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.


Thursday, March 14, 2013


I had originally planned to write about yelling -- specifically about not yelling. The idea came after I read something yesterday about that very topic. And it spurred me – a yeller of moderate volume and frequency – to want to try not yelling. But the truth is that I’m going to need some time to really digest the information, to figure out my strategies and whether or not they’re effective. Otherwise I’d just be saying – “Hey, I’m going to try not to yell when I get frustrated with my children. How about you?” And that’s just not very interestingJ

So once I knew what I wasn’t going to write about, I needed to figure out what I was going to write about. And then I took Sunshine and Pinky to swim lessons and it landed right in my lap. Or more accurately, it sat right next to me.
Swimming Pool

These are weekday morning swim lessons for the three to five-year-old set. Most of the kids are closer to three than five. To start off the lesson, the kids all gather in a circle, put a hand in and say something silly (today it was “hotdog”) to get them started off happy and laughing. There were about ten kids in the circle and one mom. Last week – and the week before – that mom was me. Initially, Pinky was none too sure that swim lessons were something she wanted to do (happily, that has changed). Today’s circle mom stood there with her little boy's hand resting on her leg. It was a sweet picture of a little person simply needing the touch of the person he loves most in order to feel more secure.

Then the kids hopped into the pool and the mom came to sit back down. She immediately huffed an irritated breath (and trust me I’ve huffed that same huff myself under different circumstances) and said, “His shyness drives me crazy.” She then spent the next 30 minutes off and on discussing how much her son’s shyness irritates her and makes her life difficult, etc. How she doesn’t understand why he’s shy because she isn’t and neither is her husband. It went on from there.

Now nothing about this woman indicated that she’s a mean person or an uncaring mother. She was there, she went to stand in the circle when he needed her, she greeted him with a “good job” and a warm towel when the lesson was through. But what she wasn’t giving him was what I feel is the single most important, most irreplaceable gift a mother can give her child.


She does not accept her son for who he is. From our brief conversation, she made it clear that her son is not who she wants him to be and that bothers her. A lot. And her attitude toward her child – her adorable, smiling, chubby cheeked little man – bothered me. A lot.

Professor Bean happens to be a shy guy. He was a shy infant, toddler and preschooler. He has positively blossomed in kindergarten and is a confident learner and enthusiastic playground participant. He has many friends and is really just one of the guys. He and I have worked very hard to build confidence and comfort and there has been tremendous growth. His former unwillingness or inability to try new things, new places, new people has turned into curiosity about all and a hunger to dive right in and give things a shot. This makes my heart soar. But not because I was ever for one minute unhappy with or dissatisfied with who he is. Rather I’m thrilled that he is not holding himself back from experiences he’ll enjoy.

There are many, many things I screw up as a mom on an almost daily basis (see reference to yelling above and earlier post about patienceJ) But there is one thing I think I do pretty well. And that is acceptance. I accept each of my three very different beans for who they are. And for what each of them is. A gift. Exactly as they are. A gift.  

A child may not turn out to be exactly what a mother envisioned when that baby was safely cocooned in her womb. But if she opens her eyes and her heart, offering pure unconditional love and acceptance, she might find that who her child truly is blows that imagined version out of the water.  

I shudder to think what it does to the most secret, vulnerable inner corners of a child to know that his  mother – the one person he should be able to count on to be on his team no matter what - doesn’t accept who he is. Because kids are smart. They’ll know.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


This post has been rattling its way from the back of my brain to the front and back again for a few weeks. Since right around Valentine’s Day actually. I kept pushing it to the back of my brain for fear I couldn’t get it right. Today seemed like a good day to try.

Valentine’s Day is obviously all about love – mainly romantic love. But for me, and this is probably because I became a mother for the first time on Valentine’s Day and for the third time the day after Valentine’s Day, it is also very much about mother love. And in my opinion mother love truly is the most powerful force in the universe.
Mother And Baby

What mother hasn’t had an experience where she was bolder, louder, stronger or more courageous than she thought she could be merely because her child needed her to be? What mother hasn’t had the almost overwhelming urge to take matters into her own hands when her child is hurt – physically or emotionally -- by another child? We are all mama bears, protecting our cubs at all cost. And that is a truly wonderful, beautiful and sometimes scary thing.

Before I became a mother, I worked with kids who had learning and/or developmental challenges. Some of my very favorite students were those who had autism. A particular little boy and his mom remain in my heart to this day. This little boy was beyond precious. He was five-years-old and loved animals – particularly aquatic animals. He and I had a special bond and he used to come into my office to have lunch with me. To say I adored this little man is an understatement J His mother was a hero of mine at the time. I can still I recall conversations I had with her which inspire me as a mom to my three beans.

This mom was always cheerful, upbeat and positive about her son’s challenges and his potential. She was an enormous part of his success. But one day stands out in my mind more than all the rest. That day when she brought her son to me, her face was hard and her eyes wet with tears she hadn’t yet allowed to fall. Through clenched teeth she told me about having just driven past the home of a neighbor whose children came down to play with her son – and all of his toys – almost daily. They made themselves at home at her house and she welcomed them. These children were having a big birthday party that day and had not invited her son. This slight may or may not have had to do with this precious boy having autism. More than likely it did. But this wonderful, kind, upbeat mother changed in that moment – and only for a moment. She simply told me that she didn’t care if he learned anything that day. She just wanted him to feel special and to have fun. She charged me with making sure that happened. And it did.

That mother was an example to me of how powerful mother love can be in the way she loved her son – exactly as he was – and how she championed him. He will be successful and reach his potential in large part because of her. She was also an example to me of how deeply we as mothers feel our children’s pain. I didn’t understand fully at the time, because I wasn’t yet a mom. I understand now.

Mother love is the most natural, nearly reflexive kind of love. It is elemental. I love my husband. There is no doubt about that. But I also know that as I got to know him and to this day, I choose to love him, to keep loving him and to grow in my love for him. Without staying conscious and making that continuous choice, our love won’t continue to strengthen and deepen. Mother love is very different. I never had to choose to love my kids. It just was. And each day it continues to be something that grows bigger than I ever imagined it could.

Imagine what we could do if we could somehow harness the power of a mother’s love.