Four Awesome Things I Learned From My Kids

Like any parent, I think my kids are pretty awesome. But sometimes their awesomeness just blows my mind. And it’s even more awesome when they don’t realize that they are being awesome.

I like to think that I work really hard to be a good person, but I’m still a work in progress even at the tender age of 41 (did I just say that out loud?) I still judge when I shouldn’t, say things I wish I could take back, and let my fears stymie me from reaching my dreams.

That’s why I love being around children so much. I am constantly amazed at what we can learn from kids. Kids who are not yet jaded at the world; kids who see things so clearly; kids who have a pure heart.

So, I thought I would share some life-lessons my kids have taught me the past few years. I would like to take credit for these, but let’s be honest, kids are just good….usually until we mess them up, so I’m pretty sure it’s just their innate awesomeness shining through:

They see people. Kids see people, and I’m not talking about the creepy way that Haley Joel Osment did in The Sixth Sense, but they just see people. My daughter’s teacher recently went out on an early maternity leave. When I asked her to tell me about her new teacher, she excitedly said: “I really like her! She is nice and smiles a lot. She has four kids and she used to teach them at home herself. And she’s pretty.” I couldn’t wait to meet her, so I was excited when her grade had an open house later that week. I was pleased to see that her teacher was all those things my daughter said, and very qualified, but I also was surprised when I learned my daughter’s teacher was African-American.

Now, her color doesn’t make a difference in the world to me, but I was thrilled to see that it didn’t cross my daughter’s mind to mention it, particularly because unfortunately I wouldn’t call her school diverse. I was ashamed to even think that she should have told me about her race in the first place. She sees people as nice or tall or pretty — who they are. And as she should.

One of my other daughters switched seats in her classroom awhile back. On the car ride home from school that day, she told me all about the new boy she sat next to in class. He was hilarious, loved Sponge Bob, wore glasses and played mine craft. A few weeks later she told me about a game she played with her friend and his Aide.  I didn’t want to make a big deal about the fact that her new friend had an Aide by asking questions, but that very day her teacher sent a note home telling me what a great job she was doing sitting next to this child who apparently had Autism. The mother of the boy had contacted the teacher about how her son actually was talking about school for the first time, and mainly about my daughter. She was wondering if my daughter could sit next to him for the remainder of the year, but she didn’t want to limit her socially or seem pushy.

My daughter in one swift move did what so many adults just can’t (or won’t) do. She RE-labeled a child. In her mind, it is her hilarious friend, not her Autistic friend. And yes, I said absolutely that she could continue to sit by this young boy, for what mom would want to separate their child from a friend.

No fear. For as long as I remember, I get embarrassed when I do something new. I hate looking stupid, and no matter how much I convince myself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, I still let it get to me. And I know that I have missed opportunities because I felt like I didn’t know how to do something (and didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know.) That’s why when I recently signed my daughter up mid-season for a tumbling class, I tried to reassure her before she went. At eight, she still can’t do a cart-wheel, but so desperately wants to participate with her friends as they tumble across the playground. I tried to remind her that the other girls in her group had been taking tumbling since September so she wouldn’t feel bad that she was behind, but I’m not sure why I bothered saying a word.

“I just want to get my cart-wheel, Mom,” said the sage 8-year-old. And she went into the class where the other kids were flipping all around her and did just that. Well, she did just that after four classes and falling about 408 times. But she never once got embarrassed, and the whole class cheered when she finally did it right. She clearly did not get that from me.

Lesson learned: I really need to get a grip and let go of my inhibitions. I’ve made a resolution to try some new things this year, and I’m taking her along to make sure I see it through. And I will no longer try to save her from any embarrassment. She is completely comfortable with who she is, and I’m not going to try to protect her from learning anything new. That clearly is my issue, not hers.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Last year, for the first time, someone was picking on one of my children. A classmate gave my daughter an F minus in an indoor recess art competition, constantly bossed her around, and pointed out to the class when she did something wrong. I wouldn’t call it bullying per se, but she just wouldn’t leave her alone — so much so that the teacher recommended separating the girls into different classes the following year.

I for one was traumatized. How could someone be so mean to my baby?!? I wanted to call the other mom up and give her a piece of my mind (and I will not share the not-so-compassionate thoughts I had about the other child.) But when I talked to her teacher, she explained that my daughter was just avoiding her and seemed fine. And more importantly, when I talked to my little girl, she said: “Yeah, sometimes she’s mean to me, but sometimes I like her. I just play with her when she’s nice or I just ignore her.”

Huh. How about that. No drama, no crying to me about her being mean to her, just ignore her. Thankfully I didn’t let my rage get the best of me and make what was a small deal to my daughter an unnecessary big deal. And since that time, I have tried to heed my daughter’s advice. Someone not so nice at the PTA meeting, I don’t engage, I just ignore her. Someone posting negative comments on Facebook, I just hide them. But when they are nice to me, I return the niceness. Because I’m not going to let anyone mess with my Karma.

Every day is the “best day ever!” I love this about my kids. A trip to Costco where they get cheesecake samples can be the best day ever. Or, a random playdate with our neighbors can be.  Or a day at Disney World. Or a regular day when I make ice cream sundaes.

Seeing the good in any day is something I have been really working on the past few years. Gratitude as an attitude is my philosophy, but it’s my kids that remind me to appreciate the little as well as the great things in our lives. And when you wake up in the morning with the thought that this could be the best day ever, well, that’s just pretty darn awesome.

What have you learned from your awesome kids?

#Winning

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If you have never participated in blogging, you may not realize the blood, sweat and tears that goes into getting people to actually, well, read your blog. That’s why the “blogging community” is so supportive of each other. Once you go outside of your family and friends, getting someone to regularly visit and connect with your blog is very exciting.

That’s why I am sharing some big news. Well, big to me, probably not so big to you.

Someone outside of my circle has actually taken a look at my blog and shared a “bloggy” award with me! Thanks to my new friend at sarcasmica for bestowing this honor upon me.  She’s pretty entertaining herself, and I’ve enjoyed reading her blog.

The rules for acceptance of this award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for your new fancy schmancy award, and be sure to include a link back to their site in your acceptance speech.
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself
3. Pass on the award to 13 other versatile bloggers.

Because most of my readers already know way too much about me, I’m not going to bore you with seven random facts, but I will say this:

1) I have been shocked and humbled by how supportive my “community” has been to my blogging. It made my decision to make this venture much easier and the dark days I have been having a little brighter.

2) Blogging/writing is not as easy as it sounds if you want to be good at it. I have an entirely new respect for the people that make their living via the written word (whether it is online for social purposes or creating the next great American novel.) I am glad I started this when I was older and wiser, as I do not think I had the discipline it takes to be successful in my younger, more impressionable years!

While the rules state that I should nominate 13 other bloggers for this award, sadly, I am still figuring out what up and comers to follow, so I have selected a handful to highlight:

Carolyn Menke’s blog: Carolyn is a personal friend, but she’s also a beautiful writer. I’ve read many of her shorts, and love her turn of phrase. She’s also just a good human being, which makes me like her even more.

Living Free with Allergies and EE: This food blog was started by my sorority sister due to her experience with her child’s food allergy issues. She’s even convinced me to try a gluten and dairy free mac and cheese recipe.

My Natural Family: While she already has an army of followers, I just wanted to show my love for her page. It’s extremely informative and well written.

Daftly Domestic: I just started following this mom, and I already like her for two reasons: 1) she talks about the need for wine during parenting, and 2) she’s got a wicked sense of humor.

Barbie, Bieber and Beyond — Raising Girls: do I really even need to explain this one? I think the name will tell you why I’m already obsessed with it.

So, that’s it for my first award. I would like to thank the academy, my family, and most of all, my fans. You like me. You really, really like me!

 

 

Diagnosis: Bad Luck

I just returned from taking my youngest to the pediatrician. We tested negative for influenza and strep throat, positive for bad luck.

This is her third virus in five weeks — two nasty bouts of the stomach flu, and now this random ick. She has now missed six days of school, more than the last three years combined.

I also feel like I have the bad luck virus. As I am trying to get my new business venture off the ground, I feel like “the Powers that Be” are working against me. Not only has my youngest now had three viruses, but my other two have also had bouts of the stomach flu, as have I. Total days lost to viruses equals seven (and counting).

Then let us address this winter where temperatures have plummeted to all time lows and snow totals have reached near all-time highs. Total days lost to crazy weather equals five.

And then there’s just the arbitrary days off of school for random holidays or teacher in-service; the ones where most people work but school is out. Total days lost to educational black-hole equals four.

Oh, and did I mention my computer died? Total days lost to technological malfunctions equals two.

Just because I think the proof of my bad luck lies in the numbers, here’s another good one. Weeks where all three of my children went to school Monday through Friday since before Christmas break: two.

So, yes. I’m having a bit of a pity party. My patience has worn thin. My nerves are shot. I am acting a little bit more like Mommy Dearest than Mother Teresa. I just want a routine. Any routine. And no vomit.

But then as I sit in the pediatrician’s office while my poor daughter lies pathetically in a heap on the table trying to sleep, I check my Facebook account. I read about how my dear friend’s son is going into the hospital for a four-day stint for cancer treatment. I read about how a friend from high school is sitting bravely by the bedside of another who is facing stage four stomach cancer. I receive a message of a friend most likely headed for divorce.  I get a text about funeral services for a friend’s mom.

I do believe that the doctor gave us the right diagnosis. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you just can’t control your luck. But instead of wallowing in self-pity like I have been doing lately, I will be appreciative that my family’s health problems are only minor. Instead of complaining on that next unexpected day off from school (because I am certain there will be more), I will try to be more prepared to handle it. And before I start my pity party, I will be thankful that my problems are so small, and pray and send good Karma to those that truly need it.

And as for today’s bad luck virus, well, I am thankful that a little orange Gatorade and TLC is all that is needed to cure it.

Boy, do I need a playdate!

It’s Hard To Be The New Mom On The Block

I’ve been around the block quite a bit. And by around I mean moving and by block I mean seven cities in the past 15 years.

One would think that I would have this “new girl” thing down pat. I should be able to walk confidently into any situation with my head held high ready to meet anyone and everyone that crossed my path. I’m now a seasoned mom, so I should have this school thing under control. And being an extrovert, I should be able to overcome those butterflies I feel every time I have to go anywhere when I know that I won’t see a familiar face.

Well, not so much. Being the “new mom” is one of the toughest obstacles I face.

It’s not that anyone is mean to me. In fact, everyone is exceedingly nice when they cross my path and hear that I am new. But for me, it’s the constant unknown — and probably a ridiculous fear of embarrassment — that I deal with on an ongoing basis. It’s just [said in my most whiny voice] so haaaaaarrrrrrd.

Since I just moved three months ago, my kids have done amazingly well. They all enjoy their new friends, teachers and activities. And I am enjoying my new life as well, despite being a little lonely.

I have met some really great people who have made my transition a little easier, so I thought I would offer a couple of tips on how you could truly welcome a new mom to your school or neighborhood beyond the obligatory banana bread. These are things that have truly made a difference to me, and I feel confident could change any new mom’s on the block experience.

+ Offer to show them the ropes. Nothing is more stressful than your child’s first day at a new school. Add to that an entire new set of rules and procedures, and it can make even the most confident parent a little skittish.

Pick up and drop off at our new school is a completely different (and intimidating) process (yes, this may sound ridiculous to you, but trust that I’m telling you the truth.) I was monumentally relieved when my neighbor offered for me to follow her to school to show me where to park, what the rules were, and how crowded the pick up line would get. It made all the difference in the world on my — um, I mean my kids’ — first day of school.

+ Share your secrets. Not your deep, dark personal secrets, but something even more valuable: the names to good pediatricians/doctors, hair dressers, dentists, restaurants, etc. When you move — especially out-of-state — you literally start at ground zero with everything, and it is scary to pick a doctor unknown to you off the Internet, particularly when it’s for your child. The last house we bought the owner left business cards of her “favorites.” I ended up going to the same hair dresser, using the same lawn service, and checked out their recommended dentist. Although I didn’t stay a customer with all of them, it certainly was a relief to have referrals to some critical services right off the bat.

+ Make a date. Everyone is busy, but being the new mom can be very lonely. I was so grateful to a woman who asked me randomly out for a cup of coffee. She was leading a program at school, and when she heard I was new she invited me to Starbucks right away. It was such a treat considering since I worked out of my home I was pretty isolated (and do I even need to address the winter we are having in Chicago?) We have since met again and have formed a nice friendship. Yes, the new girl can ask too — but it is much more intimidating.

+ Don’t offer, do. While it is great that everyone always says, “Please let me know if you need anything,” everyone knows that no one likes to ask.  Do give your e-mail or cell, do give advice on the inside scoop, do include. Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

Make room. I have heard various women say over the years: “I have my core group of friends, I just don’t have time for anyone else” or “I just don’t need any more friends.”

Really?

I honestly view this is as a form of Mom bullying. When you keep your circle closed, and it’s pretty evident when you do, it is truly an unfortunate event. Yes, our time is the most valuable thing we have, but I also believe that being kind is the most valuable thing we can be. How can we teach our children to be inclusive when we won’t open up ourselves to anyone else?

And just think. You could be missing out on somebody special. You could be missing out on someone just like me.

What do you do to help welcome a new mom?

How I Got my Stay-at-Home Happy

I was not always the happy, positive person I am today. About six or seven years ago, my husband and I hit a rough patch. Or, I hit a rough patch and took my husband along for the ride.

We had to move because of an impending re-org at my husband’s company, and we relocated to a city where we knew not a soul. My husband (who takes the word driven to a new level) was working some crazy hours and travelling, and I had three kids three and under to manage day in and day out, including my daughter who was in some pretty significant developmental therapy at the time. I was also trying to keep my small public relations consultancy above water, but a lack of child care options was making life pretty complicated.

I was crabby and bitter…just plain unhappy. One day I was mad at my husband because I was doing it “all” with the kids. I think the fact that he wanted to get his hair cut on a Saturday morning instead of go to My Gym set me off. His response: “I thought you wanted to stay at home with the kids!”

Huh. It was easy to blame my husband for all of my unhappiness. He “made” us move, he wasn’t around enough, he didn’t help out, he was selfish, he just didn’t understand. Sound familiar?

My husband is a great man and father. And even if he wasn’t, my issues really had nothing to do with him. I was in a stay-at-home funk.

Of course having small children is the most challenging. You often are a prisoner to sleep schedules, deal with frequent tantrums, diaper blow outs and a never ending mess (although even as my kids grow I still seem to be dealing with all of those things except for diaper blow outs!) One day, when I hit a pretty good low, I realized that I could make some changes in my life that would probably improve my attitude. I no longer wanted to be mad at my husband all the time, yet I did not think going back to work would really fix my life either.

Here are a few things that helped me get my stay-at-home happy on:

Stop complaining. Seriously, just shut up. I got to the point that I got tired of listening to myself. Complaining never gets you anywhere and doesn’t change anything. You can vent, but wallowing about how hard your life is — particularly when you have your health — is pretty much ridiculous.

Take control. I realized one day that although my husband and I are a team, I could not expect him — or my children for that matter — to have control over my happiness. I began focusing on the things that made me happy, which included planning family trips, learning to cook, taking a publishing course and getting involved in my children’s educational institutions. If my husband could/would participate in these things, great. If not, I found a way to do them regardless. Interestingly enough though,  I discovered my husband was exceedingly willing to support me in these endeavors, even if it meant I slacked off in other areas (the house was never spotless and sometimes we ate some serious take out when I was busy.) It was a good reminder that he wanted a partner, not a mother.

Abandon stereotypes. Being a stay-at-home mom does not mean you have to be the queen of crafts or Betty Crocker in the kitchen. That is not the point. At the end of the day, the goal of being a  mom — working or not — is just taking care of your kids and spending time with them. I like to think that all my girls have their passion for books because of the hours we spent reading together (something I love to do.) And all three are great storytellers, which I hope is because of the pretend play we did. We also went to every museum, zoo and library within a 100 mile radius. I don’t say these things because I think this makes me a great mom; instead, I say them because I am admitting that I couldn’t bake a batch of cookies with my kids without pulling my hair out until they were seven, and my babysitters do infinitely more crafts with my girls than I ever will, unless you count coloring at Red Robin. The point is to enjoy what you love with your kids, and not conform to what you think you should be doing.

A particularly trying day as a SAHM. I think the kids won this day!

A particularly trying day as a SAHM. I think the kids won this time!

Keep a toe in the door (or open a new one.) I tell people that I am predominantly a stay-at- home mom, but I have run my own consulting firm for nine years. In addition to working for various clients, when my kids went to school full-time, I began some freelance writing for a local magazine and did some pro-bono work for some charities. This made me feel like I was still using my education and showed my kids that working for people outside my four walls was part of who I am, whether I got paid or not.

While not every profession allows you to work part-time or from home like mine, I believe any mom can still keep their skills fresh or even gain new work experience — without sacrificing their desire to be there for their kids. Multi-level marketing businesses, freelance opportunities, retail operations, call centers and even pro bono work can ensure that  –if desired — you can re-enter the workforce when ready. You may not earn the same paycheck or be at the same level, but in today’s world of technology and trade, you should be able to go back in some capacity. And for some moms, just feeling productive and valued by someone outside of your three-year old is just the attitude adjustment you need.

I would also like to reiterate that I understand not every family has the financial means to do this, but I believe with some creativity, you can at least try to make it happen.

Dream. If being a domestic engineer is the pinnacle for you, fantastic. But for most of us who dedicated our prime career years to our kids, reality smacks us in the face when our kids start getting older. The days become a bit longer when your kids go to school full-time, unless you’re filling the void with something else. And I can’t imagine the heart ache that happens when the last baby bird leaves the nest.

I began feeling more content with growing older, and with the fact my kids were growing up, when I started realizing I could fulfill some of my own dreams. Pursuing a full-time  writing career (and publishing a book), travelling, and starting a philanthropic organization are just some of the things I have been talking about with my friends for years. And although I’m not sure that between soccer, horse back riding, gymnastics, theater, piano, PTA, birthday parties and everything else we do will allow me to reach all of my goals just yet, dreaming about making them happen makes me smile.  Achieving some of them makes me giddy.

+ Think more like a man. Most men do not rest their entire self-worth in what type of father they are. And they shouldn’t. Being a parent should not consume your identity — it should only be part of it, even if it’s your full-time job. When I started branching out beyond just “being a mom,” I became a much happier person, and I believe a much better mother. While I am proud of the job I am doing raising my kids, I am prouder of the person I have become.  Well, really, becoming.

Develop an attitude of gratitude.  I have a lot of friends who are single parents, widowed, or just do not have the financial means for either parent to stay home even part-time with their children.  I did not have to stay at home…I had the choice. If I didn’t want to do so, I could go back to work. I finally became grateful to spend this time with my kids, even when it sucked. That’s what wine playdates were for…

So much to be thankful for.

So much to be thankful for.

Yes, I think “just” being a stay-at-home mom is enough. More than enough, in fact. As long as you continue to be productive and fill your own happiness cup along with the kids.

And while you probably know all this stuff already, it never hurts to hear it again, especially if you get in a funk.

How do you keep your mom mojo? Please share in the comments below!

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