2013, Thank you for the Lessons

IMG_7246This photo is a picture of Little Bee after she reaches in to the plant in the foyer for the 327th time to grab some dirt. Usually she makes sure to leave her mark by dropping something in there like a random toy or her sippy cup. She always makes sure to taste the dirt as well.  And then begrudgingly Mom swoops in with the broom…

It got me thinking, at what age do we learn from our mistakes? At what age do we decide to try something different?

Every time I happen to notice her approach that plant I say “No.” VERY firmly.

Every time she doesn’t listen I say it LOUDER.

Then I start walking towards her and invariably she looks at me, then smiles and does it anyways.

It’s only through trial and error, mistakes and reflection that we learn.  She is too young for the latter. Mmmmm… therein lies the difference.

I am no fan of New Years’ Resolutions.  Near about five years ago I decided they just weren’t for me.  Pressure myself into something I would abandon in two weeks? Gear up for a new habit that was way out of my comfort zone and thus why it was never a habit of mine to begin with? Or the scheduling of it all – whatever it is that now needs to have a time slot?  Makes me exhausted.

BUT, I will take my cues from Little Bee and make 2014 the year of the conscious effort to stop “playing in the dirt.”

2013 was an amazing year on so many levels.  Lots to reflect on. Lots to sort through and learn from.

It would be so great if the same broken record that plays in my head about any number of things would stop. Whether it is the harshness with which I judge myself sometimes.  Or the myriad of assumptions I make about what other people’s intentions may be. Or the lack of attention I give my kids sometimes when I am distracted by the most unimportant of things.

It would be great if I could shed those bad habits and free myself from the bad energy they bring.

Instead of worrying about Little Bee’s dirt, I can be my own broom!  It’s in my power to do so.

Happy New Year.


Get Me a Technology Transplant, STAT!

MinionsI have become the old, out-of-touch Mom. It’s official. Even my siblings are calling me out.  I am locked in to a contract with a cell phone company until March.  I am a dinosaur in the cell phone world. Who stays with their cell phone provider for eleven years? Apparently this girl!

The first day of school rolls around and amid hundreds of Facebook posts you won’t find my kids. Nope, their Mom does not get 4G service in our town. Thus no instantaneous posts touting the excitement, fun and fashion of the first day of school. Bad Mom.

No less than fourteen texts came in to my phone that morning while having coffee with friends that included pictures of my niece and nephew in all of their first day of school glory, comments from my siblings and Mom. Digs at me. How old-school I am. Lots of cyberspace chuckles were had at my expense.

Being passed around our table at the coffee shop were iPhones, iPads and a rather fancy uploading device to immediately transfer pictures from phone to tablet. I had nothing to share. Old fashioned digital camera for me.  Gasp! The pictures are still locked in my camera and have yet to see the light of day. Please, don’t alert the technology authorities.

Rewind a few days before this, while driving I heard this comment out of the mouth of my oldest: “You automatically get a banana vacuum.” Excuse me?! What planet are we on? Apparently this sentence does actually exist and makes sense to a kid playing Minion Rush, a video game based off of the movie Despicable Me.

A few minutes later was heard: “The Beijing police just came out of the sky and got me!” Really. This revelation is brought to us by the game Subway Surfer.

These kids today…

Can you just see the little minions laughing at me?

Just Call Me “Captain No Fun”

Who me?  In the span of two weeks we went to the State Fair, Six Flags amusement park, the art museum (the kid portion of it), a children’s fest (with freebies, snow cones and giveaways galore), an outdoor concert, the zoo (twice), and a friend’s cottage for two days (five hours of which was spent tubing off the back of a pontoon boat.)


Yes, I must have earned my moniker.

“Mom, can we buy something in the gift shop?” “No”.

“Can we get something from the cafe?” “No, we packed a lunch.”

“Do you have money to buy this (some toy set at eye level to entice my son)?” “No, you already have several of those at home.”

“I want (insert 27 items here) from the mall. Can we go?” “Not today.”

Yep, Captain No Fun is on the scene and ready to strike.

We made a list before the summer started of the things we wanted to do. It was my attempt to ensure that Techno and Twinkle got ample time to do big kid things while I knew our anchor, Little Bee, would possibly keep us from enjoying a few of the things we might have tried to accomplish if she were a little older.

Periodically I checked the list to ensure we made progress and filled our summer with what they wanted to do.  It gave me great pleasure to see that we checked off a lot of activities and added a few surprises too.

Why did some days feel like the point was missed? The two days it took to pack and plan and prepare were worth it but was the bickering and fighting that ensued the reward?

Did they remember the good time or did they focus on the fact that they couldn’t walk away with the commemorative cup of lemonade retailing for $10?

Looking back on the summer I love the memories we made and relish the special time we enjoyed together.  It does not elude me that there will never be another summer that I have a 1, 9 and 11-year old. Ever.

As the start of school looms next week, I have been asked many times if I am ready for them to go back.  This is the first summer in a few that I dread it just a little.  They have been such a HUGE help with Bee this summer. We were settled in to a new normal.  And now it will be changing yet again.  She is walking now…FAST. And she is very curious. Captain No Fun is just getting warmed up. Look out, Little Bee.


Unexpected Tales from Summer Vacation


Three kids and a minivan ago we’re cruising in a convertible up Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco.  Speaking for myself, I am on top of the world. The unmistakable sound of the ocean, the rush of the surf, the delicious, warm sun and oh my the smell of it all.  Besides the smell of my newborn babies, to me there is nothing as wonderful as ocean air.

Both of us working for an airline in what feels like a past life, we spent as much time as we could traveling around the country. One of our most favorite destinations was always California.  It has been years since we touched down at LAX or SFO.  Surprise One: that it would take over a decade before we visited together again.

Now it is the night before our Northern California adventure and I am mildly freaking out. There must be a handbook somewhere that explains how a Mom can get her family ready for vacation without needing to take a vacation by herself first.  The piles of clothes, the baby toys, the bottles and bags; the activities and snacks for the plane, the just-in-case-medicines, do I really need this many ridiculous chargers??, the stroller and all the suitcases.  Everything but the kitchen sink.

And now, the long-awaited (and MUCH needed!) family vacation for all five of us is now one for the memory books. It was so anticipated and the most well-planned trip Ice and I have ever taken. This one HAD to be! There were just too many variables – aka – how would Little Bee fare?  Or so I thought.  We planned on staying in a different hotel almost every night.  When it was all tallied up we drove a total of 26 hours in the car those nine days.

The kids had never been to California before.  I heard phrases like “Mama, I’m so happy to be in California!”  And “California is exciting!” Yep, that must be a chip off the old blocks! I felt the same way.

Surprise two: As we rolled over the Golden Gate and into Sausalito to visit an old café we loved, we spotted a deer. In the middle of a neighborhood right after the bridge. Unexpected.


We strolled the streets of Sausalito and got our bearings back.  “Honey, remember this…remember that” was heard regularly.  I’m sure Techno and Twinkle were ready to drop kick us already.

“Proposal Point” as my sister dubbed it was up next. The bench overlooking the Golden Gate where Ice proposed.  Surprise three: Little did I know I would be “re-proposed to again. Did NOT see that coming.  Someone was even videotaping us as it happened. He said he thought it was the real deal and was going to post it on YouTube.  Really? We were quick to inform him he was 17 years too late. Social Media was definitely something we did not have to worry about back then!

IMG_6505Off to Muir Woods, a heavenly place in my estimation. I never feel like I get to spend enough time there.  The thought occurred to me that if I could, I would just drink in the beauty with a straw.

We entered an area in the forest called Cathedral Grove. It is here that delegates from the world over met in May of 1945 to draft and sign the Charter of the United Nations.  There is a sign that says “Cathedral Grove – Enter Quietly”.  Of course Little Bee can’t read, so what does she care?  So amusing and NOT a surprise I guess.


Next up was Fisherman’s Wharf. We stayed one night and packed a lot of fun and sightseeing in for the older kids. During our seaside adventure we were approached by a handsome, nicely dressed, professional young man hoping to find some new fans of his music. He offered us a copy of his CD for a $3 donation. Like a good Dad, Ice asked if his music contained explicit lyrics. The young man looked him in the eye, said no and promptly reached for the CD he had given Ice and replaced it with a different CD. Mmmm. No thanks, guy.

Almost immediately following this encounter we passed by a less-than-put-together young man down on his luck holding a cardboard sign asking for money. I didn’t see the sign but was later told by Ice it contained an obscenity. Common to hear and see such things by the Wharf.  Okay. But as soon as he saw our young kids, the man dropped the sign to hide it from them out of respect.  Ice nodded his head in thanks and we kept walking. Surprise Four.

The next day after a phenomenal tour of “The Rock”, Techno was lagging behind looking around and taking in the sights.  He noticed a penny on the street. “See a penny pick it up…” came to mind.  He tried to pick it up. Gotcha! Surprise Five: The penny was literally embedded into the sidewalk! Someone’s idea of a cute joke or a metaphor for things not always appearing as they seem. Take your pick.

Surprise 6: A four-and-a-half hour plane ride. Hotel after hotel. This crib and that Pack-N-Play. Car ride after car ride. Little Bee was a champ.  We could not believe how well she adapted to her surroundings. It was such a relief. One night we had a “shooshing contest” to see whose “shoosh” could be held the longest without taking a breath. This is what you’re reduced to when in a hotel room with five people in the dark who would all rather be reading, watching television or talking but can’t because of the resident 12 month-old Sleeping Beauty!

IMG_6843Monterey Bay and Yosemite were breathtaking. Lake Tahoe was literally delicious as we met up with friends for two days and home-cooked our way through the weekend in our suite. This cloud formation was an image I found interesting on our way back to the airport hotel the night before departure. Just another beautiful landscape to etch in my memory.

As long as I live I will remember with immense pleasure the first vacation we took as a family of five sharing with our kids where it all started. Surprise. Who knew?

The 8 Things My One-Year-Old Has Taught Me

A year ago today I was in the hospital and had just had my third child. Time has surpassed breakneck speed and we are now set on warp. Being the kind of woman who loves to wax philosophical, I could not help but take several moments today to reflect on what a huge fork in the road my life has taken since that beautiful day and what this amazing little creature has taught me.

1. Make friends with the unexpected. The curves in the road up ahead are there. Just be sure you hug the road and don’t drive off the cliff!

2. A shower before 3pm is so overrated.  Little Bee and I cram a lot of snuggling, messes, errands and important discoveries into our day.  Some days a shower just doesn’t fit into the plan -no excuses, no shame.

3. The theory that the older one gets, the less sleep they need is true.  I CAN exist on less sleep than I needed when Techno and Twinkle were babies.

4. Learning how to thrive amongst the chaos is imperative. Despite best efforts there will be many unaccomplished things when my head hits the pillow.  THEN I didn’t accept that and I ran myself into the ground. NOW I just do (most days). And it is okay.

5. Wake up with a smile. Always.  That little person in the crib will have the brightest one ready for me and I can’t let her down.

6. Put on my oxygen mask first. Taking time each day to just breathe and take care of myself always results in a better situation for all involved.

7. When I think I have nothing left in the tank, just keep giving. It comes back.

8. Given a choice, pick the yoga pants.

Happy Birthday and Happy Dreams, Baby Girl…

Cherry Pit Spitting and the Limbo

After packing suitcases for two days, 16 hours in the car, numerous poopy diapers, a couple of classic Chicago traffic jams, stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into the back of my car and listening to too many ear worm children’s CD’s it has been confirmed yet again – my family is so much fun.

It was with great anticipation that we took our first long road trip with Little Bee this past weekend. The mission: to celebrate my aunt’s retirement from teaching.

The most enjoyable part of the party was sitting down with her and witnessing the expression on her face as she reminisced about her career.  Who has a job for 49-1/2 years anymore? Amazing. Her interview consisted of talking with one person one day and being told soon after, “Which class would you like fourth or fifth grade?” She chose fourth grade for 20 years and then just for good measure she taught third graders for another 29-1/2 years.  Nowadays she said you must go though approximately 10-11 interviews, the last being with the district superintendent.  Oh, and the applicants for her city’s available teaching positions currently number in the THOUSANDS. Just in the nick of time Auntie…just in the nick of time.

The party was complete with the requisite backyard barbecue party games my family likes to play. Usually we get musical chairs and the back-breaking fave the limbo going. This tradition dates back at least 25-30 years. But this time around the new game on the block was cherry pit spitting. Hysterical fun. Whether you are 70 or 7, you are kind of curious about how far you can spit that pit.  Top it off with homemade cookie and ice cream sandwiches and s’mores over the fire pit, now you are speaking my language.

My aunt wistfully shared that if she was reincarnated she would choose the same career.

I feel the same way about my family. I wouldn’t change a thing. Pits and all.

Show Some Love

IMG_1846 Last week we made several trips to the dentist. Does the tooth fairy have anything to do with the teeth we’re given?  I don’t know. But if she does she is on my s*%t list.  Despite their best efforts it’s almost embarrassing the number of cavities Techno and Twinkle Toes have between the two of them.   (I don’t even want to see it printed here.)  You’d think we have something against oral hygiene around here or that my kids bathe in Coca-Cola or something. But even the hygienist at the office has said some kids just have those kind of teeth.  Okay whatever.

Twinkle was having tooth pain last week. And after much crying and – forgive the awful pun – gnashing of teeth she decided she’d rather have it pulled.  By the end of the week the dentist agreed.  After being in so much pain, missing some school and near begging to have it removed she was so happy when it was all over. Then the fun part – a visit to the treasure chest to pick out some awful 5-cent-valued plastic tchotchke as a reward.

This is where I am blown away.  She came up to the counter with a bouncy ball.  She asked me what I thought of it. I know she doesn’t collect these…her brother does.

It got me thinking about how my two oldest children show each other love in different ways. It’s rare!  But it’s wonderful to see.

When Twinkle was just days old and had jaundice we had a visiting nurse that came to take her blood regularly.  The first time the nurse performed this squeamish task my 22-month old little prince got between Twinkle and the needle-wielding woman and batted the nurse away. We witnessed his unbelievable desire to protect his baby sister before he could even verbalize it and the story has become a part of our family folklore and been re-told many times.

Then one day we were in the parking lot of a store and Twinkle took off without the obligatory look both ways and Techno held out his arm just in the nick of time to stop her.

Twinkle is the first one to make a gift for her older brother when the holidays roll around or he is celebrating another birthday. She has written many letters and made the most heartfelt cards over the years.

So why it is that when the bedroom doors open in the morning or they come bounding in after school at the end of the day that these lovely gestures are long-forgotten and the gloves come off?

I guess it’s no different from us adults. Sometimes we save our worst behavior for those closest to us. Next time Ice and I are having a tiff I wonder how far a blue plastic bouncy ball will get me?

Bring on the Bubble Wrap

It is coming back to me now, not in a drip or a trickle but a deluge.  Every day is a new adventure in protecting Bee from herself.

Yesterday we had a plastic part of unknown origin that neither Techno or Twinkle would claim ownership of. I did the sweep and found it in her mouth.  There were two pairs of flip flops being offered delightfully as a snack by my dear friend’s children at the softball game. She just loved munching on those! And the lilacs were so very interesting and tasty to her.

Last week the Lego piece in her mouth was cause for an immediate run downstairs to find the gate to cordon off Techno’s room from her future “digs”.

Today was the coup de gras.  While blow drying my hair she was begrudgingly situated in the play yard in the bathroom grabbing at her toys.  I looked over to see she had grabbed the cord on my curling iron, yanked it into her play area and the iron fell to rest on her arm!  I couldn’t react fast enough to snatch it off of her and find out with the greatest relief that I had not yet turned it on.

After this latest near-miss it really gave me pause.  How DO so many people make it past a year??  It is all I can do to keep her contained.  Her curiosity and clever maneuvers are not unique.  Every Mom has her tales of “can-you-believe-it’s?” and “You’ll-never-guess-what-Johnny-did’s!”.  But when you are witnessing it unfold on a daily basis it’s hard to believe there will ever be a time when you can look away for a minute, let alone an hour.

And yet, it’s been so long and Techno and Twinkle are so much bigger than Bee that I know it will come faster than I can bear. If I am smart I will polish up my disaster aversion tactics. My patience meter will be set to high. And I should really consider stock in bubble wrap.


The weather finally took a turn this week and summer just might be around the corner. My Mom and I met for a walk at a local park earlier in the week. She brought the 2 year-old boy she is a nanny for and I had Little Bee.

The park we visited was just brewing with people itching to get some fresh air, exercise and sun rays. The birds were chirping, the sky was a beautiful blue and the temperature was just perfect.

There were people fishing in the river, a few joggers plodding happily along, some cyclists just as happy but going faster and many children playing on the playground. In my estimation, all seemed right with the world.

The park has a paved pathway with a little over a 1.5 mile serpetine loop. If I had my drothers I would have walked around the path at least 2 or 3 times to really soak up the scenery…except for the screaming child in the stroller my hands were attached to.

Ah yes, this put the brakes on my idea of fun that morning. I thought surely she would fall asleep. Okay, didn’t happen. Didn’t she know there were several toys for her to play with? Plunk! There falls another plastic teether on the concrete. She had a clean diaper. She was very well fed (it is truly remarkable how much this little missy packs away!)

And then my Mom had an idea.  The all great and powerful iPhone entered in to our stroll.

I do not have an iPhone so this thought would not have occured to me.  My mother however is hip to the technology everyone seems to have and is not afraid to use it.

Imagine the scene: on the path by the river’s edge, beneath a huge and gorgeous old willow tree with ducks swimming by the 2-year-old took the iphone, searched for a cartoon, queued it up, and handed the phone to Bee in her stroller.  She then took it, held it and started happily watching the cartoon. Unbelievable, hysterical and pathetic to me all at the same time.  And yes, her crying routine was long forgotten…until I had to take it away because she had put the phone in her mouth and was eating it instead. Atta girl.

It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

It is 12:20 a.m. I am sitting on the couch, head rolling back and eyelids barely able to stay open from sheer exhaustion.  Am I drooling?  I may be.  Ice is face down on a quilt on the carpet having since konked out moments ago.  Daniel Tiger, an adorable animated television program based on the works of Fred Rogers, is on the TV. (We have no less than 6 episodes taped for Little Bee).  My party girl is tentatively making her way around the coffee table with her tiny steps, slowly, one at a time.  Did I mention she is also shaking maracas?  Oh yes, cue the Mariachi band…

How did we get here?

Less than 36 hours before I had three paramedics and a police officer in my living room.  I am so grateful I have never had to call 911 in my life – until this week.

My “micro-napper” Bee took a three and a half hour nap on Monday and I just knew when she woke up something was not right.  She was so out of it and VERY warm.  She is usually ready with a smile and a bounce in her step.  But she took a long time to wake up.  After awhile I called the doctor and wondered “Is this fever from teething?”  She had been cutting a tooth for the last week and it had seemed to be mildly uncomfortable for her.  After talking with a nurse and getting some advice I hung up the phone.

But wait…she seemed to be getting warmer by the minute.  Her lids were droopy and she was getting kind of listless.  What is going on??? my brain was screaming to me.

I took her temperature a second time…and a third…it seemed like it was climbing.  I called the doctor back and spoke to the receptionist.  I waited and I waited for a nurse to answer my call.

With Bee in one arm, I balanced the cordless phone on one shoulder and picked up my cell phone to call Ice.  “Something is not right” I said in a panic.  He calmly told me to call 911.

Ice would rather rip out his fingernails than have to make a trip to the Doctor.  “Rub some dirt on it!” I have heard him say tougue-in-cheek when a minor injury occurs. So the mere fact that he advised me to make that call kind of freaked me out. I hung up with him and dialed that dreaded number.

Techno and Twinkle Toes were downstairs playing.  I needed to inform them of the call I just made. This brought great panic to their eyes and caused me to have to verbally re-enact the scene from the movie Moonstruck when Cher slaps Nicolas Cage and says “Snap out of it!”

I remembered thinking how odd it was that I heard the siren, knowing it was coming for my daughter.  Just that morning I had looked out my kitchen window and seen an ambulance speeding down the road, siren blaring and wondered “Where is that going today?  Who needs it?”  Having NO idea just hours later I would be relying on it myself.

To their credit, my two older children were on the phone with my husband at this time keeping him informed while he raced home.  I was so proud of them.

The ambulance arrived very quickly.  The doorbell rang and I answered it with Bee in my arms.  After taking vitals, noting how she seemed to be more alert than what I had witnessed before they came (I had given her some Ibuprofen at the advice of the nurse the first time) and seeing her demeanor change just a hair…the paramedic was able to offer me some relief that maybe this sudden spike in temperature was something other than life-threatening and it would be manageable.

I declined to have her ride in the ambulance.  I promised to follow-up with our pediatrician and I kept repeating over and over how utterly stupid I felt for calling.

The police officer who had a 15-month old kept making references to similar situations with her little one and offering her best advice to calm me and relate to me as a mother.  It was extremely helpful and welcomed at a time like this. None of them made me feel bad for calling, assured me that it was okay and eventually departed – sure to offer phenomenal assistance in some other desperate situation.

As it turned out from what we can tell, Bee fought off a virus of some sort for a few days.  She had no other symptoms but a sudden onset of a fever.

I was surely tested this week.  But was offered the best care and concern for Bee from the first responders, support from my family and friends and the best part is that she is doing well.  It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.