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