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.