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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 17, 2013

Helicopter Parents and Why My Daughter Looks Homeless Lately

Apparently, I am a bit of a lazy parent.  I do not feel obligated to make every minute of every day for my child picture perfect.  First, I think that sets unrealistic expectations.  Second, I think it ruins kids.

As a scout leader and a fairly active parent at my kids' school I'm starting to learn that some may choose to judge me.  My children-- and most recently my daughter more so-- from time to time, look like they may be homeless.  Their hair is a little messy.  The clothes a little wrinkly and not particularly matched.

To some, this makes me a horrible parent.

It's actually intentional.  You see, my children are 7 and 10.  I think it is reasonable for both of them to pick out their own clothing and brush their own hair.  Now with my daughter, I've backed off recently because it was getting REALLY bad and making me nuts, but again, I to some, am a crazy and a horrible parent.

I do not care that their clothes don't match.  They are learning.  When it's REALLY bad-- like the hair- and trust me, sometimes it is-- I make them change.  My son went through a phase where everything he wore was the same color.  No regard to shades or patterns.  It was hilarious.  He figured it out.  When he wore the orange outfit, I decided to have the conversation on what "match" meant.  And I couldn't take the black socks with shorts, either.  So I do have a line.  It's just further than most people's lines.

My daughter is a crazy by nature and she can pull off some crazy outfits.  As long as they aren't distracting to others (they can be), I let her wear it.

Because there is no way in hell they are going to be sleeping on my couch at 35.

No way.

Picking out your 10 year old's clothing will lead to couch sleeping.  I am confident of this.

As I parent, I feel my job is to let them try FIRST and then when they need me, to step in and offer assistance.  After all, if I do it first, then how do I ever figure out what they can and can't do?

My kids make their own beds, put their laundry in the hamper (mostly), put their dishes in the dishwasher and can make their own breakfasts.  My daughter made toast for the first time on Saturday.  You would have thought she made a souffle, she was so proud.  It was awesome.  My son made ramen noodles a few weeks ago.  He was so excited he offered to make dinner for every one.  It was delicious.  Best ramen I've ever eaten.

And it's not because I'm lazy.  It's because they need to know how to feed themselves.  Pouring a bowl of cereal and making toast, is not that hard.  If I am sick and can't do it for them, my children will not starve.  They aren't afraid to grab an apple and take a bite.  They don't need me to peel it and section it.

I have some friends who would never dream of allowing their child to touch a stove or toaster.  I have no idea why.  I want my kids to fly when I boot them out of the nest- not fall on their faces and cry for me.

We worked on their science projects this weekend. They came up with the ideas, their experiments and did their own boards.  Did I help?  Yes.  We focused on scientific method (my son's hypothesis was proven false-- this freaked him out.  I had to explain that that was, in fact, exactly what experiments were for-- to test- not just to back up what you already know).  I bought the lettering for their boards.  I showed my son some different things to do on Word that he didn't know.  My husband typed exactly what my daughter told him to type-- although I think she could have done it on her own (but I was doing drop off to a birthday party).  I helped her time her project (ice melting).  We helped them.  We did not DO the projects for them.

Two years ago my son did not get his science fair board completed-- he had done an experiment, tracked it for 6 weeks, but at the end, didn't finish it.

You know what happened?

He didn't turn it in (it's optional for everyone except 5th graders).  I didn't stay up until midnight doing it.  I didn't let him stay up until midnight.

And then to make matters worse because we are mean, we all went to the science fair and science night at the school that week.

He felt like crap.  He would have been the only 2nd grader with a project on display.

And the next year, his project was done.  On time.  No yelling.

Because when I say "Skip, I have a business trip on Monday morning and we cannot let this wait until Sunday night-- I have to get ready for the trip.  I will work with you any other time, just not Sunday night"- it's because I mean it.

When they were little and I would say "If you don't stop acting like that, we will leave" we left.  Period.  Even if I wanted to stay.

I don't negotiate with terrorists.

I don't do homework.  I don't blame the teacher.  My kids do what is expected.  I will be there ANY time they need help, but I will, under no circumstances EVER do their work for them.


Because I don't need to.  Because my not helping isn't me being obstinate, it's because I have 100% faith that my kids are capable and competent and can do it on their own.

I am a safety net.  When they fall, I catch them.  But I let them jump.

I had a very nice helicopter mom comment on how smart my daughter was.  She asked me what my secret was-- I told her that I let her fail.  This mom is very nice-- her intentions are good- but she is always swooping in and fixing everything for her daughter.  If my daughter doesn't get her homework done, it doesn't get done.  She didn't get a homework award this trimester because of it.  I can guarantee it will be done every week during the last trimester.  She was not happy about not getting the award.

My kids aren't perfect.  I'm not a perfect mom.  My kids will probably tell their therapist some day "I can't believe my mom let me leave the house looking like that..." or they'll remember the battles and when I've said "I already completed first grade... now it's your turn."  Or maybe they'll be glad that I let them try.  And fail.

Failing is good.  It teaches you to get back up and try again.   Tenacity is a good trait.  Failing doesn't kill you.  I promise.  Being sad or upset-- it's better to learn to deal with it as a kid than to be overwhelmed by it as a teenager or adult.  I fail a lot.

Brush it off.  Try again.

I am so proud of my kids.  For being themselves. They are independent thinkers.  They are independent spirits.  They have their own opinions.  They push themselves-- it's not me pushing-- it's them.  They want the awards.  Because they know when they win them, THEY won them- not me.   They truly get the sense of accomplishment.

It's why I make them order for themselves at restaurants.  Or when they want to ask someone a question, I tell them to go ahead and ask-- I don't ask it for them.  Their opinion matters.  They have a voice.

So maybe they don't look like they stepped out of a magazine.  I don't care.  Or maybe their science projects are a little crooked or sloppy.  I don't care- they did it.  It's their work.  I already did my science projects.  It's their turn.

And we'll see how it turns out.  My guess is they will be fine.  They know they can do anything and they also know how to ask for help when they get stuck.  I'm sure when they are teenagers, I'll have to push a little more, but maybe not.

But the one thing that I absolutely, positively know is that they will not be sleeping on my couch when they are 35. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Charlie

This past Friday, I said good-bye to my little fighter of a guy, my 15 year old Bichon, Charlie the Bear.

As you can, see, he was adorable.

He actually saved my life.  You may have heard this story before, but it deserves telling one more time.

I met Charlie at a pet store in the mall on January 19, 1998.  I wasn't really looking for a dog.  I've always loved Bichons.  They are cute.  They don't shed.  They have curly hair.  There was one in the glass staring at me.

I took him out.  He was cute and adorable.  He seemed happy to be out.

I was with my then-fiance.  We were getting married the first weekend in May.

He asked me if I wanted the dog for my birthday which was the next day.

I said no, that was okay.  Then I looked at the little guy.  He asked me if I was sure.  I said "If he throws himself against the glass and acts like there's no tomorrow, then let's get him."

The salesclerk put him back.

He threw himself repeatedly against the glass and acted like there was no tomorrow.

The woman next to us had overheard me and said "You have to get that dog."

So we did.  Or so I thought my fiance bought him for me.

He wrote a check for the dog.

He then proceeded, the next day, to forge a check from my account to cover the check (we had just started consolidating things, so we still had separate accounts.  He worked at a bank, so I was putting him in charge of our household expenses-- really bad idea).  Without making this about him, he started kiting funds and forging my name on a regular basis.

So I called off the wedding.  Six weeks before we got married, I found out what happened when I went to pay my taxes and there was no money in my account.


Close call.

If we hadn't bought Charlie, I never would have found out that this guy had done this before to other people.  Not out of malice, but out of habit. He also stretched the truth.  A lot.  What a nightmare of a life that would have been.  Hence, Charlie saved my life.

Afterwards, I was a little sad.  Very sad.  I felt like a fool.  I was financially in a tight spot.  I was heartbroken.

My little white dog and my beagle who passed 2 1/2 years ago, made sure I got up every single day.  I had to shake off my funk so I could care for them.  On the days when I wanted to stay curled up in a ball and cry, I couldn't.  There they were- especially Charlie- ready to play and needing me to take care of them.  They lived on generic Cheerios when I couldn't afford dog food. 

But we made it through.

Then I met my wonderful husband.

Our first date involved taking the dogs to the park.  My husband was very intimidated by me, but when he saw me get out of the car with 2 spazzy dogs, get wrapped up in their leashes and swear like a trucker, he wasn't so overwhelmed or impressed by me any more.

When we were dating, Charlie used to pee in his shoes.  He did not care for Shane.  Shane did not care for him.

I thought it was hilarious.  He would look at Shane, lift his leg and pee.  As if to say "She's mine."

They eventually worked it out.  I backed up the dog because, quite frankly, he was there first.

When we brought home our son from the hospital, Charlie was so excited.  All through my pregnancy I had told him I was having a little boy and he would have someone to play fetch with. 

We brought home the baby and set the carrier on the floor.  Charlie walked over, dropped the ball in his carrier and sat there and waited for him to play.  For three months, we would find Charlie patiently waiting near the baby and a ball in the swing, in the carrier, on the play mat-- I could not make this up. We have video.  He finally gave up and was not happy about it.

If the baby cried, he would come and get us immediately.  He would NOT let up even when the baby went back to sleep.  He shamed us into checking every peep.

He was feisty.  He was precocious.  He was unlike any dog I'd ever had.  Every other dog, was a dog.  Charlie was a little man trapped in a fluffy dog's body.  He would take on pit bulls at the dog park.  He talked-- you could have a conversation with him.  If he barked and you said "Do you want water?" and he really had to pee, he would give this "Dumb ass" look, make a funny noise until you guessed it correctly.  When our other dog Dixie got out of the yard the first day we had her, Charlie met me at the door doing a dance and barking.  I knew something was up immediately.

To quote my husband, he wasn't normal.

Whatever you gave Charlie it was never enough.  Not enough belly rubs, petting, biscuits, time-- he always wanted more.  He could be a real pain in the ass.  I used to call him Velcro because he was constantly under foot-- just me.  He could never spend enough time with me.  We joked that I must have saved his life in a previous life and now he owed me.  It was often times exhausting.

We got kicked out of the dog training class at Pet Smart.  He made the hippie trainer cry, hand back the leash to me and say "There's something wrong with your dog."

I swear I heard him laugh.  I did. It was funny.

Charlie was Charlie.

He used to pull a bait and switch on people when we would go for walks.  People would come up to him and say "What a cute puppy!"  He would wag his tail, suck them in and look adorable.  Then, when they would bend down to pet him, he'd growl and scare the crap out of them.  The best part-- he would walk away, cocky, wagging his tail.  My mother-in-law thought I was making it up until she saw him in action "I think he's doing that on purpose... I can' t believe that..."  Yep.  That was 100% Charlie.

When he almost died 4 years ago (he had a partial paralysis from running into the sliding glass door-- long story), I talked to him and said it was okay for him to let go.  Until he had his accident, everyone thought he was a puppy. He was full of life.  I felt like he was being robbed, but he was so close to death, there was nothing anyone could do.  The vet let us take him home for one last night.

Charlie decided he wasn't done yet.  He pushed himself that night, stood up with all his might (he had barely been able to move) and started walking around.  He wasn't going anywhere. He wasn't done.

They gave us 6 more months max.

Two years later (so much for 6 months), we again made the decision that it was time.  He had been slowing down.  He couldn't go up the stairs anymore.  He was in pain.  It seemed reasonable.  Then I ran into a homeopathic vet at the dog park.  She did acupuncture.  It was the day before I was scheduled to take him.  Talk about a close call.  He was never back to 100%, but wow-- he got a lot of life back. 

Two more years, in fact. 

Then about 3 weeks ago, he started chewing on his front legs.  Because his back legs had limited mobility, he put additional pressure on his front legs.  The homeopathic vet had said at some point the joints in his front legs were going to go.  We weren't sure if it was the food change or grass allergies.  Well, I knew it wasn't but my husband- the one in whose shoes he had peed-- wanted to wait and see if he would rally.

I knew he wouldn't.  He didn't.

Sadly, the last week, his bowels started to go and he could barely walk 2 feet.  The traditional vet had said his liver would more than likely be the final straw.  We think that's what was happening.  Regardless, he could barely walk 2 feet.  It wasn't fair.  It was time. We had already scheduled to have him put down on Saturday morning. I was taking Friday off to spend time with him. 

In a bizarre twist of fate, I ended up pulling my back out and could barely move.  He was losing control of his bowels and I couldn't keep up with it.  He was covered in poop, I couldn't hold him if I had wanted to because I couldn't bend over-- it was awful.  I called the vet and asked if we could do it Friday.  I could see no point in waiting until the next morning.  He was in pain.  I was in pain.  It was not how it was supposed to end. 

Or so I thought.

When we put Charlie in the car, he knew exactly what was going on.  He was shaking and looked so scared.  He had fought so hard the past 4 years to stay alive-- his mind was still there-- and now it would end.

Our vet has a separate room with a couch, where they give the shot.  I held Charlie in my arms as she gave him the injection.  Once his heart stopped, his body relaxed.  The homeopathic vet had shown me how when there is pain, heat radiates from the area.  As soon as he passed, the heat was gone. Completely. He felt like he had when he was healthy and would sit on my lap.

His tail then wagged.  The vet started to explain that it was a muscle reflex-- I stopped her mid-sentence and said "I know what it was, but I'd really like to think that he was wagging his tail one last time to let me know he was okay."  I'm sticking with that. 

As awful as it was, being able to hold him and feel the pain pass made me feel better.

And to be next to my wonderful husband and seeing him cry at the passing of his archnemesis was comforting. 

I learned so much from Charlie.  I learned about fighting until the end.  About aging ferociously- not necessarily gracefully- but giving it all that you've got until the very end.  He always got back up and fought a little more.

He was in my life since I was 28 years old.  A lot has happened since then.  I built a family and a business.  He was a huge part of it.

So if I seem a little off this week, that's why.  It's not because I'm sad, although I'm crying as I type this.  It was the right thing to do at the right time.  I have no regrets whatsoever at my decision.  The actual final experience was perfect.

It's simply because I miss him.  That little 10 pound ball of fluff (as my husband called him), had a HUGE personality.

As much as I love our new dogs Dixie and Oliver, there will never be another Charlie.

Afterall, if there had been no Charlie, there would have been no Shane and no Skip and no Zoey.  No Mama Bean's World.

As I whispered to him as he passed "Thank you, Charlie.  Thank you for everything."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What's been going on...

I haven't been writing much.  Sadly, this is not going to be a witticism. Just a ramble...

So where have I been?

In motion.

I am a Daisy Troop leader and this is Girl Scout Cookie time.  Which is a part-time job.  Fortunately, for me, my co-leader is an experienced leader and was Cookie Mom, so she by far, took the brunt of it.  What I didn't count on was the booth sales which have tied me up nearly every  weekend day for the past 3 weekends. She has 2 troops, so she's nuts.  Plus, we still have regular meetings to plan.

Oh, and it's tax time.  Which means lots of phone calls at work and printing things.  This is my assistant's first tax season so she's learning where things are.

And did I mention that I'm the chair for an alumni committee that helps meet with prospective students to encourage them to attend the university as well answer questions.  I coordinate meetings with volunteers and a luncheon.  I became the chair because I volunteered a few years ago and next thing you know, I'm in charge. 

And I accidentally ended up on a board for a political group.  Long, funny story.  I thought I was helping out and I ended up on the board.

And I'm participating in a program to encourage women to run for office.

And, on a fantastic note, my business is going very well.  I just need to figure out how to keep up.

And there's that marriage and motherhood thing, too.  Science fair is coming... reading week needed costumes...

My husband started coaching track, which means meets, after school practices, so we have to coordinate kid stuff.

And my poor little Bichon is fighting so hard to stay alive...

None of these things individually are that much time.  I love all of them.  But I had to quit tap.  I'm too tired by 8 pm Thursday and I miss it.  And I haven't made the gym in 2 weeks and I was doing well.  It makes me crabby.  And I gained most of the weight I had worked so hard to lose, back.

I am exhausted. 

I have a lot of support.  I have a great staff at work.  My husband is unbelievable.  My kids are even good.  When my daughter was BEGGING me to go to a school movie night after I spent 2 hours at a cookie booth (someone didn't show up so we had to stay), my son said "Zoey, give Mom a break.  She's been busy this week."  Love that kid.  Oh- and we went to movie night.  And I almost fell asleep.

I know everyone is busy.  But I don't do things like crap.  I know some people treat volunteer activities and events like after thoughts (I've seen that a lot lately).  I don't.  I don't do B work.  I am an A student.  I do A work.  I take my job seriously.  I take my volunteer activities seriously.  I take parenting seriously.  I take being a wife seriously.  Nothing gives.

I know how to say no, too. 

I'm also figuring out how to dodge things carefully.  I walked into a meeting of a group i'm in last week and they started with "Lori Bean... your name has been coming up a lot lately..."

Duck.  Run  Hide.  Or say-

"That's great to hear- do you know where the restroom is?"

Because that is code for "Lori Bean, we always see your name on the list, but you're not active... we hear you're great in other groups... how about you chair this committee....'


Because I really do put my family first and it doesn't feel like it right now.  I know I have lost clients because I won't meet at 7 pm.  Or even 6 pm.  Dinner with my family is a BIG deal.  It's not something I like to use to impress people.  And here's the other thing-- I actually make the dinner.  And when I don't, then I get fat.  Which has been happening.

And my husband?  Well, I like hanging out with him.  I appreciate all the invites to this and to that, but I don't need a Girls Night Out.  I like a nice night out with my husband.  A basketball game.  Trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings.  I enjoy his company.

And my kids?  Tucking them in is a privilege, not a chore.  I like helping with their homework.  I like to hear about their day.

I have a good life.  It is a busy life.  I think everything is going to calm down in June.

But if you haven't heard from me or I'm a little slow scheduling lunch or a play date or returning a call, that's why.

I'm tired.  Very, very tired.