Friday, November 6, 2015

A Book Review and GIVEAWAY: This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things by Clint Edwards

There are a lot of awesome things about blogging but one of my favorite things is the people I have gotten to know along the way. Clint Edwards of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog happens to be one of those people. I started to get to know Clint through our blogs about a year ago. We have both had guest posts up on one another’s blogs. (See his here) We have shared our funny stuff on Facebook and supported each other on Twitter. It’s what we refer to in the blogging industry as being a supportive blogger.

When Clint contacted me to tell me his first book was being released I was so excited for him. He then asked if I would be willing to give it a read and an honest review. In fact he said, “Seriously even if you hate it. I want you to be honest.” Of course I said yes.  When I downloaded my copy of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, I immediately thought, huh we can’t have nice things either. Then I opened the book and started to read.
I found myself laughing and shaking my head in agreement so much throughout this book that my neck hurt by the end. As far as I’m concerned neck pain was a small price to pay for all the laughter. Clint takes us into his home. There were times I felt like I was sitting at the kitchen table with him and his wife Mel. It’s a raw and honest look at marriage with a side of kids. Clint took over for his wife and becomes a stay at home dad early on in the book and boy did I love it. All I kept thinking was SEE it’s not as easy as men think it is. His daughter is in a stage of only wanting to be a dog and I laughed and laughed thinking how much toddlers can really kick your ass.

I have always said that Parenthood is not for the weak. There are times that I wonder if I’m strong enough to survive it. This book proves that we are all in the same boat. Even the chapter titles (Stop Eating Your Boogers and Be a Gentleman) had me nodding my head thinking, yup this is going to ring true for me as well I can feel it already. Perhaps my favorite chapter though was Unwanted Parenting Advice and How I’d Like To Respond. Obviously.

4. Even with kids keeping a house clean isn’t that hard. The secret is to deep clean it once and just maintain it.
When you say maintain it, you mean put the kids outside with a water dish and bowl of food until they’re 18, right?

See you just nodded in agreement like me. I promise you the whole entire book is like that. My official review of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things is five stars and a neck brace. If you are a parent you need this book. If you know a parent you need this book. If you are about to become a parent you definitely need this book. You can head on over to Amazon to get your copy today or you can be the lucky winner of the one I am giving away. One lucky reader will receive a copy of Clint Edwards: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Simply comment with why you can’t have nice things and a winner will be picked at random. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Allow Your Children To See That There Is Kindness All Around Us

Parents tend to have a lot of different opinions on what qualifies as the best way to raise our children. We may not all see eye to eye on the foods we feed our kids, the schools we attend or the sports they should or should not play, but I  think it’s safe to say that we all have one thing that we can agree on. We all want to raise kind children.  No one walks around arguing that they are really hoping to raise a giant jerk.  No one wants their child to grow up to be an adult who isn’t kind. Knowing what we want as parents and ensuring that we are doing it though are two different things.

On any given day when we turn on the news or scroll through Facebook we are inundated with people behaving in ways that are anything but kind. We have become so used to this behavior that when someone does do something kind we share it and talk about it as if we just saw a real live unicorn. When did kindness become so shocking? Don’t get me wrong I love a good story about kindness but part of me just wishes these stories didn’t surprise us.
Raising children is no easy task, especially if you want to raise those children to be good people. We are raising two boys and I am often told how lucky I am to have boys. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard boys are so much easier to raise than girls. Really. Are they? I don’t think they are. I don’t think raising children in a world where kindness is not the norm is easy for anyone whether you have a gaggle of girls or an army of boys. We are doing the best we can to teach our boys right from wrong. We talk to them about leading instead of following. We talk to them about treating people the way they themselves want to be treated. We talk and we talk and we talk.  We hope that they hear us but it’s not always easy to tell if they are really listening.

The other day we were in New York City for the day. We live in New Jersey so my boys love taking in the sights of New York whenever we get the chance to go. New York is known for its busy streets. At any given time on any given day the streets are full of cars, buses, people walking, people on bikes, and people running. Everyone is always in a rush. Most of the time people can be seen crossing the street while looking at their phone or while wearing headphones. I used to work in the city every day before having children and I was one of those people. Now when we go into the city it can be pretty obvious at times that we are not in fact New Yorkers. We know our way around but we forget sometimes how fast you have to move to keep up with the herd.

We had to take the subway uptown and when we got down onto the platform we were unsure if we were in the right place.  We tried looking for a map but couldn’t find one. Everyone around us was rushing around and it started to feel really chaotic. The last thing we wanted to do was get on the wrong train. All of a sudden out of nowhere a woman walked up to me and asked where we were trying to go. I told her and she smiled and said, “You are in the right place. This is your train. I am going to the same spot. You have five stops.” I couldn’t thank her enough. There we were out of our element and slightly panicked and this woman decided to approach me to help. She did this for no other reason than seeing someone who needed help and offering it. At that moment I smiled. It really made me happy. When we got onto the train I smiled at her and she smiled back. She knew how grateful I was. My oldest son smiled at her too. He knew that she had helped his mom and that made him happy.

When we got to our stop we made our way back up to the street and that’s when I realized I no longer had my cell phone. Did I drop it? Did I leave it at the museum when we were leaving? We stood at the top of the subway stairs while my husband called it and I dug frantically through my purse. It wasn’t there and I was really upset. It had the address of the place we were supposed to be arriving at next and it has so many pictures. I started to get really upset about all the pictures. It was almost 5pm so the streets were really busy. All of a sudden a man who was rushing to catch his train stopped and approached us. He asked if we were ok and if we needed any help. I quickly told him we were fine and thanked him for stopping. It had happened again. Another person had noticed we looked like we needed help and had stopped out of kindness. I stopped worrying about my phone and decided I would check at our next stop with the museum. Luckily it turned out to be there.

As we made our way into the movie theater my youngest son looked up at me with his innocent four year old eyes and said “Mommy people in New York sure are nice.” I realized he was right. Not just about people in New York. People for the most part are nice. We are so used to seeing and hearing the negative things that we forget that kindness is all around us. I realized that day that the best way for me to teach my boys about kindness is to show them kindness. I can talk to them until I’m blue in the face about them being kind, but it’s when they see us acting kind that they really understand it.  For the first time in a long time I was without my cell phone. It made me have to see people, really see them and it made me realize I want my boys to see me like that more often. I want them to see me being present. I want them to see me noticing things around us instead of the things in my phone. The man and woman who separately helped us that day had two things in common. They were present. Neither of them had their heads buried in a phone so they were really able to see us and they were kind.

Being kind is a quality but it’s also an action. In order for my children to grow up to be kind and do kind things I need to be present. I need to look at people. I need to be human. It’s when we take time to really see the people around us that we wind up being kind in our everyday lives. 

This post was also featured on The Today Parenting Team

Monday, October 19, 2015

Moments In Time

There are moments in parenthood that take your breath away. They are not ever the moments you anticipate. They are the ones that catch you when you least expect it. They are the ones that make you stop for a moment and think about how you got here. They are the ones that make you sit and reminisce about all the moments that came before it. They are the ones you know for sure you will one day look back upon and smile while a tear rolls down your face.  They are the ones that bring a smile to your face in that instant. They are what I call time stopping moments.

We all have them. Maybe you had one the first time your baby said mama. Perhaps you had another one when mama changed to mommy and you most certainly had one when mommy changed to mom. Time moves. We don’t always notice it, but it’s constantly moving forward. Life can be so busy. We miss things. We miss things that are right in front of us because we are busy living life.

There was a time when this house was quiet. It was me and my husband coming and going to and from work. It was me and my husband enjoying quiet dinners and sleeping in on weekends. When we moved into our house there were two bedrooms that we never painted or touched. We knew why they were there.  We decided we would paint them when the time came to fill them. For two years I walked past those bedrooms daydreaming about the children who would one day sleep in them. I made a list of what I wanted to do to each room.
  1.   Change the ugly bedroom doors.

I hated the doors. They were typical 1970s brown hollow doors. I swore we would change them to beautiful white paneled doors way before children arrived. We didn’t. As with most houses that need work, there were one million other things that kept pushing the doors to the bottom of the “to do” list.  After my first son was born I was too busy to notice the doors. After my second son was born I was too busy to care about the doors. My boys are seven and four now and we are starting to finally get around to projects we had put on hold.
We have been talking about finally replacing all the doors in the house and I was excited. Tonight I put the boys to bed and went into my bedroom. When I walked out I looked at their doors and I don’t even remember sitting on the floor, but there I was sitting on the floor staring at both of their doors. The boys’ doors are covered in stickers. 

 From the ceiling to the floor they are completely covered in stickers.  I have gotten so used to the stickers that I hardly notice them anymore. Oh I’m sure when people come over they notice them and wonder why we would allow them to cover their doors in stickers, but the truth is I knew we were changing the doors eventually so I never really cared. Tonight though as I sat and looked at the closed doors I realized they tell a story.

Behind each door is a child who wasn’t there when we first complained about those doors. Behind each door is a personality. Behind each door is a child who kept me up at night. Behind each door is where I spent hours rocking and feeding and becoming a mother. Each of them has decorated their doors with what most would just see as stickers, but I see their stories.

My four year old might see Buzz Light Year but I see him at two. I see him when all he wanted was all things Toy Story. I see him cuddling on the couch with Buzz and Woody. I see a whole phase that has come and  gone.
 My seven year old might see a NASA sticker, but I see a five year old who was convinced he was going to grow up to be an astronaut. 

As I sat and really looked at both of their doors; memories rushed over me. I remembered taking my seven year old to the dentist for the first time when he was three.  I remembered holding my four year old's hand when he got his first CT scan. I remembered when the cardiologist told us we didn’t have to come back for a year after a year of monthly visits. I remembered the Peanuts phase followed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle phase. I remembered that they have always had a love for fire trucks. I remembered the card my cousin sent them from Colorado full of stickers that said I miss you. I remembered the dinosaur phase, followed by the superhero phase, and the cute puppy phase. I remembered it all.  

Suddenly the doors I constantly complain about to my husband no longer seem like something I want to rush to replace. I realized tonight that the doors are not just doors. They are a representation of my kids. They are their childhood. I can’t get rid of them. I’m not ready.  Sometimes we worry so much about getting our houses exactly how we always imagined them to be that we don’t realize they are exactly how we want them. I know there will come a time one day when my house will always be neat. There will come a time when I will no longer trip over matchbox cars and soccer cleats. There will come a time when I will miss it. I don’t always know that, but when I have time stopping moments I realize it. Tonight as I stared at my boys’ doors I realized there will come a day when I will look back and tell them about the doors that told their stories. Tonight I realized childhood moments are captured in the places right in front of us. We are surrounded by moments in time. We just have to take the time to notice them. 

What I'm listening to: 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Advice For The Expecting Mother

A friend called me today to tell me the wonderful and exciting news that she is expecting her first baby. “Guess what?! I’m pregnant!” I immediately replied, “Oh my god I’m so excited for you! You’re going to be such a great mom!”
Then she said something I was not at all prepared for. “I am going to put you on speed dial. I plan on calling you to get all kinds of advice.” It hit me at that moment that my cover is about to be blown wide open. Advice? From me? Ha, that’s laughable. Sure I’ve been a mom for almost seven years now but the fact that she thinks I actually know what I’m doing is just plain funny. I feel like the Wizard of Oz. I’m over here chilling out behind the curtain but the moment my friend has her baby the curtain will open and I will be revealed. I am clueless. Frankly, I’m just making this shit up as I go along. So far it’s working for me but it’s only a matter of time before I am in some type of situation that I don’t have a clue how to handle. I’ve heard the teenage years are something all-together frightening. I’m shivering just thinking about it.
After we hung up the phone I started thinking about what kind of advice, if any I could really offer a new mother. My youngest is three so I had to dust off the cobwebs in my brain and think back to when I was expecting my first son. Here is the list of advice I came up with offering expecting mothers. Let’s get real about this shall we?
The Birth Plan:
That kid is coming out one way or another so just go in there knowing that and you will be fine. If you don’t plan on getting an epidural more power to you but if you change your mind just know that no one will think any less of you for it. Hell I was begging for that thing with what turned out to be gas pain.
Bottle or Breast?
Do whatever works for you. Babies are always hungry so feed them. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks and if someone tries to give you shit for whichever choice you make simply tell them you started your kid off on steak and potatoes but after realizing that was a bit too heavy you switched to the bottle or the breast. They won’t judge you anymore. In fact they probably won’t talk to you anymore and that’s okay because judgy people are super annoying anyway so it’s a win/win.
Sleep Training:
Oh dear god if the kid is sleeping do not wake them up. Do what works best for you. Will your kid only sleep in the bouncy seat? Bounce away my friend. Do you need to visit a park at 10pm and hold them in a swing for five straight hours to get them to sleep? By all means get to know your local Park Ranger. Do what works. Obviously do what is safe (I’m not a complete moron) but if your baby is sleeping long enough that you can take a hot shower and clean the spit up off your face then do it. If you don’t care about the spit up on your face but would rather get your zzzzz’s while that child is sleeping (raising my hand and jumping up and down) then do that. Don’t worry about what everyone else says you should be doing. You are holding the baton so run on my friend.
When will my body look normal?
Define normal? Stop. You just pushed out a kid. You literally brought a human being into the world. Don’t even worry about getting back into your jeans. Yoga pants are your new friend and when things settle down again you will start to get back in shape. You might become a whole new shape than you were pre-baby and that’s OK. I will go shopping with you. Shopping is fun. Not with kids though. Shopping with kids is some type of torture you should avoid for as long as possible so leave that baby with someone else on the day we go shopping.
What should I make sure I have before I bring the baby home?
Diapers. You will not believe how much babies poop. Girlfriends. You are going to need one or two good ones who will listen to things like “My nipples are so raw.” And “My husband just doesn’t get it.” It’s vital to have some people lined up to help you, listen to you and hug you. Granny panties. Stock up on a bunch of those girls. You can just throw them out when you don’t need them anymore, or hold onto them to laugh about one day.  All that stuff you got at your baby shower is great but you won’t need half of it until that kid can sit up and trust me that doesn’t happen overnight.
How will I know if I am doing everything right?
Ha! What does right mean? Is your child still breathing? You see the thing is everyone and their mother will have an opinion to offer you, and by offer I mean jam down your throat when you are at your most vulnerable. Invest in good earplugs. There is no right way to do things. There is your way and then there is everyone else’s way. Do what works for you. At the end of the day if your child feels loved then you are doing it right. Sure your house may look like it was ransacked by burglars and you might serve your family questionable milk from time to time but if your child is happy then rest assured the rest of the stuff doesn’t matter.

 You see my dear friend motherhood is a journey. You will learn as you go and some days will be an epic success and other days will be an epic fail. It’s not about the days though. It’s about the years. I guess after seven years on this journey it took you to help me figure that out. Go ahead and put me on speed dial. I won’t be offering advice but I will definitely be here for you and the wine will always be stocked!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

To My Husband on Mother's Day

The other night after dinner I went for a walk with our oldest son. It’s rare that the two of us have time alone together these days. Which is funny because there was a time when that was all we had. We had alone time almost every day. As we were walking he was asking a lot of questions which of course is nothing new. The sun was at that point right before it begins to set. It’s my favorite part of the day this time of year. The breeze was blowing and I looked at my oldest boy and I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic. I looked at his sweet face and I realized how much he has changed. He is becoming a beautiful little boy. He is learning about the world and about life. I could see the change in his face. There is still of course a sense of wonder, but somehow there is also a sense of knowledge.  At that moment he turned to me and asked, “Mommy, if you and daddy didn’t meet would I be here?”  The simple answer is no but I thought about it for a minute.

 There is something about the change of the seasons. There is a feeling of joy when the cold air gets washed away by a warm breeze. There is something about the way the sun feels just as it is about to set for the night, the way it lingers a little bit longer than it does in the dead of winter. When we met the change was already happening. The breeze was warm, the sun was staying around longer and whether we knew it or not a change was upon both of us.

Our love story was not one pulled from a movie or a novel. We were two regular people who met and went out on a date.  We laughed. We talked. We drank too much sangria and we knew we wanted to see each other again.  It was a great first date.  It was a date that led to many more. Before we knew it the summer was fading and the leaves were changing. The air was shifting again. It was around that time that I knew we were falling in love. Fall turned into winter and winter turned to spring. It was that spring that you asked me to be your wife.
I spent the next six months planning the wedding I had always dreamed of having. I chose the flowers and the place. I tried on four dresses until I found “the one.” I picked out the perfect invitations. We chose the band. We planned our honeymoon. It was all I had hoped for and more.

As I stood on the altar that day and said the words that would make me your wife I could never have imagined what they would really mean to me one day. After all how can you know the true meaning of words until you live them? How can you know just how much they mean until the dress is put away, the guests have all gone home and life together actually begins?  I don’t think you can.

Our wedding day does not tell our story. It’s the day our story began.  You can make plans on how your life is going to go but life does not always go according to those plans.  We knew we wanted a family. We had just moved into a new home and I was screaming “baby!!” from every room in that house even if I was not actually screaming it out loud, you knew.  We decided it was time and we were blessed that it did not take long to find out we were in fact going to be parents. 

When we went for our first ultrasound we knew something was wrong. We knew by the look on the technician’s face. It was then that we found out our baby had no heartbeat and we were devastated. That night I went for a walk, alone. I wanted to be alone. You sat in our kitchen with my mother and I went for a walk.  I walked with the warm breeze washing the tears from my face. I felt the sun as it was getting ready to sink for the night and I wondered what the future held for us. I wanted to be a mother so badly but I made a promise that day that no matter what I would not allow that moment to define me. I would not allow it to define us.

The summer came and went and as the fall breeze arrived we found out we were expecting. Everything went as planned that pregnancy and we welcomed our first beautiful son the following summer. Life was beautiful. Our son’s first year of life flew by faster than the seasons seemed to change and before we knew it he was a walking, talking toddler.
The fall came and the winter followed. It was a regular morning for me. I changed the baby. Put him in his high chair and made the coffee. You came home from a doctor appointment and sat at the kitchen table staring at the wall. “Do you want some coffee?” I asked.  “No thanks. I need open heart surgery.” you replied.  I could feel the shift again. The winter was here to stay. I stood in our kitchen hoping that you were joking, but knowing that you were not.  I looked at our son. I looked at you.  “When?”  “Thursday.” you replied. It was Monday. It was an aortic aneurysm. We didn’t plan for this. How could we have planned for this?
We made it through that surgery and that winter. The seasons changed again and life was happy. We welcomed another beautiful boy a couple of years later. A couple years into his life we found out he too has an aortic aneurysm and while we were both scared we decided to tackle it the only way we know how, head on. He is our brave little bull and somehow when we least expect it, it’s our kids who teach us how to be brave.

 Our lives have been full of seasons filled with memories. Summers of swimming, running in the yard, giggling under the stars, and making S’mores. Winters have been filled with holiday traditions, skiing, sledding and ice skating (or really just ice falling.) Our Falls have been filled with apple picking, hiking, fishing, and football watching.  Springs have been filled with bike riding, star gazing, movie watching, and flower picking.

Looking back I realize now that the dress meant nothing. The flowers meant nothing. The place meant nothing. Marriage is not built on these things. Marriage is built on all the things that come after the wedding. It is built on the ups and the downs. It is built on the past and the present. It is built on the good and the bad. It is built on the changes that come just like the seasons. You have held my hand during the birth of two beautiful boys. You have made me laugh when I needed it the most. You have loved me at my worst. You have made me feel my best. We have fought the fight. We have been met with surprises and dealt with them together.  

When I think about how to answer our son the obvious answer is no, he would not be here if you and I had not met. It’s so much more than that though.  I can’t help but feel thankful for you on Mother’s Day. A thousand Mother’s Days could come and go but you have already given me the best and only gift I will ever need. You made me a mother.  You give me laughter for the rough days and support for all the days in between.  We did not just make a house together, we created a home.  As I walk with our oldest son and the sun warms my face and the breeze blows the warm spring air I can feel that summer is upon us. I am reminded that both our boys will turn another year older this season. I am reminded of just how lucky we are. Life might not always go as planned but it certainly seems like the change of the seasons has always brought us life. It might not always be the life I planned for but it is definitely the life I always wanted. Thank you for making me a mother. 

What I'm listening to:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It Was You

It was you.

It was you who held my hand when I said “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”

It was you who told me to push before the epidural ran out, and boy did I push.

It was you who stayed long after your shift had ended because you were just as excited as I was to find out whether we were welcoming a boy or a girl.

It was you who took the camera and captured our first moments without us even having to ask.

It was you who made my child laugh while the doctor checked to see if he needed stitches after a bad run in with a coffee table.

It was you who cried with me after the doctor told us that our son had an aneurysm.

It was you who brought me coffee while my husband was in open heart surgery.

It was you who let out a sigh of relief with me when the doctor came out to tell me the surgery went well.

It was you who answered the phone at 3 am like an old friend to comfort me and tell me that my husband was sleeping comfortably while I was home caring for our baby.

It was you who hugged me when the ultrasound showed that our baby had no heartbeat.

It was you who made me laugh when my water broke as I walked to the bathroom.

It was you who made me feel like I was capable of anything.

It was you who ran into the room to comfort my son during a CT scan when you looked at me and knew I was at a loss on how to do it.

It was you who jumped up and down shouting “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” making me feel like you were part of our family even just for that brief moment.

It was you who brought me ice packs and chocolate chip cookies at 1 am when you knew I was not able to sleep.

It was you who helped me navigate the unknown waters of motherhood.

It was you who finally latched my son onto me as I cried worrying he was in fact going to starve.

It was you who spoon fed my grandmother.

It was you who stayed to pray with the family.

It was you who cared.

It was always you.

You are a nurse. You were our nurse. Every day you go to work you deal with the good and the bad and you do it in a way that only you can. You care. You love. You grieve. You don’t expect anything in return but today I want to thank you. Thank you for doing what you do because without you the hospitals would feel empty. The doctor offices would feel empty. The delivery room would feel empty. The waiting room would feel empty. You do more than you know and long after the doctors go home you are there. Long after the surgery is over you are there. You are there checking in on us and taking care of us. When we go home you are the one we remember. You see being a nurse is not just your profession it’s who you are and we love you for being exactly who you are. You may not realize it but we think about you long after we have returned home. 

Thank you. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learning To Pop The Bubble

As a child I remember thinking that by the time I became an adult things would be so different in the world. I imagined we would have flying cars and houses that appeared to be right out of an episode of The Jetsons. While we don’t have flying cars just yet we do have things that have made our lives easier. Can you say Keurig? We live in a world full of ever changing technology. We have smart phones, tablets, lap tops, streaming television, and Amazon. We live in an age where we don’t even have to leave the comfort of our own homes to get essentials like groceries, clothing, diapers, and any other thing you could possibly need. Our children couldn’t even begin to imagine a world where they would have to walk to the corner store to pick up the newspaper.  Isn’t that what the internet is for? Besides don’t even think about a walk to the corner store or someone will call child protective services.

The world sure has become easier. Or has it? As a parent I have been asking myself this question an awful lot lately. Do our kids in fact have it easier than we did? The answer I come up with time and time again is; in some aspects yes but in others not so much. There has been a lot of discussion lately on the internet, the news and amongst parents everywhere in our country about the way we parent today. I have to be completely honest. I don’t always know where I fall with my opinion on this.
I was born in the late 1970s so the majority of my childhood was spent hanging out in the 1980s. We didn’t have smart phones or tablets and what in the love is the internet? I am raising my kids in the same neighborhood I spent my childhood. I used to walk to school. We ALL used to walk to school. There were no sidewalks or crossing guards. We learned from an early age to walk together with our friends and look both ways. The children in our neighborhood no longer walk to school. It’s just not an option. All the kids have to take a school bus now even if that means they are only on the school bus for three minutes. They are not permitted to walk. It’s safer this way for the kids. Right?

The thing is I’m not sure anymore. When I was a child we played outside for hours without any adult supervision. My mom checked on us and gave us lunch while she was inside “getting things done.” We spent hours using our imaginations and making our own decisions. Albeit they were not always the best decisions, like that one time I pushed my sister into a bush only to realize it was a thorn bush, but they were our decisions and we learned from them. We rarely ran inside to our parents tattling on one another. We worked it out or fought it out. We came inside dirty, sometimes covered in thorns, took showers and repeated it all the next day. When my kids play outside it’s rare that one of us isn’t outside with them. My oldest is going to be seven and my youngest is turning four next month. There are times when I’m outside watching them and I feel ridiculous. We live in a safe neighborhood. All of the neighbors know one another. Our yard is fenced in and I can see them from the kitchen window but there I sit watching their every move.

I have vivid memories of being in first grade and walking a good three blocks to meet my best friend halfway so we could play at one another’s house. The thought of allowing my first grader to walk three blocks to meet a friend makes me shiver. Why? All the research shows that we are not living in a country that is any more dangerous than it was back then but as parents we have become much more protective. Is it because we know all of the dangerous things that do happen? We know about them in detail. We know them from real life crime shows. We know them from stories shared on social media. We know them.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting we birth our young and send them out into the wild on their own like a lion, but I am suggesting we think about how we are raising them and how it will affect them later in life. From a very early age I knew not to talk to strangers. My parents taught me about “scary vans” and what to do if someone should ask me to help them find their lost puppy. I was not a naïve child. I knew bad people existed and I knew when my sister and I were riding our bikes that we should run to the closest house and make it seem like we lived there should someone approach us. Scream. We knew always to scream. I talk to my kids about stranger danger but I’m not so sure that they would know how to apply that information should they actually need it. The problem with raising kids in a bubble is that when the bubble pops they are not going to know how to breathe the air.

We are living in an age of over scheduled kids who have every moment of their day planned out for them by other people. We held off from organized sports for a while, and by a while I mean until my oldest had already done half a year of Kindergarten. Somehow by today’s standards that is considered a lifetime. We allow him to do one sport per season now, and only if he says he wants to do it. We started to feel like the odd parents who were not running around from field to field on our weekends but now that we are doing it we are not so sure we care if we are the odd ones. When we were kids we did activities, but my parents dropped us off and picked us up an hour later. Practices can run two hours now and parents don’t just drop and go. No sir. You sit there and watch so that you know what to work on when you get home with little Johnny. It’s also just become the norm. It’s how we as parents spend our weekends and when we don’t have a full schedule we try to fill it with other stuff like playdates and trips to the zoo, a museum, a hike, a playground, or the Eiffel flipping tower. We think this makes us involved, good parents but I’m starting to think it is going to come back around and bite us right in our sports watching behinds.

Sure sports and other extracurricular activities teach children discipline and balance but what about teaching them how to navigate the world? If we are a generation of parents who spend every moment with our children, filling their memories with constant entertainment and activities all while navigating the unknown FOR them how can we expect them to go out into the great big world one day and survive without us? Forget the world how can we expect them to do something like head off to college or go out looking for their first job?

Sadly I think the answer is that a lot of them won’t be able to do it. Don’t misinterpret my concern that we are smothering a whole generation of kids with me not wanting to be involved. I do. I love my kids more than anything. I love watching them learn new things and having fun at a soccer game or a baseball game. I do, but sometimes I feel sad that they are missing out on a real childhood, the innocence of it all. The best parts of childhood are the unscheduled moments that happen. Those moments of digging in the dirt in the yard, or making a funny skit with a friend, or playing freeze tag until dusk on a summer night, these are the things I want so badly for my boys. I want them to walk a couple blocks to a friend’s house and feel a sense of security and freedom all at once. I want them to discover that they are able to navigate things without our help all of the time.

I want them to make a bad decision once in a while so that they know when they make a good one. I want them to find a frog in a stream, ride bikes and stay out long enough to hear the crickets calling them home. I’m starting to realize that I need to pop the bubble and allow my children to walk out in the big wide world without me. I will most likely be hiding behind a tree watching them for the first few times but I know in my gut that allowing them to discover a little bit of the world around them will help them when they eventually go out into it all on their own one day. It turns out that my hopes for the future have turned into a longing for the past. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Oh The People You Meet

If you didn’t already know the winter here in the Northeast was brutal this year. BRUTAL.  We had more snow than we knew what to do with. Quite literally we ran out of places to put the white stuff and the temperatures were so cold there came a point that I considered moving anywhere that was above freezing.
I would have agreed to a Teepee on the equator. As all parents know winter brings some challenges when you have young children. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the lack of space for them to run and jump and bounce off of things like the hyper beings that they are.  
We made it though. We have come out the other side and the sun is finally shining. Spring is here and everyone and their mother, brother, sister’s boyfriend, Grandpa, and dog have headed outside to soak it in. I always love seeing everyone after a long winter. It’s like a bunch of people coming out of hibernation all at once.
The other day was no exception. The meteorologist said we were going to get up to almost 70 degrees and I immediately thought to myself that we were going to spend every minute of the day out in the fresh air. My three year old asked if we could go to the library and I quickly agreed. We needed to return some books and the library by us happens to have a fantastic playground so it was a great idea.
IT WAS A GREAT IDEA, until we actually got there. We arrived and to my delight it wasn’t crowded at all so we quickly returned our books, picked out a few new ones and headed out to the playground. There was one other mom and her son playing so there was plenty of room for my three year old to run and play while I found a spot on a bench to read a book for a bit. 
Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the entire plan coming to a screeching halt. You see it turns out that the other little boy was not really cool with the idea of sharing an entire playground with another child. He quickly became very aggressive with my son. Just as I was about to intervene; his mother screamed at the top of her lungs, “Good grief Johnny let the damn kid play on the damn playground with you. Why are you such a psycho??!!”

Yes. You read that right. Those were her words. I was uncomfortable but not quite in a We need to get the hell out of here way just yet. She began walking towards me. Sure at this point my flight instincts were beginning to kick in and they were telling me I should have worn running sneakers because at some point I was going to want to high tail it out of there, but I remained seated. I quickly learned she was not only a loud talker but a close talker. Yay! “I’m sorry my kid is so annoying. He’s hmm how would you put it? He’s not aggressive. He’s more like a sociopath.”
Just nod and smile, nod and smile. I’m on a playground with a woman who just shouted to a stranger that her child is a sociopath. I looked up and my son was happily climbing the stairs to the slide. The woman looked up at her son and shouted, “Hey listen when grandpa comes back outside he’s going to watch you so that I can go into the LIBERRY real quick okay?” “Yeah okay whatever.” He replied. There I sat thinking to myself LIBRARY not LiBERRY but I digress. Soon enough an older gentleman appeared from the library doors and I quickly learned he too enjoys shouting for the entire world to hear what he has to say.
“Hey!! We have to go. NOW!” 
“Why? We aren’t ready to go. I want to go into the Liberry real quick.”
“I waited too long. I pooped my pants.” Oh dear god.
“Oh don’t worry about it. No one will notice we are outside.” I will notice. Me. The person sitting on the bench OUTSIDE will notice.
No it’s all over my damn pants. Give me the keys I will go change and come back and get you.”
She handed him the keys to her minivan and if you’re anything like me you are now thinking Ewe he sat on her seat with poop on his damn pants.
Okay here take the keys. Hurry up though I don’t want to be here all day.”
“Don’t worry I’m not going to shower I’m just going to change my pants.” I’m worried. For the love please take a shower. Don’t rush. Do us all a favor and DO NOT RUSH!
She turned and started to walk towards me and it was then that I decided it was time to go. I was not about to sit there and talk to her about what I had just witnessed. No sir. I looked up at my son and he looked at me and it was the first time ever that when I said it was time to go he didn’t argue or beg to stay for just a little while longer. When we got into the car he looked at me and said, “Mommy what was that about? Did that man really poop in his pants?”
I could not even answer him because I started laughing so hard.  I’m happy winter is over and I’m super excited that spring has arrived but I think we are going to remain in our backyard for the next two weeks until everyone gets used to socializing in public again. I’m fairly confident the only person pooping outside at our house will be the dog and he is not a loud or close talker so it's really a no brainer. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 Quotes from my son that scare the crap out of me

Today I am honored to have Clint Edwards of  No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog as my guest. If you don't know him you should head over to his blog and get to know him. Clint was nice enough to have me over on his site on Friday. We may have gotten into our first fight over my bio ( I tend to go on and on and on) but we worked it out (meaning he cut the crap out of it) and we have moved on to making friendship bracelets for each other. Today he's sharing with us 10 things his son says that scare the crap out of him. (I bet we all have one of these lists)
Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

My son is 7. He says a lot of things that make we worry about his future, his motivations, and his hygiene. Here are a few examples.

Me: When was the last time you changed your underwear?
Tristan: I don’t know. A week or something. I don’t understand why this is a big deal.

Me: Why do you keep peeing on the floor?
Tristan (shrugs): Because it’s funny.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Tristan: A scientist, Pokémon Trainer, or a guy that beats people up for money.

Me: Why didn’t you clean your room?
Tristan (somber scary face): Because it’s where I hide… things.

Tristan: Can you help me make a Minecraft YouTube video? I want to be like StampyLongNose.

Me: Bath night.
Tristan: (Long. Agonizing. Moan.)

Me: Calm down. You’re acting like a drug addict.
Tristan: If drugs are like sugar then that sounds fun.

Tristan: You have to be pretty old to be a dad. Like 16.

Tristan (pointing at man pushing grocery cart full of empty cans): Bet that guy makes A LOT of money.

Tristan: Why would someone give you a job?
Me: Because I went to college.
Tristan (laughing): College.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Big Book of Parenting Tweets Valentine's Day Giveaway

It’s February and you all know what that means. It’s flipping freezing out yes, but besides that lovely fact it’s also the month of LOVE. Valentine’s Day is next week and if you are anything like me you are planning a romance filled evening. There will be flowers and lingerie and candles. Bwahahahahahahaha What? Yeah. No. Don’t get me wrong I love some good romance just like the next gal. (Magic Mike anyone or perhaps some 50 Shades of Grey) but let’s be honest once you have kids Valentine’s Day becomes a day full of Spiderman heart cards and Princess Elsa chocolates.

So how do you keep the romance alive? Well I always said I would never be with a man who did not make me laugh and I have to say I kept my word on that one. My husband and I are constantly laughing. Let’s be honest, raising kids can be a constant comedy routine. It can also be a constant pull your hair out and bang your head against the wall kind of thing so we try to choose the comedy most days. Kids are full of funny material. They say and do funny things constantly. Half the time you might not even realize it’s funny until you and your husband are lying in bed that night laughing so hard neither of you can talk.

There are also a ton of funny parents out there. This is pretty much a direct result of all the funny kids who are making said parents bang their heads against the wall. If you don’t believe me you have to give The Big Book of Parenting Tweets a read. It’s basically all the proof you need that funny parents exist wrapped up in a beautiful little book. (Did I mention I’m in it?!)

I came up with the perfect way for you to spend Valentine’s Day this year. Put those little monsters comedians to bed, open up the cocktail of your choice, make some popcorn, find a spot on the couch with your spouse and get reading. Laughter really does bring you closer.

Here is where it gets fun: A GIVEAWAY. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Hell I get excited when I open the mailbox and find a free sample of laundry detergent. I might need to get out more but I digress. Send me your funniest kid related material in 140 characters or less and you will be entered to win a FREE copy of The Big Book of Parenting Tweets signed by yours truly. I can’t promise you my signature will be worth anything one day but are you really willing to take that chance? No of course not. 
Send your funny “tweet” to me via Twitter, by commenting on this blog post or by commenting on the Facebook thread. I will then choose the top 10 and the winner will be chosen by a top secret panel of judges (okay my fellow contributors in the book).  All submissions have to be in by February 20th. (That gives you enough time to recoup from all the Valentine’s Day romance laughter. What are you waiting for? Get writing. 

Looking to get your copy today?  It’s available on Amazon. It would make a great gift for the one you love. 

Looking for some inspiration so you can find your funny?