Thursday, August 9, 2012

Purses

Recently, I've gotten a lot of invitations to attend parties for something called 31 Gifts. I don't know much about it, but I glanced at an invite and saw there were a lot of purses. If you know me, you know I'm not good with purses. If I buy one purse a year, that's a lot. I have a black Coach bag and a brown Vera Bradley bag. That's all. And I will carry the brown purse when wearing black shoes and vice versa. You see, I don't wear a purse as a means of fashion. Mine are strictly function. They have to fit all my crap and have pockets in certain places to hold specific things. All purses must have pockets. Did you notice, when you became a mom, that  your purse style changed? Oh sure, in the beginning, you had a cute little purse and a stylin' diaper bag. And then, as your child got older or as you got to child number two,  you started to realize you couldn't remember what day it was so never mind remembering two bags when you left the house! So, the diaper bag becomes the purse. Because the diaper bag is your life and the purse is your life, so why not make them one?
Then, your child grows out of diapers and you don't need that giant bag anymore. But you still need way more stuff than you did pre-kids. You still need wipes. Heck, my girls are 10 and 7 and I still carry baby wipes! You need tissues and sunblock and lotion and hand sanitizer and a first aid kit and crayons and there's got to be room in there for happy meal toys. All of that in addition to the stuff everyone keeps in their purse. That's a lot. So, I guess you have to say goodbye to the small purse - you can give those to your kids for dress up. Isn't that just kind of how life is once you have kids? All the nice things you once had - you have to say goodbye to them. Most of the time, you don't miss it. You don't really miss the unstained furniture, the clean car, the fancy work clothes. It's a tradeoff - a really good one! So the next time you see me with a brown purse and black shoes - don't judge - just accept me as a mom with no fashion sense and a gigantic purse!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Complaint Department

I know Lent was quite a while ago, but I wanted to share with you what I tried to give up. I tried to give up complaining. Stop laughing. I really did try. And I really never realized how much I complain. I am blessed to work in a great environment with other Christians and we will call each other on it when the Complaint Department seems overwhelmed. We have a lot of reasons to complain, but we really don't have the right to do it. Unfortunately, things come out of my mouth and then it's too late for me to stop it. But, it's not too late for me to do something about it. So, it started around Lent and every day I've been trying harder to get better at not complaining. The biggest thing I need to not complain about is my kids. Here's the reason - they are KIDS! They are not small adults who have the training and knowledge and understanding of life that a 40-year-old should have. They do stupid stuff every day. They make messes and get lazy and whine and make you late and forget their homework and want every toy known to man and honestly believe that money grows on trees. So, yes, I am guilty of complaining about my kids. But, please, if you're reading this and you see me EVER complain about my kids on Facebook, would you send me a private message and remind me of my mission to stop complaining? I don't mean to judge, but I know a few ladies who spend more time on Facebook telling the world how miserable their children make them than they probably do actually playing with their kids! I can't do that. I can't and every time I do I need to be reminded of the person who is the reason I made the Lenten promise. A friend that I grew up with died in March. She had just passed her 42nd birthday and was the mom of two girls around the same age as mine. Just after she died, I was brushing my little girl's hair and started to cry out of nowhere. Sabrina asked me why and I just couldn't tell her. But the reason was because I realized that this woman would never be able to brush her daughter's hair again. That sweet girl would never stand in the bathroom mirror and cringe as her mom pulled on a knot. She would never feel her mom smooth down her hair and put it in a ponytail. Never mind the major things in life - puberty, boys, the prom, the wedding, becoming a mom - this small daily act was what put me over the edge.
Listen, I know kids can be ungrateful and aggravating and all sorts of difficult, but they are children and, if you think about it honestly, they are what WE make them. Kids don't just come out that way. We teach them values and if they don't have them, we really can't blame them now can we?
But just try to keep in mind the next time you are complaining about your kids - at least you have them. At least you woke up with the breath God put in your lungs and they are safe and with you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer days

I just saw friend and it reminded me of a blog that I've been wanting to write for a really long time. I told her I hadn't seen her in quite a while and she said she was off work today and said "I'm mom today".
Like me, she works but she also volunteers to does a lot of stuff with her kids. She's one of those moms that runs around like a crazy person doing stuff so that she can support her family but still spend time with them.
It made me start thinking of women who don't work outside the home. And it made me start thinking about how blessed they are if they get to spend time with their kids. As I read Facebook posts of people planning their summer activities, I envy them. I don't envy them so much as the freedom
that they have to do whatever they want to do. Now don't get me wrong I love having a job I love being able to support my children. I have an amazing boss and a wonderful working environment. But sometimes I wish I could just take a day and bring my kids somewhere. I wish I could make a summer bucket list or have the day off from work when they have the day off from school.
Sometimes, it's a really difficult thing when you have to work outside the home. In my 10 years as a mother I have been both a work at home mom, a stay at home mom and mom who worked outside the home. Sometimes, I get a bit frustrated by women who complain about how difficult their lives are. They don't go to work (yes, I know being a mom is a job, but you know what I mean); their kids are in school all day and yet they still complain. Or better yet the woman who doesn't go to work, the kids are in school and she either has a mother's helper, a nanny or a husband who does housework!
If you have a husband that cooks or cleans or does laundry or yardwork or takes care of the kids, you're lucky. If you have the time and money to get your hair done every six weeks and get mani/pedis, you're lucky. If you can go out for a girls night or have lunch out with a friend to catch up, you're lucky. Stop telling everyone how bad you have it.
I do applaud all moms no matter if they work outside the home or inside home because I know how hard it is to do both those jobs. I hope as summer creeps along,  you enjoy the time you get to spend with your kids. Be like my friend Patty or my friend Heidi who come up with a list of cool things they want to do over the summer - like a summer bucket list - or Marcia who makes a list of parks her kids need to visit before the end of the summer. Take your kids somewhere just because. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Think about the kids that don't get to do those "bucket" things - the kids that have to go to daycare all summer long and not spend time with their parents. Maybe go crazy and invite a working family's kids over to spend the day with you (I'm not asking for invitations). Bring someone without a bucket to the beach or the pool or the park. Isn't that the whole fun of summer anyway - not being scheduled or worrying about what to do? Unfortunately, we live in a culture where we are so scared to let our kids be free the way we were when we were little that we plan so many activities for them during the school year. Then, when summer comes around, we don't always know what to do. It's okay for kids to be a little bored sometimes - they will figure it out. That is your gift to them. And don't forget, when they're getting on your nerves, it won't be like this for long. You're going to miss this time. Enjoy it. I'm going to work.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gratitude not attitude

How hard is it to say thank you? Two words. Two syllables. Not that much effort you'd think. But, for some people, those two little words are harder to say than any others. I was just chatting with a friend who, like me, has given a lot of her time to Girl Scouts. Now, some of you may think that's not a very big deal. But, we're not talking just being a troop leader and having six girls every other week make pot holders, sing songs and braid each other's hair. This is a different type of volunteer. This is the type of lady who has a dozen girls in her troop, who schedules field trips and sleepovers and hikes and rock climbing and all of this other stuff. Then, she goes beyond her group and volunteers for all the troops in her area, acting as a consultant, organizing activities and events like dances or camping trips for 100 girls. This is no easy job. Oh, wait, it's not a job, because there's no pay. But you do it because you like it or because you've been called to serve or because you're just a glutton for punishment. And you do it for free. But, wait, there is an added perk. Sure, you don't get paid, but you get criticized! Hooray. How wonderful! It's so great that I give up my free time and you treat me like a glorified babysitter. And then you tell me all the things I could be doing better so that your daughter can have more fun. Oh, I'm so happy you joined! I'm so happy that I have someone to point out my shortcomings and remind me that I'm really not all that and a bag of chips. It's so awesome that I get to process cookie orders during my work breaks and prepare for meetings during my lunch hour and answer your inane questions when you text me during dinner time and homework time and shower time and bedtime. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, you come along with your comments. It's so nice of you to take time away from shopping/reading/texting/upgrading your status to let me know that I don't deserve your gratitude. Boy this just gets better and better. I know most of you ladies reading this right now are nodding your head because you know the type of person I'm talking about. Do me a favor - print this out and secretly hand it to her. Just a nice, friendly reminder to say THANK YOU to those who volunteer to help your child. You won't melt.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

By the rules

Sometimes I wish it wasn't so easy to break rules. How do you teach your children to do the right thing when everyone else is doing the wrong thing?
One day this week, as I was driving my daughter into school I saw three cars pull into the front of the school. Now that normally wouldn't be a bad thing but it was 9:05 (yes, I was late). There's a sign that clearly states no cars in circle between 8 am to 9:15 am.
My daughter wanted me to pull into the circle because it was raining and being in the circle makes you closer to the front door. Of course I wouldn't do it because that's breaking the rules and she couldn't understand why I wouldn't go into the circle when everyone else was.
Because it's wrong to break a rule. There's a rule in place for a reason. That rule is not just for the school buses. That's for the safety of our children as is the sign that says no turn on red right outside our school but wouldn't you know it people do that too. I guess they're in a big hurry to go and get their Starbucks or do something else but it doesn't matter. Those three seconds that you're going to have to wait at that red light? Wait. Would you want someone breaking that law if it was your child on their way into school? Don't even get me started on how fast people drive in the parking lot and in and out of the driveway (but, that's a whole nother show Oprah).
Maybe some people think they're special. Maybe some people think the rules don't apply to them. Or maybe they think it's not really a big deal to disregard the sign and just do whatever they want because, really, what's the harm?
And I know a lot of us think that rules are made to be broken - that some rules are silly and that they don't make any sense. Sometimes you're right - sometimes some rules are silly and don't make any sense. Sometimes they're outdated and don't apply to circumstances today.
But it doesn't matter even if the rule of stupid - it's there and you have to follow it and as hard as it is to follow it you have to do it anyway and you have to teach your children to follow rules. They have to listen to the teacher and listen to their coach and they have to listen to the principal and they have to follow rules.
Obedience is hard - it means humbling yourself. Many times, too many of us think "Oh, that's not meant for me." They disregard rules and act in a self-centered universe. But what are we teaching our kids? We're teaching them to undermine authority. We're teaching them that we are better than other people. I know, you're probably saying, "Really? Aren't you comparing apples to oranges talking about a silly parking rule and comparing it to obedience and disrespect?" Um, nope - both apples. So, stop breaking the apples!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Picture this

Wednesday is spring picture day at the youngest girl's school. Yes, Spring pictures because apparently one school picture is no longer enough and we need to have them in the fall and in the spring. She is bummed because she has a scratch on her nose. She has no idea how she got the scratch and swears she had absolutely nothing to do with it. She's very worried it will show up in the photo and now the six-year-old believes makeup should be applied to hide the blemish. I told her not to worry because I most likely won't buy the (ridiculously expensive) picture anyway. The reason? Meadows, pastures, woods, an ocean bluff. No, these aren't places that I'm dreaming of visiting - these are the backgrounds from which my child gets to choose for her school picture. I'm serious. They have the kid sitting there with one knee up and her chin in her hand. Because isn't that all how we look when we're sitting on a cliff overlooking the Pacific? Or the one with the boy sitting in the meadow with his chin in his hand. Really? What boy is going to pick this background? Whatever happened to blue? Just plain old blue? Bad enough I have to worry about the outfit and the hair on the same morning the older one has to be to school on time (which for me means early) to take state tests. Great. Good luck with that. Oh, yeah, the outfit is supposed to match the background we choose. What? Can you just give me a white background? Or black? Everything goes with black. Oh, and wait, what if the tall one chooses a different background than her little sister? What then? Now I have two pictures with two stupid backgrounds! Oh how I now feel so bad for my mom. We used to make her put our hair in curlers the night before pictures. Don't ask me why - it always came out horribly. I have to admit, I have bad hair in nearly every school picture I've ever taken. The curlers, the self-cutting of the bangs, the letting my BFF Chrissy perm my hair the night before and then her taking a phone call and leaving it on so long that I looked like Jermaine Jackson. Oh, and the outfits. A blessing of Catholic school is that you wear uniforms for most pictures, but we also had the times where we got to wear casual clothes. So, I have photos with a pale green polyester vest that had something to do with backgammon. Then there's one with a pale green, ruffled turtleneck with orange cats in a pattern that make some of them upside down. Oh and the famous ankle length dress that both my sister and I wore one year. Not pretty. Maybe I should send my girls to school in overalls - those will match pretty much any grassy-themed picture, right?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Give 'em a break

Big week for a lot of kids in my school district - state testing and third-quarter report cards. After three days of filling in circles, I'm sure a lot of these kids could use a break. But, I guess when the quarter ends, it ends, so there's not much to do. Besides, many kids (at least I know mine) have tests again in a week and then in June so there's no end in sight. I really don't care much about these tests. I tell my daughter to just relax and she'll do fine. She's bright enough - the only thing that could stop her from doing well is her own anxiety. My first grader doesn't have to deal with that stress yet, thank goodness. Well, she gets it a little bit. Her teacher gives them work that "prepares them" for the third-grade exam. I don't really know what that means and I'm sure all my educator friends are chomping at the bit to let me know but I gotta tell you - it's just not that important to me. I want my kids to learn, but I sometimes wonder about how they are taught. Starting this summer, the kids will have to work harder to catch up for next year because New York State is changing curriculum standards (yet again!) So, now what the kids are normally taught in 5th grade, they will already be expected to know by the time they get to 5th grade. Yikes! I can just imagine how excited my children will be to know they have to do school work over the summer. I'm sure a lot of kids don't mind. I know plenty of parents who give their children work on top of school work and homework. I remember one lady being surprised that I didn't do that and that I let my kids watch TV on school nights. Is that wrong? Is it wrong for me to not push them harder? Is it wrong for me to be happy with good grades and not expect perfect scores all the time? I know I am a little lax sometimes - like when I allow my daughter to hand in an assignment with sloppy handwriting and excuse it and blame it on her being left-handed and criticize the teacher for not being sympathetic to lefties. How do you know when you're pushing too hard or not pushing enough? That's such a tough question. I just think it's okay to be good at a lot of different things and maybe not excellent at one specific thing. For instance, I would never push my kids to do sports or dance or any other extra curricular activities. They have to try and they can't quit right away, but if there is a genuine dislike of something, I'm not going to force it- because to me, my forcing them to do something will make them hate it even more. And I don't want them to hate things! I can't be one of those parents that has my kid in cheer competitions every other week, traveling all over the region to "perform" against other 6-year-olds. No offense, but at 6, is it really worth it? What are they getting out of it? I know this will get people mad, but let's face it - what are the chances of your child playing baseball in the majors? Very, very slim. That's not me talking - that's a fact. You may think you've got the next Kobe on your hands, but should you put all the eggs in that basket? What if little Kobe tears a ligament? I hope he got his BA in something other than communications! I would never discourage a child from following their passion. But it needs to be their passion. It needs to be their love of something and not their parents living vicariously through them. Just because I love softball doesn't mean my girls have to (but I hope they do). And more than loving softball, I want them to love science and community service and hiking and going to church. I want them to love lots of things and while I won't stop them from following their passions, I will pray they have a full resume because softball might not pay the rent. Seriously, can you name a dozen professional female athletes in any one sport? I'll give you $500 if you can without looking it up. You'll get the money as soon as one of my girls goes pro.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hungry?

I bet I'm going to offend a whole lot of people by saying this, but I am so sick of hearing about this Hunger Games movie. But what has been bothering me more is seeing how many people are bringing their children to see this movie. I know a woman who actually had to argue against this book being mandatory reading at her child's school. How can it be okay to watch this? Maybe I'm ignorant, but from what I've heard, this story is about teens competing to the death. Children dying for entertainment? Why? How is this entertaining and why would you pay $10 for your child to witness it? What is wrong with protecting our children's innocence? There are so many things wrong with the world today - so many demons attacking families, marriages and children. Why invite the attack? Why welcome it into your home? I think we make way too many excuses for society. We start to conform and buy into advertising that convinces us to let evil become acceptable. We let our daughters wear racy clothing - maybe because we think it's cute or maybe because we're reliving our youth through them. We let our sons get away with treating girls with disrespect and forgetting the simplest forms of courtesy. Unfortunately, too many people don't think they're part of the problem. They don't realize that it's little things that snowball and help make our society so morally bankrupt. It's letting kids listen to suggestive music and supporting radio stations that play it. It's buying CDs from "singers" who spew nothing but filth. Oh, it's not that bad, people say. We just play what kids want. What? There are way too many people in authority these days who won't take a stand for what's right - too many people let things slide. And when you let things slide, they will. They will keep getting worse and worse. So please hold on. Hold on to morals and goodness and please, no matter how cool something is, don't give in to popular culture and society. I'd rather my girls didn't fit in than have them fit into the downward spiral this world is stuck in. There's nothing wrong with holding onto innocence.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Compliments

I have always had a problem taking compliments. I'm working on it, because it's actually prideful to not accept a compliment graciously. But here's what I need to work on more - accepting compliments for my kids. I started thinking of this today after talking with a friend whose daughter is classmates with my daughter. Her daughter is very bright and is much more advanced than most kids in the class. And as we talked, I realized she wasn't being boastful. I realized there is nothing wrong with saying great things about your kid. Because just saying how great they are doesn't mean you're saying they're better than someone else. See, I never wanted to be the mom who seemed like I thought my kids were better than anyone else. I've always taught my kids to treat other people not just like they are as important as you but that they are even more important than you. But, in doing so, I have not been doing them justice. By not wanting to brag about them, I forget to boast about them. You know those moms. You say "I'm so happy Billy got an A on his Math test." And she says, "Oh, my Johnny only brings home A pluses!" Or you tell her how proud you are that your Hannah won the lead in the school play and she says that her Taylor had the lead role three years running but decided she would take a break from acting this year. That's probably why I admired the way this mom spoke of her daughter. She wasn't like "Oh, yeah, Sally is just too smart for first grade." I didn't feel like she was comparing our children nor did I get the feeling that my child was inadequate next to hers. I think that happens a lot when you're a mom. You tend to compare yourself and your kids to other people. Oh, her minivan is way better than mine, her house is bigger, her kid crawled/walked/talked/pooped on the potty sooner than mine. I guess I just never wanted to seem like I was trying to one-up anyone. But, by doing that, am I telling my kids that I'm not proud of them and their accomplishments? Is my attempt to be humble too much? I don't know. How do you know when your pride becomes prideful? I do think I say great things about my kids. I know how important it is for kids to overhear you talking about them in a good way. I do hope I tell them enough how great they are. They are smart and funny and kind and considerate and loving and honest and courteous and beautiful.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ten

Ten years ago, my first child was born - a little girl with a big name, a bad case of colic and the ability to melt anyone's heart. This is a really hard age for me and for her. The whole double digits thing isn't sitting too well but we are still celebrating like mad. I've done everything I can to make her feel super-special, even to the point of embarassing her as much as I can because, let's face it, that is my job as a parent and I probably only have a few good years of that left. I wonder if she'll ever read this. As a writer, I feel like I am better on paper than I am in person so I choose to write her letters and cards and notes and keep a journal. Sometimes, my words don't flow like I wish they would - especially when you're looking in the eye of the girl who was just born yesterday but is somehow now a "tween". Only a parent can get how difficult it is to watch time fly so quickly. Only a parent can get how much your life completely changes when you give birth to a new life. I know that someday she may have that emotional upheaval in her life - waiting for months and then finally meeting the person who will forever change your world, the person who teaches you to have unconditional love. Really, when you think about it, you are in pain, you're scared, you panic, you can't breathe and then all of a sudden there's this baby covered in "stuff" and you're exhausted and the nurse is pulling off your gown so you can breastfeed and there are more people in the room and you're half naked and you're overwhelmed with more emotions than you've ever before had. And then you touch her and look at her - I mean, really look at her - and wonder what you ever did to deserve God's grace and this wonderful blessing. In one moment, you're picturing pigtails and ballet class and prom dates and wedding gowns. So, here's this little girl (well, not so little - 8 pounds, 8 ounces) with a big hold on everyone's heart. She got her first name, Catalina, after both her great-grandmothers, who came here from Cuba to make better lives for their children. Her middle name, Therese, is for my mother, whose family escaped the Nazi labor camp where she was born. They were all strong women and I know my daughter will be the same. As the firstborn grandchild on either side, she has an awesome responsibility. God chose her to be first for a reason. He wants her to lead the way, to set the example and be the role model. And she is doing it. These first 10 years have been the fullest I could ever know and I look forward to the next 10 and the 10 after that and the 10 after that and....