Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Tooth Fairy Doesn't Live Here Anymore...

I'll never forget the look on my now 12-year old son Evan's face the night he was faced with the reality of what he had been suspecting since the fourth grade. Granted, most little boys don't notice much, which is why you can get away with many of the little white lies necessary to keep peace in a house with three kids... But after skillfully skirting the question of "Why does the Tooth Fairy's handwriting look like yours, dad?!" many times, we knew that the moment of truth was quickly approaching as our children grew out of their childhood oblivion and into the more skeptical tween years, we just didn't know when or how it would happen...

Anyway, the kids were all finally tucked in and I requested the appropriate note from the Tooth Fairy quietly sitting next to me in bed and then dutifully put my little package of money and chocolate beside me on the night stand so I would not forget to deliver it before I fell asleep, which, as you know, becomes a whole other white lie fabricated those many times after your 4-year old wakes up at 6am and storms into your room crying because the Tooth Fairy didn't come and you panic realizing that the last thing you remember was Elaine telling her "yada, yada, yada" story to George and Jerry! ("Oh, honey, the tooth fairy must have had sore wings last night and not able to fly, but I'm sure she will come tonight!")

So that particular evening, fairy package ready to go, as we settled in to enjoy our 100th Seinfeld rerun that we couldn't miss, Evan decided to come into our room to tell us something he had forgotten to tell us the third time he asked us to tuck him in, again, and just so happened to glance down and look straight at his favorite candy bar, a note with daddy's, aka The Tooth Fairy's, handwriting and $11 dollars all neatly stacked on my night stand and looked at us both with a look that can only be described as an instantaneous loss of childhood belief and wonder coupled with the detective's "I knew it!" smug discovery of proof of something he had suspected for a long time... 

Hardly able to register what had just happened to our mythical world, I quickly realized that there was no fantastic fabrication that could take care of this; the gig was finally up! At least for my 11-year old, anyway. (Yes, it did go on a long time for him, didn't it?!) And after swearing him to secrecy to protect the still-present faith of his younger siblings, we laughed in what was now his inclusion in our adult conspiracy.

Certainly, as we all already know or will come to know, that loss of our children's innocence is a little sad, as we begin to realize that our kids are quickly growing up and the days of implicit trust in the magic that makes fairies and reindeers fly or gives a gigantic bunny the strength and endurance to hop around to every house in the world delivering eggs and baskets are coming to an end. (Okay, I have to admit, I gave that one up a long time ago! I just couldn't buy into the giant, mutant bunny thing!)

But on the brighter side, as a parent, there is actually a bit of freedom that results from no longer having to carry out the ruse with Evan any any longer. In fact, now when he loses his 18th tooth at 8pm after a wrestling match with his brother, we simply look at each other with an implicit wink and I can relax, knowing that since I don't have any bills in my wallet again, I can just buy him a candy bar tomorrow, write him a check for $18 and fall asleep to Seinfeld without worry... And yes, what was I thinking when I told the kids that our apparently overly-generous fairy pays cumulatively per tooth? I obviously did not remember that children lose 20 teeth each and that they always fall out when you just used the last of all your real cash for your babysitter!

So, as Christmas quickly approaches and my two younger children have reached the wise, old years of 7 and 9, fourth grade classroom chatter from believers and non-believers alike has once again taken over and we are now being bombarded with questions as direct as "Mom, are you Santa?!" and threats of staying up all night to find out once and for all if our chimney really is big enough for someone so fat and jolly.

Skillfully dodging these questions with "Well, if you don't believe, then he may not come!", we manage, so far, to buy some more time, dodging the truth to try and preserve just one more year of delight and wonder at how Santa was able to faithfully deliver exactly what they asked him for on Christmas morning...

Surprisingly, now that Evan knows the Tooth Fairy doesn't live here anymore, and I am certain that he will recognize Santa's handwriting on the note left by the half-eaten carrot and plate of crumbs beside the fireplace, he has not asked a single question or uttered a word of doubt. Perhaps he is secretly protecting his brother and sister from what he thinks, but doesn't quite know yet, is the truth. Or perhaps, in his currently complicated 12-year-old, pre-teen, angst-ridden world, he is protecting his own need for the comfort and reassurance of a belief that for him, still represents the magic and simplicity of being a little kid. And as an adult who has often longed for simpler times myself, I am happy to perpetuate this last myth. So, Yes, Evan, the Tooth Fairy may not live here anymore, but there is a Santa Claus!

Finally, I'd like to wish all of you your own very uncomplicated, happy, safe and relaxing holiday season. Thank you for reading my blog, personally sharing your great comments of understanding and support, and being part of all these universal experiences we share together. Here's to the existence of magic in all our lives! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

To Believe or Not to Believe; Our Ability to Question

My daughter, Nikki, told us the other day that a little boy, who is given to being precocious on a daily basis, stood up in the middle of her second grade class and proudly announced "I have something to say; I do not believe in God!" Understandably, according to Nikki, her teacher was a bit rattled by this unexpected and potentially upsetting statement made most likely to get attention, and told him sternly to sit down, promptly cutting off any further second grade proselytizing...

Now while I know for a fact that her teacher is open-minded enough to accept all his students differences, this boy's unusual proclamation of atheism at age seven was a little more complicated than 5-Step Math and was obviously not a topic on which he was prepared to open up a discussion! I can only imagine the calls to the principal on that one!

Certainly, religion, faith and our various beliefs can be a difficult concept for adults, let alone children, to grasp. And unless you are raised in a household that doesn't provide any opportunity to even question attending Saturday synagogue, Sunday mass or the very existence of God, Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Buddha or Vishnu, then as an open-minded, liberal adult in a free country, most of us generally customize our religions to what currently makes sense to our lives and value systems.

Whether receiving Sunday communion while privately believing that Adam and Eve really were descendants of Lucy Australopithecus or maybe having unwavering faith that your spirit will reincarnate as a bird but secretly questioning how anyone can seriously have a blue body and four arms... No matter the religion, it is challenging to fanatically believe in every doctrine or deity without some doubt, isn't it?

Personally, although I was baptized as a Catholic, growing up with a mom and dad who each had their knuckles beat by nuns with rulers in boarding school, I was never forced to go to church each Sunday but found it to be very comforting to me, especially during the younger, darker periods in my life. The beauty of the old churches coupled with the quiet progression of the traditional Catholic mass and singing of hymns (Baptist service this was not!) left me with a sense of guilt-free peace. Of course, looking back, getting the giggles uncontrollably with my friend as someone sang a hymn out of tune was also a terrifyingly fun memory of those Sundays, as well!

After I had children, I was determined to at least give them a Catholic foundation at an early age, so each Sunday I marched them all up to attend mass as my husband, a self-porclaimed heathen, attended the Church of the NFL. I soon realized, however, that my memories of peace and comfort were quickly becoming a new reality of sweat-induced stress as my children wriggled and poked at each other, tried to lie down in the pews, wrote on all the donation envelopes with little golf pencils, dropped the little golf pencils under the pews 10 times, each asked to go to the bathroom at least once, asked me 20 times how many songs were left before it was time to leave so they could get the donut I threatened to take away at least 15 times as I apologized to the older lady sitting next to me who refused to offer her hand to me as a sign of peace simply because I had wiped Nikki's nose with it! How's that for Christian fellowship?!

Needless to say, I began to question the effectiveness of my very structured religion as it related to my very unstructured children! But I persevered, getting both Evan and Luke through Holy Communion classes that they hardly understood so they could share in a Sacrament so central to the Catholic faith. And now that they are older, I have let them decide if they would like to come to mass with me on Sundays or stay home with their heathen father to watch football. I think you can guess how this usually ends up...

So as I'm writing this on the day that Nikki is poised to participate in the sacrament of First Reconciliation, the rite before Communion where she must confess her sins of being mean to her brothers or not listening to mom, she is understandably terrified to sit in front of our priest tonight and I, as a proud and open-minded "Cafeteria Catholic" of course question the tenet that at seven years old we have sinned badly enough to warrant a confession.

But I will get her through this, because I am also a traditional, guilt-ridden Cafeteria Catholic, and therefore want her to grow up with some kind of foundation of faith and belief that she can in turn question when she gets older. And whether it's Buddha, God or NFL heathen, she will be free to make a choice about her own religion, as long as she doesn't stand up in the middle of class to tell everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Indignities of Aging Gracefully...

Last week I woke up and noticed that the inside corner of my right eye was a little sore and I couldn't remember if I or my children, the usual suspects, had done anything to it with a finger, elbow, skull or flying hoodie zipper, which is mostly how I get hurt these days!

I forgot about it until the the next morning when the whole area around my eye had puffed up so much it was as though someone had blown a perfect egg-shaped bubble into the vacuum now left by the lack of collagen there. And as I looked even more closely, the sore spot in the corner had become a red bump and there were now about six more rising around my face and mouth. A horror show right in time for Halloween, perfect!

Now assuming I had gotten bit by a spider, I immediately began my I-phone exam and proceeded to give myself yet another one of my most accurate "Dr. Google" self-diagnoses, finding all the sites that confirmed that yes, some hairy arachnid crawling all over my face in the middle of the night and angrily biting me seven times was a perfectly logical and plausible explanation of what had happened to the whole right side of my face.

A week later, those bumps and swelling had gotten even worse and more painful, so I finally decided to go to the doctor to make sure that angry spider had not given me an angry infection. Well, as it turns out, after eyeing me skeptically, asking me if I had actually seen or caught that supposed attacking spider and then following up with some other non-webMD questions, it turns out "Dr. Google" wasn't right after all! Go figure! And I went to Apple class for weeks for my degree!

As it turns out, it wasn't poisonous spider venom causing this at all but my very own over-40 body's very visual and Type-A reaction to whatever stress is going on in my life right now (that's a whole other blog!) in the form of canker sores all over my face! As if the indignity of stress and aging behind your clothes isn't enough, now I have to wear it out in the open, too?!

Now I know I'm going to get all kinds of weird looks providing you with this highly personal information, and I have to admit I toyed with the idea of putting a picture of myself on Facebook to share with my mom and dad and my other 2 friends but decided maybe that would be way less interesting than what my cat had for dinner last night. Besides, I was low on Blog material...

But a funny thing happened as I began to tell my other 40-something, non-internet followers; they began to confide similar embarrassing reactions or let's call them indignities to stress and aging, too! (Don't worry, I won't name names or tell anyone about the wart on your butt!) And so I realized that I can't be the only one that is losing this exhausting battle of trying to age gracefully!

In fact, I remember a couple of months ago, my husband and I were watching a comedy routine of Jake Johannsen, a popular stand up. He does a great bit on being married and in his 40s and imagining what it would be like if he and his wife got divorced. He pictures himself in a bar surrounded by young, pretty women and wonders what he could possibly tell them about himself as an older man to impress them. "What can I possibly say, that sometimes when I sneeze, I poop a little?!" We were crying we were laughing so hard, because if you've hit middle age and some of its unwelcome physical surprises like we have, then you know that sadly there is a little truth to that joke!

Now I know this isn't the first time I've written about getting older. But I thought this time I'd assemble a list of my favorite Top 9 Indignities of Aging Gracefully, or at least trying to! And I'm going with 9 because I want to hear a number 10 from all of you, as I'm sure you've got something to share!

So here goes:

1. Keeping a pair of magnifying readers all over the house, holding the menu 6 inches away from your face at the restaurant when you forget them and realizing that you are now requesting the Large Print edition of your next library book not because you won't have to be #327 in the request hold line, but because it really is easier to read!

2. Wishing the stores you like to shop in for fashionable 40-something clothes would stop playing their music so loud that you can't think or shop straight and then wishing your husband and kids would speak a little louder because you can't seem to hear them anymore!

3. Making lists for everything so you remember; where you last stored something so you can find it again, what drawer the Tupperware lids are in, your 50 passwords, the gift you bought early for Christmas and where you put it, and what you want to tell your husband when you finally get to sit down and chat uninterrupted and hopefully still awake!

4. Wondering as you lay down in bed if this is finally the night that you will sleep through without a pet, child, money, career, parenting, friend, marriage, Facebook or smoke alarm battery dilemma keeping you awake or waking you up at 3am, that fateful hour of over-40 insomniacs...

5. Hair: finding more of it over your lips and under your chin, getting excited when you realize the hair that just fell out of your head was a gray one as long as it wasn't your last hair all together, and then getting bummed when you realize that those gray hairs are now showing up in places south of your head! Really, already?!

6. Realizing that at your current age, your parents were about to attend the wedding of their 27-year old daughter (yes, me!) while you are still arranging playdates and soccer schedules and then wondering if maybe you really will be in a wheel chair after calculating by the time all your kids finally graduate from college and get married!

7. Wishing everyone you've ever met and know would just start wearing name tags as you realize with panic that you are drawing a complete blank on your friend of five years' name when she walks up to you on the playground and praying it comes back to you in the next 30 seconds because you have to introduce her to your new friend!

8. Realizing that yes, you really did just fart uncontrollably as you were having a conversation with your friend, relative, a stranger, your boss or a client you are trying to impress and continuing your chat as though nothing just happened while panicking and praying that they didn't hear or smell anything!

9. Realizing how silly you must look to your young high school babysitter when you come home tipsy from a night out with your spouse and friends as you fork over $50 and start asking her those same stupid "what do you want to be when you grow up?" questions you got asked when you babysat and earned $1 an hour, didn't leave any dirty dishes in the sink and just wanted the drunk parent to be quiet so you could go home and call your friend on your rotary phone and then go to sleep?

10.  It's all you!

Now, if you'd like to share any of your own irritating indignities of age for the #10 spot, just look for me on the playground; I will be the one wearing my name tag, glasses to hide a puffy eye, "spider bites" on the right side of my face, and maybe an unplucked chin hair or two. But remember, don't stand too close, because sometimes when I sneeze...!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 1-Year Remodel; Seriously, Would I Do It Again?!

I imagine that you, like us, are now fully entrenched in the traditional Fall activities of signing 200 school forms, fundraisers, homework, soccer practice and wondering how to dress when each day seems to go from 60 degrees and rain to a humid 75 and sun in matter of minutes! And you've probably noticed some red leaves here and there, signaling that Halloween and Christmas decorations displayed at Costco are right around the corner. (Actually, I think they are there already?!)

And as I sit at my desk and agonize over writing what you may find remotely interesting and/or entertaining about my life, I discovered an old newsletter story I had written back in 2007 around this same time of year, when my life, seen from the nostalgic viewpoint of 2011 bloggles, seemed much more comical with all five of us living in our 800 sq foot basement, enduring stomach flus and breathing drywall dust, compressor belches, pounding hammers and buzzing table saws the background music to our lives... Good times!

Now, as a Realtor, I often find myself working with clients who are struggling over this same issue of whether they should remodel their current home or buy a new one because like most urban neighborhoods, the homes that were built in NE Seattle to house the working class in the 1930's and 40's, were often very simple and sparingly functional floor plans that may have a bedroom right next to the kitchen (easy midnight snacking for the night shift?) tiny attic bedrooms with room only for a bed and lamp and bathrooms in all the wrong places including raised on a cement throne in an unfinished basement and ideal for Seattle's rat population!

And while any good Listing Agent will tell you that these same homes are actually perfect for a young family since the previous owners raised, count them, six children right in those two attic bedrooms. What they don't tell you is exactly how much these six well-adjusted and functional adults have spent on therapy after their idyllic childhoods!

Now I know that each day, like babies being born, hundreds of remodels are begun by blissfully ignorant homeowners, who, like me, may have had some cocktails the day they agreed to it but then passed out during the HGTV episode that talked about the 10 men and my husband in the house every day for weeks, months, or years, dropping nails, sawed-off drywall pieces and big globs of goopy “Beadex” onto my floors, in my frying pans and eventually on the bottom of everyone’s shoes or feet to then come to a final resting place in our sheets!

So today, I thought it would be appropriate to announce that, yes, dare I say it, drumroll, please... we have officially "finished" our 1-year remodel in 5 1/2 years! And like all spouses who have lived through a remodel with their marriage and the lives of their husbands intact, we all understand, of course, that the definition of "finished" in remodel language means a) there are a couple of little projects in each room that will either never get done or b) there are a couple of little projects in each room that will get done when you finally decide to sell the house you don't want to clean anymore to those picky buyers who just can't live with the baseboard in the bathroom not really being nailed on. You do get used to picking it up every time you walk by, really!

So as part of my nostalgia series, I thought I'd take you through some of the highlights of these past 5 1/2 years, so that I have clearly documented the reasons for my multiplying gray hair and twitch in my eye when I respond to all my friends who admire my new kitchen and ask me, seriously, if I would ever do it again...

First, there was the Winter of 2006. The siding had all been pulled off the back of the house and it had been raining for days. I quickly ran out to buy some ketchup for dinner. When I returned 10 minutes later, my children were crying, my kitchen cabinets were no longer mounted on the walls and all my glassware and dishes were in pieces at the center of my kitchen floor. Apparently, exposed and wet drywall becomes less stable! Yes, I think that was when I first realized that this was maybe not going to be as easy as I thought!

That thought was confirmed again when I took the kids to the park one day that summer and Troy sounded a little panicked when I called to let him know we were on our way home. I walked into the kitchen to find a sheepish grin spread on Troy’s face and a huge wooden beam spread on top of my now smashed stove cook top! Thank goodness for Craig’s list and $100 replacement stoves in someone’s garage! I think that was also the same summer of 2006, when our roof was completely torn off and we were able to look up at the stars from inside our now non-livable living room that another fond and I think my favorite memory comes to mind…

It was the time of year when it supposedly never rains in Seattle, but despite our weathermen’s Doppler radar accuracy, that night around 10pm, after it had gotten dark, it began to pour. And since no electricity in that room meant no lights to see with, we were blindly trying to save whatever furniture we did have by gathering it all in one pile, covering it with a tarp and pushing it all around while using our feet to move towels to soak up the puddles on the floor, (now also filling up with my tears of frustration, I‘m sure!) before they leaked into our basement living space. When the rain finally stopped, we thought we were successful until we found a steady cascade of water dripping on Luke's forehead as he slept, oblivious, in his bed below. And if I recall correctly, yes, I do think the D-word as well as many other choice words came to mind that night as we moved him to the couch and I questioned my sanity!

And I remember fondly when we finally got to that long-awaited stage of drywall that I thought would finally mark the beginning of the end, four years ago... Who knew, when I said yes, let's go for it! that both the demo and the drywall phase could bring even the strongest woman to her knees, literally, as I expended any energy I had left after fainting from the blinding sight of what can only be described as an indoor snow storm trying to clean up that fine white powder that had managed to make its way onto every visible surface and into every corner, cushion, shoe, toothbrush, frying pan and clothing item in my house, and remains, still undiscovered in many places today!

Nor did I know that every couple of weeks, I would have to empty the entire contents of my kitchen (I’m talking refrigerator, microwave, stove, you name it!) into another tiny corner of the house, where I was then required to cook dinner, help with homework and in general, lead a “normal” life with three, shall we call them, exuberant children, who I have to say were amazingly resilient throughout this crazy process and lived through months of cold honey sandwiches and peanut butter and banana roll-ups. Yes, I was often close to losing my mind but thank goodness for those Berenstain Bears lunch ideas! And after we finish paying for this, I'll start their therapy fund!

So to all of you with the glorious optimism borne of HGTV shows and Lowe's commercials, who have visions of freshly painted walls and sparkling sinks, if you've already started knocking down those walls and emptying out your fridge, no it's not that bad, it didn't take that long and I love my new house! And to those of you who haven't started yet but are thinking of it, RUN! RUN! As fast as you can! (And did I mention I'm a Realtor?!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From Kindergarten to U-Hauls;

Let's see, it's been two months since my last Blog post, and much longer since my last true confession, so how many Hail Mary's do I owe you?! Hopefully, I am easily forgiven for like all moms and dads everywhere, I managed to survive most of the summer's moments of irritation resulting from 3 kids at home with the majority of my sanity intact, although I have to admit that despite the late arrival of Seattle's summer weather, that last full week of August was a little trying on the patience, wasn't it?! Personally, I was done!

Yet somehow, as is quite common with the same mom's mind that so easily forgets the pain of labor as you live through the many joys of motherhood, when the alarm rings at 6:15 and I open my eyes to the growing early darkness of Fall, I find myself longing for those simple Summer mornings of prolonged pajama-wearing, negotiating for screen time and prodding for piano practice before heading to the pool as I dutifully drag myself out of bed to make four different lunches and assign tasks of preparation for every minute that precedes our departures to school. Sargent, you are back on duty!

But as I watch and smile at the moms I no longer know kiss their Kindergarteners good-bye as they struggle with their toddlers in the stroller, I am reminded of my own first born, now 11 years old and as tall as me, who looks me squarely in the eye and requests an email account to go along with his cell phone instead of the latest Lego set, and I find myself longing for those simpler days of changing diapers and watching Sesame Street at 5am. What?! Okay, okay, maybe those weren't the good old days, but I have to admit that as I now stare in the face of middle age and menopause, I'm just not quite ready for middle school and puberty!

So I, like all my middle-school mom friends forced into this new transitional frontier with our kids, try not to worry too much when my son gets marked "tardy" because he got lost in the new labyrinth of his gigantic new school, missed lunch because he couldn't open his combination locker, got a call from a girl on his cell phone during dinner or has to change his boxers unexpectedly after school! (Yes, moms of boys, don't be alarmed, it really does happen!)

For as much as I want to jump in my car, take him by the hand and march him right back to 5th grade, I also realize that I now really find his jokes funny, he is slowly making some responsible decisions based on what we have tried to teach him, and that this is also the beginning of a very exciting time for all of us. And that these new moments, no matter how messy they will be, should be cherished before they too, like dirty diapers and Sesame Street, are wished away and quickly gone.

This really hit home with me a couple of days before school started when I happened to glance out my window and found myself watching an emotional scene unfold as my neighbor's granddaughter, now 18, threw the last of her possessions in the back of her big, rented U-haul, hugged her mom tightly as they both wiped tears from their eyes and then climbed into the driver's seat and headed off, alone, for her first year of college.

As my kids bantered and made more of a mess in the background, for those few minutes, I felt like I had become that mom giving her child up to the world, unable to offer the sheltered protection of our constant daily presence in their life. And I felt how sad and scary as a mother that moment of realization is that your child has gone from driving a Thomas Train in your living room to driving a U-Haul out of your life. And I also began to cry...

Now because Evan does still lives in the sheltered protection of my constant presence, probably more presence than he would like sometimes, this middle school transition is perhaps a bit less traumatic. 

Nonetheless, it is another turning point in our family, reminding me along with my sagging skin, wrinkles and gray hair that we all continue to grow up and older, struggling with the dual need for dependence and independence of our children. And because it really does go by so quickly, I will try hard to cherish all these moments, no matter how trying they may be, until all my children's belongings now messily strewn about my house are one day packed up and driven away... Until they have to do their laundry, anyway! 

Good luck with your own transitions! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Top 10 Things I Love About Summer...

Like many urban moms, most of my world now revolves around a 10-mile radius circling my house for shopping, play dates, parks, sports and "staycations". But the other day, deciding to venture out into the world, we were driving up to a town past Bellingham for a family wedding. After all, what better way to show the kids how other parts of the world live beyond Alderwood Mall, right?

So about an hour into the drive north on I5, once the huge stretch of super shopping malls and new casino resorts gave way to farms and green pastures, we were coming upon a herd of cows. Excitedly I pointed and said, “look Nikki, look at the cows!” and she looked out her window and very innocently and with wonder in her voice asked “are they real, mom?!” I guess milking that big, fake one at the zoo’s petting area gave her the wrong impression! 

Then, after the almost third hour of driving, when we had finally gotten to the other end of the state, Evan quickly jumped out of the truck, looked around and very seriously asked “do they speak a different language here?!”  Hmm, maybe it's time to expose our kids to some other ways of living besides their comfortable, instantly-gratified and perhaps a bit egocentric urban lifestyle they‘ve enjoyed… 

So now as we approach almost the middle of July and I am way behind on my blog posts, I thought it was time to reflect on all the other wonderful things I love about being home with the kids during summer vacation. Since just like the holidays, it's one of those times of year that most of us look forward to with excitement and if I can be so honest as the not-perfect mom, a little bit of dread... (C'mon, I know I'm not the only one here!)

And just like Christmas, wouldn't it be cool to have our own Summer Advent calendar with a twist; maybe it would be it would be a 45-day Liberation version that begins around mid-August until the first day of school and each door would have a little wine glass behind it with a piece of spiked chocolate. And then the last day would have a big champagne glass with a spa coupon? C'mon, we could sell it right next to the "mom's sippy cup" wine bottle spout at Mrs. Cooks and make millions!

Okay, okay, I know, it's not that bad. So without further ado, here are my favorite things:

1. Shopping and packing for an entire week to go on any kind of family vacation and then unpacking everything again and doing laundry for another week after you come home and realize when you look at your Summer Liberation calendar that your next relaxing vacation is in a few days!

2. Shuttling kids back and forth to swim lessons, tennis lessons, soccer camps, playdates and Kumon (for all you super-motivated moms) so that you and they get the most relaxation out of their time off from school.

3. The precious memories from your own childhood of of drinking from hoses and dirty feet from running around barefoot all day versus the dirty and non-filtered reality of your kids doing it!

4. The exhausting battle of keeping the house picked up after deciding that your kids will have a good, old-fashioned summer of playing at home all day followed by the subsequent scramble to search the internet for another week-long camp! 

5. Diligently practicing math facts, sight words and having them write book summaries so they don't lose that edge to get into the right pre-school. Oops, did I say that? I mean college, of course!

6. Sunscreen and forgetting to put it on because you thought the sun wasn't going to be that strong today and they really need their vitamin D. Bad Mommy! 

7. The strategic use of screen time to get at least one thing done in a day, even if it is just emptying the dishwasher or making your bed!

8. Snacks and meals and the constant litany of "I'm hungry!" chanted throughout the day, usually at different intervals by different children and/or their play dates so that the never-ending cycle of fixing, eating and cleaning up of snacks and meals is never broken. More screen time anyone?!

9. The musical melody of the words "I'm bored" coming either from any or all of your children on any given day or being screamed from the voice inside you as you stare at your Facebook account and realize that the only exciting thing you did today was make your bed. Farmville anyone? 

10. And now my new all-time favorite reason of all; Realizing that all your children are old enough for Overnight Camp! Bad mommy!

I hope you enjoy your own Top 10 versions this summer!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Tribute to Dad...

Since I devote most of my posts to all my fellow moms and our daily struggle for sanity, I thought it would only be fair that with Father's day right around the corner I give the proper page of tribute to all the dads out there who work hard in the many roles they are asked to play in our modern world. 

Because as we all know, behind all of us pre-menopausal, crazed women and/or moms is an equally stressed man and/or dad who comes home from work without a clue that the kids drove you crazy with their fighting, messes and “I’m done!” calls from the bathroom, or that your boss gave you yet another deadline that you don’t know how you’re going to meet. He just wants to sit down and relax for a minute with peace and quiet, maybe a beer and the big piece of chicken for dinner after a long day at work, right?! 

But instead, usually our men put these needs aside, catch the babies that we throw them at them as soon as they open the door and patiently listen as we recount how poorly behaved our child’s play date was or what our friend/colleague said or didn’t say to us in the right tone of voice, ever-supportive of our need to talk.

And as challenging as it is for us as women in the middle of our lives to come to terms with who we are versus who we still want to be, our husbands and fathers get up ready to face each day knowing that regardless of whether they love their jobs, the ultimate goal of providing for their family is one worthy of dealing with a long commute, deadlines, bosses, frustrating colleagues and the endless meetings of office life so that they can help provide a life and future for their family that perhaps they never had. 

Let's face it, just as we have given up more lofty goals and careers, likewise have their own childhood dreams of driving the Ferrari or Porsche with the wind blowing in their hair been replaced with the reality of sitting behind the wheel of a tan mini-van with a “Respect the Van” bumper sticker and a baseball cap on their heads to hide the graying and/or diminishing mane they once had. 

And likewise, for the many modern fathers who checked their macho male ego at the altar and took on the enormous role of staying at home with the kids while mom goes to work; these dads cart the kids to school, the doctor and Little Gym, change diapers, comfort them when they get hurt or sick, feed them meals (yes, granola bars and chips can count for an occasional nutritious fiber-filled meal; they aren’t perfect!), listen to the same “I’m done!” coming from the bathroom and try and keep the house in some kind of "order". 

And just like us, they can feel a little under-appreciated when we come home, look around and ask “what have you been doing all day?” as we notice the dishes piled up in the sink, toys everywhere and a half-eaten PBJ on the carpet. After all, if the kids are all safe and happy and there aren’t a dozen beer bottles next to those dirty dishes then we should probably bite our tongues!

So this month and any day you aren’t too exhausted, let’s salute those men and fathers behind us who haven’t succumbed to their own mid-life crisis and traded in their mini-van for a sports car and/or a younger version of you! After they come home from coaching Little League, soccer, basketball and everything else we’ve signed them up for, they, too, just want to get some daily joy from a cold beer, the big piece of chicken and their own version of a “special hug” every now and then (yes, you know what I’m talking about, but remember I’m G-rated!). Like I said, when you’re not too exhausted! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Etiquette of Being (Dis-)Connected...

You have to admit, despite how fast modern technology is moving around us today, when you're over 40 and not living the corporate fast life you gave up years ago so you could make endless snacks and shop at Target, it's hard to keep up with staying connected in the proper way. I guess what I mean is, how do you translate being polite into little emoticons, or tweets, or friend requests you don't want or that don't want you, or annoying surveys that are now at the end of every interaction? So I thought we could run though them by category and then if you have any ideas to share with me, please let me know!

1. I'll start with Surveys: is it just me or does it seem that anytime you call a company now you are asked to stay on the line to answer a "brief" survey. And at almost every store you shop in, there are instructions at the end of your receipt that request you to go online and fill out a survey to be entered into a drawing, get a discount, earn points, get a free drink, anything to get you to spend time telling them how to improve their typically marginal customer service. And I don't know if you've gone to Rite Aid lately, but their receipt is about a yard long now! I've resorted to just tearing the bottom off and giving it back to the bewildered checkout person before I stuff it into my wallet bulging now not with money but survey requests!

Now, I typically don't answer many, but I did this once and only once around the holidays to get a Gap discount since I needed a new mommy uniform, and I swear I spent a "brief" half hour slogging through questions about why I didn't like the clothes I didn't buy and were there enough mirrors in the dressing room. Actually, can you make the mirrors take away the muffin-top next time please, then maybe I would have bought those clingy clothes you sell! Painful!

But I have to say my favorite one is Netflix, ever the champion of streamlining the process, after you call them because Phineas and Ferb reloaded and buffered 20 times you stay on the line for a get-this, one-second survey in which you answer yes or no to "did they help you?" and then they disconnect you! Every interaction should be this simple!

2. Carrying your i-phone around: now that I'm addicted like everyone else, I take this thing everywhere and like a smoker with a bad nicotine fix, I roll over in the morning and check my messages before I even get out of bed! Who cares that the only emails I got overnight were the Groupon offer I could care less about or one of 30 emails form the NE Seattle moms yahoo group looking for a pair of size 2 pink crocs or wondering if they should take their 3-month old baby to a 2-hour Sounders game. (Really, you need me to weigh in on this?!)

Yet even though I now catalog everything in my life on this miraculous little device, I still somehow don't have it near me when I do my most important thinking, in the bathroom (no, not there, I'm a woman, in and out!) when I'm washing my face and hiding my wrinkles and pimples with makeup. Because inevitably I get this great idea for a blog post or remember a Target item I have forgotten ten times and my phone is downstairs playing Justin Bieber music on the i-home device and I resolve to remember and then of course, forget for the 11th time to add it to my list when it is finally back in my now shaky hands where it belongs... I think the next accessory they should invent is the i-necklace that would allow all us multi-tasking women to simply snap it in and hang it around our necks everywhere we go. Now that's a million dollar i-dea!

3. Email etiquette: okay, so by now everyone knows that the exact selection of words you use in an email is extremely important in terms of implying any kind of tone to your intended reader. I can't tell you the number of times I either misunderstood or was misunderstood when reading or writing an email that probably should have been communicated via a phone call or in person instead. Read: italics are "snarky" caps are YELLING, three dots don't get you off the hook for a trailing or vague thought... And too many exclamation points annoy a lot of people!

At the same time, I know I don't have to remind you about the "reply all" button when your message was clearly only written for one person in a group. I'll never forget the stressful week of work my mom had when she complained about the same high-level someone included in a group email and inadvertently hit reply all; those are the times you wish that like Blue's Clues you could jump right into cyber space with a net and capture that binary code before it hits the receiver right on his digital head!

And finally, how do you politely end the string of emails back and forth? It's like that conversation where it kind of ended but you don't really say goodbye so sometimes you just decide you're not going to answer anymore. But then I feel so guilty wondering if they were expecting me to reply again so I'll just do a  happy face with my semi-colon, and parentheses, that's my winking guy, or sometimes I'll add a hyphen for a nose. I never did learn how to download real emoticons... And you already know I'm exclamation point crazy, so I use too many of those, since that lets them know I'm really excited or bored with my life or theirs or both!

But now in this new age of tweeting where 2 or 3 more characters are too many to type I keep getting this J at the end of sentences from my friends which I think is a shortcut smile although I think it looks more like a smirk...

4. The epitome of staying connected, Facebook: okay, first of all I think Mark Zuckerberg is secretly a bored, stay-at-home mom that invented Facebook during the rainiest 10 months of the year here in Seattle. Now I'm a little torn here. I have to admit that a) I'm not a very good Facebooker because although I think my kids are really cute I don't consider my mommy life that interesting other than its endless supply of content for my blogs and b) every time I do get on Facebook I feel like I've been missing this great party that has gone on without me! Like my high school angst re-lived, everyone else seems to have hundreds more friends than I do and sometimes when I reach out and make a request, I get snubbed! Talk about memories of the most insecure years of your life, I thought I buried these a long time ago!

Although I have to admit that I have also ignored requests, too. For example, a couple of months ago I got a request from this woman who claims she worked with me at my first ad agency in Pittsburgh. Since I had no recollection at all of her name, but didn't want to just ignore her like I've been ignored (no I'm not bitter!), I went to her home page to look for the face that would jar my memory of the good old "Mad Men" days at HBM Creamer and all I got was a photo montage of her cat in various poses. Okay, here's the deal, if you're going to reach out to people from your life 20 years ago, don't put a picture of you and Whiskers on there, please!

So, still wanting to be polite, I was honest and told her that I couldn't remember her and she said, you know, I was that crazy secretary that made smart remarks all the time. "Oh yea, now I remember!" Hello, I was in my 20's, it was advertising in the 80's, and we were all crazy, smart asses! Ignore button successfully pushed...

The flip side is that when you do connect with your old friend you used to ride bikes with when you were 12, it's hard to encapsulate the last 40 years of your life in an email "poke" isn't it?! I usually start out with, let's see, I'm married, have three kids that alternately drive me crazy yet give me a daily purpose, have wrinkles and pimples at the same time, can't play sports anymore so sign my kids up for everything possible, struggle with how to be fashionable at my age, have been saying "we're remodeling our home" for over 5 years now, have a great husband that doesn't know where all the laundry goes, wage a daily battle with clutter in my life, step in life's messy poop every now and then and now need reading glasses to write my blogs. And oh yea, where the hell is Farmland, anyway?! LOL ;-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Life is Much Funnier Through "Bloggles"...

Okay, so I know it's been over a month since you've heard from me. But I have lots of really good excuses, most of them under the label of S*%# or Life, Happens! But since I've decided I'm a "Rated G" kind of Blog, I couldn't name this posting what I really wanted to... So I've decided to channel all my S*%# and look at all the events of the past two months through my humor-seeking bloggles. That way you can let me know that you've had days, or months, like this too!

It all began with a gloomy Winter Break in late February. First of all, I'm sorry but does anyone else agree that our (Seattle) kids have way too many days off for the sanity of the parents? Were they worked too hard right after the 1-week break for Thanksgiving and the 2-week break for the holidays that they have to get yet another week off in late February right when the weather and our moods are at their gloomiest, flu bugs are running rampant, and our budgets, still recovering from the gift-giving extravaganza that Christmas has become, don't allow us average folk to dash off for a Hawaiian vacation but instead force us into an indoor "stay-cation" filled with refereeing kid fights and sassiness, never-ending snack and meal orders, and cleaning up countless items strewn all over the house? What is it with dirty socks, anyway?

Let me say that my personal "stay-cation", which this year came with the added bonus of my middle son, Luke, on the couch with a fever and cough all week, often ended with the strategic use of 2-hour blocks (yes, I broke the 1-hour rule!) of screen time for the "it's cocktail hour somewhere" sipping of a glass of wine as I stared out the window in reverie and wondered who in their right mind would choose to home-school their kids?! (no offense, of course, to any of you who do, as you have my awe and admiration!)

It was also during this gloomy month that I even wrote a poem as my Ode to February Stay-cations in Seattle. Let me know what you think!

The Cascades cast shadows
against the gray sky
cloud cover like a blanket
good for coffee, Coldplay and why?
laundry not put away
dishes still in the sink
life in constant disarray
I just want a drink!

And so this February began what I now call the lost months of my life as this particular flu bug that caught Luke lasted almost a week to the day, then transmuted itself to Evan, my oldest son, who was then on the couch for count them, 10 days, which included a week plus one day of school and on that last day of his illness my daughter, Nikki, never one to not do what her brothers are doing, decided that it was time for her to also spike a week-long fever and start coughing non-stop, as well! And so, the third week of Parcheesie, Dora the Explorer Uno and constant chatter continued into the ides of my March.

The thing about this bug is that it never really knocked them out, the way a good flu bug is supposed to. You know the kind where they just want to sleep all day and you can get everything done that you normally do, like write a blog. No, it merely got their temperature to the point of not being low enough to be able to go to school but just low enough to be conscious and bored enough to want to ask mom for things all day!

Nearing the end of that third week, and just when I thought that it was almost all over and Nikki, like the boys, would be back in school Monday, she took a turn for the worse and developed pneumonia, which definitely knocked her out to the point that I missed her cough-ridden cartwheels around the house. Once it sets in, pneumonia sets a fast and furious course if you don't catch it early enough, so since this was my first time dealing with it, I have to admit it was a little scary to witness and gave me new respect and appreciation for the parents that deal with chronically ill or disabled children. You are all amazing!

Luckily, after several days of antibiotics, she finally got better. And as you can imagine I was very excited about having the house to myself again so I could enjoy my strong coffee all alone and get caught up with the me that was not caregiver, Uno opponent or tipsy dinner chef. (Hey, I was in survival mode, don't judge me!)

And then came my husband Troy.... In between a new job and old, he had 2 weeks off to stay home and work on finishing our remodel. And while I should have been excited to get to the end of this 5-plus-year journey (that's a whole 'nother blog!) with his effort, I went from being asked "Can you read me another story?" to "What are you doing today?",  Do you want to eat lunch with me?" "When will you be home?" Now I love my husband, but enough was enough; I didn't want anyone talking to me for at least a week!

Ahh, but then he started work again and I excitedly looked at my calendar to plan out all the things I could get done with my time to myself again and as I turned the page to April (remember, I lost 2 months!) I realized with horror that next week was Spring Break! What the what?! (Remember my G-rating!)

So as you know, it's now the end of April, I just survived yet another Spring Break "stay-cation" (finishing the kitchen instead of Hawaii one more year... and yes, I swear we are almost done!) and I am now alone in my quiet, clean (okay, maybe not clean) home with my strong cup of coffee staring at the same cloud-covered Cascades and realizing as I write this blog that somehow, as stressful as it seemed at the time, it is all now much funnier through bloggles.... And I wouldn't trade it for the world. Until next time, put your bloggles on, and enjoy your own crazy lives!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Laundry, Mars and Apology Calls...

Hoping your life isn’t as tumultuous as the weather has been lately! Seems like you never know what to wear on any given day, as you need a winter coat on as you get the ice or rain off your car in the morning and by late afternoon all those same windows are open wide! But I guess March is notorious for that, and my laundry seems to be a mixture of turtlenecks and shorts!

And speaking of laundry and the difference between men and women (yes, you can draw that kind of analogy on just about any subject!), the other day, my husband Troy “helped” me by putting the laundry away. Notice the parenthesis around help, not meant as mean sarcasm, as I do appreciate any help in that daily ritual, but as a great example of the different things that girls and boys, who then grow up to be men and women, focus on. For example, days later, as I opened up different drawers, I found that he had put most of Luke’s clothing in Evan’s drawer, Evan’s pants were hung on Luke’s side, my socks were in a drawer I hadn’t used in a year, and Nikki’s clothes, while in the right general area of her 2-drawer section, pajamas were all mixed up with what I consider her “daily wear”.

Now I know I can be a little, shall we say “picky”, about how things are placed around the house, but what cracked me up was that he sees our children everyday, just like me, and looks at them with clothes on (at least Evan, Luke and Nikki are marginal in that area when they’re home!) and even helps them get dressed every morning, so by default, gets the clothes out of these same areas that he totally mixed up when he put things away… So how did he not know where they all belonged? (Or was he subconsciously hoping I wouldn’t ask him for help anymore!)

Now Nikki, on the other hand, being a 7-year-old girl, knows exactly who wears what and which drawer or closet side belongs to who. And if Luke happens to put on a shirt that belongs to Evan, she calls him on it every time! She can also tell if I’m going to work or staying home based on the clothes I put on in the morning! In fact, yesterday when I decided to “shake things up” a little with my weekend wear, even though I was staying home, she laughed when she saw me and said “mom, that’s your work shirt!“ She was right, of course, I had never worn it on Sunday! And unlike my loving husband, she knows immediately if I’m wearing something new and tells me how “cute” it is!

So where am I going with all this? Well, I guess this is just my version of “men are from mars, women from venus” as I continue my daily efforts towards understanding as a mother of two boys and a girl and as the wife of a man who was once a little boy! Because starting as little boys, despite their outward physical focus and relationship with the world, they often hardly notice or take in what’s going on around them other than what important task they are focused on. Indeed, I‘ve decided to only tell Troy important names, dates or events right before they happen, since expecting him to remember a week later seems to be a futile and frustrating effort! So in all fairness, why would he know that Nikki’s sweatpants go in a different drawer than her shirts?

I’ll end this with a story about a bunch of 40-something girlfriends who went out to dinner and drinks and got into a very “lively” discussion about religion and evolution. You know the kind you had in college before you had ever changed a diaper… Well by the end of the evening, strong opinions had been given and humorous accusations made of being feminist, waspish or a non-believer. We all knew we were having fun, but the next morning, numerous phone calls were made to each other apologizing to make sure no feelings were hurt. We all laughed at these “apology calls“, as we knew that a bunch of guys going out and having a lively discussion of their own (probably about sports!) would never make the “apology calls” and would not give another guilty thought to who called who what name for fun! And now I know why, they probably wouldn’t even care or remember what was said!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Unbearable Nearsightedness of Being... Middle-Aged

Being in your forties certainly has its advantages, doesn't it? For instance, if you are motivated enough to play on any middle-aged sports team, as many of my friends do, you know that just about any middle-aged injury resulting from that great shot on goal blocked by an aggressive, younger defender, including your own child, will earn you at least one month of much-needed, middle-aged rest after you undergo extensive surgery for the wrist, ankle or knee you landed on and broke apart!

In fact, I learned this lesson several years ago when I played an exciting game of mom's kickball and as the star pitcher for my team made an amazing catch of a huge, bouncy rubber ball that landed me right on my non-bouncy, non-rubber bottom and kept me in serious pain for several weeks! 

And while being bed-ridden should in theory get you out of a lot of household chores, you know as well as I do that watching your spouse or having your spouse watch you immobile on the couch while family life forges on around you gets old pretty fast; two days tops before irritation sets in, right?

So these days, I purposefully stay away from any and all requests from my ever-enthusiastic middle-aged, mom friends (you know who you are!) to join their self-named "old lady" sports teams because I now realize that attempting to play any competitive sport in your forties seems to inspire that dangerous combination of the amnesia of your much more youthful, athletically light, agile, competitive brain taking control over your often heavier and well-worn, 40-something year-old body that just doesn't seem to bounce or recover the way it used to.

In fact, I've often thought it would be much more useful for this same youthful part of my brain to make an appearance and take over not when I'm trying to score a goal against my 11-year old son but instead, when I open the wrong drawer in my kitchen for the 500th time looking for a tupperware lid and end up amazed for the 500th time that they are under, not over, the dish towel drawer (what is that mental block?!) Or how about when I'm trying to recall someone’s name I’ve known for years as they walk up to me at the schoolyard and I become embarrassingly panic-stricken hoping I don't have to introduce them to anyone? Or even when I forget, like I did last Sunday, that I have a sandwich in the oven for my daughter until an half hour later when it is as crisp as a rock (of course, she refused to eat it, so I did).  

So what exactly are the advantages of being middle-aged? Well, I asked myself the same question the other day when I had to fight the urge to ask the 20-year old Sephora girl with fresh, dewy, wrinkle-free skin "Do you think I'm pretty?" the way my best friend and I used to ask each other as we battled with boys and acne and our teenage angst. You see, now that I have to wear magnifying reader glasses over my contacts to put on the makeup guaranteed by that same dewy, Sephora girl to successfully cover up my now middle-aged acne as well as everything else, I wonder if I've also lost sight of the joyfulness that being more mature is supposed to bring.

But then it came to me the other day; Nikki had her CD player on in her room and the CD was a “Barbie” remake of some fun dance songs. She had already gone downstairs and I had to get something from her room, and the song playing took me back to my own days as a fresh, wrinkle-free, young girl. Surrounded by girlish pink and stuffed animals and clothes all over the floor, I reminisced about a time when hanging out with your friends and talking about what boy you liked or liked you were the most important things in the world.

And I forgot, for a moment, as I danced around her room to the tune, (c’mon, I know you’ve done this, too!) all the worries of sickness, remodeling, bills, mommy guilt or loss of my own fresh and agile youthfulness. And thanks to that middle-aged nearsightedness, as I caught a glimpse of myself in her mirror, I didn’t see the extra weight, gray hair, wrinkles or menopausal acne. Just me, young again. And for those moments, I felt very light and happy…

So perhaps it is with this same nearsighted look in the mirror that we should all go forward and not mourn our fading looks, what bones we have broken, ligaments we have torn, or the fact that we can't remember what drawer the damn Tupperware lids are in! But instead, we should take pride in our family, our many accomplishments and enjoy the wiser and calmer confidence and empathy we have gained through the years, despite the wrinkles earned along the way.

And remember that even if you can't throw a softball anymore without throwing out your shoulder, it’s still okay to dance around the room sometimes, remembering much simpler, lighter and bouncier times. Just take off those glasses and stay far enough away from the mirrors! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day; A Good Day to Appreciate Life's Precious, Messy Moments

As we approach another Valentine's Day, I feel especially grateful for the love not just of my husband (Troy, if you're reading this, Valentine's Day is on Monday!) and family but also for the often taken-for-granted gift of being healthy and happy during a time when we have been touched by the recent and tragic losses of neighbors' parents and of friends' courageous and exhausting battles with cancer.

In fact, as we approach the side of 40 that starts to get uncomfortably closer to 50, it seems that not a week goes by without hearing of a friend or relative's life-changing illness that they or someone they know are currently battling. And when I listen to the stories, I never cease to be amazed at their strength, grace and good humor as they face their greatest challenges; always expressing how blessed and deeply grateful they are for the support so eagerly offered by their family, friends, neighbors and even strangers.

I’m not sure if cancer, serious illness or worse, death of a loved one, has ever touched you or your family’s life, but when it does, it certainly shifts your definition of what is important, doesn’t it? And it certainly challenges your faith in the fairness and “karma” of life, regardless of how positive your outlook usually is.

I remember when our good friend found out that she was once again battling breast cancer after five years of remission. She and her family got the news only one day after giving birth to her baby boy, born on Valentine's Day almost 6 years ago. I know that in this instance, Troy and I felt even more deeply affected than we ever had since their family is so similar to ours. “If you ever left me, I would be so ticked off at you!” Troy jokingly said after we got the disturbing phone call. And although we nervously laughed together, it was only to hide our fear and sadness, for we knew that if something so scary and life-altering can happen to this happy and vibrant household, then it can and does happen to anyone, including us.

And while I'm happy to say that today, our friend is cancer-free and will joyfully celebrate her son's sixth birthday with her family on Monday, I realize that it’s often news like this that can dramatically change your perspective from arguing over whose turn it is to get up with one of the kids after a nightmare to willingly staying up all night just to watch them sleep, because you’re afraid you won’t be around long enough to watch them grow old…

So now, when your toddler pinches your leg because you won’t pick her up for the 50th time that day, your son is screaming at the top of his lungs at his brother for sitting on his head naked, and then his brother runs and squirms away from you, laughing because you can’t catch him at the precise moment that your cell phone rings with that important call you've been expecting, stop and take a moment before your blood pressure rises too high, to realize how it is precisely this relentless and precious mess of parenthood and life that you would miss if you knew that they would suddenly be taken away from you.

During the last days of her beloved father's battle with cancer, my friend sat with him in his bedroom, savoring the last precious moments that she could have with this man who had meant so much to her throughout her life and who still so remarkably held fast to his sense of humor, even knowing he was soon going to die. A former airline pilot, he had also been an avid bird-lover, fond of watching the eagles that nested nearby and feeding the crows that made their home around his property. That day, as they watched the eagles together flying outside his window, she asked him to give her a sign that he was still watching over her when he was gone. He agreed with a smile on his face, perhaps already planning what that sign might be.

Shortly afterwards, still very saddened by his death, my friend was walking through town after getting her hair cut. All of a sudden, she felt a warm, liquidy substance fall from the sky and land right on her forehead. Realizing what happened, she looked up and saw the guilty crow looking down at her. She laughed as she "cawed" proudly at her, and she in turn lovingly cursed at him, knowing in her soul that true to his famous sense of humor, this was his sign, once again reminding her to take joy in the precious messiness of life, no matter how it comes...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Letting It All Hang Out; Toddler Rules or Toddlers Rule?!

I had one of those crazy, full moon, beyond my control weeks last week. It started out normally enough on Monday, me in a bad mood after having an unrestful, peri-menopausal night's sleep waking up to face and/or survive yet another day off from school with my three kids in cold, rainy weather. (Does it seem like they only go to school 4 days a week or is it just me?!) How are you going to entertain us today, mom? was always the question lurking behind every weekend, school holiday and break around my house with my highly energetic kids.

So after three cups of coffee and some steely resolve, I was determined to take them to the zoo and have a good time, easier said then done when you're feeling not only exhausted but hormonally challenged, as well. It always amazes me that my most emotionally fragile days happen to also be the same days that at least two out of three of my children are intent on finding the correct button to push that will make mommy's head pop off; uncanny isn't it?! 

But somehow I survived not only the dead fish smell of the new penguin exhibit ($5 to feed them two fish? Why not caviar?) but the emotionally-charged realization that somewhere during my "10-year nap" my kids were no longer toddlers and had actually outgrown Zoomazium. This became clear to me as I watched my 11-year-old, now as big as me, slide down a hollow tree trunk and almost take out the little boy at the bottom. A horrifying, yet oddly comical sight, I have to say!

So when we got home, after a full day of walking, reprimanding and answering countless animal questions, I was ready for some good, old-fashioned screen time for all of us. But as I settled in with my fourth cup of coffee and turned my computer on, I was met with a very sluggish un-caffeinated start-up which progressed into some weird chirping sounds and a blue screen, what looked like an aurora borealis and then, the dreaded nothing...

Well, this did not bode well for what I thought would be a productive afternoon of "me time". And by 5pm that evening, I was sitting in front of a very smug, twenty-something year-old "genius" at the store that shall not be named after a fruit now telling this frazzled, forty-something year-old, hormonally challenged, non-genius mom that her hard drive was shot so sorry if you haven't backed it up lately! 

Now being a civilized adult, I forced my body to remain calm and as the tears began to well up inside of me, I gazed thoughtfully at said young genius who gave me no quarter and all of a sudden heard a toddler in the background throwing an obvious tantrum, probably because his parents wouldn't buy him an IPad, his outward shrieks in direct proportion to my inward ones.

Automatically, I thought again of my own children as toddlers. Now what would they do if they didn't like what they just heard from an obviously unsympathetic adult who was so blatantly ignoring my pleading looks and weak attempts at humor, genius fingers flying on his keyboard as he tried to resurrect my hard drive from the dead.

Well, if I followed toddler rules as I know them, I thought, I'd simply let it all hang out and throw myself on the floor with arms and legs flailing, sobbing and loudly screaming "It's not fair!" at the top of my lungs. Now that, I thought, would feel really good right now! 

But since I’m a big girl, I simply stared right back at him, now barely coherent or able to remember a single password he was requesting for access to my account. And as he continued his efforts, I continued to think about the children we all once were. And wouldn’t it be refreshing if once in awhile, we could really just let it all hang out in public, following those toddler rules and acting out how we really feel inside without the threat of being fired, jail time or a straight jacket?! 

Boss gives you yet another unrealistic deadline or sales goal to meet? Just yell "NO!" in his face and run away, slamming the door to your office behind you! Bad attitude from a clerk, cashier, or technical "genius"? Just throw your water bottle at their head and yell, “You’re so mean!” and run out the door! Difficult co-worker or relative being nasty? Just give them a punch in the arm or kick in the shins and yell “I don’t like you anymore, you’re not my friend!“ What a sense of freedom and control that would be for our pent-up feelings!

But alas, certainly society as we know it here wouldn’t exist if we were all able to run amok letting everyone know what we truly felt when something happens that is either beyond our control or that we don't like. And if you think about it, I guess, like you, I know some people that take that privilege anyway, and I generally don‘t like being around them! 

So being polite and nice, even when things don’t go our way, does serve a greater good. So instead of giving my genius a good kick in the shins, I thanked him profusely when I realized during my childish reverie he had somehow been magically able to produce that whirring sound he needed to restore the beloved hard drive where my life was stored.

"How did you do it?", I asked, now truly in awe of this genius who was young enough to be my son. "Patience" he calmly stated, disinterestedly looking at the woman who was now old enough to be his mom like he was the Zen Buddha of geniuses and I was, indeed, that annoying little girl who still so badly wanted to kick him in the shins! Maybe toddlers do rule...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Resolve To Enjoy My Crazy LIfe!

Happy New Year! I hope your holiday celebrations all went well and you are now off to a successful start to 2011! And how have you been enjoying our  recent colder weather? I have to admit that while I have survived many snowy Pittsburgh winters in my younger life, my body’s “heartiness” has diminished along with all that extra collagen in my skin and even with my heavy coat, scarf and gloves, I can’t wait to get back indoors as I watch Evan and Luke run around the school playground each morning in their T-shirt and thin sweatshirts to join the other boys in their nylon gym shorts! What is that about kids at a certain age not wanting to feel bound up? Must be that growing independence!

Luckily, Nikki still lets me put any and all knitted items on her head, neck and hands and therefore often walks to school looking like Ralphie’s little overly-bundled brother from “A Christmas Story”! I wish that innocence would stay around forever! 

And speaking of innocence, at the birth of each year, I join the millions of others who make those hope-filled New Year’s Resolutions. And this year, for extra motivational support, I thought I’d share some with you, so here goes: 

1. I resolve to stop finding “surprises” that have come from the inside of my children’s noses on any and all surfaces in my house. This includes our freshly painted walls, the side of the bathtub, the roll of toilet paper I was about to use and basically anywhere else that I can find it before I’ve even had my morning coffee!

2. I resolve to stop expecting my husband and my sons to tune into what I am saying beyond the first sentence, knowing that all the details, plans and/or instructions that I am making an effort to give to them in advance are being roughly translated into the “wah, wah, wah” of the adult world in Charlie Brown. Instead, I will tell them what they are going to do exactly 5 minutes before the event!

3. I resolve to not cry anymore over the organic milk that gets spilled daily in our house as my children all exercise their independence, even though it costs almost $6.00 a gallon!

4. I resolve to not feel guilty when I see an extremely patient mom enjoying her child and reprimanding him gently and constructively when he does something wrong, knowing that I just experienced a bad case of “mommy rage” because the gloves, socks and boots I just spent a sweaty 15 minutes wrestling on Nikki have all come off within 10 seconds because “they just don’t feel good, mom” as we run late for our appointment! (Hey, I said she let me put them on, I didn't say she kept them on!)

5. I resolve to not get overwhelmed anymore when every surface I see in my house has on it something that needs to be organized, sanitized, rebuilt, repacked, re-batteried, repaired, returned to the store or taken to the dump!

6. I resolve to remember to check all the pockets of my sons’ pants before I wash them, so I don’t have to open the dryer in horror when I see the balled up remnants of Luke’s prized Pokemon cards staring at me accusingly with their huge, comical eyes, knowing that they are quickly headed for their next evolution in the afterlife between the cereal boxes of our recycle bin.

7. And finally, I resolve to just enjoy my life in all its wonderful craziness, knowing I may never get that tummy tuck or condo in Hawaii, but instead, I’ll try to work out more and simply bask in the warmth of my growing children crawling or jumping all over me when I finally sit down, innocently oblivious to the elbow or knee they just jammed into my rib! Now what number was “mommy rage” again?!

Have a great month and good luck in beginning and achieving all your resolutions! I’m rooting for you!