cheated too…this was my last first birthday.

But his illness just made me that much more determined to have a perfect party. But then a bigger force than bronchitis knocked on my door…mother nature. I woke up Thursday to reports of rain on Saturday. I tried to keep hope through the day…maybe they will just be scattered, maybe it will only rain in the morning, but everytime I turned on the tv I got more bad news.

It just seems like every which way I turn this birthday is getting hit with unexpected twists and turns. I know L won’t remember this birthday, but I still can’t help but want to have a perfect day. I guess when its your youngest…you want to hold on to every memory just one second longer.

So now here I am…rolling with the punches or I guess I should say the wheezes. Okay, so L may have a few coughs at his party, I have to be happy that he’s feeling better, and he’s not contagious. Okay so mother nature may rain on my first planned outdoor party…I can just move everything inside. My little miracle and I will get our celebration whether it comes with coughs and raindrops or smiles and sunshine (but Mother Nature if you are reading this I have this really cool treasure hunt planned so if we could just have sunshine from like 1:00 – 5:00 I’d appreciate it!)


Thursday, May 19, 2011

What a Day!

Yes – today is my birthday AND A & B’s preschool graduation. Wow! And yes, since it is my birthday, it is no surprise that I am late in posting to the blog. Just ask my mother, I was born late (almost a month past my due date) and have been running late ever since.

Most days, I don’t think about how old I am, in fact, I don’t feel “old.” But, since people have been asking me, here’s some of the “life lessons/observations” I have to share:

1. My kids keep me young! I have energy to keep going from work to softball to Hy-Vee every day.

2. I am going from zits to wrinkles. On a positive note, I have learned that Retin-A helps with both.

3. I am finally understanding the difference between “want” and “need.”

4. I am starting to sound like my mom. And yes, it does make me pause.

5. Family is #1 and every day with them should be cherished.

Ok – enough of the sentimental rhetoric. I am not sure what 33 is supposed to “feel like.” Growing up, I remember looking forward to turning 16 and 21, but what now? Should I stop watching Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill? Do I now have to stop buying cute, but completely impractical, shoes? Will I start yelling at teenage drivers? Am I “old”?

While I have never had great self-confidence/self-esteem, I am coming to a place where I am “comfortable” being me. Maybe with age comes wisdom?

No matter how “old” I feel, I am going to be one proud mommy tonight!

Have a great day!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unfinished Business

The last week has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Last Tuesday I posted how I was scrambling to finish up everything at work and home so that I could go on a three-day work trip to D.C. “Scrambling” is putting it nicely. On Tuesday alone I was served with a Rule to Show Cause on one of my cases, needed to get all of my other cases in order for me to be gone, had an “emergency” dental appointment to fix a filling that I lost while flossing, and needed to pack for my trip. Somehow I managed to do everything, except pay attention to my actual travel plans. When my plane changed gates (which was not reflected on my smart phone boarding pass), I had to look at the departure boards to figure out where I was supposed to be. It was only then that I realized, not only did I not know my flight number, I also did not know whether I was flying to Regan National or Dulles. That’s how harried I’d been.

Despite the rough start, the trip to D.C. went well. The conference was interesting and I had enough “free” time to see a bunch of cool D.C. sites. I also got to spend a bunch of time with my brother who works for a company with a D.C. office and who flew out to meet me. I met some of his friends, hung out at some of the hot spots and just generally got to have fun when not at work. But I did miss Husband and the kids.   And I caught a cold. So when Friday came around, I was more than ready to be home.

But when I got home, I realized nothing had been done in my absence. Yes, the kids were still alive and the house was not a mess. But no progress had been made on anything. Husband had simply gone into survival mode. The laundry I had washed on Tuesday night was still in the basket. Three days’ worth of mail was piled on the counter top. The diaper basket was out of diapers. Even the kids’ bath toys were still filled with water from their bath the night before. Everywhere I looked there was another task to be done just to catch up with our already overly-scheduled life.

My happiness at being home quickly dissipated. I had more to do now than ever.

Our home is already a collection of half-finished projects.  From missing fence posts to unpainted grills from the great window replacement project of 2007, we have plenty of things that need to be done.  On top of that, new things keep piling on - like buying big girl furniture for Sweet Pea and planting the side of our yard.  But how can I address the new projects when I can't even catch up with the old?  And how do I impress upon Husband that I need him to take some initiative and just get some things done - without my pointing them out and nagging them to completion?  

How does you family get things done around the house?   Do you send the kids to grandma’s so that you can do your landscaping? Do let the kids help you paint?  Do you shame your Husband into doing projects every night after work? Or is your house a collection of half-finished projects, like mine?


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ode to Formula

When I first became pregnant I thought I would follow the rest,
In the battle of bottle v. breastfeeding I was set on the breast
But then came Miss J to ruin my plan
She boycotted the breast and we joined the world of the can

And so our relationship began with our friend Enfamil
The world of the formula, oh what a thrill
Our baby made us high as a cloud, all smiles no frown
Until we noticed our checking account starting to go down

Bottle after Bottle and can after can
Poor Todd and Mandi, but rich Enfamil man
And as J was near completion with you my friend
We found out we were pregnant again!

And of course following his sister was part of his hype
For we found out H and I had an incompatible blood type
So the doctors said breastfeeding was out for baby # two
And we buckled up for another year with you.

But with our beloved H, it was not so easy
As even your gentle formula made him quite qeasy
And then of course as our luck would set in…
We had to meet your expensive cousin Nutramagin

And then we discovered your mean little plan
Same price as the rest, but a much smaller can
You have smart formula makers what can I say
They know with a colicky baby there’s no price we won’t pay

Your prices said goodbye to our early start to college saving
(And selfishly I must add the IPad I’ve been craving)
But bottles came and bottles went
Our baby happy and filled, our dollars missing and spent

So finally came L, the last child to our pack
L didn’t like Enfamil so we welcomed Similac
More powder on the counters, more ready-to-feed
And just like his brother your expensive cousin we’d need.

Okay, so your $5.00 coupon checks in the mail
Always made me happy without fail
But why may I ask after we received something so nice
Would the stores mysteriously add $5.00 to their regular price?

But through all the bottles, the burps and the gas
And of course the famous recall that came to pass
We braved it all with our adorable son
And counted down the days until he reached one!

So now we’re here, our formula days are near done,
It’s time to say Goodbye, oh boy its been fun
You’ve helped feed my children, but starved our account
And now I must say my friend its time to get out.

No more running out in the middle of a snowy night
No more losing the scoop in the formula...can I get it? Not quite.
And yes saying goodbye to late night snuggle feedings is bittersweet
But, I’m so happy I won’t have to find any more old bottles under my mini-van seat.

So now oh formula we are now going to part
But yes, this time will always remain in my heart
And although my baby growing may cause a tremble in my lip
I’ll console myself will all my extra money and a big shopping trip!

Goodbye old friend!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Our annual family trip has been booked since February. PTO was requested and approved; our cabin has been reserved and it has been marked on the calendar is pink marker!!

I was so ready for my annual family vacation to Wisconsin. Work has been crazy, between softball and soccer we rarely have free time, and I just need to put the BlackBerry down…

Then (cue the dun, dun, dun) a huge project comes up at work. And when I say huge, I mean HUGE!! And while I am so proud of myself that I was chosen for this difficult task (enormous confidence boost), the timing couldn’t have been worse.  I would be leaving for Wisconsin from Alabama!  Needless to say, this makes the organization/planning/scheduling/packing extremely difficult. 

My current plans are work extra this week (well, as extra and late as one can get with softball practice on Tuesday, preschool graduation and my birthday on Thursday; softball games on Friday and Saturday, a family birthday party on Saturday, and soccer on Sunday). I fly out on Monday and would fly to Wisconsin on Wednesday night. This means packing the girls, van and me on Sunday – whew!

I don’t want to let my boss/co-workers down, but I also don’t want to make this vacation a “working vacation.” Has anyone ever run into this issue? Can a working mom with a huge project actually put down the BlackBerry? Or does anyone have tips for not letting work interfere with vacation?

Thanks for the advice!

Jean Anne

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Graduation Day

Yesterday was a big day in our house…our first graduation! Our daughter J graduated from pre-school. So, last night we headed off to a local high school to watch the ceremony.

Now I am notorious for being emotional so the day before J’s graduation, dozens of friends and family asked me “Are you ready for this?” “Are you going to be okay?”.

Truth was as I headed off to graduation I was okay and actually excited for my daughter. But then of course we entered the gym and noticed a slideshow playing of all the graduates. And as my luck would have it, the slideshow was set to emotional classics such as “Hard to say Goodbye to Yesterday”, “Wonderful World” and “Yesterday”. Before I knew it…Niagra Falls!

As my daughter walked in proudly and waved at me from her chair in her red graduation gown, I couldn’t help but get the classic Hallmark flashbacks of J’s birth. Now here we were ending a chapter of a book it seemed we just started yesterday.

Could we really be done with preschool? Could we really be mere months away from starting school? A dozen thoughts went through my mind…is she ready? Am I ready?

But ready or not here we were ready to get the first in a long line of diplomas.

During the graduation, each graduate had to walk up to the microphone and say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I listened to the oohs and ahhs from the parents as  “When I grow up….” was yelled into microphone over and over. There were about 20 police officers, a dozen teachers, half dozen firemen, a few nurses, but only one Fashion Designer. I’ll give you 2 guesses who that was. Yep, Miss J walked up to the microphone and proudly announced to the world “When I grow up I want to be a Fashion Designer”.

I know in her lifetime J is going to want to be a million things. Seems like only yesterday I was sure I was going to be a marine biologist. Now the only water I see daily comes from the water cooler in the break room of my law office. But still, just hearing J mention a dream for her future reminded me that her future is really not that far away.

I used to roll my eyes at all the people that said to me when my babies were first born: “Don’t blink because before you know it they’ll be grown up”. I’ll even admit that when H was born and went through the months of colic I sort of wished I could speed things up a bit! But, now I have to smile because those people were spot on. I have only been a Mom for about 5 years but those 5 years have gone at lightning speed. And because I have yet to find the pause or rewind button to life I know this is only going to get worse.

So J's graduation was just another reminder for me to cherish every second of these years with my kids and not take any moment for granted. Before I know it, graduations will be just pages in a scrapbook and my little fashion designer will be living her own life!

So one graduation done, many more to come. And for those of you who have graduations coming up in the next few weeks, don't forget to pack your tissue for you never know when they'll bust out Boyz II Men during a slideshow!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Leaving On a Jet Plane

I've been rushing around all day today.  From overlapping court calls this morning to a client lunch to a dentist appointment this afternoon, I've been trying to squeeze two days' worth of stuff into a mere 6 hours and I just now realized it was my turn to post.  Oops. 

Why, you ask, am I trying to squeeze two day's worth of stuff into 6 hours and forgetting to post?  Because tomorrow I leave on a business trip.  I know some people, like Jean, travel frequently and handle it like pros.  I, on the other hand, have not traveled much since having kids.  While I might miss bedtime a few times a week, I've only actually spent the night away from the kids once, about a year ago.  So, needless to say, I'm horribly out of practice and under prepared for tomorrow's trip. 

A lawyer friend of mine once likened trying to get ready to leave for vacation like juggling: you try to throw all of your balls high enough into the air that none of them fall before you get back. Right now, I'd be happy if people just stopped throwing more balls into the mix. 

 What do you moms do to get ready to leave for a business trip?  Do you prepare meals for your husband to feed the kids?  Assign a colleague at work to watch over your matters?  Pray?  I'm planning to squeeze as much into the time I have left before tomorrow morning's flight, when I plan to crash and sleep my way to the east coast.  Here's hoping that's enough to get us through! 


Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

This past weekend, as you know, was our holiday…Mother’s Day. A time for extra hugs and kisses from our kids, a new crayon portrait for our offices, a new picture frame made from an old cd case. A time for us to get a little spoiling from the people we spoil the other 364 days of the year.

But for me, Mother’s Day is also a time for me to honor and thank all the amazing mothers around me. From my amazing Mom, to my Grandma, sisters, mother-in-law, aunts, godmothers, and friends, it’s a time for me to remember all the amazing Moms around me who help shape the Mother I am today.

I had an amazing Mother’s Day weekend. The weather was absolutely perfect and I had a weekend jammed packed with fun with my family. My cheeks still hurt from all the smiling!

I started my extended weekend (because yes Mother’s Day is more than a day for me, it’s a multi-day event), on Thursday with lunch with one of my closest friends who was in town visiting her Mom for mother’s day. This friend is so dear to me, she’s one of my favorite people and the godmother to L. We met up at our favorite restaurant and I got a chance to just vent for over an hour. Any Mom knows that lunch with good friends is a special gift. It's our free therapy, a time to be seen as someone other than Mommy.  My friend listened to me vent about work, stress, life. I left lunch truly happy that I have the friends I do in my life.

Friday, I worked and then attended parent teacher conferences at the kids’ daycare. I had three excellent reports which of course made me beam with pride. I also treated myself to a lunch hour shopping trip. Sure it was just a trip to Hobby Lobby for decorations for the kids' room...but to me shopping feels good no matter what the occasion! I also got my favorite flowers (tulips) delivered to me at work from Todd and the kids.

Saturday, my family and I headed to Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa. It’s our annual mother’s day weekend tradition as it is my favorite town festival. We always pick up my Mother-in-law and head to the parade and festivities in the small town (and of course take hundreds of pictures). This year was extra special to me because my best friend (and fellow JD Mom Jean) met us there. Jean and I have been best friends since law school. Jean is my "scarecrow", you know Dorothy's favorite, the one she missed the most when she left Oz!  I grew up with two brothers and so I always longed for a sister. Little did I know God gave me one, I just didn’t find her for 23 years! Jean is a member of my family no matter what our DNA says. Getting to spend a few hours with my dearest friend, her Mom, and her daughters made my day.

Pella is a few hours from our house, so I got another treat on Saturday...a car trip with my husband. I love talking to my husband, but our schedules are crazy so we don’t really ever get time to just sit and talk. That’s why I LOVE car trips with him, especially late night car trips when we aren’t interrupted by the “Mom I have to go to the bathroom”, “Mom she looked at me funny", "Mom, he's sitting too close to me" moments. Getting some time alone with my husband reminds me how much I love being a wife. After the kids come, Moms often don't get a lot of moments to remember we are wives and women in love. So a few hours in that world felt wonderful!

Sunday I was woken up by my kids who greeted me with a card and a “one in a million Mom” button. We then headed to my hometown to spend time with my Mom. We picnicked in the park with my Mom and step-dad, brother and his family, and Grandma. We played baseball, ate great food, laughed, and then went fishing at a nearby pond. Later on in the day we FaceTime talked with my other brother and his wife who live in Texas. During that moment where my family was all crowded around my oldest brother’s IPad talking all together I realized how lucky I am to have this family.

I’m lucky to be a Mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a granddaughter, and a best friend. Because of the roles in my life, I got to spend a weekend with all my soulmates, ranging from my 11 month old son L to my 87 year old grandmother. All these people that love me enough to want to celebrate with me during this very special weekend.

But after a few days of pure Mommy fun, my favorite memory from this Mother’s Day came at nearly the end of my celebration. As we were leaving my Mom’s house to head back home my Mom came out to do her usual, buckle the kids in, hugs and kisses and good-bye routine. J reached out for a hug, embraced my Mom and said:

“Happy Mother’s Day Nana. Thank you. You’re such a good Mom to my Mom”.

Both my Mom and I teared up hearing J’s little voice. I don’t think J will realize it for many years to come but the fact my Mom was a good Mom helped to make me the Mom I am to J.  She was right-on to say Thank You to the woman who made me, well ME!  All the credit I get of being a good or fun Mom stems from the fact that I was taught how to do it by an amazing Mother. I think that's what Mother's Day is all about...truly recognizing that you are who you are because of the amazing woman that not only brought you into the world, but holds your hand and navigates you through the journey.

I hope everyone had amazing weekends filled with love, fun, and time to reflect on how truly blessed we are to live the lives we live!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!!

It is a wonderful Spring day; sun shining, 70 degrees, a slight breeze; and I am working from home so I can spend extra time at A & B's annual Mother's Day picnic. Today I am the luckiest Mommy in the world.
This picture just summarizes my perfect day. 

Happy Mother's Day to all of the fabulous mommies!!

Jean Anne

P.S. Many thanks to my wonderful boss for making this lunch possible. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

With Appreciation

Since we started this blog, a common thread throughout Jean, Mandi and my posts has been how much rely on on our mothers to help us with the every day struggles that a working mother faces.  For the most part, my mom stayed home with us, so I didn't really know what to expect when I became a working mom.  I do know that I did not expect to rely on my mom as much as I have.  My mom has been with me on every step of my working mom journey.  She was the one I called to ask if KJ's cough sounded like croup.  Who went to the immediate care with when KJ got swine flu in the middle of what the media was predicting would be an epidemic.  Who picked up Sweet Pea's Easter present for me when I couldn't make it to the store during business hours.  She's taken the kids to the pumpkin farm for a special treat, goes to hockey with KJ on Fridays that I have to work, and helped me scour the mall for Sweet Pea's Christmas dress.  She even stops by sometimes just to take the kids to the park and give me a half an hour to myself. 

I didn't expect my mom to do any of these things when I had children.  I firmly believe that my kids are my kids, and that it is my responsibility to raise them.  But I am grateful that my mom has taken it upon herself to help me out.  I truly don't know what I would do without her.  She makes my life easier.  Sometimes, her help is the only thing that makes my life manageable.  To say that I'm grateful is an understatement.  Her presence in our lives is a blessing and more than I could have ever asked for.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


My family and I live in our starter house that Todd and I bought when I was pregnant with J. It’s a great house, but we have outgrown it. The house has 3 bedrooms, and so two of our kids have to share.

Sharing a room of course is not a problem in and of itself. But, the problem is my birth order does not lend itself to easy room sharing. J is my only girl. She and my first son H are 15 months apart. They do everything together, they go to bed at the same time, they have the same bedtime routine, they are true sidekicks. But, they are a boy and a girl, and so when I found out I was pregnant with L, a boy, without even thinking about it, I made a room for the boys to share based solely on my old way of thinking that boys had to room with boys.

But unfortunately for me, this archaic way of thinking does not lend itself to real life. Placing a newborn and a 3 year old in a room together does not work. When L was younger his late night feedings would disturb H. Luckily for H, L began to sleep through the night at around 3 months old. BUT, L’s sleeping through the night was contingent on one thing: COMPLETE SILENCE. Yes, L is the greatest baby in the world, but he has one vice….he is a light sleeper. I have yet to figure out how the youngest child (a daycare kid) with two loud toddler siblings becomes a light sleeper. L’s bedtime is 7:30. H goes to bed at 8:30. So every night at 8:30 I would open the door to put H to bed and L would wake up. Problem is once he was up, I could kiss the sleeping through the night goodbye!

But we continued on with our rooming plan. As sheer exhaustion took over after late nights with the light sleeper we started to just let H sleep on the floor of his sister’s room. This of course raised the question of whether H should have a new roommate.

Now I am very liberal and try to be a modern thinker, but for some reason I just couldn’t get my mind around letting my son and daughter share a space. J is the poster child of girly girls. H is a spunky little boy. They can’t share a room. They would lose their personalities right? As the months passed, I started talking to people about the kids sharing a room. Of course I made the mistake of talking to older people, who said “But J is such a princess, you don’t want her to lose that. Just wait it out. L will outgrow this stage”.

But L didn’t outgrow it, in fact if only got worse. Little Light Sleeper would hear the smallest of ankle cracks as H and I tried Mission Impossible style to make it into his toddler bed. I even went as far as holding my breath when I would tip toe in with H.

Okay, so obviously this wasn’t working. But as you probably can tell from reading my blogs, I’m a notorious over-analyzer, so I had to research this before we made the move. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I, a woman with a law degree, spent my evenings typing “Problems with co-ed rooming” or “Can a sister and brother share a room?” into a search engine. Did I actually think I would find some doctor who would say: “Yes, Mandi if you do this your kids will need therapy for the rest of their lives”??

Well, of course I didn’t find that, in fact I found the opposite. Due to the economy and downsizing, co-ed rooming is becoming the norm. In fact all my favorite stores have gender neutral bedding and tips for sharing spaces.

So it took my mind a little time to catch up, but I realized I was being stupid. My kids personalities have nothing to do with their bedrooms. I decided it was time for J and H to room together.

So my concerned parent personality left and my interior designer persona stepped in. How on earth was I going to pull off a dual space and keep the two strong personalities that I love in perfect harmony???

I started by interviewing my new decorating clients over cookies and milk. J was more than willing to share her space, as H was in her room most nights anyway and she hated that I (when she was a baby) painted her walls purple when I should have known pink was her favorite color. But, the Diva had 4 conditions: (1) She had to have hot pink on her side with a Barbie Fashion Fairytale theme. (2) She wanted the larger side, i.e. the side away from the door, with room for a makeup and dress up nook, (3) Her new roommate could not have any scary monsters on his side and (4) She would, under no circumstances, share her beloved closet. H was by far the easiest client as he agreed to all the conditions and just had one request: he wanted a big bed (twin bed) like his sister. Of course after months of making him sleep on a small crib mattress on the floor of his own house I was more than willing to make this purchase.

I scrolled my beloved decorating websites and magazines thinking of a way I could join the room. I’m sure this goes without saying, but I love decorating. My goal in my house is to always make it look like a Pottery Barn Catalog, so the idea of just throwing the room together was not an option for my HGTV-loving mind. I had to figure out how to make Barbie and Superman live in perfect harmony.

I decided the walls needed to be changed from their girly purple to a neutral color. There was no way I could paint the bright colors they both wanted on the walls and have them look good together. I chose a silvery gray that I thought would blend both of the personalities. But then I remembered my clients’ requests for color and I still needed something cohesive in the room that would make it make sense. I stumbled upon a picture on a website that gave me the perfect idea. Polka Dot vinyl rub ons! So, the walls were given their fresh paint coat and hopefully in 5-7 business days they will be adorned with hot pink, black and white polka dots on J’s side, and blue, black, and white on H’s side.

The room is still in progress, but my clients are happily moved in. H ended up choosing a space theme, and J is still awaiting her Barbie bedding. They’ve been sleeping in their new room a couple of nights now and for the first time in a long time H sleeps through the night knowing he can roll over without disturbing his roommate (who could sleep through a train rolling through our house). My household is now back to perfect harmony.

I have learned a valuable lesson from all of this: just do what is easy. It works every time!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shh...I Have a Secret

No, I am not pregnant!! This secret may surprise some of you, as I just found out about it myself.

The secret…I like to run. (wow – totally had you going with suspense, didn’t I?)

So while this isn’t earth shattering news, it is news to me. For the longest time, I hated to run. And while I was athletic in when I was younger, I still hated to just go out and run. I didn’t see the point and was known to say “If I have to go farther than a mile, why don’t we just hop in the car?”

But just last week in my quest to cross the 5K off my bucket list, I started on my goal. My co-worker got me away from my desk and we went for a run over our lunch break (ok…so technically mine was more of a fast walk than a run, but at least it is a start!). Yes, I was looking good in the Adidas wind pants, new running shoes and Ipod Shuffle. Ha! And I did it again on Wednesday and Saturday too!

Now, I may run like a duck, but at least I have started on my goal, which makes me feel great! Plus, it is about the only free moment in my day where it is just me…and that is a luxury. No long conference calls, no whiny (I mean, wonderful) children, no cranky hubby – just me and the music.

So now I know why everyone runs – they are not running to something, but running away from all of the stress of life. It is the one moment where this mommy can just be Jean Anne – a woman just trying to put one foot in front of the other.

Who knew, right?

Jean Anne

P.S. Many thanks to the creator of my play list for the Ipod Shuffle.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Born that Way

Every night as soon as the kids are in bed, the dishes are done and things are at least somewhat readied for the morning frenzy, I lay down on the couch and watch tv. This week, I caught up on Glee. I started watching Glee because the show is loosely based on a choir program that I was tangentially associated with. Before you get all excited, when I say tangentially, I really mean tangentially. The connection is so loose and so tenuous that it almost isn’t really there. But that loose connection made me interested enough to watch the show once, and after just one episode, I was hooked.

The last episode I saw was "Born This Way." In this episode, each character was confronted with something he or she didn’t like about him or herself and challenged to accept it. I thought this was an awesome story line applicable both to the high school students the show is supposed to be about and the adults to whom I believe the show to be actually marketed. My favorite storyline was that of Rachel and Quinn. As the result of a random accident, Rachel is presented with an opportunity to have a nose job and make herself look a little less Jewish and a little more like Quinn. Quinn, at the same time, is secretly hiding her own nose job and chubby past. As each girl goes through her own struggle of figuring out and accepting who they are, they sing a mash-up of “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story and “Unpretty” by TLC.

The mash-up of the two songs was brilliant. The juxtaposition of extreme feelings coupled with the undercurrent of self doubt and confusion lead to one of the most honest moments I’ve seen in a television program in a long time. In one mash-up, Glee managed to capture the essence of high school: at times you feel like you need to change yourself to fit in; at other times you feel like Maria and “pity any girl who isn’t me tonight.” But neither situation represents true happiness. True happiness comes from simply accepting who you are.

I wish that I could save the Rachel/Quinn part of the episode for Sweet Pea when she is older. I’m certain my DVR will be Glee-free by then (there probably won’t even be dvrs) but I’m pretty certain the lesson will be just as relevant then as it is now. Somehow, despite schools’ best efforts to identify and prevent bullying and spread messages of acceptance, I don’t think that Sweet Pea will be able to avoid the struggle that junior high brings. I just pray that I am able to guide her through that time, and instill in her enough self-respect and confidence that at the end of the struggle she realizes that that she doesn’t need to change, she already is beautiful. She was born that way.