Friday, July 29, 2011

HP and Me

I'm crazy about Harry Potter. Not the really, dress like the characters, crazy (you know who you are! :0)  ) but I really, really love the story of Harry Potter. What, exactly, does that have with being a JD mom? Well, nothing, but it's my extra Friday so I'm going a little off topic! 
To me, Harry Potter and his friends embody all that is good, right and honorable. They fight evil and oppression on both the large and the small scale - they inspire me and give me hope that there is still goodness and honor in the world.  They also give me encouragement that kids today can be more than selfish and self-centered.  
The first HP book I read was The Goblet of Fire. Fourth in the series, it was still an excellent stand-alone read. I had no frame of reference, having not read the earlier books but it was a darn good read. I wasn't hooked, though. I didn't really fall in love with HP until I saw the movie for the Sorcerer's Stone. After that, I was a goner.  Fantasy is kind of my genre anyway, I'm a huge Anglophile and I've always been fascinated by the concept of Magic.  It was a match made in heaven.  
After the Sorcerer's Stone, I anxiously awaited the Chamber of Secrets at the box office. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. I watched the movies faithfully as they came out, multiple times, but it wasn't until a law school friend (ah.. there's the link) told me that his girlfriend literally bawled after reading HP and the Half Blood Prince.  What? Why? What happened?!  
So I started from the beginning.  My wonderful husband and the kids got me the box set for my birthday - all but HP and the Deathly Hallows, which hadn't been written yet.  I, literally, have read that set over 10 times.  When the Deathly Hallows came out, I was enthralled. The series has a depth that you really lose in the movies, which I find a shame.  However, it would be impossible to adequately reproduce the books in the time frame of a regular movie.  So, I patiently await the day when the BBC will decide to produce it - they never miss anything!  
I have been trying to get my kids to love HP as much as I do. Choosing, when it's my turn, to read The Sorcerer's Stone at bedtime, hoping that, like the Wizard of Oz series, B would love it as much as I do.  No such luck...until now.  The kids have seen some of the movies - not all, but I have been so crazy excited about Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows coming out that they have finally become infected.  B wanted to see the movie, so the day after opening day, we queued up and went. (Judge me if you will, but there were 5 year olds in the theater, that day). He loved it and is now interested in all things Potter. 
He is asking me to read the series and to "Ask [him] Harry Potter questions" - he loves to be quizzed. I will make Harry Potter lovers out of my children, yet! 
I heard on the radio that people in theaters were so affected by the end of Harry Potter that they literally were mad wrecks - crying uncontrollably, unable to stand and having to be helped from their seats.  I heard a woman in tears tell the radio announcer that they had gotten Helena Ravenclaw all wrong, and that SHE should have done it! Grown men explaining that they felt they had nothing to live for - nothing to fill the void that the end of HP had made.  I'm sad there will be no more books - no more movies, I won't lie.  But to me, the story and the ending were so wonderful - so right that I have no regrets. Especially since I can start over from the beginning any time I want.  And most especially because I know that HP will not be lost in time. The series is a classic that my children will be reading to their children and watching with their children. 
So I do have a point in all this rambling, after all, and that is this: All good things come to an end, but that doesn't mean that they have to be over! Happy Friday! and if you haven't read HP, you really REALLY need to!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Birthday Party

On my last post, I was able to reminisce about the birth of my 2 wonderful daughters, as they turned 5 years old.  For this post, I wanted to tell you all about the wonderful birthday celebration we had on Saturday.  And it was wonderful - don't get me wrong.  We have amazing family and friends that care so much about my girls, that I am so blessed.  But I just have to vent...

First, for the money I spent on the party, we could have gone on a great 4 day vacation.  The party was held at our house, we rented a bounce house, we had food and drinks.  But feeding 30 people, bounce house rental and invitations really adds up!!  And then I still have to set up and clean up when the party is over. 

Second, there was the stress of the weather.  When you rent a bounce house, you pray for no rain.  And on Friday night, channel 8 told me all I had to worry about was the heat.  HA!  I woke up Saturday morning to thunder...which continued until noon!!  All morning I kept thinking "what am I going to do with these kids if it rains?" 

Third, there was the stress of houseguests.  Yes - I had 6 extra guests at my house for the weekend.  My in-laws, my sister-in-law, her husband, my 1 year old nephew and my husband's grandma.  And that's all I have to say about that...

Now, to be fair, I understand that this is not about me.  It is about my children having a wonderful birthday!  But given that they love to travel, LOVE hotels, and have a great time anywhere with a pool, next year vacation here we come!  Plus, I honestly think the girls can feel my stress (no matter how hard I try to hide it from them).  So, the Dells in July 2012 anyone?

Thanks for reading!
Jean Anne

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Growing Pains

Yesterday I read in the newspaper that a two year old boy drowned in the Osage, Iowa swimming pool.  He got into the Lazy River and no one noticed.  A tragedy. His mother was not in the water with him.  While I try VERY hard not to judge others' parenting, this has got to give one pause. A two-year old in a pool without a parent.

The sad thing is that this not an anomaly - I've been taking my kids to the pool in town almost every night.  I've seen this - parents with the philosophy that it is the lifeguard's job to keep the kids safe in the water.  Certainly this conviction would be cold comfort at your child’s funeral. 

But, I am not going to use this blog to rail on inadequate parents - that's not my responsibility (until I get them into the courtroom).  Instead, this incident started me thinking about my own comfort levels with supervision, or lack thereof, of my own kids. 

We live in a small town.  A REALLY small town.  The kind of place where (some) kids walk to the pool, spend all day there, and walk home - alone; where (some) kids ride their bikes all over town -alone.  Basically, the kind of town that I grew up in - riding my bike to the pool and around town alone.  

B wants to be like those kids.  He wants to be dropped off at the pool so he can play with his friends.  He wants to be left there alone when his sister wants to leave early.

This summer, he tried to sneak his bike out of the garage and go for a ride with friends. Umm... NO. (I'm not going to harp on the fact that the friends are 7 year old boys from down the street who ride their bikes all over town unsupervised...) 

I'm thinking to myself, now, when WILL I think he's old enough to do these things without adult supervision?? Honestly, probably never.  But that's not realistic - or fair to him. And so, the struggle what point do I cross the line from being the "smart, safe, responsible Mom" to being the "crazy, overprotective" Mom?  

B is almost 9.  Last year, at the end of the school year, he got to walk to school alone.  I wasn't entirely comfortable with it, but you can literally see the school from our house and watch the entire walk from the front porch. (a few times, at first, I followed him in the car!)  He walks with a large group of kids, usually, and I think I am okay with it – I might even go on to work before I see him enter the school yard.

He's a good swimmer.  He goes all over the pool and I've never seen him struggle in the water.  I know that many of the kids in his grade (and younger!) go to the pool alone...but I'm THERE - I've seen the lifeguards and, with all due respect to the pool, they suck!  They are more interested in looking cool in their red suits and flirting with each other than in actually watching the pool. So, no confidence, whatsoever, that B would be entirely safe if I wasn't there to watch... 

Last spring, a girl on a bicycle (B's age) didn't stop and drove right into the street.  She actually hit my boss's car at the end of my block.  B watched her be taken away by ambulance. The good news is she was okay.  The bad news is that is cemented in my mind - my son will probably not get to ride his bike around town until he's old enough to drive! 

I’m not ready to let him go into the world alone, yet. And I don’t think he’s ready to go alone.  I guess I’ll start worrying about whether I’ve crossed the line into “crazy, overprotective mom” when I’m sitting in the back seat on his first date! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Waiting Game

Today is layoff day at Husband's work.  Actually, the next two days are layoff days at Husband's work, but on information and belief, if Husband is to be laid off we will know today.  As a result, today pretty much stinks. 

We are very familiar with layoff day in my house.  Husband works in IT for a large corporation, so layoffs happen all of the time, even when the economy is booming.  Jobs in his area are constantly being shipped overseas, and fewer people are constantly being asked to do more work.  Layoffs are pretty common.  Layoffs aren't even strange in my world.  My last firm was a participant in "Bloody Tuesday" or whatever  Above the Law dubbed it.  I was at home on maternity leave when each of my office neighbors got laid off.  Thank God one of the partners I worked for answered my frantic phone call with a reassuring "it's not you."  Between Sweet Pea's eating issues and our near-daily visits to the pediatrician, I'm not sure I could have handled another stressor in my life right then.  But the point is, we know the fear well. 

I know if Husband gets laid off today that it won't be because of his work.  If anything, Husband has worked extra hard in the past two years, becoming a subject matter expert and logging on every single night after the kids go to bed to assist the overnight guys with updates or trouble shooting.  He's done what he could.  If he gets laid off, it isn't because of him. 

But I'm fearful of what will happen if Husband gets laid off.  Of course, we would miss the second income, and I don't relish the thought of shouldering all of our family's financial and insurance burdens.  But we would somehow make all that work.  My biggest worry is for the kids.  One of the best benefits of Husband's job is the on-site daycare.  It's fantastic.  I know I've had my complaints about it, but overall the daycare is a life saver.  It's convenient.  It's close by.  The kids are happy there.  The teachers go out of their way for my kids.  And my kids are learning a lot.  But if Husband gets let go, we lose the daycare.  How are we going to explain to the kids that they can't see their friends any more?  That there is no more school?  How am I ever going to find another preschool for KJ that compares to the curriculum offered at the daycare?   I'm sad and overwhelmed just thinking about it. 

I pray that we don't have to face these questions over the next two days.  There isn't much point in worrying about it - what is going to happen is going to happen - but I can't help myself.  I don't think I'll breathe easy until Thursday has come and gone. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

The true "first" steps!

A couple weeks ago we had a big event in our house…L started to walk!

Back at the end of June, L started walking between J and I each night. He would take 1 or 2 steps and then down he went. That was really the extent of the walking he did around the house. He really showed no great interest in walking and therefore I was sure we had a month or two before he was mobile.

So on July 13, 2011 I was sitting in my family room and all of the sudden I watched L go over to a large truck on the floor and use it to push himself up. Suddenly he started walking toward the couch!! I instantly jumped up and sprinted over to my camera desperate to catch some pictures of the first steps. As I snapped pictures I yelled for my husband “Todd, Todd, you have to come here! L is walking!!!! I cannot believe it!! HURRY! HURRY!”

Todd walked in (in no great hurry) from the other room with a regular look on his face. In a sort of “oh that is yesterday’s news” tone he said… “Yeah, I know…he started doing that a few days ago”. J came around the corner and echoed her Dad: “Yeah he did that yesterday too!”

Suddenly I could hear the sound that air makes when you let go of a balloon you are blowing up. What I was witnessing was not L’s first steps? I missed them? Then I started to get what is probably one of the most dreaded feelings that working Moms get…the realization that you missed your baby’s “first”.

I had missed the first steps and Todd never even told me about them?? Did Todd, J, or H even gasp when he did it? Did they clap? They didn’t even think to take a picture?

I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. I mean sure, it’s not some race to be the first to discover some lost island or something like that. But still, I missed it.

Of course this feeling is no stranger to me. I mean come on, I am gone during the day 5 days week so I no doubt have missed nearly all of my kids actual “firsts”. I can still remember when H started crawling and I couldn’t wait to tell his teachers at daycare. “H is crawling, can you believe it? He started this weekend”. I said with a Mommy sense of pride in my voice. His teacher smiled with a look of relief across her face and stated: “Oh I’m so glad you said something because I was so nervous! I didn’t think and the other day I submitted our paragraph for the newsletter and put that he started crawling two weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if you had seen it yet!”. Again, insert the balloon air sound.

Then there was a few months ago, when L had his first parent teacher conference and I brought up the fact that I was nervous he wasn’t talking. His teacher looked completely stunned and said: “What? He talks all the time. He is starting to do animal sounds and will say hi and bye”. I must admit I felt like someone had stuck a Loser Mommy badge on my shirt right there.

When J graduated from her daycare and got her “binder of accomplishments”, I quietly put it away in the hope chest without really analyzing the dates. I have no doubt that the dates they have down for her firsts are much different than mine.

Todd left the room and I sat there watching L. I shook myself out of my sadness, I mean regardless of who saw him first, HE WAS WALKING!!! I started to clap loudly everytime he started to walk. The look on his face was priceless. He kept walking over and over each time I clapped. I started to feel better knowing that although Todd was the first to see him walk, I certainly was the first to make a huge deal over it. I stood up and walked over to the baby book and turned to the “Baby’s Firsts” page. Did I ask Todd what day he saw L walk? Nope. I happily wrote July 13, 2011 on the page. See, I’ve always followed a rule when it comes to firsts. When Mommy sees it, it’s the “first”. PERIOD. I mean come on, it’s only fair right? I brought the kids into the world and therefore their firsts do not occur until I see it.

So let it be known in history that on July 13, 2011 L started to walk for the FIRST time. I may not have been the first to see it, but I was the first to "record" it. Maybe that's why Mommies always keep baby books, so that if there is ever a dispute in 20 years as to when an actual first occurred we at least have documented evidence to back up our story!


Friday, July 22, 2011

By My Side

This weekend Husband and I are traveling to attend the wedding reception for my best-friend-since-fourth grade's wedding.  I posted about her actual wedding earlier this year, when she eloped on a cruise.  I was (and still am) very happy for her and glad that she found a guy as great as she is to share her life with.  This weekend is sure to be a celebration.

One of the great things about weddings (and new babies) is that they make you think of your own wedding (or baby).  They invite you to remember when you were so in love and how exciting that time was for you.  Weddings bring back a flood of memories of a time that was very special in your own life, and help you share in the new couple's excitement.  You remember exactly how they feel, and how special that is.  So as I've been thinking about what I want to say at my friend's reception, I've also been thinking about my own wedding.  How much I wanted to marry Husband.  How happy our family was for us.  And how wonderful each and every one of our friends were during that time in our lives.  Especially my bridesmaids. 

 I am not a good girl friend.  I don't like all the catty girl drama that seems to go along with every group of four or more girls, and thus I've never had a lot of girl friends.  I've always had only a close friend or two.  And even then, I'm not particularly good at picking girl friends.  Case in point: a girl I considered one of my closest friends throughout college and law school refused to be in my wedding because I asked a different friend (the one with the reception this weekend) to be my maid of honor.   Not really a good friend.  And I'm certain I was a difficult bride.  But somehow, I ended up with the four most kind, beautiful, forgiving and generous women by my side that day.  Women who truly supported me.  Women who truly were - and still are - my friends. 

I am so grateful for those women.  Not only did they buy expensive dresses they will never again be able to wear without complaint, but they helped me.  Not just during the wedding (although they all did plenty of that - without complaint) - they helped me with life.  One friend helped me navigate a particularly difficult time in my marriage, giving me advice on how to have a marriage while working opposite shifts, and provided an amazing example of love and dedication as her own husband was deployed overseas.  One called me every day of my maternity leave with Sweet Pea to help me combat the isolation and overwhelming responsibility I felt taking care of two children under 2.  And the other two, well, they've just been there for me for as long as I can remember.  I can't imagine not having them in my life.  I truly am so blessed to have them as friends.

So today, as I plan my speech to honor my oldest friend, I am also thinking about the four amazing women who stood by my side all those years ago and vowed to help Husband and I on our own journey of marriage.  You have all lived up to your promise - and then some.  Thank you for all that you did and continue to do for me.  You are amazing friends, and amazing women.  You are true examples of the kind of friend I hope to someday be.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Big Day!!

As I sat down to write this last night, I started reminiscing about July 20th, 2006. (If you watch Phineas and Ferb, right now insert Dr. Doofenshmirtz saying “Flashback!”) It was a long night, as I knew that the next day I would give birth to my twin daughters, A & B. So many thoughts were running through my head that night:

• Would labor go “smoothly?”

• Would I be in a lot of pain?

• Would they be ok?

• How far apart would they be born?

• Would I be a good mom?

• Would I ever sleep again?

The next morning at 6:20 AM, they began inducing labor. Then came the “happy shot” to take away my pain. My hubby was in and out, pacing and nervous – not sure of what to do or how to help. Then my parents came from Illinois (funny story about timing and moving!). And throughout all of this, all I could think of was hoping that my girls would be ok.

At approximately noon, I was taken back to the delivery room. With twins, things are a little different, as you get a staff for each twin, plus nurses, doctors, and other assistants. All in all, 16 people were in my delivery room and my modesty was eliminated for life! My nurses were wonderful and at 12:29 PM, A was born. There was a moment of stress, as my hubby didn’t know what to do – should he go with his new daughter or help his wife with B? I quickly told him to go with A and 4 minutes later (it really seemed like 4 seconds) out came B.

Looking back, I realized I didn’t get the “typical” mom experience after giving birth. A & B were taken to the NICU and I was taken back to my room. I didn’t get the “here’s your new baby” placement in my arms and actually did not get to see my girls until about 5 hours later. But when I did see them, it was scary in that overwhelming feeling that I was now responsible for these 2 perfect angels. Also, they were so tiny (5 lbs. 4 ozs. and 4 lbs. 8 ozs.). Plus, they were in little incubators with IVs, little bandages and lamps for jaundice.

When I finally got to hold them that night, it was the most amazing moment. Just sitting there snuggling with these little angels in the quiet room with my hubby sitting near me, it was so peaceful and perfect. At that moment, no worries filled my mind and a huge smile crossed my mind and heart.

And in those past 5 years, my heart has continued to smile. While there have definitely been challenges along the way (can you say not sleeping through the night until 18 months!), my love for them continues to grow. And I can honestly tell you that I am the luckiest mom in the world.

Happy birthday to my beautiful girls A & B!! Now everyone needs to go have some cake!!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is it Fall already?!

Sheesh! This summer thing really messes with my schedule! Not only do my kids not have to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. as usual, they think they get to stay up until 10:00 - "It's not bedtime, Mom. It's not even dark!" - which is all well and good for them! But I have to get up in the morning - and I still need my "me" time once they're asleep, which puts me falling asleep around 11:30 -12.  This doesn't work for me - I need at least 8 hours of good sleep and what with kids and cats and dogs- means that my "good sleep" wake up time is about 10:00 a.m.! Obviously, that ain't happening. In addition to the extended hours, I am suffering from the "nonexistence of measurable time" - you know, the phenomenon of hours running into days and days running into weeks when no one else in the house needs to pay attention to what day it is or what time it is.  It is so easy to get sucked into that "now what day is it? Ahhh, it doesn't matter!" state of mind. Especially if, like me, you're the only one in the house running on "real-life" time.
Today, I realized that it is July 20. The 20th of July! Where did the summer go??  This summer, we were going to take the kids camping for the first time. We were going to take a trip to Chicago.  We were going to take a trip to Kansas City to visit my niece. We were going to take a trip to St. Louis to visit relatives and friends... What have we done?? NONE OF IT! We haven't even gotten the kayaks out, when I could go, once this summer!  Do you see a pattern here? I do, and it stinks.
Another summer has passed me by and (due primarily to poor planning on my part, but I am going to blame it on the weather) I have missed it.  Sure, I've taken the kids to the pool about a million times, but that's not the same as REAL SUMMER FUN! Real summer fun takes preparation, it takes commitment and planning - in other words, Energy!  Energy is something that I seem to be lacking these days.  Maybe because it is so crazy hot; maybe because when I get home I know the kids are going to jump all over me and act all crazy because they've been cooped up all day. I get exhausted just thinking about it! Not that I don't love it.
Anyway, I am trying to break this habit we have of not pre-planning by attempting to arrange our FIRST BIG FAMILY VACATION.  For our fifteenth wedding anniversary, we have decided to take the kids on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas.  We decided this about 8 months ago and our 15th isn't until 2013, so I've got plenty of time, right? WRONG.
First, we made the mistake of telling the kids.  They are so excited that they think it's tomorrow! Two years is WAY too long to wait. Then, there's weather.  Did you know that "hurricane season" is really like 7 months long? So you can't go from May through December unless you trust the ship to "go around" the hurricane (as if!).  Then school.  You should really avoid taking the kids out of school, so there's January thorough May gone... what's left? Christmas vacation. That would NOT go over well with the families.
So, we've made an executive decision to take the kids out of school if we have to, and it looks like January is the month to do it.  If anyone has any advice, any at all about planning this vacation PLEASE help me out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Splish Splash

This weekend we celebrated KJ's fourth birthday.  It was an unprecedented celebration in that - in addition to being the first time Husband and I prepared for a party without getting into an argument - it was also KJ's first "friends"  birthday party. 
I never really thought we'd be entering the "friends" birthday party phase at age four.  With the exception of the first birthdays (for which I did have a party), I thought we were in the clear until at least five or six.  But once KJ entered preschool the birthday party invitations just kept coming.  And he had so much fun at them.  I had to let him have one of his own. 

But then I looked into how much birthday parties cost.  Boy, that was an eye opener.  The typical party KJ was attending cost parents over $300.   All of the parties were nice, don't get me wrong.  But $300 is a lot of money.  And really, was he going to remember his fourth birthday party? 

As it turns out, KJ was born just days after his best-friend-forever Gabi.  KJ and Gabi have been inseparable since they were four months old.  They started out in the same infant room, and before they could even crawl, they used to roll around the room to try to get near each other.  As they've grown, they've moved through toddlers, and twos and now preschool together.  They truly are the best of friends -- so much so that even the daycare coordinator has commented on the strength of their friendship.  And Gabi is a wonderful girl.  She's nice, well-mannered and just an all-around good kid.  KJ couldn't have picked a better friend. When Gabi's mom and I figured out their birthdays were so close, we just knew a joint party was the answer. 

And so it was.  We had the party at a splash pad, and invited most of their friends and their friend's families.  Since neither I nor Gabi's mom work with the other moms, it was great to meet the other families and really get to know the kids.  And our own kids had a blast.  They truly loved sharing their special day together.  And I loved getting to know the family of the girl that is so important to KJ.  Given that every single family stayed after we were kicked out of the party room, I know the party was a success.  But the most telling sign of success was the smile on KJ's face. 

Happy fourth birthday, KJ.  You are an amazing guy!


Monday, July 18, 2011


This weekend totally rocked….literally.

As you know from last Monday’s post, my daughter J turned 5 years old last week. Earlier this year, she asked for a Rockstar party. I happily agreed, as planning my kids' birthday parties is one of my favorite things. I go big and try to give my kids parties they will always remember.

I sat down earlier this spring and asked J to give me her list of “wants” for her party. As she sat there dreaming up big plans, I prayed she didn't want Jello Jigglers again as I was in agony last year trying to make dozens of jello shoes for her Barbie party (why aren't they as easy as the commercial makes them out to be??). Sure enough, J did not ask for jigglers. Rather, she had but one request: “I want everyone to dress up…and I will be Lady Gaga”.

So, at L’s birthday party in May I sat down with my family and friends and told them J’s big rock star plans. Without hesitation, everyone got excited: “Ooh I’ll be Katy Perry, because J loves Katy”, “I can be Madonna”….one by one our family and friends started planning how to meet my daughter’s desires.

I then started the process of getting our Rockstar Lounge ready. I wanted to make sure my little Diva had a true Rockstar palace. Because I am short on time, I spent about a week, each night moving furniture out of house and transforming our house into a place fit for a Diva. Although it was time consuming, every morning when J would wake up to see what I had done the night before, her smile and excitement instantly made it worth it.

So this weekend our house was filled with the likes of Madonna, Brett Michaels, Tiffany, ZZ Top, Flea, Justin Bieber, Kiss, Katy Perry, Eminem, Axel Rose, Barenaked Ladies, and Reba McEntire. J got her wish of a rockstar party for sure!

During cake time, J wanted her rockstar crew to stand behind her. I, armed with my camera of course, snapped pictures as everyone sang “Happy Birthday”. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the group of people behind my daughter, the people that went out of their way to give J the best Rockstar bash in the world.

The party reminded me that it truly does take a village, or shall I say entourage, to raise a child. From my fabulous neighbor who painted her family’s faces (including her nearly 1 year old) and rocked out Kiss in 90 degree weather, to my best friend who always gets a hotel room so we can stay up late and truly celebrate, to my Mom who drove an hour to spend the day cleaning my house for the party while I worked, to my sister in law who came head to toe dressed up as Katy Perry because J loves Katy, to my brother who is not the dressing up kind but rocked Eminem (including arms full of tattoos), to my friend that made J amazing rockstar cakes, everyone came together to make one girl feel like a true Rockstar.

It’s times like these where I truly see how much support I have in my life, the posse that allows me to be the Mom I want to be, with the time (or lack there of) life has handed me. It’s truly amazing to see the love my family and friends have for my family. I know J will probably not remember the giant J I made out of cds on our windows, or the walk of fame I made in front of our house; but I have no doubt she will never forget the people who love and support her. Little Miss Gaga has quite the entourage by the age of 5…and I hope she never takes that for granted. I know I never will.

So, to quote the famous song, for those who rocked it out to make my daughter truly celebrate her birthday….WE SALUTE YOU!


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Journey to "Me"

“Well, Mandi, you have a long road on a dental journey ahead of you”.
This sentence was single handedly the worst sentence I have heard all year.  There I was sitting in my dentist's office, gums sore from a long overdue cleaning, and now I was being told I was about to embark on whatever a “dental journey” is. My dentist, with his friendly smile (probably due to the fact I was going to finance some nice vacations for him this year), looked at my dental x-rays puzzled.

“I’m not sure where we are going to start…but we’ll fix you up”.
I was then given my “itinerary” for the dental journey. My x-rays showed 4 large cavities; cavities which appear to be leaning toward root canals. I also had swelling along my gum line, which of course the hygenist had to show me through the tiny circle mirror.  Yeah like I really wanted to see that.

"All of this is reversible Mandi, you just aren't brushing long enough, and you aren't flossing everyday. You just aren't taking time for your dental health".

Time? I instantly got a flash vision of me in my bathroom on a typical morning. There I am toothbrush in hand, trying to hurry and get to a 8:30 a.m. deposition, being pulled by the hand by my son H,  hearing my daughter call from the other room.... "Mommy, I need you to help me find my earphones", and hearing my husband mumble under his breath because he can't find L's shoes.

So, being a defense attorney, I am naturally defensive and I launched into my argument: "I work a crazy schedule"; “I never had cavities as a kid”, “My teeth are all nice and white”, “I brush my teeth all the time”, “I don’t have any pain in the teeth you are showing”. 
My dentist smiled and patted me on the shoulder as if to say "Oh you poor stupid, plaque filled, poor flosser, dental diseased girl". He said “Oh, Mandi, you are a Mom. Moms never put themselves first. But now its time for you to put you first for awhile”.

It’s funny how this comment, roughly interpreted in the dental world to mean “Just take time to floss or your teeth will fall out”, really struck a cord inside of me. I left the dental office with a roll of dental appointments and a lot to think about.

My dentist is completely 100% right, and about more than my lackluster attempt at daily flossing.  I am completely guilty of never putting myself first. Since my children have been born, I became Mommy and left Mandi somewhere behind (and apparently somewhere without floss).  

I have always put my children first, and hardly ever take time for myself. Let me put it this way, you know when you fly in an airplane and they do the safety demonstration and tell you that if you lose oxygen put your mask on first and then help your child? Umm…I’d be dead if this happened because not only would I put all three of my children’s masks on first, I’d make sure my husband did it right before finally looking to myself!

 I see examples all over my life, some of which I've mentioned before here on the blog. My children are dressed in the newest, trendiest clothes, while I am seriously wearing pants I owned in law school. I had to switch to coloring my hair brown, because I don’t have time to make my 8 week hair highlighting appointments that kept my dishwater blonde hair, light blonde. I am rarely seen without my children, and the dust collecting on my treadmill in my basement probably weighs more than the added weight I have no time to lose.

Now it may seem like it, but I’m not complaining. I LOVE my life as a Mom and therefore I prefer to be in that role. So I do this to myself, because my life revolves around my kids. But, what I wish I could see more is that my kids can be the center of my life, and I can still put myself first from time to time. Like so many other things, it's a balance. A balance I need to focus on.  A balance I am trying to get better at.  I see so many Moms out there with book clubs, exercise time, nicely highlighted hair, beautiful manicured nails…and you know what? They are excellent Moms. The fact that they take time out to put themselves first every now and then has not affected their parenting ability in the slightest.

I need to take lessons from these Moms.

As you know from my previous blog posts, finding Me Time has been one of my top priorities in the past year and something I'm trying to work on. Now, I certainly have improved over this past year. I've recognized the fact I never do stuff for myself long before the dental hygenist got out her scary pick tool. So, I've started on my own little journey. A journey to let "Mandi" out every now and then. This year,  I treated myself to a few shopping sprees, started reading again (and not just Dr. Suess), and have made time for more girls nights out and more date nights with my husband. I have sought to reconnect with old friends, and started making time for my hobbies.

“When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”, you see it on cheesy t-shirts and bumper stickers, but it’s actually true. Taking time for yourself is not only good for you, its imperative. Putting yourself first, from time to time, not only can improve your overall well-being, but it will make you a better Mom. I have noticed that the times I do take an afternoon and head to the salon, or spend an evening scrapbooking while my husband plays with the kids actually refreshes me, gets my mind in gear, and makes me the best Mom I can be.

My dental problems were merely a reminder, and a painful reminder at that.  I have to take more time for me. I have to remember that in addition to the role I am most comfortable in, i.e. Mommy, I am also just Mandi. And Mandi needs to take care of herself too.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Warts and all...

Well, I’m back…late as usual. I am beginning to think lunch hour really starts at 2 or 3 PM in the afternoon. And while I could regale you with wildly entertaining stories of vacation and work, that is not the case. Plus, I just had a horrible mommy moment and needed to share/vent/cry.

On Tuesday night, we took B to get 3 warts on her the bottom of her foot removed for the 2nd time. No worries, right? It had been 3 weeks since she had had them frozen off and they had not gone away, so back we went to the urgent care clinic.

So as we sat in the examination room, the doctor started talking about needing to numb her foot and “dig in” to get rid of all of the bacteria. What? No cool freezing it off and then dumping the “cool stuff” on the floor? But if he said that freezing it wouldn’t work, who was I to question him? I only went to law school and my “mommy doctoring” only includes Hello Kitty and Scooby Doo Band-aids!

My hubby gave me a look and I snottily told him “wow – I didn’t know when you went for your MD,” basically because he always questions doctors and it just annoys me. But as I sat there holding my daughter as she was screaming her head off, crying and shaking, I realized he was right. It was horrible, but I tried to console myself that this pain would be temporary and she would bounce back when we got home. And I was right…until about 9:30 PM.

And that was when the crying started…and continued all through the night. She would wake up every 20 minutes screaming and crying that she was in pain. And there was nothing I could do. Tylenol, ibuprofen, ice – nothing would work. I learned that from 2 to 3:30 AM Nick Jr and Disney have cute kids shows. And that the worst feeling in the world is knowing there is nothing I can do when my child is screaming out in pain.

So yesterday brought a day “off” from work, trying to recoup from a sleepless night, still worrying about B. We FINALLY got through to the doctor’s office and got B more pain medicine – but only after 4+ hours of waiting. And then the bandage came off (another 30 minutes of screaming hysterically) for her bath. Finally, sleep…

I, sadly, understand that this utterly hopeless feeling of not being able to help my child will happen again. But, it nearly killed me and it will take me a long time to recover. But sharing this helped!  And I know that while I am not a perfect mom, even while I strive to be one, sometimes it doesn't always work out.  That I am just me - warts and all.  Thanks for listening.

And next time I promise a lifestyle of the rich and famous story!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Identity Crisis

Two weeks ago while I was on vacation with my family, my husband was going through the local paper.  He found an attorney position - in-house counsel - that required 2-3 years experience and paid one-and-one half times my current salary.  Now I know talking about income is not socially acceptable, but dammit, when you are raising two kids on basically one income, it MATTERS.  This entry is not about the woes of being a "poor" lawyer (I used to think that was an oxymoron), but about the quandry I am now in: weighing the pros and cons of my family's current situation. The ultimate JDMom conundrum - work v. family.

The small town general practice is not a lucrative occupation - I have done it for the last several years because I like what I do, I like the atmosphere at the county courthouses as opposed to Polk County, I love the people I work with.  I sincerely believe this is a great fit for me.  But lately, I've been pondering whether it is the best fit for my family.

Honestly, my family has struggled financially since we moved out here.  My husband is a website and graphic designer.  He lost his job when his company moved out of state and he's been home with the kids ever since.  He does work independently and contributes some to the family coffers but the majority of his income goes to provide health insurance for him and the kids.  Full time employment for him is not really an option out here, unless he is willing to drive a full hour every day to work, which, honestly with the cost of gas and day care would probably save us nothing but a little piece of his sanity.

We live in a very small town.  The nearest Hy-Vee is 35 minutes away; the nearest Target - an hour.  We came from Des Moines, and before that, St. Louis, so for Steve it's been a little culture shock.  Even more so when we saw the disparity in attorney incomes.   He wants to move to a larger city with more opportunities (and more restaurants!) for both of us. His vote - move.

B is 8. He has lived in this town almost his entire life.  He has tons of friends and doesn't want to move.  In fact, just talking about the possibility, hypothetically, brought him to tears.  On the other hand, my son is brilliant; I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom.  He is, literally, brilliant and I worry about whether he will be missing out on something - some big educational opportunity- if we stay out here.  The school is doing its absolute best to keep him engaged but it is not equipped with the staff or programming to keep up with him if he were challenged on a daily basis.  As a kid, he is well-rounded and socially he blends in with his class mates.  I think that he could just stay here, be the best in his class, and be completely happy.  However, he'd also likely be completely anonymous and could lose out on some great academic recognition and opportunities (can you say FREE COLLEGE) if he remains in the obscurity of small town Iowa.  His vote - stay here. He doesn't want to move - ever!

H is 6. She's a bright cookie. Happy, shiny - she'll fit in anywhere she goes.  Although she'd like to be closer to the beach or some fun places.  She absolutely loved Dubuque and was all about moving there two weeks ago.  I am less worried about her one way or the other. She is smart, too, but still challenged in her regular classroom. She'll be herself where ever she is and will be content with that.  I grew up in a small town, and didn't turn out so bad, so I know that it can be done.  Her vote - adventure!

Finally, there's me.  I'm not going to lie. I was not expecting to be living paycheck to paycheck seven years out of law school.  I was not expecting to be still fighting for some type of authority in my job five years after coming out here.  I am beginning to wonder if this is for me.  The work, I know and I love.  I am comfortable and live a primarily anxiety-free existence.  But is familiarity preventing me from reaching my full potential - professionally and financially? I really wonder.  My vote - undecided...

If anyone out there has any nuggets of wisdom, any advice or warnings - I would LOVE to hear it.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You Know You Need A New Job When. . .

Yesterday I decided I need a new job.  Not because I dislike my current job.  That actually couldn't be further from the truth.  While I have my complaints and there are things about my current position that annoy me, overall I know I work with extremely talented lawyers who have done a pretty good job accommodating my needs as a working mom.  I don't really have a lot of complaints about my actual job.  Certainly not enough for me to actually put together a resume.  Instead, I decided I needed a new job because of my commute. 

I've complained a lot about my commute.  It's an hour and a half each way.  While that may sound insane to some of our readers, it's not that crazy in Chicago terms.  Lots of people at my office commute that far - or father.  True, most of the big commuters are staff, not attorneys, but I love where I live and am not about to trade my backyard swing set for postage-stamp sized lot just to shave 20 minutes off my commute.  Besides, even if I wanted to move the housing market is so bad that I probably couldn't give my house away at this point.  But I still detest the commute.   

Commuting sounds easy: get on train, go to work.  Simple.  But the actuality of the train is a nightmare.  First of all, you have to get to the train.  On time.  Exactly on time.  On the schedule the train sets.  And the train itself, by the way, is never actually on schedule.  So you wait for the train.  Outside.  Once the train comes, you get on and try to find a seat that is not next to loud talkers or drunk Cubs fans, ride for an hour and then walk or take a bus to your final destination.  All before 9 a.m.

The way home is even worse.  Maybe I've had bad train luck, but in my 8 years of commuting I've been on trains that have caught on fire, been in cars where drunk Cubs and Sox fans have literally come fist-to-cuffs over which team is better, and have been "dropped off" at stations 20 + miles from my actual stop because the train simply wasn't going to run any further that night (no explanation given).  These incidents don't take into account accidents - which sadly happen much too frequently - downed trees or equipment failure.  Metra's motto may be "the way to really fly," but any Metra rider knows the train is truly a gamble.  I hate it.  And yesterday just confirmed that.

Yesterday, we in the Chicagoland area experienced a weather phenomenon I've never heard of before: a derecho.  I don't know what the true definition of a derecho is, but in practical terms it means fast-moving-storm-with-hurricane-like-winds-and-tons-and-tons-of-rain.  When I left my house for my 4 minute drive to the train station, all was well in my world.  It was hot out, and super sunny.  No sign of rain.  By the time I parked my car at the station, however, clouds had moved in and it began to feel like rain.  I hustled from my car, across the tracks, grateful the train was scheduled to arrive in 2 minutes. 

Two minutes too long.  Just about the moment I snuggled into the "shelter" with a few dozen other people, the wind picked up and the rain started to pour down in sheets.  And when I say pour, I mean pour down.  Despite a roof over our heads, all of us were instantly soaked.  You can imagine what the 100 plus people who were not in a shelter but were waiting for the train looked like.  Umbrellas were of no use - wind gusts exceeded 60 miles per hour.  No Totes I know of can withstand that kind of wind.  But still, no message from Metra, meaning our train would be there any second. 

Except, the train never came.  Not ever, never.  Instead the storm got worse and we all began wondering if we were, in fact, outside in the middle of a tornado.  The shelter began to shake like it was going to come loose.  The rain continued to pelt down.  And perhaps scariest of all, directly across from us a transformer blew.  It was like being across the street from the loudest lightning strike you've ever seen, complete with sparks.  Wires went down.  Tree limbs went down.  And we were stuck.  The station was across the way, but to get there, we had to walk about a block and a half and cross the tracks where the transformer had just blown.  Not a good option.  And from the looks of the sky, the rain wasn't letting up any time soon.  We were stuck.

At some point, I sucked it up and decided that I was more at risk standing out in the open among flying tree limbs and downed power lines than crossing the highway that runs parallel to the train tracks in an attempt to find shelter.  So I did that.  And when the rain eventually stopped, I walked back through the train parking lot and went home.  Turns out, that train we were waiting for was cancelled due to the weather about 20 minutes before the storm hit us.  Metra simply didn't make an announcement.  While I'm glad Metra kept their riders already on the train safe by stopping it, a little warning telling its riders waiting for the train to seek shelter would have been nice.   

There have been too many recent tragedies for me to complain much about the damage from the storm.  We were lucky, our house escaped major damage (I think) and the biggest issue is the lack of power.  Some streets are still closed, but there haven't been any reports of injuries or deaths.  And that is something to be grateful about. 

But I'm going to have to think about getting that resume together once power gets restored.  I don't know that I want to weather any more of those storms no matter how much I like my actual job. 


Monday, July 11, 2011

Born this Way

Five years ago today at 12:07 p.m. my life began.

Okay, not literally as I was born in September a lot more than 5 years ago, but still I truly believe my life started on July 11, 2006. On this day 5 short years ago, I became a Mom, and the world was made a little more fabulous and a little more pink by the arrival of one little girl, my daughter J.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. We checked into the hospital at 6:00 a.m. after I begged and pleaded the day before for someone to induce me. The Pitocin bag was hung, they were ready to induce, and then a problem. All the ultrasounds were showing that J was a very large baby (10 pounds plus) and she was stuck under my pelvis. Options were given and weighed and at around 11:00 a.m. they wheeled me off to a c-section.

The time in the operating room is still crystal clear as well. I can remember Todd walking in dressed in his surgical gear. I was terrified as I had no idea what a c-section entailed. Then I heard the doctor who was assisting say “Look at all that BLACK hair”. Todd and I both looked at each other strangely as I have blonde hair, Todd has brown and no one in our family has black. I then heard the precious cry, turned to Todd and said “Is she a girl?” (as we knew she was but I wanted to make sure). Todd cried and said “Yes, she’s a girl”. They cleaned her up and brought the 8 lb, 6 oz beautiful baby girl to me. Right there, my life began.

At that time, I had no idea who J “was”. For example, I didn’t know that I was holding Miss Fashion who still rolls her eyes at me when she sees that I dressed her in yellow and blue (to use up my gender neutral clothes) for the first few months of her life. And I still haven't told her that I didn't put her in a dress until she was over a year old (she'd kill me for that). I didn’t know as I painted her room purple that pink was her signature color. I knew I would love her, but I had no idea I was looking at my best friend. And boy oh boy I had no clue I was holding a little Diva! For example, I may have been stressed out about having to have a c-section, but if I know J she planned that on purpose because a smashed “birth canal head" would not look good in her first photo opportunity. Bottom line: I had no idea what I was getting into with this little girl.

But over the 5 years she has graced this world, I have gotten to see who J truly is. I now see the intelligent, articulate, artistic, kind girl she is. What I love now about 5 year old J, is that I can really start seeing who she will be as she grows. During her infant and toddler years, like most kids, J went through 1000 phases: The Elmo phase, The Dora the Explorer phase, the I won’t eat anything green stage, the fear of water stage, the Disney Princess stage, and our current stage: The Rockstar!  But as these 5 years have passed, J’s personality has really started to form. I started to notice that as each phase passed, parts of her personality remained in tact. The true J remained long after the baby toys were sold or put away.

And I LOVE her personality. Everyone can say they love their child, that’s a given, but I can truly say I “like” her. She has one of the most interesting personalities I have ever come across. She’s unique, fun, spirited, and a true original.

Now true she gets her dark hair from her Daddy and her green eyes from me, but over the years it became clear that J is not like Todd and I. She is a total girly girl, whereas I grew up a tom boy (with some hints of girlyness). Where does she get that? She is a total artist, who can draw better than me at age 32. Where did she get that? She is a scaredy cat, where most kids barrel down slides without fear, she sits back and thinks it through before gently sliding down. Where did she get that? She has a great sense of self-esteem, she knows what she is good at and isn’t afraid to show it. Oh how I wish I could be that way.

The great thing about J is that she walks to her beat of her own drum and no one, NO ONE, can change that beat. For example, Todd (who is a huge sports fan) couldn’t wait until one of his children were old enough to play sports. He put J in soccer but after about 3 games of her sitting on the sidelines crying “I just want to dance”, Todd laughed it off and realized he'd have to wait a few years to have an athlete. When she’s playing with other kids and says she likes something, if the other kid says “I don’t like that”, instead of switching to be like other kids, she says “Oh, I DO, I’m sorry you don’t”.

She’ll dance in the street when other kids are too shy, she’ll wear her wedge sandals to the park even if gym shoes are more suited for play just because they match her outfit. But even though she is girly, she is no wall flower. She stands up for what she thinks is right, and will meld her personality to fit in with situations or people she is with.

So over the years I stopped questioning the origins of her awesome personality. She is just J. Plain and simple. She doesn’t get her spirit from me, or her father. She, like her idol Lady Gaga, was simply “born this way”.
So happy birthday Miss J. I don’t think you will ever truly understand what effect you have had on my life. I credit you with starting my life, you made me a Mom, made me who I am today, and always save me from fashion disasters and bad hair days! I cannot wait to watch you grow. Rock on little Diva!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Sweet Pea has hit the princess stage.  The girl loves everything princess.  Everything.  Despite my (previously noted) efforts to not buy into the Disney princess propaganda, Sweet Pea is enamored with Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and to a lesser extent (and my dismay) Belle.  She L-O-V-E-S them.  Want to know how I wrapped up potty training for her?  That's right - I bought her princess underwear.  Sweet Pea loves her princesses so much that she wouldn't dare potty on them, even if that means going to a public bathroom.  If you understood Sweet Pea's fear of public restrooms, you'd know how big a sacrifice that was.  But Sweet Pea would probably do just about anything for her princesses. 

I don't think there is anything wrong with Sweet Pea's love of princesses.  Certainly, the marketing machine that is Disney knew what they were doing when they put Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella on everything from underwear to sand pails.  Girls love princesses.  And in my opinion, the toy market for girls stinks.  Girls are given the option of playing with dolls, stuffed animals or "house" toys (i.e. toy kitchens, toy vacuums).  Boys, on the other hand, have building sets and science sets and fire engines in addition to doll-like toys.  Of course, you can buy "boy" toys for a girl, but they aren't marketed that way.  So as a parent, you have to push against marketing machines like Disney to convince your girl that she can make the awesome space shuttle shown on the "boy" tinker toy box, and not just the flower on the pink and purple "girl" one.  Working parents only have so much energy to give to fighting against marketing stereotypes -- at some point, you end up with something princess in your shopping cart.  And your daughter isn't any worse for it. 

But I think as parents we have to be a little careful in just how much we give in to things like the princesses.  The world has changed since the 1950s, but that doesn't mean our daughters will have smooth sailing into adulthood.  There's still a perception that girls don't like math or science.  And all four of us JD Moms know first hand how hard it is to make a career in the still male-dominated legal profession.  If our daughters want to become scientists, actuaries, doctors or lawyers, we have to instill in them a curiosity and a sense of ability.  Our daughters have to know that they too can make or do whatever they want to do.  And here, the princesses fail us. 

I don't want Sweet Pea growing up to think that to be successful in life she needs to be beautiful or sing like a bird.  And I don't want her to define success as waiting for a man to come along and fulfill her dreams.  Of course I want her to get married and have a family if that is what she wants, but I also want her to be able to have a career, if she wants that instead.  I want her to know that women bring a lot more to the table than dinner.  That she can negotiate with the best of them.  And that princesses can defeat "scary lady" (Sweet Pea's word for the villains in Disney fairy tales) with or without their prince charmings.   

The Huffington Post ran an article the other day on how to talk to little girls.  In addition to giving some frightening statistics about how young girls worry about things like beauty and weight, the article gives some good strategies on how to talk to our girls to help them grow up into confident, secure women who know how to use both their brains and their beauty.  It's a good read for parents of girls who want their girls to love their beauty and their brains. 


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Revelations of a Mom

Over the 4th of July, Steve and I took the kids to Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque, Iowa.  This was our Second Annual Grand Harbor trip, and the kids just love it! Taking Mandi's advice, we allowed the kids unlimited access to their DSs and they brought a bag of other things to occupy them in the car.  I am gratified to say that about 45 minutes into the trip the DS was put down and the books and toys came out! 

On our trip, I had the rather unusual opportunity to spend time one-on-one with each of the kids.  Typically, if I am "paying more attention" to one, the other budges in for some love and attention, too.  So, unfortunately, my one-on-one time with B was due to his misbehavior and being grounded to the room on Monday morning.  So H and Dad went to the Aquarium and B and I stayed in the room with him sitting for 20 minutes. At first, he tested every limit possible - wheeling the chair around the room; keeping his feet on the chair but the rest of his body across the bed...not successful. By the end, he was sitting quietly, talking quietly and being very well mannered.  And this good behavior actually lasted (most of) the rest of the day.  Yay for Mom! 

Anyway, as I was saying, I learned something about each of my kids over the weekend which makes me marvel at how children's personalities develop so early and solidly.  Here is what I learned: my daughter, H, who is 6, is completely self-sustaining.  She can create fun out of thin air and is perfectly content playing alone.  On Monday night at the water park, when most other kids were gone and the place was pretty deserted, I watched her dance around in the sprinkles for about 30 minutes. She was all alone, jumping up and down, spinning around and either singing or talking to herself. It was so cute and endearing I just wanted to go over and give her a hug! 

The other thing I learned (should say confirmed) about her is that she is one tough little chick!  On Tuesday, before heading home, we tried to find the Julien Dubuque Monument.  We ended up at the Mines of Spain and Haley saw a path, which she immediately took off down.  She just kept going, so long as there was a trail to follow, she was going to follow it.  We found some wild blackberry bushes on the path.  Instead of letting me pick the berries for her so she wouldn't get pricked, she dove right in!  I suppose they tasted sweeter that way.  Sitting on the ground after the hike, watching her eat the berries she'd picked, I was overwhelmed with how much I love her - not just my daughter - but HER.  She rocks. 

What I learned about my son is that he and his sister are complete opposites.  She is mild-mannered; he is always, ALWAYS testing the limits.  In this, he is just like his Dad.  When Steve and I were younger, he had a thing - if I asked him not to do something, he always had to do it "One More Time."  That is my son, in Three Words.  He is much more cerebral than his sister and will read voraciously if he is left alone to do it.  He likes to run and play but he does not like any activity that requires more exertion than he is willing to give.  On our hike, he was ready to turn back about 1/3 of the way in.  He saw little purpose in it once we realized the trail was not going to take us where we wanted to go; had no interest in the berries, and just wanted to go back to the car.  He was peevish and grumpy until he got to the Visitor's Center and had something to read and learn about.  There, he was happy as a lark and would've stayed to read every single display if left to his own devices.  I love his thirst for knowledge, which is something he and I share.  In all other ways, he is his father's son.  

I learned something about myself over this Independence Day weekend, too... I LOVE technology! We would not have had such an easy, low-stress trip if not for our new Smart Phones! Thank you, DROID! 


Monday, July 4, 2011

The American Family

Happy 4th of July everybody!

Ahh…4th of July, one of my favorite holidays. A time for BBQs with family, sparklers, corn on the cob, watermelon, worrying about whether the fumes from the bug spray that I have sprayed 1000 times on my kids will harm them, and of course wondering if the fireworks will delight or terrify the kids this year!

The 4th to me is a time to celebrate our country, and what better way to do this then by spending the day with what truly makes our country, PEOPLE. I, like most people, do this by spending time with my family. Our tradition is to head to my home town and have a BBQ at my parents house. For me there is no better way to celebrate the true meaning of this holiday than by being with my American family.

Our BBQ is incredibly predictable…my Mom WILL make her famous cream corn, our hometown radio station of WZOE will be on all afternoon, Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA WILL play during the grand finale of our small town fireworks, my nephew Nate WILL fall asleep during the fireworks (and we will all take bets on if this will be his year to stay up), my daughter J WILL cover her ears from the loud noises, my Grandma WILL sing her admittedly politically incorrect version of a famous 4th song, I WILL follow the fabulous 5 (my three kids and my two nephews) like paparazzi trying to catch the perfect cousins shot, I WILL sit with my Grandma and talk about how much we miss my Grandpa and how he would "direct" family traffic on the 4th so we always had the perfect place to sit for the fireworks. And yes I WILL laugh.

And that’s what I love about the holiday, it like my family, is... well predictable. The predictability of my family is one of the great mysteries to me because our lives have been anything but "predictable".  We have been through everything...divorce, death, drama. Let me just put it this way...we could be our own reality show we have been through so much. So what I love the most about my family is even though life has not been predictable to us, we are predictable to each other. Through my highs and lows my family has always remained in the middle, they are "home" to me.  I can't tell you how amazing that feels to know that in my highest highs or my lowest lows my family will be a constant.

I usually think about this when we are all lined up on my parents driveway waiting for the fireworks (which are always (also) predictably late) to start. I’ll be sitting there amongst my family, peering over the small chairs which hold the five most important kids in my life, and the thought will always cross my mind how lucky I am to have a family like I have. A true American family…a family that has seriously been through pretty much everything there is together, and came out closer, stronger, and happier. A family made up of different personalities, yet a common bond. I sit there amongst my extended family: My Mom who is my rock, my sister-in-law who is my parenting sound board and mentor, my brother who is one of the few that “gets” my sense of humor, my Grandma who I can honestly say is one of my best friends, my step-dad who gives me the Grandpa I always dreamed for my kids. And of course my husband and my kids who are my life. And then my mind will go to my other brother and his wife who live in Texas, who we miss so much that we often call them on Skype during family get togethers. And then the kids…who make me laugh and make me young again. I sit there amongst my husband, kids, and my extended family and feel truly whole, truly at peace with the world, and truly happy.

I think that is what is the best thing about the American family. Because of our lives, we all have "abnormal" families, we all have "broken" homes in some fashion, we all don't fit the family mold from the Donna Reed black and white tv shows I used to watch on Nick at Nite with my parents when I was a kid. I mean read any magazine or newspaper and what will you see...divorce on the rise, the American family falling apart, studies on how screwed up kids are because of their "non-textbook" families.  Society tells us that most of us have family discord that (according to them) will ruin the American Family.

But you know what, it hasn't. I look at my family and I see an example of how what society would deem an abormal, broken family is actually closer because of the drama than the perfect family. A family that is perfect no matter what imperfections are thrown its way.

So today as you celebrate the 4th….take time to celebrate your family and be truly grateful for our country,  summer, fireworks, and the American family!


Friday, July 1, 2011

Red, White and Boom

The fourth of July is not a holiday we look forward to in my house. Yes, there are lots of reasons the fourth is great (what’s not to like about swapping work for swimming and Popsicles?), but it also means fireworks. And when you have two small children who are (1) not used to and (2) generally afraid of loud noises, the fourth is more likely to cause crying than celebration.

But there are a lot of fireworks on the fourth. And before the fourth. And after the fourth. Between town-sponsored displays and drunken neighbors, fireworks displays are inescapable. And even worse, they occur at night. You know, when kids should be sleeping.  Inevitably, the neighbors start up right as I’m trying to tuck the kids into bed. And while I am that mom who would go out and yell at my neighbors to knock it off, even I know that at this time of year some leeway is appropriate.  So the show goes on.  It wouldn’t be so bad if the fireworks kept my kids up because they were awed by the display. But my kids scramble out of bed terrified at the loud sounds echoing around their rooms.

I understand that my kids seem to be overly sensitive to sounds. Both of my children dislike loud things. My children approach movie theaters, flushing toilets, and yes, fireworks, with their hands over their ears and fear in their eyes. Case in point: Sweet Pea is so afraid of the flushing sound of public toilets that she won’t go in a public bathroom. And when we make her, she literally shakes. So I know I’ve got a bit of egg-shell skull syndrome going on (that’s for you, Professor Miller). But I also know, my kids aren’t alone in disliking loud things. Which makes the fourth a pain in the rear for a lot of parents out there.

I don't have any good ideas on how to limit the fireworks of the fourth, but below are some kid-friendly ideas that may take your child's focus off the noise:

Go to your local parade. Parades are loud, just like fireworks, so you might have to prepare your kids a little bit ahead of time. But the noise is constant and predictable, so your children may be able to tolerate it better than the fireworks your neighbors set off. Plus, most parades have police and/or firemen, clowns or candy – all of which kids love.

Take your kids strawberry picking. There are few things more fun to do with your kids than to take to them to a pick-your-own farm. The trip to the farm teaches kids how food is grown and opens the door to all kinds of teaching moments.  And it’s fun.

Camp in your backyard. My idea of camping generally involves a hotel reservation, but nothing is more fun to kids than camping out in your own backyard. Assuming the weather cooperates, set up a tent – even the kids' play tent – and sit outside to read bedtime stories, have a snack or just look at the stars.

Go on a picnic. Pack up a small cooler and ride your bikes to the park, a pond, or anywhere grassy and have a picnic. The kids will love eating outside, and you don’t have to worry about crumbs.

If none of these strike you, check out some other ideas here:

Wishing you a happy and safe fourth of July!