Friday, August 11, 2017

Desicions, Desicions

Some days I wake up and wish I didn't have so many decisions to make. From what I wear, my kids clothes, their breakfast, lunches, which water bottles, or shoes for the day, and those are the simple decisions. I have to decide what battle to pick with which child, and what topic or song is appropriate for our car rides. I have to think about what consequences make sense for their actions, and what I can share with them and what to keep secret.

As someone who tends over think most decisions, I spend a great deal of time weighing (or obsessing) over my options, before settling on a choice. I try to make informed decisions, based on books, friends, parents or my husband's advice, or when my own instinct finally kicks in I am grateful. Our kid's are living in a time with so much more technology than any of us were raised with. Moderation is a personal gauge, and what seems moderate to other families can seem excessive to me. The current trend in parenting is to over-parent, to hover and to be extra involved. It is a delicate balance to know when to step back and when to get involved. We are often paralyzed by the decisions we have to make as parents and we end up not handling an issue as a result.

I am guilty as charged on so many of these. I get impressionable to the noise about low sugar and high test scores. I try to find this impossible thing called balance everyone keeps talking about. It is so hard to make your own decisions when there are so many options distracting you from your gut. It's not chocolate, vanilla and strawberry anymore. One must chose between cold pressed Turkish coffee chip or artisan salted toffee crunch. These choices take up valuable time in my mind. Times have changed and they continue to change quickly. I sometimes just need a breather.

While we have so many options it often makes me think about how small children don't. Sure we give them as much say within reason that we can, but their day to day decisions are made by us. Taking on theirs and mine can be challenging. Recently, my son asked me some questions about what Kindergarten will be like. A child can only go on what we say. His school, and to some degree his friends, his community is dictated by us. It must feel pretty strange to just trust that we have his back, and that if he doesn't like it, there is little we can do.  My daughter is older so she understands to some degree, how it all works. She has more options than her brother, but I still say "no" if she asks for a lollipop before eating lunch. She doesn't like that I call the shots, but that's the way it goes as a kid. We had to listen to our parents when we were little. There were a lot bigger consequences then, and a lot fewer options. We all only get one go around on the merry go round. When they get older they can have dessert first. For now, they have eat all their vegetables while I sneak a piece of chocolate. After all those daily decisions I need an excessive amount of sugar.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Growing Up

Many of my friends have children around the same age.  As our youngest children begin Kindergarten, our daily schedule will change greatly, opening up a lot more time for us as individuals. I got together with two of my friends yesterday and we were talking about what this meant for us. We discussed working more, taking classes, exercising, and what we want to be now. Its a shift, and although I have been teaching three mornings a week, I have a lot more time I could work now. What I wanted to be before I had kids is not necessarily what I want to be now.

The arts have always been where my heart is. I always pursued acting, and did theatre for years. My first jobs were as an actress. My degree in college was theatre and education, I have a passion merging the arts with social change. Before I had kids I contemplated getting my masters, I worked with inner city kids to create pieces of theatre that reflected their lives. It has been almost ten years since I did anything like that though, and the idea of where to begin now is daunting.

My time up to now has been so precious to me. I have absolutely no regrets in choosing to be a stay at home parent (who never stays at home by the way) but now I am trying to figure out how to be more than a mother. While talking to my friends I found out they are struggling with this too. If you still want to be an involved parent and pick up you kid at school, do homework and make dinner, a full time job is challenging.  Finding balance is a lifelong goal to strive for, and not necessarily obtainable all the time. Every parent has to make difficult decisions and has to make sacrifices. It is often hard for me to see the middle point between selfless and selfish.

As the new school year approaches, I have to be careful on that first day of school. My son will be starting his big new school, my daughter fourth grade and although I have contemplated going back to school myself I need to take my time. Time I have waited almost ten years for. I need to pace myself before making any big life decisions. I need to leave space to let that first week of school soak in for them. Once they are all settled in, I can feel out the work world again. Although a resume with ten year old credentials on it is not so attractive. There seems to be a class for everything these days, I wonder if I could find one for women who want to come back to work after ten years. If it doesn't exist perhaps that's my new business right there.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sleepaway Camp!

When my daughter was 9 weeks old I took her on a flight back to New York alone. The night before I was so panicked because I felt that this trip was the most monumental journey of my lifetime. To date it turned out to be the easiest flight I have taken since becoming a parent. 

In New York my parents, along with many of their friends were welcoming the baby. My best friend's mother pulled me aside to congratulate me and then shared some advice. She said that my job as a mother was to let her go. In that moment, I politely said thank you, even though she could see the look on my face was disbelief. Sure, later down the line when my baby becomes an adult one day, I would have to learn to back off, but this little girl was just inside me a few weeks prior. Too soon? YES!

Her words have been stored away in my mind though all these years. Occasionally, I am reminded I need to take a step back, but not until this week have her words really rung true. My almost nine-year-old left for sleep away camp earlier this week. This was something she has been talking about all year long. It is five days and four nights, not long in comparison to seven week camps, but for us, it is enough. She has had a sleepover at someones house here and there, but she had never been away from home this long. She went with a friend and they were both so excited to do this together. For a child who has had separation anxiety here and there, I wondered if it would rear its head. I have learned where the triggers are for her. If she feels safe, knows people, and knows the environment, then she is fine. With camp, we checked all these boxes ahead of time. She went on a father/daughter weekend a few months before at the same camp, so she knew some of what to expect.

Monday morning on the way to the camp, she began to worry a bit. She said she wasn't sure if she was afraid of going to camp, or afraid to say goodbye to us. It was a bit daunting to her to have to say goodbye for five days, and she was worried she might cry. I assured her that she wouldn't be the only one if she did. We had talked many times before about breaking it down one step at a time, and not looking at it as being away for the whole week, but rather one fun activity at a time. In the car ride there, she played out some worst case scenarios about her buddy not being able to get there. I found out her friend had some similar scenarios on the drive there herself. When they saw each other at camp though all was good. They were both excited and the nerves seemed to be lifted. When it was time to say goodbye they were both such troopers. They both jumped into a sea of other girls and joined in an activity without looking back.

The only tears shed that morning were from my son, who got strapped into his car seat and his eyes filled up because he said he was so sad to say goodbye to his sister. My husband and I both are missing her, but we are pretty certain she is having a great time. The only part we are struggling with is that there is zero contact. We have discussed at length why this policy is in place. Some camps post photos online so you can see if you kid is smiling, playing or at the very least, proof of life. This camp doesn't do that, so I have to wait until Friday to lay eyes on her again, and believe you me, after I see her I am going to grab her, and then I will not be letting go for a good long while. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Welcome Summer!

So happy to take a break from the everyday lunch packing, homework checking and early morning racing out the door. Slow mornings in pjs and post-traffic drives to the beach are calling to me. I am ready for summer! I resisted the urge to sign my kids up for more than two weeks of camp over the summer.  Downtime is good for all of us. A little boredom never hurt anyone, and creativity comes alive with empty schedules.

With a few trips planned, a few tickets to museums, outdoor movies, Fourth of July festivities, and a 9th birthday to celebrate, we have plenty to look forward to. The end of third grade and preschool is bittersweet. We had such a great school year, but the end feels so hectic and stuffed full of parties, awards, meetings, evaluations and exams that the finish line is looking pretty sweet.

My two kids together without being over scheduled can mean two things: arguing, whining, crying and tantrums and it can also mean intense bonding, playing together, and the loudest guttural giggles I've ever heard. I have seen my daughter be a bit bossy to her little brother, but I have also seen the most nurturing side of her come out when she spends time alone with him. My son can get frustrated with the lack of language skills he has (and resort to hitting), but I have also heard him tell her that he loves her the most in the family. I will take being slighted, to listen to him confess his love to her. She is very fair in her response when he asks her who her favorite in the family is, she answers that she loves us all the same. He will then tell her again she is his favorite, in hopes that her response will be him next time he asks. He would follow her to the moon if she was willing to take him.

This summer I will again strive to reach the perfect balance of fun things to do and nothing to do each day. It is not easy, but I am up for the task. The alternative of getting out the door to school comes up soon enough at the end of August. I might eat my words when my kids begin to get under my skin, but I will force myself to remember how I feel right this second, excited to be with them without a schedule. Time is moving too quickly for me to not cry at every milestone passing, so even in the most annoying bits of childhood I want to witness theirs. I want to play with them. I want to stay out all day in the pool until our fingers prune. I want to be at the beach when we are too tired to walk back to the car and brush sand off our feet. I want to keep them up too late, and get up late in the morning. I want to take road trips and let them buy Pringles and candy for the car ride. I want to bake cakes with them and eat them too. It might just work this time. In any case it's fun trying.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

You Are Embarrassing Me

Kids seem to be staying young and innocent for far less time. I am not allowed to walk down the street hand and hand, singing a song with my daughter anymore. In fact I can barely hold her hand let alone sing. I am now a mother who is capable of embarrassing my child. How did I get here already?

I have a pretty sensitive daughter and she is at the age where she is aware of how she is being perceived. I think this is normal, I just didn't think cute ponytails, her rainbow leg warmers, or enjoying her brother's company in public would be embarrassing at age 8. I thought we would have a little more time. I really can't believe when I go to kiss her head nightly before I go to sleep that her body is as long as it is. Third grade is big kid stuff, and it appears that every year my kids keep getting bigger, as they should, but I wish it didn't have to feel so fast.

Every cliche starts to hold more and more meaning for me now that I am a mother. I am a sensitive one myself, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Transitions are hard for her the way they are hard for me, but this year she adjusted to going off to school better than she ever has. Mostly because she knew who her teacher would be, she knew lots of friends in her class, and because she knew she is old enough that she might feel lonely being the only one crying by the doorway of the class since she would likely be the only one. Peer pressure is no joke.

I do wish she would have less of this self awareness, not just to keep her a little kid longer, but because life is more fun when you care a little less about what others think of you. Today when I dropped her off at school, she saw a friend of hers had broken her leg. She had a hot pink cast with sparkles and was sitting in a stroller. Now this I admit would be hard for any eight year old to pull off, but this kid was able to laugh at herself, so everyone laughed with her. I remember last year hearing a story of two sisters who came to school one day in pajamas thinking it was pajama day. They arrived to school only to see everyone was dressed like any other day. One sister was terribly embarrassed and wanted to go home, and the other laughed when someone asked her why she was in pajamas. She was able to make a joke about how she didn't feel like getting dressed.

Michelle Obama did a special recently on girls living in poverty all around the world. There was a girl who woke up at four in the morning, feeds and bathes her brothers and sisters, and then takes herself to school. Her given name was Janet Jackson, and when asked if she liked to sing, she answered yes and broke out into a song right then and there. She may have more responsibility than most children do, and her reality is anything but easy, but somehow this girl had so much more confidence than I see in girls who have much more. I do wonder where that unabashed joy comes from. Often times I wonder if a simpler life is a happier life. I'm not sure if I chose to go with out texting, social media or watching the news, how successful I would be. There is no doubt I would have a lot more time on my hands. Perhaps, I would be more confident and unabashed if I had no idea what was happening with everyone else around me. It would certainly make an interesting social experiment. I would also certainly miss out on a lot. Or would I?

Monday, May 22, 2017

One Day

Over the weekend my husband and I went on a date. We went out for an early dinner, and as we sat in the restaurant there was a family with three kids in the adjacent room eating, as well. We went to a new restaurant that put a small sliding door between the game room/bar and the dining area. The game room had a skeeball machine, as well as a pool table and some other games I have never seen. It looked fun, but whoever thought to put the skeeball machine up against the dining area was really not thinking. While we sat down for our one-on-one dinner, we began hearing the whining of the youngest child. I laughed at how we are paying a babysitter so we could listen to someone else's kid cry. I tried to ignore it since I didn't have to fix anything, and I could just sit and have a nice conversation. A moment later though the two older kids began playing skeeball and between the hard balls rolling down the side of the machine and the sound of the balls being thrown I was having a hard time ignoring the noise.

There is so much pressure to a date night when you don't have them often. It's expensive, and if you don't go to a good place it can be disappointing. This restaurant not only planned the design poorly but they also chose some dubious staff members. Our waitress was a bit too friendly and not in the nicest way either. When my husband couldn't decide which beer to get she tried to joke that today would be nice for him to decide. She then tried to laugh it off but it wasn't really funny. Whenever she came back to our table she would say "Yo yo yo, how is it going?" when we didn't quite know how to answer her, we asked her back how she was and she took that as an invitation to sit down at our table. We found out she moved here from Chicago to strip. We awkwardly nodded, squeezing each others legs under the table, and then she said she was kidding, and that she is a comedian. Not a funny one I guess. At this point I was trying to figure out what was going on with our date and can we get it back? That is when she told us about her next show and asked if we were on social media. My husband, being the kind gentleman that he is, took out his phone to add her to his Facebook. When he did she grabbed it and added herself for him, then asked about Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Then she looked at me, and begrudgingly I took out my phone so she could grab that one too. She was so inappropriate and invasive that those things alone made her funny, not her jokes. Once I accepted the fact that this would be a noisy strange dinner, we chilled out and enjoyed each other. At the very least we were in agreement that the night was a bit odd, but the company was solid.

The food was actually really good, but we wouldn't go back for all the other reasons. We declined dessert there and went to get ice cream somewhere else. Before we payed our bill I snuggled in close to my husband. I missed losing track of time with him. I missed being spontaneous and driving around to find out where we wanted to go instead of planning it out. I missed traveling with him. I missed sleeping in and reading the paper in bed. I missed staying up late, and I missed unstructured days. I missed going out to the movies and seeing whatever we wanted. I looked over at him and told him that I don't for a second want to rush through my time with my young children, but when they do get bigger and they will, it will be "us" again. There will be a time, and it will come faster than we want it to, that we can do all of those things we miss together.

For now though, we are on this ride. As bumpy, exhausting, and and difficult it can be, it is also magical, loving and wonderful. As we walked out of the restaurant that night, after that family had left I couldn't help myself: I played a game or two of skeeball. It is my favorite arcade game and I just couldn't walk past it. I didn't play too long since I didn't want to interrupt the other diners. After all, it was a pretty obnoxious sound to eat with, but I did stop to have fun for a second. If I keep waiting for that one day to come to start enjoying impromptu opportunities, I am going to miss out.  From now on, I want "one day" to start today.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


When my son was born, we learned that he had what’s termed an undescended testicle. The doctors said if it didn't come down on it's own by age one, it would need to be surgically pulled down and clamped. My husband and I continued to monitor him and eventually brought him to a handful of pediatric urologists to get opinions. All said they didn't think we needed to do anything about it. When there were no visible changes, we brought him in to see two more doctors. They both agreed he needed surgery. At this point he was three, and because we didn't have such great insurance at the time, we waited until we had a better health plan. We were racing with the clock though because the older a child is, the harder going through surgery is.

We met his surgeon, and liked her right away. She was matter of fact but warm at the same time. She spoke to him respectfully and answered every question I had. We told him as little as we had to, and waited as long as we could before bringing it up. We explained that he was going to the doctor -- he asked if he was getting a shot. I explained that she was going to fix something that needed to be fixed from when he was a baby. We told him he  would go to sleep and when he woke up it would be over. I explained to him that he wouldn't be able to eat anything that day but that when he woke up he could eat whatever he wanted. I also told him he could watch a lot of TV and movies when it was over. He seemed pleased with that, but didn't want to have to go to sleep at the hospital.

The time of his surgery was at 1pm and so he could drink clear liquids two hours before. He hadn't eaten since the night before and when we got to the hospital we were informed that they were behind and they wouldn't go in until 3pm, so with as much distraction as we could muster up, we waited. When they finally came in about a half and hour before to prep him, my husband and I were eager to get this thing over with. They gave him "happy juice" to relax him before being anesthetized. Within a few minutes our son was loopy. He smiled, laughed and kept telling me that I had so many eyes. When my husband and I told him we loved him so much, he asked if we love him more than his sister. When we said we loved both of them so much, he said "but me a little bit more right?" We were laughing with him, but also kind of freaked out at the intensity of this drug he was on. They had explained to us that we would be able to walk him all the way down to the operating room, but then we would have to say goodbye.

My husband said when they told him that, he wasn't thrilled. I just figured that was the last time they could have all of our outside germs near him, and wanted him to be as safe as possible. Once in the operating room, he would be fully anesthetized and perhaps I was better off not seeing that. That part was what I was most concerned about. Handing over my healthy child and having them slow his heart rate and put him into an unconscious state. The questions they asked about family history, and reactions to anesthesia didn't provide me much comfort either. My husband and I wondered what would drive someone to want to go to medical school to be the doctor who puts people to sleep and then wakes them up again. That is some serious business right there. 

When it came time to wheel him down the hall I thought I was prepared. I smiled down at him, stroked his hair, and assured him he would be okay. He innocently looked back up at me and smiled. When they stopped at the end of the hall and asked us to say goodbye, I lost it. I swallowed back as many tears as I could so that he wouldn't see. As I gave him his final kiss and turned around the tears streamed down my face. The next few moments were similar to only a few experiences in my life. My ride to the hospital when I was in labor, everyone outside is having coffee or meeting a friend, while I am in the most intense pain of my life. Or when I was hiking Runyon canyon on September 11th and heard in about the World Trade Center in my headphones, but everyone around me continued hiking in oblivion while I staggered down the mountain in shock. Or when someone you love dies, and you are carrying the heavy weight of loss around while others seem to be capable of staying joyful, light and optimistic. As we walked away from him, my heart sank. The world hadn't fallen apart, but it felt like it to me. 

Within a few minutes we got a call from the doctor saying she had found something else when they began, and that the tubes leading to his testicles had never closed on their own. She wanted our permission to fix that as well. She said if we didn't do it now we would have to come back again some other time. It made no sense to have to come back, so we signed off. What was supposed to be 90 minutes tuned into over two hours of surgery, and what was supposed to be one possibly two incisions, turned into three. It was a long and difficult day for our boy, but when they told us he was in the recovery room, I finally truly exhaled. He was tired, and not fully awake, but he was okay, and it was over.

This surgery is fairly routine, and not uncommon in little boys. Our doctor had done two others like it that very day. I found this all to be very reassuring. I also knew that we had done was not a procedure to save my child's life. There were cancer risks for not doing it, but it was preventative. As I went through this day I often thought about the children who spend months in and out of the hospital, those who have had countless surgeries, or battle a terminal illness. My heart goes out to their parents who watch hours go by during their kids surgery and pray that when the doctor rolls them out that there will be some good news. Now as I go about my day, I count my blessings, and feel like I am keeping my eyes out for someone who might be suffering. Not because I can help them, although, I wish I could, but because perhaps I can connect with them and let them know I understand. It is never a question of IF we will all suffer in life, it is a question of when. If everyone could learn that, perhaps then we could be a bit more sensitive. Speaking of sensitive, my boy's road to recovery was a few tough days of being afraid to stand up, but once he took a few steps again it was hard to get him to stop. So grateful!

Blog Designed by: NW Designs