Lucky Number Seven

Seven. Many say seven is a lucky number. It is, indeed, a popular number. There are seven days in a week, seven Dwarfs in Snow White, seven continents, seven virtues to live by, seven deadly sins to avoid, seven colors in the rainbow, and there are Seven Wonders of the World.

Most important to me, there is a special boy, Cooper, who is now seven.

This past year has produced so many laughs and good memories. Many things have changed and some have stayed the same. My name of Mudder is now Mom (or Big Stace when you are being funny), you don’t hold my hand as much, but you still love Momma Radio (me singing you to sleep). You still love to sing and dance. In my face, in the car, in the shower-ALL THE TIME. You play the same songs over and over on your iPad. You sing your little heart out to “To Kill a Word” by Eric Church and Charlie Puth’s “One Call Away.” You love Bruno Mars “That’s What I Like,” the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Fireball” by Pitbull. You have discovered the 1994 Tootsie Roll, but in the song intro you say “1894”-I doubt anyone was tootsie rolling in 1894. You also spent a few weeks this year shouting, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon.” You had a short stint at guitar lessons, but said you were bored with learning the strings you wanted to just rock-n-roll. We will give it another try later.

You have learned a lot this year such as how to dive, backstroke, and be a better swimmer. You can ride a bike without training wheels. You are still kicking it in soccer. I love that your bold heart matches the bold, crazy soccer socks you wear each game. You apparently met a soccer coach from Notre Dame during a recent summer camp and told him you were going to play on his team. You started Futsal this year and loved it.

Your favorite shows to watch over and over include the Three Amigos, Harry and the Henderson’s, SING, Little Big Shots, Tom and Jerry, and Animal Fight Night-anything National Geographic.

You love being with your cousin-he is your bestest bud.You have such fun playing with your neighborhood friends-you all are making so many good memories together with Legos, Nerf guns, slip-n-slides, and popsicles. Your all-time favorite playmate and hero is still Dad.

You are obsessed with your grandparent’s dog, Moxie. You and that West Highland white terrier are kindred spirits.

You added Pokémon cards, fidget spinners, and Beyblades to your likes. You have an extensive collection of weird things such as a turtle shell, a rabbit foot, reptile feet, and unique rocks and seashells.

You are still full of questions. When you do not think I am giving you the correct answer or if I don’t happen to know how many hours it is to your birthday, when it is months away-you just say, “Give me your phone, I’ll just ask Siri.”

You like to tuck all of your shirts in, even when I tell you sometimes it looks dorky. You have got into the fad of having a design shaved in your hair.

Speaking of hair, you have a comb over technique that you have started that I try to fix before you walk out the door each day. You have lost seven teeth and have one barely hanging on.

 

We have had many adventures in places such as Florida, Alabama, Indiana, and Tennessee to name a few.

We have watched Monster Trucks, canoed, roller-skated, ice-skated, built sand castles, shot pellet guns, bowled, rode go carts, and played miniature golf. We conquered the State Fair. We visited the Huntsville Space Center, as well as many other museums and aquariums. We have explored caves, seen waterfalls, and hiked. We visited Rock City and you thought it was the coolest. We survived an animal safari where you were bit by a zonkey (zebra + donkey). On the safari, I was stalked by a creepy emu and your Dad was licked by the world’s largest buffalo. What a wildly fun adventure. We have jumped on trampolines and in bounce houses. You are a master at laser tag. On your bucket list is to visit the Leaning Tower of “Pizza.” You are going to be disappointing to learn it is Pisa.

You have picked everything from boogers and scabs to strawberries and honeysuckles. You melt my heart when you ring the doorbell and say “special delivery dear mother” and have a flower or a weed you have picked just for me.

You started Kindergarten this year. I will always remember picking you up with Mimzi (grandmother) on the first day of school. When you hopped in the car, we were both anxious to learn about your first day. I said, “how was your first day of kindergarten?” To which you replied, “some kid trashed talked me in the bathroom line and said the “a” word.” When I asked what the “a” word was, it was actually a word that started with an “s”-but hey, that’s what kindergarten is for, right?

You love the days when you are an car rider after school. You are a math whiz. You are learning to read. You have learned to tie your shoe. You have learned the Seven Habits and use them against me at times. You learned about being a bucket filler or a bucket dipper. You received an award for being a bucket filler-that made me proud. You won an award for citizenship and math. You’re a good friend. You will not stand for bullying. You love theme days at school. You have two Os in your name and you discovered you can make a smiley face out of your name by using the Os for eyes. I taught you to write sentence by using two fingers to make a space-to separate the words. When you first started reading you would say the “two finger space” dog “two finger space” ran “finger space” away “period.” 

You aspire to be a zookeeper or a scientist who makes potions. Your current plans are to live with me forever and have two boys named Campbell and Carter (after your favorite twins) and a girl named Kendall (not sure where that one came from). We really hope the babies’ Momma is in the picture and you have your own house where I don’t feel like a zookeeper.

You love traditions like looking at Christmas lights in the park and Valentine’s dinner, to name a few. You had a blast this year placing For Sale and Welcome Home Baby signs in our families’ yards for April Fools.

 

You are a master of iPad games, love Face-timing your family and your grandparent’s dog. You have us in stitches with Snapchat pictures and videos you create. You know about Amazon Prime and track my orders for me. You are your neighborhood buddies have been talking about starting a Nerf Gun Youtube channel.

Food wise, not much has changed. You have added French toast and “momma chips” (Stacy chips-which are named after me) to your mix. You have consumed a least a field or two full of strawberries and watermelon this year. You love to make coffee on Saturdays for your parents-you have perfected your brew-but it is still strong.

You are quick whited and funny. You see the world in a simple, loving, adventurous way. While on vacation this year, you witnesses for the first time, a homeless person. I tried to have a great parenting moment and explain what was going on and why. You replied, “nah, I think they just ran out of energy on vacation and needed a nap and some food.” I wish the world would stay that simple for you. You love big and your best days are spent with your immediate and extended family.

Today, my spoon is full of the all the great memories and adventures from year six and excitement for being the lucky one who gets to share seven with you.

Walking Away

As a Mom and an education professional the beginning of this school year looked different for me than the start of school years passed. This school year was different because my five year old son started a new school. I started the school year on a scooter after having surgery on my ankle. Instead of driving my son to school and myself to work, my mother picked us both up and delivered us to our destinations…kind of like the old days when I was a child and she was my taxi; except we are older and an extra mini-me is tagging along in a carseat.

I was determined to “walk” my son into this new building with new faces and new ideas…that’s what mom’s do, right? So my Mom would pick us up each morning, drive us to my son’s school, and unload the scooter so I could “walk”, I mean “roll,” my son into school. Then my mom would load me up and take me to work and unload me again. I would roll away, dreaming of day I can walk away from the car on my own without assistance.  After about two and half months, I was cleared to walk again and our routine returned to normal.  I walked away.

On scooter or feet, there were many days at the beginning of the school year, when I walked my son into school and he held my hand tight or clung on to me because goodbyes can be hard (and kids are generally experts at guilt tripping parents). There were days he clung to my neck like a chimpanzee and days my skirt felt like it might fall to my knees from him tugging on me.  After dropping him off at school, I would get in my car and on the way to work worry about him. Luckily, my drive time worries were short lived with less than a mile drive to my place of work and the realities of my workday smacking in the face as soon as I enter the doors. But, on the short drive and throughout the day I worried about how long this behavior would keep up? Was he not transitioning well? Was there something I was missing? Shouldn’t he be outgrowing the clingy stage? And on and on the questions grew within my heart and mind.

For the first months of schools, we kept our routine up each morning, me talking about how big boys act at drop off and shoving him onto an activity with his friends or into the arms of his teacher as I dropped him off. I bribed him with ice-cream treats and other rewards if he acted like a big boy.  And then one day, it happened. I walked him into his classroom and he just walked away without a kiss, hug, or a goodbye. No tears. No chimpanzee moves. Nothing. I was stuck between the two conflicting universes of happy and sad. Should I skip out of the school singing or mope out crying? I think I skipped out of the building and then I cried.

Then a few days later, something bigger happened. We pulled up to his school one morning, I parked the car to get him out, and he said “Mom, I am going in by myself today. Just stay in the car.” To which I replied “well, I will walk you across the parking lot to the building and get the door for you.” And he replied to my suggestion with “No, I don’t want you to. I got this Modder (Mother).” So off he went across the parking lot with a bounce in his step wearing his oversized backpack and carrying his lunchbox. I watched him walk away.

As I watched him walk away, I recorded the moment in my forever memory bank. I played it over and over in my head for days to come as I thought about his new found behavior…his new freedom to walk away.

The remainder of our morning drop offs this year, go something like this. He unbuckles his car seat and hops out of the car. I help him put his backpack on and give him his lunch box. He gets a big hug and kiss from me. As he walks away, I yell out “I love you, have a great day, and make good choices.” Without turning around he yells back, “Okay, I love you too and I will. Okay Mom.” I watch him walk away from me and bounce with pep in his step to his next adventure. I walk away and I get in the car, close the door and my heart says a silent prayer of thanks for him with a universal request that the world is gentle on him today. And, let’s face it, that he will be gentle on the world, too. Each time he walks away, I can’t wait to hear about his great adventures on the other side of his day.

Not too long after he started walking into school on his own, I captured this video to remember the feelings and emotions I experienced of him walking away.

I have thought about the emotions associated with walking away. I know my Mom was happy to see me walk away and not have to haul me around anymore as a teenager and as an adult on a scooter, but she was probably also a little sad that she wasn’t needed in that same capacity any longer. It seems that society has programmed us to think of walking away with sadness and loss. Walking away has a bad connotation to it- it makes us feel like we are giving up, calling it quits, or losing something. When I think about moments I have walked away, for good/happy reasons or failure/sad reasons, it seems that happiness always emerged eventually. So maybe walking away isn’t so bad and it really is about seizing the next opportunity, rather than losing something you are walking away from in that moment. Maybe what you are walking into is more exciting, than the loss of what you are walking away from.

It’s my job to teach my son when and how to walk away. There will be various forms of chimpanzees that want to hold on to his neck to hold him back and prevent him from moving forward. Heck, there will be a day when I am senile and I might act like a chimpanzee. However, I want him to know the strength of being able to walk away and listen to his inner voice that says “I got this.”

There will be lots of times, this precious boy of mine will walk away. This life is his journey to walk, not mine. Really, I am just fortunate to be along for the ride…even if my view is his backside walking away. I hope I am lucky enough to see him walk away to his new big school next year, to middle school, to high school, and on to college (if any Notre Dame reps are reading this-he has plans for a soccer scholarship so just call us because we can commit early). I want to experience the joy and excitement when he walks away from me and onto opportunities like field trips, special adventures, traveling the globe, and serving others. I look forward to seeing him walk away from me and walk down the on isle to commit to the love of his life, to his first job, to go meet his first born, and all the other life moments HIS journey holds. A journey that includes many stops that are his to walk without me.

Today my spoon is full of anticipation of when I get a chance to walk with him like old times. For example, like when his valentine box was just too much too carry and he needed my help or when we had two dozen cupcakes to drop off at school. I proudly jump out of the car and walked with him.

Full Hands, Full Heart

What are little boys made of? According to a 19th century nursery rhyme

          What are little boys made of?

          Snips and snails    

         And puppy-dogs’ tails,

         That’s what little boys are made of.

The same rhyme states that little girls are made out of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. As a girl, I would have to agree. As a mom of a boy I can attest that on top of the snips of just about anything snippable, snails, and puppy dog tails that little boys are full of sugar, spice, and everything nice as well.  Mothering has allowed me to learn a lot about boys…and inadvertently I have a better understanding of grown men. Having a boy was meant to be for me. I think I must have had an intuition that I would raise a son. When we were thinking about starting a family, my husband and I only had a boy’s name in mind. The night before our ultrasound to determine the gender, I dreamed the baby was a boy…and indeed it was clear by the very first ultrasound picture our baby was a bouncing baby boy. I should have known by all of his kicking and squirming during my pregnancy, that I had an adventurous fellow on my hands. As a matter of fact, he punched and kicked me so much when I went into the hospital to be induced, it turned out to be more than him kickboxing my internal organs…I was already in labor and didn’t know it. He was ready to discover the world…he has always been a step ahead of me.

While he has spent the last five years discovering this grand world, I have had the opportunity to rediscover its beauty and simplicity through him. The last few years have been filled with my son saying hundreds of times “Mommy, look!” and then each squeal of excitement for me to look is usually followed by his hands opened wide to show me his newest discovery. I will admit, sometimes when he has been too quiet for too long, I meet him with a little hesitation afraid of what I might see. When this started occurring on a regular basis, I started taking pictures of his hands each time. I wanted to savor the moment because it meant more to me than just seeing a turtle, frog, or a bird. Luckily, we haven’t picked up a snake…YET.

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In all of his discovery and my picture taking, I was reminded how much I love those little hands that grow in size and bravery each and every day. Those little hands are the sugar, spice, and everything nice…the gateway to his curiosity, imagination, and heart. They are the hands that stole my heart. On the days that my hands are full with love, life, and work, his tiny hands remind me to keep an open heart and mind, as well as, to see the beauty in the moment – to “look” at what surrounds me at THAT moment rather than what is behind me or before me.

He uses his tiny hands to stuff his little cheeks full of watermelon, to pray, to make messes, to dig in the dirt, to discover the world around him, to share, to clap, to play games, maybe pick his nose when I am not looking (ughh), make funny dance moves, etc. He loves to use his hands to color, paint, and make creations out of Legos, towel rolls, rocks, and sand. I love when he reaches his hands out to me for a hug. I love how he twirls his fingers in my hair when we snuggle. I love holding his sticky, dirty hands. My hands and heart are full, thanks to this little guy.

His hands remind me of a quote by Taisen Deshimaru, a Buddhist teacher which states “Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” I strive to teach him to always have his hands open to explore, to help others, and to make a positive mark on this big that world we all share.  I hope his excitement for life, for discovery, for people, for nature doesn’t wain as he grows. I hope he always extends a hand to help others, and has the wisdom to know when he needs to accept a helping hand. I hope he knows when to use his hand to give someone a pat on the back and occasionally, give himself one. I hope when life deals him a bad “hand” that he will find the beauty in the ugliness and not close his hands and heart-only feeling the grit. Mostly, it is my hope that I raise him with open hands to share with the world so that he is free to find his place in this world, that I find joy in his discovery, and I don’t feel the grit of the years passing us by so quickly.

Today, my spoon is full of a handful of lessons learned from snips, snails…and a boy begging to add a puppy dog tail to our house.

A special thank you to our daycare

This week was my 5 year old son’s last week at his daycare/preschool. He has been counting down to his next adventure to kindergarten with excitement. Each morning he says,” how many more days, Mom? Sarcastically followed by “are you going to cry on my last day because you are sad I am growing up?” I told him I would not cry even though I knew I probably would (And…I did!). My how time flies. It really is bittersweet. The bitterness of life’s fleeting moments and the sweetness of new experiences for him in “big boy” school.

I remember visiting his daycare while I was pregnant with him. The owner showed me around the entire daycare from the bed baby to the preschool rooms. I have this memory in my mind’s eye of glancing into the preschool room where I saw children playing with friends, back packs hung on the wall, and kidos doing an activity using kid scissors. As I peered into the classroom I remember thinking to myself “wow those kids are so big and that it would be forever before we are in this room.” Forever turned out to be a very very short five years.

My son started attending his daycare at 8 weeks old. I am pretty sure the first day I dropped him off I had a typed listed featuring everything you need to know about my son. I am also sure the teacher thought I was nuts. I remember sitting in the parking lot and shedding a tear the day I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. I cried because it was my first time leaving him. Truth be told, I may have shed a tear or two of relief because it was the first day in 8 weeks he wasn’t screaming at me (see previous post about colic). He didn’t scream at daycare-he waited until I picked him up. True love.

This is a picture of my son on his first day at daycare.

First Day at Daycare September 13, 2010

First Day at Daycare
September 13, 2010

And…here is his picture on the last day of daycare. He looks a little different in this big old chair now.

Last Day at Daycare August 7, 2015

Last Day at Daycare
August 7, 2015

This blog post serves as a special thank you to his teachers and the owner over the last five years. You each hold a special place in this chapter of our lives. This is why you all are so great:

  • You helped teach him some of the most important life lessons-sharing, caring, taking your turn, manners, and the list goes on and on.
  • You always communicated with me about my son’s day with you.
  • You developed, within my son, a love for learning and exploration with classroom visits from community helpers, like policeman and firemen, and daily hands on activities.
  • You make learning your ABCs, 123s, animals, songs, and rhythms so much more fun than I could have ever made it. As a matter of fact I have relearned a few things myself. For example, I can’t get “bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” out of my head this week. Last week it was “boom chicka boom.”
  • You have helped him create arts and crafts that I will always treasure.
  • You provided assurance about the stages in the life of a small child. We survived colic, a year stint of my son biting like a vampire, multiple dislocated elbows (to no fault of the daycare) and potty training together.
  • You have high expectations for my child.
  • You provided encouragement, comfort, love to my child.
  • You helped teach him how to be a good friend, student, and helper.
  • You helped him understand right and wrong and good and bad choices.
  • You were made by a greater power to love and teach children.
  • You are a beautiful example of women lifting up other women.

It takes a village to raise a child and our daycare is a part of my family’s village. As important as this place has been to my child, they have been equally important to me. They have greeted me with a smile and open arms EVERY day. Days when I am on time. Days when I run late. Days when life is perfect. Days when I am tired, don’t feel well, or want to quit. They have provided me the confidence I need each day to know my son is safe, happy, and learning. That confidence allows to go to work and spend my days empowering others in my profession.

This week my son and I were talking about the new building, teachers, and friends that come with kindergarten. During the discussion he said “sometimes when you try something new, it’s scary but you just be brave and it turns out good, right?” Sometimes I think he is wise beyond his years. With a positive attitude like that, I assured him that great things are in store for him. As we transition to the next phase of my son’s educational journey. These years at daycare/preschool will always have a special place in my family’s hearts. For this experience I am grateful.

As we drove out of the daycare parking lot on our last day, I wiped a tear from my eye and then I heard my son say “this air conditoning in the car is making my eyes cry a little (such a tough guy). When do I get to go back and visit?” I knew then he understand the great experience he had there.

Today my spoon is full of many great memories of our special daycare experience and the friends we have made along the way.

Four-Ever Memories of Three

To my soon-to-be four year old:

How can you be four? Wasn’t it yesterday that you were just four seconds old and I saw your chubby face for the first time? Wasn’t it yesterday, that you were four months old and eating Gerber turkey and gravy and sweet potatoes baby food for Thanksgiving? Four years sure have flown by. You remind me daily that you are super deep big (deep apparently means a LOT) and that you have hair on your legs. Your adventurous spirit has made me a thrill seeker of your life moments. I try to burn those moments and your contagious giggle deep into my mind so I can reminisce on these days when I am 100 years old sitting in my rocking chair.

You have had a BIG third year of your life and I am sure number four will prove to be equally as adventurous. Three years old started out with a month-long celebration of your birthday (you have already been celebrating your upcoming number four for two weeks). You started preschool this past year and you have learned so much. You can write your name, rattle off numbers, recite the ABCs, and recall random facts about the weather, seasons, animals, etc. I have learned and relearned so much from you. For example, I know about dinosaur species-which dinos are meat eaters and plant eaters; what every creature eats and where they live; the workings of every type of construction vehicle and crane; and old nursery rhymes and games are new again. You have sung songs from the movie Frozen and Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here no less than 100 times per week (that is 5,200 for the year). I particularly love that in Shelton’s song you sing at the top of your lungs that you are kicking up “ducks” instead of dust. We have watch lots of Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, and Superhero Squad. You are proud that you can reach the light switches and climb into the tub on your own. You enjoy Facetime and talking on the phone with family. You see yourself as the protector of your best buddy cousin “Tole” (Cole) who is only 6 months younger. You have caught turtles, frogs, lightening bugs, butterflies, crawdads, and salamanders. You still pee in the yard, but I have at least contained you to one tree. Every time you see an airplane fly overhead, you fling your arms out and say “take us to the beach.” You have completed your first 5K on Mommy’s shoulders because you would not ride in the stroller; went camping and canoeing; explored caves, museums, and zoos; taken swimming lessons; joined the Padres’ T-Ball team (and asked me what is a Padre every game and asked why can’t you be on the Pirate team); had a blast on Halloween as Captain America; were amazed when you saw an off-duty Santa eating at local Froyo place and wondered where his reindeer parked; built snowmen and gingerbread houses; played endless games of boomerang, soccer, football and army men with Dad; have flown a kite, fed ducks, donkeys, and cows; went fishing; lived off of yogurt, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza, fettuccine, strawberries and watermelon; and you have started to like salad.

Your little chubby face and legs are still chubby but not as much as they once were. As I have watched you grow throughout  your third year, there have been many times throughout the year that I have paused because you have reminded me of one of our family members; after all you are the perfect combination of years of DNA. Some may say it’s because I want to see those traits from the one’s I love, but I believe the fabric of your being is made from generations of love.

me 3Mom: You know me as Mommy or Moder (mother) if you are being silly. Some wonder if you even belong to your Dad or if you’re an asexual reproduction. Simply put, you are me with boy parts. Pictures of me, age birth through  four look just like you. You also have my organizational mind and love of trying new things (except for new food-you don’t stray). You have my tough spirit and do not let much get under your skin. We share a love for seeing, experiencing, and enjoying this great world.

clay 3Dad: You know him as Daddy and he is your best friend. You have your Dad’s mechanical brain. You can put stuff together and take things apart with ease. You have his strong, patriotic heart. You have his fratboy party spirit for good times and adventure (God, help us!). You have his athletic ability. You are both gentlemen.

 

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Maternal grandmother: You know her as Mimzi. You have her quick wit and because of this you both spend most of your days as friendenemies (friend + enemy) trying to push one another’s buttons. You can both be stubborn, but will fight for what and who you love. You have her weird toes.

 

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Maternal grandfather: You know him as Popppa. You have his round face, brown eyes, his love of sweets, and his love of Four E Farms. You also have his heart; you have said that you want to work like Poppa and help people when you are big. Maybe he will finally have an offspring who follows a career in pharmacy.

 

di and grePaternal grandfather: You know him as Poppy. You have his love for nature and the great outdoors. You are also kind like he is and always willing to help others. And…we can’t forget your Paternal step-grandmother: You know her as Nana. You aren’t blood, but she loves you just like family. You both know how to enjoy a good time and like giving Poppy a hard time.

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Paternal grandmother: You know her as Grandma. You share her creativity and her persistence.

 

 

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Maternal-Maternal great grandmother: You did meet Maw, but you were too tiny to remember. She was so proud of you. You have her love of music and her blind faith in something greater. She was also on alert for bad weather and you are always asking about “cornadoes” (tornadoes).

 

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Maternal-Maternal great grandfather: You know him as Grandfather. At times, I think you laugh like him. He has a distinct chuckle. You also have his mind and hands-on ability to build and create just about anything you set your mind to. I hope you have his great complexion-he has made it to his eighties without wrinkles.

 

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Maternal-Paternal great grandfather: You never had a chance to know him, but, like your Momma, you have his big lips. He also had a big smile like you-this picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

 

Granny

Paternal-Paternal great grandmother: You never had a chance to know her. She would have loved you! You possess her love of family and ability to see the best in people.

 

 

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Paternal-Paternal great grandfather: I never met him, nor have you. However, your Dad tells me you are strong like him and share his sense of humor. He was also a very smart man. He spent his career studying oceanography-maybe that is why you love the beach.

 

As you can see, Son, you are made up of some pretty remarkable people. You have some of their best qualities. The fabric of your being is uniquely you, yet a part of others. I have loved watching you bud into a little person this past year, as well as having the opportunity to reflect on the family I love as your actions sometimes remind me of them.

Four years old, marks the end of the toddler years and beginning of the child years. As you turn four you will grow smarter, taller, and stronger-but as I tell you-you’re always my baby. To which you say “you mean BIG baby!” It is my promise to you, to make the child years as adventurous and loving as the toddler years have been.

I love you the mostest,

Moder

XOXO

Today, my spoon is full of four-ever memories of my toddler.

 

 

 

Presence: Life’s Present

We have all savored something. Maybe it was the taste of a fine glass of wine, a made from scratch dish from a family recipe, or a scrumptious dessert. In that moment of savoring you think, “mmmm” this is the peak of excellence that you want to remember. There is much to savor about life that is not related to just food. Perhaps it’s a destination checked off the bucket list, the moment you say “I do”, the first time you glance at your newborn child, a graduation, a milestone, the sun setting or rising, or the glow of a summer or winter day. You know one of those moments, even if the world is not perfect-for that moment in time life feels, taste, or seems perfect. I have found that on the best of days, life is perfectly imperfect and that you can savor the perfection in imperfection.

My life always provides bountiful topics to blog about. However, I have not been writing as much as I typically have in the past. Why? Mainly, because I am just savoring. I have reached a stride where I am enjoying motherhood by savoring rather than sharing the moment. I have always loved the job of mom, but I am particularly fond of being a mom to a three-year old. For us, year three (only 2 months left until four years old) has been a good one. The kind of year that makes you wonder when the bottom is going to fall out because the journey has just been so fun. My toddler has had good health, we have gone over a year without a dislocated elbow (I stopped counting at the 7th dislocation), he has soaked up a wealth of information, he only follows me to the bathroom 75% of the time, and he acts more human than animal most days. He likes to remind me constantly that he is “growing up” and is “getting bigger” and that he might even be so big when he is “forty” that he will be a “really, really big giant.” Yes, I like the job of mom to a three year old.

One thing I have tried to become more aware of is of my toddler’s presence. Granted, it is hard to miss this funny, rambunctious kid. However, I am talking about the evidence of his presence that I was probably never meant to find. The presence I could have easily wiped off with some type of cleaner, tossed in a tote of toys, or maybe even never noticed. When I started consciously looking for tokens of his presence, I noticed my toddler leaves a trail of his three-year old self everywhere. I know one day, I will terribly miss these sweet tokens because they will be replaced by smelly socks and gym shorts.

Throughout the year, I have been trying to click mental pictures of life with a three year old that I do not want to forget or even worse…overlook. I want the moments with my three year old seared in my memory. In addition to mental pictures, I have been taking iPhone pics of the funnier moments that remind me of my toddler’s presence. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I have discovering them.

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Take time to notice the presence of others and not just in the physical form. You will be pleasantly surprised by the lessons you might learn, the appreciation you might gain, or the joy you may experience. Sometimes the quiet, unexpected, and the seemingly unnoticeable moments show us the most about people and life-becoming a present to our soul. When you are rushing through life it’s hard to see little things that you take for granted. When we take time, even if it’s only for a minute to notice our surroundings, we can truly appreciate our life and those in it.

Today, my spoon is full of presence of a three year old who steals my heart every day.

All in a Day’s Work

Recently my toddler and I were in the car on the way to preschool and work. Even though my brain is not yet awake, he loves spending our short morning commute asking questions-most of which I do not know the answer to or the answer is too complicated for 7:45 AM. Things like, “why did that tree grow there?” “Does Santa go on vacation to the beach?” “How old was I when you were a baby, mommy?”  “Why do donkeys like to eat carrots”? “How old will I be when I have a beard?” “Will I grow up to be a giant?” And the questioning goes on and on and on until we get to his preschool. Recently during the morning commute, my toddler was asking me about why people work and what they do for “work”. He questioned me on the “work” of all of the family and friends he could possibly think of (like 500 people) and we talked about what they do for work. He then said, “what’s my job, momma? Where do I work?” I responded that he works at preschool and his job was to learn all sorts of new things, have fun with his friends, and to be kind and helpful (terrible threes-that is a real hard performance measure to achieve some days). As we pulled into the parking lot to his “job” (AKA preschool) my answer about his work seemed to pacify him and he jumped out of the car to head in for a hard day of work on pajama day.

Fast forward to a few hours later that day, I was at my work in a meeting. I spend way more hours than I care to calculate in meetings. At this particular meeting my mind drifted off for a split-second (really, it was just for a bit) and I started thinking about my toddler and wondering how his “work” day was going. I then begin to think, what if my toddler took my place for a day at work. How would his day be different than mine? I mean I could use a pajama day and some time to play with my friends. What would my toddler do (WWTD) if he was sitting at this board room table in a meeting? Looking around at my colleagues picturing them as toddlers, I thought if I acted like a toddler in this meeting by mimicking some of my son’s behaviors, it might look something like this.

Example

WWTD

How   to apply to apply it in the adult “work” world

Action Items Say NO to every question and request just because you can.  Do you think we should implement this initiative? NO! Do you want to schedule another meeting? NO. Do you think we can all agree….I said Noooo! Sometimes you need to say NO. Keep a healthy work and life balance and say NO where and when you should.
Meeting Discussion Dominators Make funny objects or paper airplanes out of meeting notes and agendas and throw at people who talk too much. Break the “rules” and think outside the box.
Ice Breakers Eat boogers or let one rip and then giggle. Have fun. Have a good laugh at yourself. Take the opportunity to get to know others and allow others to know the authentic you!
Questioning Ask “why” as many times as possible. Why are we doing this? Why are   these chairs so uncomfortable? Why are we meeting again? If you don’t understand something, question it and keep asking   questions until you get it.
New Technology Use your electronic device app with a talking cat, lady bug or dino. Record everyone talking in the meeting and   play it back with the cat, bug or dino voice on full volume. Try something new to get your message across. No death by PowerPoint or reading word for word. Be creative with the tools available!
Buy In  I “Insert Name” you are being   very ugly.  or “You are rude.” or “You are not my very best friend anymore.” Speak your mind, let it go, and move on. If you don’t like someone or how they are acting-tell them. Don’t hold a grudge.
Integrity Be a tattle tale – “I just broke your toy?” or “Insert name” is being   mean.” Sometimes you have to call it like you see. Even when it means be   truthful with your own behavior.
Camaraderie Call people names. “You are a chocolate monkey butt”. (This is an endearing term my toddler uses for his aunt) Forge meaningful connections with those around you with humor.
Attendance Show up and sing to your own tune! Insert my toddler’s mean mixture of Katy Perry’s “Fire” and Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here”. Be present (guilty-that is how I came up with this blog idea).
New Ventures “I want to go home. Where’s my mommy?” It’s okay to be anxious when trying something new or sticking your   neck out.

Oh, and I failed to mention, in the above toddler boardroom scenario, I am sure mints and coffee would definitely be replaced with Goldfish crackers and juice. Also, pajamas would be the new business casual and you could bring your favorite toy. Without a doubt, leaders can learn a few things from toddlers. Really, they remind and teach us about the basics of savoring life that somehow the world deprogrammed from us. As parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. we have a lot to learn from children that can easily be transferred to our “work” life. The next time you are leading or attending a meeting, embrace your inner child. Eating your boogers might not work out so well, but hey a paper airplane never killed anyone, right?

Today my spoon is full of “work etiquette” from a toddler (said in my talking dino voice).

Gas Up Your Mini-Vans

Life was easy in a minivan. I don’t drive a minivan nor am I minivan hating on those minivan loving mommas. However, there was a time I drove a minivan-it was my Mom’s. It was a costumed ordered, sleek Mark III Minivan. The hottest minivan on the late 80s or early 90s market, with a pink and grey stripe down the side and lush velvet curtains on the interior windows. Mom, please tell you got a h*ll of a deal on this…looking back it was so ugly. Oh did I forget to mention that it was before I had my driver’s license? I was probably about eleven or twelve when me and a childhood bestie would take my mother’s minivan cruising. We weren’t driving on the road, we were driving on my parents’ property and my uncle’s adjoining property. We had a couple of acres to cruise.

Looking back, I have two thoughts on the minivan adventures. First, why did my mom let me and my friend drive around in her minivan all over her property when we probably hadn’t even hit puberty, let alone have a license to operate a vehicle? I guess she wanted us out of the house. She purchased a lot of fuel to keep us occupied. Second, life was just plain easier in that minivan.

So to take you back to those minivan rides in the late 80s and early 90s…We always wore our seatbelts. There was a safety campaign then to promote wearing seatbelts, so we took that seriously and “buckled up”. Remember the Crash Test Dummies? We probably had lots of hair spray on our tall “mall” bangs and wore neon colored clothing with tight rolled jeans (also sprayed with hairspray to hold the roll). On beautiful days we rolled down the windows. We always listened to our favorite radio station (or cassette tape) which played the latest hits of Madonna, Milli Vanilli, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, and Janet Jackson. Come to think of it, these artists’ lives were simpler in that minivan, too!

We were living the American dream in that minivan with our “baby” dolls in the back seat. I am pretty sure we didn’t adhere to any car seat laws for our little bundles of plastic. Oops! We had imaginary roads with stop signs, stop lights, etc. We had certain areas that we pretended were drive thru windows for banks, fast food etc. We also pictured ourselves as career women. Our career choices were being teachers and being presidents of a bank that we would own in our spare time.  We both landed in the education profession, but we don’t own any banks. I am not sure why we were intrigued with the banking industry other than we knew there was lots of money in a bank. And, I am sure we thought business suites looked cool and sophisticated. We would drive around for hours (literally) on my parents/uncle’s property. The neighbors and passer byers had to think my mother was losing her mind.  We could go up to 35 mph, without getting yelled at by Mom for driving too fast and then made to return the van to the garage. We really had no plans of where we were going during our drive…just cruising through life. We pretended to drop off the kids at school, cash a check at a bank (this was before ATM cards folks!), and run mom “errands”.  We would pretend our husbands were at work. Thank God we didn’t marry those guys! We giggled and we talked as we lived out our duo fantasy of supposedly working fulltime as a teacher and bank president. Our babies never cried or talked, no cell phones existed, no text, no social media, no blog that needed updating, no GPS, and no bad drivers on the road (just us). Yes, life, love, and parenting sure was easy in that minivan.

This same bestie that I use to cruise with when our feet barely reached the pedals now owns a minivan. She does have some great land for taking a drive, but we haven’t taken her minivan off road…but that might be an idea for escaping reality for a few minutes! If we were to hop in and take a cruise in her minivan, life would look much different than we had anticipated…it actually turned out better than we could have planned. However, I do miss the innocence of the simplicity we expected out of life as moms and as adults. If we were to take her minivan off-roading we would be so excited to have a moment to dedicate to each other to catch up, that we would literally run out of gas before we did conversation topics.

If we were to replay our minvan cruising as adults …here is what it might look like. First, we can now drive on the road legally and go over 35 mph…which is symbolic of life being such a fast pace now and often having more privileges than time. We have many blessings to talk about these days that involve spouses, children, and special interests. However, these days, our kids do cry, get sick, and act less than perfect occasionally (qualities totally inherited from their Dads-just to clarify-that is one dad per family….not of bunch of baby daddies here!). We have days we would generally like to rewind and just do over. We have days we feel like Wonder Women and days we feel like wandering women. My kid is nothing like a plastic baby- he is practically a backseat driver! Imaginary spouses, plastic babies, pretend jobs were much less complicated.  Text and email would be chiming in on our iPhones. We might even take a selfie and update our Facebook status or Instagram. Errands just plain suck as adults and aren’t as fun as we imagined. Hopping in and out of the vehicle a dozen times or going through various drive thru windows just aren’t as glamorous when they hold your day hostage, while you are toting a crying toddler, and using “your” “real” money to pay bills. Gas was cheaper in the 80s, therefore our trip might be shorter this time around. In our childhood minivan, the thought of worry, pain, illness, loss, etc. never crossed our minds. We didn’t understand how to love so much it could hurt at times. We didn’t understand the serious work of raising little people to be positive contributors to the world. We didn’t realize that dates with your sweetheart are few and far between and it’s the little every day moments that mean the most. We didn’t realize there would a national debate on moms who “stay” home and moms who “work” outside of the home (we are all working are butts off!). We didn’t realize the unfortunate cruelty in the world that can unexpectedly blindside you or cause you sleepless nights. Life was simple, easy, good, and fair in that minivan.

Life isn’t as simple, easy, or perhaps as fair as we anticipated…but it sure has been a good ride thus far. I wouldn’t trade all the joys of what this complicated world has bestowed upon us. Let’s gas up your minivan soon, friend. And for those of you who haven’t cruised in a minivan…crank up some 80s music and give it a try with a best friend!

Today my spoon is full of life adventures in a minivan.

When did “trick or treat” become “tramp or treat”?

Trick or Treat. Please be sweet. Give me something good to eat. In a few days children and adults alike will be celebrating Halloween. SONY DSCWhen my son was an infant and we picked out a chicken costume for him, I recall my husband telling me that I better enjoy picking out cutesy costumes for our child because the day would come when our son would aspire to be a superhero, villain, or scary creature. That day has abruptly arrived. Not only did our toddler pick out his costume, he picked ours too! He went back and forth on the Incredibles, Hulk, and Captain America before he nailed down his final pick.  This Halloween we are superheroes-Captain America (toddler), Superman (husband), and Wonder Woman (me). For you comic lovers, I do understand this means two DC characters mated and created a Marvel character, but that’s minor details for a three year old. Honestly, my first selfish reaction to the costumes my toddler selected was to thank the Master of this great universe that I do not have to be Mrs. Incredible “Elastigirl” and wear a skintight red leotard. And this rest of my neighborhood should be thankful too!

Finding a Captain America and Superman costume for the “boys” of the family was a piece of cake…or a real “treat” in Halloween terms. We visited a few online sites, found the costumes with the best sculpted muscles, cape, and fighting accessories-WHALAA! Their costumes arrived in the mail before I even found mine. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, took a little more time and creativity; mainly because it was tough finding a costume that didn’t fall into the category of Wonder Whore.

This costume buying experience has brought to light a whole new dilemma that moms across the globe face this time of year. How do you dress up for Halloween and not look like a trick or a treat if you catch my drift? Mothers, our choices are to look frumpy or look like a tramp. The magic words of Halloween are “Trick or Treat” not “Tramp or Treat.” Let’s explore our costume options. There are the cute costumes like M&Ms or clowns and then the scary ones such as a witch with warts on her nose. This is the appropriate holiday to sport the broom I normally ride all year, but who wants to be an ugly old witch with warts?

If you don’t like cute or scary, you can try the prostitute end of the spectrum, like the Transylvania Tramp, the Firehouse Hottie, or the Devilicious Devil. How about a construction worker costume made from maybe one yard of fabric and accessorized with a construction cone bra and five inch orange stilettos because that is what construction workers across America look like?!? Or maybe a naughty nurse is more your speed because so many nurses wear a short white apron, white gogo boots, and a bedazzled bra top in the operating room. After all, it’s the costume that says no gloves are required, infections are free. Maybe you would like to chase away goblins and pray for poor lost souls while wearing a sexy nun costume. Can we give these celibate sisters a little respect, please? Or maybe you want to dress up like something out of this world such as a sultry astronaut. In the USA, we cannot get enough girls in this nation interested in engineering and math, so let’s put them in Frederick of Hollywood style lingerie and send them to the moon. Makes sense, eh?

Let me pause here to say, ok, maybe these costumes are not made for moms. But they certainly aren’t made for children or teens either! Maybe they are for the single ladies that look like supermodels, who are attending parties and not raiding their children’s candy. However, I would still beg that somehow male costumes have remained the same and female costumes have become over sexed and are made with less and less material every year. Should we really have to buy a plus size costume just so our “pumpkins” don’t pop out of the costume? And in my neck of the woods, it is cold this time of the year! Yet, another reason to cover up!

What are we doing here? Are we dressing up for Halloween or trying to live out some fetish under the pretense of Halloween? And news flash, this should be about children having fun, candy, and spooky stories. As adults we have taken over Halloween and have done so in a distasteful manor…especially to women. Adults, we had our Halloweens as children, let’s leave it there. I rocked a Big Bird, Little Mermaid, and Cabbage Patch Kid costume as a child-just to name a few.

However, that doesn’t mean I want to sex those characters up as an adult! The only reason I am dressing up, is to create a memory with my toddler, and well, because he told me to.

I have come to the conclusion that the costume choices for “mummies” are slim pickings. I won’t be walking around my neighborhood with my Captain America and Superman in stilettos or fishnets.  Mommies, have some pride, get creative, and cover up! Costume makers…get some more material and cater to a market that is looking to be treated.

Today, my spoon is full of the truth about Halloween because I am caught up in the superpowers of Wonder Woman’s golden lasso!

Peace, Love & Belly Rubs

Belly RubEvery night when I put my toddler in bed, he says, “rub my belly mommy.” He stretches out on the bed, pulls up his shirt, places his hands behind his head, and sticks his Buda-like belly up in the air and I begin rubbing his belly like he is a puppy dog. One night in the quietness of the belly rubbing, I started thinking about time and my interactions with people. How we have a limited amount of time each day to accomplish or experience what we choose to experience out of life (note: our daily interactions are not totally in our full control because sometime life surprises us with choices good and bad). And, how the people we interact with, by choice or fate, impact our lives and happiness. As a matter of fact we have 1,440 minutes in each day or 10,080 minutes in a week. Now that I am a mom, how I use my minutes is more important than ever because I have a lot to accomplish in a limited window…and I want to savor my spoonful along the way.
One way I have been saving time and energy is through my interactions with people and the time allocated to various folks. Do you know anyone who is a funsucker which is the equivalent to a vampire sucking the fun out of life and people? Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of funsucking vampires in the world that like to sink their pointy little fangs into your life’s minutes. You know who they are…some days you may be one yourself.
Let’s see there are the manipulators, downers, users, chronic complainers, drama addicts, guilt trippers, paranoids, conspirators, naggers, the judgers, the holier than thou, and the worst….are the passive aggressives! There are also the know-it-alls, the close-minded, the I-got-a-better-story to tell than you, the I-am-somebody because I am descendent of somebody that was important 50 years ago, the been there done that type, the I will pretend like I am listening while I wait for a more important person to talk to, and the it will never work naysayers. They come in all different varieties…just waiting to suck the minutes out of your life!
Each moment we have a choice of whom and what we allow into our lives yet most of us do not give it a second thought and continue to drift through life as though we have no choice. We are adults, PEOPLE! Stop being victims of prey for funsuckers! Over the past few years, I have made the choice to limit or greatly lessen my time with funsuckers and cautiously select how I use my time and with whom I share my time. A wise chic shared with me that “those with whom we assemble, we soon resemble” and that statement is so very true!
Have I seen a surplus of time at the end of each day? Absolutely not-life is just busy. However, the good news is I have experienced a surplus of happiness and better utilized my life minutes for myself and for others that I care about.  Call it selfish, you may, but out of the 1,440 minutes in the day-I don’t want to share it with someone or something draining the life out of me. So, I focus on not being a funsucker and I surround myself with folks who like to rub bellies…so to speak.
So is your ying and yang off balance due to funsuckers? If so, reprioritize your minutes. Like vampires, funsuckers run from the light of happiness and will move on to using their vacuum power suck-tion somewhere else. Cloak yourself in the garlic of peace and the light of happiness and the funsucker(s) will move on to their next victim. I promise you won’t miss those nagging little fangs of the funsucking vampires! Rub more bellies-life is too short!
Today my spoon is full of peace, love, and belly rubs.

Non-camping Mom’s Survival Story

In my ranking of fun things to do in my spare time, camping ranks a very close second to a root canal. Anyone who knows me shouldn’t be shocked by my previous statement. I love the outdoors-kayaking, hiking, swimming and enjoying the goodness of the beauty we are often surrounded by, yet carelessly pass by in our daily hectic lives. However, my enjoyment of the outdoors comes indoors at bedtime. Once a tent enters the picture…my love for the outdoors comes to an abrupt halt. This is the point where yours truly prefers to check into a hotel or return home. Please note, anything less than 4 stars is equivalent to camping. My husband is not as high maintenance as me…for goodness sake he survived living in a giant sandbox with dust storms and only an occasional shower for months while in Iraq. I would have withered and died if I couldn’t have caught the next camel out of there! So for him, camping is nothing to complain about. For me, camping is everything to complain about.

Camping as Sweethearts

Camping as Sweethearts

This is a picture of me and my “boyfriend” now husband on our first camping trip when we were dating in college. And note to self, why do I have on mom shorts at this stage in my life?!?! I should have worn daisy dukes when I had the body. Okay, back on topic, yes that is a smile on my face…but you do crazy things for love. We were camping with our best friends who we still love dearly and who also got married and had a son much like ours. I vowed that day to my friend that I would NEVER EVER again camp.

I didn’t know it then but looking back that was when camping was actually fun.  Adult beverages of your choice without dealing with the bladder of a mother (ladies you get this), no worries of laundry, unpacking, etc., on the next day. No worries of your first born getting lost and having to be raised by a pack of wolves. Yes, I should have enjoyed the “spoonful” of that trip more.

Now. Fast-forward about 13 years. For the past decade plus, I have been avoiding camping with my husband. He says I tricked him and sold him a false bill of goods… my response, “he didn’t read the fine print”. However, I have lost the battle. My husband made an alliance with our three-year old and guilt tripped Mom into camping with the boys.

Seriously...one night!

Seriously…one night!

So…last weekend, we packed our SUV to the guilds like we were being evicted from our home and set out for our first family camping adventure. Here are my three pieces of advice for people who hate camping and end up going any way…

  1. If you are married, pack as much stuff as you possibly can. You never know what you will need. On the flipside, this reminds your husband/spouse just how difficult it is to pack up and live outdoors for the night at this stage of life. In other words, make him work.
  2. Expect the worst. Serial killers could be hiding in the forest, pedophiles are probably lurking around every tent or RV, creepy killer spiders could potentially invade your sleeping space, and that is just to name a few dangers that one might encounter.
  3. Finally take a deep breath and say to yourself, I can survive anything for 24-hours. Then…
  4. Relax and make the most of it. Throughout the world, people are living with incurable disease, being sold into slavery, and having the worst day of their lives…so relatively speaking…feel lucky to be outdoors in a safe country with great park systems where you and mother nature can safely cohabitate.
Camping with my Sweethearts
Camping with my Sweethearts

This is me camping now. Much has changed and watching this little guy have so much fun, I in turn had a blast. Okay, not a blast…but a good time. My husband said “we should do this next month”. Hold the phone!! I will only commit to one camping trip a year; with the caveat that it is not a primitive site, but a site with an electrical outlet…a girl has to dry her hair! I could had added a glamping caveat. New to glamping? Google  “glamping”- it’s a form of glamorous camping where outdoor meets hotel. Really, “glamorous” and “camping” together is a bit of an oxymoron…but I can handle camping in style with a butler, a luxurious mattress, and a spa.

Times have changed with this trip. Instead of multiple adult beverages, I only enjoyed one, because I didn’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night and make a trip to the bathhouse and meet an axe-murderer. Squatting in the woods was not on the list of options. I am not going to lie, there was a time around midnight where I almost enacted my executive veto on this trip and packed it up to head home. I wasn’t sleeping worth a darn…but inhaling a few deep breaths of the clean fresh outdoor air settled me down. Our SUV was filled to the brim with everything you could imagine compared to our first camping trip…where we stuffed a sports car full.  I don’t recall even owning bug spray in college. However, this trip I sprayed the parameters of the tent, doused my child in organic bug spray, and had enough candles burning for a séance. In college a sleepless night in a tent, meant napping all day the next day. Now, well…what’s a nap?

The beauty of this trip was enjoying each other, the peace and quiet of limited cell phone coverage, no Disney movies, no iPad…just us three healthy,happy people snuggled in a tent. And at the end of each day…peace and a happy family is all a mom really wants.-even if it is under the stars and out in the great outdoors.

Today my spoon is full of memories of bugs, s’mores, and a sleepless starry night.

The Not So Terrible Twos

Tomorrow I will be a mom of a three year old. I am not for sure where time has gone. A few days have felt like a decade and all the others have felt like a Nano second.  All in all, the days have added up to a lot of great memories. We have come a long way baby (screaming baby)! There have been challenges but also a time of great milestones and imagination.   We have moved from me stressing out as to whether a “heaping” scoop versus a “full” scoop of formula would kill you. Heck, now you eat dirt and your own boogers. I used to be tortured by your Dad looking for all of the answers to our questions in the What to Expect the First Year book. You don’t know how lucky you are to still have your Dad…I had many images of using that book as a deadly weapon during our 2 AM quests for knowledge about poop, screaming, eating, snot, etc. Now, we just go with the flow and hope for the best.

Every day this week my toddler has asked me “is it my birthday yet?” Followed by “I want my birthday!”, “I want to be three!” and “I need my birthday party!” Before we venture into 3s there are a few things I want to always remember about you being two. Everyone says the twos are terrible, but I found them to be terrific!

  • You have been blessed with great health. One ear infection all year! I guess boogers are great for the immune system.
  • Your second birthday party started out with a major flood. The Dino theme party I planned for you was saved when the sun finally popped through the rain clouds. You never even noticed that the rain messed up the dino dig I had planned for your special day.   I’m still ticked about it and now own more plastic dino skeltons than I care to admit.
  • This year you have road on planes, trains, a boat, a four-wheeler, a golf cart, a Gator (not the animal), a replica of the Nina, a Ferris wheel, a hot air balloon, an elephant, and a camel.
  • You have fed ducks (got bit by one), turtles, donkeys, goats, peacocks, fish, and a lama.
  • We have been to the beach twice…which you love and instantly turn into a pirate the minute you feel the sand between your toes. “Arrghh”! You have visited museums, zoos, and aquariums. You have seen a play (okay it wasn’t Broadway…it was Elmo Live) and a dino exhibit.  You attended your first WKU sports event…Go TOPS! You were the only kid that hated Shrek on Ice.
  • You took a drink from the Fountain of Youth (I was hoping it would keep you two for forever!), splashed at water parks and made your first snowman.
  • You have a new fascination with superheroes and getting the “mean men”. You even can cast a pretty good Spiderman web. You also gain superhuman strength each time you put on your Batman or Spiderman PJs.
  • You started the twos out in diapers and sleeping in my bed. Now you’re a big boy wearing underoos and sleeping in your own bed. You are the proud owner of 250 Hot Wheels that I bought off of Ebay and used to reward you each time you used the potty. Now I want to hit myself each time I step on one of those darn cars. We have mastered potty training, now if you will just quit dropping your pants and peeing everywhere and stop watering my landscape with your urine…it will be a complete success.
  • You had your first trip to the dentist. All that torturing you with brushing your teeth-paid off! However, you did make me look like an idiot because I didn’t realize you had a gash in your gums from where you fell down the day before. But you clearly articulated to the doctor what happened when she asked. Mother of the year here!
  • You have learned so many words and repeated a few that I shouldn’t have said!! Some you have worn out like the word “why”. Others you have your own way of saying them…here are a few of my favorite.
    • Orrrange  and Raannnnch (with a French accent)
    • You call your boots “boops” and your hat “hook”.
    • Your “yessss” has such a definite hiss to it.
    • Who can resist your “sorrrrrwey” and “pleeeaze”?
    • We need to work on your grammar -“Yes I is” “No me Not” and “Me Am” will only be cute for a few more years.
    • Cooper is “Pooper” which has some symbolism
  • You had your first brain freeze. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I laughed until I cried.
  • You have had your first crush on a girl.
  • You attended your first “friend” birthday party.
  • We built you a fort that probably could qualify as taxable living quarters.
  • You love to celebrate. You were excited for Halloween, but mad at me when your costume was a pirate bird, and not a real pirate outfit. You said you were “just a bird, not a pirate”.
  • You had a blast at Christmas. The drums you wanted for months was a real hit and you named your band the “Mud Truck Band”.  Maybe one day “Mudtruck” will be in flashing lights!
  • You can count, you know your shapes, and we are working on ABCs.
  • You are obsessed with anything construction and especially enjoyed watching our new home being built.
  • You love going to Pop’s Farm to feed the donkeys. You have even claimed it as “your farm”.
  • You become very attached to your tennis shoes. You don’t like to change. I had to throw away your Car tennis shoes in a dumpster in another state so you couldn’t get them out of the trash to wear.
  • You are proof that a human can live off of juice, pop tarts, nuggets, mac & cheese, and fruit for two years now.
  • You have a memory like an elephant which is a reminder to me to always strive for positive days to yield great memories.
  • You love to be on the move and you adore your family. You have a carefree way of enjoying them for just who they are and never seeing their short comings. I hope you always keep that spirit.
  • You love your “Titty Tat” (cat) but deep down you wish she acted more like a dog.
  • You have been mad at Santa ever since I told you he took your Christmas tree down. I passed the blame to Old St. Nick because you were disappointed and you are still asking when he is bringing it back. Surprise….it will be back in late November! You also hated the Elf on the Shelf which worked out great for me because I couldn’t ever remember to move the stupid thing. You were mad because he made messes and bothered your toys. So we decided he would just set on the shelf and not move.
  • On those few long days when we have had a time out…I can’t help but laugh when you are sitting in the timeout chair and yelling at me at the top of your lungs that “I is a good boy now”. Your tone is not so convincing. You now try to put us in timeout if we do something you don’t like.
  • You think kisses from girls, including me, are yuck…but I steal them from you anyway.
  • You try to tell jokes and crack yourself up. I have to admit “Hey Mom you have a fat elbow” is pretty funny when you say it. As long as you don’t say I have a fat rear end…I’ll keep laughing at your jokes.

There are so many more good times, but these are a sampling of ones I always want to savor in my spoon. I can’t wait, my dearest Coop, to see what adventures and fun the age of three will bring. Thank you for all the joy and excitement you bring to our life. You certainly keep us laughing and are a constant reminder that my spoon runneth over.

Today my spoon is full of fond memories of the not so terrible twos.

Why? Why?!? Why!!!

Why haven’t I been blogging lately? Well, I have been busy. Well, why have I been busy? Because I have been drowning in “whys” and it has apparently zapped my creative juices and energy. Why?!?

Being the mother of an almost three year old, my day from sun up to sun down (and sometimes even when the sun is fast asleep) consist of approximately 100,000,000,000 “whys” a day. Why is the sun bright? Why does they sun hide behind the clouds? Why does it rain? Why is that car black? Why is grass green? Why are there big trucks and little trucks? Why do we have to wear clothes? Why does our cat not work (yes, I have wondered that too, I mean it would be nice if she earned her keep or at least cleaned her litter box)? Why do cats have tails? Why does a cow moo and not bark? Why do I have to wash my hands? Why do we have to go this way? Why is that building there? Why is the Easter Bunny not at the Mall every day? Why don’t we have a beach (honey, I work in education, Momma can’t afford a private island). Why, why, and why? Each of these questions grows into about 3 or 4 questions about the subject until I can’t think of any answers. Frankly, I don’t know most of the answers at all. I am not a scientist, physicist, meteorologist, engineer, etc.? I just go along with the marathon of questions and answers until either I have to lie or admit defeat. And when I don’t know, I usually get “why don’t you know momma”? It’s painful to admit that, well, I don’t know everything and I certainly don’t know as much as I thought I did (but son, don’t tell your Dad). How do these girls on 16 and Pregnant survive when I have a dang Ph.D. and can’t think of all the answers?!

It’s exhausting. But the educator in me loves his inquisitive nature and strives to cultivate that and explain the world around us. I never want to mute his inquiry…I always want him to ask. I really think instead of a book on “What to Expect When Expecting”- I would actually read and benefit from a book entitled “Why: Everything you need to know in three year-old speak”. If there was only an iPhone app for “Why” (and I have been known to Google during desperate times). I have even tried a little reverse psychology and said “well, you tell me why.” To which, my son replied, “no you tell me why, you da momma.” It’s hard to be put on such a high pedestal of know it all.

I know one day, I will be in the car with my son and praying for something more than a grunt to come out of his teenage mouth. I guess that is when the payback begins and I can start asking him so many questions…to which I am sure he will make up the answers as well. And if that isn’t pay back enough, then I am sure he will have to repeat a lot of conversations during my elder years. Until then, I’ll savor the moment of him thinking I know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING because one day he will discover I am not a genius.

Today my spoon is full of why. Why? I DON’T KNOW!

Forever Young….Forever 21

Recently, I was shopping with my husband and son. Well, my husband was trying to entertain my son at the mall while I shopped. I hit some killer sales on some high-end items and well, I had to have them. No really, I saved BIG! I ventured outside of my box a little and purchased some outfits that were not as conservative as I typically select. I was on a roll so after my bargain adventure, I headed to Forever 21 to purchase a few more trendy items.  In my head, I was thinking….oh yeah maybe “Stella has her groove back.”

When I go in Forever 21, it takes me a moment to reframe.  How many clothes can a store cram into one location? I mean the shirt crammed into the rack at the front of the store might be a perfect fit with the pants hanging in the back corner of the store. Don’t trip over all of the size 0 girls you might not see along the way when you are trying to get to the back of the store or dressing room. Really all senses have to be engaged during this kind shopping experience. I was just getting in my groove and my cell rang. It was my husband. He said “Hey! We are on the other side of the mall at Chucky Cheese if you are looking for us.”  To which I replied, “Well, I was going to be looking for you after I left this store-but if you are at Chucky Cheese maybe not.” That phone call was a dose of reality for Stella. Needless to say, I lost my shopping momentum. Nothing reminds you that you cannot be forever “21” like a call from Chucky Cheese.

I left the teenage clothes and headed to Chucky Cheese where my two loves were playing a lizard game. My husband excitedly informs me that you can apparently really rack up the tickets on the lizard game-good to know!  Then my husband says, “do you want to eat here for dinner?” To which I replied in a rather disgusted voice, “I would rather lick the public toilets in this mall than eat here”. The food may be great at Chunky Cheese, but there is just something unappealing about eating while you are surrounded by folks who can’t fit in the booth they are sitting in (Chunky Chucky Cheese) and you are inundated with background noises ranging from a singing mouse to racecars blares to machine guns. And let’s not forget there are probably more germs on those game handles than in any science experiment funded by government research. It overwhelms me and honestly just grosses me out to the point I can’t even  enjoy my favorite food pizza there.

As my toddler and husband used the last of their game tokens (I hid half of them in my purse), my mind drifted back to Forever 21. What is it about 21…or at least the early 20s that makes you want it to last forever? A few things quickly came to mind.  Is it the college years and the wonderful world of freedom? After all, there are few responsibilities, no managing people, no 401ks, a perfect metabolism, no bundle of joy to wake me like a rooster at the crack of dawn, spontaneous travel, no “real” plans…just living for the moment ….forever 21. Then it dawned on me, Forever 21 needs to revamp to a new market demographic (see I knew that marketing minor would come in handy one day). The new and improved Forever 21 should look like this…a store I could walk in with my husband and toddler and we would all leave happy. In the middle is a germ free play land which serves organic food and is operated by Phds with degrees focusing on children. The attendant would take my child and hand my husband and I an iPhone-like device so we could watch our child gleefully playing at any time. In this play land, my child would have a blast but would also get a healthy dose of information on manners, potty training, sharing, sleep habits, etc. The workers would also pick out clothes and shoes for my toddler and they would fit perfectly-no need for returns.

My husband would go to the right of play land to the man’s world…which would be a combination of a pub, sporting goods, Eddie Bauer, Lowes. Please note, no trashy waitresses allowed. He could shop, drink Guinness, and enjoy sports. Probably a little of Beastie Boys, Toby Keith, AC/DC, Mumford & Sons, and Robin Thick would be playing in the background.  While my husband and toddler are entertained, I would head left. My first stop would be for peddie/mannie and a massage by a buff 21-year-old male. Hey, don’t judge-this is my idea, it wasn’t happen stance that no trashy waitresses were allowed on the man side. My side of the store would have clothes that fit mothers. Not a mother that had kids at 16 and their figure rebounded. Mothers like me-waited until I was not forever 21 and my hips will forever never be the same. The clothes would be a mix of Forever 21 and H&M style of apparel. A personal stylist would be at my beck in call and pick out the perfect clothes for my body style and every size that fits me says size “0”. Justin Timberlake, LL Cool Jay, and Lenny Kravitz, Adele, and Miranda Lambert would be serenading me throughout my shopping excursion. I could check on my precious toddler with a push of a button while sipping on a martini. Awwww…the feeling of forever 21. Then my husband, my child and I would greet each other in the middle…. refreshed and happy with bags full of clothes. That’s what Forever 21 feels like in your 30s…and for that I would pay dearly.

“Look mommy, I got a pider (spider) and a car!” My toddler exclaims who is proud of his prizes earnings at Chucky Cheese which are probably imported from a foreign country and contain toxins…snapped back to reality…not forever 21.

Today my spoon is full of memories of 21.

Thoughts for my Daughter-in-Law on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here. Love is in the air and candy hearts and chocolates are making their way to our hips. I have never been a lover of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong, I always love a surprise from my love. I personally think Valentine’s just has a forced feeling of “love” – too commercialized. So for Valentine’s my husband and I try to bring our A game all year…not just on February 14th.One of my fondest Valentine’s memories is of a friend and I sending each other bouquets of flowers from a secret lover while we were in high school. Who could it be? Geez, I don’t know! It was for a good laugh and we had fun with the “mystery.”This Valentine’s Day is different. I have been doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming about love. Not in my life, but that of my son’s life. I know he is only two, but life slapped me in my face a few weeks ago when his teachers jokingly shared with me that he is a little “gentleman” to a girl in his class. My first thought, well at least he is exhibiting traits of chivalry, and not pimp-like at a young age. That’s positive, right?  I know this little gal is just two, but that little hoochie (I promise I am not jealous) is already stealing my son’s heart. After naptime, he apparently helps her off her mat and has a date with her during lunch and snack each day. When I told my husband he said, we need to separate their mats! Really-they are two, we are maybe over reacting. Adding insult to injury, my son received his first birthday party invite last week-from a GIRL; who by the way is an older woman-she will be three! This innocent crush on his girl buddy and the party invite from a cougar has me thinking that in a blink of an eye I will be a mother-in-law. That is the worst label ever-so many stereotypes go with that term.

My husband’s mother, made it very clear that she was “losing” a son when my  husband I dated and later married. Since she doesn’t have access to my blog, I won’t take any dirty punches. However, there is nothing I hate more than the shallow thought of “a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Really, I have to start now to plot how I will be the best mother-in-law that ever existed and defy the horrible stereotypes.  How do I turn this ship around now so that I don’t “lose” a son, but instead gain a daughter?  I know there will be Valentines Days to come where my son will be touting a teddy bear to school for his love or sending roses to some vixen that isn’t the marrying type. However, I am skipping over those brief moments in time and going straight for the kill-the ONE that will last- YOU, my daughter-in-law. I have decided to start thinking and planning for our relationship now, so I penned this open letter to YOU my dearest daughter-in-law (who is not taking MY son).

Dearest Beautiful, Smart, Perfect Daughter-in-Law:

I know you are perfect because my son has good taste thanks to my positive influence on his life and let’s face it-his mother is nearly perfect. Now that we share the same last name, I would like to say “welcome” to our family! Please know I don’t view you as a thief in the night who stole my son. Actually, the joke is on you-your stuck with me, my husband, and our crazy family.  So I beg of you, just go ahead and embrace us-there are many fun times ahead. Drop the mother-in-law stereotype. You will find me likeable. Honestly, you have fallen in love with my life’s work, so I sincerely accept your thanks for molding a young man into a perfect mate. I started working on your behalf before we ever knew each other. That is how great of a mother-in-law I am! If you think about it, we have a lot in common since we both love the same man. I fell in love with him the first second I gazed into his big brown eyes right after he took his first breath. And you…fell for those same eyes yourself!

The good news is I will not ask you to wear my wedding dress. I have already donated it to a good cause and it is long gone. So, find one of your own that fits you and your dreams. I won’t upstage you on your wedding day, but know I will look damn good when I am lighting the candle that forever unifies us as one big, happy family. I won’t judge the cleanliness of your house or the gourmet appeal of your food. If you spend your life cleaning and picking up after my son and your offspring-it is no one’s fault but your own because I taught him differently.  I won’t harass you about how you parent. I won’t harass you about your sense of style (well, that might happen if you are embarrassing the family name). However, I will nag you to enjoy the ride of a perfectly imperfect life and will be there to support your journey.

I assume you picked my amazing son because he is gorgeous (I mean he should have been a model, I know), he is intelligent, a good conversationalist and listener, he is open-minded, loves adventures, has a good sense of humor, and is practically perfect. Or maybe you picked him just because I came with him. Let me tell you, honey, this level of perfection you fell in love with didn’t happen overnight. His father and I have been training him for years to not be a narcissistic narrow-minded idiot who cannot function independently.

Right now you may not even be born yet or you may be playing with Dora the Explorer stuff and obsessed with everything pink. However, I am working for your future happiness now, and he is only two! Let me give you a few examples.

  • You will enjoy not falling into the toilet seat in the middle of the night. Putting the lid down has been incorporated into potty training at our house.
  • You will not have to clean up after him. Thanks to me, he puts his own stuff up and doesn’t have crap scattered everywhere. He knows how to put his plate and sippy cup (hopefully, he has progressed to an adult cup) in the dishwasher. Well, thanks to my OCD tendencies, we “clean-up” every night. I am sorry if you have to sing songs about how fun cleanup time is while he does his chores.
  • You will enjoy dinner on the table when you get home. He helps me cook. He is an excellent stirrer of all ingredients. I will incorporate moving those ingredients into a pan in his “oven and stove 101” training when he is older.
  • You will enjoy that he can balance respecting an independent woman and chivalry. Well, he learned that one mostly from his dad. He will always kiss you before he leaves and before bedtime. He has spent his years watching his mommy love her family and balance a career. He has seen days where I was superwoman and days were I was a failure-he knows it’s hard.
  • You will notice he has good manners because he understands the importance of please and thank you. 
  • You will like how he is a good communicator and has lots to talk about. Well, his father and I have been cultivating an adventerous spirit by toting him around the world and to museums before he could talk. I have spent countless hours talking about and explaining life to him.
  • You will like it that he is a good listener. Like my husband, he has heard my “hearing vs listening” lecture many times (I’m a communication major). You don’t listen to mommy when you are watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; that is “hearing” not “listening”. The TV goes off until you can be a good listener. You’re welcome that you won’t be ignored every time a sporting event is on TV.
  • You will like that he doesn’t think your one of the boys and enjoys hearing his bodily functions like burps and “toots” as he now calls them. It might be fun with Dad, but he better keep the noises to himself around the ladies.

Hopefully, these actions which I have already starting working on will show you that from the beginning, you and I have been on the same team-we are not each other’s competition or enemies. I don’t want to be your BFF, just your MILF (for those of you with your minds in the gutter-that means “mother-in-law friend”). I know I will be replaced as his truest love and that is okay. I can only hope you picked him because of the qualities I have worked so hard to instill in him…and that maybe he picked you because we are alike. Hey, they say you marry your mother-which scares the hell out of me! I can’t promise I won’t be annoying or I won’t be too involved, but I promise it will all come from love. Let’s face it, you love my baby, I must have done something right.

Sincerely,

Your mommy-in-law

Today my spoon is full of chocolate Valentine’s Day Candy as I sulk at not always being my son’s Valentine.

Celebrating a decade…what 10 years can bring to a marriage!

This week marked mine and my husband’s ten year anniversary. A decade. Wow. Some days life (not our marriage) has seemed like 100 years. Other days those 10 years seem like a blink in time. I remember when we were newlyweds; that our 10th year was supposed to be the year that we adventured to Bora Bora. Our plan didn’t quite pan out, but that dream is still in the making. As a new bride, I also remember asking my husband what he thought about changing our wedding bands to something different every ten years. This really wasn’t a ploy to get a bigger diamond. I thought it sounded fun. After all, as life happens, who you are and what your marriage is changes over time-so why can’t your ring change too? However, my hubby is too sentimental for wedding ring changes. He probably still has anxiety over the fact that I am on wedding ring number two due to a portion of my diamonds (who were my mother’s) falling out of my original wedding ring within the first year of our marriage. Oops.

Over dinner, my husband and I were discussing what the next ten years will look like. Before I could even get a mental picture he proceeds to say “Well, some people in our lives will probably be dead, we will have a tweenager, and we will be wrinkled. “ Wow, thanks for the optimistic outlook on the next decade. Luckily, that conversation was derailed by our waitress. Later on I was thinking about the past ten years and what all those years encompassed. Honestly, when I was a new bride I don’t really remember intentionally planning much of the first 10 years of our marriage. Typically, I am a planner, but considering the day after we married, my husband left for Iraq, I wasn’t for sure what plans to make. Looking back, I think I was afraid if I made too many plans, my heart would never recover if he didn’t come home alive and well to fulfill them. So started our marriages and we have been haphazardly landing in the right places ever since.

According to an online date calculator, we have been married for 521 weeks, or 3,653 days or 87,672 hours or 5,260,320 minutes or 315,619,200 seconds. I am sure my husband has been keeping track of the seconds (insert sarcasm)! So what has this time brought about? Well, here is a snapshot.

We been married twice (but not divorced; see previous posts for explanation). We survived my husband being deployed to Iraq for nine months. He survived me teaching in the Czech Republic for six weeks. We have moved three times. We have moved family and friends a lot more than three times. We have remodeled a home and built a home. We demolished a home; neither of which we remodeled or built. We have had nine jobs or positions between the two of us. I have completed a Ph.D. (really, my husband is to thank for me passing statistics). My husband has completed a MBA (really, he can thank me for editing his papers to perfection). He has fixed a lot of things I have broken and read the directions when I did not. I try to smile and contain the steam from rolling out of my ears when he works on one of our home projects…slow but also perfect. We canvased my small home town to rally votes when I ran for office three different terms (which I won). We have traveled A LOT-some for work but most for pleasure. We have visited (best I can count) 16 states in the USA and traveled to 9 countries together in the name of fun and adventure. When we were in Italy and I bought gelato and like a dumb tourist realized I was taken advantage of because it costs like $20, you still shared it with me (and remind me about it, but it was darn good). He watched me puke my guts out for 10 days on a cruise and kept me from jumping overboard. He has sprayed medicine on my arse when some fat snorkeler pushed me into poisonous coral in the Bahamas. We have enjoyed numerous concerts and plays. He wasn’t embarrassed when I was rockin out at a Bon Jovi concert when I was 8 months pregnant (coincidence my son loves music-probably not). He flew us to see U2 when in fact, he really doesn’t like them, but I do (I think Kiss made up for that). I dragged him to a Drag Show in Chicago for his 30th birthday and he still loved me (best martinis and singing EVER). We made wine together. One batch could possibly fuel a car or be used to clean wounds; and a few batches that we made were near perfection. He graciously pretends to care about my fashion shows after I go shopping and want to show him the bargains I found. We had a fish-and I am pretty sure he is the one that killed it. We cried when we had a miscarriage and then cried more when we rented Marley & Me to watch on the same freaking day. I thought it was going be a fun movie about a dog. I didn’t realize the damn dog died. Bad choice on a bad day. We made the cutest kid EVER together. When he joined our house he yelled at us the first year of his life due to colic, ear infections, and teething. Luckily, those days passed. He is the perfect, clever, witty mixture of us. My man has back aches thanks to bouncing around a metal truck while in Iraq; I have had two knee surgeries that are probably a result of me just being a total klutz. We both have fixed our eyes with Lasik surgery (you were scared, so I went first). We survived over a week without electricity during an ice storm that was declared a national disaster… until I talked you into driving 1.5 hours to a hotel so I could dry my hair and sleep in a warm bed. We have made new friends. We have lost loves ones. We have had a few cars. We lost our dear house cat a time or two (but she is still alive and well). I have had long hair and short hair. He has lost a few hairs. But neither of us are gray! We have gotten older. We have had a few days when we wanted to kill each other (I am sorry for scooping out a large portion of butter out of the container while I was cooking dinner and throwing it at his face that one time when I was mad…but it was pretty funny). We have cried a little. We have been sick a few days but mostly have been blessed with great health. We have laughed, loved, and lived the last decade. Our marriage has been an adventure of love, trust, partnership, tolerance, humor, tenacity all rolled up into one.

Whew…I know I left something out, but as you can see the last decade has been an adventure. I can’t wait until I can reflect on the next decade. I don’t know what it will bring, but I promise to have my eyes, ears, mind, and heart open for the moment and savor each spoonful as it comes. I share this not because I want you to see what we have done, but maybe to reflect on what your next decade will bring. Are your eyes, ears, mind, and heart ready for the adventure? I suggest not planning it, but to buckle up, put the top back, and enjoy the ride.

Today my spoonful is full of smiles as Mrs. E-E.

Big Boy in a Big Bed

As you know from previous blog posts, yes I am “one of those” moms who let my child sleep in our bed-or “momma’s bed” as he calls it. Yes, I ignored all of the books I read, my doctor’s advice, and parental wisdom from friends. I have spent the last six months sandwiched between a 13 pound cat and a toddler. Yes, most of those six months were sleepless nights because my toddler tosses and turns like a rotisserie chicken. Many nights, I cried mercy and left the cat, toddler, and husband in the bed to catch some zzz on the couch or in my toddler’s bed. I am thankful to survive sharing our bed with our toddler without a broken rib or black eye.

He slept in his bed great as an infant and did great until right before he turned two and his two year molars snuck up on us. Teething caused him a lot of pain and kept him (us) up many nights-so our bedtime routine went to hell and stayed there. The combination of his strong will and my lack of sleep ended up being a disaster…with my husband on the worst receiving end of it (love you honey!). We tried the yelling it out method and sending Coop back to his bedroom. That ended with him kicking the inside of his bedroom door and yelling “let me out” and “you a rude momma”. And, my toddler wasn’t the only one yelling it out. My husband and I were “screaming it out” at 2 AM and all other hours of the night. Seriously, I’m thankful we don’t have night court in our home town; we might have dissolved the marriage on one of those sleepless nights. In the name of a little more wink eye and not making “to death do us part” a reality-we caved and just let our toddler sleep with us. I mean really, not every culture agrees that everyone has to have their own bed, right? For crying out loud…it was just for six months-don’t be so judgmental. Did you notice I said it “was”? Yes, the New Year brought about the new goal of reclaiming our bedroom! As dumbfounded as I am to report this, the transition from momma’s bed to Coop’s bed has been a breeze.

I will admit, on January 1st I was sick to my stomach on making this transition. I dreaded the lack of sleep and the fight to keep him in his bed. But that was what my husband and I agreed on-and well, it was to late to back out this time. I had already agreed that when we moved in our new home in November that we would get him out of our bed. We were too tired from unpacking and juggling life-so I just ignored that agreement. Then my husband remembered and got us back on track. I spent the first day of the year strategizing how to not bite my husband’s head off when we were walking around like zombies in the middle of the night keeping our kid in his bed. I spent the entire day talking to (no, brainwashing) my toddler about how “big boys” sleep in their bed and “don’t you want to be a big boy.” At bedtime we did the usual, read the same five books we have every night for the past 3 months. My toddler fell asleep, we put him in his room, and the rest is history. Being a “tad” over protected, I surrounded him with king size pillows, put a baby gate on the outside of his bedroom door frame, and shut the door. This gave me a three-step warning alert if he got up and out of bed. I spent the night sleepless, staring (with the volume on full blast) at the baby monitor watching his every move like he was a newborn. Surely this would end any moment. He won’t stay in his bed without a fight. Well, he did and he continues to do so. He has had a night or two of waking up at 5 AM and wanting in our bed. However, in the name of not making bedtime a fight, I let him join us (and in a sick way I missed him kicking the crap out of me). My approach has been making a big deal about his success on sleeping in his bed and not fighting him to return to his bed for another hour or two. He has been snoozing in his big boy bed all of 2013.

ZZZZZZZ

ZZZZZZZ-Snoozing like a “Big Boy”

I keep waiting for this to fall apart. Given our track record of parenting obstacles, nothing has come without a fight and tears (from everyone). Is this divine intervention? Is this a healthy dose of good karma coming our way? I don’t know, but whatever the reason we will take it! Many have said it takes 21 days to make a habit, so we are almost half way to creating a good sleeping habit for 2013.

I share this with you, because sometimes as a parent, you just have to do what is right and works for your family at the moment. I would venture to guess that for most families, bedtime is perhaps the worst part of the day. Don’t be ashamed, feel like a failure, or be embarrassed. Life is what it is. Others may roll their eyes or tell you that your approach is crazy. The experts may warn against it, but it’s your life and your family’s sanity. As my toddler reminds me every morning and night when he goes to bed or gets out of bed, “I’m a big boy”. I must admit, I am happy we have our bed back, but a little sad that he is indeed becoming a big boy too quickly. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet rest.

A perfectly imperfect start to 2013

When I started blogging I did not realize that my blog host provides an annual
report card on Spoonfuloflife’s blog activity. My type A personality LOVES this
feature. I am already dreaming of the possibilities of what the 2013 report
card will yield. So now that the stats are in…well, gosh darn it people like the
posts/site or are really bored and need something to read. None-the-less, March
2012 kicked off the debut post on Spoonfuloflife and the year finished up with
a total of 35 posts; and I was afraid of running out of things to share! Even
more exciting is the fact that Spoonfuloflife has seen over 2,700 viewers
(don’t worry I don’t know who you are!) from 26 countries! Most visitors came
from the United States. Canada and the United Kingdom weren’t far behind the
good ol’ USA. This stat on location at least reassures me that my family members
are not the only folks reading the blog over and over.

So what will 2013 mean? Who knows? Some of the best life has offered has been unplanned. I do not make resolutions. Frankly, I stink at keeping resolutions. Despite previous resolutions…I still need to shed some pounds, will most likely never run a marathon or have abs of steel, and I haven’t made it to Bora Bora (yet). Isn’t life a constant resolution in some way?  Absent of a blogging plan or an official New Year resolution, I promise to continue to learn from my spoonful of life and to authentically share my spoonful with you. I have found through this blog that sharing my imperfections has provided some comic relief for readers, but more importantly has eased the struggle of people I know, as well as, completes strangers who struggle with the same imperfections. Life is tough and it is darn near impossible to be perfect in all of our roles (spouse, parent, friend, professional, community member, etc.) every moment of every day. Acknowledging that your spoonful is not perfect makes one human, approachable, and real! So what if your silver spoon is a little tarnished?

A friend recently shared a post on facebook which hits at the heart of why spoonfuloflife was launched. I traced the post back to the original source which was a blog post entitled The Disease Called “Perfection.” It is especially relevant as you embark on the New Year’s resolutions you have set (or not set). The Disease Called “Perfection” was written by Dan Pearce a few years ago when he was new to the world of blogging. His candid post on perfection went viral and literally spiraled into a popular blog and a book. Now going viral (in a good way of course) would make a cool annual report for my 2013 stats! Check it out here. You won’t be disappointed in this profound, raw look at how being real with the imperfections in our spoonful yields deeper life connections and happiness, as well as, eases the struggles of society.

Today (as well as everyday) my spoon (a little tarnished) is full of imperfections which will continually produce a vast amount of blog material to share in 2013!

If Only Spiderman Could Fix All Evil

This week’s post was supposed to be filled with the Christmas holiday spirit; however, like many of you, my heart has been so heavy from the tragedy in Connecticut.  So many spoons once full of life, now so empty.  Upon hearing the news, as a mommy my mind shifted to the morning of the tragedy. Most likely, the last moments the parents shared with their child. I know the last moments are only a glimpse in time, but they must replay in the parents’ minds. Some parents and their children had great mornings before school drop off. Aren’t we always grateful for those mornings (well, we should be)? Other parents and children may have experienced a hectic morning filled with meaningless arguments of what to wear, get your backpack, we are running late, and hurry up. Don’t we always hate those mornings? And for some, the morning was just as ordinary as their cereal for breakfast and expected after school pickup. Regardless, no one knew the fate of the next hours-none of us really ever do.

I tried on Saturday morning to watch the news about the events. Just a quick update to be informed- much more would have been torture.  In the background noise was the giggles of my toddler in another room. Watching such horror while a giggling toddler was near did not seem right. So I quickly turned off the news to join in a game of super heroes and wrestling with my two year old and husband.  My mind and heart were torn as whether or not to talk about what had happened on a two-year old scale to my toddler or to save the conversation for later years. My toddler has the memory of an elephant-so I decided to say something, even though small, rather than nothing. I believe in equipping kids with the reality they live in at every age. So, I sat my toddler in my lap and in two year old language told him “if you ever see a mean person trying to hurt kids at school or anywhere, run and hide like when we play hide-and-seek.” He really seemed to listen and I was proud of my parenting moment. So I followed up with, “now tell mommy what you would do if you were to see a mean person trying to hurt you or other kids?” He jumped up into a fighting stance like he was in a boxing ring, cast his spider man web hands and said “I beat you up mean man.” Can you tell his dad was a Marine? Okay, so maybe two is a little early for this talk. But even if a seed was planted and it protects him until he is old enough to understand more, then so be it.

I’ve seen post on Facebook and overheard discussions all trying to make sense of this mess. The truth is that the events were senseless and the only thing that makes real sense is to keep the momentum going in the many little ways that over time might add up to a big difference.  Turning school leaders into gun toting educators isn’t the answer. Educators have enough to do already! This southern gal believes in the right to own guns, but also strongly believes there are major improvements in regulations to be made. Throwing an 8×10 photocopy of the Christian 10 commandments on the wall is not an answer. Posted Ten Commandments do not equate to “God” being back in schools. Did “He” ever really leave? I like to think that whoever is in control of the Universe is a little less shallow than requiring self-portraits and commandants posted in buildings to ensure protection. If you believe “God” (insert your higher power of choice) wasn’t in the school-reexamine the lives spared and the heroes that emerged. Look at the goodwill, love, prayers, and tears poured into a town most of us never heard of before last week. Just like evil, good (and God) comes in many forms.

So where do we go from here? How do you stop the seemingly unstoppable? We do not forget the misery Connecticut feels after the media has moved on to a new story. We encourage the government to put funds into structuring safe schools and we do it with the fever of airport security post 911. We realize that sweet American children are not the only children who face senseless violence-it is worldwide. We demand a thorough review of gun regulations and do something with the findings. We talk more openly with our children about good and evil. We take a hard look at our healthcare system and educational policies to see if they really support families and students that live with mental health issues. We remove the stigma to create open dialogue about mental health issues. We stop pointing a finger at failing parents and schools and start pointing kids in the right direction by setting an example, by mentoring, and increasing self-worth for those that can’t see it in themselves.  We continue talking about this subject and start doing….more. We don’t act like it can’t happen in our children’s schools, in our movie theaters, in our malls and any other place we enjoy everyday freedoms. We play an active role and we continually stretch our thinking so that we may see all sides of an equation in order to arrive at a better solution. We work on savoring every spoonful of life, even the hectic or ordinary everyday mornings.

My mommy brain jumps from the morning of the event, to the reality of where families who lost loved ones will find themselves- with Christmas gifts hid away in a closet, yet to be wrapped for a sweet child no longer on this earth. The empty beds. The shattered dreams of things yet to come- a family vacation to see Mickey Mouse, graduations, weddings, grandbabies, etc. It’s really uncomprendable. May the family and friends of the children and adults who met an unfair fate that day find hope in what is seemingly such a hopeless time in their lives. May their spoons be full of kind moments, momentum for change, and the perseverance to live each day. I will continue to teach my child the realities of good and evil and pray he never has to “beat up the mean people” by casting his Spiderman web.

Coop & His Hero

Casting Webs On Evil

Today my spoon is full of hope for the good that will continue to emerge and multiple from this horrific event.

 

I’m On the Naughty List: Elf on a Shelf Failure

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So here it is…I suck at the Elf on the Shelf concept. I am envious of my friends who have the time and creativity to make their elf do cute things like go fishing, shave their face, or make snow angels. I’m not judging-I promise. It’s as if their elf has taken on a mischievous life of their own. I have pinned ideas on my Pinterest Board and Googled ideas, but at the end of the day-I am super proud if I remember to move my elf to a different location in our house than it was the night before-never mind creating a whole scene with the darn thing. Oh, I guess I could pretend our elf is licking crumbs off our dirty dishes in the sink or fallen prey to our laundry hamper-but who has time for that? Every night, I feel that little beady-eyed elf shooting daggers at me as if I am a failure as a mother and that I am robbing my child of joy from a Christmas tradition. What am I doing? An elf dressed in red velvet with a plastic face is making me judge my mothering skills? Enough of this nonsense!

When I discussed my motherly failure with my husband, he looked at me like I was an idiot and said “It’s an Elf, the book is called Elf on a Shelf for a reason.” I have always admired his intelligence. He’s exactly right, It’s not called “Elf on the Shelf Who Makes Messes” or the “Elf who Bakes Cookies” or the “Elf Who Makes a Snow Angel”. It’s on a shelf…for a reason. Parents are tired. We are the magic behind the elf! I don’t need him “sneaking” off to Santa every night so that my kid gets what he wants for Christmas. I’m freaking Santa Claus and I already bought the presents. So my husband and I agreed, the only thing the little SOB, I mean SOS (Son of Santa) needs to do is sit there collecting dust and keep my toddler in line by reporting back to “Santa”. Pleased with our conversation and agreement on parenting elf lessons the conversation went to the Grinch’s dark side with all the REAL “naughty” and “mean” things you “could” make your elf do. We crack ourselves up and it’s too bad we can’t share that discussion or post those pics! You’ll have to wander to the dark side and use your imagination.

Maybe when my toddler is older the elf will create a little more excitement and get my creative juices flowing. Case in point, I tried sitting the elf on my toddler’s potty last week (since we are potty training mode) and making a toilet paper mess. Yes, I spent way too many minutes of my life telling my child not to unroll the toilet paper and yelling at the cat for unrolling the toilet paper-but for the elf, I will break the rule. My child woke up bright and early the next morning, went looking for his elf and found him. Instead of laughing and having a Kodak moment, my son launched the elf across the kitchen and declared “my potty” and started crying. Great way to start off the morning. Thank you “Merle” the Elf for bringing such joy to our house.

So, no more creative attempts this year with the elf. It’s back to rotating shelves and lamp fixtures you go. For all of you creative parents who dazzle your children with elf antics, my hat is off to you! And cheers to the parents who want to strike a match and make an elf smore out of your little elf.

Today my spoon is full of acceptance that I am an Elf on a Shelf failure. On to the next tradition, Christmas carols or decorating cookies, anyone?

Spread Em!

I have one plea to make with retail stores…spread em! The aisles that is. For the love of everything holy, humans, even runway models, cannot fit down your jammed packed aisles. Do you really expect us to have an enjoyable shopping experience when we are fighting with clothes racks and praying we don’t knock down the display taking up the entire center aisle? I will not even get on my soapbox about safety or how unfriendly this is for people with disabilities. Let’s take for example my experiences this past weekend.

Fight of the Retail Aisle #1

On Saturday, the hubster and I went on a jam-packed Christmas shopping spree while we had the sitter. I was revitalized back to my pre-mommy days by having a shopping day that did not consist of pushing a stroller or changing a diaper every five minutes. I forgot how productive I could be in a retail sitting. Anyway, my husband and I went to one of those teeny bopper stores to buy some Christmas gifts. I swear every time I exhaled or moved-something fell off a shelf or a wall. Not to mention, I was lucky to not have an asthma attack from all of the body sprays that had been squirted all over the store. By the time I got to the cashier, I was hot and bothered (not in that way) and was greeted with a rude little punk who did not have the wits to win a war against me. With the energy of a slug, she said “you get one free Hello Kitty with a $20 purchase.” Hmm…since I am buying for two girls, I really need two Hello Kitties, so I thought-no problem split the purchase since I am spending quadruple the required amount and go home with two kitties. I shared my idea with her and she said “nope, only one per person.” To which, I replied… “no problem, I have a husband right here to make the purchase.” The cashier was mad. I had beat her at her own game. Perhaps if she would have been kind and possessed an ounce of customer service recognizing I had been in a battle with all of her merchandise just to get to cash register, she could have kept her other kitty. Meeeeeeeeeeeooow!

Fight of the Retail Aisle #2

On Sunday, I went to our local retail mall to kill some time entertaining my toddler indoors on a cold day. Honestly, strolling around and people watching is about all this particular mall is good for on any day-hot or cold, but cold means there will usually be more people to watch! I had no real plans to purchase anything because the selections at this mall generally stink. As a matter of fact, I am sure this shopping mall is a ripe environment and can provide plenty of material for TV shows focusing on what not to wear, super nanny, and extreme makeover! The plans were to wave at Santa (I am buttering my toddler up for sitting in his lap for a picture at a later date), eat a cookie, browse around the stores, and watch freaky people. As I pushed my toddler in the stroller, I found myself navigating the aisles like debris after a tornado. I couldn’t get down most of them and was knocking over boxes at every turn. This wasn’t from reckless driving and I wasn’t pushing the mini-van size series stroller with a wide load sign on the back. Even my two-year old toddler said, “messy.” This place would have been pure hell for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. The final straw that caused us to pack up and go home was when I was dragging a stuffed owl pillow under the stroller wheel and had a wrestling match with a throw blanket that wanted to latch onto the stroller. Oh, and I even left bleeding from where a hanger popped out and attacked my arm like a scene from Jaws.

I think we would all enjoy shopping more if we had a little room to breathe…and for goodness sake shop (what a concept)! I am officially adopting the motto “If I can’t get down the aisle-I’m not buying your stuff.” Chances are I am going to save myself a lot of money and enjoy shopping online from my comfy house!

Today, my spoon is full of pleas for retailers to spread em wide!

Transformers: Bedroom in Disguise

Recently we have moved and it has caused some post-traumatic stress to resurface from my days of shopping for a baby bed. Like all parents, when we found out we were expecting, we begin looking for furniture, gadgets, etc. that are supposed to make life easier for parents and baby (what a gimmick!). One item that my husband and I spent WAY too much of our lives researching is our bundle of joy’s bed. Seriously, I can now appreciate the fact that in the “old” days, babies would sleep in a dresser drawer. Before we knew we were having a boy we spent countless hours each evening searching online for baby beds. We narrowed it down from infinity to about 3 bed styles for a boy and 3 bed styles for a girl. So, once we found out that Mr. Cooper was making his debut…we automatically reduced the possibilities by half. The rest should be easy, right? Not so much.

We had too long to think about this piece of furniture. So we continued shopping at retail shops. We thought this was the way to go, rather than ordering online. As a civil engineer guy, my husband was attractive to the convertible bed. After weeks of looking at beds and discussing possibilities, I caved on the convertible bed. I now call it the transformer bed. I am sure there is a kit that comes with it that shoots fire or launches a missile. I had a weak moment-I was tired of talking about it and at the time the thought of not having to ever pick a bed out for my son again sounded great. He can convert it right on to college and then I would redecorate with new stuff. Once we decided on a convertible bed, I was back to the drawing board. We looked and looked and we found the dream bed; or so we thought. But as luck would have it, our dream bed had been discontinued. So, we opted for dream bed number two and placed the order around the 21st week of my pregnancy (for those keeping track….that leaves 19 weeks for arrival and setup).

Then, I get the phone call that some shipping fiasco was occurring in China and that it might take 8 weeks for our furniture to arrive, instead of 6 weeks. Sure no problem! Then 8 weeks turned into 18 weeks. Finally our furniture arrived. Oh wait, I mean one night stand arrived …because that is such a helpful piece of furniture in the nursery (insert cussing). This is where I went from normal to needing to be tied up in a straight jacket. My husband and I called the retail store daily. Only to be promised that it should arrive any second. I mean time was ticking! Dealing with an unhappy pregnant woman who is full term during a Kentucky July is not pretty. When the store grew tired of talking to us, they gave us the company’s phone number. Some lady from the company told me the rest of my furniture was literally sitting on a dock in China and was waiting for a cargo ship that had room. If I knew I wouldn’t go into labor, I would have paddled a boat all the way to China to get that stuff. I will skip the rest of the details because it is just too painful to recant, but the entire nursery showed up 8 weeks after the stork dropped off our bundle of joy; which is a total of 27 weeks for delivery time! I am surprised the store and the furniture company didn’t take out a restraining order on us. Oh, and I failed to mention, that when selecting and ordering the baby bedding, I was schemed once by a fraudulent website, then placed an order that was discontinued and finally found the right bedding the third time. I also went through about 6 different shades of paint in the nursery before finding the right color. Thank you to the hubby for his patience.

So, it should be clear to see why I hate nursery furniture. It is over rated and a waste of time. Transformer beds come with too many parts and pieces. The now headboard has teeth marks all across the top because it was a side piece of the crib when my toddler was teething. It looks like a beaver has gnawed the bed. My toddler doesn’t even sleep in this freaking piece of furniture anymore because he is in my bed. It makes a comfortable bed for the cat! Needless to say, every time I go into the bedroom that houses this furniture, I want to beat it with a sledge hammer. I don’t want to wish Coop’s life away, but I can’t wait until he takes this furniture set to his first apartment and I can watch each time I visit how it has been destroyed wood grain by wood grain by college life.

The moral of this story is you can’t buy rest and relaxation unless it is on a beach with a drink in hand. Don’t waste your money on overpriced transformer beds that promise to send your child off to dreamland comfortably for the first years of their life. Keep things simple. Clean out a dresser drawer and when they outgrow that…scoot over and let them in your bed.

Today my spoon is full of bitter memories of a transformer bed. Now if it would just transform my toddler’s sleeping routine.

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A Letter to Our New Home

Dear New Home:

After dreaming about you for years, we have finally met. As I child I dreamed about what my house would look and be like when I grew up. I was picturing something more like a European Mansion with an exotic view, but that just didn’t work out (or at least not yet). As an adult, I collected magazine pages and pictures of what I wanted you to be. More recently, I moved that addiction to Pinterest (what an awesome website). As newlyweds, we dreamed of plans of what you would and would not be. For example, you would not in any way resemble a fraternity house or hunting lodge. That was probably more of my dream than my husband’s. You would be a great, unpretentious place for friends and family to comfortably gather and celebrate milestones. You would be a colorful reflection of my family. You would be a place that holds our happiest times and shelters us in the unexpected dark times. You would be a place to build memories for indefinite years to come.

We have waited a long time for you to come along. But in particular, the last five months have been the loooooongest. My husband’s civil engineering and project management background has produced a home of near perfection in my eyes. Although, he can point out any place in the house that has a flaw of at least one millimeter in any area. Needless to say, you are the perfect blend of just what we both wanted and dreamed about.

I would like to introduce you to our family. I will pretty much be obsessed with keeping you organized and clean. Any part of your structure that I can produce and slap a label on-I probably will. During holidays, you can expect to be looking great with decorations…no blow up decorations-I promise. You can hopefully, expect the house to be filled with yummy, healthy aromas…some might be carried in from a fine food establishment and some I might whip up myself. You can depend on my husband to fix you just about any time you are broken. He is also looking forward to sharing Notre Dame football games with you. You can count on my toddler breaking things for my husband to fix and you can count on hearing his tiny, yet loud voice and giggles in the rafters. I am sure you will be decorated with his sticky fingerprints and muddy feet. We also have a cat, Miss Kitty, who is nearly 13 years old. She will find one room that she likes and that will probably be about all you see of her. And, you will meet all of our crazy extended family and friends that hold a special place in our heart.

Go ahead and brace yourself, we have some big things ahead that you will have to witness; for instance first on the list is potty training our child. I’m really sorry if you get peed on or worse! There will be many other milestones that you will be such an important part. So here’s to building our relationship, good memories, and turning these nails and wood that make you a house into a home.

Love,

Your Adoring Dwellers

Today my spoon is full of excitement of having a new home.

Lessons from a Salmon

Pike Place Market

In the spirit of writing this post from Seattle, today’s topic (well, really I am writing this at night as I am sleepless in Seattle) is Salmon…living like Salmon as a matter of fact! This may sound fishy, but there are some lessons to be learned from Salmon. Being that chicken, pork, and beef aren’t on my food list of things I like to eat –I eat a lot of seafood; especially salmon. I took a tour of Seattle this past weekend and was fascinated to learn a little more about this pink yumminess that ends up on my plate. I am by no means a “salmon expert” or biological sciences guru, but I will attempt to summarize what I learned about salmon on my tour.

Salmon start out as a little egg that have been deposited and fertilized by mommy and daddy salmon in the gravel/rock of fresh stream water. It takes 1 to 3 months for the eggs to hatch and then they spend up to another five months hanging out around the gravel. They then spend up to a few days or as long as five years living in the fresh water. At the mouth of the streams and river, they school together for a trip out into the ocean. This journey into the salt water can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years.  Once they mature, they head back to their original stream and readapt to fresh water. Their final destination is the original rocks or spawning ground where they were born. There they spawn (breed/lay eggs), bury themselves, and die. Thus, fertilizing and creating a nutrient rich home for the next generation of salmon.

So what can we learn from the salmon?

  1. Remember where you came from and grow from it.
  2. Leave the nest and make your own understanding of this world.
  3. Taste different waters-some might be refreshing, some salty, some murky-but open your mind to new things.
  4. Explore the vast “ocean” before you. Be amazed by its colors and beauty. Do not let the sharks bite you, the fisherman’s nets tangle you up, and other predators steal your joy!
  5. Be flexible and patient. Surely, breathing fresh water one day and salt water the next takes some persistence and flexibility.
  6. Lay your eggs and then die. Okay-not really. Although skipping colic and terrible twos could have some perks. But on a serious note, if you’re a parent-create a new you. This doesn’t mean let your old self “die” necessarily. Take your best characteristics, modifying your worst, and be a good parent. In turn, create a life for your child, do not just recreate your childhood.
  7. Leave something behind to fertilize others…especially your children. Spend your time replenishing others, build their worth, and affirming their value. Be a positive influence and leave the world a better place than you found it.

Today my spoon is full of some of the best salmon I have ever tasted.

Happy New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year!

This time of year begins the mad dash of holiday celebrations. From Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas, and finally we arrive exhausted at the dawn of a new year.  At retail stores we are greeted with an aisle of Halloween goblins and ghosts, then the next aisle is Thanksgiving scarecrows and turkeys, and around the corner are Christmas trees, Santas, and elves. Since we are on the topic of holiday decor- what I hate most are those darn blowup decorations for the yard. I would like to drive by homes and shoot them with a BB Gun one by one. Any ways, back on topic. It’s difficult to enjoy one holiday, without panicking that there is another one creeping right around the corner. Despite the maddening signs that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are near, I always enjoy the holiday season. Each holiday has special memories and traditions that I cherish.  For sentimental reasons and laughs, I will share some of our past and present traditions with you.

I wont’ bore you with 34 years of spooktackular costumes but a few that get honorable mention are Big Bird (Keep PBS!), a Cabbage Patch Kid, a Witch, a flapper, a mermaid (did that twice), a clown, a sock hopper, Chiquita banana, a pirate, a princess, and a cave woman. I am already scheming ways to get my toddler into his costume this year. Since I am a product of the 80s, every Halloween I think about the safety of candy. When I was a child there was a big campaign for trick or treaters to only receive store bought candy-no more homemade goodies. Crazy people started putting needles, razor blades, and drugs in homemade goodies. I guess you can say those kids were tricked and not treated. I remember after hitting up all of the Halloween stops, my brother and I would come home with bags FULL of candy. Then begin my mother and father “inspecting” the wrappers. I’m not sure but looking back, this might have been a ploy for stealing our candy. Luckily, most of our candy passed inspection. One of my favorite treats I received every year was a toothbrush and these red dental dot thingys from a local dentist. You were supposed to chew up the dots after you brushed your teeth to see if you missed any spots. I thought it was much more fun to eat as much candy as possible and then chew the dots to see how dirty my teeth really were.

As a child, our Thanksgiving, perhaps had the strangest tradition—dressing balls. This was a creation of my grandmother. What is a dressing ball you might ask? Well, its dressing that has been mashed into a ball shape and cooked rather than spread out in the pan. You might picture it as a sausage ball on steroids.  I am not sure why she created balls of dressing, but I think they were easy to shove in a grandchild’s hand to make sure we were eating something as we ran around playing. The children loved them, but the adults grew to love and expect them as well. Since her passing, I have been in charge of dressing, so I might bring back the balls for our toddlers to enjoy…and the adults too. They are awesome for leftovers. And lets be real, who can keep a straight face and not laugh when someone says, “pass the balls please.”

One invention that shaped the 80s was the hot glue gun. Really it revolutionized the world. I mean what can you not fix with a hot glue gun? One Christmas season, I remember my grandmother buying a hot glue gun and beginning the endless crafting of Christmas elves. My grandmother and aunt spent endless hours gluing together the elves with plastic faces they had purchased at a local craft store and cutting out and gluing together felt elf outfits-complete with shoes. Ironically, these elves look just like the now famous Elf on the Shelf. I swear someone stole that idea from my family. If we only thought to write a book about those darn elves-we would be millionaires by now and I would be writing this blog from an exotic island somewhere. We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition with our son last year. It seemed fitting to name the elf, Merle, after my grandmother.

One funny memory of Christmas I have is when my dad sent me and my aunt on a mission to buy my mom’s Christmas present. Really, this was an annual mission and we didn’t get a choice to accept or deny the mission. One year, my mother saw a giant, yes giant- a 6 foot, Santa Claus made of dried seaweed/sea grass that she had to have for her house. Seriously, why would anyone want this? This stupid Santa probably weighed 100 pounds. I was about eight years old and my aunt was 18 when my dad sent us to bring this jolly fellow home to my mom for Christmas. Oh, and I failed to mention the store was nearly an hour from our house.  You could imagine what we looked like driving down a major highway in a mini Ford Bronco while Santa’s bottom-half stuck out through the hatch. Every freaking year, my dad and I would hoist Old Seaweed St. Nick up and down from the attic so he could make his grand debut. We hated him and tried some years to break him as we shoved his big rump into the attic-it didn’t work.  I was never so glad to see that guy leave our family when my parent’s had an auction. We could barely give it away. I think it might have brought $5! As a matter of fact, my mom called during the auction and said “who bought Santa”? I have no clue who now has the privilege celebrating Christmas with Mr. Seaweed Santa…but to you I say thank you!

Each year on Christmas Eve, I always enjoy hearing my family whine and complain about a tradition I started a decade ago. Nothing says love like a complaining family. Trust me, they complain about this tradition, but I think they secretly like it. We all have a small notebook with our name on it that is stored in a special Christmas bag all year. Each Christmas Eve when we get together, I drag the bag out and distribute the books. The next 10 to 15 minutes is spent arguing over the “rules” of this tradition. Luckily, one cousin wrote the rules down in her book-so after we get tired of arguing, when all else fails, we decide to read the rules. Next, we write down the events/things we want to remember about the year and then write down what we hope for or are predicting for the next year. Can I just say that me having a baby was mentioned at least every year for the past 10 years! Now that we made that dream come true-they can move on to the next cousin! After everyone jots down their thoughts, we go around one by one sharing the entries from the previous year. You only share what you feel comfortable sharing and try to avoid those TMI (too much information) entries. Some items shared bring a good laugh, some a tear, and others a surprise because you forgot all about them. I am the keeper of the books and honor everyone’s privacy. Seriously, I do not read them. As a matter of fact, our grandmother’s book went to the grave with her.

New Years is spent with some dear friends from our college days. As a matter of fact, since 1999 (and yes we partied like it was 1999 that year), we have celebrated all but two New Year’s together. One year I can’t remember what happened and last year we had a sick kido.  We have celebrated so many together; it is a call of duty to continue the tradition. We have lots of fun stories from ringing in the New Year…honesty, too fun to share. Okay, since kids entered the picture, we usually don’t make it to see the ball drop, but we have a good time none-the-less. We are looking forward to ringing in another year together this year.

As you embark on celebrating the holidays, it might feel like they have all been smashed into one event called New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year—but none-the-less, take time to make traditions and enjoy life with the one’s you love…and even the ones you have to love because you’re family.

Today my spoon is full of thoughts of holiday memories and savory dressing balls.

Shout Out About Colic

I recently received a phone call from a friend who was calling on behalf of their family member who has a newborn with colic. Why did they call me you might ask? Well, my bundle of love screamed at us for four months straight…so I have earned my colic survivor purple heart. Most might think, seriously, how much can a baby cry or say it’s all in how you handle it. And to you I say….well, I can’t say what I would like to say to you. But the answer is a baby can cry for 12+ hours a day! If you have never experienced it, take the worst moment you have had with a crying baby and multiply it by 1000000000000000 x nearly 120 days. I haven’t blogged about this topic, because I seriously think I might have some lingering post traumatic stress from this experience. A colicky baby could be used by the government in lieu of water-boarding. I recently showed my toddler a video of him screaming his head off when he was about 6 weeks old. He said “mad baby.” Yes dear, you were the mad baby. So badly mad, that our cat lived in the basement for four months. I was so jealous of her being able to escape.

So this blog post is for any new momma dealing with a colicky baby and for anyone else who might need a good laugh at my expense. Colic entered our house like a thief in the night about two weeks after we got home from the hospital with our 9.5 pound buddle of cuteness. Conveniently, my husband and daunting family members had all gone back to work at this point. So there I was with my beautiful, screaming demon and the cat, stuck in the house in the middle of July; which is pretty hot in Kentucky. And that is when I begin asking myself; did I really mean to take 3 months maternity leave, maybe the standard 6 weeks would suffice?

As a new mother your first instinct is to assume there must be something wrong…so there ensued our weekly visit to our jovial, pediatrician who shoots straight from the hip. Although it was the first week of August 2010, I remember his words like it was yesterday, “it’s probably colic, he will be a new baby by Thanksgiving.” What?? Thanksgiving is like four months away. I stared calculating the months, weeks, and hours until turkey day. And, there is no remedy? We don’t know what causes this? Why have mothers who have experienced colic around the globe not banded together to find a cure? So off I went with my screaming demon to survive the next four months. I have very few pictures documenting his first weeks, mainly because he was screaming and glowing with a bright red face the entire time.

The Sweet Baby I Brought Home (Pic By JoAnne Fowler)

Once you figure out there is nothing wrong with him, you assume there is something wrong with you. For example, how did I jump through all the hoops of a Ph.D., yet can’t handle a screaming baby? Throw in the changing hormones that are swiftly kicking you throughout the day with the questions of…maybe I shouldn’t have been a mom starts ringing in your brain? Maybe he hates me? Did the hospital give us the wrong baby?

Looking back there are some funny moments along the four month journey.

  • My dad would spend his days off with us trying to keep me sane. He spent one afternoon wheeling my son back and forth in his bassinet with wheels because when we stopped moving he would start crying again. That bassinet acquired some mileage around our house that day.
  • I would load my baby up in a stroller and go on walks with my iPod. He screamed while I blissfully listened to my favorite tunes and those that passed us by glared with a judging look for letting a baby scream like that.
  • Upon returning home from work one day (really, I am surprised he kept coming home), my husband said, “just get out of the house and do something for yourself. I got this.” I told him if I walked out the door, it was very likely I was never coming back. So I stayed…and I am grateful I did.
  • My mother would sing religious songs to my baby and rock him. Her music either soothed him or startled him enough that he was quite for a bit. My dad would fall asleep like a baby listening to her, long before the baby ever did.
  • One day, I didn’t get a bath until after my husband got home from work (what am I saying, heck most days I didn’t). He had some work due for his graduate program, so I decided to jump in the shower and afterwards take our screaming child for a drive. His screaming got so bad, I ended up leaving the house with wet hair, no shoes, and no bra (if that picture doesn’t put the stereotypical image of Kentucky in your head, I don’t know what will!). I just wanted the crying to stop, it was worth the sacrifices of clothes and looks. Since I also hadn’t eaten all day, I thought I would drive one hour round trip to the closest McDonalds for some fries. He would sleep and I would drive. Who would see me, right? On my way to McDonalds, I came upon my dad in a car wreck. He had hit a giant cow on the road. You can’t make this stuff up! Nothing like talking to a police officer, waiting for a wrecker, and helping your dad (who was thankfully unharmed) while barefoot, braless, wet dripping hair and wearing a Metallica t-shirt all while your newborn screams in the car. No peace and quiet that night. And no French fries.
  • My aunt’s frantic search for the perfect formula brings a smile to my face. She found one that we called liquid gold, it was pricey but it helped. She brought various brands by our house and we would compare ingredients and call the hotline on the can looking for answers. I was hoping the 1-800 number directly led to God.
  • My poor sister-in-law was six months pregnant during this time and I think this whole ordeal caused her to live in fear of meeting her baby. Luckily, she had a nice quite one!

When a mother who believes her baby has colic asks me what “did you do”, I always hate to answer. Honestly, I want to start crying, curl up a fetal position, and rock back and forth while singing a mixed genre of Amazing Grace, Baby’s Got Back, and Friends in Low Places. The truth is, we did everything and nothing worked. Sure some wives tales or concoction bought us few minutes, but there is no fix all answer. Slowly, week by week, the crying doesn’t last as long, and then around four months it just disappears.

So what did I try? Let’s see… sitting my child by a running facet, sitting my child on the dryer (it was so tempting to put him in on the delicate cycle), singing, dancing, watching TV, playing EVERY genre of music, making up our own songs, long rides in the car, long walks, bouncing up and down, massage, gripe water, herbal remedies, sugar water, acid reflux medicine, sitting outside, swaddling in warm blankets, strapping and wrapping the kid on me in various contraptions, various formulas, various bottle styles, pacifiers, ear plugs, calming lotion, prayers, crying (me, not the baby), wine (again, me, not the baby), and on and on.

Honestly, the two best things that worked were (1) giving him baths-he loved bath time and (2) keeping socks on his feet (that was advice from my grandmother). In reality, the only thing that TRULY works is taking care of yourself. That requires taking time to yourself, making time as a couple to escape, creating a routine that works for you, trusting and allowing others to help. I can’t say I did all of these things, but hindsight is 20/20.

So our household did survive colic. So did our marriage. So did my cat-luckily they have nine lives. Our hearing was probably damaged, but prepared us well for the other joys of parenting such as ear infections and terrible twos. And every year when the leaves start changing colors and falling off the tree and people start talking about getting their families together for turkey time, I count my blessings that colic is over!
Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet memories of my newborn that I hope will help another parent.

Thoughts as Thick as Peanut Butter

This blog has been brewing in my heart for a while mainly because just like most folks, I do not want to share these thoughts or think about them long enough to formulate an emotion. It’s a sticky topic, like the glob of peanut butter my toddler likes to lick off the spoon right out of the jar. Tasty, yet messy. Deep thoughts…that, well, in this busy life gets crowded out by meetings, laundry, and Power Ranger reenactments. I often wonder if the human flaw and tendency to live superficially is actually a divine design to distract us from the weight of what it would be like if we truly lived. This might seem like a bit of an oxymoron. But by truly living I mean licking every drop off your spoon…kind of like peanut butter. Living by experiencing the pain and hurt, as well as, the joy and blessings, of others who are living around the world, just not those that are nearest to us. Having the energy and gumption to fight for equality for all-all the time. Spending each waking moment making the world a better place than we found it. Embracing the good that each person has to offer. Seems more exhausting than showing up for work and extracurricular activities, right?

I watched a movie, Final Cut, in 2004 (I highly recommend) where Robin Williams played a cutter who splices and dices people’s historical memory after death (as seen through the deceased person’s eyes). He cuts memories up to form a video highlight reel of the person. Kind of like the PowerPoint presentations we now see at funeral homes, weddings, etc. with pictures portraying your life. The plot was thicker than what I am describing, but, I often wonder if someone had the capability after death to “cut” my memories and share them-what would they be? Who have I made an impact on? How did my life look different from my eyes compared to another person’s eyes.

Experience-one size doesn’t fit all. But for me, these are the things that fill my mind in my 30s that fit into my mind differently in previous years of my life. I am not saying that this is a rite a passage for 30s…I am simply saying this is occurring for me in my 30s…who knows if I am a late bloomer or early! Recently, we had some great friends from college visit us for the weekend. Only true friends brave a rental house in the “hood” (I use that word lightly-I know it could be worse) for some quality time together. Being that we both have toddlers we decided to order take out for dinner. It was a debate as to whether the wives or husbands would go get takeout while the others gave the boys their baths…but we ladies grabbed the keys first and off we went for sushi. When we called in the order, the restaurant told us it would take 20-30 minutes and despite the fact that the restaurant is 3 minutes from our driveway…we felt we better head that way and wait…conveniently at the bar. My friend and I have shared a lot of laughs and stories over cocktails… but this one was somehow different. I found us experiencing the same thing, yet describing it in our own words. In a nutshell, we were worried about sucking all of the juice out of the honeysuckle of life. On our brains were not discussions of work commitments, dreams of Pinterest projects, piles of laundry, or exotic travels. It was simply…how do you know you are living every moment to the fullest and how do you not guilt trip yourself when you fall short.

As our discussion developed, it dawned on me that these were ideas that weren’t a part of our discussions in our 20s. For us those years happened to be more sheltered or innocence; maybe even selfish. In our 30s we have seen friends lose their jobs, marriages crumble, parents and grandparents pass away. We understand the gravity of what it means to have a healthy child. And the fear of that blessing turning into hell with one test result. We have seen the effects of evil diseases. We have watched friends mourn the loss of their spouse. We have seen the beauty in a good deck of cards, and the cruelty in a losing hand. People have disappointed us. We have disappointed others. The list goes on and on…but in the midst of all of that…the core remains how do you live each day to the fullest, how do you not fret over the uncontrollable and the unforeseen. How do you be the best spouse, friend, daughter, sister, etc. you can be? How do you create a life for your child so that he or she doesn’t spend the rest of his/her life trying to sort through it? How do you savor all of the “first” and all of the “lasts” your journey has to offer? How do you indeed leave the world a better place than you found it?

The truth is there isn’t an easier answer or even a single answer. The tactic that works one day is derailed by life on another day. Each day you try to be better than the day before. Sometime this evolution is moment by moment. You continuously deprogram yourself from the jargon that this negative word offers. You keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to a cause or need. You say I am sorry. You say I love you. You get happy. You forgive others. You forgive yourself. You spend more time thinking, believing, and doing what your good at doing. You live in the moment, not the past or the future. And, you eat sushi that, well, was ready long before that conversation finished. Peace, love, and happiness folks…keep becoming your best self!

Today my spoon if full of deep thoughts of licking up every bit in my spoon.

24/7 on the job…Mom

Last week, I had surgery on my knee. The MRI showed a tear in my meniscus.  After 1.5 hours of exploratory surgery-not a single little tear could be found. Arghh!! The good news is I have just been hobbling around like a pirate for a few days instead of being on crutches throughout the upcoming holiday season. The bad news …well, I have a battle wound on my leg (AKA a scar) and we still don’t know what is wrong with my knee. So next steps are physical therapy and taking arthritis medication. Seriously, arthritis?  For those that know me well, know I haven’t worn my bones out from my athletic prowess.  My late grandmother suffered from arthritis.  When the condition would bother her, she used to say her “Arthur” was acting up as if it was her mischievous friend.  I guess, Arthur is now my new “friend.”

My husband has been most helpful and most gracious during my surgery and recovery. And frankly, I am a horrible patient. I am a grumpy beast. I hate depending on others and dislike having to sit and watch life pass me by while my leg is propped up at a certain angle and healing. I am humbled by individuals who have had to be patient while their bodies were healing for a long period of time. Anesthesia and pain killers make me sleep like a bear hibernating for the winter. However, through this experience, I have learned there is one job that you are never off duty for and that is the job of mom. You know you’re a mom when….

  1. In the surgery center recovery area you ask for Goldfish Crackers. And despite the amnesia, you remember being disappointed they were not the extra cheesy blast variety.
  2. Your bummed you got an entire night to yourself in a king size bed (husband, kido, and cat took the couch) and were too drugged to remember it.
  3. Having been sleep deprived for months you first thought after you realized you slept for 16 hours straight is “do I have bed sores?”
  4. While sleeping you remember a pirate with a hammer visiting your beside and you are pretty sure it was your toddler and not a weird dream.
  5. Instead of a bell, your husband leaves you a plastic trumpet on the night stand to blow if you need help. Honestly, my loving husband probably wanted to tell me where to shove that trumpet a few times.
  6. Your family says “It’s been 24 hours…aren’t you back to being superhero mom? “
  7. You have to take sponge baths for a week to avoid infecting your wound, but you forgot to ask the doctor about slobbery toddler kisses on your “boo boo.”
  8. You beg to go to the grocery shopping because it is considered “me time.”
  9. Your first meal post operation you ask for macaroni and cheese.
  10. You still can explain to someone what your toddler is saying even though you are drugged out the wazoo.

Today my spoon is full of thanks for good health! Mom’s don’t have time to be sick!

This “Two” Shall Pass

From birth, heck from pregnancy, most parents are automatically in a competition with each other…especially mothers.  And it is not in our nature to air our dirty laundry.  Doing so is a sign of weakness to the competition. After all, our kid’s perfectness is a direct reflection of our perfection. But for the sake of creating empathy among parents, especially mothers, I am airing my laundry today. Most of us like to think the rest of the world operates in little pockets of utopia where their children are perfect, the parents have the heart of Super Nanny, and life goes as planned. My life has been quite the contrary since the terrible twos became a guest at our house. A dear friend of mine shared the following quote with me which I will PG-13 rate for the sensitive folks.

They are called the “terrible twos” because” f*#&ing awful” doesn’t start with a T.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The mother who texted this quote to me is a top-notch mother in my book and I appreciated her rawness! Seriously, what happens at two? And I thought colic was bad!

Borrowing from an 80s movie reference, my cute child goes from Gizmo to Gremlin with something as simple as the wrong Sippy cup filled with apple juice when he wanted orange juice.  For the past few weeks, our days go something like this. At 6:45 he wakes up. Before his eyes are open he says “nack” which means he wants a snack…AKA breakfast. No worries, Prince Cooper, your Gogurt and juice await you. By 6:47 he is telling me “NO TEETH” and “NO SHOES” which means he has no intentions of brushing his teeth or wearing his shoes today. The clock hands seem to be moving at warp speed as I try to finish getting ready while he downs his “nack”. I hear his feet hit the floor the moment he finishes.  He makes his way crying to the bathroom like I have been gone for weeks. He begins climbing my legs. I swear it is like he is trying to crawl back in the womb some mornings. A few minutes later, we have a WWF wrestling match to get his clothes and shoes on. I won’t even go into the details of how the socks have to be “just right” so they don’t hurt his feet and how the tags on his shirt itch his back.

By this point in the morning, the cat is standing at the door meowing because she wants outside. Don’t we all want to escape Miss Kitty? Well, the luxury of a house cat affords you the opportunity of enduring this fine morning with the family. If anyone is going outside to be alone it is me. For goodness sake cat, you have the house to yourself all day! Next, comes the tooth-brushing smack down. And, really, what’s the point….these stupid things are going to fall out in a few years anyways. All of these morning activities, which may I add, are usually done with me wearing dress clothes and heels!

Fast forward to leaving the house, round two continues  as I try to pile drive him into the car seat. His body automatically morphs into a stiff board the minute the car door opens. As soon as I get one arm in the restraint, the other is out.  Off we go to daycare and work…awww…some peace and quiet. Crap!  The sun is in his eyes. Now he is crying again and yelling “NO SUN.” A part of me secretly thanks God that his beautiful beams of sun are causing temporary angst for this holy terror. Maybe some angelic beams will penetrate him.  Out of the car to daycare we go, a little clingy-but he is always happy to see his teachers. Off to work I go, usually sweating like I am having a menopausal moment. Rushing in the door I manage to greet everyone with a smile on my face despite the war zone I just went through.  Who knows if my clothes match? Heck, I may not even have all of my clothes on. I probably have Gogurt in my hair or splattered on my rear. None-the-less, I am here and ready to conquer the day.

Fast forward….the work day is done and let’s face it…some days are filled with adults who appear to have never exited the terrible twos. Long gone are the memories of the morning stress. Off I go to daycare to pick up my pride and joy. I’m ready to see my little munchkin and spend quality time with him. I am greeted with a big smile. A good sign, right? Yes! He has had a good day. Or at least that’s the report. Maybe his teachers lie to me and act pleasant as if he is a good child for them.  Off we head to the car. Noooo! My holy terror is back for a WWF rematch thrashing as he goes in the car seat. I’m really beginning to wonder…does this kid hate me? People in the parking lot probably think I have taken a child that doesn’t belong to me. The little demon from earlier in the day reappears and the remainder of the night is a battle of wills. Whining, crying, more whining….picking our poor 12 year old cat up with grilling tongs, yelling “NO JESUS” and “NO AMEN” when we say our prayers…and on and on and on. Is it bedtime yet?  Close enough…off to bed we go….all four of us snug in the bed (me, my husband, toddler, and cat).  Please Lord, don’t let tomorrow be Groundhog Day.

I know the terrible twos are a phase and this too shall pass. I wonder why the twos are so terrible? Is the Devil a two year old? If so, I never want to meet him. On average, my child has more sweet and funny moments than “terrible two” moments or we would be looking into a refund policy. Luckily, his cute Gizmo moments, outweigh his Gremlin tendencies. But, unfortunately, those angelic moments, right now, often occur when he is with other folks.  As a parent, I guess this is a labor of love step to condition your heart for unconditional love.

As my husband walked out the door wrestling our angel all the way to the car this morning he said, “I wish we could come home and the Super Nanny’s car would be in our driveway”.  To which my child said “NO NANNY”. Sure, we might be a case for the Super Nanny…but with a lot of love, a ton of patience, and a few ounces of wine…the terrible twos will be distance memories and replaced by the ““what’s that threes”, the obnoxious puberty years, the brainless teenage years, the experimental college years, etc. I air my laundry because life isn’t perfect and mine isn’t either. So if you are a mother of a two year old (or a mother of any age child), take a deep breath and realize that more of us have been to this place than we will ever admit. Keeping moving forward. The goal is to survive the terrible twos and not create an adult who has a persistence case of the terrible twos. The world has enough of those already!

Today my spoon is full of terrible twos. Hmmm…I wonder what my WWF Mommy Stage name could be?

Eat Some Carpe Diem

Quite a few folks have asked me “where is your blog this week” and to you I say thank you for missing me. I have missed blogging. It’s a creative outlet I have come to love. I promised to be authentic on this blog-so to answer your question “where have I been? “ Well…drowning in work and life. Mucho deadlines at work, building a house, a traveling hubbie, and a bummed knee have caught up with me this week. So this blog is short and sweet!

If you’re having one of “those” weeks, in the midst of the busy chaos stop and have a real big spoonful of life. For peace of mind go ahead and resign as general manager of the universe and do something for yourself and those you love. Enjoy the beautiful weather, get your hair or toes did, have a massage, catch up with a friend, go on an adventure with the kiddos, commit a random act of kindness, have a date night with your love, etc. Whatever, just stop and enjoy it.  Tonight, Coop and I are going on an outdoor picnic adventure.

Meanwhile, enjoy your spoonful and see you next week! There is so much to blog about…Honey Boo Boo drama, Todd Akin speaking on behalf of all uteruses, the idiot I met who said kids in daycare go to kiddy kennels (that one sent me over the edge), my 23 days of coke sobriety (let me clarify that-Coca Cola)….got a lot of material stuck in my head! Looking forward to jumping back on the blog wagon next week.

Today my spoon is full “carpe diem” for the things that matter most.

First day of school #29…a little snakey

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I was anxious and excited about the first day of school. This was my 29th first day of school. I’m not teaching this year, but none-the-less, I love the hustle and bustle the first day brings. I don’t worry (as much) about what I am going to wear on the first day of school, who is going to talk to me (some days less is more), or where I am going to eat lunch (probably at my desk). I will admit, I miss shopping for a backpack, Trapper Keeper (do they even make those things anymore?), and a lunchbox. I loved getting all my supplies organized and ready back when I was a student. There is something special about the smell of a clean building and new textbooks. I love the first day of classes on a college campus because there is a wind of change blowing through peoples’ lives when they arrive on campus. Some feel the breeze and others haven’t even noticed yet. Students arrive optimistic and eager to fulfill a dream or craft their passion. For some it’s their first attempt at college. For others, it is an attempt to get it right…this time. Hope permeates through the campus on the first day of class. That’s why I love my profession.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was the weather-rain was inevitable. I thought about students trying to juggle a schedule, backpack, and an umbrella while finding their class on this dreary, wet day. Those that know me well know I am not a big logo polo-wearing gal. I have never been uniform (in more ways than one) but on a day where students have lots of questions and are looking for assistance…the polo was the thing to wear. So, I took the casual polo, capri pant, and sandals look….tactic to look approachable for students. Luckily, we got the first batch of early bird 8:00 AM students to class before the skies opened up.

This morning, as I walked out the door to leave the house, I thought to myself “Stacy, today really isn’t a day for sandals.” It looked like it was going to pour buckets of rain…and well, it did. But more importantly, I was dressed, matched, my toddler was dressed and ready, bags were packed, we were on time…forget turning back to find a pair of matching shoes in my closet on this Monday morning. Press onward! Later in the morning after students were settled in class, I found myself sitting at my desk, cussing myself for not changing shoes before I left the house. My feet were damp and cold. The boss man came into my office to touch base on some projects. I saw him glancing at the floor near my desk…then I saw the look in his eyes. It wasn’t the excitement of the first day of class!  “There is a what in my office?” There was a snake stuck in the sticky bug trap by my desk! I have been told it is everything from a Copperhead to a Midland Water snake. Frankly, it’s a snake!!!!!!!!!!!!! Other than the fact that one variety could kill me…they are all equal grossness. As an office suite, we squealed, we near vomited, and we “disposed” of the snake. The office suite has that creepy crawly feeling. Needless to say, it was not the first day of class I expected.

A new variety of student

As my grandmother used to say… “write that in your book”  and that I did. This goes down in my book as they worst first day of school in 29 years. As a student, I have had bad hair days, wardrobe malfunctions, teachers I didn’t want, and bad seat assignments on the first day of school. As a teacher, I have had pesky students, a student who had a seizure, and students who were in the wrong class on the first day. But today, this tops the list of worst day of first days!

A snake, really? Is this an omen? I even checked the Chinese calendar…it’s the year of the dragoon! A cruel joke?  Was it planted? And sandals… I wore sandals! It could have been crawling around by my toes. What if there are more? Did this snake have friends? Are they hiding in my files? Let’s just say, my feet were propped up on a clear plastic container most of the day. My mind played tricks on me, too. Electrical cords now look like snakes, the carpet pattern…snakes. I feel surrounded! Will I ever be able to wear sandals again? I am scared to see what the rest of this semester brings!

Today my spoon is full hope that no more slimy creatures are hanging out in my office and that all of the students had a great (snake-free) first day.

Hello… a Call from Communication Memory Lane

Communication makes the world go round. From smoke signals to pigeons to Morse Code, we as humans have always found a way to communicate. Perhaps the most famous (although a little thing called Apple has given him a run for his money) invention for communication was in 1876 by a fellow name Bell who created the telephone. His innovation created the platform that has undergone a radical transformation in the last 136 years.

Each phase of my life coincides with stories about telephones. Since I was a small child, I have always loved human interest news shows like 20/20. For most of my childhood, I envisioned myself being the next Barbara Walters (hmmm…maybe I can be Barbara Walters of the blog world). I recall one episode about technology and how one day we would be able to see the people we talk to while on the phone. I imagined a giant TV screen that had a numerical key pad and a giant phone connected by a cord. I remember thinking what happens if people call and you aren’t dressed or your hair isn’t fixed…. I guess I never thought you could just ignore the call (now there is a button to do just that). Being able to actually hear someone’s voice and see them on the phone simultaneously seemed space aged to a girl who just started dialing the numerical prefix to phone numbers when the last  four digits would no longer suffice.

My next memory of phone technology occurs in my preteen years. I recall getting the “answering machine” at our house. I remember jumping out of the car and running in the house from the garage to see who had left a “detailed message” after the beep. Although I was embarrassed at the time, I can now chuckle about a group of boys that use to leave long, ridiculous messages on the machine (gosh, wish I would have kept those). I also remember my grandmother would leave a message and at the end of her message she would say “maw” as if she was signing her name to a letter or we didn’t know who she was.

During my teenage years, I experienced what I thought were communication luxuries like calling waiting and caller ID. In hindsight, these were really just efforts for my parents to spy on me and have a fighting chance of having a few minutes on the phone. While I was in high school, my parents purchased their first cell phone. It was in a black bag and came with a detachable antenna you put on the roof of your car. It was for emergencies only. Minutes were pricey and precious. Occasionally, I would get to carry the “bag” phone in my car. Even if I didn’t make a call, it felt so cool to carry that bag out of the house and stick that antenna on my Ford Probe. There is a reason, you no longer see bag phones or Ford Probes and for that I am thankful.

In college, personal cell phones still weren’t popular. I know it is hard for current college students to believe, but I managed to make it to class on time and have an active social life without a cell phone to call or text my friends. Toward the end of college, car phones were becoming increasingly popular. And finally the true mobile phone started hitting the scene. My last year of college, I bought a cell phone plan because it was cheaper than paying for a landline. Heck half the time I didn’t even take it out of my house.

During my early professional years, I found myself a newlywed with a husband in Iraq. I was able to forward our home phone to my cell phone so I could reduce the possibility of missing his phone call. He was among some of the first men and women to be deployed, so calls home were rare because communication systems weren’t established (luckily, this got better further into the war). Since I was carrying my cell phone with me, I noticed I had stopped wearing a watch. After all, I didn’t’ need it because my cell phone always told me the time. I also starting texting during this time period. I will be honest, at first my text included words like “yes” “no” and “k”. After my department started making fun of me for my short messages and got me a texting for dummies book for my Boss’s Day, I stepped up my game.  Now, I have an unlimited texting plan and I can text all sorts of abbreviations, videos, pictures, and sometimes even short dissertations.

In my thirties, I find that “telephone” communication is more important than ever. Somewhere between carrying that bag phone and present time- a revolution occurred in my life. My phone is practically a family member. When my toddler discovers it in the house, he automatically brings it to me as if I should be missing it. My phone tells me where to be, it reminds me of tasks and appointments, informs me of what’s around me, keeps me up-to-date on the weather, notifies me about how much money is in my bank account, shows me how to get places, plays my favorite tunes, keeps track of my exercise, takes pictures and videos of precious moments, serves as a calculator, houses my addresses book, provides games to my child, and serves as an alarm clock. I am actually typing my blog from my cell phone as I wait on a meeting to start. And…as that 20/20 show shared back in the late 80s/early 90s, my phone now allows me to see the person I am talking to. I never imagined 20 something years ago, when watching that show, that I could be anywhere in the world and would be able to read a story with my toddler, sing songs, and say our prayers together. My son, will never know a world where he can’t see the person on the other end of the phone.

I wonder one day what my phone will look like? Will my iPhone seem like the size of a shoe box compared to the phone I carry when I am 100 years old? What will my phone do for me then? Check my blood pressure? Cook for me? The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see and embrace what communication technology the future holds.

Today my spoon is full of cool communication memories.

Dear Secret Lover…

Dear Secret Lover,

Breaking up is hard to do. And it’s not me…it’s actually all YOU. I know we have been together for a LONG time now. We practically met when I had a baby bottle in hand. Our love for each other can be described as Jekyll and Hyde.  You ignite me and motivate me, yet hours later you leave me feeling lethargic and empty. Just thinking of you brings a bubbling sensation to my body. I have tried replacing you, but no one quenches my thirst like you do and I always run straight back to you craving the taste of you on my lips. When I see you, my body aches to touch your shapely silhouette. Even though my husband has seen us together, he doesn’t know the extent of my love for you. He’s out of town all next month which gives me the opportunity to spend even more time with you. I need you. I want you. But this has to stop. This is actually the worst month I could break up with you…I have a huge stack of projects to complete in the upcoming month and a toddler in my life that has more energy bottled in him than a Red Bull.  As fate would have it, I spent the last night with you in the museum having you 60 different ways (ladies….be jealous). As the saying goes…I went out with a bang (and fizzle and pop)! You have such a way of invigorating my very soul. Living without you is not going to be easy but the fact is- your just no good for me. Maybe one day we can have an occasional rendezvous without me falling for you all over again. Until then, I will be keeping a safe distance from you.Good bye…Coca Cola our relationship is over.

Addicted to your love,

Me

I LOVE Coke! I know in the South we call every soda product a “coke” but I mean I really love the real thing! No substitutes. No knockoffs or other brands. No diets. No zeroed out versions-the real deal. I realized I was addicted to the love of Coke when my toddler started calling it “momma juice”. What my toddler doesn’t know is the real mommy juice is brought out when I have a quiet moment while he is in bed.

The Vault

As I have been contemplating breaking up with Coke and blogging about it, fate landed me in an Atlanta hotel close to the Coca Cola Museum. I decided to take a pilgrimage to the museum to say my final goodbyes. I learned about the taste of happiness, watched how the product was bottled, sold, and marketed. I walked by the vault that holds the secret formula that only two people in the world know.God, if I am ever stranded on an island with one other person, please let one of the people that knows this secret formula be stranded with me…and make that person a hot, smart guy!

 

At the museum, I spent most of my time in the tasting room sampling the 60 different Coca Cola products from across the globe. I must say, nothing quenched my thirst like the American Coca Cola. I left with museum with a sovenier glass bottle of Coca Cola that was bottled that day…maybe I will pop the cap on that bottle in July 2013 for a celebration of my one-year breakup with my love.

Since stopping for a Skinny Caramel Macchiato doesn’t fit in this momma’s schedule most mornings…there is nothing that gets my blood going and my brain working like a cold, refreshing Coke. It’s liquid ambition in a glass, plastic, can, or Styrofoam container.  The fact is the product is empty calories and filled with things my body doesn’t need. It’s a waste of my time to avoid certain unhealthy foods, run, and exercise while continuing to drink empty calories. In the name of health, I am breaking up with the love of my life. For now, it’s all or nothing…so I am selecting “nothing.” Maybe one day I can have a sip and not go back to “all.” As the saying going, misery loves company…who is with me?

Today my spoon is full of the last drop of “mommy juice”.

A wise old man…who is two!

Since my son turned two last week, I have been reflecting on his past two years. I recently heard my mom say “days are long and years are short.” I don’t know if she made that up, she is usually pretty clever with words, or if she “borrowed” it from someone. The quote is a good description of parenting and especially the last two years of my life. And though we have had some long days, two years have been short as a parent to my Coop! There has been days that if a phone number existed to the Stork that dropped off my bundle of joy…I would call for a refund or an exchange. Luckily, these days are few and far between and when the fun and pretty merge with the bad and ugly you are left with predominately found memories in short segments.

One thing great about Cooper turning two is that we now can count his age in years. I was so excited when I could quit counting his age in weeks. It’s a lot for a new parent to keep up with weeks, especially on top of feeding schedules, sleep schedules, diaper changes.  Geez the list goes on and on! Then we moved from counting in weeks to counting in months-which is a little easier. Now we get to move from months to years! Maybe I will throw in a 2 ½ just to be cuh-razy!  But none-the-less, I don’t have to count days, weeks, or months in my head any longer. Just years and I am afraid those years will be too short.

There is very good reason for not counting in years. For example, doesn’t it sound better to say I am 34 years old rather than 415 months!  I won’t even calculate the weeks… that would be too depressing!  In honor of not having to count in months any longer, I will amuse you with 24 things I have learned in the past 24 months from my toddler. I mean come on, if I listed just two for his two years of life that would be a boring post. And if I listed 104 in honor of a 104 weeks of life, that would be too long. So here they are (in no particular order)… 24 things I have learned as mommy to Cooper and in return want to remind him about when he is an adult.

  1. Work and play should be one in the same. Whether you are picking up toys before bed time, helping me with laundry, or orchestrating an intense fight between your dinosaurs you are having fun. Your innocence allows you to turn work into play. I hope you always continue to cease the moment and play your way through life. Now, this isn’t to be confused with being a “player” to the ladies.
  2. Learn how to say no.  You do this a little too well sometimes. As an adult, I hope you know when to say no and not be scared to take a chance and say yes. Never allow saying “yes” to interfere with your well being and the ones whose relationships you value the most.   I have found once you say “no” …it is easier and easier to say it again to preserve your inner peace.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed…try, try, try again. From learning to setup, to walk, to putting things in your pocket, to riding your tractor…you kept trying to you figured it out. You don’t let restrictions slow you down or influence your capability. Now, to conquer the potty!
  4. Learn by watching and listening. I am amazed on how much you soak in by being a quiet (or sometimes a loud) observer. Always keep an open mind, eyes, ears, and heart.
  5. Looks don’t matter. Whether you interacting with a child your size, a plump old lady, or Elmo, you look at each of them as humans and wonder what fun and excitement awaits for you by your paths crossing.  Plus, you love me at my prettiest and my ugliest.  Always look for the value in each person you meet and don’t allow their looks to camouflage what you see.
  6. Know when to ask for help. Sometimes in life you need help from others…and that’s okay. Asking for mommy’s “help” or daddy to “fix it” is music to our ears. Throughout life there are people waiting in the wings ready to help if you ask.  Don’t ignore their offers and don’t take advantage of the offers.
  7. Enjoy life at the pace you have defined for yourself. Boy, you have one speed and that is whatever you want it to be. There is no rushing you and no slowing you down. As an adult make your pace match your priorities in life.
  8. Love people for who they are not what you want them to be.  When you see your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, friends you see them for just who (“what” might be debatable at times) they are and love them any way. You have no preconceived notions of what they should be. If you continue to have this outlook you will face less disappointment.
  9. Notice the small things in life. Whether it’s a bird, an airplane, a flower, a rock, a piece of lint…you notice it. Don’t get so busy that you don’t appreciate what is around you and miss the obvious.
  10. If you don’t like someone or something ignore them/it. When you think something is a bad idea, doesn’t sound like fun, is a mean person-you just ignore them and don’t incorporate it into your moment (okay-sometimes you bite, then ignore). I hope you continue to block out things that don’t matter and not spend your time incorporating and fretting over people and things you don’t like. Instead, put your energy into things and people that bring you joy. And…although it could bring great satisfaction you can’t bite people that you don’t like as an adult. Although, occasionally you can whisper to yourself “bite me” which takes biting to another level.
  11. Don’t hold a grudge. Even though you have a memory like an elephant, you rarely hold a grudge. If someone makes you mad you yell, bite, or cry and then you move on. I hope you always have that ability to get over it and move on.
  12. Express yourself. Whether it is singing a song, yelling to hear your voice echo in a public bathroom, sitting down on the floor and protesting…I can always count on you to let me know what you are thinking. Don’t bottle up your emotions and continue to express yourself.
  13. You can’t always get what you want. But as the Rolling Stones say “but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.” Although you prefer to gorge on fruit snacks, macaroni, and juice… you will find that life is best lived in moderation. However, your mother will always agree that Mac and Cheese and pizza should have been their own section in the food pyramid.
  14. Every day is a new day. Each day you wake up with new energy, a new perspective and the past is irrelevant. That past is just that-over. So learn from it and leave it there.
  15. Go with your gut. Whether it is jumping off the bed, ripping your clothes off and running around the house naked, or snuggling under the covers on the couch (occasionally, you have a sweet moment)…you go with whatever strikes you. Never lose your boldness and your freedom to not care. Although, I must warn you…running around naked as an adult might have its consequences.
  16. Be a minimalist. You live off fruit and macaroni and cheese. Your favorite toys are items I once considered trash. You don’t have to have extravagance to find happiness and fulfillment.  I hope you experience the finer things in life, but always enjoy the simplest of pleasures.
  17. Sometime a timeout changes your perspective. As much as you hate them, an occasional time out is needed for your safety (and my sanity). Know when to give yourself a timeout to have some quite time to think and gain a fresh perspective. Hopefully, as an adult this won’t include tears and kicking your feet.
  18. Know your boundaries. You and the family cat, Miss Kitty, have a constant struggle with boundaries. One of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights, discusses the thin line between love and hate.  This is a perfect illustration of you. When you pet her, I can see it in your eyes the fine line between loving her and pulling out all of her fur. You and Miss Kitty are both protective of one another and curious of each other.  If I am at home and your not…she walks around meowing and looking for you. When you get home, she is the first thing you look for and greet. When you are together it usually goes something like this…you lure her with a snack, pull her tail, she bites you, you cry, and then you chase her around the house scolding here with “no, no Kitty” (that really sounds like “titty”). Remember that thin line between love and hate and how one action can ignite either emotion. And…remember some boundaries are made to be crossed and some are made to be observed.
  19. Let music fill your soul. You came about it naturally; you inherited my love for music. Whether it is beating your drum, strumming your plastic guitar, or singing a song…you find comfort and joy in music. I spent countless hours (and Mimzi did too), singing to you while you had colic. We sang so much we ran out of songs and even made up our own at times. Continue to let the beat carry you through the hard times and celebrate the good times.
  20. Figure out how things work. Like your dad, you are mechanically inclined to make things work and figure out problems. Continue to be inquisitive, think outside the box, and believe you can conquer any problem.
  21. Always say your prayers. This is actually a favorite reminder of your great grandmother and now of your great grandfather. You are so natural at saying a prayer and listing off everyone and everything you love one by one and closing with “maymen” (aka amen). As you grow up I pray your faith in something bigger grows stronger and I hope when this world is ugly your faith brings your strength.
  22. Always check in. Although I don’t let you out of my sight for long (way too risky and you can accomplish so much so quickly) the times when you are playing and I sneak away for a moment…you always holler “momma” just to make sure I am there. You especially do this if dad gets out of your sight. Before we leave for school and work you always make sure that Brown Bear is in his place on the bed (I’m sorry you inherited my OCD tendencies). I hope you always check in on those you love and keep in touch with friends that you make throughout your lifetime.
  23. Laugh at yourself. For some reason you think saying the word “orange” is so funny. When you say that word you have the funniest look on your face and you giggle. It makes me chuckle every time. I hope you can always laugh at yourself in the best and worst of each situation.
  24. Always share. Every now and then you turn into a mine-osaurus, but for the most part you share well with others, even when it hurts to watch your cousin chew on your favorite toy. At your recent birthday party, you would open up birthday cards that contained money and freely give your money to folks at the party. I hope you always have a giving spirit and not expect things in return.

Each short year, I will continue to prepare you to live in the world in which you will live and not the world in which I grew up. Be the days long or short, I will be there to learn with you and from you and to support your dreams, not mine dreams for you…but those you define for yourself. As I encourage you to not lose your innocence, to not let others make you feel jaded, and not let this world make you judgmental, I work to undo that which the world does to each adult. Little man, you have taught me a lot in two short years, I can’t wait to see what the next years bring.

Mr. Two Year Old

Today my spoon is full of a lot of wisdom from a two year old.

Family Vacations…Best as Memories

Ahhh…Summer-the time for family vacations! My family’s (me, husband, & toddler)  recent vacation has caused me to reflect on vacations past. The best part of the majority of these vacations are just that…they are in the past. AKA over! The only evidence is pictures and stories. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some pleasant family vacations. But the most memorable, are of course, the ones that didn’t go quite as planned. Most of the time, any vacation I am involved in usually has a “National Lampoon’s” feel about it.  I am not for sure if I am to blame or if it’s the company I keep?

This is how we rolled on vacation. The trailer was really for mine and mom’s shoes.

Here are some of my fondest memories of family vacation that might provide you a chuckle or stir up some of your own vacation memories.

The Happiest Place on Earth-Disney.The family “dream” vacation to Disney – it’s the American dream, right? Taking your family to Florida for that picture in front of the magical kingdom and the pictures with Minnie and Mickey-priceless (I couldn’t find any of those). As a child, my mother and father embarked on this same American rite of passage with me and my brother. I was probably about nine years old, which made my brother about five years old during this vacation.

Disney…one happy bunch

The dream vacation to Disney was one of our first vacations with our very own camcorder. This was huge! (Literally….like the size of a large shoe box). My dad wanted to record EVERYTHING! Every flower, every water fall, every amusement ride-you name it-we have it on video. My brother hated being videotaped. So throughout the entire time in Disney, my brother is yelling profanities (yes at the age of five) at my dad telling him to turn off the &*%$ camera. I am talking America’s Funniest Home Videos material here.

This memory, well, really is not much of a memory thanks to my well organized and efficient mother. My mother was in charge of reading the map and cramming in all the attractions we can possibly cram in during our visit. She succeeded! She had us moving through that park at the speed of light. I remember nothing about the Epcot Center except seeing a giant golf ball (Epcot), riding “It’s a Small World” and literally zooming “around the world” within minutes. We spanned the globe faster that day than Santa on Christmas Eve night.

Saddling Up For The Wild, Wild West. My father painstakingly planned a two-week vacation to the great American West to see the iconic Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, and Mount Rush Moore, along with Indian Reservations, a Corn Palace, buffalos, wild horses, prairie dogs…okay, you get the picture. On this trip I was about 13 and my brother was nine. I can remember my dad in his office meticulously planning the trip with a huge booklet map of the USA-highlighting our route page by page. Thank God for GPS these days!! One of the fondest memories of this trip include arriving at Old Faithful. As luck would have it, we just missed it by like 1 minute and 2 seconds (literally). We were probably all in the parking lot arguing over that darn camcorder while Old Faithful was making her debut. So we had to wait a bit for her next explosion. We waited and waited and finally—there she was spewing from the earth with all her glory. Seriously?!? This is Old Faithful??  The water fountain in our swimming pool was more impressive! We couldn’t believe we had waited for this! And we tracked half way across America to see it! Looking back we failed to appreciate the mechanics of this wonder being so “faithful” because we were looking more for a sound, water, and light show.

The Great West…notice the camcorder is family

Also on this trip, my father planned a horse ride down the Grand Canyon.  My mother didn’t want to go, so she told my father the wrong day so we missed our reservations. She was happy with herself-but the rest of us didn’t share her sentiments. On this trip we stayed in Hell overnight, Deadwood, South Dakota. Since our horse riding reservations didn’t work out (thanks Mom)…we arrived in Deadwood a little earlier than expected. All hotels in the town were booked, so we had to stay at the place no one wanted to stay. Our night in Hell started with a Rottweiler growling at us at the check-in counter which was caged in. Our luxury motel room included shag carpet and a fiber glass roof. Seriously, I’m surprised we didn’t get a by the hour rate at this dump. I think this is what we could call karma for my mother sabotaging our horse ride. Thank God for modern services we have today, like, Tripadvisor!

During our stay in Yellow Stone National Park we traded our luxury motel for an authentic experience of staying in these little (I mean tiny) cabins that held two twin beds and an old wood burning stove. My mom and I slept in one and my dad and brother slept in another. You had to use a community shower. During his shower, my brother stepped on a razor blade someone had left behind. During this time in the 90s, propaganda filled the media causing everyone to be scared of “catching” AIDS. So the for the remainder of the trip (all the way back across America to Kentucky), we had to convince my brother that he didn’t “catch” AIDS in the shower. He had a better chance of “catching” something at that motel!

Proof we were ALL there (family member #9 was taking the picture). One BIG happy bunch.

One BIG family. Looking back, my dad was responsible for helping us make vacation memories. I guess he didn’t have the opportunity to travel much as a child-so he wanted to provide his children the opportunity to see more. This desire to travel as a family landed my entire family in Fort Myers Beach, Florida last fall. After taking a nearly 15 year hiatus from family vacations during our college years, I was once again reminded why less is more.  This trip included my parents; my brother and I; our spouses; a toddler; a 10-month old; and a teenager (my cousin who is more like a sister-otherwise she would have been smart enough to stay home).

From this week, I will never forget my mother’s incoherence. I wish I could say she was partying and having fun…but on our return home we found out she had a case of Shingles. I seriously think if we didn’t have pictures to prove otherwise, she wouldn’t have realized that she was there. She surfaced from her bed for meals and to return home and that was about it. Our condo had a gorgeous view of the ocean and landscape that looked like an exotic resort. However, it was a wee bit small for a family of nine. Long story short-it was just too close for comfort that week. Let’s just say by the end of the week, it was not uncommon for one of us to just darn near rip another one’s head off while smiling.  On a positive note, my demon child had an excellent week during vacation. He loved every minute of it, was happy darn near most of the week and a joy to be around. Somewhere on that Southwest plane to Florida, my child evolved from Lucifer to a heavenly angel (he reverted back on the return flight). Normally, this angelic role is played by my nephew. However, my nephew turned into the demon child that week. My brother and sister-in-law aren’t used to dealing with a demon child which left them a little stressed and ready to pack up and go home.

One night we decided to relieve a little stress and go to this spot that is known for its really “good wings”. The meal turned out fine-but as we were leaving the parking lot we noticed my sister-in-law, who was carrying her son, had something brown covering her arm. Yelp-you guessed it. He crapped ALL over her. While the entire family is gagging, my husband comes to the rescue (once a Marine, always a Marine) and changes the diaper. We had a few of these types of blowouts from our son-so this was no big deal for a man that represents ” The Few and The Proud”.  Meanwhile my mom is washing my nephew’s baby clothes in a giant mud puddle. Gives you a new perspective about avoiding puddles, huh?

As we all returned home and packed up our cars at the airport…we vowed (with some expletives) to not see each other before Thanksgiving and that we would never go on a vacation together again. So far, no one is planning a reunion tour. Enough time has elapsed that we can laugh about this now.

We aren’t a picture perfect family with picture perfect vacations-but you can always count on us for a good story, funny pictures, and hilarious video footage. I chuckled as my toddler yelled “no cheese” at me as I followed him around with the camera during vacation (you know…you say “cheese” to smile for a picture…”no cheese” means no picture.).

No Cheese!

My husband said, “you act just like your dad with that darn camera.” I guess some things come full circle. I vow to torture my family with vacations, pictures, and video footage…they will be thankful for the laugh and memories one day.

I hope your summer is filled with making great family memories and not killing each other during the process. Here’s a few more vacations pictures for you to enjoy at our expense.

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Today my spoon is full of ideas for our next family adventure.

Let’s Get Physical!

When I think of exercise my mind reverts back to an 80s video of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” You know the one I am talking about—if not Google it (or click on the hyperlink)!  I have never been an athlete. I tried tee-ball and decided at the ripe age of five that the helmet messed up my braids. I tried cheerleading in middle school and some days pep just got on my nerves.  I tried softball and it was just boring. I tried the dance team and it was just a bad version of MTV videos in the 90s.  I really think my disgust for physical fitness started at a young age-probably during P.E. (a.k.a. Gym).  The teachers were nice enough-but I didn’t care anything about being bonked in the head by a dodge ball from a puberty stricken athlete, doing squat thrusts, or physical fitness tests like I was trying out for the military. Really, what does doing chin-ups on the monkey bars really tell anyone in 5th grade? I remember during middle school we use to have to run around the school parking lot in what was equivalent to a mile.  I was more of a walker. I was always envious of the kids that flew by in running strides. And I always felt sorry for the kids on the chubby side that were struggling to make each lap. I found myself somewhere in the middle walking a fast pace. Again, why would I want to break too much of a sweat early in the school day when I had used cans of hairspray before school to get my “mall” bangs the right height.

As an adult, I have had some better “athletic” experiences.  In college, a friend and I took Kung Fu class. This wasn’t an aerobics class to the latest R&B…this was the real deal. Our instructor was Master Purdue who resembled Mr. Miyagi. We had martial arts shoes (they were called the Tiger Claws…roar) and boxing gloves and we could really get moving to some Offspring music. Then we moved to different cities and I really did nothing for quite a few years. Luckily, my metabolism was my friend back then-now we are sworn enemies.

During my adult years, I have found a trainer at a local fitness facility. My mom and I been training with him usually two or so days a week for about three years. During my teen years, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would have worked out with my mother. Actually, I would have loved to have bopped her on the head with a dumbbell.  Honestly, the feeling was probably mutual. Neither of us will be competing in Ms. Fitness America or a mother-daughter contest anytime soon, but the training is paying off and we enjoy it. Our trainer is a fire fighter saving the city most days, and saving our butts from cellulite on the off days. Sometimes he makes us run stairs like we are firefighters! My mother is convinced that he makes her work harder and lift more than me. Never mind, she is taller and stronger than I am! However, I will admit, I always try to keep a good conversation going so I forget what rep I am on (and maybe so does our trainer…wink wink).

I learned about a month ago that I have somehow torn my meniscus and need surgery. Sometime this fall, I will be on crutches for six weeks (can’t imagine what blog material will come out of that!). However, the day before I learned of this injury, ironically, I started the Couch to 5K (C25K). I have always despised running (since circling that dang school parking lot for a mile). I thought running was boring. I thought I didn’t have enough endurance. And, once again, I am eating my words. I really don’t know why I started the Couch to 5K program. I suppose we are always running from something-avoiding bad health, those extra pounds, etc. For me, I was running toward the opportunity of some time with myself (toddler + husband works out of town=no me time). So I started running and I kind of like it. I don’t’ love it, yet-but it is growing on me. I like the challenge of seeing if I can go further each time. I like the clarity it brings to my mind. Please note I am not looking for a running partner. I like to listen to Pandora and just think about nothing while pushing my thirty pound toddler who happily eats Nutter Butters and chugs almond milk during our journey. I prefer the peacefulness that comes with running at night- my child usually falls asleep, the stars and moon are calming, most people are winding down for the night, and there is something mystical about the glow of lights in the midst of darkness (insert the tune to “I wear my sunglasses at night”).

Now, I don’t know that I will ever be in a marathon…we will just see where this takes me. Maybe I will even run in a 5K and wear a pink tutu like all of the other runners who have been RockinPink for Ali. But for right now it will be one nighttime stroll at a time. What I do know is you don’t let your elementary, middle, and high school days define you as a non-athlete. Get off the couch, and give something a try…you just might like it. Let’s get physical…

Today, my spoon is full of Icy Hot for my knee.

Molars and the Pearly Gates

I am sure I will have to go through an extra security checkpoint before entering the Pearly Gates of Heaven because of this blog post. However, if the Man Upstairs knows my inner most thoughts….I figure I am going to be standing in line for a while any ways and doing a lot of explaining (I am picturing a Cuban voice saying “Stacy, you got some splainin to do”).

So you know how the story goes, God made Adam and then Eve. Well, God, I have to say on Version 2.0 you really did not think through your design of teeth-this should have been totally reengineered. I never knew the magnitude of this flaw until I became a mother. I’m going to cut you a little slack because you did accomplish a heck of a lot in seven days…but just a little overtime would have been appreciated in the teeth department.

My son, Coop, has hit a stride the last few months after surviving colic, chronic ear infections, and getting all of his teeth the first year of his life. He is rarely sick, sleeps through the night, and is generally a blast to be around. Some mothers might not appreciate this stride. But after four months of colic (where my husband and I heard screaming from our bundle of joy for 12+ hours a day to the point that our ears rang like we had been in the front row of  a 80s heavy metal band concert) followed by annoying ear infections…I APPRECIATE this stride. It’s almost as if the stork took our grumpy kid and exchanged him for a happier version. This all came to a screeching halt this week when an uninvited guest showed up at our door step….the two year molars. Actually, the guest skipped the doorsteps and just barged right in. Seriously, is this a cruel joke on parents and children? I honestly did not know to expect two year molars. Frankly, I don’t remember getting them and I did not read the “what to expect book”….just rolling with the punches in this household.

So in the wee hours of the night, as my little boy slept on the couch with me while holding his little cheeks and moaning “ouch” I started to think about the whole design of teeth. After much thought, here is the redesign that I propose for Adam/Eve 3.0. Really, teeth should come in while you are still in the womb. This gets rid of the whole concept of teething. Need I say more? No, but I will. Now for all breast feeding mothers, don’t have a heart attack. I am not a scientist or a doctor (well, I am a doctor-but not of the scientific or medical variety), but I am thinking that the teeth would kind of be like the texture of an earlobe, and then they just harden up as you get older-pain free. And for crying out loud, the set you are born with is the set you keep- you don’t lose them all just for them to grow back! What a waste! I would also recommend as part of this redesign, skipping the whole wisdom teeth concept-you have to get them cut out anyway. And, God, while you are at it…just go ahead and line each tooth up nice and straight with no over or under bite.

There, one easy solution ends a lot of sleepless nights and irritability for children and parents around the world! Think of all of the tears, agony, and pain spared. Now, this could wipe out a few industries that supply teething pain relievers and a few professions such as orthodontists or dental surgeons. And the tooth fairy would have to reinvent herself a bit. But, these all seem like small sacrifices in the name of peace and sleep!

Until then, Coop’s spoon will be full of children’s pain reliever.

The picture below is Coop proudly displaying his first two teeth.