Wednesday, May 19, 2010

(tap, tap, tap) Is this thing still on?

Hi!

Are you still here? Me, too! Well, I'm not here here, but I'm here, often here and very often here, too.

Did you miss me? I miss you!

If you're still here, won't you come over to my new place and hang out?

Here's what I wrote over there today.

+ + +

Right now, I am sitting on a blue couch in my home office. I am still wearing my pajamas even though it’s almost noon. I am listening to my children shuffle around, one fighting with her closet door, the other deep in a sigh.

Right now, I am cognizant of the clicking of my nails against the keyboard of my laptop. My hands are dry, reacting to the attempts at removing stains from my daughter’s school clothes. They are sticking to the computer, reacting to the change in temperature against the warmth of the battery. Right now, I am wondering if I am causing myself some kind of harm from sitting under the battery of a laptop. Right now, I don’t really want to find out.

Right now, I hear the sounds of the neighborhood, trash can lids slamming against their hard plastic basins, the wheels rolling against uneven pavement. I decide that these are the Wednesday sounds of working from home, but then acknowledge that it is merely my experience of the sound of this particular moment. A car passes.

Right now, I am concerned that if you are reading this, you are wondering, “What is the point?” I am wondering that, too. I hear a sound from above. Is it a bird on the roof or a rat in the attic? I am choosing to believe it is a bird.

Right now, I am missing my husband, for whom I’ve found a new appreciation since we now share the same working space, our home. I am grateful for the changes we have made in our lives that have taken us from working for employers to forming a professional partnership together and piecing together our strengths into a new collaboration. I am hoping he is able to surprise the children at their swim lessons later today. I am amazed at how much progress they have made in a year. I realize that I use the word “amaze” and its various forms ALL THE TIME. I consider that if there is a word to overuse, “amaze” is pretty cool, because it does reflect the awe with which I see the world and its infinite possibilities. Right now, I’m wondering if I’m sounding kind of woo woo. I use woo woo all the time, too. I am willing to be perceived as woo woo right now, but not always.

Right now, my stomach growled, but I know I am not hungry. I hear my son’s voice and wonder how soon the children will begin fighting over their game of Monopoly. I think about what it is to be the younger sister, and how kind her brother is to read to her instead of taking advantage that she does not yet read and making up rules to manipulate the game and her. I hear the tone of their voices change. I wonder if when someone is going to yell, “MOMMY!” I sigh and wait. I notice I am thirsty. My lips are dry, but not as dry as my hands.

Right now, I am hoping you are still reading because I think I’m about ready to make a point, though I am willing to believe that you will also get the point even if I don’t explain it. Right now is all we have. The story changes constantly, as does the mind’s interpretation of the circumstances. Right now, I have an instinct to push “Move to Trash” instead of Publish. I think there is a better way to make this point. I think I may write that another day. I consider that there are myriad ways to make the same point and that it is a point to keep making.

I hear the dryer beeping from the garage below. I am wishing that the laundry would fold itself and find its way to “away.” I consider if the children have abandoned their board game. I hear an airplane overhead.

Right now, I am scanning the page to see if these words are good enough. I feel an emptiness in my stomach when I type, read, and think about “good enough” because I know so many who believe they are not. Right now, I wish them the opportunity to see themselves as I do. My boy sneezes.

Right now, I feel the beating of my heart. I look down and notice how gently my pajama shirt rises with each inhalation and exhalation. I am thinking this is as close to meditating as I’m getting today. I look at the clock. After noon now, and still, pajamas. I love their colors, white, light pink, darker pink and a deep pink that verges towards purple, the pink of an accidental pomegranate stain but it’s not. I think my toes should be one of these colors instead of the Smurfy blue I chose last week.

Right now, I have copied a Note from the Universe that sums up what I want to say.

Karen, in the time that it takes you to read this short Note, you could have planted a new image in your mind (anything you like, ideally with an emotional charge); I could have reacted (realigning planets, people, and the sort), and the floodgates would’ve begun trembling violently as we’d have been drawn infinitely closer to manifesting the vision you’d chosen.

Fortunately, there’s still time.

Hot dog,
The Universe

Right now, I have just read this piece, and made some significant changes that you’ll never see. Right now, I am hopeful that something has connected for you, that you, too, notice how quickly your thoughts change and how much influence you actually have in being present to everything that is around you; to allow for the kind of thoughts that will help you to create the life you want, the kind that makes you almost embarrassed to talk about because it’s so good and so aligned with everything that matters to you. I think about what the world would be like if all the inhabitants lived fulfilled all the time. I wonder if writing this will be a catalyst for a reader to make a big change towards finding their own light.

Right now, I am satisfied that writing something is better than writing nothing. I hear the mail truck accelerating, then slowing to a stop nearby. Right now, I am amused myself at the passing thought of writing all of my blog posts like this. I remember that a prescription is ready at the pharmacy and we are almost out of milk.

+ + +

See, it's still me, just in a different location. Come on over, won't you?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This will be the last time

It was almost a year ago that I wrote about one of those heartbreakingly-bittersweet parenting moments of my little girl growing up. And guess what's happened since then?

Guess.

(I bet you already know the answer, too.)

My kids are growing up and I am too.


* * *
The summer came and went. I started a new job and began carving out a niche for my new business. I also stopped writing about my kids.

See, the big one is reading now. Reading all by himself. The little one isn't far behind, I'm sure. They have relationships that are independent of me and I am spending more time independent of them. It feels less appropriate for me to meddle and report.

Besides, these stories were never really about them; they were, and have always been, about my changes as a person and as a mother.

* * *
This will be the last time I'm posting here at I Invented Motherhood. As you know, my return to work last year came with a lot of figuring things out, both personally and professionally.

I started working with clients this summer. Some are looking to make career transformations, others are women looking to figure out how to be professionals and mothers. Some are neither mothers nor professionals. A few need some help figuring out what they want to figure out, so that's what I do.

I listen and ask questions. I guide and support. I help people create the time and space to figure out what they want and then what they need to do get it, whatever "it" may be.

My "it" has changed, too. For as much as I love writing and sharing my stories, my focus is somewhere else. Writing here, pseudo-anonomously, doesn't make practical sense for me.

Come find me at Motherhood. Reinvented. I'm on Facebook and Twitter, too. Please, don't be a stranger.

* * *

In October, my baby girl turned four. (She's since asked me to stop calling her baby, but since she's four and also my baby that's simply not going to happen.) One day, she was in a toddler bed and the next, she was in a real big girl bed (the kind in which grown ups can also fit). I thought I'd be more sad, expecting a bit of misting up at the end of the baby era in our home and family.

Instead, I found myself caught up in her abundant joy of discovering the next great thing!

Then she asked me when she could drive my car.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

It is not lost on me, not for one second, that grownups are not entitled to experience summer the same way children are.

It's not bad, just different.

Regardless, summer is my favorite time of year. It always has been and will always be, no matter the circumstances. Not coincidentally, I've noticed that our adult summers seem to be filled with change and transition -- perhaps it is the excess of daylight that gives rise to added productivity.

What follows is a brief chronicle of our summer days and thoughts.

In June, we took our sort of annual trip up the coast of our fine state, this time ending up in Pismo Beach.



In case you're not from here, I'll let you in on a little secret...June at the edge of the Pacific isn't remotely warm or balmy. It's not the California you see on television or in movies. Despite the known "June Gloom," when the kids have a few days off, even if its chilly and overcast, we like to make the best of an uncrowded beach trip.


Even though it's cold, it's still very pretty.

We packed up our sand toys and headed even further up the coast to Monterey. Rafe and I had always wanted to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium and decided that we'd take the opportunity to drive a few extra hundred miles to pay a visit.







We took the scenic drive down Highway One back to our resort motel, remembering how stunning the rugged coastline is and also how our difficult, young, tired, hungry, overstimulated children aren't really interested in never-ending lengthy car rides scenic vistas.

On our drive back home, we made a quick stop in Santa Ynez to replenish the supply of our house wine (scroll down for the Pinot Noir), having had quite enough of the whine already in our possession.



The Santa Ynez wine country is our newfound oasis. It's an easy day trip and a fun place to spend an afternoon with our dear friends, drinking companions, and partners in mischief (who also happen to be Rafe's sister and her husband), Auntie Banana (happy birthday Auntie B!) and Uncle C (the monkey's uncle).

Every time we go, we see things we imagine the kids will love, but I've been reluctant to share this place with the children for many reasons, not the least of which includes my desire to enjoy my children's company and wine separately -- as much as I enjoy both, I cannot enjoy them simultaneously. Anyway, we thought the kids would adore the miniature horses, tiny equestrian specimens roughly the size of our dog, that we've seen time and again along the route to some favorite vineyards.



They were mostly indifferent. (I mean the kids, though I guess the horses were, too.)

We returned to life as we know it.


Though as it has been in the past, this summer has again found us in transition and making big changes. My husband left his full-time gig, his lengthy commute and his after hours consulting to become a consultant full-time, giving his expertise on his terms. When he explained to colleagues that he was resigning and moving on, he didn't describe it in terms of his career advancement or the pursuit of a new venture, he explained that he was changing his life. It is a wonderful thing.

Following closely in his shadow, I have also given notice with my transitional employers and will begin my dream job in a few weeks. In short summary: it's part-time with benefits, in an organization I love with a leader I respect and admire, and by the way, it's ten minutes from home. I am elated. Sometimes I skip to my car on my way out the door of my office. (Okay, not literally, but I've still got a week so it might happen.)

To get us through some of the summer juggle, the kids have been heavily enrolled in summer camp. They come home tired and dirty, pockets and backpacks filled with crafts and treasures.



We've still had time for some family outings (so much easier now with Daddy's flexible schedule!), some extra long play dates, a lot of picnic dinners, countless bubble blowing sessions and trips planned to amusement parks, county fairs and ball games.









In what I perceive as an homage to the many children who have summered before them, my little darlings have built a "clubhouse."

In case you can't read it, the sign states:
The people can come 6 and under can go in our tent.

Yes, my boy wrote this all by himself. My boy who will be turning six in a few weeks and entering the first grade (with his own desk!) in September. I am grateful that he has extended the "club" to include his little sister and to exclude the grownups (though I'm willing to wager that he'd extend an invitation to grandparents, and even a special aunt and uncle, if asked, tickled, or bribed).

Not every kid would.

And so, my dear friends and gentle readers, I am going to close the curtain on this blog. With a new job starting, children returning to school, trips planned and a desire to focus on my professional space, I need to store this blog somewhere between my high school yearbooks, my wedding veil, the umbrellas and wool sweaters. I will continue to write, though shifting my online presence towards my business. Though I'm not planning to cross promote, I'll point you towards the new space (if you haven't found it already) if you'd like.

It, like everything else, is a work in progress.

I wish you many days filled with bubbles, butterflies, and dreams come true.

Love,
Karen

Monday, July 07, 2008

Habit?

I remember a time when my little boy was learning to speak. He would make his demands with a question: "Habit?"

In this instance, "habit" was toddler-ese for "have it?" meaning, "May I have this now please."

Depending on how you look at it, habit and have it are close enough in meaning -- in either instance, it is a way of communicating, "I want it, and I want it my way."


* * *

My girl was running me ragged with her bedtime circus. First, the sleepy friends, her plush accomplices, had to each say goodnight to her in a particular order, following the pattern of a story we must have read a year ago. "Who's nose and toes?" I'd ask, and she'd tell me which animal/princess/threadbare transitional item could "kiss" her before settling into its appointed location. Once we made it through their rotation, her covers were arranged just so, either snug as a bug in a rug or as loose as a goose with a moose (don't ask). Then we'd begin the water cup debate -- which one could sleep with her (and where), which one would probably spill, which one might necessitate a trip to the potty in the night. Then there was the music -- too loud, too quiet, and oh no, it's skipped to track two already and I need it to start at track one. Pleeeeeeeeease?

I'd finally have her in bed, having said the right words in the right order, and might settle in for a moment before her encore performances began, generally with screams from down the hall.

"I CAN'T HEAR MY MUSIC!"

"MOMMY, MY WATER SPILLED. I NEED NEW JAMMIES. I NEED NEW COVERS, AND THE FLOWER SHEETS, AND NEW WATER."

"IT'S TOO DARK."

If not assaulted with the screams, I was ambushed by the soft shuffling of her little feet padding down the hall to find me.

"Mommy, I'm scared."

"I need to pee."

"I can't find my blankies."

I would comfort her, set her up again and ask, no beg, for her to please stay in bed. My threats were meaningless. My pleas ignored.

The bedtime routine, aka bedtime the way I say it is, had been turned upside down. I was being played. I knew it and she knew it. I sat there with head in hands, continuing the game in exhaustion and frustration.

As I complained to my kind and empathetic friends, mothers with girls the same age give or take a few months, I was met with compassion, understanding, and a reality check: "You know you're being manipulated, right?"

Yes, I knew.

Of course I knew.

I knew and I played along fearing the consequences should I -- or she -- change the rules.

Bad habit.

I want things my way all the time and so does she.

* * *

In order to break the cycle, I introduced a new element to the game. The sticker chart. The good old-fashioned bribe. If she stays in bed at night, she gets a sticker. Five stickers earns her a prize.

Stickers and prizes and trips to the mall? How could she lose?

In the next round, she raised the stakes by getting up before dawn. I countered with a new requirement: a sticker was awarded for staying in bed at night and in the morning. Her response: cries in the middle of the night in addition to visits to my bed in tears and fear.

And when those stopped, do you know what happened?

I missed her. I missed being needed, missed trying to figure out what she'd do next.

I found myself making nightly visits to her room. See, she tends to fall out of bed, not always but often enough. I needed to check because I hadn't heard from her, and gosh, isn't she lovely when she's sleeping and not yelling?

A new game routine was established. Before I would go to bed, I'd slip in to her room to check on her: still covered? still horizontal? still breathing? still my baby? (ed note: I am no longer allowed to refer to her as "Baby," but that is another story for another day.)

Habit?

You bet.

If we were to interact post-bedtime, it would be on my schedule, not hers.

We were moving forward and for a time, all was right and good in the world in which we both slept uninterrupted at night in our own beds.

All was fine, that is, until one day when I commended her for staying in bed, for being brave all night by herself and for playing quietly on her own when she woke. She had made me so proud, being such a big girl and not visiting when she wasn't supposed to.

She smiled, happy and confident. "Now I don't visit you."

"But it's o.k. that you visit me?"

Well played, child. Well played indeed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reason #6,471, 962,012

...that I love Target, summer and being a girl, (and still not in that order).

Posted by Picasa

I'm loving dresses these days (this is an Isaac Mizrahi if you're wondering, I have no issue label-dropping Target Couture), especially when I find the last one in stock, on crazy sale, and it's in my size. (I'd link to Target, but being such a darling dress and on clearance, it's been wiped off their web site.)

I loved the dress all day, and got a ton of compliments. And then someone asked if I was pregnant.

That part I do not love about being a girl --a big iced tea and suddenly I'm expecting? Women with children should have the decency never to assume.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The List of All Lists

It started innocently enough.

I mentioned to my darling husband how I admired his pursuit of his hobby (he plays poker), and how I'd love to have a thing like that in my life.

I'd love to have the kind of hobby/activity/passion/interest/focus he has and I'm sure I could -- if I only knew what it might be.

We started talking, and I started dreaming out loud.

There are things I like, I love, I enjoy. There are things I've wanted to try but never have. There are things I'm not doing, but I could and should.

I started making lists - big lists.

I started with things I want to try and to do. Then I thought about the values we have as individuals, as parents and as a family, and am working actively on incorporating those values into my daily choices. I'm feeling that fulfillment isn't about being busy or having things, but about experiencing my life aligned with the things I believe are Important (with a capital I). I'm not going to share here a discussion of my values, though I'm sure if you read me, you see a lot of them anyway.

I am a work in progress.

We happened to have our talk over drinks in the afternoon on the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel is conveniently adjacent to the stunning Los Angeles Central Library, one of my very favorite places in the city, if not the world.



In my browsing, I found and borrowed Jill Smolinski's The Next Thing on My List -- the cover, title and description grabbed me, and I was not disappointed. I won't tell the story (read it yourself, it's good), but it tells the tale of the changes in a person following a life list.

A what? (I'll make it easy: read this article in the New York Times. Or check another great list from Maggie Mason at Mighty Girl.)

I wasn't thinking so much of creating a life list -- I wanted to get some ideas written down to keep my life in action, always moving forward.

It started as a list of 40 things to do before I turn 40, but as I wrote, I realized that some of these things are too important to rush. A bigger list begat the beginnings of my big list, and when I began sharing the list with my husband, it grew bigger, wilder, farther reaching.

  1. publish an article in a national magazine
  2. learn to dance
  3. perform in a ballet recital
  4. learn Hebrew before both children are fluent
  5. finish Ellie's baby book
  6. achieve perfect vision
  7. (an elective plastic surgery I'm hoping insurance might cover but I'm not going to describe here)
  8. fix my shoulder
  9. teach Jake and Ellie (possibly also Rafe) to ski
  10. rent vacation home in Santa Ynez
  11. go to Catalina Island
  12. rent a home in France and travel through France & Italy
  13. visit Lake Como, Florence, Rome
  14. write a will
  15. have the flexible and fulfilling career of my dreams
  16. launch my business, be wildly successful
  17. learn to tell a good joke
  18. get back to my pre-Ellie weight (for real! I mean it this time! no, seriously.)
  19. catch up on writing kids' birthday letters
  20. learn to take amazing photographs
  21. go to Disneyworld
  22. take flight in a hot air balloon
  23. see Mount Rushmore
  24. take kids to Israel (hopefully with their grandparents); hike Masada again
  25. go to the Oscars (or a real Hollywood Oscar party)
  26. take an extensive food and wine tour through Napa Valley
  27. dine at the French Laundry
  28. teach someone (not related to me) how to read
  29. take a gondola ride in Venice
  30. buy Murano glass in Venice
  31. ride a donkey to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  32. attempt to surf (where the water is warm)
  33. take a cross country road trip
  34. attend Jazz Fest in New Orleans again
  35. become a bat mitzvah
  36. go on safari
  37. see the pyramids
  38. sail through the Greek Isles
  39. summer in the Hamptons or Cape Cod or Nantucket
  40. have an occasion to wear a ball gown
  41. make a new recipe every week
  42. try a new restaurant every month
  43. take an annual girl's weekend - with friends or alone
  44. sit with Ivy Brown on her stoop, drinking Abita beer, eating some kind of Kosher/Cajun fusion
  45. ride horseback on a beach at sunset
  46. own a luxury car without door dings or goldfish crumbs
  47. see the American Idols in person
  48. enjoy the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower
  49. live life without cancer, heart disease or diabetes
  50. maintain a kitchen adjacent herb garden
  51. commission a piece of art
  52. walk along the Great Wall of China
  53. London: changing of the guards, crown jewels, tea, Harrods
  54. whitewater rafting on the Colorado River
  55. send our children to college without incurring debt
  56. send our children to the best colleges for them
  57. make challah from scratch
  58. take a glacier cruise in Alaska
  59. go to the Olympics
  60. create or buy our dream home
It is a beginning and is exhilarating to dream in this scale.

I have a short list of a few local dance schools and need to coordinate my schedule for adult beginner ballet; I am more than half way through ordering the photos to complete Ellie's baby book (mind you, she'll be four in October and might finish it herself if I don't hurry).

Though I may be mostly dropping off kids at camp and running to work, people, I am going places!

What's on your list? Really. I'd love to know.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Martyr Mom is in the House

(subtitle: untitled mommy blog post, part two)

So yeah, about that martyr thing. I should have seen it coming.

Honestly.

I'm not going to suggest that I've never been a martyr mom before, but it's definitely surfacing more since I went back to work last fall. Heck, I even blogged about it.

Oh, how I've mourned...(ed. note: blah blah blah) damsel in distress...(blah blah blah)"Woe is me"...I mourned for the loss of my freedom and for the sacrifice of putting my little girl in her preschool's daycare for many hours of the day. My free time is no longer free. It is a juggle and a race. Up before 6. Everyone downstairs and dressed by 6:45. Out the door at 7:15. Drop Jake at Kindergarten. Drop Ellie at preschool. Sit in traffic. Work. Race back for Ellie. Run errands. Pick up Jake. Think about dinner, going to the gym, and doing any and all that I'm not able to do that I didn't question a week before.

While I can poke fun it it, being a martyr mom is not fun at all. Here's what she looks like at my house - maybe some are exaggerations, maybe I wish some were, and I know she exhibits similar and different behaviors around the neighborhood. I won't go all out and label myself a Martyr Mom because that persona is only one of many different sides to me as a mother (and one of many stereotypes moms and women have to fight to break).

I'm not proud of it, but it's there.

(So there.)

  • the martyr mom is overwhelmed. She sighs. A lot.
  • the martyr mom is distracted. She cannot focus.
  • the martyr mom has difficulty making choices. There are so many to make!
  • the martyr mom is not organized. The house is cluttered. She thinks, "Why bother cleaning, if everyone's going to mess it up anyway?"
  • the martyr mom can't find things, but spends a lot of time looking.
  • she can't remember what she needed at the store so she either buys everything or nothing.
  • the martyr mom makes sure the family eats (but not herself - she's always snacking or grabbing something on the run), and there are more drive through dinners and store-bought, pop 'em in the oven meals. Not surprisingly, the martyr mom notices more TV dining and less time spent at the table.
  • the martyr mom coordinates the schedules of her kids but won't schedule time for herself - it's not that she can't, but she's decided what she needs to do at home is too important and can't imagine how the children will sleep if she doesn't put them to bed. She finds it hard to separate from her children and familial obligations.
  • besides, when the martyr mom does have some free time, she ends up doing stuff for the house and kids anyway.
  • in fact, the martyr mom has been in the habit of putting herself last for so long, she no longer remembers what she likes to do or how to have fun (real, honest to goodness fun) without her children.
  • and worse, not only does she not know how to have fun, she doesn't think her having fun is important.
  • the martyr mom thinks that she always comes last, but in thinking this, her bad time has become a priority.
  • the martyr mom is exhausted. Clearly, taking care of everyone else means she cannot take care of herself. She doesn't make time to exercise or eat well, and being so overwhelmed (all that sighing can be tiring you know), she stays up too late thinking she's going to do something productive when the kids are finally asleep, but usually ends up watching hours of bad television or playing around on the Internet - but she's not writing, she's just reading and feeling overwhelmed by so much information.
  • not a lot of what the martyr mom is doing feels like it's on purpose - things happen, but it's either rushed or not quite the way she wants, but she doesn't have the energy to fix it.
  • the martyr mom spends a lot of time thinking, but isn't communicating or solving problems. She's wallowing.
  • the martyr mom has a hard time saying no, even if she's fully aware that adding one more thing to her plate means less getting done well. She sometimes gets caught up in being needed and important, and would rather please other people than take care of what is most important.

The funny thing? When I'm not the martyr mom, when I'm sitting reading a book, or making dinner with my kids, or making lists, or getting a pedicure, or watching a non-animated film either (gasp!) by myself or (gasp!!) in the company of other grown-ups, I don't feel guilty. Not even a little bit.

It's a vicious cycle, this mommy martyrdom (and I found a great piece from The Washington Post written in 2005 that captures it all so well). While I realize it is self-imposed, it doesn't make it easier to break, especially when I'm tired (and yes, knowing full well I could just go to sleep after the kids to catch up). Getting over it, getting through it is a process just like everything else.

For me, the secret to success seems to come when I start writing -- lists.

...to be continued.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

untitled mommy blog post, part one

I didn't invest a ton of time trying to figure out what it would be like to be a mother before embarking on the great parenting journey. I always knew I wanted children in a generic sense, but I was never one to fawn over others' spawn. Even when we decided we wanted to try, I had a better picture of the mother I did not want to be than what would be real and true for me.

I couldn't imagine myself as the overly "attached" parent. I never intended to be a lactivist, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, organic food or nothing, plastic-toy eschewing, crunchy kind of mama -- even though I wore Ellie close to my heart well past when she could crawl, and had both children sleeping in my bed when they were babies because that was what worked. While I respect that kind of mother, it isn't me.

I could never be the extreme soccer mom. I don't over-schedule my kids, and make very deliberate choices to limit their activities, play dates and obligations to the pursuits and people they truly enjoy (swimming notwithstanding). I am not competitive about them. I participate in their schools, but I'm not an uber-volunteer. What's more important to me is making space for their free time -- to play, discover, create, dawdle and loaf if that's what they want. I also want them to develop a sibling relationship which is difficult if not impossible when the only quality time they spend together is in the back of the car. I'm not saying that we're not busy -- we are. But as much as I encourage their friendships and hobbies, I also want to be able to take a quick trip to the library with them or see what we find at the beach, together and alone.

I couldn't be the kind of mother who completely outsourced the care and nurturing of my children; notice that I say "completely" because I fully support having help to whatever extent a family needs to function --whether that is a nanny, a housekeeper, a babysitting cooperative, awesome and involved friends and family, day care, extended care, whatever. I'd lose my mind if the only absence I had from my children was at work, but I can not identify with people who never, ever see their kids.

As far as being a mother goes, I'm very secure. I know my kids, I know my boundaries, and I know what it feels like to be the kind of mom I want to be. I still operate under my personal parenting philosophy of guiding my children into situations where they can be successful (even swimming lessons).

When I did dream of these babies, decorating their nurseries in my mind, it never once occurred to me what it would take to preserve myself, to be a woman with children, not just a mother.

Despite my efforts, from time to time I notice myself becoming someone else I never intended to be. Sometimes I'm a martyr mom.

...to be continued.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Son of Marital Strife

My kids love the iPod. (Technically, it's my iPod they love.)

When Ellie plays Mommy in any of her big plastic vehicles and she's driving, she's always picking tunes for her iPod (pretending, readers, my three year old does not have her own iPod!). In the real car, when she hears a song she likes she immediately asks me to put it on her list. She's also asked for familiar songs from television (giving my darling spouse another reason to take issue with our shared music library. "Honey, what is Barney doing in my car?") as well as songs she and Jake have made up themselves.

"Mommy, I want Jumpolia and Be a Little Rock Star on my list."

"You mean the songs you sing in the tub, Elle?"

"Yeah, those."

"Sweetie, I can't find those on iTunes."

(Not yet, at least.)

In contrast, and in typical firstborn, people-pleasing fashion, my boy recently created a playlist of his own. It is a list of songs he likes, I like, his daddy likes, his sister likes, songs he's heard in movies, and a couple that the thought he might like simply based on their names.


Jake's Latest List

Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
Blackbird - Sarah McLachlan
Night Train - James Brown
The Rubberband Man - The Spinners
Underdog - Sly & the Family Stone
Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner
Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
Upside Down - Jack Johnson
Talk of the Town - Jack Johnson & Kawika Kahiapo
All Star - Smash Mouth
Funkytown - Lipps, Inc. (coincidentally the first single I ever purchased -- and not because it was in Shrek!)
I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Pt. 1 - James Brown
Mother Popcorn, Pt. 1 - James Brown
Stop this Train - John Mayer
83 - John Mayer
Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
Under the Sea - Samuel E. Wright
Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes
Little Green Bag - George Baker

What's on your kid's soundtrack? What does it say about them?

Looking at mine, I see a fun combination of our family and one very cool little dude.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Mermaid in the Back Seat

A couple of weeks ago, I took a calculated risk. I took a risk with my little girl.

I guess I'm more into taking risks these days, especially when I feel reasonably confident in my ability to succeed or at least to quickly learn from the failure.

I've been stretching within my limits, growing as a grown up.

On any day of the week, I'd rather put myself at risk than push my children. I'd rather make myself vulnerable than expose them to something for which they are not ready. Still, sometimes a mom has got to try something to see if it's going to work, knowing very well that it might not.

* * *

"You know how you know I'm a good mom?" I asked another mother in the parking lot after drop off one morning.

"I already know you are a good mom," she quickly responded to my rhetorical question, "but what's with the doll?

"I'm a good mom because I'm now going to buckle Ellie's toy into the booster seat because I told her I would. And then when I pick her up to go to swim lessons, she'll see that her mermaid is all ready to go and maybe it will make the rest of the day go easier."

"Yeah. Good luck with that."

(She meant this about the swim lessons and my attempts to hedge the tantrum, not the actual logistics of placing a doll in safety restraints. )


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Moms know these things. Moms know that sometimes you do things that are ridiculous because on the off chance that it will make a transition or trauma a little more manageable for you and your child, some stupid, impractical, foolish things are worth doing.

(And yes, I understand that the Mermaid meets neither the height nor weight restrictions to legally be buckled in the booster seat, though if it ever came up, I'd have a legitimate argument in my favor BECAUSE IT IS A TOY.)

* * *

Swimming Life Lessons

Ellie started out excited about taking swimming lessons. She'd done a stint in the pool last summer in a Mommy & Me class, and told me she already knew how to swim.

I bought her a new suit to wear. She was ready, at least until we were within sight of the water.

I won't try to scare you with words about how much she didn't enjoy the first few days of her lessons, though I did tell a friend that Ellie's response felt like all four months of colic condensed into twenty minutes, wet.

It was an awful, miserable experience on day one.

On day two, I worked in bribes (thus the Mermaid doll, a ride on the carousel, and ice cream), even though the lessons were canceled for bad weather. Her behavior was worse at home, she was regressing in areas she had mastered. My independent little girl had become helpless and needy.

On day three, I took off work to be with her; Ellie and the Mermaid became inseparable (except, ironically, in the water). She kicked at me (Ellie, not the Mermaid), screamed, cried and begged to go home, to not have to swim.

On day four, she didn't cry. She only negotiated.

On day five, she wanted to be the first in the water.

Honestly, I was very close to pulling her out of the lessons and waiting another year. I'd have done this, except I saw her learning and having fun in the water. (Before and after, not so much.) I believed in the instructor and I believed in my girl. I also trusted the other mothers who had told me it might be like this and that their children still learned, and loved, to swim. They told me that by the end of the week, the screaming would pass and she'd be begging to be in the water.

They were right.

Lessons.

Risk.

Vulnerability.

Fear.

Trust.

Learning.

Support.

Success.

Reward.

Fun.

Swimming could be anything.