It’s a Juggling Act

It is nothing to look around and find unopened tuna packets on the floor in the living room and not bat an eye. Little Bee just discovered how to open the lazy Susan cabinet where they are kept.  And apparently it is her newest toy. Like the toy’s box or the wrapping the toy is in that is way more interesting than the actual toy itself, this is par for the course when it comes to holding her attention.

I found myself clutching (and eating) a Klondike bar one-handed the other night sitting on the floor of my laundry room changing the wash over to the dryer. My escape for mere minutes of quiet and the inevitable multi-tasking? Kinda pathetic but I am owning up to it!

Visiting the bathroom in the middle of the night I fought with the roll of bath tissue on the wall because it was recently thrown overboard into the shower, got wet and became oh-so-complicated to untangle. Good times at 3am.

Yesterday while taking a shower there was a plastic Fisher Price figurine that was hurled in behind me from the playpen. Her signature is everywhere. This one is no wallflower.

Yesterday she proudly stood (smiling of course) on top of her wheeled Minnie Mouse choo choo train on the ceramic tile.  Moments later she climbed up onto the hearth of the fireplace and while I firmly said “No!” she proceeded to shake her tushy in reply and ignore me.

Knowing these antics will end at some point and move on to other less heart-attack-inducing issues is comforting and a little bit sad. I do so enjoy a good shake of the tushy and a little dance break in my day.

Impossible Standards

You know the friend who always shows up with the home-baked batch of cookies that makes you look at your store-bought cardboard ones and sigh? Or the woman who can run circles around you when in your mind you are really an Olympian? Or the neighbor who is always put together and would never be spotted in the produce section with two-day old mascara and bed head?  How about the Mom who has got the most well-behaved, smart, good-natured and well-adjusted kids? How does she do it and how much does she charge for revealing her secrets?

I visited one of those Moms recently with my kids. We happen to be lucky enough to be related to her and her awesome offspring. Here is how part of the visit unfolded.

“Mom! She’s touching me!”

“He touched me first!”

” You lie!”

“Stop it!” Angry eyes. The Look. Clenched teeth. I Have Had It Up To Here.

And one embarrassment after another for three days…sigh.

Where did it go wrong?  How did this little person who snuggled while we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar become so sassy and defiant?

And what is my relative thinking of my stellar parenting skills and obvious lack of anger management?

At some point in the weekend I revealed the pedestal on which her rock star parenting and impeccable (almost-all-grown) children had been placed. And she was oh-so-quick to correct me and take herself down from her post up high. She proceeded to share some snip-its that revealed some cracks in her armor and some flaws in my thinking. Bless her.

Really?? Had I got it all wrong? Was there really a time when she didn’t have it all under control?  I had never seen anything of the likes she described. And having changed some of their diapers along the way, I have been around these kids for Y.E.A.R.S….and witnessed a lot of interactions between them. When did these transgressions happen?

Well, they did.

A little relief.  A little reality check. Thanks for that.

Moms, give yourselves a break.

However, this one did opt to make her fabulous cookies…Something to strive for!

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.

“You Guys are the Heroes…”

I took my weekly Spinning class today with minimal protestations from Techno and Twinkle. I let them bypass the childcare and go straight to the basketball courts to “babysit” themselves while I was in class. They were able to breathe easier with the freedom and I with their lack of whining and histrionics.

Halfway through the class four kids (two of them were mine and the other two the Spinning instructor’s) had their noses pressed up to the glass watching, smiling and waving at us as we pedaled furiously and sweated profusely on the bikes.

The instructor said “You guys are all the heroes to them today not some idiot athletes who are good at lying.” Insert a host of athletes who have fallen from grace – the most recent being the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun.

His comment made me smile.  What a great observation.  I was feeling extra peppy to have my kids take a peek at what we were doing.  Before I tried Spinning I wondered myself what it was all about. But they were standing there for so long. They were either getting really bored with basketball or really enjoying watching us sweat and slowly melt off the bikes.

I thought of all my friends who conquer everything from the 5K’s to the marathons, from Kickboxing to Pilates, to swimming laps, stroller walks around town, triathlons and even the Ironman. YOU guys are the heroes!  What a great example to model for children to help them cope with frustrations or hormones and combat anxiety, stress, social issues, obesity and a whole host of other undesirable things.

Each time a child can see an important adult in their life choose to make their health a priority, it benefits everyone. I need to remember this the next time the whining starts and a cup of coffee and Live! with Kelly and Michael looks more tempting.

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.

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.