Sunday, October 11, 2009

Move & Play

I was up especially early the other morning and my youngest child took the liberty of turning on the television. Since I couldn't find anything for myself (slim pickings at 5am, even on HBO) we were watching Noggin. They were in this "move & play" theme I'm assuming to get kids up and away from the television. If it were up to me, those little jingles would turn off the t.v. all together. (Can you tell it's early and I'm tired and cranky?) However, since that doesn't happen, I'm stuck watching Dora "move & play."
While participating in a soccer game, Dora does a great job and scores a goal. The crowd goes wild! Her family goes wild! Then I noticed her family is cheering for her while sitting on the couch in front of the t.v. in the comfort of their living room. Why weren't they at the game? I suppose there could have been plenty of reasons, but still I wonder. Equally important is that if we as parents don't get up to "move & play" ( or to watch our kids play a soccer game) they won't see the need to get up and move either and then we are really failing them!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cooking Times May Vary

And so does the amount of time we have in a day to cook.
I'm not trying to emulate either June Cleaver or my mother, but I do believe in a couple of things: making one meal for the whole family for dinner, feeding my kids healthy food for dinner, and feeding them (or at least trying to) before they are so hungry and have so many snacks that dinner is wasted.
This all presents a challenge. I suppose I could just feed my kids chicken nuggets and hot dogs and make things easier on all of us but then what kind of habits am I creating for my kids? We have an all time high obesity rate in this country and cheap fast food is partially to blame. In my opinion time and energy are also to blame. Who has the energy to cook a full meal at the end of a full day with kids? I don't always have the energy and not even always the desire. I've said before the trick is to plan ahead and while that also takes work, it does help and does make a difference at the end of the day. In the summer, I have an added bonus- my husband likes to grill. We've finally gotten to the point where I can prep ahead (something interesting and other than hot dogs and hamburgers) and he will just follow the cooking instructions I give him.
Last night we made Huli-Huli chicken. It's apparently a very common Hawaiian meal and as it turns out pretty easy to make according to the recipe in June/July 2009 issue of Cook's Country magazine. Here's what I liked about it. The recipe uses a whole cut up chicken (very inexpensive to buy at the store compared to something like boneless, skinless breasts), a brine (to tenderize and flavor), a glaze that can be made ahead of time and basically just sits on the stove, and then really easy grilling for 20-25 miutes per side that someone else does. :) At leaset in my case.
The meal turned out great. My kitchen wasn't a total mess after dinner. Lucky for us- this meal also works out really well for guests as it's very low maintenance for both prepping and cooking with great flavor. I had some leftover sauce (which will keep refrigerated for 3 days) that I'm sure to ue on something else over the long weekend. My thanks again to the people at Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen for making my life easier and the food I feed my kids healthy.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Sobering Secret. | Mommy Track'd

My Sobering Secret. | Mommy Track'd.

I read this essay today because the title from the Motherlode intrigued me. First I have to say that I love Stephanie Wilder-Taylor's humor and writing. Second, I've read her first two books and laughed out loud. Third, when sharing this with my mother, and the title of another book- If you Give a Mom a Martini- I said, "It's amazing that there is such a theme of drinking in the world of mothers and parenting books." I suppose I shouldn't be surprised- it feels great to "tie one on" sometimes at the end of a day and just get numb. However, I learned early on that the hangover the next day just isn't worth it. Especially if the next day is a Tuesday.
Taylor's reason for her drinking is simple- motherhood. There is NOTHING that prepares us for motherhood and the drastic change that occurs in our lives when we go from woman to mother. There are very few people who are not mothers who understand what it's like when within a few days, or a week, or two weeks after giving birth your husband goes back to work and his life returns mostly to normal and we are at home with an infant who we do not know, no friends, and a tremendous lack of sleep. It's a very lonely and difficult time.
Think about it- we have 12 years of elementary school and 4 years of college to prepare for a career where as girls and women we are told we can do anything we want to do, be anything we want to be. We are given 9 months to "prepare" for motherhood but since pregnancy and motherhood are TOTALLY different we really only get between 2 and 4 days in the hospital. See anything wrong with this picture? I don't blame Ms. Taylor at all. I'd like to blame society but I wouldn't even know where to start. Women have been the primary caregivers for kids for thousands of years and yet we have not found a better way to make the adjustment to the massive change that we must embrace.
I love being a mother and I love my kids but I am imperfectly human. I understand Ms. Taylor's position and her need to admit that she has a problem in order to fix that problem. I admire her honesty and I understand her need to share with her online community to get the support she needs even if she doesn't know her supporters personally. Motherhood is difficult, but it's a job we will have for the rest of our lives and our children depend on us to be the best we can be for them and for ourselves. Some days that means knowing when to each out for help.

Monday, June 1, 2009

That Was Awesome!

I am just now, about 24 hours late, watching the preview of the new moon trailer during the MTV Movie Awards. First, I have to say that I'm thankful for Tivo and the new director of the movie! I knew that after being at the pool with friends on Sunday, and enjoying a couple of cocktails, I would miss the awards. So, tonight in the peace and quiet of my living room in my own time, I got to see it. I plan to rewind and watch again. And again. It's what I like to call Mommy entertainment.

I would imagine that there are many people who would wonder what an educated 38 year old mom is doing watching the new moon trailer over and over. The Twilight series is supposed to capture the hearts and attention of the teenagers- right? When I first started reading Twilight I didn't think much of that question. (I had been a follower of Anne Rice and loved Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire.) My niece had recommended Twilight and as it was it took me a while to get started reading it. This seemed like a fun, mindless piece of reading. I was so off. About 50 pages into the book, I was sucked in never to leave. It was a while before I stopped reading long enough to wonder what the appeal of the book was and why 30 something moms were so hooked.

I, and several of my girlfriends, entered what we call Edward's world. Why? I'm not sure. I certainly don't want to relive the high school drama that I already survived. But there was something about the magic and fantasy of living among vampires and a girl like Bella who so plain and simple in her own mind was so strong to the rest of us. Maybe it's her strength that we admire because as adults many of us are still trying to find it. Maybe it's the memory and thrill of first love. Maybe it's just the opportunity to live life vicariously through someone else for those few minutes in a day when we finally get a chance to sit down and stop thinking. In truth, I think it's a little bit of everything. High school love with a happy ending. Finding strength in places we didn't know we had it. Memories of the passion of new love.

I can't live in the fantasy and I have plenty to keep me grounded each day. Three adorable kids who keep me busy. A ton of laundry that never seems to fold itself. A husband who I look forward to having some alone time with on the weekends because weekdays are just too busy. That's my reality. Forks, WA is my fantasy. A little fantasy can go a long way. I love losing myself in the world of a book. Or even a movie trailer. I'll watch the trailer for new moon one more time before going to bed. It was awesome!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Best Friends

"How do the the bra sizes in the UK work and how big are YOUR BOOBS!? These are the kinds of questions you can only ask your best friends without offending someone. Other questions I have asked in my lifetime to only my best friends were, " What would an uncircumcised penis look like?" and "What would a threesome be like?"

Best friends are the way we get through middle school, high school, college, weddings, and new babies. I was having lunch with two of my best friends (who I haven't seen in 6 months) and it was like we saw each other yesterday. Together, we have 30 years of friendship, 3 husbands, 5 kids, and one baby on the way.

Motherhood brings with it a new family dynamic, sleepless nights, endless joy, and more than ever the need for friends. An opportunity to say what you think and how you feel without being judged is what we all need in those first days, months, and even years. Sugar coating and believing in the la-la land of the commercials doesn't do anyone any good. So, when my best friend is preparing to have her first baby, I have no problem telling her that the beginning sucks and that in all likelihood she will be carrying most of the burden of raising her new child. Whether she goes back to work or not.

Best friends are a gift and I love mine. Who else would listen to me when I say that bath time is not all that fun until your kids are old enough to take showers on their own?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Should parents pay a fine if their kid misbehaves in school? - Parental Guidance - Amber Watson-Tardiff - NJ.com

Should parents pay a fine if their kid misbehaves in school? - Parental Guidance - Amber Watson-Tardiff - NJ.com

Parents should definitely be held responsible for their child's behavior in school. I've often thought (and heard) that kids are better behaved in school than at home, so my question is this- if kids are so misbehaved in school, what are they like at home? I'll admit, I'm not a perfect parent, but I will only tolerate so much before implementing a heavier than usual hand with my kids. They need to learn respect from someone, somewhere and if it's not the parents, then where is it supposed to come from?

One parent commented in this article that she's too tired to deal with her kids. We're all tired. I've been tired for 7 years, but that doesn't mean that I get to "dump" my kids behavior on someone else. How can teachers be effective if they have to be the primary disciplinarian too? There needs to be order in a classroom for kids to learn and that has to start with promoting order in the home. There are days where the last thing I want to deal with is reinforcing the need for good behavior, but that's my job. Even if I were working outside the home all day, and not seeing my kids until 6pm, it's still my job to make sure that they are raised well.

In the end, my feeling is that if parents will only listen and take responsibility for their kids once hit "where it hurts" (like the checkbook) then so be it. Sometimes parents need a little discipline too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Confession is good for the soul

or so the saying goes. In the case of moms today confession helps but I do believe here is more to this puzzle than just confession. It's the loneliness that we often face as new moms that drives us to do certain things. In the video that opened on the Today Show on April 16 (see article here:Maternal sin: Moms confess their secrets - Working Mom's Guide there are funny, questionable, and heart wrenching true stories of motherhood and the challenges we face. True Mom Confessions was born out of one mother's need for an outlet and the realization that we all need an outlet and perhaps family is not quite the right outlet.

My outlet has almost always been friends. It's not their fault, but husbands, partners, and our mothers just do not understand. A few weeks ago I had a long conversation (well, several long conversations) with a friend who had found herself unexpectedly pregnant with her third child. She didn't know where to turn or who else to talk to, so she called me. We discussed the blessings and challenges of having a third child. At the end of the conversation, she still wasn't sure what to do about it, but said she felt better. Within two days the roller coaster ride she was on took one of those upside down flips at lightning speed and she felt as thought she was spinning out of control with out the seat belt. It turned out that her pregnancy was ectopic. Another wave of emotions. Almost immediately after the "happy" shock of being pregnant came the inevitable sadness of a loss.

While we spoke, I said that if it were a hundred years ago and we were having this discussion while washing clothes in the river I'd stop what I was doing and give her a hug and tell her I was there for her. All I could do was send a hug via cell phone. We agreed that the village is missing. In our harried lives, we are missing that very important network of friends who understand and want to help. Who can help just by listening ,something my friend's mother and sister were not able to do.

There seem to be a myriad of new books and popular web sites and blogs out there recognizing the honest struggles of mothers today. Are the struggles any different from what they were when we were kids? Lifestyles are different- yes we are busier, but I think just in a different way. My mother often tells me how easy it was when I was little- a group of moms would get together and all drop the kids at one person's house and everyone else would go off and play tennis. This way, everyone got a turn to babysit and everyone got a turn to play tennis. I have to say, I'm not sure that as a new mother I would have wanted to watch 5 other kids- handling my own was enough. Even if it meant some free time to myself. At the same time, if a friend of mine is watching 5 other kids, how well is she watching mine? Instead, we now take our kids to gym, swim, or music classes for group stimulation and something to keep us busy during what can otherwise be a very long, lonely day.

I found my sanity in my first friend. I finally had someone who I could confess to (I never hoped the dog would get the vomit, or pushed my kids over while they were learning to walk) but at least I could complain to someone who might also have had a recent bad night's sleep and who understood. At the time, having an online community would have been great, but 7 years ago, it was not what it is now. I needed the village no matter how small it was , and believe me it was small! For a long time.

I think we still need the live village, not just so we can spew after a bad day, but so we can support and share. The most important thing, whether you are confessing or just talking, is having someone to listen so you do not feel alone. Sharing is ok, but be careful for who's listening. The proper audience is paramount to the "succcess" of the confession.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Shared History

Judith Warner's most recent post had me captivated. She shares her upbringing as a combination of Judaism and Christianity in the following NY Times.com post: This I Believe - Judith Warner Blog - NYTimes.com and raises questions around how we all treat our own faith and religion as well as the value placed on that for our children.

Personally, I admire the dedication of the Jewish people I know who fast every year for Yom Kippur and honor the tradition of Passover by eating Matzoh for 8 days following two very long Seder dinners. We Christians tend to decide one way or another if it's proper to take communion every week or once a month. To use real wine or grape juice. To give up something for Lent or not. (Personally, I spent the first 6 years after having kids not giving anything up for Lent because I felt I had already given up enough. I trust God understands where my perspective was at the time). However, all of that said, what I was missing from my Christian upbringing was the emphasis on the fact that Jewish or Christian, we all started from the same place - if you follow the story of Genesis. And I do.

I was about 30 years old when I realized that Jesus was Jewish! His final meal with his disciples before his Crucifixion was a Seder dinner. It makes so much sense as an adult to think about this, but one must keep in mind that while I was in Sunday school 30 years ago this was not a widely publicized fact.

So, how do we present faith (and religion) to our children in a way that doesn't take them 30 years to figure out how intertwined the Jewish and Christian faiths are? This is something that, as with many other things, only became important to me once I had kids. It's as much in the spirit of giving them an accurate understanding of the Bible (as much as one can really digest the complex path and stories of the Bible) as well as to teach tolerance. Just because we share different holidays doesn't mean that there has to be such a strong separation between faiths (although it seems that gap is shrinking every day). In theory, when we Episcopalians take communion every Sunday we should go home and have a Seder in honor of Jesus' last meal with his disciples. Or maybe the Seder should be on Saturday night and then Communion on Sunday. I don't have the answer but I for one had a much greater appreciation for the bread and wine served in church after watching The Passion and seeing how the last 12 hours of Jesus' life played out.

My goal as a parent has always been to give my children the tools they need to make their own decisions; and faith is no exception. You can choose which religion to follow (these would be the rituals we follow while enclosed in the walls of a religious institution) but faith, I believe, goes much deeper. Faith comes from that which we cannot see. It comes from, as in Warner's case, a Jewish upbringing with 9 years in an Episcopalian church or in my husband's case a mother dragging 4 kids to church but a father reading the Bible, or in my case, a light bulb going off. At the time of Easter and Passover, when many sacrifices were made to get God's point across, it's good for all of us to take a step back and be thankful for what we have.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bad Parents and Proud of It: Moms and a Dad Confess - WSJ.com

Bad Parents and Proud of It: Moms and a Dad Confess - WSJ.com

I read this article today. Twice. My head is spinning around all that's in here. While I have yet to meet a perfect parent, why promote "bad parenting?" I think it's because we need to know that we are not alone in this- that's why. Whether good parents or bad parents we all have our moments of each. The ability, the need, to share with one another is paramount to getting from one day to the next.

Parents need friends- especially the new ones. The popularity of these confessions lies not solely in the fact that we have ALL made mistakes, but more so that we need someone to share it with. Misery loves company, but so does happiness and so do new parents. We need to know that someone else isn't sleeping, can't lose the baby weight or is dreading the ever "helpful" visit from parents or in-laws who for sure will be FULL of advice and stories of how they did it.

Now, back to "bad parenting." Aside from over sharing (I agree with the author on this one) is anyone looking for solutions? For Heather Armstrong, author of It Sucked, I Cried...., the fact that she openly admitted to having postpartum depression, checked herself into an institution, and then wrote about it is admirable. I know I was depressed (my mother said hormonally imbalanced) after our first child was born. I refused to admit it and honestly didn't really know it until I saw how different I was after our second child. I was normal that time. By the time we had our third child I had my game on. I knew that lack of sleep was the primary cause of postpartum depression and will never forget the night I listened to my pediatrician and didn't feed the baby in the middle of the night. I cried and immediately felt the anger, despair, and sadness of not sleeping. It shouldn't have to take 3 kids to figure it out, but sometimes it does. I listened to myself, and my child, did what needed to be done and got some sleep. This doesn't mean that I needed to start a website about how I tortured my child by not feeding a two month old when hungry in the middle of the night just so I could feel better about it. It means I learned a lesson the hard way, but also realized enough to make the situation better.

So I wonder, while admitedly we are imperfect and parenting is probably not what most of us expected it to be, where is the help for the new parent in publicizing "bad parenting?" Perhaps there is not meant to be any help and that is not the market for these upcoming publications. But, if we're going to share bad parenting stories, shouldn't they come with positive parenting advice such as, "what I learned from this experinece..... here's what a friend did that helped me." That kind of thing. Admittedly, I have not read any of these new books coming out and what is cited in the article is I'm sure only a small portion of what is out there. However, if I were a new parent, I think I'd be looking for advice as well as the comfort of knowing that I am not in this alone and that others have made the same mistakes I have.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Breaking the Rules

I broke one of my own rules tonight. I spent a whole chapter in my book talking about what is needed to make dinner for a family. Feeding a family just takes a lot of food, cooking for one is totally different. One of my rules for surviving "dinner" is to not try a new recipe on a Tuesday. Guess what day it is and guess what I did? Stupid. Stupid. I knew better than to do this especially on a day when there were after school activities and my house looked like a bomb hit it.

Lucky for me, I have become the master of the 30 minute clean up. This means I do what I want to during the day and take 30 minutes to clean up toys and vacuum so it looks like I've been cleaning all day. Today I was busy doing some writing so I totally blew off my disastrous looking house and looking at the recipe for dinner before making it. The result- I raced through a quick 30 minute clean, burned the oil in the pan, had no patience with my kids and crossed my fingers that dinner would be decent.
Let this be a lesson to myself. I know better. Next time I'll make a chicken.

Money In My Pocket

I was heading out today to get started on my "honey do" list (most people think this is a husband's list, but in my world it's a wife's list) when I thought, "do I have any cash?" I had some from yesterday that I had put in my pocket. And then I remembered with a peaceful sense of calm that I was wearing the same jeans I today I wore yesterday and for that matter the day before. I reached in my pocket and found $8.
I often wear the same jeans for days in a row. I'll throw them in the laundry with the kids clothes when I need to but otherwise, I can go for days in the same jeans. Most of my friends do it too. Seriously- what's the point? Someone is going to either wipe a greasy hand on me, spill something, or give me a hug with a permanent marker. In fairness- I wipe my own hands on my jeans because it's easier. I'm anxiously awaiting the permanent arrival of Spring so I can wear some different pants. I have at least 4 pairs of comfortable capris that I can wash in between hand wiping- whether is mine or theirs.
A full story of my life in jeans will be in an upcoming fall issue of NJ Family magazine.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It Doesn't Look Like the Picture!

Well, what does????
I consider myself more or less able to get through most projects that my kids ask me to do for them. Not because I'm perfect but because for the most part they are pretty simple. This morning I tried making a Palm Cross. I have tried for a couple of years to do this, but this time I actually had directions. Seems simple enough but all I can say is the same thing Super Boy said so sadly, "It doesn't look like the picture." And it didn't- I have to admit.

I'll try again, but I think this time it will be to prove to myself that I can do this. If I'm lucky the kids will like their Palm Crosses even if they don't look exactly like the picture.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Little Red Butt

I always feel bad for my kids when they get diaper rash. Sensitive skin, a little red butt, and pain when being wiped. There are a ton of products out there for diaper rash- most of which (as far as I've seen) are all creams. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from my pediatrician was to NOT use any of those creams or ointments. The problem with them is that they lock moisture in when it was the moisture on the skin causing diaper rash in the first place!
My youngest, the Climber, seems to be the one who has had the worst experience with diaper rash. As the third child, he gets carted around from place to place and probably spends too much time in the same diaper. As much as I try to focus on changing him regularly, that just doesn't always happen- ask any mom of more than one kid. The result diaper rash. And for the Climber, it can easily and quickly turn into little open cuts and scabs.
So here is the advice. First: change the diaper every hour- even if it isn't soaked. Second: Use a hairdryer to dry the newly wiped and clean area. Third: Do not put any creams or anything on the area.
I have used this process for all 3 of my kids and it works. Within two days the rash is cleared and even at times when there are scabs- they are already in the process of healing. As with many other things in life- early detection is key- the second it looks like diaper rash is happening, start this three step process. It will be much better for you and the baby.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mom.... How did he get on the table?

And I knew it the second I heard that question. My youngest child was standing on the table! How did he get up there? Easily- he climbed. It's what kids do. The problem is there is no warning. One day you see them trying; struggling to climb up something and, quite literally, the next there they are. On top of a table with the biggest smile you've ever seen. Typically, I'm not one to stifle the climbing aspect of development- I actually think it's cute they way kids struggle and then are so proud of their accomplishment. As a kid I used to climb a huge spruce tree in our backyard and jump off. Climb higher the next time. Jump off again. I did this until it hurt to land and then decided that was high enough. To this day, I'm not sure if my parents knew about my climbing adventures.

I can appreciate both the thrill and pride my kids experience climbing onto tables. For them, it's joy and independence. For me, it's clearly time for a toddler gym class.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sissy Beer

So we're at one of those fabulous Friday afternoon play dates where snacks turn into dinner. Lucky for me, this usually means a cocktail for the those of us who have been with kids all day and all week. My friend offers me a Magic Hat #9. Usually we have Bloody Marys- spicy with lots of olives, but with 5 hungry kids that wasn't happening. She said she wasn't sure if I liked "sissy beers" otherwise she would have offered earlier.
Silly girl. At the end of a week with kids- if it's cold, fermented, and comes in a bottle- I'm in.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Popular Girl

It starts early- especially with girls. At the age of 3, I wouldn't call it bullying, but it's definitely hurtful. Somewhere along the line, whether it's from television, older siblings, or some genetically predisposed cell that says “I know how to hurt you” kids say mean things. In my daughter's case it started with 3 year olds saying, “I'm not having any play dates with you.” Then it moved to 'You're not invited to my birthday party.” After that it was “I won't be your best friend.” And most recently it was, “If you want to be popular, you need to dress this way, talk that way, and do whatever I do. If you don't you won't be popular.”

That first day of 1st grade, my daughter didn't even know what the word “popular” meant. She's one of those kids who is friends with everyone. Not attached to one or two specific people, not attached to either boys or girls. We had dealt with some of these things before. I had explained (with support from earlier teachers) that in pre-school, everyone is friends. I had explained that it's not up to the kids who to invite to a birthday party, but it's up to the moms. Most recently I had explained that if someone says you have to DO something to be their best friend, maybe that person is not really your friend.

So here we were. The first day of 1st grade talking about being popular. I first asked my daughter if she knew this girl's name. She didn't so when discussing this situation, I just called her “Popular Girl.” I asked her if she knew what “popular” meant. She didn't so I explained what it meant and said that you don't have to be a certain way or dress a certain way for people to want to hang out with you. Your friends are your friends. The result of Popular Girl's entrance into our lives was that my daughter was now requesting certain clothes and boots that look a certain way. She's always had an eye for fashion so I was open to her recognition of current style and offered to comply with her request. I asked her, “Is this what Popular Girl was wearing?” She said yes. I reminded her that you don't have to dress a certain way for people to like you. She said she knew that, but liked the clothes anyway. So I did a little shopping.

The next day, there was yet another interaction with Popular Girl. She gave my daughter the same criteria for people to like her. I asked my daughter if she knew this girl's name yet. “No” she said, so we kept on going with Popular Girl.” Today my advice to my daughter was similar: Your friends are your friends and that's it. Then I asked her, “Does Popular Girl have a lot of friends?” She said, not surprisingly, “No.”

The third day of school, I got the same report. Popular Girl had once again set the rules for how my daughter was to go about having friends. On this day, I did two things. The first was I asked my daughter if Popular Girl had an older sister. She immediately said, “Yes! What's her name?” I told her I didn't know, but after 3 days, I was getting the picture of where the clothing and influences were coming from. This girl dressed nothing like my daughter's friends and classmates- most of whom are the oldest in their families.

Finally, on the fourth day of the first week of 1st grade, I asked my daughter to do two things for me as we discussed Popular Girl. The first was to just ignore her and walk away and the second was to point her out to me. After school my daughter showed me who Popular Girl was and I was able to do two things. Confirm my thoughts about the influence of an older sister and also get her name.

As it turned out, my daughter was able to walk away. Not surprisingly Popular Girl made her way back to my daughter and they are now friends. However the first chance I had, I spoke to the teacher and told her the whole story. I went in to the school on day while the kids were at lunch so I would not be seen. This time I had the girl's name and was able to retell the story with the happy ending. The teacher was surprised and not happy about this occurrence in her classroom. She did address it with the whole class in that “nursery school” way of being able to say everyone is friends with everyone without embarrassing any particular child. To this day, my daughter does not know that I spoke to her teacher and neither do the kids. While I know it would show her my support, it would also give ammunition to the kids for teasing.

I'm lucky. My daughter is strong and confident. Right now. It may not always be that way. I've been dropped by 3 sets of friends in my life. The gathering of one's friends to go against another friend is one of the most difficult things we endure as people and I think girls are especially mean about it. It takes a strong person to get past it, and an even stronger one to forgive. My daughter has forgiven Popular Girl and they are now friends. I hope each child has learned something from this experience.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Peanut News

In the news: A new approach to treating peanut allergies.
It seems almost too good to be true and I'm still not totally sold. I've seen Super Boy's face swollen for 2 days just from touching a nut. I can only imaging what would happen if he actually ate one and the swelling was INSIDE. At one point, it looked like Super Boy was going to be a lucky 1 out of 5 who would outgrow the allergy, but instead it expanded from peanuts to tree nuts. I found that out the hard way.
There are plenty of substitutes for peanut butter- some even worth eating. I've become a fan of Trader Joe's sun butter (made from sun flower seeds) which is so much more palatable than the cardboard called soynut butter- that stuff just shouldn't be sold.
As far as building a tolerance- I'll have no problem being patient on this one. I'm in no rush to start experimenting with peanuts, no matter how small the amount.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It started with an eye shadow

My friend, Erika, became a new Mary Kay consultant and asked me if I wanted to attend one of her Tuesday night meetings. The class would be about eyes. I never really mastered the whole eye make up thing and had always admired those who knew what they were doing. So I went.
I hadn't been all that far off in my current eye routine That is if you consider using the right colors in the wrong places no too far off. So I entered a world of color and design created just for me. I bought an eye shadow in a color I had never considered before and felt adventurous and pretty.
Erika built up her business and I attended a basic skin care class. I was happy with what I had been using, but why not support a friend? I was impressed! My only request for a change in skin care routine was that it not add any time to my current routine. With 3 kids and an average 20 minutes to get ready, including a shower, time is not a luxury. Erika gave me a plan that did two things. 1) It did not take up any more time than before and 2) felt clean and natural on my face. I was beginning to see the woman I was becoming. The mom who can look put together and still push a stroller. All of this coupled with my new "skinny jeans" and I was on a high.
Here comes the pinnacle of my new me. Erika called me again with the invitation to another Tuesday night meeting and class: luscious lips! I was immediately interested. I'd had even less previous success with my lips than my eyes.
We started with lip exfoliation. Who knew you could do that? Who knew lips needed that? Mine felt so soft I wanted to kiss someone! Next was a filler and smoother. More loveliness for my lips. Then came color. Erika pre-picked colors for me and they were perfect. A lip liner, lip stick, and lip gloss. When all put together, I looked like a new person.
Earlier this week, I had an appointment. I didn't want to look all schlumpy so I did my face that day- including my lips. When I dropped my son off at school and the compliments flowed. I was "gorgeous." "Where was I going?" "What was different?" The reality is that for 3 months, ever since that first eye shadow experience, my make up has been the same. The lip stick ensemble made all the difference. I felt beautiful all thanks to my friend Erika. My new lips have woven themselves into my daily routine and I love them- along with my skinny jeans and my stroller.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My morning

Another early wake up. I finished Breaking Dawn so now it's time for another early morning treat. If I looked at it any other way I'd be cranky. First- there was the wake up at 5am and then the bath at about 5:15. Not mine- no lavender and rose petals here- just a really poopy child whose cold has moved from his head to his tummy. The result is just too gross to post so I'll let you use your imagination. Post bath and some play it was time for Cheerios- aka- my time. Baby went into high chair with a trayful of Cheerios and I went to my knitting bag. The way I see it is that if the person for whom I am making the sweater wakes me up at 5am, then there's no issue with me working on this project and enjoying a little time "to myself." I may even go back to it while he plays and I'm done here. My final act in this little early morning session was making coffee. I started to feel bad for my husband because by the time he gets to the coffee, it will be about 2 hours old. Then I remembered that's he's still in bed and I am now joined by two children. I'm ready for coffee.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

cooking with kids

I just read an online article from Gourmet about a mother who was trying to cook dinner with her baby in a sling and it accidentally caught fire. Clearly it wasn't a major fire and the baby was not hurt but it brought back memories of when my oldest was a baby and I was trying to cook dinner. There I was, at the stove, baby in one arm, wooden spoon in the other. My body was at such a strange angle in an effort to not have her splattered and burned that cooking just became one of my larger challenges.
It took me 7 years and 3 kids to "learn" how to cook dinner with a family. Not for a family, but with a family- there is a difference. Long gone are the days I would spend hours on a Sunday preparing something new and wonderful for me and my husband. Now, if I spend all day cooking on a Sunday it's to make things that can be frozen and used later such as spaghetti sauce. I can't stand sauce in a jar so whether it ultimately becomes part of pizza, vodka sauce, or chicken parmigiana at least my sauce is at the base of the dish.
There are other easy things I have learned to do. i say easy beacause they can be done when my kids are not around or don't immediately need me for some emergency like getting a toy off a shelf.
Use a slow cooker: I know- it sounds so 1970s, but there are some really good recipes out there and you can get a good slow cooker for as little as $35. It's worth every penny. Some of my favorite cookbooks are: The Best Make Ahead Recipe, the Best Slow and Easy Recipes, (both are from the editors of America's Test Kitchen) and Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook.
Cook Ahead: This does not have to be a casserole, but can be a roast that goes in the oven two hours before you eat or something you pull out of your freezer and cook. I also will make something like rice, mashed potatoes or pasta in the late afternoon (around 3) so that at dinner it only has to go in the microwave to be heated up.
Use Steam in the bag vegetables: In my opinion, this is one of the best recent inventions. My favorites are the ones from Whole Foods and the time they save is amazing.
Roast: The editors of Fine Cooking magazine put out special publications fairly often. Most recently there was one on Roasting for meats, vegetables, and fish. The recipes were delicious and in most cases, roasting simply involves a little oil, a little seasoning, and sticking food in the oven- somehting that can easily be done just before, of after, getting that toy off a shelf.

It's only 4 1/2 hours!

Technically, it shouldn't be all that difficult. Once kids get into nursery school, and then elementary school, most of their days are spent someplace else with (thankfully) someone else entertaining them. So, why is it that by the time my kids get home from school I'm wondering who slipped them coffee on the way? It's amazing to me that those last 4 1/2 hours of the day can be the most difficult. Is it the homework, the pressure for play dates, feeding those hungry little people, getting them clean, or the protests at bed time? In theory it should be cake compared to the 12-14 hours with a young infant or toddler. It's not.

I get it- they have had a full day with friends and teachers and need some time to unwind and just be kids. So where does all the energy come from? In my efforts to make it through these last hours of the day without too much strife, I've tried many things. Homework first, play second. Play first, homework second. Let them help prepare dinner. Early baths or showers. Tickle fights. You name it. Most recently I've turned to aroma therapy. I have used Young Living essential oils to maintain my kids health so now I'm trying them to help soothe and calm the wired little people to enter my afternoons. There is a blend called Peace and Calming (just what I need). I tell the kids it's their own special "after school" oil. I put a little on their pulse points so they can easily smell it. They don't know what I'm hoping for from the oil, just that it's to help them after a "stressful" day. The final result is still to be determined, but if it helps keep the energy level bearable- I'm in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The upside of an early wake up

Is there one? For a long time I wasn't sure. Like most adults, I spent many years waking to the sound of an alarm clock. Then I had kids. Miraculously I slept through the alarm clock but awoke at the slightest peep coming from the baby monitor. Now it's a different story, and believe it or not there is an upside.

Two of my three children are early risers. Surely, one of those "paybacks" my father often referenced. The upside- I have discovered "extra time" in my day. Not that I would willingly wake at 5:30, but as long as I'm up.... So I have taken to reading. I'm deep into the Twilight series (www.stepheniemeyer.com) and about 100 pages from finishing book 4, Breaking Dawn. I suppose I could do something more productive like finish the dishes from last night or clean my stove. Maybe when I am done with this book I will. But for this morning, I am stealing some extra time to do something I love before the mad dash to get kids to school. I have finally found an upside to waking when it's still dark.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A child's gift

I am not what I would consider a religious person, but I do consider myself faithful. There is a difference here and it wasn't until adulthood that I actually began to consider that organized religion and faith could be separate as well as connected. I have faith and have taken the structured, organized religion aspect of that with a grain of salt for most of my life. Growing up we did not miss a single Sunday during the school year. I was baptized, confirmed and married in the same church I attended as a child. However, I had not explored my faith in depth until I met my husband. His level of faith and religious expertise far exceeds mine.

As with most things, once we had kids it was time for me to explore the church/faith/religion thing again. I wanted to give my children the same positive church experience I had growing up as well as the benefit of my husband's faith. So we began visiting churches and taking the kids to Sunday School on as regular a basis as anyone else does these days.

My daughter has always enjoyed Sunday school and hearing Bible stories. Both the kid friendly ones and the ones that teach stronger lessons one may not find in a book of children's Bible stories. During a time when we were in between churches Bible stories at dinner was the extent of our kids religious education. My daughter was always captivated by the stories and struggled to understand. "If God said to not eat the fruit, then why didn't Adam and Eve listen?" she would say.

Over the past couple of years we have brought the kids to Good Friday services at church. This year I took all 3 kids to an Ash Wednesday service. A first for me and probably the first one they will remember. The priest told a story, sang songs with the kids, celebrated the Eucharist, and at the end gave each child an olive wood cross from Jerusalem. The children were told that if they came across someone who needed the cross more than they did to go ahead and give it away and she would give them another one to replace it.

My daughter requested that her cross be made into a necklace so she could wear it every day. My son chose to keep his in his pocket so he could find it when he needed to. I added mine to the myriad of items on my key chain. The next day my daughter went to school. When she came home she told me she had given a friend her cross- he was having a hard day. She told him to wear it under his shirt so the teacher wouldn't take it away and add it to her collection of items kids bring into school that can be distracting in class. I was amazed and so proud of her! I reminded her that we would replace her cross on Sunday and told her it was great the way she shared with a friend in need.

Children don't have the fears and inhibitions most adults do about faith. In their innocence kids just share it. They don't worry that someone will judge them or think it strange to share a cross. I can honestly say that I don't know that I would have done the same. In fact, I know I didn't. I have a friend who's 4 year old son had emergency surgery. I should have given her my cross. Instead I called and texted her in the hospital and offered to do anything I could to help. Her husband had things under control so anything I offered was not needed. But this simple gesture could have been so much more. To share a cross in a time of need would have shown something totally different from a text asking how things are going. I have learned from my daughter's gift and will do my best to remember to include it with the offer to help.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Things lost and broken

Today I broke a coffee mug. For the second time. Same mug- broken twice. It got me thinking.

There have been a few times in my life when items I have suddenly become lost or broken. This has happened in groups as well as with individual pieces. The first broken item of significance was a necklace given to me by my high school boyfriend. This was a graduation gift and meant a lot to me. He was my first, and my first love. :) I was a year older and went off to college- something that I had been anxious to do for 8 months. Even with a wonderful new love life, it was time for a change.

I went off to school and it wasn't long before I had a new boyfriend. In the process of growing that relationship I broke the necklace that my first love had given me. At the time I saw it as a sign that something old was done and it was time to move on. So I did. I didn't even look back.
In the 20 years since that incident I don't know how many other things have broken or gotten lost. Certainly not enough to make note of what it might mean or symbolize in my life.

March, 2009. In the past 3 days I have lost two earrings, both from different pairs, and then today I broke the handle of a coffee mug. Again. The earrings I have worn several times in the many years I have had them and clearly never lost one before. One pair was from my dad, the other from my mom. The coffee mug was a gift from my mother. The first time the handle broke (by exactly the same method I might add) I glued it back together. It has since survived the dishwasher, microwave, and coffee almost every day. However, twice now it has NOT survived removal from the dishwasher while my 5 year old is trying to talk to me.

What this all means, I am not sure. Are my relationships with my parents changing as I get further into being a parent myself? Is the one repaired relationship doomed to be broken again? Should I just always wear earrings that have backs attached to them? Based on my first experience with something broken and the fact that these three things have happened in 3 days, I'm just waiting for what's coming next.

Thoughts? Has anyone else experienced this? I know my mother has and we agree that these types of things usually mean something, but exactly what remains to be seen.

I don't expect to find the earrings I lost. I never even heard them fall. I have not glued the mug together again and I'm not sure I will. Am I testing fate? Am I just waiting for what's next? Have I just not gotten enough sleep lately?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on a Third

Growing up I wanted to have 4 kids. I'm pretty sure my sister also wanted 4 kids. As well as we got along and as close as we were, we always thought it would be “fun” to have more siblings and at least one brother. My mother always said two kids was enough, but we didn't believe her.

Then I got married and had my own kids. After having two I finally understood why my parents always said two was enough. For me and my husband it would have made sense to stop at two. We had one child of each sex, both were happy and healthy, they got along well and were close enough in age to be best friends. While out, I could handle both kids with no problem, and when out as a family each adult was responsible for one child. To borrow a sports term we had “man to man” coverage. (More than 2 and you need a “zone” defense.) As my kids got older I was finally able to count on 4-5 nights of uninterrupted sleep. Potty training was complete and my kids could mostly help themselves. Throw in a few hours each day of preschool and I had my life back! It was different from life before kids, but my days were mostly mine again. I did errands by myself. I had breakfast with friends. I could go shopping without deflecting 20 requests for toys.

Then I saw all these pregnant women. Mothers with kids the same ages as mine carrying little babies around with them. They were happy, looked great and embraced having a third. Some even talked about having a fourth. At first it didn't affect me. As time went on though I had more and more thoughts of having another baby. I had my doubts too. What about all my free time? What about all that lost sleep? With every challenge came a convincer. I'd get my free time back-eventually. Lost sleep is really only for a few weeks and any parent will tell you that you never really sleep like you did before having kids again. I survived potty training twice-I could do it again. Even the baby weight comes off. People have “third” children for many reasons. For some it's to balance the first two kids of the same sex. For others, it's always been part of the plan. For probably more than we know it happens by accident. For my friend Erika, it was a third child or a dog. She went for the baby.

For me and my husband, it was a little of everything that led to our third baby. Early on I saw the differences this new baby made in my life. As a woman of “advanced maternal age” I was subjected to tests I hadn't taken with my first two children. The downside: I had to give up hours of what precious “alone” time I had left to myself. The upside: I had a very cool level II 3-D ultrasound that I had only heard about. I could see at only 15 weeks pregnant this little baby looked just like my two older children. Interestingly enough, having been through most of this twice before and with the advancement of technology, this time I sent my husband a text message telling him everything looked great and by the way, we were having a boy. This never would have happened with our first two children. With our third, it was all part of a much more relaxed pregnancy. I was beginning to see the benefits of experience. We were going to be fine- we had done this all before. And truth be told, all I really wanted was a healthy baby. I had heard enough stories over the years from friends (and friends of friends) who had not been as fortunate as I to have smooth and easy deliveries and healthy babies.

For the first time in 3 pregnancies I wasn't rushing delivery and baby arrival. I savored every moment I had to spend time with my two older children and to focus on them without worrying about an infant. We took day trips to the beach and to the Crayola factory. We took family trips to Hershey Park and Bethany Beach. I hung out with my children, took them strawberry picking and to the pool. Summer seemed to last forever that year which made the pregnancy uncomfortable but also motivated me to do as much as I could while I still had both of my arms to myself.

Summer turned to fall and school started. I again was able to appreciate aspects of my day and more importantly our community and circle of friends in a way I hadn't before. The result- if a doctor's appointment ran late, I could have a friend pick up a child from school. Someone who we knew and trusted and more importantly, someone with whom my children would be comfortable. While some friends were enamored with my pregnancy, some were also intimidated or even scared- especially the husbands. Regardless, all were willing to help.

Finally, as my pregnancy was giving way to the arrival of a baby, I realized one of the biggest advantages to having baby #3. Having had two very different labor and delivery experiences previously, I was prepared for anything and either scenario to take place. I was so tuned in to my body that I knew the early contractions for what they were and was prepared for arrival, as well as making sure my house, kids, and food supply were ready for me to not be around for two days. On the day of our 3rd child's arrival, my husband was at a birthday party with our two older children. I noticed that the baby wasn't moving. Different from the first time this happened, I did not panic. I sent a text message to my husband with the news and said I'd call the doctor when he got home from the party. He suggested calling then and told me it was almost time for cake and he'd be home in 45 minutes. So I called the doctor and packed my bag for the hospital. Thankfully, my mom was here and prepared to stay with our 2 older children. My husband got home from the party (after cake) and I made him a sandwich and told him to take his time getting ready to go to the hospital. We kissed the kids good bye, grabbed the camera and my bag. There was only excitement in the air. No fear or nervous anxiety. We were ready to have a baby and all the joy and happiness that come with a new infant in the house. What we didn't anticipate was how the absence of the anxiety would make such a positive impact on our growing family. We were already used to having more than one child so that adjustment was not an issue, instead there was a calmness that came with welcoming a baby.

The beauty of having a third child is that you don't experience the panic, loneliness, and cluelessness that you do with a first or the overwhelming mayhem that you do with the second. The result is that I have been telling all my friends that I think everyone should have a third child. While I haven't convinced anyone yet, I can see some people's wheels spinning while in others I see sheer panic. With my friends who already have three, we talk about the possibility of a fourth.

The most significant difference between the first two children and the third is experience and that is really only part of it. There is also comfort in expectations and the reality of having an infant around. As a result one is able to truly appreciate a baby for what it is. You find happiness in a cute sneeze rather than panic over a cold or potential allergy. There is comfort knowing that for the first 6 months your baby is immobile rather than rushing the crawling and walking stage. We have the pleasure of experiencing the joy of all those “firsts” without the concern of whether or not a friend's child is either “ahead of” or “behind” ours in development.

The thing I appreciate the most about having a baby with two slightly older children is that I am not isolated the way I was with my first and to some extent my second. I love the fact that I have to leave the house every day. I find pleasure in talking with other moms at school as well as the peace of nap time. Don't get me wrong, I love pajama days too, but I don't feel housebound the way I did with our first. At the same time if there is a sick child, I just know that I am home for the day and that's all there is to it. I also know that tomorrow will be “back to normal.” For the most part, even with a baby in tow I feel like I still have a life it just involves having company. The baby loves it too. He gets all the attention at school during pick up. All of this results in the true joy of having a baby without the overshadowing loneliness of a major life change.

So when considering whether or not to have a third child one needs to think past the lack of sleep, extra weight, loss of free time and changing of diapers. There's so much more, and once you see the child who was your first baby go off to first grade, you really are able to slow sown and appreciate the new baby. Yes, it's more work. Yes, there's more laundry. In my opinion it's all worth it to see that first smile, watch those first steps, and hear that first word- even if it's not “mama.”