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.

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).

 

SONY DSC

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.

 

 

photo 1

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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!

Putting the Equal in Equality

In full disclosure, this blog posts contains words such as “feminists” “Hillary Clinton” “gender” “women’s rights” “Margaret Thatcher” “equality”. If you are excited by such topics, please keep reading. If you are rolling your eyes, well, roll them back into focus and keep reading; your perspective might be informed. Despite your stance on these topics, there is much to gain from discussing them. For women the value should be obvious. For men, the value should be obvious; you arrived on this planet via a stork known as a female. Chances are you may have a wife, a sister, a daughter, or other family members and friends who are female.

This post isn’t intended to stir a political debate. Regardless if your political beliefs align with Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, or a combination of both, it should be undeniable that these women have made advances for all women in a predominantly male-driven culture. I am sure both Margaret and Hillary have stories to tell that would cause us to gasp, if we knew of some of the stereotypes that have been assigned by others and overcome publicly and privately throughout their careers and personal lives.

Additionally, this post isn’t intended to debate different types of women-working moms or stay at home moms, race, economic status, religion, etc. The ground rule for this post is as women, and as individuals, if we are doing what are bodies, minds, and souls were designed to contribute to this great planet Earth-then we are living a fulfilled life. In a fulfilled life there is no need to debate differences. Embrace the similarities and the differences and live a richer life.

Finally, this post isn’t a man-hater post. When I get on rants regarding women’s right my husband jokingly calls me a Fembot. I have a father, husband, and other males in my life who never slight me for being a woman. I also have males in my life who perpetuate stereotypes and I am challenged to defy their ignorance. So I “heart” the male race.

So, what is this post intended to do? With the aforementioned labels removed, I would like to propose three charges.

  1. We need more Iron Ladies in the world. And we need more men (and women) who can work with Iron Ladies. Nancy Regan shared that Margaret and Ronald were political soul mates which is a profound statement that says a lot about Nancy, Ronald, and Margret’s strong character. They were able to stow away insecurities and biases in the name of a better world. We need more women, who like Margaret Thatcher, are proud to embrace the qualities of being a woman, spouse, and/or mom while living a fulfilled life and making a difference. We need more women who make their own fulfilled paths on their terms. We need women who do not fear being bold leaders in their homes, communities, and world. We need women that create a conundrum where extremists (both feminist and bigamists) are left scratching their heads while work is positively moved forward.
  2. Women’s equity issues need resurgence. Love her or hate her, thank you Hillary for recently moving this very topic back into our view. Since the Declaration of Sentiments in Seneca Fall, New York in 1848…women have \ placed major cracks in the glass ceiling by gaining rights ranging from the right to vote, advancing women’s health issues/rights, and making gains as comprising a large portion of an educated society and workforce. Most “modern” women, can’t imagine a time that we couldn’t vote, work outside the home, attend college, or even not be able to have a credit card in your wallet without your husband’s name on it (hold the phone Dave Ramsey lovers, I am not endorsing credit cards-just say’n the financial world hasn’t always accepted women as responsible). Great gains have been made ladies and gentlemen! And these gains took bold women and bold men to change and not accept the status quo. However, I beg that for the past few decades, women have been enjoying the fruits of our forefathers foremothers. It is time to reenergize and move the conversation of equal rights to the 21st Century; not in an attempt to take over the male race, but in an effort to create equality for men, women, and families. Opportunities have increased for many minority demographics, but an increase in opportunities does not necessarily yield equality. Enjoy the rights gained, but let’s revive efforts to focus on continuing to build equality. Examples might include laws that don’t penalize single or double income families. Laws that promote men enjoying such things as maternity/adoption leave. Speaking of maternity leave, the USA really can learn some lessons from our European friends in this area. Equalizing women’s pay. It is true that women earn 71-81 cents for every dollar a man earns. The figure varies by state and report, but I did the math for my profession and it was dead on. Census statistics from 2012 estimated that based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers that men’s earning in 2011 were $48,202 and women’s were $37,118. This equates to a difference of $11,084 per year. Add this figure up over a lifetime…women you have earned $275,000 less than your male colleague. I’m no mathematician, as my transcript will suggest but regardless if your salary is the median, above the median, or below the median surely we can agree that a difference in pay adds up over a lifetime. I can certainly think of ways to share, spend, and invest $275,000!
  3. Women, the work starts with us! How you might ask? 1. Removing the barriers we create for each other through pettiness, stereotypes, and judgments. 2. Support and advocate for other women living a fulfilled life. 3. Have the tough conversations about equality and live YOUR fulfilled life! 4. Use the angst in your gut to make a change for the better.
    Being bold often requires hard choices. If you look throughout history, it is the bold choices both women and men have made that have provided courage to others to break free from the chains of limiting belief patterns, society stereotypes, and religious conditioning that often times keep individuals suppressed and from living the fulfilled life they were designed to live.

Today my spoon is full of “crazy” ideas of making the world a better place for all. Lets work on continuing to put the equal in equality. Anyone up for a 21st bra burning?

 

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.

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.

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?

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”.

Waving the White Flag to Ceasefire Mommy Wars

How can I resist blogging about the recent raging mommy wars caught in the midst of the presidential debate (Thank you Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney)? I have to ask one question. Ladies are we really at war? I propose we are not at war about motherhood. In actuality, the start of this war begin on the play ground somewhere between cart wheels and “Say Say Old playmate” chants. The war starts young and on the battlefield is jealously, fear, and unrealized self worth. While the boys were slugging it out on the playground and eventually got over it, we instead internalized it. And some have added fertilizer to it for years until it grew into the “mean girl” syndrome.  For some females, this war ends as we grow up to be empowered women. Unfortunately, the others keep torturing themselves with trivial matters and the playground becomes the “home” and the “workplace” where the same vicious acts of pulling hair and name calling turn into toxic sabotage and emotional abuse in adult life. For women who are confident in their daily routine of staying at home or going into the workplace…there is no war.

Let’s be real. The words “working” and ” mother” are an oxymoron. Whether your workplace is in the home or outside of the home we are all working our keesters off! All mothers have a lot in common. We need to take better care of ourselves, our kids teeter between sweet heavenly angels and demonic monsters, our kids get sick, our kids eat their boogers (which may be why they get sick), and our kids need our love.

My “bestest” friends are mothers of all varieties. I have friends that adore staying at home with their children and creating finger-paint masterpieces that rival the works of Monet or Picasso. I have friends who are successful entrepreneurs and run their own companies. I have friends who give of their time by volunteering to churches and non-profit organizations. Whichever the path chosen-it was just that, a choice to strike a balance that meets that individual women’s needs. The stay at home mothers are not uneducated, lazy women who stay in their PJs all day and eat bon bons. Nor, or the mothers working outside the home selfish women who sloth their kids off for someone else to raise. We are all mothers trying to make a good run at this thing called motherhood. It’s a delicate balancing act of self-actualization, insanity, love, guilt, and purpose.

Sure, as a mother who works outside the home, I loathe for a day of not dealing with the “outside” world and making a good batch of chocolate chip cookies (lets be real-I would burn them and have to make a late night mad-dash to Krogers for a bag of Chips A Hoy); and likewise, my friends who stay at home loathe for a day of high heels, Starbucks, and deadlines. But at the end of the day we are all trying to get to the same place-laying our head on our pillow at night (preferably uninterrupted sleep) knowing we were the best mom we could possibly be that day.

So for the mean girls having the mommy wars-I say grow up. Get off the play ground. Join the rest of us in our attempt to raise children in a world that values what every individual mom and person contributes to society. Join the rest of us in creating better communities. Join the rest of us who rally for better education and healthcare for all children. Join the rest of us in fighting for family friendly workplaces that impact moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Put down the double edge sword that is piercing the life out of you and make a choice for the type of mom you want to be and live it!

Today my spoon is full of admiration for all the mothers who work so hard to provide a world full of opportunity and hope for their children. I would also like to share a spoon and provide a taste of humble pie to all the mean girls at war-life is too short ladies-get happy.