Friday, December 14, 2012


I joked this morning on Facebook about how vulnerable I felt having left my phone at home. Keep in mind, I would be back at home by 12:15 and connected once again.

I blissfully squirreled myself into an office and, uninterrupted, completed a work task that has been haunting me for a week, just begging for a quiet block of time. After preschool pick-up and lunch, I plopped the three year old on the couch for a bit of Peppa Pig on the DVR.

And there they were as the television screen faded into focus. Images of ambulances, so very many ambulances, lined up. Police officers. Flashing lights. Audio that wasn't working from a field reporter offering me no context. The words: "Shooting at Elementary School." The channel was local.

Panic. Fear. Where? Where? WHERE! It only took 15 seconds for the video to scroll through to show me this was Connecticut, but for 15 seconds my heart seized and my stomach dropped and all I could think of was the folly of forgetting my phone while my child could be hurt, scared, alone. Even now, I am still shaken. Still shaking. Still afraid. Enough to take fingers to keys to type, to make sense, to feel a little less alone in knowing that there are mothers not breathing a sigh of relief. There are mothers keening for their children. Mothers rushing to emergency rooms. Mothers pacing floors while doctors tend to injuries little bodies should never endure. Mothers numb with denial, knowledge, loss.

Empty stockings will remain on mantles. Gifts are tucked away in closets to bring fresh tears when discovered at some later date. Brothers and sisters are unmoored and frightened. Children now carry scars that school isn't safe.

The cocoons we create for our children are fragile. Despite our best intentions and most fervent precautions, predators will still find a way into our lives to shake our souls.

I feel sick for those families.

I can't dislodge the image of those flashing lights.

I will be waiting, impatiently, for my son to step off the school bus this afternoon. I will be waiting to hold him tight, to remind my heart of the feel of his skinny little embrace, to buffer his protest, to ruffle his hair while I pretend I'm not crying, to own the joy that my boy has come home to me.

Because in Connecticut, someone like me won't be able to do that today.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tooth Fairy IOU

The six year old lost his first tooth today. And we're both a little bummed.

The thing had been hanging on by a thread for several days. Last night, the hubby and I tried, in vain, to pull it for him. But our little guy was a little freaked out by the whole thing and had little patience for our amateur dentistry. When he didn't loose it by breakfast, I packed his back pack with an envelope and instructed him to bring it home for the tooth fairy if he lost it at school.

Sure enough, he came off the bus this afternoon and announced he lost it. Followed by, "I swallowed it."

It was an accident and from what I gathered just fell out of his gums and slid right on down his gullet without his knowledge. He's pretty torn up about it, despite the fact that the tooth fairy would accept an explanation note under his pillow if the tooth was missing.

I tried to focus on the excitement of it all, but part of me is feeling a bit sad about it, too. This was a first for both of us. I remember the bumpy edges of that little tooth first breaking through his pink gums when he was 10 months old. I watched it grow and change his little gummy smile, watched as it was joined by others until he finally had a mouthful of little, pearly chompers that peeked through smiles and bit through new foods.

Now it's gone. I'm not entirely sure I would have kept it after the tooth fairy picked it up, so it's not that, but I do feel a bit of sadness that I didn't get to hold that first tooth in my palm, marvel at its smallness and say a final goodbye to his babyhood. He's growing and changing so fast. He's reading and smart mouthing and doesn't want to crawl into my lap nearly as much anymore. The fact that he's passed another milestone only solidifies that the ride is going too fast.

But life isn't perfect, right? Sometimes you swallow the tooth or mess up the proposal (points at self - story for another day) or burn the dinner, but it doesn't mean you can't still have the magic of the tooth fairy, the engagement or the impromptu takeout.

Tonight, I will still sneak into a bedroom and slip something beneath a pillow. Another first for all of us. Then, tomorrow, I'll try to get used to his new smile with a little hole in the middle. Just another piece of his fading babyhood.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

30 Days of Thanks

Back in 2008, after a crazy, week-long road trip with the two year old, I felt the need for perspective and embarked on a month-long journey of being thankful. I titled it 30 Days of Thanks. The following year, our second child was born and a friend took up the task. I tackled it again in 2010, the same month that I also challenged myself to NaNoWriMo. That was a month of crazy. Last year it appeared to morph onto Facebook statuses and this year, I see folks I've never met quoting 30 Days of Thanks all over walls and twitter feeds. My little idea has gone viral.

Which only makes me feel even more guilty that I haven't even attempted to participate this year. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

Not that I'm not thankful. Goodness knows I have so many things in my life that I am grateful for and should take a moment to recognize. The only problem has been that this particular November has been jam packed full of work deadlines, school commitments, birthday parties and Thanksgiving hosting duties. All sound like weak excuses and all the more reason to stop and smell the proverbial roses. However, part of my rule of threes and attempt at single-tasking is giving myself permission sometimes to not participate. Not to participate in worry. Not to participate in every activity. Not to participate in petty arguments. And not to participate in one more task that instead of allowing me to feel thankful, would probably just make me feel more pressure to complete another task. Not really the point of the exercise at all.

The good news is that I find myself with a strange Sunday afternoon where I don't have laundry to do, the groceries have been procured and put away, the house is finally quiet after a holiday of out of town guests and the hubby has taken the boys to a playground. I am taking this moment to look back on all that I do have to be thankful for this year and knocking out 30 Days in one go. Please indulge me for a moment...

1. My kids - I never knew that something that can cause such frustration and angst could also deliver such profound feelings of love, laughter and joy.

2. My husband - I don't tell him enough how much he means to me. But without his steady hand, there is no way I'd be able to do/be/see/love as much. He's the real deal and I'm a lucky lady.

3. My sister - She embodies strength every day, even when she's feeling her weakest. Not to mention we can laugh until I'm crying and she's wheezing like a smoker simply by looking at each other.

4. My parents - They are two of the toughest, most selfless people I know and they would walk through fire for my sister and I.

5. Real Housewives - Before I get too serious, let's be thankful for those moments when I don't have to pretend like I'm making it work and can watch a bunch of crazy, catty ladies who appear to have everything and yet are completely f'd up in ways I can't even fathom. Thanks for making me feel normal again, ladies, and so entertained at the same time.

6. My health - This summer has had its share of medical drama and I'm pleased to be on this side of it and eager to move beyond it.

7. Calendars, iPhone reminders and color coded sharpies - without them, I'd be more of a mess than I already am.

8. Room moms - Because I don't think I have it in me, I am so glad that these ladies do and make it look so easy while doing it.

9. Peppa Pig - My 3 year old now calls his grandma "Granny" and pronounces tomato "toe-mah-toe" thanks to these little British piggies. Truly adorable.

10. New Friends - It's so fun to watch my boys navigate new friendships in the new school year and find new interests as a result. Not to mention all the new moms and dads we get to meet.

11. Old Friends - I have a wonderful group of people around me that I can reach out to for a play date, advice, a movie date, book recommendations, trips down memory lane, laughs, or a shoulder to lean on.

11. Work - As complex as it makes my life sometimes, I truly enjoy the people I work with, the work I'm doing and the challenge it presents.

12. Water - There is something so soothing to my soul about being near the water, whether it's a lake, the beach or a river. I am so thankful to have had time at the beach this year to reset.

13. Family - Taking the kids to my extended family's haunts in New England this summer was a highlight I will not soon forget. Clamoring on stone walls, playing in the pond, pool games, cousins, great aunts and uncles, chowder, chocolate cake, brotherly bonding.

14. Chapel Hill - our home away from home.

15. Clean house - it doesn't happen often, but when it does, boy does it make me feel good.

16. Playgrounds - My boys love playgrounds. I love that they love to be active. I love that on a playground I can play as much or as little as they need me to. Some days they want to just run around with their friends. Other days, the little guy and I can play pretend games in a deserted play structure.

17. Cousins - I love that my boys have a built-in group of friends for life because they have cousins.

18. Babysitters - Cause when you can't find one, you realize how dependent you are on them.

19. Leftovers - Not just because it's Thanksgiving and I haven't had to cook a meal since Thursday, but leftovers always make the next day so much easier, don't they?

20. Books - Even when I'm busy, I love having a book to read. A story can take me to so many places. When I don't have a book, I feel unmoored, a little lost, a tad bit lonely.

21. School programs - I love that we're finally in Kindergarten and have Thanksgiving sing alongs, Halloween character parades and other programs to attend. They are so silly and predictable, but seeing my first born up there participating in these rites of childhood is so fun.

22. Quiet afternoons -  I am so thankful for this afternoon. It is so rare to have a quiet house to myself and the freedom in my schedule to know that there is nothing that HAS to be done right in this moment.

23. Not having to travel this holiday. It's always nice to not be in the car driving down I-85 for an entire afternoon.

24. Board games. Yes, I'm a dork.

25. Ice skating - even if the boys didn't quite get it yet this year, it was still fun to be gliding out on the ice for a little bit.

26. Home town fun - I love living in Atlanta and all that it offers. Museums, the zoo, the Botanical Garden, parks. There is so much available to do, if we want to.

27. Pie - yup, Thanksgiving is still on my mind, but pie is just perfection.

28. Sweaters - A nice cozy sweater on a cool day is just so comforting.

29. Tickles - There is nothing that makes my day more than the sound of my kids laughing and, when I need a little pick-me-up, I have been known to resort to a bit of tickling to hear it. They never disappoint.

30. Jumping in puddles - Because life needs to be silly, and those are the moments that I am most thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Multitasking Myth

Multitask - vb, to work at several different tasks simultaneously. (courtesy

As a mother, I thought I was the queen of multitasking. Soothing kids while making dinner, rocking babies while writing blog posts, nursing while going to the bathroom (yes, I managed this a couple of times). When I started working last year, I assumed multitasking was the way to go, answer phone calls at the playground, sending media advisories while the kids are playing, cleaning the house while cooking dinner and playing Chutes & Ladders. No biggie. Right?


The last few weeks I have come to the realization that multitasking is a myth. The more I stretch myself between tasks, the less effective I am at completing them, or completing them well. I have tried to make a conscious effort to focus on one thing at a time. Whether it's finishing up one work task before picking up the next, or dedicating time to household tasks, or spending time with the kids.

Sure, multitasking happens. There was getting the boys involved in the birthday party goody bag prep that ended up being an enjoyable joint activity while also getting something checked off the list. There was the cleaning the house while the boys had friends over for a play date (hello, distractions). And, of course, there was the taking a conference call while at a child's birthday party with the 3 year old who, of course, had to make a trip to the potty. Thank goodness those editors had no idea what was going on on the other end of my muted line.

But if I've learned anything from these flex schedule work arrangement and mothering gigs, it's that things always get done. Maybe not right when I want them to, sometimes late at night, but they always get done.

I'm learning to cut myself some slack and focus on one thing at a time. It's a subtle difference to how I approach my day, but seems to be working.

Like right now. I've been typing this in the early hours while the kids are snuggled up beside me watching a little vacation morning TV. Think I'll hit publish and join them under the blanket.

Time to focus.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After

I had the privilege of volunteering in my son's kindergarten classroom today. My job was to go over an election work sheet and help the children cut out and paste answers to questions about what happens on election day, who was running, where the president lives, etc... Pretty benign.

I was surprised when some of the children started volunteering who their parents' had voted for. Per my earlier rant post, I did not share with my kids whom I voted for, despite the 6 year old's continued pleas. But the children were all pretty cute today, telling me about going to the polls with mom or dad and laughing when I told them the president's office was shaped like an oval and about the stickers they received.

And then...

One very adorable, sweet little girl pointed to the picture of one of the candidates, made a disgusted noise and said, "Ew! He's the bad man." I'm sure my mouth hit the floor while I tried to play if off.

"Sweetie, he's not a bad man. Both men want to help the country very much."

"No! He is a bad man. I'm going to color an X over his face because he's bad." And she vehemently went to work on just that.

As parents, we need to be so careful about what we say in front of our children. Whether you're talking about the presidential candidates, a neighbor, your in-laws, your boss, our children hear everything. If you speak in judgmental tones, so will your child. How sad that this little girl will now think that our presidential election was about good guys and bad guys when, quite honestly, anyone who wants to volunteer for the most thankless job in the world is worthy of respect regardless of whether you agree with their ideology or not.

Honestly, I am very saddened by this. Sad that it's come to this. To kindergartners repeating hateful words about people who deserve our respect. How can our country come together to solve our problems if we're raising our children to perpetuate it?

It was a wake-up call for me. I'll certainly be watching what comes out of my mouth. You never know where it will be repeated.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I've had it.

This political season is about to push me over the edge. I think a lot of you, based on conversations I've had, feel the same way.

Let's get a few things straight.

I am a complex person. I believe in a certain set of values and ethics that I learned from my parents. My life is guided by this moral compass they so lovingly instilled. I am a product of my parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, church and friends. I found independence in college where I forged my own path, separate from these founding mothers and fathers, and began the evolution of my own, independent thought. There were hard lessons learned about friendship, business, the gray fog that lives between the stark contrasts of right and wrong, along the way as I married, moved and began a career. These people, experiences and situations all worked to forge the person I am today and my current city, neighborhood, friends, colleagues, children and present set of challenges provide me the opportunity to continue to evolve as a person and in my thought process.

You are a complex person. I can't conceive of what has happened in your life, what events have shaped you, influenced you and otherwise created the uniqueness that is you. I just know that we are friends. We are two complex people with enough similar interests to be writing and then reading this same piece of html space in the world. I respect our differences, hope to learn from your set of experiences in the same way I hope I can share what I have gleaned through life and together we can form a crooked puzzle piece of our relationship to add to the picture of humanity.

The world is a complex place. There are difficult problems and very few straightforward answers. There are a myriad of circumstances that make any one solution work for me and not work for you, or vice versa. There are entities that want the best for us and entities that want the best for themselves. And it's often difficult to figure out the difference, particularly when it comes to leadership where power can often blur vision and confuse priorities.

Now that we can all agree on the above set of complexities, let's get down to brass tacks.

I identify with a particular political party. It's on my voter registration. But, it does not define me nor does it define my vote.

Growing up, we watched the news during dinner. My parents openly discussed the news of the day in front of my sister and me. I did not necessarily know at the time which political party my parents identified with because it wasn't how we talked "back then." But I do remember my mom's pride when Mondale chose Ferraro as a running mate and how excited, in turn, I was as an 8 year old girl that a woman was on the ticket. I remember waiting for President Reagan to arrive in our hometown and being so excited to see him. I remember my father's outrage when my grandfather tried to get his goat by announcing he was going to vote for Perot.

And I remember each and every election day asking my parents who they voted for. And they never, not once, told me.

"It's a personal decision," my father would say. My sister and I would spend that meal trying to guess. Putting forth our arguments as to why we thought he would vote one way or she would vote the other and my dad would just sit back and smile. I imagine it probably amused him that we were having to think and articulate our positions in order to guess. At the end of the meal, however, that smile would simply be irritatingly enigmatic to my sister and me as we still had no certain idea who they had pulled the lever for.

Now, however, we seem to wear our political affiliations on our chests like we do our favorite team sweatshirts. Facebook has created a culture where not only can you share your opinion, but you can tell others they are wrong for having theirs. It's often contentious, rarely productive, conversations that result. And this is on both sides.

I have no problem with someone posting an article about a particular election issue and offering their insight into why one side might have a better solution. Those posts, however, seem to be fewer and farther between the simply incendiary ones posted with little to know explanation other than "my guy is better than your guy" or the even better "how could anyone vote for *this* guy?"

I read one of these in my timeline today, hence this diatribe. Post something informative. Don't tell me, show me. Make me take a step back to think on an issue and how it might affect someone other than myself because the fact of the matter is, I only walk in my own shoes and see things through my own eyes. Make me see something new.

Instead the tone is of superiority and condescension. It's ugly and mean and I don't need an acquaintance from college to insinuate I'm dumb for my beliefs because that's insulting me and the village of people and experiences that formed me. And frankly, I may identify with a particular political party, but I do actually look at the totality of a candidate and decide who best matches my priorities.

Because I am more than a D or an R. I am a woman, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a worker, a Catholic, a helper, a friend, a neighbor and a citizen. And if you look at me differently once you know which side of the fence I tend to sit on, then that says more about you than me, doesn't it?

The fact of the matter is we are all in this together. I have no doubt that both candidates truly have the best intentions for this nation at heart. You can't malign their motives. Their plans, sure. But their morals and motivation? How could you possibly know? How could you possibly presume?

So, please, don't presume you know me based on my voter registration.

I am a complex person.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sophie's Choice: Kid's Saturday Scheduling Edition

I knew it was bound to happen, but I still wasn't prepared for how to handle it. The 6 year old has been invited to a birthday party and has a soccer game at the exact same time. There is no way to do them both. We will have to choose. 

The husband's initial reaction at the scheduling conflict was, "party." The birthday party is for a close friend, would be fun for the whole family and will most certainly involve cake. 


I began to wonder if we let him pick the party, what are we teaching him about commitment to team? Are we insinuating that it's okay to pick the fun thing over the obligation? Will this make it harder to get him to practice/Sunday school/anything he just doesn't feel like doing? 


Are we making too big a deal about what it means to participate on a 6 year old soccer team? I mean, if we're ever going to blow off a game for a fun thing, it would be now, right? And it's not like we're letting him skip to watch TV or play in the yard or because he doesn't feel like it. It's a special circumstance. 

And there will be cake. (I clearly have a problem with sweets lately). 


So, dear Internet friends, oh mothers of I overreacting? 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rule of Threes

Three blind mice. Three little pigs. The three bears. Three strikes. The holy trinity. Threes have a strange ring to it. We seek them out in writing and speeches. Wikipedia defines the rule of three as: "writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things."

I have recently come to the realization that my life only has room for three major categories on a daily basis. Or at least that's all my brain can handle. Two are unmovable items on my daily to-do list: the boys and work. The third thing is more flexible - redoing the boys' bedrooms, planning for a recent trip to the beach, tackling the soon-to-be three year old's birthday. 

Unfortunately, my life of threes has not seemed funny, satisfying or more effective. It feels limiting. It feels frustrating. It feels exhausting. (Notice the three. Felt good, right?). 

I want to constantly do more. Achieve more. Accomplish more. I can barely keep track of when which kid needs to wear what shirt to school for a field trip or spirit day and yet I expect I should be able to do more. There are few days when I don't think about this space. And yet here this space sits neglected. Lonely. Empty. August 5th staring from the top of the page as a reminder of how far from number three it has become on the priority list of my life. 

So how can I be so exhausted at the end of each day and yet feel like I'm still not doing enough? My dear husband would tell you that my personal standards are too high. He's probably right, to an extent. I see accomplished women that I admire seemingly doing it all. I have to remind myself that I don't see the sausage being made. I don't see the hours spent not sleeping or the help they may have or their own moments of frustration. Comparing myself to others doesn't get me, or anyone else, anywhere. My bigger problem is comparing myself to the self I'd like to be in a perfect world of a 48 hour day, the need for only 4 hours of sleep a night and supersonic speed to slay through a to do list. 

The strange thing is that the other day, while stuck in carpool, I realized this personal rule of threes. This idea that I can handle kids, work and only one other major priority on a daily basis. And at that moment, it was freeing. Why try to pile on? Take each day and decide what that third thing will be and get it done. When it's finished, whether that's in two hours or two days or two weeks, figure out the next thing. I have to let the rest go, mentally, until I have the time to tackle them with the attention they deserve. 

That's why, today, after getting the kids to bed, knocking out a few work tasks and settling into the couch with a box of two-bite brownies (damn you, Publix), I opened up my sadly neglected address on blogspot and filled up some space before my eyelids closed themselves. The birthday party planning, the desk reorganization, the laundry, can all wait for another day this week. 

Now that I recognize my personal rule of threes, I'm going to embrace it. Why fight to add a fourth thing that just won't get done anyway? I need to start setting myself up for success instead of failure. 

It's time to accept, assess and achieve. There's that rhythm of three again. 

Now if I could only stop at three brownies.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kindergarten Eve

Tomorrow, my oldest starts Kindergarten.

A week ago, I was counting down the days to the start of school. We have struggled this summer: butting heads, having discipline setback after setback, and to be honest, I was craving a little distance from my stubborn five year old.

Now. It's here. And I am a mix of pride, terror, sadness, joy and trepidation. He's going to take a big step up into that bright yellow school bus tomorrow morning and I won't know a thing about what is happening to him until he steps back off 8 hours later.

His teacher seems fantastic. The school is stellar. The neighborhood's older kids will certainly look out for him on the bus. He will be fine.

While I will be a puddle of mess tonight, tomorrow morning and as I stand waiting for him to disembark at 3:15.

Wasn't it just a few days ago that I was sitting in this same spot, pounding down the ice cream, swollen ankles propped on the sofa waiting as day after day after day after my due date passed? Wasn't it just yesterday afternoon that I swayed my little one in my arms to our special song? Wasn't it just last night that he was still a toddler when I snuck in his room to check on him? Wasn't it just this morning that he started preschool?

Because those moments are simply a heartbeat away, tomorrow will be tough. Because those moments are simply a heartbeat away, tomorrow will be easy. I know there are many new experiences to come, funny stories to hear, comfort to be offered.

At some point, I'll have to deal with my own changes. Kindergarten means a new role for me, too. I'm not sure what it will entail or how different it will be from the roles I have now. So much of my decision to stay home hinged on the vague, "until the kids are in school." Tomorrow marks the beginning of that time. Granted, I've already started opening that door with part time work and I have several years before the little dude is ready for Kindergarten, it's simply strange to think that the past six years have slipped so effortlessly into space.

Tomorrow I will embrace the feelings that I have. I will accept the tears, fill my day with mimosas and conversation at a neighbor's back to school party, and relish the excitement on my big guy's face when he bounds down the steps of that bus in the afternoon.

As much as I want to hang on, this is my moment to let go.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kids - The Ultimate Reality Check

During dinner the hubby was scrolling through his playlist on his iPhone and picking the "High Heeled Mama" songs. The songs I go back to time and again. The songs I'd deem perfect. There was Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" and Marc Broussard's "Home" and Prince's "Adore" and Ray Charles' "Georgia" and Rent's "525,600 Minutes" among others.

Before the hubby went to get the boys ready for bath time, he chose an Alison Krauss song. A friend of mine, who has passed, found her voice as perfect as I do. In the quiet, I raised my glass to the sky, taking a moment to remember him and lose myself in the perfection of Alison's voice.

Then, from around the corner, came my five year old. Naked as the day he was born. Streaking through the living room shouting "Naked 5 year old! Naked 5 year old!"

And I couldn't help but smile. Not just at the absurdity of the moment, but in the truth that this lost friend would find it completely hilarious.

I can almost hear him laughing now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Less Balance, More See-Saw

I'll admit it, I haven't read the piece in the Atlantic. I've seen some tweets. Read a few commentaries about the piece. Seen some folks post it on Facebook. But I haven't read it. I'm not sure that I will. Do I need one more person expounding on whether what I'm doing is right/wrong/indifferent/feminist/anti-feminist/social commentary/entitled?


During the past year of this part-time, flexible working arrangement, I've come to believe that balance is a dirty word. It's a misleading concept to mothers who are busting their butts at work, child rearing, love and life.

Can you ever find true balance? I don't know. Maybe you can. And good for you. Truly. But for me, I don't know that I want balance. I struggle each day to find presence. When I'm working, I truly enjoy it and tackle the challenge at hand. When I'm with the kids, I love being mom. The difficulty is getting the work voice out of my head when I'm with the kids, and vice versa.

So, debating whether we can have it all seems kind of pointless. We already do "have it all," don't we? Many of us have jobs and kids and relationships and... It's what we do with it "all" that determines whether we are happy. The fact of the matter is that what I do with it and what you might do with it could be two totally different things and yet each might make us happy.

For me, there isn't balance and I don't strive for it. I'm constantly on a see-saw. Sometimes I'm working, sometimes I'm with the kids. You can't see without the saw. Luckily, for me, the ride is what makes it so rewarding. There is nothing less fun than a balanced see-saw, is there? Just staring at your counterpart, wishing someone could tip the scales to send you up into the sky or back down to earth.

If balance works for you, great. But I don't need someone else to tell me what the right balance is. I like my see-saw life for now. In those moments when I pass through the balance point on the way up and down, I shall acknowledge them with a nod knowing they may be fleeting, but understanding that I will see them again.

And that the journey getting to them is more exciting than just sitting still.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rites of Passage

There was a time in my pre-kids life that I blatantly scoffed at the idea of preschool graduations. How silly these little ceremonies. Congrats, kid, you can say your ABCs and identify colors. You've really achieved something.

Perhaps that was just my own insecurity that I never had attended preschool and therefore possessed no pictures of myself in a tiny cap and gown. Perhaps I thought it was just another way we, as Americans, were unnecessarily praising the next generation. Or maybe, just maybe, I was full of crap.

What? A person admitting that kids changes their perspective? Yup. Shocking, I know.

I am sure there are still quite a few out there who still scoff and drip sarcasm at the idea of a preschool commencement, but I'm not one of them. I am a preschool graduation convert.

The 5 year old graduated from preschool today. The preschool he has spent the last three years finger painting and singing and learning about books and navigating new friendships in. As the day approached, I was finding myself quite emotional about it. Not his leaving preschool, necessarily. After all, the 2 year old will be there next year singing the same songs, his art adorning the same halls and letting butterflies loose in the same playground. But rather, I was emotional at all this step represented. Not all he had learned or accomplished or done. But all that he will learn, accomplish and do.

Today marks the beginning of his real academic journey. I have nurtured and cared and hugged and played Chutes and Ladders and taken him on this infant to toddler to preschooler journey and now it's time for me to let him go. It's time to test the skills the hubby and I (and his preschool teachers) have taught him. It's time for him to make decisions about who he sits with at lunch and how he will conduct himself in a  classroom. I have done everything I can do to prepare him and now it's time to let him go.

On August 6, he will step onto a new path.

Of course, he's not leaving home and my influence and guidance will help him navigate the life lessons he still has to learn, because at age 5 he certainly hasn't seen the real challenges life has to offer. But today, I can celebrate how he can read and think and question and joke. Concepts that, considering 5 years ago he couldn't walk or talk and only had two teeth, are pretty monumental.

And that is worth celebrating.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Ties that Bind

When I was pregnant, I day dreamed of all the things I was going to teach my child. These were hazy day dreams filled with non specifics, but moments of wistful promise punctuated by kicking feet against my ribs that made me giddy with anticipation of all that I could be as a mother.

I soon realized that, in the beginning, there is very little mother-to-child teaching going on and much more child-to-mother rearing. I was the one, in those early days, taking part in sleep training soon waking after four hours in anticipation of nightly feedings. My little one taught me his cries for hunger, stimulation, overstimulation, a new diaper, snuggles. I soon learned to accomplish most physical tasks, like making dinner or sorting laundry or typing an email, with one hand. On top of it all, my little one taught me to love in a way that I never anticipated. He showed me pure joy. And eventually, he taught me to trust myself, my mother self.

That first year, I watched as he discovered and perfected rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking. There was very little I actually taught him. How can you teach a baby to roll over? They simply take their time practicing it until one day there they are, on their bellies so excited that they commanded their bodies to do something. Then of course, they realize they are in fact on their bellies and can't quite command themselves to turn back over and so the learning process begins anew.

Even as a preschooler, my little guy would dictate the pace of learning by one day being obsessed with letters or trucks or planets. I watched as his sponge brain soaked up all the information it could handle turning him into the inquisitive, hilarious, bright little boy that he is. But I never felt comfortable taking credit for any of it. I simply answered some questions along the way, provided a few factoids, maybe a helpful analogy.

Until recently. My five year old has learned to tie his shoes. I, his mother, little ole me, taught him that. I showed him how to make the "x" and curve the bow and push it through. I patiently encouraged him to practice and talked him through his frustration at not mastering the skill the first time he tried. And now he can tie his shoes. All by himself. Sure, they're too loose and they come undone easily, but he bends down to retie them now himself instead of shoving a foot under my nose to fix.

I did that. I taught him something. Something tangible. Something that he'll take with him forever.

I hope that I'm also teaching him the less tangibles - compassion, love, empathy.

But for now, I taught him to tie his shoes. And I feel pretty good about that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Strength of a Mother

When I was first pregnant, I worried I wouldn't be able to handle the icky factor of parenting. The diapers. The snot. The vomit. The blood.

I found I was quickly desensitized. The serious injuries tend to keep me focused - assess the damage, stop the bleeding, make the trip to the children's ER for stitches. I am always surprised at how calm I am in those situations. The moments after, not so much, but when action needs to be taken, I have been able to take it.

Even the gross stuff is dealt with quickly. After a recent temper tantrum gone too long resulted in me wearing my two-year old's just consumed dinner, the hubby and I had the clothes in the wash, sheets changed, kid in the tub, clean jammies on, Resolve on the carpet, extra squirt of Purell on the hands and Lysol sprayed on all surfaces all within a matter of 15 minutes so I could get back to calming the little guy with a story.

I have faith that a mother is as strong as she needs to be. My sister recently had to spend a scary trip to the emergency room and night in the hospital with her 10 month old with RSV. Although I know she was scared and terrified of the what ifs, she was strong for her little one. She fought alongside her and cared for her until that baby was quickly cruising between the sofa and the coffee table again, that long night now just another battle scar of motherhood.

And then I marvel at another mother I know. A mom who found out her two year old son had brain cancer and comforted him through surgery and chemo and an uncertain future all while being pregnant with her daughter. I rejoiced when he was declared cancer free. I high-fived him at our college's homecoming and smiled as our two boys struck up the instant friendship that five year olds do. I crossed my fingers each time she'd bring him back for a follow-up MRI, exhaling at each clear result. And then, this time. It wasn't clear.

Today, she is living through the nightmare again. A surgeon has gone into her son's brain for a second time to remove another mass, similar to the first. I can't imagine what must be running through her head about next steps, treatments, logistics of care, missing school, explaining things to a child who now understands so much more at 5 and a half. And yet I can imagine what is going through her mind. According to her updates today, she's holding his hand. She's made sure he's in his Star Wars pajamas. She's stroking, hugging and praying. She's doing what a mother does.

She's being strong.

And in those moments when she is given an opportunity to rest and be weak and cry and rage and worry, I hope she feels the strength of all the rest of us mother's here to help carry her load. Because the sum of all the super heroes and weightlifters and soldiers in the world can't hold a candle to the strength of a mother.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Where to even start.

It's been more than a month since I've been in this space. Since I've stared down the blinking cursor. Since I've felt the tingle of something to say in my finger tips. Even now, I'm not sure what I want to share, tell, say. There are a number of things bouncing in my brain, a cacophony of to-do lists, observations, worries.

Typically, to silence the noise, I take a deep breath and pluck something to pour onto the page and watch as the burden lifts with each sentence or clarity makes its way out of the paragraphs or I simply enjoy the left to right motion of my thoughts finding their way outside of myself.

For some reason, taking a deep breath hasn't been working. The thoughts are stuck. The page hasn't been beckoning. And I miss it.

I'm not sure if it's work. The fact that I'm creating, arranging commas and otherwise filling blank pages and just don't have anything left. I don't know if it's the stage my kids seem to be in that leaves me exhausted after asking, asking, asking... I'm not sure if it's winter, writer's block, a hangnail.

Excuses. All of it. Today, with the sun shining through the window, the laundry begging to be folded, Bravo tempting me on the sofa, the hubby out with the boys, I am here. I might not know what to say, where it's going, how to solve the problems, but I am present. I am at the page.

And that is a small victory.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Being Flexible with my Flex Schedule

I had a light bulb moment this week. Perhaps the reason why "flex scheduling" isn't more readily embraced by the corporate community is that employers aren't sure they can, in fact, be flexible. They may feel that the burden will fall on them.

The fact of the matter is, my current employers have asked, simply, that a certain level of work be completed. Other than perhaps understanding that my best days for meetings are Mondays and Wednesdays, the reality is that, as long as I deliver, they're pretty much fine. Sure, some employers may balk at employees working out of sight for fear that they can't supervise or offer input. And some jobs certainly can't be terribly flexible (a chef or a doctor can't work from home the way an accountant or a PR pro can). But for many companies, does it really matter whether you finish that report in an office or at your kitchen table as long as it is still quality work?

My personal light bulb went on earlier this week when I realized flex scheduling is less about my employer being flexible (although, obviously the fact that I have this arrangement indicates that yes they are) and more about me being flexible. I plan my work around the two days both kids are in school, around typical nap/quiet times, around evenings or early mornings. But then, inevitably, something will happen. A colleague will have a request that might need to be met on a timeline that doesn't fit the mental parameters I have anticipated for a day. Or that early morning I was planning on is traded in for a snooze button after being up for two hours in the middle of the night with an inconsolable toddler. Or in order to make a crucial meeting happen, I need to suck it up and find a babysitter.

Strangely, the hardest part of my flex schedule is being flexible with myself. Letting it go until the next day so I can get to bed early or postponing that revision because the toddler decided to skip a nap or buckling down for several hours of work on a weekend when the hubby takes the kids on an outing are all part of me rolling with the punches. The press release doesn't know the difference. The research still gets done. The plans still get written.

As long as I can be flexible with my own expectations, this flex schedule thing may just work out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mommy's Jobs

I'm only in the office two mornings a week. The rest of the week, I'm balancing work during the boys' nap/TV time, post bedtime, and weekend outings with daddy. When I pack up my laptop and head out for car pool pickups on office days, the office manager typically says goodbye with a "Have fun at your real job."

And that's certainly how it feels. I definitely bill more hours to the mommy job than the other. Each has its own uniform with a nice Mr. Rogers-like transition when I come home replacing the skirts with jeans and the heels with slippers. Each has its own compartment in my brain and color on my iCal. Both are relieved with a glass of wine and a good book.

I took a little time off from the hustle and bustle around the holidays and put work away for a bit. When I came back, ready to tackle the scheduling and the balancing act again, I decided to approach it a bit differently. To mentally stop trying to balance a see-saw that defies all rules of physics to begin with. To approach each day with a unique task to accomplish. To only judge my performance on that one task whether that day's focus is bringing snack to my son's preschool class or developing an outreach plan. To try not to say "in a minute" to my kids when I'm trying to finish an email/press release/dinner.

The last has been the toughest. Inevitably, the boys are done with naps/videos/Legos five minutes before I'm done with whatever task I'm trying to accomplish. I want them to know that mommy works and that what mommy does is important but that they will always be the most important job mommy has.

At dinner recently, the five year old was asking the hubby to stay home from now on and mommy could go to work (the boys enjoyed the extra time the hubby was around over the holidays burning some saved up PTO). I explained that mommy already goes to work, just while they are at school. I thought I could use the opening as an opportunity to explain a little bit more about what mommy does. And so I asked him, "Do you know what mommy's job is when she's not home taking care of you?"

His response, "Loving me?"

It's good to know that he understands my real job.