December 5, 2013

Another Year, Another Birthday – XP

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I turned 31 this week.  Or, as I joked to a coworker: the age at which I no longer have any birthdays to look forward to.  Ho Hum.

Now, I’m not one to fuss much about age or put a lot of stock in a number, but I think my ‘blah’ feelings this birthday stem from a wider picture of where I currently am in my life.  Let’s just say that when Kriste wrote about life feeling like Groundhog’s Day, Again, I could relate.

So much of my life to date has been about striving, achieving, and working my way towards that next goal.  For me, and perhaps many of you, early adulthood was all about the milestones, and birthdays symbolized the time to march my way towards the next one.

18: I’m an adult (ha.ha.ha.) – voting and independence, oh my! Off to college!

21: Now I’m really an adult, and I can drink (::ahem::legally). Finishing college, hello grad school!

25: I think I can finally call myself an adult, for real this time.  Newlywed, first time homebuyer, and a full-blown case of baby rabies.  Ready to start a family!

30:  Adopted 3 beautiful children. I’m going to run my first 5K!

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31: Now what??

I’ve got my education, home, marriage, family, career – all the biggies checked off the list.  With no big goals or milestones looming in the future, I’m finding myself a bit…stuck? aimless? lost? Now what, indeed.

So, I’m guessing at this point half of you are nodding your heads in agreement and the other half are cringing.  I get it. Which is why I’ve decided to respond to myself and these feelings of ‘blah’ as I would to a friend: relax. take a breath. look around for a moment and just enjoy. Hello, perspective.

There are hard days in my marriage, in my family, and in my work.  I wish I had a little more money in the bank and a little less laundry in my living room.  But when it comes down to it, the fact that there are no big goals or milestones in my future…the fact that “all the biggies are checked off the list”…is a blessing.

I’ve gotten all the things I’ve ever wanted (albeit in a package light years from what I was expecting), and at 31 I can simply be grateful and take the time to enjoy the fruits of all that striving.

Or, finally get the weight off and learn to sew😉

 

December 4, 2013

Entering the Land of Unsupervised Playdates – XP

Alternate Title: How to ask if there is a gun in the house.

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We had a very exciting development in our world this week.  We discovered that my son’s best friend from his 2nd grade class lives 2 houses down from us!  Apparently their family moved in at some point this summer, but it wasn’t until the boys took the bus home together on Monday that our paths crossed.  We don’t live on a street with many kids so this news is huge – if you saw the look on my son’s face, you would have thought Christmas had come early.   Add to it that this boy is polite and well-behaved and the rest of the family seems just lovely and we’ve got ourselves a great addition to the neighborhood!  The other day, the friend came over and the two boys sat at the kitchen table eating snack and doing their homework together – I died of cute.  Today, homework will be done at the friend’s house and my son has been invited to stay for dinner.  Then he gets to walk the whole 100 ft home BY HIMSELF.  As you can imagine, it’s been all the talk.

Along with this wonderful development, comes some uncharted territory.  You see, up until this point, we’ve never had an unsupervised playdate.  If we have, it’s more akin to babysitting in which we’ve asked a close friend to have our kids over in a pinch – and these are people we’ve known for years and trust implicitly.  Now that my son is older and making friends independently of us, the circle expands…and to be honest? That makes me nervous.  Our new neighbors seem like good people and they are clearly doing a beautiful job raising their son, but we don’t really *know* them.  Is there any kind of due diligence we should be completing here? Questions to ask?

And that line of thinking is what brought me to the big question.  The question I know has been on many parents’ minds, especially in light of recent events.  Should I ask if they have a gun in the house?  This article suggests that as of 2007, 16.7% of CT residents are gun owners.  A relatively low number, one which doesn’t specify how those guns are secured (I would assume many, if not most, are well-secured and safely stored especially in homes with children)…but it only takes one, right?  Once we decided that, yes, we should ask, came the even harder question…how?? Asking such a personal, sensitive, often divisive, question left my wife and me with knots in our stomachs.

Thankfully, the question answered itself naturally through the course of conversation this time when the mother asked if it was okay that the boys play video games at her house.  My wife answered, “Yes, as long as they are non-violent” and got a response of, “No problem, we feel the same way and don’t do weapons – virtually or otherwise.” ::whew::*

Uncomfortable conversation thwarted this time, but it certainly left me thinking about how to handle this situation when it comes up in the future.  Of course, it’s a great reminder of the safety conversations I need to be having with my children to prepare them to face the many situations they may find themselves in as they gain more independence.  But, for me to feel comfortable sending my kids off at this point, I’m going to need to broach the subject with the other parents as well.  Trouble is, how do I do it without it being completely awkward and potentially offensive? Well, I’ve decided that perhaps the best way would be to tell, rather than ask.

Recognizing that the other parent might be wrestling with the same issue I am, the next time I’m setting up an unsupervised playdate, I think I’ll offer the information first.  A little, “Not sure if this is something you would be wondering, but since it seems like such a hot topic lately, I just wanted to let you know that we don’t have any guns or weapons in our home.  No guarantees about dirty dishes, though.”  [When in doubt, fall back on humor and self-deprecation.]  Then I’ll hope that offering the information about our home, and welcoming any other questions they may have, will open the line of communication and spur them to do the same.

Sound good? Toe the line between being that mom and that mom? Have you ever asked, or told?

Also, where is the freaking manual for this stuff??

 

*To be clear, we respect the right to gun ownership; our concern focuses on the safe storage of such.

December 3, 2013

Forgiveness – XP

There are a handful of defining moments (some good, some bad) that I can point to when thinking of what has shaped me to be the mother I am today.  One such moment came on a crisp Sunday morning in September, 2010.  I was sitting in church, attempting to steal a moment or two of peace before returning to the chaos that was my life, and my parenting, at the time.

There was a baptism that morning and the minister conducting the ceremony said something that has stuck with me ever since.  He charged the parents with the task of creating a family which speaks the language of forgiveness.  He asked them to forgive, and forgive, and forgive their children so they, too, would learn to forgive.

The simplicity of the message hit me like a ton of bricks.  Yes, that is the type of parent I want to be.  That is the type of parent I need to be.  It seems obvious, but I was so caught up in the world of discipline, behavior modification, correction and control, that forgiveness was not on the forefront of my mind.  “I forgive you,” rarely (ever?) spoken.

I set a goal for myself in that moment that the next time I was faced with misbehavior, I’d try to remember that it was an opportunity to teach how to forgive, not how to punish.  I knew even then that surely there would be a day when I would need to ask my children for forgiveness and if they had none to give, then I’d only have my lack of teaching to blame.

Well, I was right.  Not too long after that, I was the one needing to ask for forgiveness.  And then again, and again, and again.  In the 3 years that have passed since hearing that powerful message, I’ve screwed up a ton; and said “sorry” even more.  But I’ve kept my word and doled out the forgiveness as much as it was granted for me.

In preparation for the big move to Kindergarten, my son’s preschool teacher filled out a questionnaire on his strengths and weaknesses to be passed along to his new teacher.  There were plenty of compliments and plenty of areas to address, but one statement in particular stood out:

R forgives friends quickly following conflict.  He is our class role model on forgiving.

I couldn’t help but think back to that crisp Sunday morning.  I was so proud of him and thought: maybe, just maybe, we are doing this special soul justice.

This week was an especially tough one for me.  As children often do, my youngest used her spidey sense to detect that I was under a lot of stress, then decided to pile it on with the hitting/kicking/not sleeping torture trifecta.  Forgiveness was not so much on my mind as was selling her to the highest bidder.  I lost my cool.  I met her poor behavior with some of my own.  But one way or another, morning came and she woke me up as she often does with a kiss on my cheek and a cute toddler giggle.  I opened my eyes to her gently rubbing my arm and pulled her into bed for a nice long cuddle.  We basked in each other’s forgiveness.

I’m a hard-headed, take-no-shit, go-getter by nature and things like mercy, forgiveness, and humility – signs of true strength of character – don’t always come easily to me.  But my beautiful children are filled to the brim with these resilient, pure, qualities and I want to nurture that which I admire in them.  So I say a lot of “I’m sorry”‘s and “I forgive you”‘s and revel in the beauty of having a warm, safe, place to practice forgiveness – and to be forgiven – over and over again.

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November 14, 2013

Sneak Preview

Got our holiday pics back. And then I died of cute.

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November 14, 2013

End the Homework Battle – XP

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Raise your hand if you dread back-to-school time and the homework it brings more than your kids!

Ugh. Me too, sister, me too.  As if we don’t have enough to pack into our precious after-school hours, worksheets and journalling have to find their way in there too.  And when it takes my kid 50 minutes to complete a task that should have taken 10 (15 water breaks, 3 temper tantrums, and 1 trip to the bathroom later…), I am wishing for an eternal summer for more than just the beautiful weather and umbrella drinks. 

Wait, did someone say drinks?? Yes, that’s it! End homework battles by drinking heavily!

Just kidding.  I save my heavy drinking for after the kids are in bed, tyvm.

Seriously, though, something has got to give on this nightly battle of wills over the homework.  Thankfully we’ve come up with a good system in our house.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better, and it just might work in your home too.  The crux of the solution all revolves around 1 key tenet: homework is the child’s responsibility, not yours.

Woah, right? Any day I can take a chore off my never-ending list and place it on the list of its rightful owner is a good one. I’ve still got the task of offering the time, space, and materials needed to complete the homework, but making sure homework gets done? NOT MY JOB. 

Here’s the “Homework Plan” that currently hangs on our fridge:

– R is responsible for his homework.
– R may choose to complete his homework, or write his teacher a note explaining why he did not do it.
– Homework time is over at 5:30pm.  R is free to choose when to do homework until that time.
– We are not willing to fight over homework. 
– We do our best work in our family.
– Mommy and Mama are happy to help with homework, as long as R is working as hard as we are.

Ahhhhh, I love the homework plan – it’s so…peaceful! Granted, it doesn’t mean the whining or attempts at power struggling are over, but it does mean that I don’t have to respond or be drawn into it.  Homework is an agreement between teacher and student and while I’ll do everything in my power to support that relationship, it won’t come at a detriment to my sanity.  What’s more? There hasn’t been a single day in which homework wasn’t completed – and done well, at that! 

So I offer this up to my fellow weary moms of school age children, dreading the battle that is to come this evening.  Perhaps you might consider pouring yourself a drink taking a deep breath, and stepping right on out of the ring.

Any other great homework tips to share? What works in your house? Teachers, what are your thoughts on a parent’s role in homework completion?

November 13, 2013

A Letter to My Son: On Having to Share You

So, a letter I wrote to Sprout recently got published in Huffington Post.

Woah.

Wanna read it?

November 13, 2013

PDA – Yay or Nay? – XP

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Picture courtesy of Sprout!

My wife and I are an affectionate couple.  Don’t worry, we save the icky teenagery stuff for the bedroom, but if you’ve spent any amount of time with us, you’ve probably seen us kiss, hug, hold hands, or shoot each other ‘the eye’ once or twice.  We’ve been together nearly 14 years and it’s pretty much always been this way.  

Come the introduction of children, it never really occurred to us to cut back on the kisses and hugs.  My girls haven’t entered the ‘icky-gross’ stage yet, so when they see us kiss, they run over and squeeze their little bodies between us, demanding, “Tiss me too!”  My son, who is every bit seven years old, likes to scrunch up his nose with an “ewwww, you two are allllways kissing!”.  Don’t let it fool you, though, when we turn from each other to chase him around the house and plant millions of kisses all over him, giggles happily burst from his body.  The other day, I was annoyed with my wife for something or other and my 3 year old offered her some sage advice: “Oh mama, just say sorry and kiss her already!”

Affection is just a way of life for our kids, but I realize that is not the case for all.  In fact, I grew up in a home in which I rarely saw my parents hugging, kissing, or holding hands.  Whether it is comfort level or something more, I understand that households vary on this.  I was recently observing other parents at a playdate and it occurred to me that my wife and I were definitely the touchy-feely-est ones there, even with just a couple pecks and a back rub or two.  It made me wonder – is there some kind of unwritten rule about playground PDA? No sneaking kisses under the slides?  Hand holding banned on the swings?  Or should we be surrounding our children with expressions of love?

What say you wise readers?  Do you kiss in front of your kids? How about in public or in front of other people’s kids?  Parenthood PDA…do you give it a yay or a nay?

 

November 12, 2013

The Youngest Child – XP

Summer 2013 046

My youngest child. My baby. When she came into this world and we received the phone call announcing her surprise birth, I was instantly humbled.  We had been hoping, wishing, and praying for this child for years.  She was born when we were at the lowest of our low and when she was placed in my arms, I fell to my knees.  Faith restored.  Things just got better and better as she grew into a happy and adorable infant.  Every feature was just perfection – I would spend hours gazing at her face, kissing her button nose, and surrounding myself in the awe of getting to be (one of) her mother(s).  Humbled.

She is now 2 1/2 years old.  I’m still down there on my knees, but let me tell you, this is an entirely different flavor of humbling.  I was at a party this weekend, chatting with another mom of 3, and she joked about that old adage, “If first children were anything like the youngest child, there would be a whole lot more singletons in this world.”  SING IT SISTER.

That prayed for, wished for, perfect, beautiful, happy child? She is trying to break me.

With my older daughter, we soared ourselves right on through the terrible twos.  Some sassiness for sure, but we potty trained easily, transitioned to a toddler bed like nothin’, stayed close to adults in public, had a healthy fear for anything labeled ‘dangerous’, and only flirted briefly with hitting and biting – because obviously I’m the toddler whisperer.  I parented like.a.boss.

So when my youngest came of age, I pulled out all my tried and true tricks and OWNED IT.  You know, for that solid 5 minutes before she climbed on top of the dining room table again then cheerily sang songs and giggled through her time in the thinking chair.  Toddler bed transition? Nightmare. Why does my sticker chart have no power over her??  Don’t even get me started on “gentle hands”, pressing every button on the dishwasher, dumping clean laundry on the floor, ripping every book she gets her hands on, and for the love, could you pleeeeaaase just poop on the potty?! Girlfriend is trouble with a capitol T.  In fact, she is so often getting into something, and I’m so often calling her by her first AND middle names, that she now introduces herself that way…as if she were meant to have 2 first names or something.

The good news is, just when I’ve about yanked out every last hair from my head, she offers a glimmer of hope.  Maybe, just maybe, she is listening.  Take this morning for example…

I’ve been working with the older kids quite a bit on moderating their emotional responses to situations.  The whole don’t-cry-over-spilled-milk thing (we’re kind of a dramatic group).  So when I dumped some of the breakfast eggs on the ground, I stifled my cursing and instead offered a “Ooops, spills happen. No problem.”  Scrambled up another egg, set breakfast out for the kids, then ran to take my 3 minute shower.

A few minutes later I hear the bizarre sound of the dogs sneezing uncontrollably.  What in the…? Investigation reveals that the 2 year old has gotten her hands on the pepper and dumped it all over her eggs, the table, and the floor.

I look at my 7 year old, “Did you tell her to stop??”  “No, you said I’m not supposed to be bossy.”

OMG.

Onto the 3 year old, “Why didn’t you come tell me?”  “That is tattle-tailing.  I’m only supposed to tell if something is broken or someone is hurt.  Are the dogs hurt?”

Another dead end.

So I look at my youngest and ask her (using first and middle names) what happened.  “Oooops. Dat’s ok Mommy. Spills happen.”

What IS it about that youngest child??

November 11, 2013

Cape Cod – XP

[As the weather report rolls in with our first snow of the season, I’m dreaming of warmer days…]

Cape Cod is…

Seashell hunting on long marshy beaches.

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Wave jumping, sunshine, sandcastles and living in your bathing suit.

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Boat rides, whales, sunset cruises, kayaking and miles of ocean to explore.

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Baseball games, trolley rides, mini golf, window shopping, and enough ice cream to spoil your dinners for a week straight.

Hiking, biking, climbing, running, swimming, skipping, and jumping.

cape cod4Lighthouses, hydrangeas, cedar shingled cottages, sand dunes, sunrises on misty mornings, beach campfires, and the most perfect evening light I’ve ever seen.

Summer 2013 396

Connecting by disconnecting, an escape to a different world just a car ride away, having days of no plans fill themselves with memories that will linger for weeks to come.

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Years of memories layered one on top of the other, and mapping a child’s (painfully!) fast growth against the same familiar backdrop.

For us, Cape Cod is summer.  For us, Cape Cod is coming home.

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea. – Isak Dinesen

 

Photo Credit: E. Schreier

September 17, 2013

I feel like I’ve lost a piece of myself…

We are voluntarily non-renewing our foster license.  Come October, we will no longer be foster parents.

It’s the right decision.  We have 3 beautiful young children to focus on raising. But, ouch.  I’m heartbroken.

Truth be told, it wasn’t the choice I wanted to make.  I feel as though I’m missing a child, and a piece of my happiness is missing along with him.   But A is concerned that, at least right now, adding another child would compromise her happiness.  Incompatible happiness.

I didn’t realize how large a part of my identity being a foster parent was, until I signed it away.

(theoretically speaking…i haven’t actually brought myself to signing the paper, yet).

 

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