Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.





Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Supernanny, Dr. Phil and Me

We had a great play date with one of my favorite mom's.  Her daughter and my daughter are best friends and I am so happy-- not because her daughter is terrific (she is) but because I have really come to enjoy our chats at the park and during play dates as much as my daughter enjoys playing with her daughter.

Good Mom Friends are hard to find.

With that said, we had a good discussion on parenting, the expectations today, etc. 

It's time for me to fess up.  I've had help.  Lots of help.

You see, every day I have the benefit of having The Supernanny on one shoulder and Dr. Phil on the other.  They are continually offering me commentaries on my parenting skills.  Sometimes they are judgmental pains in the butt, but usually they keep me on my toes.

When I'm feeling especially lazy or inconsistent, this British voice in my ear says "Now, Mum, YOU'RE in charge.  Act like it."  If I try to ignore it, the other ear echoes with a Texan drawl  "So how's this working for you?"

Jerks.

And they are usually absolutely right.  I should be more consistent.  I should have a plan.

Was it this hard for my parents?

My parents had it easier, to some degree.  My mother was expected to do everything.  The fact that my dad helped a lot was very unique and she considered it icing on the cake.

But now, my husband and I are "partners." 

As easy as it sounds, it isn't. 

Quite honestly, I think he should just do everything my way.  After all, I birthed them.  I should know.

But I don't.

The first thing I said to my son when I was alone with him for the first time was "Wow.  I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  Oh shit, I probably shouldn't be swearing... well, I promise I won't drop you on your head."  Then I paused and added, "You know what?  I can't even promise you that.  I promise I won't drop you on your head on purpose."  I swear he rolled his eyes.

My husband was in the same boat.  We had no clue.   No great light came shining through and showed us the way.

I read "Babywise."  Lifesaver. Put your baby on a schedule.  Would you like to scream and cry every time you were hungry or peed?  This definitely made sense to me.

But when they get bigger, you have more than one, life gets busy, parenting gets more difficult... then what?

Well, television nannies and psychologists, of course!

My favorite thing about the Supernanny is that she says the same thing every week- "Shut up and be a grown up."

Excellent.

Dr. Phil's book had some great ideas- I may joke about it, but honestly, his "Family First" book changed how my husband and I parented.  Big time.

You see, apparently, as a married couple, you should probably discuss how you are going to parent.

Interesting.

So my husband and I actually talked about it one night.  No kidding.

He thought I was too soft on the kids.  I told him I didn't think a kid should ever go to bed crying unless he had done something egregious- lallygagging before bed was not a good enough reason.  He hated being bad cop to my good cop.  I offered to switch it up.

The next night, before bed, I was the clock watcher.  He did the tuck-in's with the kisses.  It was great.

I had no idea.  He was happy.  I was happy. 

This talking about parenting thing seemed to work.

We also tried date night with the "opposite" kids.  He and my daughter would argue all the time. It was frustrating.  Plus, I missed hanging out with my son.  Once we set aside special time with the kid of the opposite sex, we got rid of the girls vs. boys lines that had been drawn, unintentionally, in our home. 

Our latest parenting issue is over scheduling the kids.  We actually agree on this, however, it's very hard for me to say no to activities when the kids enjoy them.  Also, my kids are not quitters.  This is a good thing, we know, but it sure would make my life easier...

I know, Supernanny, "Shut up and be the parent."  See, annoying isn't she?

So how much is too much?  Chess, swimming, dance classes, guitar, theater class...

What? "How's that working for me?"  Well, okay for now, but one more thing and my head might explode.

See how it works?

The voices happen all the time.  When we're getting ready in the morning and it's not going quite fast enough so I yell...

"Now, Mum, whose fault is it really that you're running late... don't you control the wake up routine?'''  Well, sure but...

"You should get up a little earlier... How'd that extra 10 minutes of sleep work for you?'  Well, it did seem to make everything harder, but I was so tired...

Or if I bribe them with the promise of ice cream...

"Mum, isn't it YOU who wants the ice cream?  Shouldn't the kids listen because you said so?"  Well, I do  like ice cream...

"Hmmm... not losing any weight... how's that ice cream working for you?"  Screw you, Dr. Phil and give me the Cherry Garcia.

In reality, the voices are really just my own questioning everything I do as a parent.  Am I understanding enough?  Am I too passive?  Do I listen?  Do I give them enough responsibility?

Am I doing this right?

Who knows? 

I know that I love my kids and I won't drop them on their heads intentionally.  That may change in their teen years, but for now, that's my actual threshold for measuring my parenting skills.

I really do think that the Supernanny has some great techniques and the Dr. Phil book did help my husband and I learn how to parent together.  Seriously.

But on a day to day basis, I gave up trying to be perfect.  I screw up.  I even tell my kids when I do. 

Who knows what my kids will remember when they are older- maybe the time I lost it because I honestly was not going to search the house looking for the stinking teddy bear one more night.  Or maybe they'll remember the 2 hours I did look, every night for the 2 weeks prior.

It all seems like a crap shoot.

For now, it's the best I got. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Go Fly a Kite

I opted not to go for the Reader's Choice after all- no offense to the emails, posts, etc, I received.

To summarize, my last blog basically explained that I had 10 million things on my mind, big, small, global, local, theoretical, yada, yada and couldn't focus enough to write a witty, insightful commentary on anything.

My resolution this year was to be more grateful.  I could already feel 2011 sucking it out of me.

And then today I flew a kite with my son's 2nd grade class.

On Friday mornings, I volunteer in his classroom.  I normally walk around, make sure no one hurts anybody, read a story or two, sharpen pencils, crack up his teacher and make faces at my son.  I'm a giver like that. 

Today, my son was working on a kite during their free time.  He has really been into flying things lately (his latest goal is to study aerospace engineering at MIT.  No joke.).  Being a tech addict, I whipped out my EVO, Bing-ed "Kites for Kids", and we found a few different websites.  Then I saw "Kites in the Classroom."

Hmmm....

There was a link to Uncle Jonathan's website.

Sounded a tad pervy to be honest, but I clicked on the link:

"20 kids, 20 kites, 20 minutes"

Well, I just happened to be in a classroom with 20 kids who had 20 available free minutes.

Fortunately, his teacher was VERY open to the idea.  It was Friday and let's face it, spring break is REALLLLLLY late this year.  I whipped up one of the mini kites (all you need is paper, tape, string and we used a pencil in lieu of a coffee stirrer), she and I ran to the playground to test it, and it worked.  Next thing I knew, I was showing 20 kids how to make 20 kites in 20 minutes.

What a hoot.

I am really good with my kids.  I am, however, not very good with every child.  I talk fast.  I don't get quitting.  And whining is a HUGE no no.  This was a challenge for me.  Fortunately, this was the reading class, so it was all the smart kids.  They did well.

When his regular class switched back into the classroom, they saw the little kites and of course, they wanted to make some, too.

I offered to come back later to do it for the whole class.  His teacher's response:

"Seriously? Um, YES."

2:30 on a Friday.  I could have offered classroom tattooing.

I got "real" supplies which required a trip to Michael's craft store.  I have many skills, crafting is not one of them.  (I had no idea scrapbooking required so much crap.  Is it crapbooking?)  ANYHOW, I found some small dowels in the Wood Crafting Area (?) bought a bunch of extra stuff for the classroom and my daughter and I went back for our afternoon gig.

The more intellectually diverse class was a tad more difficult, but with my now expertise in the area, his teacher and I whipped those puppies out in 20 minutes.  I even tried to explain the physics of kite flying a bit-  the importance of lift, the tail for the drag... I threw in some historical facts (kites were used in the military, etc).. and before you're impressed, it's all from the "Kites in the Classroom" literature available on the American Kiteflyers Association website.

Once everyone's kite was finished we hit the field.  The kids were in heaven.  One little girl was a kite flying savant.  The kids were laughing, kites were flying.  They crashed into each other- because really, how fun is an activity until someone falls over?  Strings were tangled.  Kites dove.  Kites soared. 

It was a blast.

And as I stood and watched, it was fun.

It was the most fun that I'd had in the past few weeks. 

It was pure joy.

I have always loved to fly kites.  We lived on a circle when I was a kid and I would go to the field in the center and fly my kite for hours on end.  It was relaxing.  It was a little weird, but I never cared.  I loved the reaction of people young and old when they would say, "Wow- look over there--- a kite!"

And now, I was able to pass it on and see people say "Wow- look over there- a field of kites!"

Something as simple and pure as a smiling kid flying a kite made the end of jumbled, noisy week, change course.

My kids had fun.  I had fun.  We were all in a good mood when my husband came home.  We went out to Panera for dinner and were almost in tears from laughing so hard.

I can't fix the tsunami damage in Japan.  I can't help the people in the middle east and Africa fight for their freedom.  I can't lower the escalating costs of global food prices.  I can't make the government more efficient.  I can't help it if I'm on hold 5 hours a week.  I can't fix health care.  I can't fund public education.

I can be grateful and appreciative of all that I have, however, so that when the bad times do come my way, I can live on the joy that I have experienced and push through.

And when I have a hard time remembering that joy, I know that I can always go fly a kite to help me find it again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pick a topic, any topic...

I don't have anything to really blog about or maybe there are too many things that I can't focus.

  • Japan- holy crap. 
  • The middle east- who would have ever thought that YouTube could start revolutions? I had thought it was about kitties playing the piano.
  • Nuclear meltdowns- holy crap, again.
  • Back pain and idiotic insurance companies forcing me to address symptoms and not causes.
  • The weather- is it me or is it completely insane this year?
  • Public schools- seriously, can they cut more?
  • Boob reductions- I need one, why do I feel guilty about it?
  • Morons who voted in the people that are now cutting their pay and complain about it- smack.
  • Government- you ARE the people- try working FOR the people and not just getting re-elected
  • Friends who you realize are really frenemies or simple idiots
  • Being on hold for more than 4 hours in 72 hours



So that's the delay in my most recent blogs- my head is blogged with too much stuff.  I blame the prednisone.

Please, pick a topic- there's just too much to choose!  I feel completely competent to rant on any topic!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Wow, you're always on Facebook...."

No.  I am not.

And first of all, if you can see me on Facebook, you must be there as well.

Here's my deal...

I originally joined Facebook to stay in touch with my friend Kim who has been working in Africa for the past year and a half.  I log in at night, catch her in the morning, we chat.  It's nice.  She may not always have electricity or water, but Facebook is usually working.  I love the irony.

Then I discovered Scrabble.  I have 14 games going.  I've always done daily crossword puzzles but now I get to play with friends from all over the country.  I love it.  I'm not embarrassed by it whatsoever.  It's fun.  It makes me think.

During lunch, I eat at my desk and play Scrabble.

When I'm on hold- which is sadly about 30-90 minutes of my life daily- I update my status on my phone, read other people's updates- I can't really start on something new.  Our firm recently added a "Your estimated wait time is more than 5 minutes" regardless if it is 2 minutes or 20 minutes.  It's a crap shoot.  My job is fairly detailed and interruptions are a bad thing. Hence, screwing around on Facebook on my phone while I listen to terrible hold music, seems like a decent use of my already wasted time. I also am not a huge TV watcher.  This frees up hours of time for me compared to most Americans.

And then I come back to my original comment-

Hey, YOU'RE ON IT, TOO.

And a few other million people.

Get over yourself.

Through Facebook I've gotten back in touch with some great college friends, friends from all over the world that I've met through my various travels, and people that I used to work with.  Prior to email, it was much harder to stay in touch.  I lost contact with a lot of people who truly mean something to me. I get to see pictures of their children, see what they are up to and share my life with them as well.  If we lived in the same town or country, we would do this over coffee.

My former secretary (who I loved) laughed when I said "No, seriously, I know everyone on my 400+ friend list with the exception of 5 people."  She made me go through the list and share a story about the person-- by #35 she said "Okay, I believe you."  I am a professional friend collector.

My friend list is like an autobiography of me. If you're on it, it's because I consider you a part of my life.

And my blog....

My "friend" commented on the frivolity of it.  He, of course, was far too busy to do something like blog.

Really?

Since I was 5 years old I have wanted to be a writer.  I've always written.  I journal.  I loved being on the school newspaper. I aced all my college writing classes.  The GMAT even asked to use my essay as a sample.  If you've ever received an email from me, trust me, you know, I write.

Do what you love for free.  Isn't that the mantra? 

And this is no accident.  I'm trying to find my voice.  To find what I really write well about.  I'm using all of you as my test audience.

When I find the voice (it's been busy being a mom and running a business), I'll narrow it down.  I'll become a better writer.

I'll use my blog to generate some interest in my writing.  It might get picked up.  It might turn into something fun that I love to do. 

Oh wait, it already is.

Or maybe it will just be a nice way to document some really funny stuff that happens in my life. 

Like today.  I let a guy cut in front of me at the grocery store.  I had a full cart.  He had 5 bunches of bananas.  So I asked him the obvious question:

"Do you have a pet monkey?"

He stared at me like I was a moron.

Which made it even funnier.

And maybe one or two of you laughed.  Maybe the next time you're at the grocery store and you see someone with a bunch of bananas, you'll laugh to yourself.

And my blog will have been worth it.

Plus, the beauty of it is, if my posts or blogs seem somewhat too much- don't read them. 

For me, life is much more fun being a participant than a voyeur passing judgments.

But please don't worry that I am wasting away in front of a computer-- I am not. I have a very fun, full life.  But you know that already, because you read about it.  I hope it makes you laugh and smile as much as it does me.

Thank you for allowing me to share.  Thank you for taking the time.

And as for my judgmental "friend"-- well Facebook has a button for that...

Unfriend.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Son, The Dancer

My son (I'll continue to call him Skip, as in my prior blog) loves ballroom dancing.

Seriously.

With that statement, be honest, a million assumptions probably come to mind.

He's effeminate.

He's slight.

I'm a pushy stage mom.

I forced him to take lessons.

Etc, etc.

None of the above are remotely true.

Last Mother's Day, I was coming up the stairs.  My kids (Skip and Zoe) were playing in the loft area.  The second I came up the steps, they stopped doing whatever they were doing immediately.

As a mother, this is never a good sign.

"What are you guys doing?"

In unison, "Nothing."

A giant red flag went up.

"C'mon, what were you doing?"

Silence.  Then...

"We want to learn to dance like big people for the wedding."

They were going to be the ring bearer and flower girl in my husband's cousin Lindsey's wedding the coming June.

"Really?" I asked.

"Yes."

They gave me a demo of something similar to a waltz.

While I like to watch ballroom dancing and actually love to dance, as a family, we had never watched "Dancing With the Stars" or the competitions on PBS.   I didn't even know my kids knew what it was.

I told them I would check into a place that gave kid's lessons- I didn't what options were available- and I would make my husband take a few as well.  For 10 years, he had promised that we would take dance lessons.  This was a perfect opportunity.  A win-win so to speak.  Well, not for my husband...

I emailed VZ Ballroom Academy, we got a call to arrange for our free "family" lesson. 

When we arrived at the studio, the teacher was great.  No pressure.  We had a lot of fun.  Zoe was more interested in the disco ball and "independent" dance than actual lessons.  My husband and I had a blast.  My son was very serious.

We bought a package of lessons for my husband and me, and then, as we were leaving, the studio owner asked us about Skip.  I didn't think he would want lessons- he had been so serious- so I was stunned when he said "Sure, it looks like fun."

Now, I should point out, he was looking at the cute girls in the group class at the time.

For the next 6 weeks, we took him every Saturday.  He would practice in his room. 

Ballroom dancing was not his natural forte.

Watching him learn to dance brought back memories of Kevin Bacon teaching Chris Penn in "Footloose."

At the big showcase, he blew me away.  He concentrated and he did a great job.  I was a little surprised, to be honest.  This kid works hard when he wants something.

That night he told me how much he loved dancing.

The next week we went to the wedding.  My fairly reserved son stunned me when, once the music started, he very elegantly asked the stepmother of the groom to dance.  She, of course, accepted, and with a smile, walked out to the dance floor.  They were the first ones on the dance floor.  Then, my sweet son proceeded to REALLY dance.  He even lead.  She went from nearly laughing to being very impressed.  She suggested he teach her husband to dance!

And this went on all night long.

He danced with every woman at the reception.

I should also point out his eyes were boob level.

He made the connection that every man should- a woman loves a man who can dance.

If he loved dancing before, he now appreciated what it could do for him.

This January, his dance studio decided to offer an after-school program at his elementary school.  They asked him to dance in the demonstration. 

As a mom I was nervous.  I was so afraid my little second grader would be teased.  Let's face it, dancing boys usually get teased.

My confident son didn't bat an eye.  He danced perfectly...with his VERY attractive Brazilian dance teacher...who gave him a kiss at the end.  Let's just say, he's permanently cool now.  Perhaps legendary.

Over the past year, I watched him push himself and struggle with something that was not exactly easy for him.  He has worked very hard.

Today, I watched the last 10 minutes of his class.  He doesn't look like Chris Penn any more.  He's not quite Kevin Bacon, but he looked very natural.  And he had a big smile on his face.

I doubt that he'll ever compete outside his group class.  He probably won't become a professional dancer.  He has, however, learned a great skill that he will have his whole life.  I have no doubt that he will be asked to many functions throughout his life because he can dance (as a former "safety date" myself, I respect that).

So there you have it.  My son ballroom dances.  It's nothing I would have ever signed him up for, but he loves it.

One day, I'll be dancing with him at his wedding and thinking of the little, reserved boy who was the life of the party 20+ years earlier. I'll not only be proud of him, I'll also be happy that he's not stepping on my toes! 

Yet again I've learned something from my children.  Don't be afraid to do what you love.  When you love something, it's not work.  And most importantly, always be your unique self.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ways I Screw with My Kids Under the Guise of Creative Parenting

I have fabulous children.  Seriously.  They rock.  I have a son who is 8 (let's call him Skip) and a daughter  who is 5 (let's call her Zoe). I always say if I had a catalogue and could pick out any kids in the world, I would pick them every time.  I would gladly be their friend if I wasn't already their mom.

The thing is, my perfect son (as noted by his teacher, by the way) enjoys terrorizing his little sister who simply adores him.

After listening to a morning of ...

"Stop it."

"No, you stop it."

"No, you stop it."

I snapped.

I have politely asked them to be nice to each other. 

We've had discussions about the topic. 

So I went rogue.

I told my son that on Saturday, he would be his sister's personal slave from the time she awakened until 1 pm.

Why 1? 

I didn't want to deal with it all day. 

This is how I make most of my parenting decisions-- what is the easiest way out of this that won't require me to yell or be uncomfortable and yet still give me a good laugh.

Sad, but true.

I also think it keeps my kids on their toes.

You see, my kids are smart.  This is fabulous most of the time except when it comes to discipline.  They know I am never going to hurt them.  So it has forced me to become very creative.

When my son was 3, we started the "We are going to leave unless you behave" technique.  Bad idea.  At a Christmas party where he was bored to death, he started acting up.  I got down in my best Supernanny pose, looked him in the eye and said sternly "Skip, if you don't behave, we are going to leave, " to which he replied, exasperated "Good.  I want to go home.  I can't touch anything here."

So much for that technique. 

I find that shock and awe work best with my kids.

When my son discovered he could unfasten his seat belt, the first time I simply told him to buckle it up. He realized I couldn't actually make him do it while I was driving.  What he didn't count on was that I would immediately put on the hazard lights, pull over to the side of the road and start weeping - loudly- about how the police were going to come and arrest me, how he would end up with a different family while I was in jail because it was illegal for him to unbuckle his seat belt.  Hey, it could happen.  Let's just say, when my daughter was 2 and I heard him tell her "You have to stay buckled or Mommy will go to jail," I knew I had succeeded.

When it came time to potty train my daughter, she decided she wasn't interested.  She loved her princess pull-ups (thanks a lot, Pampers).  She also loved stickers.  I explained that if she pee-peed, she'd get 1 sticker; if she poopied, she'd get 2.  She was all smiles, then very seriously said "Let me see the stickers."  I thought that was quite smart, got the stickers, she checked them out and said "Okay, I'll do it."  For 2 days, she was perfect.  Then she quit.  When I asked her why she said "I got all the stickers I wanted."  GREAT.  On to Plan B....

I'm tucking her in, annoyed that she had won the battle and said "You know, Zoe, I heard the Diaper Police know you are still wearing diapers even though you are a big girl."

With big, wide eyes she asked "The Diaper Police?"  

"Yes, they steal the diapers from big girls, like you, give them to babies and replace them with panties... I wonder if they are going to come tonight?" 

They did.

She was fine.

And the list goes on.

Because in my short stint, so far as a parent, and in my fairly long stint as a person, I've learned a few things- yelling has never solved a problem (well, unless it's "Duck" or "Look out!").  Hitting most definitely does not (although both my children have survived the occasional butt smack- solely to remind them that I am bigger and they crossed a line- we're talking about 5 times each in their entire life- no need to call protective services).

Humor usually does the trick.

For instance, when they kept looking at each other in the backseat of the car (which was straight out of the "How to Irritate Your Sibling" handbook) at the beginning of a VERY long road trip, they knew that I would not leave them in Rachel, NV, to forage for themselves forcing them to work in the restaurant at the truck stop- Zoe as a lounge singer, Skip a bartender- both of them living in a broken down truck while my husband and I drove onwards, drinking martinis and singing songs.  They also knew that I really wasn't going to remove their eyeballs and keep them in a jar until we arrived at our destination.  But given those as choices, or the "STOP LOOKING AT EACH OTHER" option, they were too busy laughing to take it seriously, they stopped bothering each other and we had a fabulous trip. 

I've mirrored temper tantrums- once for each child- in public.  It just takes once.  Something about seeing your mom sit down, in an aisle, and start yelling that she just wants to go home is quite effective.  And cathartic, might I add.

Traditional parenting does not seem to work for me.  I'm not a yeller.  I'm not going to negotiate with terrorists.  Especially 2 year old terrorists.  I will, however, get them to laugh and change their behavior.

My son, in an effort to get my daughter to "release" him from his pending slavery, is being quite lovely to her.  Ahhhh.... peace.

Don't get me wrong- I am not a pushover in the least.  I'm actually quite strict.  Homework gets done, beds are made, teeth are brushed, clothes are in the hamper, dishes in the sink- it's a tight ship.  I guess I don't see the point in harping.  Or nagging.  Maybe I'm just lazy?

Or maybe it's a power trip?  I am Mom.  Now hop on your left foot.

Seriously.

That's my punishment for not listening.  You have to play Mommy Says. 

Touch your nose.

Turn around.

Okay, good, now you're listening.  I thought your ears were broken. Come here, let me check "HEELLLLLOOOOOO...."

Phew.  No need to go to the ER after all.

Now give me a kiss and quit bugging your sister.