Keep the Laugh Track Going

Message received.  I am super fun hanging out with my family of origin. I am a scowling, laughter-is-not-on-tap kind of witch when I am at home.

Well…not really.

But Techno commented to me after seeing me in hysterics this weekend “Mom, why aren’t you like this at home?”  This new information and perception did give me pause.

My family got together this past weekend to hang out, play games, eat, drink and be merry. With the exception of one brother who lives out-of-state, the rest of us showed up ready to unwind and enjoy each other’s company.

At one point my Mom could barely breathe and I was near ready to pee my pants. Laughter is THE BEST medicine and so good for the soul. You can bet this Mom of three, including one Tasmanian Devil toddler does not get large amounts of time in the day to practice this skill. Between heaps of laundry, dirty floors, homework emergencies, playground dramas, chauffeuring kids in a myriad of directions and poopy diapers, laughing just isn’t high on the priority list.

Well, it should be.

And I know it is hard to be Ice and partake in my family’s brand of shenanigans. Just as I don’t get his family’s humor or their jokes from bygone days, I know he is only mildly amused in some cases and downright ready to run for the hills in others.

Let’s just say this particular party was epic in the howling category.

It felt good. It rang true to parts of who I am somewhere down deep. Those parts don’t get to see daylight sometimes and I guess it had been too long.

However, it was a wonderful question my son asked me. Because it made me realize it’s good for my kids to see me like that. It’s good for them to know I love my siblings. Family is fun. Life is full of wonderful, silly, incredibly joyful moments. And I need to make sure that my home is a place where that is cultivated. Laundry and all.

I will start finding ways to work on that.

Keep laughing.

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My siblings and I in our obligatory “jazz hands” photo every time we are lucky enough to get together

© Jennifer Scheidt and Titanimom, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Scheidt and Titanimom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Aside

Good Call

Whtiefish BayA few days ago I went for a long walk with my Dad and Little Bee. It took a week to coordinate schedules but it was a call that was long overdue.  As summer nears its end, it was a gift of a day.  Beautiful and comfortable.  Now having a very busy family life,  I am ashamed I don’t make time more often to experience such a simple and satisfying activity as a stroll with my Dad.

It was great to catch up on all the important and even mundane things going on in our lives. I took some time afterwards to reflect on the lessons learned from him when growing up in the hopes of being more intentional to pass them on to his grandchildren.

1. It’s always nice to greet people with a smile and say hello. Each person we encountered got a sincere greeting and a smile from my Dad.

2. Be on time and be ready. I can always trust that my Dad will be somewhere when he says he will.  And because it was so ingrained in my own upbringing, many times I am unfashionably early or on-time for things.  Maybe a little socially uncool…but It’s hard to curb the tendency to be so punctual as the daughter of a military man!

3. Protect your health. Exercise. Take vitamins. Long before GNC’s and juicing were en vogue my Dad was touting the benefits of vitamin C and the like. It has definitely made life easier and more enjoyable to have that example to follow.

4. Enjoy the spice of life. An appreciation for good food and good music is essential to my existence. From a slice of Chicago-style pizza to the funk and soul of Earth Wind and Fire, I can’t imagine how awfully vanilla my life could be if little influences like these had not been on my radar.

5. Be willing to work…hard. Starting with a dose of effort, adding some elements of detail and purpose and finishing with a dash of pride and any project he was willing to put his name on was done right.

6. Make time to goo goo and gaa gaa with the baby. It’s completely endearing how much joy and sweetness are wrapped up in a greeting for Little Bee – or any of my children when they were babies.  There is no care or concern for who’s watching or how un-masculine it could be perceived.  Babies grow up fast and there is no time to waste a kiss or a squeeze.

7. If you want something in life, find a way to remove the obstacles and make things happen. My Dad started out on a college track that didn’t satisfy or suit him.  He made some changes and ended up with a long career he loved as a corporate pilot. When I was little I remember him telling me that one of the best parts of his job was that he could see the sun almost every day. Pretty cool.

Dare I hope there might already be a few seeds of these great tools for living starting to grow in my kids? Glimpses of some of them are already visible.  And while on a walk with my Dad it was with great joy that I reminded myself exactly where they came from. Good call.

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.)

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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.

Lost: Camera, Watch and Husband

Everyone has their thing. Their quirk, oddity, crazy-inducer…whatever you want to call it. Just ONE of mine is losing things. I literally go ape. Just ask my husband the time my wallet sprouted legs last October.

So what is a girl to do when it happens three times in one day? Grow up, I say.

Last Sunday started with the realization that my camera was lost the night before.  Traveling downtown in the city in a group with my brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, cousin and my brood of three got a little distracting at times. I remember taking candid shots at a new park my kids and I had never tried.  The lighting was perfect, Techno, Twinkle and Little Bee were loving it and we were having so much fun…What did I do with it?

Out of nowhere some grown-up voice says “J., you JUST put in a new memory card two days ago. Big deal.  So you lost two days’ worth of shots.  And you hate your camera anyway.  Whoo hoo!  Time to get a new one finally!” Who IS this person?

As this is unfolding and plans are already being made to race to Best Buy sometime this week, I lose my husband.  Ice was in a softball tournament this weekend.  His self-described “favorite weekend of the year”. We had a family birthday party to attend.  It started at 1:30. It’s nearing that time with no word on the outcome of his last game.  The game was at 11 in the morning.  What is taking so long?  No call.  It’s his brother’s party. Are we driving together? Or separate? Is he coming home first? Should I just leave with the kids?  What if something happened to him? What if he got hit in the head with a softball?

I got in touch with my sister-in-law and no one had heard from him at the party.  Okay kids, time to get in the car and go find Daddy. We can handle this.

As we get in the car, it dawns on me one last place I have not scoured for the lost camera.  I open the center console. Bingo!  Camera found.

By this time we are more than slightly late for the party.  Ice’s phone was dialed no less than five times.  No answer. A little anxiety is creeping in. We are halfway to the ball diamond and the phone rings.  Ice is probably wondering why all the stalking.  He informs me he had a game at one o’clock too.  I was not privy to this information. Relief…and mild frustration. But overwhelmingly the relief wins out and I am just too over it to be the nagging wife.  Camera found. Husband found.  Let the party begin.

After the party was over and we had all returned home I started organizing some household items. The mood struck me and I thought why not?  I was making some headway and then noticed a favorite watch of mine was missing. Really?  Now this is just too much for my lost-o-meter to register in one day.  Did it travel to California in June to be left behind at one of the many hotels we stayed at? Is there a chance it was stolen?  It only sits in this one spot when not worn. Calm down, girl.  It is after all replaceable if need be.

Resolve sets in. This will just not do. My archive of purses in the back of the closet must be delved into. My vacation purse is the beacon I am pinning my hopes to. Unzipping it slowly I peer inside.  Hallelujah!  There lies my sweet reward. What was I thinking?  When did I just leave this semi-precious bauble to be thrown in the back of the closet?  Oh but the dangers of multi-tasking and motherhood.  Who knows what was occurring at the moment I made THAT choice?

Taking a step back and surveying the day brought a tiny sense of satisfaction.  Though my blood-pressure spiked more than a few times on Sunday, I was pleased with the calmer sense that seemed to overcome me than in similar situations in the past. With age comes wisdom it’s been said.  I certainly don’t claim to have much of that but something is going on that this trifecta of loss I experienced didn’t send me on a one-way shuttle to crazy town this time.  Now that’s growing.

Aside

Unexpected Tales from Summer Vacation

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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.

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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.

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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.