Charmed if you do, charmed if you don’t

“Hey! Is that your chocolate in MY peanut butter? NO – that’s YOUR peanut butter on MY chocolate!…”

Yes, I am dating myself here by admitting that I actually remember when this campaign was popular for the Reeces Peanut Butter Cup. But the messsage was that – duh…you can have both and be pretty darn happy.

I have been on both sides of the fence of the working mommy or stay at home mommy debate. The magic answer? They can both be right. There are pros and cons to both sides. The worst thing you can possibly do is judge some other mommy for not making the same decision you have resolved as “the best” choice. Because you have not walked in her shoes.

Whether you are a stay at home mommy, full or part time career mommy – you can be pretty darn happy. The challenge is maintaing a balance. You know – you don’t want too much peanut butter…or too much chocolate (wait…is that possible?) – you want it just right.

Same thing with being a stay at home or working mom. There is a balance to be found.

First the issue of guilt must be addressed. I would be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room. Hello ladies…I’d like you to meet guilt. Guilt…meet the ladies. Just wanted to get that introduction out of the way, because you two will be getting to know each other quite well now that you are a mom.

Guilt. The whole damned if you do, damned if you don’t dilemma. As a stay at home mom, you can feel dreadfully guilty for not bringing any cash flow into the family finances. This leaves the husband as the sole breadwinner and could potentially stress him completely out. On the other hand, a working mom can be completely guilt stricken over handing over their little lovies for 8-10 hours a day – basically letting someone else become a key factor in the rearing of their child.

Looking at it like this – there is no winning. Later I will come back to this and we will look at this from a completely different angle. Let’s put this in the “parking lot” for later, shall we?

Deeper than guilt – is determining the real answer to this age old question of stay at home vs. working mom. How do you know the right answer? It comes down to your gut feeling…and sometimes circumstances.

If you are a working mom and you are constantly preoccupied, miserable and distracted with the desire to be at home with your baby and you actually have the choice to do so – maybe you are being prompted to try it. You’re biggest challenge is possibly a lifestyle change. For instance, I turned in my BMW and we went down to 1 used car for 2 years.

If on the otherhand you are at home with your babes and you are resentful, miserable and feeling like a complete failure for not automatically being the Mary Poppins Stepford/wife ideal person you thought you would magically turn into just for giving birth, then maybe you are being prompted to seek some type of employment. You’re greatest challenge is finding quality childcare where your babe is happy, yet you still make some net gain after paying them. Also – it can be challenging to find the right “fit” for you in a job place – especially when the market is as lean as it is.

There is no magic eight ball answer, unfortunately. It takes a lot of soul searching and honesty. The answer may not always be what we had expected. I have known some women who spent their entire careers striving for the top rung of the ladder and somewhere along the way or near the top – they walked away from it all to stay at home – shocking themselves and their peers. I have also known women who dreamed of being stay at home moms, equally surprised and shocked to find out they nearly lost their minds trying to do it and found that working was a better choice for them.

And then, there are times in life, where you don’t have a choice. Like me now. I just have to make the most out of being a working mom. I have to figure out how to find balance and peace of mind.

In all my experience in both the stay at home and working mommy worlds…the key to the balance is not at all what I thought it would be. Once you get the guilt thing under control – ironically the other major key factor to achieving balance is…YOU time. Yes…time for YOU. Something I had always felt terribly selfish for before I learned the secret to what all honestly happy moms know – that “you” time is critical to being balanced and, well…SANE!!!

If you are a stay at home mom – the risk is that every moment is spent caring for, teaching and disciplining your child(ren). You can be consumed with housework and children activities in and out of the home. As a working mom the risk is working like a dog, speeding home to do a sprint of homework, dinner, some kid related activity, bathe them, and get them to bed. It’s very easy to lose yourself – on either side of the fence.

Just a little hour here or there or a night out now and then – where you take a little time to recharge your batteries and are not responsible for the life or death of a little hobbit lovie, and don’t have to be aware of thier every little bodily function at any given time.

That is what it takes to make either situation bearable – a little break. Because motherhood is very, very hard. No matter what angle or side of the fence you are on. It took me about 6 or 7 years to really find this out. I am a pathetically slow learner when it comes to life lessons.

When I had my first daughter I had an awesome career in logistics. 10 years of supply chain management and about 4 years of my biological clock ticking away somehow made the decision to walk away from a coveted position with awesome perks (like, say, a BMW, for instance) fairly easy.

I went from design changes to diaper changes nearly overnight. I was finally living my dream. But my husband traveled extensively and was just not around to share in parenting. When he did come home, I would spend all my time with him and us as a family because that was such a limited and rare thing. Then he would be off again. I had no me time. I felt “guilty” for even wanting it. I was also confused as to why I was so depressed when I was finally doing what I had wanted to do all along.

Isolation and depression set in. Over time, I became worn out, bitter and resentful. I didn’t even know why anymore. This routine of life had become my identity. The real me had been snuffed out. I had no real hobbies any more. All the things that made me “me” had been replaced wtih “craft time”, tinker toys and play dates. Adult conversations were minimal, always interrupted, and usually centered around…children. “So…what is Johnny doing now? What milestones is he hitting…etc.”

I cannot stress enough – if you are a stay at home mom – get out – meet other moms – get out of the house and your comfort zone to connect with folks and make friends. Isolation is the worst thing you can do for you and your family. Figure out how to make some time for you. It is not a selfish thing in the long run. Even a jog around the block can do wonders.

On the flip side. As a working mom I remember pulling 90% of the parenting responsibilities, working the same amount of hours as my husband, then coming home, making a full dinner, bathing the baby, putting her to bed, etc., while my husband worked out, or did some things just for him. At this time, I also don’t remember us making time for even a date night. I felt so guilty for working so much that if I was not working, I felt I HAD to be with my baby. So I had no me time…and again felt guilty for even wanting it.

I wouldn’t call this isolation, because I was out in the work force. I was at least feeling utilized, appreciated, recieving some accolades for a job well done and getting to make complete sentences with adults. I just had lost ‘me”. I was buried somewhere deep beneath deadlines, meeting minutes, and baby scheduled events. The thing to stress here is if your spouse takes some “me” time – you should do the same.

As a side note here – I have to say – that given a choice…I would still choose to stay at home. Even though I admit and have learned that it is the hardest job out there – hands down. I still struggle with the fact that other people are raising my child – for the majority of their “awake” moments throughout the week are spent with someone else. This is a hard pill for me to swallow.

But I am forced to admit that I can’t be everything to my child. I have had to step back and see the strength in letting go just a bit and having other positive influences in my child’s life. This has given my child some different perspectives and flexibility. It has given me a chance to observe my child through a different set of lenses. It’s not always a bad thing.

After two divorces and learning the ridiculously hard way…I have no choice but to take time for just “me” sometimes. In a very strange and convaluded way, divorce forced me to take some ME time. I am fortunate to have married good daddies – just not great spouses. Thankfully, they still want to be part of the girls’ lives. So during visitations…all I have is…me (Luckily for me, it is still a 90/10 mix. I personally couldn’t honestly imagine it any other way…no matter how hard or self sacrificing that makes my life – no matter how much I may have ranted to a certain select group of friends…namely Jen).

It’s a bit sad to admit that my first months of being forced into having ME time…I had no clue what to do with myself. In the beginning, I found myself just driving around town…wasting time. I was lost. What do I do without my kids? My little extentions of myself. Not to mention the sadness I was experiencing from the loss of the marraige too. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. I mean…what do I do all alone…with just ME?

Umm…TONS OF THINGS!

It took me a few months, maybe even a year to be fully comfortable with it. I moved from feeling guilty and even depressed to feeling liberated. Then I started reconnecting with “me” – remembering some of my passions and hobbies and actually doing them. I started waking up from a seemingly deep freeze.

Now that it has been 2 years – I am a pro at it. I even find myself getting a bit riled up if my “me” time gets nixed by a change of plans. Because this “me” time has become my little oasis. I can do anything I want at that time…even if it is nothing at all, or just having some quiet time, or a hike. “Me” time doesn’t mean self indulgence or shopping spree time…but sometimes it can be.

I am finding out the key to being a good mom and having happy kids while even having a career…the key is a balance and yes…some “me” time.

No matter what side of the fence you are on – it doesn’t have to be that pessimistic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” way of looking at things. It is all perspective…and though you may still have moments of slipping into this way of thinking because some days are just harder than others where you feel like an all around failure – the real way of spinning that around is something like…”Charmed if you do, charmed if you dont'”. Honestly – this is how the majority of your days should feel if you are doing a graceful job of this delicate balancing act.

Forgive the cheesy undertone of it. Honestly I can just hear John Ratzenberger saying it in his best used car salesmen voice. Come on – let’s do it together – in your best cheesy voice read the following, “I mean come on…I always say…charmed if you do, charmed if you don’t…I mean for crying out loud…this is your life I am talking about here…am I right, or am I right?”

Ok. you get the point. Perspective. Balance. It’s the libra-nitus in me. I can’t help it. And now I am just rambling for the sake of rambling because I haven’t blogged in so long.

I’ll leave with this last anaolgy that has stuck with me.

There were two lumber jacks. They decided to have a contest to see who could split more wood in a day. They both were on pace for awhile, but a few hours into it, the older lumber jack left for a few minutes. The younger one kept chopping thinking to himself he was going to win by a landslide…especially when the older lumberjack did this a few more times before the end of the day.

At the end of the day they stacked all their wood in individual piles and the older lumberjack won by a significant amount. The younger lumber jack who had not taken a break all day was completely baffled. He asked the older one what his secret was. The older lumber jack answered that while he had stepped away for a few moments he was actually taking time to sharpen his axe.

So ladies – and even some of you self martyring men out there…take some time to sharpen your axe so you can actually be the productive super hero you were designed to be. You’ll be charmed if you do.

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Global Dumbing

While you may be one of those who think we have made wonderful progress in our society with all the strides in safety precautions of every kind and form imaginable, I have come to the conclusion that we are actually messing with the whole “Survival of the fittest” theory. We are completely turning it upside down!

Yes, thanks to the hollow souls of the capitalist ways of consumerism, high profit margins and sales – not to mention an endless array of really cool safety products to choose from in any color of choice – we have successfully turned the tide on one of Darwin’s crowning glories. As blatantly as there is a huge gaping man made hole in the ozone, there is now also a huge sucker punch in the face to this whole survival and natural selection theory. Global warming is so yesterday. Yes folks, we are facing a new epic pandemic…Global Dumbing!!

Back in my child hood we threw caution to the wind by riding in the car without car seats, we had candies that glorified bad habits like candy cigarettes (umm…yuck!), thought electrical sockets were play things, and we definitely never wore helmets or knee pads when riding our bikes. Only the weird geeky kids did that.

And not only is this scientific law being turned on it’s head, but the whole laws of parental dictatorship is falling by the wayside too! I mean I am apparently no match for the lords of advertising that make their huge impression on my innocent babes so that they later recite things like…”Helmets saves lives and prevents brain injuries” at the tender age of 4 when I am trying to just go around the block on my bike. I mean…here I am a grown adult…and still being preached too…by my own child nonetheless. It just isn’t natural!

And forget about trying to get out of the driveway without your seatbelt on…the safety savvy kids of this new generation will bust you and call you right out on it. They will then persist to make such a fuss if you ignore that they will only repeat it louder and louder until you have no option but to obey and secure the blasted harness. I mean, can’t a mom break the law now and then?

My 2 year old refuses to go for a short stroll on the scooter without a painstaking 10 minute routine of meticulously fastening tiny little pads on each elbow and knee. Then of course there is the helmet which needs to be readjusted seemingly multiple times just to get the RIGHT fit. And I know that millions of other parents the world over know exactly what I am talking about. And she will absolutely not ride in the poshy non flippable bike cart without being properly buckled.

What is going on here?!? What are we doing? Kids that might otherwise fallen victim to this whole “survival of the fittest” theory are actually making it through the system. As population increases, IQ is decreasing. We all contribute it to poor schooling systems and main stream media leading us astray…but I think the REAL issue is that less “fit” kids are actually surviving due to all these new safety precautions.

What I wouldn’t give to back in time and invest in the once pathetic, barely-there sales of helmets and safety gear equipment. In fact, I think that perhaps this whole racket was invented by some marketing genius just to increase the sales revenues…like some hallmark card holiday like ‘sweetest day’ or something. I can just see it now…20 years ago at long round table executive meeting room as they developed their evil plots to scare parents into throwing billions of dollars their way.

The time to act is now! I’d like to ask you to get behind me in this new campaign in trying to re-align ourselves with Darwin’s ruling of all that is true and sacred (insert sarcastic smirk here) and dare to defy the lords of advertisement and marketing and just say no to being a safety lemming of society. I mean, wouldn’t you want to know NOW rather than later that your child is actually among those that Darwin would consider weak and not genetically worthy of passing on the DNA baton? I mean…come on! I know I would.

This summer, if I have MY way – my girls will be out there riding bikes as fast as their little legs can take them withOUT cool flashy helmets, and with naked knees and elbows…that right. Just like their old mom used to do, only I did it gravel. Yea…I’m tough. If I have my way I am going to save hundreds on safety gear on all kinds of recreational activities. I mean…life vests? Are you kidding me? My girls are going to either beat the odds or sink like…

Ok…wait…

Yes. If I had my way of being a complete idiot myself, I would really show those safety product marketers just who’s the boss. But you know what? Some things are just not worth making a statement over.

And by the way…my daughters look absolutely freaking adorable in all their ridiculously cute gear…it is especially endearing then they put it on themselves as they so proudly flaunt their crooked helmets and woppy jawed elbow and knee pads. And do I really even have to mention how unbelievably edible both of my girls looked at 2 and 3 in inflatable swimmy suits that make her already disproportionate measurements even more magnified?

Sorry folks…and Darwin. This is one campaign that was doomed from the start. Well…I guess we still have the ozone thing to rally behind.

Random things and Fairy Wings

E is 1 009Camping and Chihuly 108I love seeing the evidence of my 2 year old’s busy mind and fingers at work…randomly placed objects placed in the most odd and curious places…but ever so delicately and purposefully.  Today I opened the refrigerator to put some leftovers away and found a cootie head on the bottom shelf.  Perfectly placed right in the middle of some open space.  What was even funnier was that it had the little plastic eyes in the right holes.  She normally tries to put them anywhere but the right place.  I should have taken a picture of it, really.  These moments won’t last.  I am painfully aware as I remember these moments from my now almost 8 year old. 

She no longer puts tiny little trinkets or stuffed animals in pantries or cabinets or refrigerators while I am not looking.  She is becoming an amazing girl with her own unique ways of making me laugh and smile and try to hold onto the moments that I know will not last.  I can’t believe how blessed I am to have not one, but two precious girls.  

I wrote this song when my oldest girl was only about 3 or 4.   Some of the words were actually her own words or sayings.  Now I love to play and sing this song to both my girls and watch them dancing, twirling and laughing together.  It’s extra special when my oldest actually sings it to her little sister along with me.  It’s one of those kind of moments where you wish you could make time stand still.        

Butterfly ~ 

Dance your dance, sweet butterfly, Wings outstretched, oh sweet butterfly

Colors twinkling in your eyes.  Tiny hands reaching towards the sky

 Round and round you go butterfly.  Spin so graceful as you flutter by

I’ve never seen beauty such as this.  I love you so, you’re magnificent

 So Fly————— sweet butterfly

 Flap your wings, sweet butterfly.  Clap and sing, oh sweet butterfly

Voice so sweet and words so dear.  I’ll keep them in my heart so near

 In years to come, my sweet butterfly.  You’ll grow and soar, as the years pass by

You’ll spread your wings and you’ll fly away.  And have a butterfly of your own someday

 So fly———————-sweet butterfly

 Bridge:

Mommy, Daddy look at me…I’m a butterfly!

See my beautiful wings?  I cracked from my cocoon.

Get on board…I’ll fly you both…to the moon 

             ~  musical break ~

 Say your prayers, sweet butterfly.  Rest your head now and close your eyes

Till the moon goes down and the sun does rise.  And a new day dawns with hope and surprise

And fly———————–sweet butterfly

I think I already mentioned this story in some previous blog a few months ago – probably the one about sibling bliss and scattered fussiness – but anyway, the memory goes along with this butterfly theme and is worth repeating because it is such a great memory.  I was putting my oldest to bed and doing our nightly ritual of reading, praying, snuggling and telling a story or singing a song.  We made up a place called dreamy land that has since turned into a place called Unicornacopia, which has it’s own song now too – see below. 

But as we got more tired we talked about meeting each other on the other side…in this dream world we created.  She used to ask, “Mommy…how will I find you?  How will I recognize you there?”  And I would say, “Oh, I’ll be the one with purple and blue wings tonight.”  Because our wing color could change from night to night to keep things interesting. 

One night I asked her the same question.  She answered, “Ill be the one carrying a cocoon really tightly.  Because it will be Evie and she doesn’t have her wings just yet”. 

I love that memory.  It is one of my favorites.  I love that she embraces her inner butterfly/fairy.  And not just for her, but for her sister now too.  I don’t feel like I was allowed to do that as a child.  So the great thing is that I get to experience it with my own girls now.  I get to fly off to a pretend fairy world…even if just for a moment to entertain my little girl. 

Here is Unicornacopia.  My oldest also helped me write this one (I’m just not this creative all by myself) and can also sing it by heart.   

Unicornacopia ~

Unicornacopia.  A Unicorn Utopia.  Where little girls can visit…if they truly believe.

In Unicorns and Pegasus.  Just believe, and they exist.  Close your eyes and picture it.  And you can go there too.

But not many grown ups ever make it there. 

The realists, the cynics…they’ll never get through.

But oh what pure happiness, awaits those that do.

My little girl…she took me there. 

On her wings, we flew.

To Unicornacopia.  A unicorn utopia.  Where little girls can visit…if they truly believe.

I love being a mommy.  It is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I have been able to look at life through their eyes and enter a place where every girl should get to go to sometimes.  A world where they are special.  A place where anything is possible.  Where faith is a way of life…believing actually brings the dream into existence.  Where flying is even possible.  

I admit that sometimes I am guilty of being that cynic or realist, but I am so thankful for the times when I am able to let go of my grown up inhibitions, dust off my fairy wings and go to that place of dreams and hopes with my daughters.  My oldest asked me if she was really a fairy one time.  And I said yes.  She said, but I don’t have wings.  And I said…yes you do.  But only I can see them.  She smiled and knew that I meant that I love her in a way that no one else can – unconditionally.  I pray she always knows and feels that.  And I pray that even in the years to come…I can always see their wings.

Rainbows or floods

My daughter and I have developed a little system of checks and balances to help each other through some of our less graceful moments.  I have already mentioned in a previous blog our code words “flowers or weeds”.  This means – “Hey…are you going to spread flowers or weeds from your heart today?”  It is basically meant to make you think about how you are treating others.   

Today my 7 year old added a new phrase.  She was complaining a lot and just looking at the bad side of everything instead of looking at all the blessings around.  It was wearing on me to the point where I couldn’t even think about flowers or weeds…I was focused on getting the grocery and possibly selling my child out in public while I was there. 

I finally said…”Look, you can choose to continue to look at all the negative around you and be miserable, or you can focus on the all the great things in your life and be a lot happier.”  Again…I felt a little tap on my shoulder…and I was thinking maybe she was just acting out a behavior she learned somewhere…like from me.  Oh, I can sometimes be a master complainer.  Traffic lights, crazy people on the roads, too many rainy days in a row, how there is not enough time in the world to get everything done…etc. 

In my conviction I went on to say, “Bad things are always going to happen in life, but even then and along the way, there is beauty to be found.”  And she said, “Like the rainbow.”  And all was quiet for a moment.  How brilliant.  Then she said what I was already thinking.  “Hey Mommy, I think we should start asking each other “rainbows or floods?’ when we need help being reminded of the good.”

Now, not only can we think about how we are acting and try to remember to spread flowers, not weeds.  But now we can focus on how we are looking at life.  Are we looking at all the bad or all the good.  Not that we will be successful in remembering these tools every time we need to, but it’s something.  Love it!!  I am so thankful to be a mom.  I’m just not that creative on my own.

Heart flowers

This post is dedicated to Erica and Shara, my buddies that have not only put up with my analogies and allegories, but encouraged me, built upon the concepts and challenged me to keep gardening.

My oldest daughter and I have some of the best conversations while we are in the car.  Maybe it is because we are just close enough and just far enough away to make her feel safe to say some of the deeper things on her mind, or maybe it just boredom and that’s ok too.   

One day in the thick of the divorce she asks, “Mommy, what kind of heart flowers do you have”?  As if it was the most ordinary question in the world.  I had no idea what she was talking about so I had to ask what exactly a heart flower was.  She went on to describe what her heart flowers looked like.  She said they were shaped like hearts and were red and very pretty.  Then she asked me once again what mine looked like.  I admitted I was having trouble coming up with something so I asked her for some help.  She said heart flowers should look like whatever it is that you want to be in the world.

Wow.  Okay…I am thinking to myself, “God, is that you again, channeling through my daughter”?  After I came to my senses (and scanned the rear view mirror to make sure it was just her back there) I decided mine would be like daisies – happy, bright and cheerful.  The white petals would be like fairy wings and represent innocence and freedom, and the happy yellow middles would be like sunshine to cheer up anyone that I met (oh, how I wish I were like that…a girl can dream, right?).  

She liked this idea very much and was quite encouraged and surprised that I played along.  Because sometimes I regretfully admit, I don’t always have the presence of mind or patience to entertain her imagination.  She decided that she wanted to have some of those fairy flowers in her heart too.  So we created more flowers and shared them with each other until we had a whole virtual garden of flowers in our hearts.

Then the other shoe drops and she says, “I don’t think daddy Nathan has any heart flowers”.  She was referring to her step dad who had at that point recently made the decision to move out.  She was struggling with broken promises and trying to make sense of it.  What an amazing way to word it. 

As I just mentioned in a previous blog (Independence Day), one of the hardest things of being a parent so far for me is stepping back and letting them make mistakes.  The second hardest thing has got to be finding a balance between the ugly truth and a positive outlook without sugar coating it to the point that it totally invalidates their honest opinions.  I want her to be able to express her pain and talk about it.  I want her to know that it is completely normal to feel these things and that I feel them too.  But I also want her to know that it is not ok to harbor resentment or hate towards anyone.

Isn’t it amazing how parents get hit with these life changing, soul searching questions in the oddest places and have only seconds to respond.  I am a slow processor…I could have used a good couple days to figure out how to reply to that.  Because I wanted to agree that he doesn’t have any flowers and that his garden is a barren wasteland of thorns and all kinds of Grinch like things.  I am even stalling in this blog and it happened a year ago.  Are you on pins and needles or totally annoyed yet?  Yes, I am abusing my power now.

Ok, my final answer was (drum roll please…or not…I am building this up to be way better than it is) that we all have different kinds of gardens and flowers in our hearts.  Sometimes in life we even have weeds pop up where flowers should be.  So what we need to do now is tend to our own gardens even more so that we can produce soooo many flowers that we have enough to share with people who may not have enough in their own hearts.  

This analogy has taken root in our household and we have developed a code of terminology that can help us throughout our day.  We even tweak or prune it a bit here and there to keep it fresh and thriving.  Praying at night, dropping her off at school, at certain times throughout the day I might say, “Go share some flowers today”. 

Or when she is clearly spreading weeds I can say to her, “Weeds or flowers” and she understands that I need her to think about how she is acting or treating someone.  Of course, she is only 7 and doesn’t always respond to these loving reminders positively, and I am also very human and don’t always remember to say it so lovingly…cause mommy can spread weeds with the best of them too.

It’s a been a great catalyst to be able to dig a little deeper into the roots of problems that she may otherwise keep buried beneath the surface without making her feel like I am plucking her delicate spirit right out of the ground and trampling on it (though I still fear sometimes I do that).  She planted the seed of the idea, I watered it and together we are growing a garden that will be useful for many years down the winding path.  I just hope we can say we spread more flowers than weeds.

The dress of many colors

first day of school 034

 

The inevitable has come.  School starts back tomorrow.  As much as my soon-to-be 8 year old sometimes drives me crazy…she is still MY girl and I love being around her.  I tried the home school thing for Kindergarten.  I figured that was the time to try it without causing too many repercussions in case it didn’t go well.  I’m glad I did so I wouldn’t have to “wonder” or have any regrets for not trying it.  But her first grade year in public school went so well we are doing it again.  

I am not going to get into the debate of right or wrong school choices because guess what folks…we are all different.  So are our kids.  Home, private or public – I think they can all be right or they can all be wrong.  There are so many variables.  It is the same for working verses stay at home parents.  Every situation has its pros and cons.  Deal with it.  It comes down to what is right for you and your child.  I can only say this because I have been on both sides of both equations.  And the bottom line is you make the decision and then make it right.  If you see red flags…tweak your plan and try something new.  We are in a great country with lots of choices.  Take advantage of that. 

The truth is she is only in public school because I made a deal with God.  I had never done that before…it was more like one of those “Give me a sign” fluke kind of deals.   I was looking for some kind of direction.  I was aimless and unsure and resolved that if she was chosen by the lottery for a particular magnet school then that was my answer.  l had no real expectations because I don’t ever win anything by chance…never…I mean never ever.  So when her name was the FIRST called – I had a little private moment and laugh just between me and God.  Umm, yea – that would be a loud, resounding YES to public school. 10-4 God…got it.  

A few months later my husband took me to PF Chang’s for what I thought was a much needed dinner date a few months after the birth of our child.  But surprise!  It was actually where he decided to tell me that our marriage was over.  Yes…right there in public.  As you can imagine I wasn’t very hungry after that and as tears started streaming down my face he was frustrated so he commanded that I “look normal and try to eat something”.  Wow.  Really?

It took my slow processing brain a few days to fully comprehend the shock.  But the following days, weeks and months I slowly fell apart at the seams and became a sobbing, bumbling, idiot as more details came to light and I found out that a good portion of my marriage was all just a lie.  A marriage ending is bad enough.  Being replaced during a pregnancy and delivery is a whole new level of degradation and rejection that you cannot comprehend unless you have been there. 

So, to say the least homeschooling was the last thing in the world that I could have attempted in that state. It seemed that the magnet school lottery WAS a sign (IF you believe in that kind of thing…if you don’t you are thinking to yourself that it was just a random act of good fortune where numbers, math, and maybe even the string theory could have come into play).  I have thanked God over and over for that answer he gave me so loudly before I had any idea of what was to come. 

The REAL point here is that my big girl is off to school tomorrow.  She is more ready and excited than I am, of course.  We have waited until the last possible minute to get all our supplies, clothes and stuff.  Maybe we were both trying to squeeze the last possible days and hours out of summer.  But tomorrow reality begins.  Well…today.  We met the teacher, dropped off school supplies, stocked her desk and checked the room out.  It was fun and, yes…even exciting.

It was nice to feel at peace.  Though I still struggle with the public school decision it’s not because I’ve had a bad experience…it’s just plain selfishness.  Maybe some fear mixed in there too.  What she sees, hears, learns,  does, who she talks too…it is all beyond my control for 7 hours a day.  The bad part of that is obvious…we have all heard the horror stories.  But how about the good part? 

My child is exposed to so many different personality types – teachers, students, administration, janitors, etc.  She is learning so many skills beyond just reading, writing and math.  And when problem situations arise they are opportunities to work through it with her – and yes, I honestly believe that.  And I am also thankful for the many opportunities to help out and be involved in so many school and PTA activities.  It doesn’t feel so mysterious or scary to me that way.

When we finally got around to school shopping just yesterday we went to our favorite store – Once Upon A Child.  She found a dress that at first sight looked like something a vagabond would wear – or maybe something Cyndi Lauper would possibly wear on stage.  The dress is composed of a million 1 inch layers of different colors of cloth and they are all…let’s say, bright.  Very bright.  It is also long so the effect is amplified.  I held back my initial reaction when I saw that she was serious about trying it on. 

And when she put it on it couldn’t have been more her.   A bit zany, quirky and really silly…but also profound.  I said, “You know…this dress reminds me of Joseph’s coat of many colors”.  She immediately got the reference and lit up.  She knew that meant it was “special”.  More importantly she understood that I was specifically saying SHE was special.

After that pivotal dinner at PF Changs over a year ago, I had to let go of control on SOOOO many levels, by letting go of my “plans”,  naivety, personal agendas or ideas about “how life should be”, and yes, even my child’s sense of fashion to a certain degree.  And here is the really big one – the realization that I simply can’t be all things to my child all the time.  I was dumb for even thinking or feeling like I had to be.  Though it was a terribly painful process, I am enlightened…open…ready.  The serotinous seed awakes through the fire.      

ALL THAT to say this…Life is like this huge tapestry…we all have different threads and colors to weave into each other’s lives.  If you limit yourself your tapestry is going to be a bit boring.  Maybe you like it like that.  But if you step back and let go of some (not ALL) of the control and stop being so afraid of letting other people weave their colors into yours and your children’s lives…you just might get an interesting, bright, colorful tapestry…just like her funky new favorite dress. 

So, brace yourselves any of you mommies out there that might see my daughter this year.  And when you see her coming your way in her dress of many colors, just smile and think how very beautiful she looks in it.

Sibling bliss with mild scattered fussiness

 

 

I wish I could honestly say that this was the normal emotional forecast and climate of our household.  Days like that are so wonderful and lately too far and few between.  Maybe it is global warming, or cooling, El Nino, La Niña, or any other phenomenon (true or fabricated) that I can blame/apply here.   But lately a more accurate forecast for my household would be 90% chance of sibling rivalry with a mix of instigation, attitude, selfishness and frequent screaming and blaming.

As if that’s not bad enough there is no warning sirens or Doppler radar to give me a heads up.  We can be going along all happy and peachy when suddenly a loud clap of selfishness and instigation hits from out of nowhere followed up by a thunderous screaming and blaming episode.  Yes…even my dog runs for cover, as all dogs are terrified of storms of any kind.  His ears go back and he quietly tip paws out of the room as he tries to become invisible and sink into the carpet of my bedroom corner…poor, sensitive soul. 

Can I jump on the wagon and chalk it up to the terrible twos?  I could.  But that’s not true.  I love two.  Sure – there are the occasional episodes where she gets so angry that I wonder if she might levitate right off the ground and spit pea soup, but they are brief and usually laughable moments…usually (unless I am really tired and ready to levitate myself).  

The toddler stage is amazing…new words daily, and some of the funniest jibber jabber known to mankind.  The silliest spastic movements – be it dancing (Elaine style), running (or should I say tip-toe-galloping), or just sitting there…two year olds are hysterical.  Their chubby little bodies, short arms that barely even reach above their oversized heads, chunky toes and sweet breath – it’s all so irresistible.  Even their armpits are kissable at this stage!  

I call it their superhero self defense power (insert cheesy game show host voice here) the Power of…Cuteness! or the P to the C times 3.  That is how they stay alive and avoid harm when they sneak below the radar and go on their curious expeditions…their insatiable, very busy and stealthy quests for knowledge where they may be known to; (more cheesy infomercial voice over right here) color on the walls with markers, put toothbrushes in the toilets, tear books to shreds, and sneak up and pull hair…really, REally, REALLy hard.  Or when they raid the pantry or junk drawer, or find a basket of freshly folded laundry and scatter the contents all about the floor (ok…end cheesy voice already, will ya?  Geesh!).  These attacks only take seconds and are usually done very, very quietly…and effectively with a true sense of mission. 

But I love seven too.  Seven is amazing in itself in very different ways, of course.  She is witty, and starting to understand sarcasm and humor, which means she is making up jokes that are actually funny, not painful.  We have shared some of the best belly laughs I’ve ever had (little hints of “friend” moments).  She can ride her bike like the wind.  She teaches me something new at least every week (or more often) just by asking good questions, or sheer fact or discovery.  She is deep – we can talk, and reason, and chat.  And what an imagination! 

Her super hero power is…I think she said she had the magical fairy power of water plus animal transformation.  Not sure how this makes her less vulnerable to being harmed, but at this point I think the long term effects of genetic linkage comes into play (You adoptive parents are just plain saints in the first place and admirable on so many levels that I’m not even worthy to suggest any alternate ideas here – I can only speak on my own limited capacity).  So I guess sheer acceptance keeps her safe when she shines her newly acquired attitude right at me, or how she has digressed and completely forgotten all her manners, how she has developed selective hearing along with debate and justification skills, and how she can muster up tears effectively enough to earn her a soap opera drama award at choice moments like when being asked to clean her room or finish her dinner.      

So when these two worlds collide…Doppler radar would probably be useless anyway.   The nit picking, double standards, jealousy, instigating, revenge-seeking attitudes is enough to send anyone into evacuation mode (Especially grandparents and fringe friends).  Oh Calgone…wait, I’m sorry…Calgone?  No…Calgone is simply not good enough.  I have contemplated Craig’s list or eBay – “two bickering girls to the highest bidder – bids starting at…free!”  I mean this is the 2thousands for heaven’s sakes.  Grandma’s little helpers are not applicable here…we have to keep up with the times, stay ahead of the curve.       

But when the sisters are aligned and united I bask in the moment of sweet, sibling bliss.  It is sooooo sweet, peaceful and heartwarming that I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.  Like the moments when my oldest daughter and I are snuggling before bed and talking about flying off to dreamyland.  She asks, “How will I find or recognize you?” and I answer that I will be the butterfly/fairy with the purple wings.  I ask her, “And how will I recognize you”?  She answers, “I will be the one with rainbow wings holding a cocoon really, really tight because it is Evie and she can’t fly yet…she doesn’t have her wings”.  Yes…I’ll wait…get that tissue. 

Or the times when the little one finds one of “sissy’s” toys or blankets and stops to take the time to take them directly to her.  Or when it is dinner time and the little one makes sure sissy has a plate and cup handpicked by her.  Or when my big girl wants to rock little sis to bed and somehow this usually-very-busy-anti-snuggly-little two year old sits still in her big sister’s arms and they snuggle for a surprisingly and very endearingly long time.  And how when they play hide and seek and they ‘find’ each other, the squeal and roar of laughter flows intoxicatingly through the house. 

I guess those sibling rivalry moments are hard because my brother and I never had any of it.  We were kind of separated through the divorce but we were also 8 years apart.  We were surprisingly very close in mind and spirit despite any distance when we were young.  We held onto each other almost desperately.  So this rivalry thing is new, challenging, exhausting…and hurtful.  So, I do what all clueless moms do – I read.  I also spy – I mean chat with other moms, and join mommy groups to gather information and help me brace myself against future rivalry-nadoes

It’s life.  A crazy balance between mild and critical weather.  I studied meteorology for a short time in college.  I changed my mind when I realized that all the science and technology in the world still can’t accurately predict what nature has planned (that and the math that was required that I am highly allergic to…ooh – starting to itch just thinking about it).   But our world, our lives, our relationships are all intertwined like that.  Some conditions may make certain predictions more likely, but the reality – no one knows what the future holds

It comes down to this.  When the storms brew up – brace yourself, build on your past experiences, and know that it will pass…storms do not last forever.  And when you are in the midst of a beautiful day or moment…hold on to it.  Breathe it in.  Take a picture, choose to remember these times.  Because you will need those memories to get you through the next inevitable storm.  It’s this dichotomy of good and evil that somehow feeds off each other.  You need the bad to appreciate the good.  You need the good to get you through the bad (And there you have it…I’m singing the facts of life song now…must be time for bed).

If you have actually read this far you are indeed a diehard blogger friend and I love you for it.  I’d love to know your thoughts or comments on all this.  I honestly love hearing from other parents going through this stuff.  We’re brothers and sisters in arms – in the trenches together.  Hugs, tears and giggles to you and here’s to hoping for you and your household mostly sibling bliss with only a mild outside chance of scattered fussiness.