Friday, February 27, 2009
All that has changed now. Now when we go out to eat, it's at the very least a table for two, but more often a table for six. With a high chair and a booster and four kids' menus and could-we-talk-to-the-manager-about-this-food-allergy-thing, please. About the only thing I do by myself these days is go to the ladies' room, and I'm often not even successful at that.
Last week, however, I had a meeting to attend. With adults, people from my former profession, none of whom have young children any more. And afterward, instead of the usually mess of errands to run in my few minutes alone, I chose to have a nice lunch. By myself.
I walked into the Olive Garden, and smilingly requested a table for one. I was completely at ease as my server inquired if I was having a nice day. I was relaxed as I perused the menu, then pulled out my book to read a few precious pages in peace.
A woman nearby had a baby who let out some shrieks, and I just smiled, thinking, "For once that's not me."
It seemed that the service was exceptional and the food tastier than usual, but I suppose that was because I could actually enjoy it without panicking about how long the kids would last before they got restless. The experience was mine to enjoy, quiet and serenity amid the hustle and bustle of the restaurant.
A table for one used to be one of my worst fears, but it's no longer a scary prospect. Now it's a pleasant change from the regular pace of life. I may try it again soon.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
This year I have managed to remain optimistic for longer than usual. The calendar shows me that it’s nearly March and I’m just now getting to the grumbling about the weather stage of winter. The difference this year is that I have this sunny baby to brighten my days. That’s not to say that my other two children didn’t brighten my days though, because they most definitely did, and continue to do so. But this baby, my last baby, was so long in the waiting for that compared to the winters when I was simply dreaming of a third child this winter that she is here and beautiful and smiling is brilliant, almost blinding in its light.
But even the baby is starting to protest the blanket thrown over her face as we venture out in the cold. Yesterday the temperatures reached 40 degrees and we ventured to a few stores while her siblings were at their respective schools. Instead of carrying her in her infant car seat as I have most times, I took advantage of not freezing my butt off and not needing to get in to each store as quickly as possible and took her out of her car seat. She rode in the seat of the shopping cart for the first time.
She loved it. She was kicking her legs and looking around despite the fact that I’d just taken her to her nine-month well-child visit and discovered she’s cutting eight teeth at once. So this year the winter-- as it lumbers on slower than most of us would like—is much more bearable for me. I get to see it through a baby’s eyes.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
It was oddly, strangely, exciting to have my less-than-140-characters message read aloud on the radio. Sure, no one really knows who "minnemom" is, so it's not like anyone would come up to me later and say "I heard your tweet on the radio." Plus about 0% of the people I know have even heard of twitter. And most of my twitter followers have never heard WCCO. So why was it so fun to hear my message on the air?
I'm not usually someone who ooohs and aaahs over celebrities. The way I see it, we're all people, and no one's better than another just because they have a job that puts them in the spotlight. Still, brushes with fame are memorable. I shook hands with Colin Powell in high school. I was on the White House lawn when President Bush (the first one) walked out to his helicopter and gave a wave before taking off. Those are memorable moments in my life.
What is it that makes famous people so intriguing, and brushes with fame so memorable?
Have you had any close encounters with famous people, or moments in the spotlight?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Another thing that's made planning birthday parties difficult is that my daughter's father and I are no longer married to each other. We didn't have a very amicable divorce and in the aftermath, we agreed to just live separate lives. We don't do "co-parenting" at all. So planning a birthday party together has always been out of the question. The result has been that my daughter sometimes had two birthday parties with friends, one that her father hosted and one that I hosted.
These factors combined have created somewhat of a perfect storm to make her birthday parties something very different than how I imagined they should be. This year my daughter decided that she wanted to go out to eat at a fairly expensive restaurant with 4 friends. Alone. Then they wanted to go shopping downtown together. Alone. Sure, she wanted to have a cake a celebrate with us at home on her real birthday and all, she just didn't want to celebrate in a big way out with her friends and with my husband and I too. She wanted to have her time with her friends alone and then celebrate with us at a different time.
It irked me. Well, let me be sincere, it more than irked me. It really made me mad. But despite my clear negative reaction to the proposal, I couldn't figure out why this was so offensive. It's not like my daughter never goes out with her friends alone, and nothing she suggested was all that outrageous. So why was my reaction so strong and so negative? And then, like a heavenly epiphany, it came to me: birthday parties are something you celebrate with your family. I had never really thought about it before.
As I hashed through my feelings about the whole issue, I thought through birthday parties from my childhood. They were something my parents did for me, a chance for me to invite my friends to a party that my parents were throwing for me and ask them to celebrate with me and my family. Sometimes my extended family came too. Yes, my parents listened to my requests for what I wanted to do for my birthday, but it was always within the context of what our family would do that my friends would also join in. When I became an adult, my birthday was still an important day for family. My parents or one of my sisters came to my town to celebrate with me. If they couldn't, I celebrated with my little family. The same goes for everyone in my family. I had never really thought about it before, but in my family, birthdays are times that you spend with family. You travel to celebrate the birthdays of loved ones with them, and they do the same for you. It's not that friends aren't welcome; it's that friends are invited to celebrate with your family, not instead of them.
Once I realized the source of my anger, I explained it to my daughter. We resolved that she could go downtown and shop with her friends alone (no matter how awful cold the temperature might be!), but then they all would come to our house and we would celebrate there together. We would get a chance to spend time with her friends and get to know them better. In the end, it would be a time for my daughter's family and friends to come together and celebrate her life.
I wish I had realized this earlier in her life so that I could have implicitly taught her my value sooner. We had an understanding in the end, but it would have been so much easier to deal with this issue with less friction and misunderstanding. Such is parenting -- you always figure out the better way to do it once you've passed the time to do it!
Monday, February 23, 2009
As we were finishing our meal, a woman who had been sitting near us approached us. She said to me, "I just wanted to let you know that your kids were very well-behaved, especially for how young they are. I've seen a lot of kids, and yours did very well. You're doing a great job."
I've had strangers compliment me on my kids' behavior occasionally before, and generally it gives me warm fuzzies. But usually it's on days when they actually have been behaving well.
This one caught me off guard, because I didn't think their behavior was good during that time. It made me wonder:
-- Are some other kids really so out-of-control that my kids' behavior looked good?
-- Did the woman merely appreciate that I was trying to get my kids to behave, rather than laughing it off or ignoring it?
-- Did she see how frazzled I looked and offer the compliment as a pick-me-up from a been-there-done-that mom to one who's doing it now?
I don't know. I still don't know what to make of it. On one hand, I appreciate someone thinking I'm doing a good job with my kids. On the other, I know there's a lot of room for improvement. I don't want to exempt them my kids from proper behavior simply because they're young. I don't want to make excuses for them being tired or hungry. I want them to be polite and courteous and act appropriately for the situations they're in.
And yes, I'm thankful for the day-brightening brought by strangers who compliment my parenting, as well as for those who keep their voices low so I don't hear when they complain about my children's misbehavior.
This job of "mom" is not an easy one. That I know for sure.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
So why are we here? Not here, online, on blogs, making friends with women we may never actually see, but why are we here, here. Here on this earth. In this world. Why are we part of our particular family? The community around us? Why are we friends with our particular friends and mothers to our particular children?
Heavy stuff for a Thursday morning, wouldn’t you say? These grand issues aren’t things I take lightly. I never have. I had friends in college who were happy-go-lucky, party girls who saw the fun in everything. I envied them, because I always had that serious bent. I had my share of fun, for sure, but I’m a list maker, a pros and cons kind of girl. I knew the possible consequences of whatever the action—whether it was lack of sleep or a jail term—and I weighed those carefully. At twenty, I felt the weight of the world. No longer a teenager, I knew it was time to get serious about life, to think about the future, a job, to choose a life.
And at that tender age, I did think that we chose our life. And for awhile, it felt like I did.
I chose San Francisco, or it chose me, and to this day I haven’t found a city I prefer.
I loved the bakery on the corner and the dry cleaner on the next block.
I loved taking the express bus downtown every morning for work.
I loved that I hardly ever drove, except to visit customers outside of the city, or to take road trips to Napa or Half Moon Bay, or to move my car on street cleaning night.
I loved the hustle and bustle and the sounds of the city.
I loved the quiet of the city on a Sunday morning.
I loved the view from the top of the hill, looking all the way down to the joggers getting in their afternoon run at the marina.
I loved Golden Gate Park with its twists and turns and interesting people.
I loved roaming around, exploring new neighborhoods, and finding new places to love every day.
I loved the smell of that city.
I miss it.
And, yesterday, when I read that Alice Bradley of Finslippy is leaving the suburbs and heading back to Brooklyn, it hit me. It really hit me.
And so, here I am, wondering not just about San Francisco and all of the other choices I’ve made, but about life. I’m thinking about how we were designed to interact with one another—with our spouses, our parents, our children, our friends. I’m thinking about how we each have a different calling, and some of us find it and some of us don’t. I’m thinking about pain and suffering and about how our experience with them affects our view of the world. I’m thinking about fairness and unfairness, about justice and equality, about life and death.
That’s a lot of thinking for one morning. Thanks a lot, Alice.
And what about you? Did you choose your life? Did it chose you? Join me in thinking about it, would you? Then let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Monday, February 16, 2009
On Friday, Zander took Valentine's to his teachers, and I told him that on the back of them he could write his name, or do whatever he wanted to do. He chose to draw a picture of himself and each teacher. I thought it was the cutest thing ever, and actually scanned them into my computer knowing that I had to give the adorable little drawings away. Here is one of the hearts he decorated....
The teachers loved them, and after opening them started talking about how creative Zander is. They said they always can tell which painting/drawing is his because there is some elaborate story behind them. An alien saving the world, a robot kid, a boy playing on a slide with his favorite toy, a superhero etc. I laughed and said "that is my Zander - 100%" then I said "come to think of it, Kaden was EXACTLY the same way!" and they agreed, remember the days when he was in their class, and drawing them elaborate pictures. I did not think much more about it, until I got home. I then started to remember Kaden making entire comic books BEFORE he even knew how to read or write. They would have detailed stories, and I would either write them for him, or he would just leave them blank & "read" them by looking at the pictures.
Then I thought of Ellie. We've always told her she is an artist because she LOVES to draw and paint, and is very good at it. OF course, there are no aliens & robots like Zander draws, or pirates which were always Kaden's favorites. She is all about rainbows & flowers and drawing cute little animals :) In fact, this summer I bought her a book that I remembered loving as a child. Yes, I have always loved all things art too. Art & books make up alot of my childhood memories.
All of this made me wonder about my kids. Did they get this love of art from their Dad (who can also draw) & I? And what about the artistic talent they all seem to have? Were they born with it? Or have I instilled it in them through our near-daily creative activities? I never intended to have time each day for art, but my kids have started early asking to color, and I've always let them. THere has always been paper, crayons & markers available for them. I never even realized it, because it is just a normal thing around here...
So,what do you think? Do your children have a love/talent for something specific? Do you enjoy it as well? Have I taught my children to love art or just allowed them to further explore something they were born to enjoy?
*I've not mentioned Ava in this post, but as you can see from the pictures - she already joins in the creativity :)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
2) Plan to make said purchase at Mall of America store, in order to earn free amusement park wristbands with MOA purchase.
3) Take husband and four children to Mall of America. On a Saturday afternoon. Which just happens to be Valentine's Day.
4) Spend 30 minutes entering parking ramp and finding spot to park.
5) Wait 10 minutes for elevator that never comes. Walk down stairs instead.
6) Enter Mall of America, see sign at entrance advertising Best Buy on east side, 1st floor.
7) Make way through mobs of people to that location, holding tightly to hands of all children.
8) Find that 1st floor east side is Best Buy MOBILE, not full store.
9) Retrace steps, searching for mall directory.
10) Proceed through center of amusement park to actual Best Buy location on west side, 3rd floor.
11) Find Best Buy. Find items you're interested in. Find that after a day of being turned on, there's not enough power left to actually see the items in action. Leave Best Buy unhappily.
12) Tell kids that a future trip to the amusement park is no longer in their future. Tell husband he should be happy that you just saved a lot of money because of bad Best Buy experience.
13) Spend 30 minutes attempting to exit parking ramp.
14) Be thankful you didn't lose any kids along the way.
(We did go on to have a nice family dinner afterward and some other fun during the day, so all was not lost.)
Hope your Valentine's Day was happy!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Toast with butter. The ultimate comfort food that always managed to soothe my hunger pains when I was small, and still too finicky to eat what was set before me for dinner.
Here's the ingredients for this Valentine's Dish, which can be found in Nigella Express: Good Food, Fast:
- 4-6 tablespoons of butter
- 2 gala apples
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 3 slices of bread, cut into heart shapes
- sugar for sprinkling
- Melt butter in a skillet, reserving a spoonful for later.
- Finely slice the apples, Nigella leaves the peels on. She writes that she gets 22 slices out of 2 apples, but I did not -- I got much less.
- Add them to the pan and cook for about three minutes.
- Add vanilla and cook for five minutes more, turning the apples once.
- Remove the apples to a plate.
- Add the remaining spoonful of butter to the pan and fry the bread hearts, the croutes.
- Arrange the croutes on the plate with the apples and sprinkle with sugar.
- Serve with cream if you have it on hand.
There's nothing quite like a Valentine's Day Dessert that loves your family, and your soul, at the same time.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
So far, we've tried to keep birthdays simple. I'm just not a buy-a-fancy-cake, have-a-big-party type of mom. So here's our way of making birthdays special without a lot of fuss.
1) Cake: Each child gets to choose the flavor and shape of his or her cake, as well as the color of frosting and what will be written on the cake. (Example: "I'm 5 and I love trains.") Acceptable shapes are circle or rectangle. My youngest and oldest got creative this year and chose "cookie cake" and cheesecake, respectively.
2) Family Dinner: If we're home the evening of their birthday, the birthday child gets to choose what to have for supper. We also invite their grandparents and godparents; sometimes they can come, sometimes not.
3) Family Outing: To help cure the winter blues, we sometimes take a family outing for some or all of the birthdays. It might be a day trip to a museum, an overnight trip to a waterpark, or a stop in town for a game of bowling.
4) Gifts: Each child gets one gift from us, which usually costs $40 or less. Since they're still recovering from Christmas gifts, we keep the birthday gifts simple. (We also tend to get them a few surprises in the summer as well.)
5) School: Each child chooses a simple treat or trinket to share with all of their classmates on the school day closest to their birthday.
What about you? How do you celebrate your children's birthdays? Are we depriving our kids by not doing something more?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I have an uneasy relationship with the Midwest.
A Northerner by birth, I spent most of my life on the shoreline: first in the Great Lakes industrial city in which I grew up, later along the Thames, when my family lived as expatriates in London, and finally, as a young adult attending college in Boston.
Water is a huge part of my life. The ocean beckons me every summer, to Cape Cod where I've spent every July since I was just 8 years old.
When my husband called me from the flat lands of Illinois one February afternoon and told me we would soon be living in a college town two hours south of Chicago, my first reaction was panic.
I'd long since returned to the city of my youth. It was where I wed, buried my father and birthed my first child.
It was home.
My father's death just a little less than two years earlier caused my roots to grow even more firmly into that hilly ground. I couldn't bear the idea of being so far from his grave, from the water that gave him so much joy.
I did not want to leave.
But marriage carries obligations, and my husband put forth a compelling argument: if we go, he said, our future will be brighter in the long term.
So we sold our 100-year-old Dutch Colonial—bought just a scant nine months earlier—and set out for the prairie, and our new life.
It was shocking how flat the topography is here. For days I drove the same small, circuitous route from hotel to mall to new suburban development, aching for trees and rolling hills and the shimmering blue of Lake Ontario.
Longing for the familiar, I unpacked all our worldly goods and watched as strangers painted our daughter's room the precise shade of pink that adorned her walls back East. I arranged her crib bumpers and decided where to put the coffeemaker, waiting for my mother and sister to wing her back to me, after watching the girl for the seven days it took to move to Chambana.
Our first months here were hard, harder even than the first days in a foreign country. I was adrift, tethered only to the baby and the strangers inside my computer, whose blogs and emails helped me make it through that first horrible year.
Winter was the worst. The baby gave up her nap and together we fussed and fretted our way through the short days, eyes seared from the glaring brown of the decimated cornfield behind our house. Every day I waited for the locks to click, announcing the arrival of my husband.
We flew at him, us girls, clamoring for his reassurances, his strength, his kisses.
Oh, we were lonely.
Slowly, surely, the winter waned and summer arrived, our first in the bare patch of grass outside our backyard. I counted days like sheep, until at last, the time came to depart for the water once again.
We spent three weeks at the oceanside that year, days filled with sunshine and the scent of lemons on a salty wind. But as our time there waned, the baby who'd become a girl in the 12 months of our Midwestern life begged to go home.
"Are we going to go back to Mybana?" she asked me. "I want to go to Mybana."
And so it came to be that her home was mine, as well.
Two years have passed since that fateful afternoon by the sea, when my daughter looked at me with hazel eyes and asked to go home.
My house is now as familiar as my own skin, cheerful yellow kitchen and shoddy carpentry, crooked door frames and a new nursery, bright green this time. Hopeful holly bushes line our front stoop, poking out of freshly dug beds. A Big Wheel stands at the ready, eager for a spring rider.
And this August, when the cornfield is as green and undulating as a deep ocean, we will leave Chambana for parts unknown. As it stands now, we will stay in the middle of this great country of ours, headed north this time.
North, to a land of lakes and greenery, a land notorious for punishing winters and liberal summers.
We will leave behind the physical shell of our life here in the Midwest, but will take with us memories that cannot be undone by geography: our daughter's first school days, my new career as a freelance writer, my husband's shiny new degree, and the happy smile of our second-born, a native Chambanan.
Chambana and I have not always agreed, but trust me when I say my tears for this place—this strange, frustrating, wonderful place—will be very real indeed.
Monday, February 9, 2009
And most of us believe that other mothers are doing it better.
Sure, you've got the moms out there that are definitely not doing it better-- and the mugshots on TV to prove it.
But if you're anything like me, your reality about what a mom should and does do is based on those mothers you come into regular contact with. And everyone else seems to be handling this mom gig better than you. They bake more. They do more crafts. They apply discipline better and remember to wash the kids' linens before they are crusty with boogers. They are thinner, better cooks, and probably even (gasp!) have time for romantic evenings with their partners.
In short, they are Supermoms.
But if you didn't already know it, I'm going to remind you today: the Supermom is a myth.
She doesn't exist.
We are all imperfect in our parenting. We all have our trashy junk drawers, our well-kept dusty secret corners, and our festering anxieties. We all have something about our parenting that we wish we could do better-- and most of us, most of the time, are doing the best we can.
Perhaps that means that we are all Supermoms.
But when I find myself wasting my energy comparing myself to what I believe other mothers have/are/do/create for their children, I try to keep it in check. For one, nothing productive can come out of that worry. For two, I have no idea what it's like on the other side of their fence. For three, maybe that "supermom" is looking over my fence thinking the same things about me.
There's a cheesy self-motivational artist named Sark, and she writes:
You have enough.
You do enough.
I try to remind myself of that, when I see these mothers that I aspire to emulate. And I try to give myself a break.
Have you given yourself a break today?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I make sandwiches for school lunches on Sunday for the week (usually only 2 or 3 days--the other days she has macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets or buttered noodles in a Funtainer). I try to buy birthday gifts within a day or two of receiving the invitation. If at all possible, I stock up on sale presents when I stumble upon them.
I plan out our supper menus 3 weeks at a time. When I buy hamburger, my husband will brown it and freeze it for me to eliminate a step for some recipes.
But one of the most time-consuming tasks is always the laundry. We never can catch up completely since we're always wearing clothes (you're welcome). But there are still things that I have done to try to make things a little easier.
First, I sort my laundry as it is dirtied. I bought 4 nylon hampers at IKEA that I use to sort laundry. There is one each for reds, lights, darks and one for towels, socks and undergarments. These were $4 each and worth every cent. I know at a glance that I need to wash whites or towels or whatever. I also know that each bin, if filled to the top is at least 2 loads of laundry. When every bin is full I have a lot of laundry to do.
To ease the morning rush, I've bought hanging closet shelves so that I can pick out the kids' clothes for the entire week while I have time on the weekend. Of course this works best if your kids are
I store skirts and shorts on the upper "extra" shelves of Miss M's organizer.
K's closet is shorter than a regular closet so his organizer was a challenge to find. It's a cheap, flimsy one and I hope to find a nicer one for him soon. The bottom shelf of his holds out of season shorts.And since Ms. D rooms with us, her organizer is crammed between Craig's and my clothes. It only has room for 6 days (as K's does) but I just pick out their Sunday clothes on Saturday.And as I post these photos I see how messy our closets really are, but well, that's the way it goes isn't it?
What short cuts have you discovered to make life easier?
Monday, February 2, 2009
At least that's what I'll tell you.
More realistically, this is how I expect to be feeling:
- Wondering if the 8-page information sheet I left for the two sets of grandparents is detailed enough so that they can find the kids' medicine. And clothes. And get them on the bus and pick them up from school on time.
- Hoping that weather and/or medical difficulties haven't put a monkey-wrench in the grandparents' transfer-of-kids plan. (My parents are traveling from North Dakota for the first part of the week, and my father-in-law recently had knee surgery.)
- Secretly wishing that the weather stays cold, because after this long winter, I'd hate to miss the first respite from the frigid temps. Or perhaps not really caring as long as it's warm where I am.
- Praying that there are no peanut reactions while we're away from our son for the first time since his allergy was diagnosed.
- Thankful that a dear friend offered to be Plan B for the kids in case something should come up. And wondering how I can repay her for that kindness.
- Grateful that my husband and I have family and friends who helped make this special getaway possible, albeit six months after our anniversary.
- Thinking about my little ones, wondering if they're doing ok without me for a whole week. And missing them terribly.