Five things I’ve Learned Since Turning the Big 4-0

First, let me say a heartfelt thanks for supporting my blog! I have way more subscribers, followers, likers, twitterers, etc. than I ever thought possible, so please bear with me as I figure this blogosphere out!  I honestly thought my subscriber list would be comprised of a few loyal Facebook friends — and  my mom — yet we had more than 600 unique users read my post today.  I’m just blown away.  I’m not sure if I can keep up with the pace of a blog a day, but I had to commemorate my birthday, so here’s a short piece I put together late last night (probably not the best time to write about getting old…)

So, it’s the eve of my 41st birthday. Ugh.

I know, I know. I am supposed to be all “I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin” and “I love where I am in my life right now.” And I am. Sort of.

It’s not that I’m unhappy or unsatisfied with my life. I would be a real jerk if I was considering how blessed I am. I just don’t want to be any older. Or old period.

I’ve read a lot of great, inspiring posts about growing older gracefully, embracing your “laugh lines”, sporting your gray like a badge of honor…yeah, for me, not so much.  I plan on dyeing my hair like Rose Nyland until I’m 90.  And seriously, why does Mother Nature punish you by putting the first gray hairs you find in the weirdest places? It’s also funny how your opinion about things like Botox change when you wake up to see the Grand Canyon of wrinkles span your entire forehead (not that I have done it, but let’s just say I’m open-minded.)

But, despite the physical aspects, I’m pretty happy with my life at 30 plus 11 years. There are a lot of great things about finally being comfortable with who you are as a person, and although I still worry too much at times about what other people think of me, I kinda like the person I’ve become.

So, I decided to pour a glass of chardonnay and reflect on some of the things I learned this year.  This list probably won’t inspire you to be Fab at Forty. It probably won’t inspire you at all. Hopefully, it will give you a little perspective into the world as I see it (through my contact lenses because my eyes are going):

  • It’s okay if I’m not a runner. This past year I have watched so many of my friends accomplish many feats of athleticism when it comes to running. 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, running in your underwear, running in a tu-tu, running and getting shocked, running for four days straight.  It is inspiring!  But I hate running.  I’ve hated running since I almost didn’t get my Presidential Fitness badge in the fifth grade because I barely made the cut-off time for the 600 yard dash.  I’ve tried to be a runner for years (I am married to a man who has completed six marathons, and despite being the whitest man I know, I feel quite confident he’s half Kenyan), but I just don’t enjoy it.  So, I happily go to a Zumba class, suffer through a Pure Barre session or take a walk with my kids to stay fit.  I’m certainly not burning off 1600 calories a session, but I finally feel confident enough to say that I’m not going to try to love something I don’t.
  • But you can always try something new. I wish I could say that I took this year to try an ancient form of Karate, or I finally decided to take that sky diving trip, but that’s just not me.  I’m not really a risk taker.  Not because I don’t believe you should, but again, I just don’t enjoy it.  I hate horror movies and was never a big fan of roller coasters.  But I do think 40 is a great time to expand your horizons.  I went out of my comfort zone on Pinterest and made jello shots for the first time this year. My Arnold Palmers were a huge hit at the neighbor’s Fourth of July Party.  Yes, I also took the risk of quitting my job and starting my writing career, but the jello shots really were awesome.  You get the point.
  • At 40, you really do turn into your mother: I have the exact same stubborn hair follicle pop out on my chin that my mother does.  It is ridiculous.  I also have had some serious deja vu as I walk over to my children muttering words like: “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out!”  But I also see a lot of my Mom in me in other, less scary, ways, such as my parenting philosophy, and my quest to make the perfect holiday dinner. And as I get older, I realize there are certainly worse things to be than my amazing mom (yes, she reads this blog, so although I would write this anyway, earning some extra suck up points never hurts.)
  • Learn how not to be a human scoreboard. It’s never good to keep score in a relationship, whether it is your marriage, your friendships, or your siblings.  Whoever said relationships, particularly marriages, were fifty-fifty was smoking the pipe. Sometimes you give more, sometimes you take more, but the point is to be there for the people who need you,.  This was a hard lesson for me, and I work on it all the time.
  • There is always time for a glass of wine.  And if you don’t drink alcohol, have a cup of decaf. For me, having a glass of wine with friends is the equivalent of stopping to smell the roses.  I am a better mom, friend, writer, wife, daughter, and whatever other title I wear in any given day because of the relationships I choose to cultivate.  And if it’s over a good bottle of KJ, all the better.

So, here’s to another year in the books.  My goal this year is to embrace this quote from Sophia Loren: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” 

If you don’t see a post from me on my trials and tribulations with Botox, you know I’m still working on it.

Cheers!

How I Lost a Friend Over Lunchables

I have a daughter with a gigantic heart.  Her mouth seems to be equally as big.

I recently received a text from another mom asking me where I bought my daughter’s Bento box lunch containers. Well, I’ve proudly accumulated quite a stash, so instead of trying to describe them to her over text to figure out what she was referring to, I just gave her a quick call.

After a few seconds of small talk, the mom informed me that my daughter told her daughter that she wasn’t allowed to have Lunchables because they weren’t good for her.  The mom said that her daughter no longer wanted to eat said Lunchables, so she was going to try and prepare the “Lunchables-like” lunches that I had been preparing for my kid.

Whoops.

I was embarrassed for what my daughter said, so I stumbled through my standard explanation about what I made for my kids each day, and that I had no problem with Lunchables whatsoever — I just made a decision awhile back not to send them with my kids.

Now let me be clear.  This mom has been nothing but nice to my daughter and I.  She didn’t sound that upset over the phone until, after explaining the different types of lunches I prepare (and I promise you they are not that elaborate), she uttered the words: “I just don’t have time to make this kind of lunch every day. Do you work?”   Yes, the word “work” sounded like it was in itallics.

Then it got awkward.  I tried to explain to her that food was just my thing.  I love to cook and awhile back one of my daughters had some health challenges so I decided to try to eat as healthy as possible, as often as possible.  I even used my best self-deprecating humor to quash the sense that I was judging her, assuring that in no way would I win the Mother of the Year award for some of my parenting tactics.  I even told her the story of how we ate noodles for three meals straight before we moved.

Now truth be told, I am a “bit” fanatical about my kids nutrition. In fact, my own mother calls me the Food Nazi. But I have my reasons. I have had a lifetime struggle with my weight and I do not want to project any of that on to my girls, so I’ve been trying to exemplify good food choices around them since their early years.  Additionally, one of my daughters has a slight neurological condition, so I have tried to reduce the amount of chemicals and preservatives to give her the best shot at a healthy life.  And I’ve had friends who have gotten cancer, and we just don’t know why or from what.

That being said, I have a special place in my heart for McDonald’s french fries, eat take-out Pizza most Friday’s, and we frequent Subway on a busy week night. And I never restrict what my kids eat at other people’s houses (within reason.)

After we got off the phone, I began thinking about our conversation.  Clearly she felt I was judging her for eating Lunchables, and I felt judged for making a healthy meal for my kids.  Did I seriously need to send my kid with a Lunchables pak to show that I had a busy life too?

This is something that we see far too often.  The “Mommy Wars” are in full swing, and no one is safe.  If you try too hard, you are disliked for making others look bad. Just look at the backlash against Pinterest. If you are just trying to get through the day and make choices based on efficiency, you don’t care enough about your kids.

How does it end?

I can honestly say that if I’m going to judge you, it won’t be over a few slices of Oscar Mayer ham and an oreo cookie.  I reserve my judgement for things like whether or not you have seen the movie Pitch Perfect or how many Real Housewives of New Jersey you can name.  You know, the important things in life.

And if you’re going to judge me for trying to do something good for my kids, well, we were probably never going to share a glass of wine anyways (well, at least not a good bottle of wine.)

Never one to like an awkward ending though, I decided to wave the white flag.  I texted the mom a few days later letting her know Target had BPA-free containers on sale.

Her text back: “What’s BPA?”

Whoops.  Apparently I know where my daughter gets it from.

Cheers!

Why I Screen….my playdates

OK, this is my second blog post, so now it’s time to get real.

If you are reading my blog this early in, you probably already know my background, but just in case, you should know that I’m a survivor.  I survived having three kids in sixteen months.  They are all girls.  Think about it…that was three kids in diapers and cribs at the same time, and my future holds three cases of hormones and teenage angst coming up.  I am tough.  I am also deserving of a break now and then.

So, I’m going to share a dirty little secret that I normally wouldn’t talk about outside of my tight circle of friends that know my favorite wine (it’s Kendall Jackson Chardonnay in case you were wondering.)

I’m a screener. Not a phone screener, but a playdate screener.

Having three kids practically the same age means my house is a constant play date, which can be good, but also bad. I spend a lot of time entertaining my kids, doing crafts, playing games, cooking, etc. And while I love this part of my life, doing these things with three kids can be challenging.  And exhausting.  Adding a fourth child that’s not your own actually increases the challenge exponentially (don’t ask me how that works out mathematically, but in my liberal arts mind it just does.)

So, when I am hosting someone else’s kid, that means I want a break.  I want them to play…. with each other.

I know this makes me sound bad, and I want you to know that when I host someone else’s kids at my house I do make sure they are safe and sound, but that does not mean that I actually want to entertain them.  It means I want to get stuff done!  And it doesn’t mean I want them on the electronics either — that’s reserved for when I really need to get stuff done!

Since entering the playdate circuit about six years ago, I realized that some kids are just a little bit easier than others. You know what I mean, like when your kid has a friend over and they play quietly in their room for two hours without a peep.  And they aren’t even doing anything bad.  That’s playdate gold right there.

Sometimes kids are just a bit needier than others. It does not mean I don’t think your kid is sweet or that you’re not a good parent, but it may put them on our bench list for playdates.

For example, I once had a little girl over who begged my youngest daughter to help her learn how to ride a bike because her parents didn’t have time to teach her (her words, not mine.)  Of course, that was a bit much to ask of my five-year old, so I spent a good 45 minutes pushing her into our yard helping her learn to “pedal, pedal, pedal!”  Another time, a sweet little girl said a game wasn’t fun unless her mom played it with her.  I tried to use my 15 years of professional communications experience to persuade her that I wasn’t as fun as her mom, and how independent she would be if they played on their own while I unloaded the dishwasher, but it didn’t seem to work.  Three games of Candyland later, and my dishes were still drying.

I know some of you out there are thinking, “How awful of her, she is missing out on her kids.” Let me share with you now that I am primarily a stay at home mom.  I have a lot, and I mean a lot of quality time with my kids.  I just don’t need it all the time with someone else’s.

When my kids entered kindergarten and first grade, I got smart.  I could start feeling the kids out, and started doing a proactive strike with parents of the desirables…often those independent kids with multiple siblings who weren’t used to too much attention.  It was working.  Each playdate got a little better [for me], and I got a little bit more time to do the things that I needed to get done.  That made me want to win these kids over a bit more, and with my new-found free time, I would bake cookies, set up crafts, and yes, would even play a quick game of Just Dance on the Wii (although there is no video proof of this.)  It was a win-win for all involved.

In all honesty, I have enjoyed the majority of the children we have hosted at our house, and I’m happy that so many kids find our home welcoming and fun. I want to be the house where the kids come to hang out (I am always stocked with juice boxes, yogurt drinks and chocolate chip cookies for that very reason), and I would never not include someone who my daughter wanted to play with at our home. And truth be told, I truly love to talk to other people’s kids.  The stuff they say is hilarious.

But on that one Sunday when I need to get some things done around the house, we will have a forced-ranked list of who we call first.

Luckily so far, my girls seem to gravitate towards the kids that come for hours and only show their heads when they need a snack or a quick chat. Or maybe my subtle Jedi mind tricks just really are that good.

Cheers!

Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)

I can’t seem to get Queen’s song “Under Pressure” out of my head lately, which inevitably always makes me think of Vanilla Ice’s one-hit wonder.  It seems to be on repeat on my brain’s playlist, coming to me at all sorts of random times — at my daughter’s soccer try outs, during conference calls, at the pick up line at school, and late at night when I’m trying to sleep.

You see, this is my inaugural blog post.  It’s a lot of pressure.  Or at least it feels that way.

I’ve been toying with the idea of a blog for years.  A lot of friends and family have encouraged me, but it never seemed like the right time, or what would I say, or seriously, what would the point be? And when would I have the time to keep it updated?  I work part time for some pretty demanding clients, and work full time for some pretty demanding (but pretty great) kids.  I have a husband with a very demanding job.  And I happen to be one of those annoying Moms that likes to do stuff at their kids’ schools.  All the time.  It can be pretty demanding.

You get the picture?  I have a feeling you can probably relate.

But we recently moved for my husband’s job, and my part-time gig was just not working for my full-time family anymore.  Fortunately, we have lived within our means, made some money on some real estate transactions, and the hubby has done well at his job, so as a family we decided I could resign my public relations clients and focus more on my writing.  The writing I have been putting off for years and years. I finally will have the time to do it.  And that’s when Queen/Vanilla Ice started singing to me.

It’s not that writing in of itself is a lot of pressure for me.  I do it all the time for work, have written college essays for my friends, submitted various articles for magazines and post more stuff on Facebook than I would care to admit. And while many people see this as an amazing opportunity (and it is, trust me I know how lucky I am), it also scares the bejeevus out of me.  I have never been a “kept” woman per se, and although I have been approached by some people about freelance gigs already, it will not earn me the same paycheck as before.  I am also unsure if I am truly good enough to make a living off of my writing.  Yes, I know I have some skills, but can I truly make a go out of it?  What if I fail at my dream?

This is the sort of thing I would typically discuss with some of my best girlfriends over wine at a playdate on a Friday.  It seems all of my life challenges over the past decade I have solved — or at least have been able to handle — with various friends sitting at our countertops while our kids played off in another room oblivious to the gravity of our discussions.  While our conversations were often light-hearted, we also tackled real-life issues, such as some scary health issues with our kids, bullying, marital strife, family tragedies, job loss and even the big C, cancer, which is the most unfortunate one of all.  We have faced everything from the sudden death of a loved one to how to navigate the school system and everything in between all through some tears and a lot of laughter.

But alas, I have since relocated, and am now meeting new moms and having new playdates, but the conversations are the same: another new parent whose daughter is struggling fitting in at her new school, a mom who is having a hard time being a part of the sandwich generation — taking care of her elderly mother with diabetes and her three young children–, and yet again, another woman bravely fighting cancer.

I have discovered I do have a lot to say, and I will say it here, at Playdates on Fridays.  My hope is it’s a place where we can discuss both the mundane and important issues that impact us every day, and find a reason to laugh, even in our darkest moments.  A place where girlfriends get together to share a glass of chardonnay and talk about all the ways we screwed up that day, and how we’ll do better tomorrow.

You may not like everything you read on my blog.  I have some pretty strong opinions, and I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t share my point of view.  But I will always strive to be respectful, compassionate, and open-minded, just like my playdate friends have always been to me.

So, grab a glass, take a read, and let me know what you think.  Meanwhile, I’ll be working on fast-forwarding Vanilla Ice, and making a new playlist, for my new life.

Cheers!

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