Thursday, January 12, 2012

Juggling it All...But How?

Recently, as we were driving about town, Nora announced that she wanted to marry a cowboy. 

Also, she wants to become a veteranarian, own horses, a few dogs, and have some kids, though she hasn't decided exactly how many yet. 

"But Mom, where exactly do I find a cowboy to marry?" she asked.

"Well, Nora, you could find a cowboy at the rodeo, or working at a ranch out West" I replied.  "But you can't just go and marry someone simply because he's a have to become friends with him and make sure you guys get along really well first."

"Of COURSE, Mom.  I'm definitely NOT going to marry someone I don't even LIKE." 

Glad we got that squared away.

Simultaneously fascinated and comforted that there are in fact, "real" rodeos (read: cowboys) in the greater Raleigh area, though intrigued by the idea of moving out West, she moved on to inquire about how to become a vet.  Not at all phased by the amount of school and training that lay ahead of her, she seemed satisfied that her career as a vet would make owning and keeping horses (and dogs) a bit easier. 

"So you see Mom, I can keep all the animals healthy, and the cowboy can take care of the regular horse stuff."  Clearly, she has done some thinking about all of this prior to our conversation. 

A few minutes of silence followed, then I heard a big sigh, and she said, "But Mom, how am I going to take care of the horses, work as a vet, be married to a cowboy AND have kids????  There is just SO much to do and it just doesn't seem like there will be that much time to do it all!!"

Welcome to mothering in the 21st century, Nora. 

All I could think of to respond to her profound little query was "Nora, if you really want to do all of those things, you will find a way.  It's not always easy, but Moms always find a way to make things work out." 

Maybe since you are pondering this at the tender age of five, by the time you are actually working, and a mother, you really WILL have it figured out. 

Personally, I'm just making it all up as I go along.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boys and Girls...and Girls and Boys...

My three oldest kids started school in July.  Nora started kindergarten, Brady is in third grade, and Brennan is in fifth grade. 

On the second day of kindergarten, I meet Nora at the sidewalk of the school to walk her back to our car.  Anxious to hear about the first full day with all 26 children, I ask her how it went.  Holding my hand, with her oversized backpack bouncing along with her, she looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and breathlessly said, "Oh Mom, it was really, really great!  I fell in love with this boy today!"

Not the answer I anticipated.  I fell off the sidewalk in surprise.  What about Math?  Reading??  Tell me something about Art, PE or Music!  Not boys.  No, no, not at 5...

Not only did she find her prince charming (who's name she did not know) but she spent her recess watching him and following him around on the playground. 

Now I have to talk to my five year old about anti-stalking laws. 

Girls are a non-issue for Brady, as one would expect.  He has a handful that he refers to occasionally, but they are either A) the really funny ones that make him laugh, or B) the really bossy ones that tick him off.  Nothing else.  I've seen a few of them giggle around him, as schoolgirls are prone to doing, but he's clueless.  He is operating in a completely different realm. 

The generous splash of freckles and those big blue eyes that you loathe at 8 will come in handy someday pal, even though you may not know it yet...

Then there is Brennan, my level headed, practical, type A, tween.  Having spent most of last year memorizing sappy Talyor Swift lyrics, and recently having seen "Gnomeo and Juliet" she asked me about Romeo and Juliet.  "Who were they?"  "Why are they in so many songs and movies?" "What's the big deal about them?"  (she also asked me this same question about Mick Jagger recently, funny enough).

I explained the short-short version of the story of Romeo and Juliet, the star crossed lovers bit. I told her that as the story goes, they were so desperately in love with one another, that they both decided life was not worth living without the other, and they killed themselves. 

She looked at me incredulously with a hint of annoyance, and said, "Mom, that is just really, really stupid.  I mean, why didn't they just wait a while and find someone else to fall in love with?" 

And that, right there, is one of the reasons that I write this blog.  Someday, in the not-too-distant-future, she will be wallowing in a seemingly insurmountable hearbreak, as only teenagers can.  I will call up this story and show her how wise she was at the tender age of 10.  Maybe she will take some of her own advice.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Brennan's Mother's Day Essay Contest

In honor of Mother's Day, here is the essay Brennan wrote for class, which was then submitted to a local jewelry store.  Mark teases me about how I always throw him under the bus on my blog.  I am not above throwing myself under the bus for a good chuckle, so here goes.  I am not holding my breath for any Jared's box arriving at my door on Sunday...

Brennan, 4th Grade

People say that nobody is perfect.  This is true.  But the person I think is the closest to being perfect is my Mom.  She loves me, cares for me, feeds me, and gives me shelter.  This is another part, the most important part.  She gave birth to me.

If you didn't have a mom, and if there were no moms, there would be no people.  God created the world and people.  It is a great and wonderful thing.  Love him for the world and love him for moms!

Moms aren't perfect, but they do a pretty good job of running the house.  They do give you chores, but imagine what your house would look like without chores!  "A pig sty!!!"  That's what my Mom would say. 

Moms get mad, but it's a part of Mom-world.  My Mom got mad because my brother and I were fighting over a doughnut.  My Mom yelled and screamed.  Then she threw the whole box of doughnuts on to the floor.  She got really mad.  But she is my Mom, and no one is perfect.  And if she didn't give birth to me, I couldn't have written this beautiful story about why I love my Mom.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good Listening Ears

We often joke around our house how similar Mark and Brady are in personality and disposition.  Mark and I are frequently getting on Brady about being a better listener, paying attention to what he is being told, and work harder on following directions.  A tall order for a 8 year old boy.  Sometimes, a tall order for a 46 year old boy too.

Things have been nuttier than normal around her lately.  Mark returned a week ago from nearly 2 weeks in Europe, during which any combination of the kids and/or I were sick.  Over the weekend, both Brennan and AJ were fighting a fever and/or coughing incessantly.  Brady had his first lacrosse practice Saturday at 9am and Brennan's basketball team (which Mark coaches) has a game at 10am.  Divide and conquer is the name of the game most days where there are multiple activities. 

On my way back from lacrosse (and running late), Mark is texting/calling me repeatedly saying that AJ was hacking up part of a lung as he was checked into the Nursery at the YMCA (he was fever free - I swear - but can't seem to shake the cough he has had for a month...and yes, I have taken him to the doctor).

I have no small amount of disdain for the moms that smile as they check their darlings into Y childcare (in the name of getting the almighty workout so they can fit into $200 size 4 jeans) while ignoring their flushed, feverish, hacking, children whose faces are caked in thick green snot, and preparing to turn the nursery into a festering petri dish of viruses and bacteria.  But, I digress...

Feeling very guilty, I swing by the YMCA, grab AJ, and head home. 

Fast forward 4 hours.  AJ wakes up early - too early - from his nap.  While I am trying to get him back to sleep, I hear Mark calling my name, repeatedly, and getting louder.  As I am trying to get a cranky toddler back to sleep, I am temporarily unable to respond.  Unable to avoid the inevitable, in comes Mark, followed by Nora. 

Very kindly (but not necessarily quietly), he points to his watch and inquires about a reminder for a birthday party invitation that just popped up on his calendar.  Nora is supposed to be at a party for a little girl named Sydney from preschool, in 15 minutes.  Whoops.  Seeing my predicament, he offers to take her.  I thank him, whisper to him where to find the gift and wrapping supplies, give him the location of the party as well as directions. 

Specific directions.

Thirty minutes later, I get a call from Mark.  "Great news!" he says, "I dropped Nora off at Sydney's house.  They are going to take her to Jelly Beans for the party."

I pause, wondering how the hell he knows where Sydney lives.  I don't even know where Sydney lives.

What I do know, is that Sydney's party is NOT at Jelly Beans.  It is at Young's Gym.  The place that he said he knew, but I gave him directions to anyway. 

Specific directions.

It turns out, that as he raced down our cul de sac, he passed a different Sydney's house (who is Brennan's age, by the way).  This particular Sydney, coincidentally, was also having a birthday party, that they were leaving for, at Jelly Beans Roller Skate.  Seeing them load up in the driveway, Mark asked the (confused) Dad if they wouldn't mind taking Nora.  Politely, this Dad responded, "Sure, uh, I guess Nora can go to Jelly Beans with us."

Mark then headed out to get his tires changed.  Thankfully, he called me on the way to report his crafty maneuvering.  I clarified for him that he had dropped Nora off at the wrong Sydney's house, and apparently was now on her way to the wrong party.  Simultaneously, I was receiving phone calls from the "wrong" Sydney's mom, wondering why Nora was on their doorstep?  Was anyone left at our home?  And more inportantly, could she "red rover" Nora back home so she could get to her own daughter's birthday party? 

I tried to keep my sense of humor and not lose my cool.  I sighed, then laughed and teased Mark that he told me he knew where Young's Gym was (which is not near Jelly Beans), and that he needed to come back, retrieve Nora and her gift, change her back into her gym clothes, and take her to the correct party. 

Then I politely asked him to please refrain from calling Brady out for not listening and not following directions for a while...a very long while...

The apple does not far fall from the tree.  Even if it is an Elms tree...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Raising the Bar...I Need to Start Lifting Weights

Having grown increasingly frustrated by the inactivity, non-response, and otherwise general ignorance of my four darlings, I decided that I had reached a major crossroads.  Either I could continue half-enabling them, and allow the current state of chaos to continue, or I could raise the bar, and begin expecting more of, and from, each of them. 

I briefly considered doing the whole "Mom On Strike" idea, as you may recall from some ABC afterschool special in the 1980's.  But I don't think most of my kids are old enough to get it, nor do my days conclude as neatly as a made-for-tv-movie, so I continued to brainstorm.

We started off by creating a family contract, that everyone, even Mark and I, had to sign.  First, we included the obvious (homework before tv), to the mundane (make you bed and pick your crap up off the floor and put it in its place), to the stretch (no whining, interrupting, or fighting).  I put some lines in there to give them a taste of empowerment (I deserve to get up in the morning and start each day without any grudges)...and so far, everyone seems to be (mostly) towing the line...

I also made some critical changes to our bedtime routines.  With four young kids and a traveling husband, evenings are when I get things done, not to mention the few precious minutes of peace and quiet that I hold so dear.  Trying to get all the kids fed, bathed, teeth brushed, changed, books read, kids snuggled, kissed, and sleeping (or on their way) by 8pm was all but impossible.  By the time all the kids were "snuggled" and tucked in and kissed goodnight, it was nearly 9 o'clock.  Doesn't sound that late...until you factor in that I still have to clean up dinner, pick up the house, switch over and fold the laundry...and that I am waking everyone up at 6:15am every morning for school.  Time to make the donuts............

So I decided that each kid gets one designated night a week for snuggling.  Monday is Brennan's night, Tuesday is Brady's night, Wednesday is Nora's night, and Thursday belongs to AJ.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday are a little flexible, but officially they are considered just "tuck in" nights.

At first I felt a little guilty, as if I was depriving them of some sort of critical maternal nurturing opportunity.  But you know what?  They LOVE it.  Each of them looks so forward to their "special night" when they know that three other little whiny voices aren't going to constantly interrupt our time together with "when is it MY turn for you to snuggle ME, Mom...".  Everyone gets tucked in with a kiss goodnight, and then I get 15-20 minutes of good, quiet, uninterrupted time with one.  Whether we read together, talk about the day or some pressing matter, or just get sleepy together, it doesn't matter.  It's different from night to night, kid to kid...but it is WORKING!! and I get the best of both worlds...a pleasantly efficient bedtime routine with meaningful time for the child, and I can get it all done by 8pm on most nights. 

We also stole an idea from their school, the "Caught Being Good" jar.  When I catch them doing something right/good/helpful/polite I simply say "I caught you being good!" and they grab a little square of paper and put their name on in (as well as what they were caught being good doing) and place it in a big jar we keep in the kitchen.  At the end of the week, we draw one name from the jar and they can choose from a couple of little rewards (maybe a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts, or they get to choose what movie we rent from Blockbuster, or a Date with Mom/Dad, etc...).  They are NOT allowed  to come running to me, self report a good deed, and actively solicit the "CBG".  I have to "catch" them, recognize it, and hopefully reinforce good behavior in a positive way.  At any rate, it's more fun for them and I do find them trying a little harder to help each other out (at least whenever they think I'm in earshot)...

And finally, I have mounted a dry erase board on the kids bedroom doors.  As I buzz around the house and come up with things that they haven't done (make your bed! put clean laundry away!) or need to do (homework! feed the fish!), I jot them down on their board, as well as whatever activities they have that afternoon (don't forget drama at 4:15!).  It beats the heck out of repeating myself 50 times, in increasingly loud and shrill tones, and they can cross off or erase the things as they are completed. 

So, I feel as though I've begun a P90X program for my house and family.  The easy part was coming up with the ideas...the hardest part, as always, is the follow through. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

How the Fairy Tale Really Ended...

I recently received an email from my Mom entitled, "How the Fairy Tales Really Ended." 

The pictures were hilarious.  Here are a couple...


Snow White...

Unable to contain my laughter, I sent this along to a select few of my friends who are knee deep in diapers, juggling kids, activities, school, husbands, work, know, "living the dream."

A few hours later I received a phone call from one of those friends.  She very pointedly explained to me that her daughter had gotten a hold of her phone and what popped up on her screen was my email.  I laughed, thinking that she'd seen Snow White toting around her "Irish Twins" or asking why Cinderella was not in her castle but before I could ask her for any additional details, she told me that her daughter was very, VERY concerned and upset.  She wanted me to explain to her (daughter via conference call) just what exactly had happened to Belle?  (see below)

Was she in the hospital??  Was she back in Disney World??  How did this happen?  She just had to know that Belle was okay.

Clearly, Belle was having some work done...
I did some quick thinking.  I was in hot water...I felt as if I'd given up Santa's gig or something... "Well, you see honey, Belle and the Beast were, um, riding horses in the forest, yeah... Outside the Beast's castle...and uh, the horse was startled by um, something, and reared up...and poor Belle fell off and bumped her face on a fallen log...she did get a little bit hurt, but yes! she's totally fine!  The doctors stitched her ALL up and now she is as good as new...and even more Beautiful than ever..." 

[end speaker phone conversation]

Thankfully, I think she bought the story.  I'm sure the next time her family visits Disney World, she'll have all kinds of questions to ask Belle...hopefully Belle will have that morning off from the Princess Breakfast and can dodge the inquisition... 

The good news is that Belle's work has fully healed and she is lovlier than ever, thanks to the skilled hands of Disney's finest plastic surgeons.  The bad news is that despite Belle's best efforts at maintaing her youth and beauty, the Beast has left her for Selena Gomez, who just recently celebrated her 18th birthday.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Small Affirmations...

Being a parent is tough.  There are no raises, promotions, titles, or year-end bonuses, so it's tough to figure out when to give yourself a pat on the back.  I often find myself mired in the refereeing and daily trials of parenthood, just trying to get everyone fed, clothed, cleaned, and to their respective activities and schools.  I am guilty too, of forgetting that I am not perfect, so why do I expect my kids to always be perfect?  There's nothing wrong with setting the bar high, but within reason! 

The last couple of weeks, I've had enough "huh" moments that I think I can say, with some small amount of certainty, that I might be doing something right.  Not everything, for I am surely scarring them in ways that will take a therapist many thousands of dollars to un-do at some point in their futures, but something, which is better than nothing...

AJ (21 months):  I sneezed this morning and he stopped what he was doing (running down the hall), looked at me and said, "Bess noo, Mama."  Then he resumed his sprint, until the wall stopped him. 

Nora (age 4):  Cleaned my truck, because it was "dirty and she wanted to surprise me".  Or should I say, cleaned the front grill and headlights, because that was all she could reach.  With a scrub brush and half a bottle of Palmolive dumped into a beach bucket.

Brady (age 7):  Used the word "gossamer" in a sentence, in the proper context.  Seriously?  Gossamer?  Didn't that word go out of use in the 1700s?  On a separate, but no less profound note (for him), he's made it through the first week of school, getting up at 6:30am, plus three nights of football camp (2 hours/evening in 100 degree heat) without whining, complaining, or having a meltdown. 

Brennan (age 9):  Gave me one of the highest nods a "tween" can: held my hand, gave me a kiss and a hug, and said "Love you, too" on her way into 4th grade orientation.  It was also her idea that we stop by "GiGi's" house on our walks up in Michigan (I would have stopped in anyway, but thought it was sweet that Brennan said it first).  How awesome is it that a 9 year old thinks her Great Grandma is fun to visit? 

Of course, you may notice that "I" am taking all the credit for their affirmation of "my" outstanding parental abilities.  I'll be happy to write the next post on all of Mark's bad habits they seem to be modelling.......  ; )

Oh, that was just me again, forgetting that I am not perfect.  Darn it!