Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Pumpkins A crackling fire in the fireplace Children laughing A warm home Coming together Good health Friends Stories The beginning of the holidays Good wine and good food Sparkling conversation Being thoughtful Showing kindness A grateful heart Peace Love Family

For all of these things and more, I am thankful.

To you and yours, a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

City Kids, Country Kids

Ok, maybe not country, but definitely suburban. Once upon a time, we lived in New York City. There, our children were exposed to so many things on a daily basis. We would wander over to the Met or the Guggenheim and look at the pretty works of art. We’d wander through Central Park and listen to fairy tales being told by the Hans Christian Andersen statue. We could also hear many musicians playing their instruments throughout the park and see many artists sketching or painting. There would be dancers performing.

B and A took a class call Mini Mozarts. I am not even going to admit here what that class cost me. However, it was worth every penny. The teachers were 20 somethings trying to make their living on Broadway. So, each class, they played instruments and sang adorable children’s music to my two year olds. Needless to say, we got one amazing performance each week. I do think that this class, along with others we took while in Manhattan, really formed the base for B and A’s musical interest. Since we’ve been back in the suburbs of Chicago, there have not been the same opportunities for R. Sure, she’s taken the Kindermusik classes at the park district and such, but it’s not nearly the same quality. However, she still likes music and for that I am grateful.

So, this weekend, we took all three children into the city to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform a special children’s series titled Mother Goose and More. It was part of a wonderful series that the symphony is putting on for children. They did an excellent job engaging them for an hour. B and A were mesmerized by all of the instruments. They began to play piano last year and this was very interesting for them. To give her credit, R did an amazing job sitting quietly and listening to the music. I couldn’t believe how well it held her attention for just turning three. Of course, it helped us immensely that they included a Cinderella waltz and her face just about lit the room at this.

When we arrived in the lobby, the symphony was promoting their music school. A girl, who was maybe 9 years old, sat down at a grand piano in the entryway and played the most unbelievable piece of music. She did a fantastic job with it. There were a few pauses here and there, but for her age I couldn’t get over the fact that she could play that complex of a piece. T and I were instantly reminded, again, of the difference between living in the city versus the suburbs. This was a decision we’ve struggled with when we moved back to the area a few years ago.

In the city, you have more options with your children. The schools, the lessons, the culture that they are exposed to on a daily basis are much greater usually in diversity and in quality to some extent. In the suburbs, they have other options though. They can run free to some extent. At seven they have the freedom to not hold my hand everywhere we go. They have more independence. They have more room. They are a little more innocent based on what they see on a daily basis. While we love the city, we chose the suburbs in the end. I’m still not sure if that was the right choice. But, it’s the one we’ve made. For now. And every time we go back, it pulls at my heart strings a little more.

*I am not being compensated by or endorsing Kindermusik, Mini Mozarts or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fotos

A getting her eyes examined.

B's turn...

I thought they looked hilarious in those weird sunglasses they give you after your eyes have been dilated!

Just a quick photo for this Friday. Yesterday, we had eye doctor appointments. A started wearing glasses last year for distance. She needed them for the board at school or watching TV. Lately, we've noticed her squinting more through her glasses and sitting on top of the television even with them on. Both T and I have very strong prescriptions in our glasses. It looks like she is following our lead. You can add this to the list of traits that I mentioned not liking yesterday. I am very proud of her though. She is extremely responsible with them and never lets it get her down that she has to wear them. As our eye doctor said to B yesterday, how did you manage to avoid the family vision gene so far? He is doing great and no glasses yet for him. Thank God. I can't imagine with all of the running, tackling etc. that a 7 year old boy does each day, how they would not get broken! Have a great weekend everyone! It's the last one before the holidays begin. ; )

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Woman in the Mirror

By the time you are in your thirties, you have some semblance of who you are. First and foremost, you know that you are not fully developed as a person. You are constantly changing, growing and maturing. I personally believe we do that until the day we die.

However, you’ve had enough years pass to know that as a person you have strengths and weaknesses. Some of these can be a great source of pride. While others can cut you like a knife.

An aspect of parenting that I did not anticipate is what it would be like to see these characteristics, in their own forms of course, in my children.

The good.

The bad.

The ugly.

They’re all there. It can be amusing and it can be difficult to see these plain as day and know that they originated from you.

I have had the privilege of seeing my loving nature and kind heart reflected back at me through my children and in how they act to each other. The way they’ll go to comfort someone if they’re hurt or feeling down. The way I see my older children touch the face of or take the hand of their little sister. It can be something as simple as the tonality and phrasing with which they speak to her. The words could be coming directly from my lips in the same manner. These actions and feelings of empathy, love and kindness thrill me to see.

My daughter, A, has an incredible love for the written word. She devours books. Eats them alive in the same exact veracious manner as myself. B had this crazy thing he does when something is really, really funny. You can’t get him to stop laughing until he’s almost falling over. The two of us can make each other roll on the floor. Same laugh as myself. Same craziness when something is humorous.

Those are some of the good things that I’ve passed along. But, in the dark corners there are the things that make you cringe. The things that for the life of you, you wouldn’t have wanted to share with them.

My daughter, who is 7, already fights against anxiety issues at times. No! No! No! Don’t take that from me. Run the other way! My son, who at times is timid to speak out loud, can struggle to make his thoughts and feelings known. No! Let your voice be heard. You are bright. You are intelligent. You have wonderful things to say and contribute to the world. My youngest is so stubborn and bull headed that it comes back to bite her in the ass most of the time. To her I want to scream that sometimes you have to realize that there are others who know best. Give in once in a while. It won’t kill you. I promise.

I wish I could share my insights with them. I would beg them to please learn these lessons early on. Don’t wait years to figure them out. But you see, I’ve been there, done that. I already know when it’s better to head in a different direction. Unfortunately, it’s not my life to figure out. I have one. I’ve worked 35 years on it. I’m still learning and working and trying to be a better person. Trying to overcome my own obstacles.

As a parent, it’s hard to not make everything easy for them. Not to want better for them. But, in some respect, it’s theirs to figure out now. These aspects of their personalities are tough. It’s hard to see those traits reflected back at me. So, we coach them. We try and lead by example. We make modifications to ourselves. And we hope that like all of us who came before, they too will overcome what was given to them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Swear...

When I pick my kids up from school, it’s sometimes the equivalent of pulling teeth to get them to talk about their day. Usually, I start by asking about the fun stuff like recess, PE or lunchtime. Then, I try to move on to what they may have learned. Anything to get a tiny morsel of information about how their day went or what is going on in their little universe.

My daughter is much more forthcoming than my son. But, she claims to forget a lot or not remember until it’s convenient for her to bring whatever up or cry later about an injustice on the playground. I’m fine with this. It’s on her terms. On the other hand, B is like a vault or some large walking clam. Not a lot is going to get him to open up. God bless the poor women that date him later on in life. I’m trying to help you ladies…

There is a secret though to getting them to dish. Have more than one kid around and watch the information flow like a river. Both B and A had play dates last Thursday. One boy and one girl came home with us in our car. I swear we had not pulled out of the parking lot at school and the talk started up. B’s best buddy, we’ll call him Matt, is a great kid. And he will tell me anything. Anything. He opens his mouth and the stuff just flies out. There is no stopping it. He’ll dish on how he feels about the teacher or a specific kid or a girl that chased him. He’s the youngest at his house. So, maybe he doesn’t get an adequate amount of speaking time at home. I don’t know. But, I love it because it makes B open up a little bit more.

So, the four of them are standing around my kitchen island eating an after school snack before they play. Their chatter is making me laugh. It is so cute and sweet. They talk about who won the running race during PE class. They talk about how unfair one boy is on the playground because he always makes himself football team captain. My daughter’s friend, we’ll call her Katie, demonstrates a dance step from the Barn Dance at school the previous week. They are adorable.

Then the conversation turns to this…

Matt: “Do you know that Bob* at school puts up his middle finger during class?”

A: “Yeah, he got a yellow card for doing that.”

Katie: “And Steve* in our class did it also. During class…”

B: Still saying nothing.

Matt: “Yeah and my friend, Ben* from my neighborhood, does it when we are playing at outside. He does it all the time.”

A: “Mom what does that mean? What is the middle finger for?”

Me: “Uhh…”

OH MY GOD. These children are going to leave here and tell their parents that we had a discussion on swearing and what the middle finger means… F@#K!

A is now putting her middle finger up and down turning it so it faces her and then faces out.

Me: “A put your finger down that is not appropriate. This is not a nice gesture. It’s a pretty rude thing to do to someone. So, let’s not do that again.”

The group: “Yeah, but what does it mean?”

How do you describe this to a group of 7 year olds? The very word is not even close to being in their vocabulary or realm of conscience. At least I hope so…

Me: “We’re not going to talk about what it means. It’s not appropriate for 7 year olds, let’s leave it at that.” Now, I’m trying to distract them with something else.

Matt: “Some kids say swear words out loud.”

B: “Yeah, like the Sh word and the St word.” He finally pipes up and this is his contribution?!?

A: “Someone in my class said the A word.”

Katie: Looking wide-eyed and ready for some answers. Did I mention it’s the first time this little girl has come over to play?

Me: “Ok, let’s get your coats on and go play at the park. Wait, what is the St word?”

B: “I don’t think I can say it Mom.”

Me: “Go ahead and spell it.”

B: “S-t-u-p-i-d.”

Giggling from all four children ensues.

Me: ”Ok. Outside. Let’s go.”

Before we went outside, I said something along the lines of not going into detail about this conversation to other children etc. We didn’t need to be rehashing it again. So, later that night we are driving a friend of A’s home from basketball practice. Her family is very good friends of ours. B turns to her in the car and says, “So, hey, do you know what it means to put up your middle finger?” Not. Even. Kidding. I swear I was about to strangle him.

Maybe it’s better not to know… You know, that ignorance is bliss thing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Showdown

I love naptime. Peace. Quiet. I don’t have to play babies with anyone. I don’t have to answer the latest why question. I don’t have to wipe a bottom. Not for 2 whole hours. It is quiet. It is peaceful. Both words are worth repeating. It is bliss.

Until lately. R is fighting naptime with all of her blessed little heart. This painful ritual begins right after lunchtime.

Me: “R, time for nappies. Let’s head up.”

R: “No!!! I no need a nappy.” Shrieking, running away and hiding inserted here.

Once I’ve caught her and we make it upstairs and through the potty ritual, things really start to get tough. She hates her crib. She suddenly misses her Daddy. She asks when we are going to get B and A at school. She tells me that her head hurts. Her back hurts. Her feet hurt. Could I rub them? She tries to make me promise a lollipop after nap. She asks what is for dinner. We redo the blankets several times. We rearrange the animals that sleep with her. She won’t let go of my hand. More kisses. More I have to tell you somethings. The ritual of how far open the door has to be begins as I feel my blood boiling. This entire episode never ends pretty. At least it hasn’t for the last few weeks since it began. She is more tired than when she started the process and I am left feeling exhausted. Not to mention how much of that two-hour time frame is eaten up by it. Forty-five minutes to be exact.

I cannot, will not, give up naptime a month into turning three. It can’t happen. It won’t happen. I need that time. She needs that time.

Both B and A napped until kindergarten. It was a godsend. I can remember feeling panicked about what would happen once they stopped. How would I keep them occupied for another two hours? I had a new baby at the time. How would I recoup my energy in order to still be a good mom for the remainder of the day? But it happened. They stopped napping and as with everything, you adjust to the new stage. It wasn’t bad. It actually gave me some nice quality time with them as R slept.

But, as I mentioned, she just turned three. No way. No how. Not yet. I will go the distance on this issue with her. Not just for my sake, but for hers also. She is way too tired and cranky on the days when she doesn’t sleep. She gives up so much of herself throughout the day trying to keep up with her older siblings. She needs the rest as much as I do.

She asks me to stay upstairs with her. She asks to be checked on. I will gladly do all of the above as well as recite the dinner menu. Sometimes, I even give in on the lollipop. However, we will continue this go around until you give it up little one. I promise you that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just Smile

The holiday season, it is upon us. I am a holiday enthusiast. I love almost any excuse to celebrate with family and friends. Good wine, great food, lots of love and traditions galore. These next few weeks will be inspiring some awesome blog posts. I look forward to sharing our family’s memories with you.

With one exception-the holiday card ritual. Yes, you know the one. The premise is that you snap an absolutely stunning picture of your adorable children. They are all dressed to the nines. They look perfect. It will be the one symbol that represents your family to those friends and relatives far and wide. For some of the people that receive these, it is their only glance of your family until next year’s card. It is also a source of great stress for me. It is the one thing about the holidays that I despise. Yes, despise.

First of all, the outfits need to be purchased well in advance so that the picture can be taken early enough to be printed for the cards. Finding the holiday clothing in early November usually creeps up on me. I am not ready to be looking for it as early as I should be.

Then, getting all three children dressed, looking presentable and in good moods for the photo is challenging at best. My son has an aversion to any type of shirt that is not a t-shirt or sports jersey. Button down collars are his nemesis. My three year old is going through sensory overload when it comes to dressing lately. Tights? Just not worth it. Thank God for A. She is the easiest child on the planet.

Sometimes, the first shoot does not produce a good photo. We have to retake. Redo the process. Torture the children and us again.

Finally, we’ll get a photo we like and order the cards. Hopefully with enough turn around time left for the arduous process of addressing them all. Yes, we still do it by hand. I don’t know why. I just think it’s more personal. Also, every year, I mean to enter our address book into the computer and I don’t have time around the holidays for such a project. Then, the only time it comes up again is the next holiday season. I just don’t have the type of brain that thinks of such things in June.

We typically send out around 125 cards. There is a business list included in this for my husband's work associates. Each year, I start asking him before Thanksgiving to gather and bring home the addresses from work. There is a reason they say that women are the gatherers. This task is too much for poor T. It inevitably results in an argument between us around holiday time, isn’t that awful? Over cards.

The day I drop these things into the mailbox, I feel as if a large weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am not kidding. I feel free. Free to go on with my holidays. Free to enjoy our more pleasant traditions. This year, I’ve decided to fully enjoy all aspects of the holidays and to try and eliminate any sources of stress. (Stop laughing, I’m serious.) So, I cut out shopping for the outfits. I am going for simple. I am going to take the picture myself at our house. Ease up on the idea of perfect. This is not something that I do well. T has agreed to help address them provided I don’t critique his adolescent handwriting. We’ll see if I can manage that. I still haven’t brought up the work addresses to him. Peace on earth after all…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Top Four* Most Annoying Parents on Children's TV Shows

*because that’s how many I could come up with

1. Dora’s Mom and Dad-What is the story with these people? Where the hell are they? They let their one and only child wander freely in forests and over bridges. She is constantly lost and looking for assistance. Are they available? No! The have provided her with one hell of a backpack and a lousy paper map-no GPS in sight. Her trusted accompaniments are a monkey (Ebola virus?), a squirrel and an iguana. I will be kind and not bring up Benny the bull. He seems to be missing a few nuts and bolts if you know what I mean. A horrible fox is constantly chasing Dora while she is lost. Is it just me or is no one else concerned about rabies? Someone should really talk to these people. A little supervision seems to be in order.

2. Caillou’s Mom and Dad-These two really get under my skin. It may be the tonality of their voices or just their overall frumpy appearance. Can you really trust a woman who picks out heart wallpaper borders? I don’t think so. They seem totally high on something to me. They wander around completely ignoring the fact that their child is the biggest whiner on the planet. They are so high on life that this does not seem to bother them in the least. At least not in the way that his little high pitched, irksome voice seems to bother me. And what kind of name is Caillou? I’m sorry, but they did not do him any favors with that one. Not to mention they may want to talk to someone about why at four he still is not growing any hair. Call me crazy, but that would concern me.

3. Frances’ Mom and Dad- They both are annoyingly good spirited about everything. They have a nice, large house. Yet, no one seems to really do any hard work. I find it most annoying that they are both home all of the time. I know you can be a piano teacher and a photographer and set your own hours, but really in order to keep those businesses thriving someone must have to work at some point, right? Not in Frances’ house. Everyone is home all of the time. Perhaps, that’s the secret to being so chipper-constant help from your husband. Frances will do something like throw a tantrum and it won’t even faze the two of them. They just look lovingly at each other and sigh. Then, one of them will say in a very passive voice to Frances “Well, what do you think the solution to this should be?” Are you freaking kidding me here? Perhaps, it’s because my husband is on his second or third week of being out of town for 4 days in a row that I’m about ready to pop. But if you throw a tantrum like that around here, your ass is in timeout.

4. Binky Barnes Mom and Dad- One word-denial. They are in complete denial about their child. Binky is running with a not so great crowd, The Tough Customers, about half of the time. The other half he seems to be pretending to be Arthur’s friend so that he can keep his parents off his back. I mean, he is terrorizing small children on the playground from the top of the play equipment. That is not nice. He has failed a grade in school and they do not appear to show much concern regarding this situation. I would have completely flipped a gasket by now, but that’s just me. I will throw them a bone and say that they did get involved when he developed his peanut allergy. But, I believe they could step up their parenting game a little in order to get old Binky back on track. Of course, they have a new distraction with the addition of little Mei-Lin from China. So, we’ll see how having to share attention at home positively effects Binky. I’m sure he won’t rebel at all…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's My Party

Happy Birthday to me…

Tomorrow, I turn 35. I know it’s not old. But, for the first time, it feels as if it’s starting to get there.

I did not blink at turning 30. I was excited even. Your 20’s are hard work. You are becoming an adult. Finding your soul mate and settling down. Figuring out your career and starting on that journey. You may even start your family. The 20s are the beginning of everything.

So, when I turned 30, I was excited. This was the decade of reaping the rewards. I was married. Check off soul mate. I had 2 out of 3 of my children. Check to the starting the family thing. I had quit the career that I never loved to do what I believe I was meant to do all along-be a mother. We had struggled to put T through graduate school and he had successfully changed careers and was settling into that nicely. Check to the beginning of financial stability. The workhorse days of my 20s were done. Bring on the decade of enjoyment!

So, here I am. Smack in the middle of that decade. The shore of my 20s looks very far away. And the 40s hilltop seems to be gaining momentum. I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with this.

I’ve been on cruise control for a while now and that’s what I needed. The things that I mentioned checking off above were a lot of hard work. I needed to coast. Now, I think I’m bored with that. It is time to pick up some speed again. I need to focus on what the remainder of this decade is going to bring and what I want to shape my forties to look like. (Oh God. I just wrote my forties…)

So, here is my birthday wish list for myself. I am going to tell you that I could put very profound, idealistic items on here like world peace and saving the environment, but this is my blog. So, these are going to be my personal wishes. Let’s just assume things like no war, a healthy planet, no pain and suffering and so on is a given…

1. A career of my own. I’m not going to stop being a full time mom any time soon. But, I need to find a niche of my own. I want to have something outside of them. Something that gives me a creative outlet.

2. Since we are wishing here, I’d really love to write a children’s book. How fun does that sound?!?

3. A body that moves and looks like mine did before the two c-sections, three children and twin pregnancy. God, where did that go? This wish sucks because more than all of them, it’s a necessity and it is the most difficult to do. Yes, in my head, it’s even harder than publishing a book. You heard me correctly.

4. A vacation with just T and me. Somewhere romantic like Italy or Napa.

5. To be the best mom I can be every single day. To see the joy in my children and to be able to project it back onto them. To have them realize how much I love them each and every day.

6. To have time slow down just a little. I don’t want to feel like I am always traveling at the speed of light. It is making my children’s childhood move way too quickly and it is making me crazy.

7. Peace. Peace of mind. Peace of heart.

Here’s hoping that because I shared my wishes out loud, they’re not going to not come true! Thanks for helping me celebrate. This blog is my first step towards wish number one. For that, I am very grateful to those who read it each day. Now, go. Find some chocolate. It is a birthday party after all! (Damn again to wish number three…)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fear Itself

When I was a child, I was scared of so many things. The top two were the purple bunny on my dresser that I was convinced was coming to life at night and our basement. The basement held numerous terrors. It was dark. It was damp. There were strange noises that came from various equipment, like the furnace or the sump pump. I was terrified to go down there by myself. So, I’d do what every child does. I would drag my little sister with me. I could count on her always being a little more frightened than I was. I think it gave me a shot of bravery to have to console her.

My mother would call us ridiculous for acting this way about the basement. She thought it was even funnier that I believed the bunny would wake up and hop into my closet each night. At the time, I didn’t understand how she could be so flippant about something that I truly believed was happening and that scared the bejesus out of me. Now, as a parent myself, I realize what I must have sounded like each time I brought this up. Or, how frustrating it was for her to ask us for something in the basement, only to have a huge production made out of going to get it.

B and A watched a scary movie the week before Halloween. Nothing inappropriate- mind you. It was the PG rated Harry Potter movie. I thought this would be a good compromise in our Harry Potter ordeal. I was wrong. They are bloody terrified now. Since we’ve seen the movie, they will no longer go upstairs without each other. They dart full force up there, grab what is needed and rush back down. They have even tried to cajole their three year-old sister into going up by herself to get whatever may be needed. They won’t go in the basement. (Hey, I don’t blame them there…) Once it gets dark, they swarm to me like moths to a flame. All of this is driving me crazy.

The first two nights after we watched the movie, they couldn’t even sleep in their own beds. We told them they could cuddle up in ours and that we’d move them once they fell asleep. They were so terrified that when T went to move them, they woke up crying, begging, pleading and grasping for me, our sheets or anything that would let them stay right where they were.

Part of me feels terrible about this. Obviously, they were not ready for the movie. In my defense, that damn H1N1 flu must have made me delirious. We were trapped inside for almost a week and a half and had already watched everything under the sun. They had put the pressure on and I caved. I knew they might find it scary-everything is more clear in hindsight.

However, there is another part of me that thinks this is hilarious. I know, what a mean mom. I wish I could capture the looks on their faces when they have to go upstairs. Their eyes dart around. They give each other the nonverbal, super twin language look of “Dear God. Has she gone completely mad? You know you are going with me, right?” I have no idea why I find this funny. But, it sooo is. Maybe because I am the one old enough to realize that Voldemort doesn’t really exist and he for sure is not in our house upstairs. There are some really cool, spooky mansions out there to haunt. I don’t think he’d choose our red brick colonial in the suburbs-if you know what I mean.

But, they don’t know this. They believe all is real still. So, for now they are frightened. I am treating them kindly, going forth gently with reminders of what is real and what is pretend. This, of course, does not include discussions of the big man in the red suit coming in a few months.

Our fears can get the best of us. They can hold us back and cause us to not go places where we are uncomfortable. Why do we hold on to these things? Why do we not break free as easily from what binds us? What is the hold they have on us? All we have to do is turn on the light. See what is before us. Take action and grab the fear itself. Embrace it. It helps if we have someone to go with us. I’m sure glad I do. I believe it’s time to face some of my own fears. I don’t want to be held back anymore. I want to continue to go forward in life. There is more that I want to do and accomplish. And, it’s up to me to try. Has anyone seen my sister? I need to go in the basement…

Monday, November 2, 2009

Boo to You!

A and her friends trick or treating.

B and his best buddy trick or treating.

A and R on the hunt for some candy!

The group hits our house. Like the spiders?

Our Jack-o-lantern.

The leaves in front of our house.

Here are some pictures that capture our fall so far. We had very few days with sunshine, but a great show was put forth by the leaves this year protruding very rich red, yellow and orange colors. We had a spectacular Halloween! The kids went trick or treating with friends. We had three separate classroom Halloween parties and a parade at school. We carved our Jack-o-lantern on Friday night, made Halloween cupcakes and read our favorite Halloween books one last time. Whew! We can rest now a little and gear up for the fun holiday season to come. I have great pictures of the kids, but I'm only willing to show those that don't give away their precious little faces. Sorry, hope you enjoy them anyway!