Thursday, September 5, 2013


I feel a strong need to start this post with a disclaimer. I DO NOT have the answers. I am not an expert on motherhood. I am as close a thing as there is to being an expert on mothering my own children, but even with them I screw up at least six times a day J -- as evidenced by earlier posts on such fantastic topics as patience and disciplining without yelling.

However, despite my total non-expert status, there’s something that has been niggling away in some remote corner of my brain where useful thought sometimes – sometimes – takes place.

Motherhood has changed since my mom did it in the 70’s and 80’s (she’s still a mom, obviously, but I’m talking about the day-to-day raising of children into semi-responsible adults). Back then, mothering seemed to be a whole lot more about what went on within your family and a whole lot less about what went on in other people’s families. The focus was not so much on how other mothers dressed (other than the mom who wore a full-length fur coat to high school basketball games – we all talked about her J), or what kind of car she drove, what brand her sandals were (am I the only one who didn’t know or care who Tory Burch was?), or how much she worked out and how little food she ate.

Today’s moms seem more stressed than ever despite the ever-increasing number of so-called conveniences meant to make our lives easier. My admittedly old-fashioned view is different. I believe that all of the additional technology has served to make us less efficient, less genuinely connected and – most importantly – less satisfied. There is a never-ending stream of information showing us how someone is doing it better, cheaper, more expensively, more extravagantly, more organically, more spiritually, etc., etc., etc. Some of this information – a small portion of it – can be helpful or even inspirational. But I maintain that the vast majority of it makes us feel less – makes us feel like we don’t measure up. And that makes me a little nuts.

We ALL have areas where we are strong, just like we all have areas where we are not. But spending all that energy focusing on what the mom next to you in carpool line – or God forbid, the latest celebrity parent – has done or is doing or may at some time in the future do is detrimental to all. It’s detrimental to each one of us as mothers, and more importantly is seriously detrimental to our children. If we are expending all this energy outward, worrying about what others think of us – of our inability to get made up and dressed before morning drop-off, of our lack of interest in crafting or baking or removing dairy and sugar and processed foods from our children’s diets – we are spending less time being truly with our kids. And we’re spending less time helping them become good people. People who respect and honor themselves and others. People who know how to communicate properly and respectfully, people who are kind and considerate, people who love to learn and who appreciate how much fun it can be to just get outside and run. People who love to curl up with a good book and just  be.  
And so I will end by asking those who are mothering alongside me, either literally or figuratively, to please forgive me if I don’t notice – or frankly care – about your expensive new shoes or handbag. Forgive me if I don’t oooh and ahhh over your latest vacation spot (but I will ask and truly care if your family had a wonderful time), forgive me if I still choose to feed my kids ice cream and fruit that is sometimes not organic.
What I will notice – and will care about – and will always mention not just to you but to others is when your kids are proving themselves to be the wonderful little people you are raising them to be. When they are kind and thoughtful, when they are funny and sweet, when they are clever or remember to use good manners. I will ALWAYS notice those things. And I will try to remember to always share those things with you. Because at the end of the day, that is all that truly matters in this world of mommyhood.
We're all on the same team.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


After a lot of soul searching this summer, I’ve finally realized that it’s time for two of my three beans to start learning about the facts of life.

(Oh how I love any reason to wax nostalgic about 80's TV!)

No, not those facts. I am still avoiding discussions of those facts like the plague. In other words, taking the chicken’s way out. When I’m asked how my three beans got out of my belly, I take a minute to thank God for my three c-sections and then respond with complete honesty. “The doctor went in and got you out.” Technically true. And two weeks ago, when Sunshine asked me how she got INTO my belly, I stammered out some answer about mommies and daddies who love each other and God answering prayers. Go ahead and judge me if you like, I can take it. I know people who provide anatomically and biologically correct answers to any question regardless of age of child. I say “Good for you.” But not good for me. Not yet.

Please forgive the tangent. The facts of life I am talking about are of a different flavor. The flavor where as you go through life – and school – it becomes apparent that not everyone is going to be nice all of the time. And sometimes there’s no good reason why. Sometimes a kid – or a fellow mommy --  is just not going to like you and he or she will choose to be unkind to you. Sometimes people – big people as well as small people – just suck. (Much like intercourse, suck is also not a word I would use with my beans, but it illustrates my point better than any other word I could come up with on a Sunday night.)

Now my mama bear instinct is as strong as any other mommy’s – and given my natural tendency toward moderate to severe feistiness, a little stronger than some. Among my deepest desires is to protect my beans from being hurt. Physically hurt, of course, but also emotionally hurt. An undeniable truth of life is that the emotional hurts can cause scars that far outlast most physical injuries. Another undeniable truth – and one I’ve fought – is that neither can be completely avoided.

Boo boos are going to happen. Knees will be scraped, arms will be bruised, and even (please, not just yet) bones may be broken. Most, if not all, of the physical injuries will heal and be forgotten. Sure, there might be a story behind a scar in a boy’s eyebrow that will grow ever more epic over the course of time, but most will fade from skin and memory.

What I need to continually remind myself is that the emotional bumps and bruises will heal as well. That a bad day is just that – one day – whether it’s me or one of my beans having it. And just like I can’t prevent falls and scrapes and bruises, I also can’t prevent playground drama and cafeteria slights and fickle friends. I can’t – and more importantly, I shouldn’t.

The way I was put together coupled with the family in which I was raised make me a do-er. It’s painful for me to sit by and watch someone else do something I could jump up and do faster or more efficiently. And yes, it’s that kind of attitude that gets you saddled with most of the housework and dishes and dirty diapers. But sometimes God sends you a gem in the form of a laid back husband who ignores your assurances that you’ll “just do it myself” and does some of it anyway. And that’s a good thing J  But being put together this way also means it’s very difficult to not jump in and solve and do and fix for my beans. Difficult, but not impossible, as long as I keep my eye on the goal.

The goal can be summed up in one word. CAPABLE. My wish for my beans is that they grow up to feel – and to truly be – capable. Capable of caring for themselves as well as for others. Capable of weathering the storms of daily life. I want all three of my beans – the thoughtful and sensitive Professor, the sweet and almost-too-trusting Sunshine and my feisty, spunky Pinky – to be able to stand up for themselves. To be able to handle themselves.

Now, will I be here to listen and help as needed? Yes. Absolutely and always yes. If I keep my goal in mind – and fight the instinct to over-help and do for them – I will guide instead of direct. I will advise instead of tell. It is my job to teach them the skills they need to become truly capable. To act -- and react -- appropriately and effectively. To know when to stand up and fight and when to walk away. And for me to know when to turn things over to their father when a calmer head is needed.   

Being and feeling capable is the goal. Getting there will take time. And in the meantime, I can promise you that if one of my beans needs me – if someone truly does one of them wrong in a way they can’t/shouldn’t handle on their own – this mama bear will take care of business. J

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Choose kindness.

When you put it like that, just two little words, it certainly seems simple. And truly, kindness is simple. But it’s not always easy.

I had an epiphany of sorts about kindness just yesterday morning. I was talking with my beans about the difference between being “nice” and being “kind.” As a confirmed word nerd, there is little I love more than a good discussion about a difference in semantics J (see Shades of Gray... Meaning) After working through it in my own (admittedly muddled) mom-brain, I explained to them that being kind means actually “doing” something. Being nice can be as simple as using good manners or smiling hello or letting your sister have the ONE fork that all three kids have decided is their favorite.

Being kind, on the other hand, requires action. The action may be physical, but it can also be verbal. Kindness is reaching out to the child who is standing off to the side on the playground and asking him if he’d like to play. Kindness is scooching over to make room for the child who no one else is making room for. Kindness is standing up for someone who is being teased – letting them know by word and deed that they’re not standing alone. Kindness can seem small to the doer, but to the person on the receiving end, it can feel HUGE. And I truly believe that developing the skill of kindness will build a child’s character like nothing else can.

Choose kindness. It’s a precept – a mantra of sorts – from a tremendous book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is a middle grade novel that far transcends the middle school experience. If I may hop onto my author soapbox for a brief moment, I feel strongly that this book should be required reading for every kid ten and over and every adult, period, especially if you’re a parent.

I won’t go into great detail, but it’s a book about a ten-year-old boy born with grave cranial-facial deformities and his experience of attending school for the first time. There are moments that are painful to read and moments of such hope and beauty it takes my breath away. Needless to say, there was some ugly crying when I read the book – both times.

Wonder was this month’s choice of the book club to which I belong. Now there are times we moms get together and eat snacks and drink wine and spend little if any time actually talking about the book. This was not one of those times. We had a fantastic discussion about kindness and disabilities – seen and unseen – and how kids learn – and unlearn – kindness. It was a discussion that left me both hopeful and afraid. Because the truth is, kids can be unkind. So can adults. This lack of kindness can be unintentional, but many times it is intentional.

Those of us in the book club all have younger children – early elementary and younger. And mid-way through the night, it struck me that kindness is relatively easy at that age. It’s not automatic, but it’s almost natural for younger kids to be kind. To extend themselves and offer help to a friend in need. To overlook or accept a difference in a classmate. But those years don’t last forever. They don’t last nearly long enough. As kids get older, kindness becomes less automatic. Less cool. And less likely to happen. My solution-loving mind played with this idea for hours last night. And I think the solution is – again – simple. Not easy, but simple. The natural instinct toward kindness must be nurtured. It’s like any other developmental skill. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Is awareness enough? Probably not. Can you force a child to be kind? Absolutely not. I imagine the only thing that might feel worse than having someone be unkind is the knowledge that a kindness was insincere. At this stage, with The Professor, Sunshine and Pinky embarking on a new school year and new adventures in 1st grade, kindergarten and preschool respectively, my plan is to talk about kindness. To call out examples both done by and done to my beans. I’ll make darned sure they know – and feel – kindness when they see it. Because I also think being kind can become a habit. And as my relationship with chocolate (and diet coke) tells me, habits can become addictive.

And I don’t know about you, but to me being addicted to being kind sounds like a pretty good problem to have J
Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.  ~Marian Wright Edelman

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Change of any sort invariably reminds me of Peter Brady singing the "Time to Change" song on the Brady Bunch. And then the above lyrics run through my head for the rest of the day. So there you have it J

The theme of this summer for our family has been transition. Lots of transition.

There was moving out of our old house into a temporary apartment and then into our new house. Certainly the end result was worth all of the upheaval and immense amounts of work, but still. It was leaving a house that held a lot of truly wonderful and priceless memories. It was cramming all of us into an apartment for four weeks – not as fun as it sounds. And then it was making a new house into our home as quickly as possible. We’re there. We’re home – and we all love it. Everyone has a favorite spot. Mine, of course, is my kitchen. The Professor’s is the backyard where he’s putting many hours into perfecting his golf game. Sunshine LOVES her new, bigger girl room, complete with cozy reading nook. And Pinky loves the straightaway – the wide-open space between the family room and the front room which needs an actual name but is mostly a family library. It’s good for running J The hubby loves all of it – he’s just that kind of guy.

There was me trying to figure out what it means -- in ways both practical and not -- to be a published author instead of someone who scribbles away during stolen moments. And how exactly that boxes with being a full-time mom. I made myself a promise when I started writing that it wouldn’t interfere with or affect the beans. That might be why I can’t seem to actually schedule a babysitter. But now I have people who expect things of me – people other than my family. I have deadlines. Yikes.  My solution has been to sleep less. This plan needs more work J

Then there’s Sunshine starting kindergarten. And yes, she turned five so starting kindergarten is the natural next step. And yes, she’s so very ready. But me, I’m not. I’m not ready to let this one go just yet. To let her go off for more than half of her waking hours five days a week. But school starts in 20 days, so it’s time for me to get ready.

And finally there’s the transition I can hardly talk about yet. My baby, my BABY, Pinky herself is going off to preschool. How this is possible I do not know. She’s going to be going to school three mornings a week – and eating lunch there. Without me. She is my pal, my sidekick, my do-everything-with girl. We’re literally always together. When school was in session, there were many times when it was just us. And now there are going to be times when it’s just me. For the first time in 6 1/2 years. I know I’m supposed to be looking forward to this. But I’m not. I have a feeling this transition is going to be tough on both Pinky and me. I also have a feeling she’ll bounce back faster than I will.

All of this change – the changes that have already happened and those that are coming -- has made me turtle in. This has been the summer of just us. During the week, it’s been mostly just me and the beans. And I’ve LOVED it. We’ve had some camps and weekly trips to the library and certainly played with friends. But most of the time it’s been us. Hanging out and making the simplest and best of summer memories. I don’t know when I became conscious of what I’ve been doing. I think early on this summer it was simply a reaction to being really and truly exhausted. But then it became deliberate. I am drinking them in. Drinking in who we are as a family. Who my beans are right this very moment when it’s just us – when they’re their most natural selves.

It’s going to be hard to stick my head back out into the world.  To deal with schedules and carpool lines and juggling soccer practices and homework and all the rest. But I think the gift of this summer – this lazy, lovely, summer – has given me what I need to do it.
I hope so.

Monday, July 1, 2013


There are a lot of things I don’t give my beans. Frozen food (other than ice cream, of course), cereal that turns your milk different colors, gum (I have a recurring nightmare about gum getting stuck in thick, little girl hair), and their own way when one or the other of them is having a fit.

There are also a lot of things I do give my kids. An excessive amount of hugs and kisses, a rear-end tightening when needed, and pancakes on Sunday mornings. They know they’re loved. They know they’re special. And I don’t mean special in that “you’re better than someone else” kind of way that seems to pervade our society these days. But special in the “you’re you and nobody else is the same you as you” kind of way that I believe every kid needs to hear and believe. That every kid deserves to hear and believe.

Which brings me to the thing I can’t give my kids. Something that I had. Something that is not necessarily vital, but I’d argue that is invaluable. And my inability to provide this to my beans niggles away in the back of my mind like a jagged fingernail. Not painful, not something I think about all the time, but it’s there waiting to be noticed. Waiting to catch on something.

A few weeks ago, my brother was ordained into the priesthood. Family members came to North Carolina from Michigan to support him and celebrate. My aunt was one of those family members. Watching her with my kids was incredibly heart-warming. She’s a warm, generous person, easy to love and even easier to be loved by. She’d never met two of my beans and hadn’t seen The Professor since he was baby. All three kids basked in her love and attention. It warmed my heart and made it ache all at once.

When I was growing up, this same aunt (my mom’s older sister) always made me feel special. She didn’t do BIG things. Rather, she let me know in dozens of little ways that she loved me. That I mattered. I think aunts have the ability to do this in a way no one else can.

I was a picky eater. Okay, I still am. I am almost 43-years-old and I still hate green vegetables. I am also VERY weird about certain textures. The mere thought of orange juice with pulp makes me retch. There. I said it. J So you can see that being my mother had its challenging moments where food was concerned.

Food was – and is – a big thing in our family. It was the center of our holiday celebrations. You never left a family gathering hungry. Rather, it was far more common to feel a little uncomfortably stuffed – full of home-baked goods and meals prepared with love and a great deal of skill. Yum. One of the offerings was always a jello salad (I have no idea why, looking back it’s the one thing that seems incongruous). If my mom made the jello salad, it was always chock full of pieces of fruit and sometimes even nuts for crunch. Now, a quick reference to the previous paragraph and my feelings about food textures should tell you how I felt about these salads. Simply writing about it just gave me the shivers. J

When my mom hosted these dinners, I passed the jello along to the next person without taking any. But if my aunt hosted, it was different. I still passed the chunky jello salad, but I knew that my aunt would step into her kitchen and come back with a mini jello salad just for me. A bowl of gloriously plain, smooth, non-chunky or crunchy jello. My mom would roll her eyes and tell my aunt she was spoiling me. My aunt would ignore her and give me a kiss on the head.

The jello isn’t actually the point of this story. It was what the jello represented. It said I was worth the fuss. I was thought of. My aunt loved me enough to do little things – a hundred little things – just for me. Aunts have the ability to “spoil” without actually spoiling. Moms have to say no – and should say no – to things every day. Aunts get to say yes. Aunts make us feel special.

This brings me back to what I can’t give my kids. Our family is small. As I mentioned, my brother – my only sibling – became a priest. A Catholic priest who will never marry or have children. My husband’s brother – and only sibling – is deceased. My kids have two sets of grandparents and an uncle. It’s a pretty small bunch J They are loved. Oh, how they’re loved by us all, small in number though we may be. But they miss out on that special brand of love that only aunts can give. 

So if at times I turn myself inside-out and upside-down to do little extra things to make my beans feel special, it’s because I’m trying to be their aunt as well as their mommy. Trying to give them that big feeling of being loved and that little feeling of being fussed over just because. Just because they’re who they are.

If your kids have what I call an aunt with a capital “A” or if you are such an aunt, take a minute to be thankful. Thankful for that special relationship that you’ve been given. Thankful for that very special brand of love that’s as close to mother love as you can get with a splash of friendship thrown in for good measure.

Monday, June 3, 2013


I’ve decided that I’m going to turn my back on the “A” word.

No, not that one. I actually like that one. In certain situations, it just plain fits J

The “A” word I’m rejecting is absolute. provides this as its first definition of absolute: free from imperfection, complete, perfect.

I’ve read a lot of blog posts, magazine articles, internet articles, etc. on parenting. I’m a full-time mom after all, so reading up on ways to improve my game seemed like a good idea. Now I’m not so sure. Now I’m pretty sure that I need to be a lot more selective about what voices and what messages I let in.

If I look at my mothering in terms of absolutes, I lose. Every time. Never yell at your kids. NEVER. Fail. Always respond in a calm tone and in an age-appropriate manner. ALWAYS. Again, fail. Breastfeeding your baby is the only way to truly nourish and bond with your baby. ONLY. Yet again, fail.

I found myself feeling a little beaten down by all of these messages last week. Then, in what I can only call a moment of pure serendipity, I went to meet my running group. And I didn’t run. Instead, I spent more than an hour walking - and talking - with two wonderful women. Women who, without knowing it, said just the right things to me. The things I needed to hear to give me that smidge of validation I needed and the courage to reject the absolutes in all of those messages.

See, I have a roadmap of sorts as a mom. A plan guided by a compass. The points of my compass include love, faith, fun and learning. I’m focusing on helping my beans figure out who they are and how to be their own bests. Not THE best, but their own bests. Big difference.

Will there be yelling sometimes? As I’ve covered in a previous post – yep! Is my tone always calm and measured? Um, no. Are my responses always well thought out and age-appropriate? Not exactly. Did I struggle with and ultimately not succeed at nursing two out of three times? You betcha.

If I evaluate my performance as a mother in absolute terms, I’m not doing so hot. So I’m going to choose to see myself through eyes that are realistic. Eyes that are kind as well as challenging. Eyes that will see the good at the same time they recognize the ways in which I can improve. And I can. I will. Every day.

Because there is one absolute in my life as a mommy.

I love my beans.




Sunday, May 19, 2013


Our family is in the middle of an exciting transition. We’ve sold a house and bought a house. A great house. A just right for us, meets all our needs, moving in and staying until the hubby and I are really old kind of house. The only problem is we can’t move in just yet. We can’t move in for 18 more days. And we had to move out of our old house nine days ago. Which means that we are officially without a home. In a sense, we are homeless.

My husband says I’m being melodramatic. He has a point. We are not actually homeless. We are staying in a perfectly acceptable three-bedroom, fully furnished apartment. We are safe, we are dry, we are warm and clean and fed. In other words, we are just fine. Well, most of us.

The beans have adjusted beautifully. They seem to think this is rather exciting, although the novelty of sharing a room with the excessively chatty Pinky is starting to wear on Sunshine more than a little bit. My hubby of course is fine because he always is.

It’s me who’s struggling. And this has taken me by surprise. When I stop to think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, home is what I do. Home is who I am.

Calling oneself a homemaker is more than likely old-fashioned. But a homemaker is what I am. What I am proud to be. I get a great deal of satisfaction from making a home for my family. Creating an environment and traditions big and small that make our home uniquely ours. That make us who we are.

I have been nearly undone by things as minor as baking cookies and Sunday morning breakfasts. Working with an unfamiliar oven and an uncooperative cookie sheet led to a batch of chocolate chip cookies that didn’t turn out the way my cookies always turn out. Funnily enough, this seemed to bother exactly no one but me. (And yes, there’s a lesson there. And yes I know it’s probably time I learn that lesson.) Sunday mornings mean pancakes. Always. And yet I am without a griddle or pan that will properly cook pancakes. I let myself be sad about this while I made scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning – this Sunday morning. And guess what, no one complained.
Is my sadness a result of my ego? Is it the result of an unwillingness or inability to go with the flow? It’s unclear. What I do know is that being a homemaker is an enormous part of who I am. For me it’s a huge part of being the mommy I want to be to my three beans.
But here’s another time where I learn instead of teach. Where I watch my beans get excited about scootering on the sidewalk in front of our apartment or blowing bubbles on our tiny patio instead of moaning about not having a backyard. They get excited about finding a parking spot instead of wishing for a garage. In short, they’re living in the moment and enjoying what we do have instead of thinking about what we don’t. Because what we have is each other and literally everything we need.
So my cookies didn’t turn out quite right. So what? So we’ll have to go out for breakfast if we want pancakes. It could be fun. So my kitchen doesn’t come with an ice cream scoop. Okay, that actually is a problem J
In a short while we’ll be in our new house and I’ll be hard at work making it into our home. Every day. In the meantime, I’m going to follow the lead of my sweet beans and enjoy what we have right now. Us.