Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Heros In Different Packages

When Karen was suffering through her terrible ordeal, I thought JD Moms was over. But, with grace and strength, Karen weathered her storm and has a beautiful baby girl.  In September, despite the incredible emotional strain she and her family went through, Karen was gracious enough to post a beautiful blog. 

Lately, I have been contemplating the roles and trials of women, as well as the kind of world I want my 8 year old daughter to grow up in. Three strong, independent women head my list for the kind of parent I would like to be, as well as the kind of daughter I want to raise. 

Karen heads that list.  She went through an incredibly painful and emotionally damaging ordeal - there is nothing more paralyzing and frightening for a mother than the risk of safety and life of her child. Not only was Karen required to go through that private hell, but she also had to deal with betrayal from those she thought were closest to her.  She did so with such strength and introspection that I am in awe. I hope, although I pray I may never be, that if I am tested as Karen was, that I will be able to survive and to find strength as she has done. Karen is my idol as a mother and as a woman. 

Two other women I seek for myself and my daughter to emulate are Jada and Willow Pinkett-Smith and and Chrissy and Isabella Weems. 

Recently, when Jada was asked why she allowed her daughter to shave her hair off., her response was incredibly profound. Her response was as follows: 

"The question 
why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power, or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit, and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes, and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be." 

While I could never have said it so effectively, I have always held the same belief for my own daughter. She wears the clothes she wants to wear, she chooses her hair style and she decides who can be affectionate and when.  I won't deny that it breaks my heart when she won't let me shower her with kisses, but it's her body and her choice. I get three cheek kisses as bed time - and I have to be okay with that. And while I know her outfits sometimes raise eyeballs and draw smiles - she chooses her own clothing. I want her to be independent and strong-willed; to know what she wants and to know that she can get it if she is willing to work for it.  

Which leads me to my final "hero" - Isabella Weems, and her mother Chrissy.  Isabella Weems is a sixteen year old girl with her own successful direct sales company - Origami Owl. When she was 14, she wanted to start saving money to buy a car. Her mother Chrissy encouraged her to start a business. She researched her product and decided on clear lockets with charms personal to the purchaser. With $350 of her own money and $350 from her parents, Isabella created her own business.  The business took off and is now a national direct sales company with approximately $300,000 in sales for 2011. Chrissy and Isabella run the company together, with Isabella remaining the guiding force of what the company will be and do. 

I am constantly trying to instill in my daughter that she can be and do anything she wants. This mother-daughter team is living proof that gender, and even age, do not have to be barriers to success, as long as our daughters are self-confident, motivated and most of all, encouraged by us. 

Long live strong. independent women - and long live JDMoms! 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby Blessings

At 17 weeks, I was told there was a greater than 1 in 10 chance she had downs syndrome. 

At 18 weeks I thought I was losing her. 

At 20 weeks, (and 21 weeks and 23 weeks and the day before my due date) I was told she was small for her gestational age. 

At 24 weeks, I was told she would come early. 

A little over three weeks ago, Baby A arrived.  She was 4 days late, average size for her gestational age, and she is healthy.  To say we have been blessed is an understatement.  To me, Baby A is living, breathing proof of the power of prayer. 

I know it has been a while since any of us have posted on the blog.  In my last post, way back in late March or early April, I revealed that I was 20+ weeks pregnant with Baby A, and that things were not going well.  Prior to that blog post, very few people knew that I was expecting a baby.  I wasn't showing and for whatever reason we simply didn't announce that I was expecting.  We told even fewer people about my test results and the subsequent genetic testing.  Not even Husband's immediate family or my brothers knew what we were going through.  So when I finally posted everything we had been going through on the blog, it was a pretty big moment for me.  But I was unprepared for people's responses. 

Not many people responded to the post directly (which I subsequently took down), but the messages I got directly from my friends ranged in tone.  Some friends were irked that I didn't tell them about the pregnancy sooner.  Others were outraged that I risked my baby's life with an amnio and admitted that I considered the option of termination.  And some friends were simply silent.  My email to them went unreturned, as if it were never sent. 

For each of these hurtful responses, however, Husband and I also received tens of responses of people supporting us and praying for us.  I can't put into words how touched we were by each and every person who offered up a prayer, wish for strength or kind thought for our family during that time.  Or how much I appreciated each and every email and text people sent just checking in to see how things were going.   I especially can't express enough gratitude to the friends who walked this journey with me.  For those of you who impatiently awaited amnio results with me, who texted me after each of the many, many ultrasounds to see how big baby was, and who cried with me in both sadness and joy, I am truly forever grateful.  I couldn't have made it through without you. 

Every time I hold our new daughter I thank God for her life, her health and for everyone who gave selflessly of themselves to make our joy possible.  Baby A is a blessing, and her health an answer to prayer.  Thank you to all of you whose prayers brought Baby A into our lives. 


Monday, April 30, 2012

a Serious Lapse in Judgment

     So, last Sunday I found out that the City Council in my town hired the summer Pool Supervisor at their last regular meeting.  No big deal, right?! Okay, but what if the person hired was only 18 and a terrible lifeguard? Still not a big deal?! What if I told you that the person hired currently has (and at the time he was hired had) D felony charges pending for possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver? Got your attention, didn't I?! Needless to say, I went to the next city council meeting and asked for the issue to be put on the agenda for the next meeting, 'cause as a mom, I've got some opinions about that decision.  Floating around the decision are rumors that the person's mother, who is the city clerk, intentionally misled other applicants into believing the position was filled so her child was the only actual applicant and his father, who works for the local newspaper, quashed the story even though it was presented to him by the sheriff's office as a public notice.  Needless to say, this has created some turmoil in this small, otherwise seemingly peaceful town.  
    Several people in the community who are interested in the situation but have some ties to the city and feel conflicted out of expressing their concerns have addressed me since finding out I was at the meeting - thanking me for being there, etc.  When I first heard about the whole thing, I was incredulous; then I was angry - not ever at the kid who took the job (although I question his sanity in even applying) - but at the city council members who did not see this as a legitimate concern.  I am a criminal defense attorney.  I've seen young people's lives be ruined by one stupid action - not mistake, but intentional action - taken for whatever reason.  I've seen the damaging effects a Felony Conviction can have one someone - essentially prohibiting any kind of legitimate employment, affecting ability to obtain school loans, etc.  A felony Conviction is a one-way ticket to nowhere; and for a young kid, it can be devastating.  I do not want that for this kid.  I know what it means to be innocent until proven guilty; but I also know what it means when law enforcement find 3 ounces of marijuana and a scales in someone's possession.  My motto: take responsibility for what you did and pay the consequences.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this kid is doing that. Instead, he's advocating for the legalization of marijuana - arguing that legalizing MJ will prevent young people from growing and selling to make a quick buck, and instead go to college. (Did I mention that this kid is enrolled at the U of I?). Hypocritical, to say the least, but politics aside, it doesn't show much responsibility-taking and it doesn't convince me that he won't sell drugs to the other kids at the pool...
     Anyway, like I said, I have nothing against this kid - give him a job mowing lawns, hire him by all means, but don't put him in charge of a bunch of teenagers who are supposed to be watching our children!  This is the City's bad judgment - plain and simple.  I do not want this event to define this kid for the rest of his life.  In fact, I spoke with the mayor and begged him to talk to the kid's mother and try to convince her that persisting in taking the job would only result in MORE bad publicity and reputation destruction, not less.
     Unfortunately, someone notified the Des Moines news media.  While I was in court in Audubon County, KCCI was roaming the town trying to get interviews from the poor parents and the mayor.  Exactly what I feared would happen, did.  Now, the focus will not be on the idiot city council who gave the kid the job, knowing about the pending charges, but the kid himself.  Any attempt to minimize the damage to his reputation is gone....he will be the headline - not the council and their bad decision.  I am very sad about the situation. Yes, the kid is stupid, arrogant and has very poor judgment, but he's just a KID! (18) All 18 year-olds are stupid, arrogant and have bad judgment...it's part of their DNA.  I blame the adults, here. The city council members who had to have known what the right decision was - the decision that was best for the community - but either bowed down to pressure or simply ignored the facts.
     I was not the only parent concerned about this situation. As I said earlier, many parents have approached me...but I think I might have been the only parent who really cared about the effects of this mess on that fool boy who applied for the job....


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Come...join me!" she says in her best Zombie voice

Over the last two weeks, things in my life have changed - A LOT. 
About six months ago, I reluctantly went to my first Thirty-one party.  Now if you don't know what Thirty-one is, you are missing out. It is an organizing mother's dream - a huge variety of bags, totes, storage bins, etc. that come in a multitude of fun and coordinating patterns.  I say I went to the first party reluctantly because I had been intentionally avoiding Thirty-one. I knew I would get hooked...but it was for a friend's daughter's bridal party, so I went.  Boy, was I right. Hook. 

Then, a few months later, I got invited to another party. I had some basic pieces to work off of, so I needed a few more, right? and then, only a few short weeks later, ANOTHER party. By that time, I was so in love with the products that I wanted to have a party myself, so I scheduled one. Line.  

My Thirty-one party was on the 15th of April. It was a blast and I got so much free stuff, I was giddy! By this time, I was completed addicted, so my husband (jokingly, I think) said "just sell the stuff!."  That day, I decided to become a Consultant for Thirty-one. SINKER! 

I had my first party as a consultant the following Sunday, and it was a Smash! I had such an amazing time talking about what I love and getting to actually know some women in my community better.  I've lived in this community for almost 7 years, but my contact with the outside world has been fairly limited: local attorneys or "bad" people a/k/a clients.  I have gotten to know a few other parents casually through soccer, but I'm a relatively shy person. I don't make small talk and am not comfortable just initiating a conversation with someone I don't know.  At the party I was able to meet many women I only knew by name or by reputation...It made me remember what it was like to be a social person -to chat and laugh and gossip. 

Until then, I had completely forgotten that, yes, in my element, I am a social person. I like people.  My life had become so two-sided: the work side, which is social to a degree and the home side, which is mostly pretty mundane (not that I don't love playing with my kids; but it's really not the same). I have been missing out on the social bonding that was such a regular part of my life before my kids were born - the kind where other women are friends because of who they are and not because their child is friends with your child.  

After that party on Sunday, I feel like I have a new focus, a new goal. I'm excited about something again! Who knew how invigorating that could be?  Now, instead of going to bed after getting the kids to bed at 9, I work on my Thirty-one stuff. I have been more upbeat and positive this week, at work and at home, than I have been in a LONG time.  It sounds stupid and "cult"-ish to say that Thirty-one has changed my life - I always roll my eyes when I read the little inspiring stories in the catalogs...but the fact is, it's true.  Who knew that a (small :0)) obsession with a little bag could do so much! 

And finally, because what kind of addicted, overbearing and fanatical person would I be if I didn't try to convert you? Here's the link to my website. "Come...join me!" 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And you thought you were in control...

After hearing about a particularly frightening health scare of a friend and the grueling effect it had on her, I started thinking about how vulnerable we all really are.  As working moms, and as attorneys with clients who rely on us, we have to have things under control - all the time.  We have to be ready to deal with any situation, and do it in such a way that those who rely on us feel safe and protected.  And most of the time, we can pull it off...and we pull it off so many times that we really think we're in control.

But then, something happens - your dog bites your two-year old in the face, for example, and all of a sudden that illusion of having things under control flies out the window.  Your baby is screaming and blood is flowing, and your brain shuts down from the fear.  You realize you can do NOTHING to prevent what happened and you scramble to make up for whatever lapse in...something - attention, supervision, control -whatever (and honestly, maybe nothing)... caused this event to happen.  You race to the ER praying that the doctors can fix it, that there won't be any scarring, that she gets to keep her bottom lip...and as you wait, you obsess about what COULD have happened - what if it had been her eye...what if it's not just a cut, but an actual chunk out of her face, what if they can't fix it and she'll have a horrible scar forever.  And then, the worst, you have to set aside your own fear and worry and focus on keeping her calm...she screams so shrilly that it brings tears to your eyes and you know...there is absolutely nothing that I can do... 

The facade of control is gone...you are utterly helpless. When your children hurt, there's nothing that you wouldn't do to stop it and gain back that control. No bargain you wouldn't make with god to ensure your baby will be well. I am not a religious person, and at times I am jealous of those who can say "god's will be done" and rely on their faith to get them through. But the fact is, that no matter what happens, and I do thank any power that be that may be listening that I have not had a real tragedy in my life, there's a little face looking up at you, begging you with her eyes to make things all better.  So you have no choice but to put on the mask of resolve and self-assurance and again (appear to) get things under control.  

The best thing about having friends should be that you are never alone.  It's impossible to keep the front up forever and it is priceless to me to be surrounded by people to understand and sympathize, without judgment, when my mask of control shatters.  We're all in this together...


Monday, April 9, 2012


I’ve been thinking a lot about “Balance” lately. It came to mind after I challenged my 5 year old to a game of Twister last night (which by the way, how is that I can stand forever just fine, but can’t manage to keep one foot on green and one foot on red for more than 10 seconds without the burning pain that comes with being an out of shape 33 year old sets in?).

But needless to say that somewhere between my 4th and 5th losses to my dancer daughter who flawlessly managed to keep her balance, it struck me that balance although a seemingly easy concept, is anything but easy.

But whether it's easy or not, it’s something we all have to deal with. Hence the reason that till the end of time all working mothers will talk about it, complain about it, question it. I mean, I probably have written more blogs about work-life balance than any other topic on this blog.

Learning to balance is a long, lonely journey. It’s impossible to learn the art from someone else. I can tell you how I manage to work my job and handle my three young children often by myself (three words: Fruit Snacks, cars, and an IPad). But, everyone has it different.

I can remember being a young lawyer and getting tons of tips on how to be working attorney: Dictate when you are driving, read briefs at your kids activities, get a Nanny to help you cart around the kids. But the problem was that these tips on balance may have balanced the giver of the advice’s life, but they were things that didn’t work in my life.

So over the years I have learned, as I was shown ever so painfully last night that while one person may be able to manage a right hand red, left hand blue, another may fall flat on her butt (repeatedly). It’s like the child sitting at the kitchen table leaning back way in his chair balanced on two legs. You may tell him repeatedly the “Four on floor” warning telling him that he will fall, but he just smiles at you knowing he can balance just fine.

So I stopped asking for advice, cancelled subscriptions to working mother publications, and decided that no one is going to teach me how to be a working Mom, it’s just something I have to do on my own.

I think my problem with balance is understanding the concept that it is a constantly changing process. You get yourself in a perfect groove, everything is going great, and then comes a week on your calendar where you have 7 briefs, 3 child activity commitments, and you get the flu. So I think it’s not about truly learning how to keep balance, its trying to master the art form of being able to constantly adapt to balance no matter what is thrown at you.

Last week was a particularly hard week in my house as I was in trial. My kids (and myself) are used to me being the one to be there when they are home, cook them dinner, play with them, bathe them, and kiss them good-night. But last week I couldn’t do that. I spent my nights up till 1:00 a.m. working, I missed dinner with the family, good night kisses, and had to send my understudy (Todd) to sing my classic lullabyes. I felt completely guilty the whole week, almost as if I was on trial. My poor mother had to listen to me “defend” myself all week, “But Mom, I’m always there, this is just one week I can’t be”, etc. Even though no one was making me feel bad about my busy schedule, I was my hardest critic. It was just one of those weeks (that luckily are few and far between) that the balance in my life was completely off.

But my week reminded me just how important family time is to my balance. I have been accused more times than I can count of being a “total Mom” (whatever that means). I proudly admit that my kids are my life…without the three of them, I have no outside life. I hear friends of mine talking about their book or wine clubs, that they religiously attend to get some social time away from their kids. They always think I’m joking when I say the only book club I attend discusses such riveting issues as why is Sam I Am so insistent that his friend eat Green Eggs and Ham. Wine clubs? Nope, just whine clubs exist in my house. It just so happens that the strongest “legs on my chair” so to speak are my kids and so I balance heavily upon that part of my life.

There are times in my life I feel like I have a perfect balance and can navigate my worlds just fine. Other times, like last week, I feel like I am grasping for a rope to hold onto. I guess I still have a lot to learn about adapting to the challenges of being a working Mom.

I think the goal to work-life balance is just to find the right amount of balance where you are comfortable and not a second away from crashing down. My advice on finding balance, find the balance that works in your world and be proud of it. And don’t expect that balance to stay the same forever, for as different challenges are presented, we have to modify how we balance our lives. Will we ever find the perfect balance? Yeah I think that is about as unlikely as me ever beating my daughter at Twister.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Fever

I totally have spring fever!  For the last four weeks, I have chomping at the bit to get the vegetable garden tilled, get the leaves cleared away and to GET PLANTING! Something about the Spring makes me feel like I need to get my hands in the dirt and get some color on.  I have been to the local plant shop three times already, perusing the seedlings and dreaming about the fantastic flower displays I am going to create.  Each time, the owner has to warn me off - it's too soon! wait until the end of April...no worry of frost. It is killing me!  I spend a dollar amount on flowers that I don't even want to contemplate. I'm a flower junkie in the Spring. 
The funny thing about it is, that each Spring I have these grand ideas - we've expanded our vegetable garden three times-and aspirations - "I WILL water my outside potted plants every day, just like Mom says to," but, inevitably, by about the second week of June, I'm sick of pulling weeds and I'm tired of having to drag the hose all around the outside of the house.  My grand plans go astray, and by the end of the summer, the remaining tomatoes, beans or whatever is still in the garden are rotting on the vine; the flowers are wilted and sad looking from dehydration.  Almost every year! 
Of course, they say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it...it's a work in progress.  Two years ago, I tried to solve the problem by planting only perennials - they are generally more self-sufficient- unfortunately, our dog seems to think that any new plant item is an upgraded toilet.  He kills ALL new plantings in the ground.  SO, last year, I opted for just annuals, in pots, so the dog would leave them alone.  Unfortunately, annuals actually require attention, and I don't have an eye for flower design, so again, I was unhappy.  This year I think I'll take the easy way out: plant tomatoes and prearranged flowers and plants -- then expend the rest of my "get dirty" energy looking for bugs with the kids! 
Happy Spring everyone!   


Monday, April 2, 2012

Line Jumping Lives - Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to my “line jumping lives”. If you missed that post, I like every working Mom am trying to find balance between my two lives of attorney v. Mommy. Although I try to keep my lives separate, parallel, and peaceful…often my lives do not want to cooperate. My personal life and professional life often find it very hard to co-exist peacefully leading them to infringe upon each other all the time, “line jumping” sort to speak.

When I last wrote about this topic, it was my professional life trying to butt in on my personal life. Well, apparently my personal life has been harboring a vendetta….

This week I have a federal two day trial. My partner asked me a few weeks back to 2nd chair a trial with her. I love litigation so any chance I get to be a part of it is like Christmas morning for my professional life. So, yes I was thrilled and excited about the prospect of this trial. If I have to work (which thanks to my husband’s recent loss of the Mega Millions jackpot, looks like something I will be doing for many years to come) then I want to litigate. And now my professional life was giving this opportunity.

So, my professional life was at its happiest, busy sure, but excited. And that’s when it was blind-sided as my personal life decided to butt in and try to rain on its parade. Oh no "butt in" is a little too kind, my personal life lodged a multi-faceted attack upon my professional life.

It started with the infamous note from backpack. I have come to find out that the backpack of a child very rarely holds good news. It either holds a note asking for money, or telling you at midnight that your child needs to wear red polka dot socks the next day. So I have learned my lesson to open it each night, preferrably before Target closes. As my daughter and I emptied her Hello Kitty backpack I saw the usuals: old homework, Market day brochures, pictures from art class, a library book. But then from the bottom J pulled out something she was very excited to show me. She pulled out a note…not just a note the hand drawn, colored with crayon kind of note. The kind of note you know is important…

I opened up the note. In my daughter’s precious Kindergarten-Crayola blue handwriting I read

“You are invited to my concert April 3rd at 1:00 p.m.”

Ka-Boom, first attack. April 3rd is the first day of my trial. The attack was major as this was not an invitation this was a handwritten invitation. Even though on the outside I was smiling ear to ear for my daughter’s sake a ton of emotions were festering. At first I got mad, really mad. I mean was there seriously no voices of reason in the “Let’s set a memory-saving scrapbook moment, pull out the video tape, adorable concert, during the work day, and give parents less than a week’s notice” meeting. Next came guilt as my daughter followed her invite with “You are going to love it Mommy, I’m singing about lunch!”. Then I felt defensive. Should I try and explain to my daughter that 99% of the time I am at school functions when most Moms aren’t there?? Nah, I doubt kindergartners are swayed by percentages.

I had to think fast, especially when faced with the big hazel eyes of a daughter who very rarely has to deal with her Mommy not being in the crowd. So I pulled out my big weapon…my best weapon, the big gun. “Hey, you know who can come….NANA. Nana is on spring break so I bet she can come!” I knew once I said Nana, I could slip in a “I can’t come J” and she wouldn’t even hear it. Mom is great, but Nana, Nana is AWESOME. Picture if you will, a crowd of parrotheads at a small county fair expecting a cover band but suddenly are surprised with Jimmy Buffet himself. That is Nana. Nana is idolized by my kids, so I knew if Nana was there, J would never even remember if I wasn’t there. Sure enough it worked, J smiled from ear to ear. Crisis averted.

Or was it? As I turned away, I heard J “Here Mommy, there’s this too”. J pulled yet another pink paper from her backpack. Could it be???? No, not after the last attack.

Yep, sneak attack.
Well played, personal life. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

Eat with your child week”. Yes, the week where you can bring in McDonalds and surprise your kids by eating lunch with them. I never miss this week as the thought of my daughter watching her classmates chomp on fries while she eats corn dog nuggets on a lunch tray is too much for me to handle.

Okay, don’t panic Mandi. It says it’s the WHOLE week…there is no way it will be on a day I can’t go.

But there it was, in bold Times New Roman, “Kindergarten: Monday”. Of course it's on Monday…the day of the rescheduled-one-to-many-times deposition that I can’t cancel. I had already used my top Nana weapon, so what on earth do I do now? But then a beacon of hope as I noticed the small print of “Make up day: Friday” on my calendar. Friday I can do. I explained to my daughter that I would come on FRIDAY, the best day of the week! She smiled. Whew…dodged another bullet.

Two attacks in one day, I’m sure even the most seasoned war soldier would have a hard time dealing with that.  

But it seems like my personal life wanted to hit me while I was down as the next day brought yet more bad news. This time it was delivered by messenger as my husband light-heardly said on the phone one afternoon while I was typing a motion at my desk “Oh by the way, the boys Easter Egg Hunt is next week”. Sure personal life, it’s not enough to use my daughter against me, you are going to throw in a toddler’s easter egg hunt. Ok I know you aren’t supposed to shoot the messenger, but I think when it’s your husband there is a an exception so I let out my frustration with a loud “REALLY? Let me guess, it’s Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?? Right!!?? RIGHT???????”.

I think Todd was afraid to answer, as he said “No, it’s Thursday” with a “please don’t bite off my head” type of tone. Okay, so this wasn’t an attack, just sort of a “don’t make me do it” reminder from my personal life that my working life was getting a little hectic and it could attack at any time so I better watch it.

I survived the attacks with some guilt and wiggling around of my schedule. I know I’m lucky, as I am blessed with a job that allows these type of attack weeks to be few and far between. I am grateful that to date I have yet to miss any big event, a job that allows me to be one of the only Moms climbing the bus on a field trip. I know I could have a job where that is not possible. But still, I can’t help but complain. It’s a war that working Moms face all the time, but there is no other way to say it other than just saying it…IT SUCKS.  

So here’s to hoping that all of you reading this are not engulfed in your own line jumping battle and having one of those weeks of peaceful co-existence! And if you’re not, hang in there, and perhaps wear a helmet…the attacks are swift and often painful!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Do You Use?

As I sat there watching commercials the other night, I wondered, does that new cream from Oil of Olay REALLY reduced wrinkles? And will those new magical Tide pods get the grass stains out of B’s white sweat pants? (Please feel free to comment on the fact that I purchase white sweat pants in the first place.)

As a working mom, I am typically looking for products that work quickly but don’t break my wallet. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for the extreme couponing, nor do I receive the Sunday paper. (Wow – I remember getting the G’burg Register Mail every day for my Dad – what happened to those days? Sorry – tangent!!)

So I started thinking about all of the products I use and wondered if you had any suggestions?

First, I will start with laundry – do those Tide pods actually work? Also, I have a red-headed hubby and blondies for children – so All Sensitive Skin/ All Clear detergent is a must. Any other products for sensitive skin you would suggest?

Second – make-up/lotions. This may surprise some of you, but I actually work out over lunch. Which means, make-up in the morning and reapply after the workout/shower. Is there a mascara you use that won’t smear/need to be removed after the shower? Or one that won’t leave black rings under my eyes? Also, for the dark circles, any magic potion you swear by? Or a moisturizer that helps with both wrinkles and zits BUT won’t leave your face oily?

Oh – and while I am thinking about it – any great shampoo and/or conditioner you use for swimmers’ hair? A & B are in the pool all of the time, and the chlorine just destroys their hair!

Finally, cleaning supplies. While my hubby would argue that this is not my area of expertise (and he would be right!), is there cleaner you use for your kitchen counters that will easily clean up everything from stuck on suckers to purple pop AND not smell like bleach?

Thank you for your tips! Have a great day!
Jean Anne

P.S. Sorry for the brief hiatus.  I was enjoying Spring Break in the Dells and did not touch my laptop for over 5 days!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Painful Goodbyes

I’ve always been a working Mom. Since the time J was 9 weeks old, I started working. Therefore, I’m no stranger to the repeated heartbreak us working Moms have to endure every day when we say goodbye to our kids and head off to work.

I’ve always had trouble with goodbyes. From the time I was a kid I cried pretty much every time I had to say goodbye to anyone. Movies with painful goodbyes? I was a wreck before the emotional instrumental interlude that plays as a car headed down the dusty dirt road even started. I was the kid that got homesick on sleepovers. I even hated college because I was away from my family.
But I was not prepared for what a true heartbreaking goodbye felt like until I had kids. To this day, I have delegated drop offs to my husband. I can’t stand being the one that has to take them to daycare and hear the cry. I’ll be the first one there to pick up and see that smile and running feet, but drop off…no way. Yes, I use my "I carried them for 9 months and had three c-sections, what did you do???" card with this chore.
Now I have to admit, I really don’t have any trouble leaving J and H anymore. I mean, technically now that J is in school, she “leaves” me in the morning. She heads off to Kindergarten bright and early and enjoys school so much, I don’t have a twinge of guilt about working. H is in pre-school and so we still have to drop him off, and yes there is the occasional “Do you have to work today?” moan from him on a Monday morning. But overall, he’s 4 so he gets it. He understands by now that Mom has to go to work, but then she’ll be back and in his mind Mommy works so the transformers and monster trucks can be in abundance. In other words, he'll bear some time without me for Bumblebee or Grave Digger.

But, then there is L. My baby. Not only my baby, but my baby baby, my youngest and last child. He by far and away has put me through the most heart wrenching goodbyes.
It seems L and I have had the world trying to keep us apart literally since his birth. When he was born, he swallowed a lot of fluid during my c-section and so instead of getting to hold him right away off he went to Neonatal ICU. He was kept from me for about 3 hours, well actually after about an hour I threw such a fit with the nurses in my recovery room that they made an exception and wheeled me down to visit him briefly. His was my only c-section that I didn't recover quickly and so I had to have a lot of help in the first couple of months. L was the easiest baby known to man and so when he was a baby, my husband opted to “take care of him” when we would go somewhere, leaving me to chase after a then 2 and 3 year old J and H.

L is now almost 2 years old and he is a notorious Mama’s Boy. It didn’t start this way, as he was started as Daddy’s little guy. But suddenly around 18 months old, he became glued at my hip. Now everywhere we go he’s right by my side.

And this has lead to L winning the prize of being the hardest person I have ever had to say goodbye to. I have to say of my three kids he wins the prize for breaking my heart the most at goodbyes.

When J was little she would cry when I would leave. She would even try and follow me to the door. But, once Todd lifted her up she stopped crying. H was a little harder in that when he was toddler and I would leave in the morning he would always say “Wait Mommy” and run and try to grab his shoes. But all I would have to do is pick him up and sing him our song (I stole from Wonder Pets) of "Wherever you are, whatever you do, I'll always always come back for you"...and instantly he was calmed down.
L? Well, I'm not getting off even remotely that easy. Every time I have to leave him he comes up to me with his huge brown eyes and says “Momma, I’ll come with you”. He repeats this over and over while he follows me around. Sometimes in a statement, and sometimes in a question begging me to let him come.

I don’t know if it’s the sound of his voice, or the fact that this is the first sentence my quiet son has spoken, but each time he says this it breaks my heart a little more. It’s like a small crack in the wall of an aquarium each time he says it another crack, another one, another one…and I feel with every line it’s going to shatter and the water (or in my case tears) will come out.

I know someday he'll understand. I know he'll learn like J and H that Mommy honestly does not want to go and will be back before you know it. But until then I just have to endure the line, or in reality try and sneak out the door as fast as I can.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Lately, things have been rolling along pretty smoothly. No major issues at work; no major issues at home...it's starting to make me a little nervous!    My daughter is just her same old perky, quirky self.   I have no concerns or complaints about her, other than she is WAY emotional - especially when she feels like someone is making fun of her (usually her brother).   Better yet, I haven't considered calling in an exorcist to deal with my son for at least a week!
    Over the last few weeks I have been polling my friends and colleagues who have boys just to confirm that my son is not really the devil incarnate.  This led to a very interesting conversation with another attorney friend, who has a teenage son.  Not only did he confirm that B's behavior -defiance, testing limits, etc.- is completely normal for his age, but went on to advise that this behavior is not likely to change until he is in his late teens/early 20's.  IN FACT, it might actually get WORSE as he gets older.  He advised that studies have shown that boys actually STOP learning how to be common-sensical when they become teenagers.  They can't help it - their brain stops maturing; so the reason that teenage boys act so dumb is, well, because they ARE so dumb! 
   As frustrating as that makes the future sound, it's actually a relief to me.  There have been times over the last several months where I have consulted professional friends regarding whether B needs psychological intervention.  I work a lot with kids that have been diagnosed with  Oppositional Defiant Disorder and, frankly, see many of those traits in my son at one time or another.  I also work with their parents, and there is nothing so sad as a parent trying to help a kid when it doesn't work.  It is one of my deepest fears that one of my children will have a psychological or psychiatric condition that can not be "cured."  
    So, finding out that B's behavior - no matter how awful, loud, mean and, ultimately pointless (because honestly, does he ever actually WIN? - NO) - is completely normal is a relief.  It also makes the next several years seem less daunting.  He's a smart, willful kid, so I don't see him making this easy on us, but at least I can take comfort (when I am secretly wanting to wring his neck) that he's a normal kid. It makes dealing with the disrespect and conflict a little easier for me to handle. After the confrontation, I don't have to worry that he's literally out of control and how to deal with it; I just have to prepare myself for the next battle. And keep reminding myself that things will get better, things WILL get better...things will get better....(in about 10 years - but that part, I choose to ignore!) 
   So, maybe things are not so much changed at home; I just am dealing with it in a more pragmatic way... Anyway, to all of you out there fighting the fight to raise good, kind boys and men, I commend you! We have our work cut out for us, but I know we can do it!     


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Car Ride

A dark night. A quiet road….the perfect recipe for something to go wrong.

There I was with my family driving home from a night at my parents house. It was  a great night. Todd and I were able to get away for a date night and had a wonderful dinner together. The kids had a blast (as usual) playing with my parents.
So around 8:30 p.m. we packed up everyone in my new van. Last month Todd and I bought a new Honda Odyssey and as all my friends and family know…I’m in love with this van. It’s the first car I have ever bought that is completely loaded. You never know its possible to love a car until you can leave your iPhone in your purse and it magically will play without being plugged in. The love for a new van begins about the time your butt is first warmed by the heated seat....

But I digress. So there we were loading up the van. I put J and H in the way back and buckled them in. I gave them their pillows and blankets as I knew they would certainly pass out from all the fun they had at their Nana and Opa’s house. And as my luck would have it my kids were picky about what blanket they wanted: “I want the Iowa one, that’s my blanket…etc. etc. etc.” So I threw in about every blanket in my van, put on Toy Story on the DVD player. Made sure L was ready to go and off we went.
Now I usually love car rides home at night with my family. My kids usually pass out by the time we pass the Dairy Queen in my small town, and so Todd and I usually just talk or listen to some music. It’s a quiet opportunity to relax, hang out with my husband, and just veg out for the hour long drive.

We got on the interstate. It was pitch black, quiet, calm. I put on my favorite Adele album and Todd and I just talked about random things.

Suddenly a small voice from the back…muffled and quiet came from H.
“What?” I said. It was repeated but I still couldn't hear him. I turned down my stereo and said “WHAT?” again. Still couldn't hear him, so I thought...well I guess it is not that important.

But oh was it important as my little H was warning me about what was to come. About 2.2 seconds later my princess Diva of a daughter was screaming…”EEEWW He’s throwing up…Mommy he’s throwing up”.
It’s about that time, that reality kicked in and I learned the lesson that when a four year old little voice says something you can't hear, make sure you hear it! When my husband turned on the lights in the van, there was H throwing up all over my new van. Luckily we weren’t that far from the gas station and so we pulled over. We pulled in, J was seeking someone to acknowledge that she was wronged as she was thrown up on, Todd said he was starting to feel sick too. Only L and I stayed calm…he because Buzz Lightyear was entertaining him. Me, because well there was no one else.

It was one of those times where you just don’t know where to begin to clean up the mess. Thankfully due to the Blanketgate battle between my kids I had about 5 blankets in the back so the blankets took the brunt force. But still, H had thrown up a lot and it was all over.

About ½ hour later, three trips in and out of the gas station, 2 eye rolls toward my husband when he said they didn’t have cleaners or garbage bags in there, and one “I saved my brother” speech from J after she realized that she alone alerted me to the mess, I had him and the van somewhat cleaned up.

As I held another Walmart bag out for H to again throw up in, my husband walked away and said “I don’t know how you do that” feeling the twinges of his own stomach flu about to hit.

I love when people say that…”I don’t know how you do it”…I mean come on, what were my options? I’m his mother. It’s my job to get puked on apparently. And come on...does the person who's holding the barf bag every really have a choice???

When H finally had a little more color to his cheeks, I walked him into the gas station bathroom to clean up (again). He started to cry. ‘Mommy I ruined your new van”. I can imagine why his tears were so strong. I mean after all, I was still somewhat in the honeymoon phase of my van…you know the phase where you tell everyone they can’t eat or drink in your car, wear their dirty shoes, or climb on the seats. So I bet to my little 4 year old, he thought he committed a cardinal sin that would land him in time out forever.

He was relieved when I just smiled at him and gave him a huge hug. I grabbed his shoulders and said “Hey, no big deal H. I mean you throw up in every one of my cars, so hey at least we got that over with now right?”

Yep, that’s the job of a Mom. We get thrown up on, watch our new car get slimed, and yet, the anger we think we would feel in a situation, we don’t have. All I felt in that situation was helplessness that I still had to get my little boy home and we had 45 minutes to go.
I climbed in the back seat with H, for two reasons: (1) I wanted to comfort him and catch anything else and (2) because I knew J would surely need a therapist if she was forced to get thrown up on again. In the back, I sang to H, rubbed his head, adjusted the large garbage bag we managed to find and drape over H like a bib. I popped Altoids consistently in my mouth to try and drown out the smell.

And you know what? Still in all of that there was no place I’d rather be. We got home just fine. Cleaned up the mess on the kitchen floor that happened after H got sick yet again, tucked him in, and as I hugged him I heard him say his little “I love you Momma”.

There it is. "I love you Momma". If my husband wasn't in the bathroom dealing with his own stomach flu I would have told him those four words right there are the reason why Moms can do what we do. We'll get thrown up on, we'll be tired beyond belief, we'll put up with crabby toddlers...all usually without notice or appreciation. But we do it because of those four words. Plain and simple. 

And yes, I tried to remember this as I spent my Sunday scrubbing up the remains of the joyous car ride with the car wash spot cleaner! 


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Top 5

As I attempted to find time to write my blog post this week, every opportunity/brief opening I had suddenly seemed to fill up with meetings, errands, reports, etc.  For some reason, tasks that should have taken 10 minutes suddenly took an hour.  And things that I delegated soon came right back in my inbox.  Even now, A just came downstairs to see what was going on.  So given this madness, I feel that this post should just be fun! 

I not sure how we got talking about this, but someone began talking about favorite episodes of "older" TV shows - Seinfeld, Friends, etc.  And, of course, someone mentioned the "Top 5" episode from Friends (you know - the one  all consider what five celebrities would be on their "freebie list?).  So today's post is all about who would be on your "freebie list."  (And yes, we are all happily married...but this is just for fun!!)

My top 5 list is:
1. Matthew McConaughey - from Dazed & Confused to his Dolce & Gabbana ads..."alright, alright, alright."  This man looks great in a $3,000 suit, in a pair of ripped jeans ("A Time to Kill) or without a shirt.  Plus, I love his accent.
2. Sean Connery/Pierce Brosnan/James Bond - I have had a huge crush on James Bond ever since I was a little girl.  The cool cars, the style, the confidence.  And who doesn't love Sean Connery's voice?
3. Mark Harmon - I love the tv characters he plays.  Plus, he played QB for UCLA!  And if Scott were to go gray...please be like Mark Harmon!!
4. Aaron Rodgers - QB for the Packers.  Hot guy who loves sports and just seems like a regular guy.  Let's hope he stays on the list longer than the last Green Bay QB. 
5. Any of the hotties from the USA network shows (Matt Bomer from White Collar, Gabriel Macht from Suits, Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice or Christopher Gorham from Covert Affairs).  Can you tell what my DVR is set to?  And yes, NCIS also shows reruns on USA too!!

So that's it!  There have been many changes over the years (thank you Brett Favre and Tiger Woods for your scandals!!).  And this list is not static (although Matthew M has always been there). 

How about you?  Who would be in your top 5?  I love the hear what people have to say - there are always surprises!  My favorite one was "David Beckham is my #1, #2, #5, #17, #95 etc." 

I hope this makes you smile :)

Jean Anne

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sacrifices Part II

Okay, I want to preface this Part II with the following: First, I in no way intended to imply that letting your children watch inappropriate television is grounds to have them removed from your care – at least not with the examples that I used. Second, I am not a Saint – I freely admit that I have made my share of bad parenting decisions. Finally, I am IN NO WAY trying to tell people what to do. These are my thoughts only. I am not planning to run for Congress and force my idea of parenting on ANYONE.  Those disclaimers being made…

Sacrifices Part II – The Sacrifices We Make Our Kids Make

        Firstly, I use the word “sacrifices” in this context ironically.  What my kids think is a sacrifice is what I think of as common sense.  What I mean by the title is that I believe we have a duty to our children to tell them “No” and to not allow them to rule the roost.
        This applies to just about every aspect of childhood. “Can I eat cake for breakfast?” – No; “Can I have $20 to buy Pokemon cards?” – No; “Can I play outside in the winter with no coat?” – No.  And, in the interest of full disclosure, at my house these requests are not so kindly made – if they are made at all.  More realistically, it’s either my husband or I catching B sitting in the living room watching cartoons with the candy jar hidden beside him…or outside in the winter without a coat.  Or demanding money for whatever he wants. There is no asking involved…and there’s usually a subsequent argument.  That’s real life.  And it can be ugly and frustrating, but it’s important, I think, that kids learn that instant gratification is not as cool as it seems.
        Goodness knows my kids WANT everything. But what they NEED is to learn that money has value, that people have to work hard to earn the money that they earn and they need to work hard to earn their own money. More importantly, they need tor respect and be grateful to those that do spend money on they things they want.  Without that respect for the difficulty of obtaining cash, kids think they are entitled to anything they want, that there is no reason why they should not and cannot have it, come to expect it as a matter of course.  Now, I'm not naive or "liberal" to the point that I don't see that this applies to adults as well, but that's another topic.
        When it comes to raising children, you have to be mindful of the boundaries, and make sure that the things they do and like are appropriate for them.  My son is 9. If he had his way, he would spend his life watching cartoons and shows about teenagers being rude to their parents and sometimes cruel to each other in the name of comedy on Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.  And while I understand that he s almost a 'tween and that his friends are all watching these shows, I don't think they are appropriate, so I have to say NO. He learns the little sayings and behaviors anyway, but at least I can say that I did not contribute to it!
        But I know that if I did let him watch those shows, or did take him to the Fast and the Furious in his pajamas when he was 2 just because I wanted to see it and happened to have a kid, he would be a LOT worse.
        B also has a chore chart. When he does his chores, he earns $5 per week. I encourage him, but usually don’t force him, to do his chores.  If he does, he gets allowance; if he doesn’t, he doesn’t. Simple. And because he now has some responsibility I can say – “If you want the Pokemon book, you spend your own money. You don’t have enough in your allowance account, yet.” That’s not to say that he doesn’t grouse about it, but he accepts it as a No. –My son hears “No” a lot. He is on the cusp of actually understanding that just because there are credit cards in my purse doesn’t mean they are attached to unlimited amounts of cash.  So when I do buy him something, he is starting to see the value in the gift (I hope).
        Anyway, the moral of the story is that kids need boundaries if they are going to grow up and be socially-conscious human beings that other adults are willing to be around. In my opinion.     

Monday, March 5, 2012


Well, you may have been wondering where I was last week. Exciting cruise? Exotic vacation?


The reason for my blog absence was simple and not nearly as exciting. For the last few weeks I seem to have been taking on yet another job to add to my resume. Mother, Wife, Taxi Driver, Cleaner, Chef, Nurse, Attorney, and (drumroll please)….Saleswoman.
And boy has my Saleswoman life has been in overdrive.

Have you ever noticed that once you become a mother to a pre-school or school aged child you are instantly made a salesperson? I don't have a degree in sales, never been any good at it, yet as a Mom I am forced to be an expert at it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of being so excited to earn a heart shaped cassette player or set of fruit flavor smelling erasers after going door to door to sell wrapping paper or summer sausage to my neighbors…but why does it seem like now a days it is so much worse? One fundraiser a year is a lot different than 1 a month.

Now, before you all jump down my throat, I do understand that fundraising is important. But I have to sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just send a letter home to parents: "Dear Mom and Dad of student, we want to update our school and hey, we don't have the money. So please send a check for $X of dollars so we can keep up with those fancy schools you see on TV. Sincerly, Your School". Trust me after the fundraising stint I have had lately, I would happily rip that check out of the check book and would even add on $20 for not having to look like an idiot walking around selling bread dough. So just ask me for money....I promise I'll give it to you!

From the moment J started school it literally feels like almost every month there is a new fundraiser in her backpack. Pizzas, cookie dough, you name it, they want J to sell it. And because J is only in kindergarten this means that I have to sell it. Not J.

We just finished a stint of the biggest fundraiser we’ve had to date….girl scout cookies. I swear God is paying me back in kind for every hurried trip I had to Wal-Mart and breezed past those little girl scouts standing there selling cookies. J’s troop leader encouraged the girls to hit a goal and thankfully for me J wanted this little stuffed animal thing and only had a goal to sell 150 boxes. Okay, 150 boxes, we can do that right? Actually what I honestly thought was “Okay get my calculator, how much would I have to write a check for if I couldn’t sell them”. So we started selling girl scout cookies. At first it was easy, as Todd works nights at a factory and so those guys were eating them up (literally). But after 75 boxes we hit a stall. Fundraiser Mandi stepped in and my Facebook, emails, and office were filled with “Buy J’s Cookies” speeches and posts. Finally, we sold the last box of Thin Mints and we were done.

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t really mind cookies or stuff like that, but the absolute worse fundraiser out there, the one that makes me cringe every time I unzip the backpack and see it in there is... MAGAZINES. Seriously, who was the person who invented making kids sell magazines? I mean I can't talk my co-worker into buying a box of Caramel Delites, but you think I can convince them to have a year subscription of Better Homes and Gardens for $49.99?  Cookies, bread dough, pizza...zero commitment, but magazines that's a commitment. 
 No joke, J has had 3 magazine fundraisers this year. 3! The only one we did was the girl scout one because I was terrified if I didn’t do it that J would be the only little Daisy up there without a patch. So I emailed my family, begging them to please get a magazine from J. Sure enough we sold them, as I think my family could sense the desperation in my typing. But oh it wasn’t that easy, as now my brother texts me at least once a month telling me that some random Bass Fishing magazine or something he didn’t ordered has filled his mailbox. So now in addition to the sales department I am head of the complaint department as well. Oh how I hate the magazines.

The bad thing all this fundraising has done is that it has just made me mad about them, and so I’ll admit that 3 out of 4 times I don’t even do them. But then I realized that’s not good because every now and then there is a good one I want to help. For example, just as I boycotted all fundraisers I realized almost at the last minute that J was doing Jump Rope for Heart…and that’s a good one. So, I grabbed my check book and instantly wrote out a check. I felt bad I almost missed a good one just because I was so burned out on sales.

The sad thing is that I have 1 child in school now. H is right on her heels and L is a few years away. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when all three are in school. I’m literally going to have to create a facebook page of “I have something to sell, so please buy it”.

So next time you see a fundraiser in your break room at work, or you see a little girl scout at Wal-Mart…do me a favor, buy from them. Not just for the cute little boys and girls selling you stuff you don’t need…but simply for the Mom, as behind each cute face is a stressed out Mom that desperately needs you to buy their stuff so she can stop selling and get on with her life!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Suddenly, It's March

Welcome to March! I know that we had an extra day in February, but sadly, I am still behind. Could it be that we are almost at Spring Break? (And as I type this my lack-of-focus brain thinks – “Spring Break – woo-hoo! Oh wait, I’m not in college anymore!”)

I was supposed to have so much completed by this time:

• New pictures in frames in hallway

• Lose 10 pounds (or at least 5)

• A & B eating healthier

• Better communications with my family and friends (not just the occasional random email)

• New databases at work

• Better filing at work

• Summer “nanny” for A & B

• New recipes for home

• A pedicure

Do you know how many I have completed? One – maybe – if you count that A is asking for bananas rather than Airheads and B is living on yogurt instead of cheese puffs. What happened?

The one that currently concerns me the most is the summer “nanny” for A & B. (I am using quote marks around nanny, because I really hate the term sitter and I typically think of a nanny as also running errands, doing light cleaning, cooking, etc.) At this point, we don’t have any person lined up for the summer to watch A & B. And I am not sure where to go next….

A & B currently have it pretty easy. After school, we have a wonderful person who picks up A & B, and watches them until Hubby and I get home from work. She is great – lets them watch a little TV, helps them with their spelling words, gets them a healthy snack, etc. Plus, she also helps get them ready for swimming, dance, soccer practice, etc. Given the fact that A & B get one-on-one attention (for the most part), this is well worth it (and a lot cheaper than before!).

Unfortunately, she is unable to watch them full time during the summer. Which leaves us with finding someone new. While we have been in our house for almost 8 years, we still somewhat feel “new” to the area and don’t know that many people. Even more difficult is the fact that I am trying to find someone that fits perfectly with my family.

I currently am stuck with trying to find someone responsible who can “haul” A & B around all summer, whether it be to swimming, soccer, softball, dance camp, camps at the SCI or Blank Park Zoo or maybe just spend a day at Adventureland. And I honestly think, most days, they are pretty easy to hang out with.

But, I am not ready to give this responsibility to a 16 year old. Hello – do you remember how you drove when you were 16? And for most of you, the distractions didn’t include texting/IMing while driving. On the other hand, I am not sure a college student I barely know works either.

So all thoughts would be appreciated. What are your plans for your kids this summer?


Jean Anne

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Apologies to my co-JD Moms for missing my blog last week. A migraine
had me incapacitated most of the day on Wednesday.  For today and
Friday, I've been wracking my brain thinking of something profound and
meaningful to talk about. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything!
Since our vacation, things have been pretty mundane around my house
and (thank goodness for small blessings) work.  Pretty much work for
me, school for the kids, nothing special, same old same old.  I know
that kids need consistency, but geesh, consistency can be downright
boring.  My big event this month was taking the kids to see The Secret
World of Arrietty.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good Japanese
animated movie, especially with Carol Burnett in it, but it certainly
wouldn't have been my first choice of films to see.  From Netflix
we've gotten Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and Night at the
Museum II.  TV remains limited to Good Luck, Charlie, Pokemon and a
few episodes of Cupcake Wars.  Cupcake Wars notwithstanding, you can
see that some sacrifices have been made in the entertainment portion
of my life. 
Thinking about what I do watch versus what I want to watch got me
reflecting on our vacation. All the things I wanted to do versus all
the things I ended up doing because the kids wanted to do something
different.  I think there may be something profound here after all... and in two parts! 

Part I -Sacrifices we make for our kids
Part II - Sacrifices we make our kids make

Part I -

In reflecting on raising good kids, or at least giving it the old college try, I think its all about sacrifice.  This is based on my personal experience, on my observations of friends and family, and on my experience with families through work.  Being a good mom to young kids and raising good kids
is ALL about sacrifice.  You HAVE to put what they want and need over
what you want and need. Bottom line. And lots of times you have to put
what they NEED over what they WANT. (That'll be Part II - on Friday)  

With respect to sacrificing, my experience and current running theory
is that the more you sacrifice what you want - i.e.:actually being an
adult - watching R movies, having the ocassional drink, dropping the
occasional F bomb without guilt - and focus on what your kids need, the better
off they'll be. That sounds like such a "DUH" statement, doesn't it? But really, if you think about it, it's a tricky business. Because not only do
you have to pretend to enjoy, or at least quietly tolerate, the things
they do and like - Pokemon, Littlest Pet Shops, Good Luck, Charlie - you have to limit their exposure to the things YOU enjoy - CSI, War movies, getting a little tipsy once in a while - and, honestly, by limit, I mean "completely restrict" :)  

And while I disagree that organizations should be allowed to dictate what our kids watch and listen to, and that there is "parental discretion," lets be honest, not every parent is as discrete as they should be. I am not always as discrete as I should be, but that discretion is also sacrifice.   It is entirely inappropriate for a 7 year old to watch an execution; for a 4 year old to watch women giving birth, and for a 2 year old to go to the theater for a 10:30 p.m. showing of The Fast and the Furious. (all true stories, only one of them mine)  It's against the law to supervise your young children when you are drunk.  Just ask many, many of my former clients.  My work case load is replete with cases where the parents decided that they were not willing or not able to sacrifice what they wanted to do for the sake of what was best for their kids. (All CINA cases boil down to the same thing - either the parent is willing to sacrifice for his child or he's not.  If he's not, he loses the child.)  

Young children are not supposed to be exposed to those things for a reason, and when we, as parents, are not willing to give up those things - or at least limit our own exposure to those things to when our children are not around, we are doing them a disservice.  Thus, the sacrifice.  

For a long time before my kids were born, I was not willing to give up the things I liked to do. My husband and I told people we were too selfish to have kids, and while I said it sort of "tongue in cheek" in retrospect I know that it was true.  You can't be selfish and raise a good, healthy, secure kid. You have to sacrifice a lot to get there.  

At the end of our vacation, arriving at the Des Moines airport at 2a.m., after a LONG trip home from Florida and a delay in Minneapolis, we were waiting for our luggage. A man who was also waiting, and was observing my kids interact with each other, asked if they were mine. He said "they're good kids. it's not easy to stay in a good mood at this time of night, even for adults."  WOW! 

I know that, while I don't always like it - and sometimes I downright resent it - the sacrifices have paid off. Compliments from a complete stranger make it all worth while...


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekend Travel

Last weekend, Husband, the kids and I packed up and set off for Iowa in celebration of my nieces' and nephew's birthdays. I'm not sure how my brother and his wife did it, but somehow they managed to have three kids exactly two years apart, all born within the same week.  It's really a great situation for us: they live pretty far away and the birthday cluster means we can celebrate all three kids' birthdays in one visit.  Because while we'd like to visit more often, it really isn't possible.  And last weekend really just brought that point home. 

My brother's family lives 5 1/2 hours away.  It's an easy drive and one both Husband and I know well - one or the other of us (most often Husband, who was at the time Boyfriend) made that drive every other weekend while I was in law school.  But 5 1/2 hours when you are single is a lot different than 5 1/2 hours with two kids, a house and two jobs.  First of all, it no longer takes only 5 1/2 hours.  Now there are bathroom breaks and dinner breaks and stop-kicking-my-seat breaks.  And the packing is a lot more labor intensive.  We were planning to stay at my brother's house, but since he already has a pretty full house staying with them means bringing air mattresses and sleeping bags and extra blankets and just generally a lot more stuff.  Of course, it's way more fun to stay with them, but it makes packing a bit harder. 

We had a plan in place to make the trip run smoothly.  I (of course) had to work on Friday, so Husband was going to stay home with the kids and get things packed so that we could leave when I got home from work, which would hopefully be early.  Unfortunately, Husband got called into work on Friday.  And I did not get home from work at a time I would describe as "early" when planning a 5 hour drive.   At 6 pm, I was just walking through the door, the kids had not been fed, no packing had been done and Husband was still typing away madly on his laptop.  Not a good sign. 

Thankfully the kids were troopers and helped me throw a bunch of stuff together while Husband wrapped things up.  The kids also staved off hunger for a bit so that we could get on the road and get going before stopping to eat.  In the end we drove about halfway to my brother's before we threw in the towel and got a hotel room for the night. 

The next morning, of course, we had to get up early to make the rest of the trip.  And it went fine.  The kids traveled well, and the promise of seeing their cousins in a few short hours was exciting.  We had a fantastic visit with my brother and his family, and I so enjoyed seeing my nieces and nephew. 

But the next day we had to turn around a go home again.  And this time, we had to go all the way home.  The kids were good in the car and made up a few new games.  Really, the time went quickly.  But despite leaving in the very early afternoon on Sunday, we didn't get home until after the kids bedtime.  We had to get them to bed, unpack and get all of our stuff - and all of their stuff - ready for the day ahead.  Just looking at the mountain of laundry that night, I knew we were in for a rough week. 

And a rough week it was.  It took most of a week for us to get back on track.  Between bring-in items for school, mountains of mail and getting a week and a half worth of clothes clean and back into dressers, it took a while for us to get back into the groove of things.  I was never so excited for a "regular" weekend as I was this past one.  I never would have thought that a weekend with "just" dance and hockey and gymnastics would seem so free.  And I greedily started looking forward to next weekend, when for some reason both gymnastics and hockey were cancelled.  That is, I was looking forward to it until Husband casually mentioned that since the kids' sports were cancelled it would be a good weekend to go visit his parents. 

He's right, it's a good opportunity.  But I'm not sure I'm ready to take on any more traveling just yet!