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.  

Friday, May 3, 2013


I had what could very loosely be termed an epiphany of sorts this week. It could also be termed a train of thought that simply wound its way around a number of sharp turns and meandering roads to lead to a moment when I said, “Hmmm.” But an epiphany sounds better, right?

Anyway, it all started with a moment of irritation. I wish I could say it was the only one I experienced this week, but that would be a lie. Given my not-so-patient nature and my current state of hovering on the edge of crazy pants, irritation was bound to happen.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that I’m not alone in what I’m about to confess. Here goes.

There are some people in my life with whom I get irritated VERY easily. In fact, one might say I go into interactions with these people very nearly expecting to be irritated. And guess what? Invariably that’s just what happens.

After one recent interaction that ended with an extremely irritated me, I started to examine my response. It seemed to be very nearly involuntary. And it came straight from the gut, almost like a reflex. As if I was conditioned to respond to this person in this manner. I had a flashblack to studying Pavlov’s dogs in a college psychology class. They were conditioned to expect food when a bell rang. The bell would ring, the food would be dispensed and the dogs would salivate. After a time, the sound of the bell triggered the salivation even when there was no food. Now I didn’t take this path much further because frankly comparing myself to a dog wasn’t very appealing J But the message is there – after a period of time, a stimulus, or in this case a person, can cause an automatic, triggered response.

I’d like to say that this is where I make a vow to be a better, more patient, more tolerant member of society. It’s not.

Instead, this is where I tell you about how my train of thought meandered on to where it almost always does. My role as a mommy. My most important role.

I found myself wondering if I have become conditioned to expect certain responses or behaviors from my beans. And, in doing so, if I’m unconsciously creating or encouraging some of these behaviors.

For instance, the Sunshine Bean is my easy one. She always has been. She was an easy baby, an easy toddler and is closing out the preschool years true to form – easily. My husband calls her “Capital D” as in delightful. I refer to her to others – in front of her – as being a very easy child. So I ask myself – is she easy because that’s the way she’s wired or because that’s how I see her and respond to her? I suspect it’s probably a bit of both.

My Pinky Bean on the other hand comes at life differently. She faces it full on and lets you know what she wants. Sometimes this involves being loud. Sometimes it involves having a fit. Other times it’s simply a refusal to give in or give up until she’s reached her goal. There is a lot that is completely fabulous about the way Pinky approaches every day. There is also a lot that is challenging. I find myself referring to her as my toughest one.  And I have spent a lot of time pondering again how much of this is Pinky and how much is my conditioned response to her. Am I expecting her to be challenging? Am I expecting push back and less-than-smooth days?
I wouldn't change any of my kids for the world. They are each perfectly themselves and wonderful to their cores. Where Sunshine is easier than Pinky, she could also benefit from a little of Pinky's pluck and determination :) And the Professor might discover something unexpected if he went into new situations with a wide-open welcome like Sunshine does instead of taking the time to observe and analyze first. 
So much of who my beans are is determined by how they're wired. But parenting also obviously plays an enormous role in how they grow and develop. In who they really turn out to be.

As this week comes to an end, I find myself wondering what would happen if I tilted my head to the side a bit and looked at my Pinky differently. If I told her – with words and actions – that she is easy, too. That she, too is completely delightful. Because she is. She is also, as she likes to say, “extremely spunky.” But if my expectations of her going in were that things were going to go more smoothly, what might happen?

It’s an experiment I’m going to undertake.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Have you noticed how things that sounded like bad ideas before having kids sound like really good ones now? Things like, say, arranged marriages. Back when I was dating, I shuddered at the thought of marrying someone who had been picked for me by my parents. I mean, what if I couldn't stand the person? What if he had a terrible laugh or was really boring or picked his teeth with his fork? What if he had a weird smell or was obsessed with Star Trek? The possibilities for disaster seemed endless and the potential for happiness slim.

Then I had kids.

And I started thinking about my beans going out in the world in another 20 (or maybe 30) years and starting the process of choosing a mate. Someone with whom to spend the rest of their lives. What if I didn’t like this person? What if this person didn’t like me? What if this person didn’t treat my child well? What if, what if, what if? I’d like to say that I can see myself being supportive of a child’s choice in mate even if it wasn’t a choice I would make. Even if I had doubts or reservations. I’d like to say that, but it would be a LIE! Because if one of my beans brings home someone who sets off warning bells inside my head, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to say something. Because I know things. Lots of things  J
This is why the thought of arranged marriages has its appeal from this side of the room. The parent side. The side that knows plenty of lovely families with whom we share values and traditions. The side where I will watch these other children grow and be able to determine who has the best chance of turning into a high quality man or woman worthy of (or close to being worthy of) one of my precious beans.
Yeah, there’s always a but. In this case, the but is that the beans probably won’t agree to such a plan. And in my saner moments, I understand why. It really is kind of important to have some input into choosing one’s life mate. I understand that. So, in lieu of doing the choosing for them, I’ll simply offer some advice. Probably a lot of advice if I’m being honest. But all of the advice I’ll offer on the subject of choosing a spouse could be boiled down into one nugget of wisdom.
Ask yourself, "Who do you want next to you in the foxhole?"
Choosing a spouse means making a commitment to be a partner in marriage with someone for the rest of your life. It means choosing someone with whom you’ll face life’s ups and downs, its challenges and triumphs, the days filled with fun and excitement as well as those filled with sleepless nights and sick kids.
I’ll tell them that yes, it’s very important to marry someone with whom you’ve fallen in love, but you have to make sure you’ll also be able to stay in love. That when the first blush of newness is gone and there are bills to pay and lawns to mow and bathrooms to clean, the person next to you is the person who you always want to be next to you.
It’s my hope and prayer that my beans will see an example to follow when they look at the marriage of their parents. My hubby often says that he chose well – he chose the right person to be with him in the foxhole. And I say it in return. We’ve got each other’s backs. Always. And when there’s fun stuff to do, we do it together with joy and laughter. And when there’s tough stuff to do, we do that together, too. And somehow we always manage to find some joy and laughter in those moments 
So when the time comes, choose wisely and well, my three sweet beans. Choose someone who loves and cherishes you and who will stand beside you and be your partner in the truest sense.
Because if you don’t, Mommy might choose for you J

Thursday, April 18, 2013


A dear and much admired friend (more on her another day) and I have coined a term for people who go through life in a constant state of panic and chaos. People for whom drama and confusion seem to be a way of life. We refer to such people as “crazy pants.” As in, “You’re wearing your crazy pants.”(It is important to note that these pants are figurative, not literal.J)

Naturally, everyone has crazy pants days. Life is full of too much unpredictability and too many obligations to ever be truly crazy pants free. But people who are regular wearers of crazy pants are people who I keep on the periphery of my life, as true crazy pantsers have a way of trying to suck others in.
True confession time:
Lately, I have found myself pulling on my crazy pants on a semi-regular basis. Shameful, but true.
Now I could give you a list of perfectly justifiable reasons for my crazy pants – things like selling our house and therefore keeping it perpetually show ready while living in it with a husband and three young children who all have an extraordinary talent for making crumbs, planning and preparing for a move, a looming deadline for my second book which is not exactly what you’d call on schedule, and the day-to-day busy-ness of managing a home and mothering my beans.
Sure there’s a lot going on. But I’m here to say that crazy pants don’t make any of it better. In fact, donning them regularly makes everything worse. It means I’m not at my best. I’m not thinking clearly and reacting calmly. In short, I’m on the edge. Ever in danger of cracking like a cheap piñata.
It’s time for a different approach.
Since nothing on my plate can come off my plate, my strategy needed to focus on approach and execution. The solution came to me yesterday and was nothing less than shocking. SHOCKING.
I’ve looked at the problem from every angle and it seems the antidote to crazy pants is:
I know. I was stunned, too. And not because men aren’t capable of effective thought. They certainly are. I know my husband is. He spends his days looking at financial problems and questions from all angles, performing analyses that defy explanation (to me, anyway) and developing sound solutions. Good thinking to be sure. But traditionally, man-thinking has not been effective when applied to the many jobs of motherhood. Man thinking is linear and logical. Motherhood necessitates keeping many balls in the air and one’s hands in many pots. BUT, in times of impending crazy pants, I now believe thinking like a man is the only answer.
My husband, that darling, exceedingly left-brained man, has a saying. “Do one thing at a time, do it very well, and then move on to the next.” And it was within this motto that I found the answer. There is beauty in its very simplicity, isn’t there?
After I let this idea settle for a bit, I noticed my breathing was slower and I could no longer feel my heart beating in my chest. It was working already. For now, whenever possible, I will turn off my natural tendency to multi-task to the extreme and simply focus on the task right in front of me. I will complete that task thoroughly and to the best of my ability. And then, I will move on to the next.
My crazy pants will be relegated to the back corner of the closet where they should be. Back with the blouse that looks cute on the hanger but goes all wrong on my body and that skirt that really is just too short for a 40-something mom, regardless of whether or not she has good legs.
Wish me luck. I will report back.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I’m a big fan of middles. The cream filling of an Oreo cookie? Obviously the best part. So much so that I tend to go double stuff over original. The middle of a sandwich is where you find all the good stuff. The custard filling in a Boston crème donut.  Happy medium. Being centered. All of these things make it sound like the middle is a fabulous place to be. And it can be.

But, being in the middle can also have a downside. The middle seat on an airplane for instance. Ugh. And I don’t think it’s just because I have an outsized horror of being trapped between two strangers and forced to make awkward conversation while fighting back a certainty that the plane will plunge from the sky at any moment.
It seems to me that being a middle child combines both the best and worst parts of being in the middle. I’m not a middle child, but I do have one. My Sunshine Bean. Smack in the middle – 16 months younger than the Professor and 19 months older than Pinky. Almost exactly in the center.
Neither my husband nor I have any experience being a middle child. We are both from two-kid families. He’s the oldest. I’m the youngest. There wasn’t a middle. He was actually not only the first child born to his parents, but the first grandchild on both sides and the first great-grandchild. I picture his arrival as akin to the scene in The Lion King where Simba is presented to all of the animals in the jungle as the future king. Yeah. On the other hand, I was the second kid, 8th grandchild on one side, 3rd on the other, and something like the millionth great-grandchild. In other words, not such a big deal J But still, not the middle.
Being in the middle means you’re never the first nor the last to do anything. The Professor will always do things first. He was the first to go to preschool and now kindergarten. And because they are so close in age, Sunshine is right on his tails. Her firsts happen the very next year. And Pinky. She’s my baby (but don’t tell her, she is convinced she’s a “big girl” and will fight you on it J). Her firsts are bittersweet because they are the last time we’ll experience them.
 As parents, I feel it’s extremely important that we make sure Sunshine’s firsts are just as big a deal as the Professor’s or Pinky’s. Because they’re HERS. Her first time doing something big. Her milestones. And they’re special each and every time. Because they are hers. Because she is special.
Sunshine is perfectly suited to be the middle child in our family. She’s the glue. The first one to settle a dispute or soothe hurt feelings. She’s everybody’s best friend, letting the Professor teach her things (and acting very impressed with his knowledge) and taking care of Pinky as much as she’ll let her. Her naturally sweet and sunny disposition make her an enormous asset to our family. They also mean she can be overshadowed.
It’s my job as the mommy of this bunch of beans to make sure everyone shines. Not in an “everything you do is perfect and wonderful and you, my creation, are without flaw.” But in a way where each child comes to know what makes him or her special and unique and learns to appreciate and value those things. Sunshine’s things don’t shout as loud as her brother’s or her sister’s. And I can’t imagine our family without them. I can’t imagine us without our very own sweet and delectable center.
Our Sunshine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Maybe it’s because I was born with a tendency toward toward being judge-y. Or maybe it’s because I now see all things through the lens of motherhood. But when I happen upon a reality show, one of my first horrified thoughts is, “That is someone’s child.” This thought is typically followed very shortly by, “Please Lord, don’t ever let that be my child.”

I am not a fan of reality television. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. I do enjoy a few of the competition type shows like The Voice (and yes, it’s Blake who does it for me, I don’t get the whole Adam Levine thing) and The Next Food Network Star. I’ve even teared up watching Undercover Boss. But I avoid like the plague any of the Bachelors or Apprentices or, heaven help us all, anything on E! or MTV. I think this has a great deal to do with an aversion to drama that is strong and deep. As a general rule and a strategy for maintaining my own sanity, I steer clear of drama-prone individuals – unless they’re related to me and I can’t avoid them. So don’t ask me what’s going on with the Kardashians because I can promise you that I don’t know and sincerely don’t care.

Anyway, back to my actual point. All of the people who are making fools of themselves on these shows are in fact someone’s children. They have/had parents. And these parents may even be watching them act like fools, flaunt their parts and make out with anyone who walks by. After I spend a quick moment feeling sympathy for these parents, my mind takes a quick turn into figuring out how to make darn sure that I am NEVER one of them. That there is never a time that one of my beans puts him or herself out there on display.
But why do these people put themselves on display? WHY??

It’s not surprising that I have a theory. My husband would tell you that I have many theories J

I’ve surmised there are two closely related factors at work in determining who does and who does not feel the pull toward reality TV appearances. Both are related to attention. I fear that one type of person is seeking attention that was, or was perceived to have been, withheld. The person who didn’t feel seen in his/her family, school environment, community, etc. This person then sees reality TV as a way to be seen. The other type of person is one who became used to being seen too much. The center of the universe, center of attention, prince/princess complex. This person thrives on and expects to be the center of attention and, if that is not happening, seeks out situations where they can return to their rightful place as the object around which all other things revolve.

From a parenting perspective, I think the answer to this issue can be found in the middle. The middle is often a wonderful place in the world of parenting – neither too much nor too little. But achieving that happy medium can be tricky. How to make sure to provide enough attention – the right attention – without tipping over into the world of overindulgence.

For me, time is a lot of it. Spending time with my beans and spending time as a family. Even if I’m busy making dinner or cleaning the house or if I need to take a few minutes to send emails or write, I try to keep connected to what they’re doing. Professor Bean and I may work on stories side-by-side or Sunshine may practice reading a story to me while I make dinner. Pinky and I can keep up a running conversation about whatever strikes her fancy while I clean a bathroom or dust.

Time itself isn’t the only answer. The quality of the time is also important. A very wise, immensely valued friend recently talked about the difference between “watching your kids” and “playing with your kids.” I know I’ve been guilty of slumping on the patio swing and watching my three run around, deflecting their requests that I get in on the game. Sometimes I’m just tired. And that’s okay. Sometimes. But those times that I get out there and really play with them – laughing and running and throwing the ball (or hula hooping) -- we ALL have a much better time. Those are some of the best memories.

Tempering a child’s natural feeling that they should be the center of the universe is simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple. From a young age, foster an awareness of others. Things as simple as manners, sharing and being conscious of other’s needs are a great place to start. Yesterday, Pinky and I baked muffins for a neighbor who is undergoing surgery. I explained to her that he would be with doctors and his family would have to wait and might be worried and hungry. The muffins would help with the hunger and our thoughts and prayers would help with the worry. She got it and was excited to take our offerings – both the tangible and intangible – next door. Considering a friend’s feelings before their own, letting a brother or sister choose which movie to watch this time, there are a million little opportunities for kids to learn how to operate as part of something – a family, a community, a class, a group of friends.

I tell my beans that they can grow up to be anything they want to be. That’s easy to say when their answers are things like a mechanical engineer, a mommy or an astronaut. If one of them comes to me and says she wants to be the next Bachelorette, the conversation’s going to be a little different. Just sayin’ J

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I’m a writer so it’s not surprising that I love words. I love how they look and sound and how they feel in my mouth. I have favorite words – like juxtaposition, simplicity and whimsy. And then there are other words -- like phlegm and noxious – of which I’m not a fan. I am a connoisseur of words. I like to ponder their meaning and the shades of meaning that separate two words that, at first glance, seem to mean nearly the same thing.

I heard a snippet on the radio early this year that led me down a long and pondering road. It was a discussion about New Year’s resolutions and their useful/uselessness. I’m not necessarily a proponent of these resolutions, coming as they do at a time of high stress and low sunshine. As I wrote in my first post, HAPPY NEW YEAR, for me birthdays are a better time to assess and set goals. But that’s just me.

Anyway, the talking head on the radio (and I apologize for having major mom brain – I don’t know who it was or even what station I was listening to, but I don’t think that’s important here) was proposing that instead of making resolutions, women should resolve to be content.

                Content (adj.) – satisfied with what one has; not wanting more or anything else.

My first reaction was, “Amen to that.” I am a big believer in contentment. I would call it one of my core values. I strive to practice contentment in my own life as well as teach my children what it means to be content. I believe that being content with who you are is the single biggest determining factor in whether a person can be truly happy. Not wealth, not stuff, not even love. Contentment. See earlier post here MY MOTHER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

So it was a little weird for me when the voice in my head said, “Wait a minute.” Suddenly choosing contentment over resolutions felt like it might be a copout. And it was because of a word that is a cousin of content, but whose meaning is quite different. That word is complacent.

                Complacent (adj.) - pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied.

For me, being content means a feeling of satisfaction that comes from a place of knowledge. Being complacent means having a feeling of satisfaction that comes from a place of some level of ignorance – be it blissful or not. In my own experience, this ignorance usually takes the form of turning a blind eye or ear.

For instance, when my weight was where I didn’t want it to be after having three babies back to back to back, it was easier to tell myself that I looked pretty good for having had three kids in three years all after the age of 36. That was easier than saying, “Hey, enough with the ice cream, watch what you eat and get your butt moving.”

Once I did – once I dug down deep and did the work and saw the results, I found contentment. Not contentment born out of finally looking like a cover model. Shockingly, that was not the result of my hard work J Rather contentment with what fit and healthy looks like on me – all 42 years of me. And when I felt myself getting a little lazy this past winter, when the stress of everyday life as a full-time mom and a snatches-of-time author were catching up with me, it was time for a stern talking to. Complacent isn’t good enough. I want content – and content takes work.

Content doesn’t mean not working toward continuous improvement.

I’m content with my marriage and my husband (truth is I’m over the moon crazy about the man), but without the daily work to stay strong and connected, content could slide toward complacent pretty easily. And I don’t want to think about what comes after complacent.

I’m content with my life as a mommy. Who am I kidding, I flat-out LOVE my life as a mommy. But I am – painfully – aware of my shortcomings. Like say, patience and speaking in a calm and loving voice while disciplining. I've discussed both shortcomings - here THEY DON'T SELL PATIENCE AT TARGET  and here DISCIPLINE AND KITCHEN UTENSILS. I vow to my beans to never become complacent in my role as their mommy. I will always try to be better and to do better. I know I’ll never be the mom they truly deserve, but I’ll never stop trying. And I’ll never stop believing that just as I am blessed and lucky to have them,  they are blessed and lucky to have me, too – warts and all.

So contentment – yes and always! Contentment to me feels like drinking a big cup of cocoa with marshmallows while wrapped up in a warm blanket on a chilly evening. For you, it might look like a glass of red wine and candlelight. I'm just not that sophisticated. Complacency feels like schlepping around in baggy yoga pants with my unwashed hair in a knot. It’s okay some of the time, but not the best look for everyday J

This lover of words – this self-admitted word nerd --  wishes you all contentment – in who you are, in what you have, and in where you are in your lives.                                                       

Monday, March 18, 2013


In my last post I mentioned that I had been thinking about yelling. Or not yelling, to be exact. And I mentioned that I needed more time to think about the topic before I would have anything remotely interesting or intelligent to say. While I can’t promise it will be either interesting or intelligent, I have wrapped my head around the topic enough to have a few things to share with you.

What spurred me to give more thought to becoming a non-yelling mom than the typical wish to have it be so was a post from a fellow mommy-blogger who calls herself Orange Rhino. See the post here: 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at my Kids

When I first read the post I was blown away by two feelings – guilt and inadequacy. I’m sure that was not Orange Rhino’s intent, but a combination of healthy doses of Catholic guilt and a perfectionist complex meant that reaction was a given. Then I read it again and started really paying attention. Some of the items on the list were things I know about myself – not taking care of myself by getting enough sleep and exercising makes me more prone to yelling. Others , like controlling my reaction even when I can’t control my children's actions, are common sense but were words that my brain needed to be reminded of right then.

I admire Orange Rhino’s decision not to yell. Ever. However, I realized that I could not embrace the challenge in quite the same way. I would be setting myself up for failure before I got started. For me, it is simply too absolute to say I will NEVER yell. As a mom, I do things loudly. I love loudly, I laugh loudly, and I sometimes discipline loudly. It’s a fact. And I have to say, sometimes those darling little beans need the yelling – not as much as they need the love and the laughter, but they do need it.

So rather than making a promise to never yell, I’ve decided to make a change in my discipline toolbox that mirrors how I arrange the tools in my kitchen. I am a cooker and a baker. I spend A LOT of time in my kitchen. It is where a lot of my mothering takes place. So having an analogy that is kitchen related is helpful to me.

In my kitchen, I have a system. I have three drawers that house utensils. Not the fork, knife, spoon type, but the wooden spoon, whisk, can opener type. And these three drawers are organized by frequency of use. There is the drawer of frequently used tools – ladles, spatulas, wooden spoons, whisks, ice cream scoops (yes there are two and yes they are both frequently used J). There is also the drawer of less-frequently used tools – the cookie baller (although that one could qualify for a promotion), the whisk with the wanky handle that I use when my favorite is in the dishwasher, the baster and the pizza cutter. And finally, I have the drawer of infrequently used kitchen tools – the cheese grater (I’m just not willing to grate my own when it comes all ready for me in those nice resealable bags), my zester, the dough hook attachment to my mixer and the lid opener.

So my plan for yelling is this. I am going to move it to my infrequently used drawer of mom-tools. I won’t go there first. I won’t go there every day. But if I need it – if I really believe that no other tool will do – then I’ll use it. Because if someone runs into the street or hauls off and decks a brother or sister, I’m probably going to yell. And that person is probably going to need to hear what I have to say in a loud voice.

So there it is. My plan to address this part of my never-ending quest to be a better mommy tomorrow than I was today. I will hope and pray for success, while being prepared for setbacks and restarts.
Yelling is a cheese grater, not an ice cream scoop.