Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Destressing for the Holidays

These days, it's hard not to feel the pressure to get it all done for the holidays.  As moms, we want to be all and do all for everyone.  The media tells us that we need to be Martha Stewart, Marilyn Monroe and Mrs. Claus all rolled into one, or we are less of a woman/mother/etc.  Do I need to explain that?  Martha Stewart because we should all be able to bake 20 different kinds of perfect cookies without ever burning one and we should all be able to create a beautiful museum-worthy gift out of toothpicks and toilet paper;  Marilyn because we should all dress sexy and be a goddess for our significant others; and Mrs. Claus because who else is going to buy all of the presents and wrap them in time for Christmas or Hanukkah.  Certainly not - gasp - our husbands?

I am not immune from feeling the pressure of getting everything done.  Every year around Halloween, I start to feel guilty because I haven't pulled the holiday cards out of storage and started writing them out.  By Thanksgiving, I am breaking out in hives when I think about updating the address list for the cards.  I start to keep lists of people to buy for and begin to wonder if my neighbors really like the cookies I give them.  I ask myself if the gardener really needs a holiday card or will he notice if I don't send anything. 

I tell myself that I will clean the house "next weekend" and get those decorations up.  I put off calling the photo studio for a sitting time, believing that I will have time to get the girls showered and cleaned up and be able to take a few cute pictures before they crawl away and scramble off the couch.  I worry that there is some long forgotten teacher's aid or school official that I will need to include in my gift giving and I fall asleep at night watching dollar signs float by instead of sheep.

This year was no different.  If you look on my phone, you will see several lists in my Notes app of holiday gift ideas and people that I still need to find the perfect present for.  If you look in my purse, there are several handwritten lists of things that I need to pick up at the store and cookies that I want to bake.  My iPad has lists as well, people who need gifts and others that I want to remember this holiday season (including the gardener, the exterminator and the crossing guards at school.)  In addition to B's teacher, I opted to say "Happy Holidays" with small gifts for the directors of Child Care at school (since B spends 1/2 of each day there) and the counselors who hand the first graders, and spent a few moments stressing over what to get each of them.  I made up a cookie box for the crossing guard that we see each morning and have a few things tucked away for some of my neighbors.  I'm still stressing about the holiday card address list.

Despite all of this pressure, I've also decided to scale back a bit.  I read something on a post a few weeks ago, that part of doing all for all includes realizing when you can't do it all and being o.k. with letting those things go.  I took that little bit of advice to heart and started to reevaluate what I could let go.  First, the holiday cards - I am resigned to the fact that they will not get there before Hanukkah or Christmas.  I am working on New Year's cards instead.  As for the long list of people who I feel compelled to give gifts to, I've scaled that back as well.  The gardener will do without this year and while I may send a holiday card to the exterminator, he will have to do without that gift card for dinner as well.  The neighbors don't need 10 different varities of cookies to go with the festive bottle of (cheap) wine I got them.  They might get 1 or 2 kinds of cookies and a fun tin of candy (on sale at Wal-Mart) to go with it.  I also decided that the holiday decorations and lights that I had were enough.  Maybe next year I can plan ahead and put more up, but at this point, no one is really going to notice or miss it if I don't have lights across my garage.

I really took a chance this year and left town the weekend before Christmas.  Yes, that's right, I chucked it all and flew to Phoenix to hang with a few friends.  We baked cookies and got to just hang out and catch up, something we haven't done in a few years.  I came home to a massive pile of gifts to wrap but at least I was a little less stressed.  I'm treating myself to a massage here and there (taking advantage of a few gift cards and credits that have piled up) and I'm working on being more accepting of my limitations.  The kitchen may get a little dirty with flour and sugar and the floor may not get vacuumed as often as I'd like, but I'm o.k. with that.

As the day slowly turns to another night of Hanukkah, another candle to light and another present to open, and as the last few days before Christmas wind down, take a minute to stop and breathe.  Ask yourself if anyone but you will notice that there aren't as many cookies.  Does anyone but you really think that the neighbor's cat needs a present?  Or are these pressures that you can do without, things that won't add to your family's holiday, but will cause you stress and remove you from the wonder and joy of the time.  I hope that you, my friends, take a minute, or two, or ten, for yourselves.  Sit down, have a glass or mug of whatever makes you happy, and just be.  Enjoy the moments and revel in the peace that it brings you to let it all go.

I, in the meantime, will be cleaning my kitchen, wrapping the last few gifts, working on G.G.'s present which needs to be finished before tomorrow night, uploading pictures to various electronic gifts, baking 3 or 4 kinds of cookies, making chocolate candy, ... and oh wait.  What was I talking about?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Passing Judgment

Last night I had a strange dream - OK, let's face it, most of my dreams are strange.  This was not a "people-walking-around-with-heads-cut-off" strange, nor was it a "Pink-Floyd-on-acid" type strange, but rather, it was an "I-was-dating-Ashton-Kutcher" strange.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because in my dream, I was dating Ashton Kutcher.  But that's not the main reason.  While the details are a bit fuzzy (as dreams tend to be,) I can tell you that I was with Rob (married, kids, etc.) and then for a brief time frame was with another guy (Rob, nowhere to be seen) and then towards the end of the dream, (before Brooklyn came in to ask if she could wear a particular shirt to school) with Ashton.  It wasn't just that I was with him, it was how I got there.  As myself in my dream, I realized at one point that I could not remember the past few months and it was within those few months that I had gotten rid of Rob and ended up with Ashton.  (Isn't it interesting how time moves in weird fashion in a dream? In the course of one night's sleep, I went through several months of life.  I told you it was strange.)

My point. What was it again? Oh.  As I began to piece together what had happened over the 2 lost months, I realized that my friends and other people that I knew were judging me for being with Ashton.  Some were judging me for the way that I broke things off with guy #2 (which I didn't remember) and some were questioning why I was no longer with Rob.  The people who were around me and questioning me and judgment me were friends from both high school and college.  I felt like a pariah and couldn't walk through a room without peoples' eyes on me, accusing me of being less than socially acceptable.

At one particular point, I sat down next to a friend from college (who I don't see or talk to often in real life) and asked her if she was mad at me too.  She replied that she wasn't angry or upset with me because of what was going on with the men in my life, but she was upset that I hadn't called or gotten in touch with her over the past several months.  I confided that I had no clue what had gone on the past few months, that it was almost as if I had fallen asleep with my life being a certain way and woken up with things all messed up. (If you could call dating Ashton Kutcher "messed up.")

A little later in the dream, he and I were supposed to be playing in some kind of a golf tournament and he was getting more of a cold shoulder than I was.  Apparently people were holding him more responsible for the state of our affairs than they were willing to hold me.  I could feel the stares at my back and hear the whispers all around me.  At one point, he put his arm around me and told me to ignore everyone - something often easier said than done.

Sadly, I don't know how my life with Ashton turned out, as the shouts and calls of real life invaded my sleep and I had to open my eyes to face the world (and the 6 year old standing next to my bed holding up a shirt.)  But the dream got me thinking about human nature and what it was to judge our fellow man (and woman.)  We see things in the paper every day - stories about celebrities or sports figures, information about what they are doing or have done, and we judge.  We place ourselves into their lives and make statements based on how we think we would have handled a particular situation.  But are you ever really equipped to make such a statement without actually walking in their shoes or standing where they stood?

A cousin once said "you can't be a parent without being a hypocrite."  I couldn't agree more.  I used to stand in judgment of people who put their children on leashes.  I said that they should know better how to control their children and a leash should not be necessary.  I judged them and I said things about how I would act in the same situation.  Then I found myself with a 2 year old who would not stay with me and would run everywhere.  Yes, I put a leash on her.  Granted, it was a cute, doggy back pack with a handle that she wanted to carry, but it was a leash.  And it was the only way that I could keep her from running away from me, into traffic or around a corner to get lost. 

Another judgment that I used to make was of parents out late at restaurants with young kids.  I would see them sitting there eating, children in high chairs struggling to stay awake or throwing food because they were upset.  I would judge and say that the parents should not have kids out that late, that they should be home in bed.  And then I had kids.... and a job... and a husband with a job... and gymnastics class or t-ball or soccer after school.  Then I would blink and it was 7:30 at night and we hadn't eaten yet.    With no food in the house or no energy to make dinner, the nearest restaurant is a great option.

It is always easy to say how we would handle things ourselves, or to judge someone else for what they did.  The tough part is to actually be in those situations and figure out if you really would do something different.  I sometimes get comments from people about how much stuff I have in my house.  It's frustrating because I do notice the piles and I do wish that they would go away (the piles, not the people.)  Part of the problem is that I don't have a place to put some of the things that are filed up (like baby stuff that hasn't been given away or put in storage yet.)  Sometimes it is just a function of not having time - I could read the girls a story before bed, or I could put away the clothes.  I could put my clothes away or I could get some sleep.  Things are a trade-off.  But I wonder how these people who judge my stacks of books or clothes or other evidence of daily life would do in my shoes, with my pressures of life.  Many of the ones who comment don't have children and I wait to see how they will handle kids of their own. Maybe they will be one of the lucky ones who can manage to keep a house clean and clutter free even with two children running around.  Odds are, they will find themselves staring at a staircase full of books and things, just like at my house.

The point, if there must be one, is to be careful about who and how you judge.  You never know when you might find yourselves in a similar spot.  The man with the sign at the freeway off-ramp might have been a corporate executive yesterday who was laid off.  The person handing you your McDonalds on a tray might have a PhD in astro-physics but can't find a job.  The tired looking mom at the table next to yours with 3 kids might be struggling to make it through the day.  You simply have no way of being able to tell.

 And one final note - I myself am still guilty of sometimes passing quick judgment on my fellow man and woman.  On the plane home on Sunday afternoon, I took a seat next to a woman who was traveling alone.  I recalled seeing her boarding the plane ahead of me with some help, but didn't think anything of it.  She asked me a few questions as we prepared to take off and I wasn't sure what to think of her.  My mind started to filter through possibilities and hoped that it wasn't someone who would "bug" me the whole hour and 15 minute flight.  Then the woman turned to me with a confused face and asked for help with her seat belt.  She told me that she had a stroke recently and that her memory wasn't what it used to be.  She also could not remember if the bag sitting in the seat between us belonged to her (which it did.)  All of my judgments flew out of the window as I helped her with the belt and confirmed that the bag must be hers, as it wasn't mine, and I returned her smile of thanks.

  Before you pass judgment on someone today, stop and ask yourself if you have all of the facts.  Do you know everything that there is to know about this person and their particular situation, that would allow you to judge them.  Odds are that you don't and that you shouldn't.  Think about this as well - just as you are judging someone near you, what are the odds that someone else is judging you?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today's Breaking News...

Los Angeles, California

Sources quoted from the L.A. County District Attorneys’ Office said today that charges will be filed before the end of the week against Mr. Santa Claus, aka Saint Nicholas, President and CEO of North Pole Enterprises, stemming from allegations of assault and battery against several area housewives. Sources stated that investigators at the DA’s office have been combing through several years worth of police reports, each claiming that Mr. Claus broke into homes and assaulted women, in some cases repeatedly kissing them, before escaping through open windows or out the front doors. Many of the reports were filed by children of the women who then refused to speak with police when contacted for follow up and some claims are reportedly from the late 1950s. The sources indicate that these attacks seem to happen in December each year and the number of reports spike each January.

Mr. Claus has not been reached for comment, but some officers of North Pole Enterprises, who spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity, claim that the pending charges are a result of more recent claims by high profile celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Reba McEntire, John Mellancamp and Disney’s The Cheetah Girls and argued that without such high profile claims, the charges would not have even been filed. Others claim that the reports are all cases of mistaken identity, given the fact that suits similar to those worn in public by Mr. Claus can be found at many retail locations.

LAPD records show that police reports were also filed by Frankie Valli, Travis Tritt (a noted Country music artist), the group Twisted Sister (each member claiming that their respective mothers were attacked by Mr. Claus at a holiday party) and a joint report filed by the Jackson 5. In a slightly shocking twist, it was discovered that Ru Paul filed a report against Mr. Claus claiming that he attacked and kissed Mr. Paul’s father.

It is unknown whether Mr. Claus will be allowed to quietly turn himself in following the official filing of the charges or if he will be arrested and booked at the Central Jail downtown. Some employees interviewed at North Pole Enterprises stated that this was an incredibly busy time for the company, which increases its toy production by over 150 % in the months of October, November and December. Mr. Claus is known for his hands-on approach to business management and it has been reported that Mr. Claus often works alongside his employees to make sure year-end production levels are met. If Mr. Claus is arrested or asked to turn himself in prior to December 25, several employees worried that production requirements might not be met and they would not receive their holiday bonus.

This is not the first report of allegations against Mr. Claus. Several years ago, PETA and other animal rights organizations publicly spoke out against Mr. Claus for cruelty to animals. It was reported that Mr. Claus kept several reindeer at his factory, utilizing them to pull heavy loads of toys and other products. PETA members claimed that Mr. Claus overworked the animals and fed them only carrots donated by local school children. Mr. Claus was also the target of claims by Elves Union 226, which represents much of the workforce at North Pole Enterprises, who alleged that Mr. Claus violated state regulations regarding overtime and mandatory employee break times. The Union also claimed that Mr. Claus cared little for the health and welfare of his employees, offering only candy canes, gum drops and other sugary confections in the company’s cafeteria vending machines. The Union voted for a strike two years ago but withdrew the vote following a confidential settlement with the company which many believe included an overhaul of the company’s cafeteria.

Unnamed sources close to North Pole Enterprises have also indicated that Mr. Claus is the subject of another ongoing investigation of bribery and allegedly taking favors in exchange for yachts, diamond jewelry from Tiffany’s, deeds to penthouse apartments and blank checks.

Tomorrow’s report: rumors circulate as to whether or not Justin Bieber is actually an elf, formerly an employee of North Pole Enterprises.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Value of Friendship

Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded a few times, in a few different ways, of the value of friendship.  My first reminder came on Thanksgiving Day.  I spent my day as many of you probably did, watching the parade in the morning, snuggled on the couch with the girls.  Oh wait - I watched part of the parade from the couch - the other part I watched from the kitchen as I baked pumpkin pies.  Mom came over before dinner and we spent some time just catching up while going through the ads for Black Friday.  As we got ready to go to dinner at my brother and sister's house, I gathered up my things along with my cell phone and noticed that I had a voice mail.  Cell reception in my house is notoriously bad, so I wasn't surprised that the phone had not even rung.  But I was surprised at the message.  It was my friend Arran, someone I have known for almost 20 years (as strange as it is for me to say that.)  We met in college when he came to visit a friend who lived in the same dorm as me and I was hanging out with friends in the guys' hall.  Despite the usual ups and downs of our respective lives, the passage of more than 15 years, countless moves to several different states, various boyfriends, girlfriends, break-ups and a marriage (mine,) we have stayed friends.  He was even in my wedding.  We have survived much that life has thrown at us and have shared much of our lives with each other.  Not always as it has happened, but there have certainly been some late night and early morning (thanks to the time difference) phone calls.  He was there when my life hit a particular low, one of the first people that I called, and I was able to be there for him when his Dad passed away, something that I know was incredibly tough for him. 

Through it all, I am happy to say that we have remained friends.  So why was this a reminder to me?  Because sometimes I think that some of my friends do a better job at "friendship" than I do.  His call was just to say hello and tell me that he was thinking of me and wishing me a happy holiday, "love" to my family.  It was a wonderful message and I was touched.  At the same time, I was a bit ashamed because, for all of the times that I might think of him and wonder how he's doing, how many times do I pick up the phone and say hello?

My second reminder came last week, again through my cell phone.  It rang and I did not recognize the number and was up to my elbows in Kensi's toys and fun.  After putting her down for a nap, I checked my voice mail.  It was my friend Val, just checking in.  I met Val back in 2007 through a random set of circumstances.  I registered for a weekend scrapbooking event in Anaheim and through various online discussions, connected with several other women from Valencia who were also going to the event.  We met up several times before the event and have remained friends (albeit some closer than others) since then.  Our little group has added a few members here and there and a few children since 2007, but we still get together to scrapbook and check in on each other.  Val's husband has a job that requires moves from time to time, and so in 2010 (I think,) we had to say goodbye as she moved to Texas.  We've tried to stay in touch and she has visited a few times, even staying with me.  Despite the distance and the random start to our friendship, I count her among my closest friends.  Her message was just to say hello and to tell me that she as thinking of me.  She was also wondering if I had started my holiday baking yet (I have and my freezer is running out of cookie room!)  I was again touched that a friend would reach out to me, just to say hello and again ashamed - another person being a better friend to me than I might be to her.

The next day I sat down and wrote her an email.  I apologized for not getting her call and told her how much her friendship means to me, even though I may not get the chance to say it that often.  I hope to do a better job at connecting with my friends, using Val's example.

My last recent reminder of friendship was, unfortunately, a sad one.  Just last week, while checking Facebook, I saw a post by a high school friend, saying "good bye" to someone that graduated with my sister, Candy.  Matt Kover was a larger-than-life presence that I remembered well from high school, even though he graduated a few years ahead of me.  Always ready with a joke and able to make the crowd laugh, I remember his big bear hugs.  After reading my friend's post of good-bye to Matt, I scoured facebook and all of my Jefferson connections to see if there was more information.  At the time, there was little.  Over the next few days, I learned that Matt had passed unexpectedly, something related to a diabetic coma or insulin problem.  I touched base with several friends back home who knew him well and was added to his Facebook page where people began to leave messages.  I was saddened by his passing because I think he was one of the good ones - someone who lived his life for others, intent on making people laugh and feel good just to be around him.  I haven't seen Matt in years, but was immediately reminded of him through the posts of his close friends.  Sadly, many posts spoke of time past since seeing Matt and wishes for a closer relationship.

Matt's passing reminded me, again, of the value and blessing of friendships and of the uncertainty of life.  No matter how careful we are or how routine our lives, something can change in the blink of an eye and suddenly our course is changed, our lives are different and someone that we love very much could be gone.  I, for one, am going to make an effort to change - to tell my friends that they are important to me.  It can start with a personal note in the holiday cards, a quick telephone call just to say hello.  I'm lucky to say that I have friends in many states, and even a few in other countries.  I will be reaching out to all of them this holiday season.  I do not want another day to pass without those people knowing that they are important to me.

Perhaps I met you as a child, or in high school.  Maybe we had class together in college or commiserated about professors in law school.  Odds are, if you are reading this, we have maintained a connection and for that, I am grateful.  We may not speak every day, or even once a week.  But I check in on you from time to time.  I see your photos and your posts and I know that you are doing o.k.  I hope to do a better job of just saying "hello" and letting you know that someone is thinking about you.  I hope that if you happen to think about me, you'll do the same.

Let's make an effort to stay better connected.  It sounds cliche, but if I have learned anything over the past few weeks, it is that life can be short.  We should take advantage of the time we have, starting right now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Ah, Thanksgiving weekend.  Is there any pie left?  The Black Friday shopping is done and the Saturday deals have been taken advantage of.  There were no flat screen t.v.s to chase down (where would we put it?) and we all have our iPads and iPods and don't really need portable DVD players for the car (yet.)  As Saturday evening slowly drifts into Sunday morning, we are left with the remains of a weekend, when the bustle dies down to quiet reflection.  The sales are over but the weekend hasn't quite passed and we have a few moments before the return to work and the "real world."  Besides a trip to the theater to wile away a few hours, what is one to do but look back, reflect, look forward and think.

I think I ate too much.  I think I need to do a better job of working out.  I think I'm a bad mom.  What?!?  Oh, don't get me wrong, I love my girls, but I think I am failing Brooklyn this month/birthday.  I am failing her because I did not have time to handmake invitations to her party.  I am failing her because I did not have time to plan a big party and instead we are taking just a few of her friends to Color Me Mine and out for lunch.  I am failing her because when I told her to put things on her "wish list," I forgot to write them down.

When we were shopping yesterday, we stopped at Build-A-Bear to look around.  She asked if she could have the $5 special gingerbread person.  Tired from hearing "can I?" and "I want!" I finally relented and told her that I would buy her the $5 gingerbread person, but only if she walked over to the Toys for Tots container at the front of the store and drop it in.  You see, we have plenty of "friends" that Brooklyn plays with and sleeps with.  But I know there are children out there who don't have "plenty."  I'm a bad mom, I suppose, for making Brooklyn donate the gingerbread girl.  Someday she might remember it though, and someday she might thank me for teaching her to think about others.

Sometimes, the tried and true, old reliable things are the way to go.  I'm just saying.  There is a place for new and exciting, but there are times when old reliable is good too.

Friends, even old ones, can surprise you sometimes.  Just when you are completely bogged down in "life," someone you least expect to hear from calls and leaves you a message.  You are floored that he would think of you and grateful that he called just to say hello.  You promise yourself that you are going to work harder to be the kind of friend to him that he is to you.  And sometimes, just for a second, you wonder "what if?"

There just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do.  Something has to fall by the wayside.  Will it be the holiday decorations, the papers to be graded, that scrapbook page that just hasn't been finished, the cleaning, playing with the girls or the reading books with the kids at bedtime?  When in doubt, the girls win hands down.  I try to drop what I'm doing because at the end of the day, they are more important that just about anything.  Sometimes it is hard to remember what my true focus is, especially when I think I'm working on something for them, or trying to preserve a little piece of them for the memory books.  But in the end, the time with them will make the memories and without them, what would I have to scrapbook?   In the end, there are still dishes in the sink, the decorations aren't up, the pictures aren't printed and who knows when the school work will get done.  But we went to dinner together and we walked around and we played before we said goodnight.

No matter how long I live in California - holiday lights will always look funny on houses without snow in the yard. 

No Black Friday deal is worth the trouble if it means pepper spray or getting beat up or having a cop think you are shoplifting.  I'd rather stay home and shop online in my jammies where I can watch t.v. at the same time.

One of these days, I will finish my book by actually putting it down on paper.  It's starting to take up too much space in my head and I'm getting confused.  That or I'm just getting old. 

I did photo books of each of Brooklyn's first 5 years of life.  I just finished putting Kensi's first year book together and ordered it.  I'm wondering if she will be mad at me and ever forgive me if I don't do years 2 through 5 separately and instead combine her book with Brooklyn next year.  I do them for the relatives, not for us - for us, I do the scrapbooks.  I need to figure out how to let some of this guilt go (does this make me a bad mom?)

Every time I hear a kid screaming bloody murder or throwing a tantrum in a store, I thank God that my kids don't act like that.  B has thrown a tantrum once or twice, but never that loud or crazy.  We don't let it get that far.  No, we don't cave and give her what she wants - we walk out of the store and go home.  And we usually take something else away too, just to show her who is in charge (we have to remind ourselves from time to time too.)  Some might say that I'm a bad parent because I say "no!" to my children.  Those people can come talk to me in about 20 years when my kids are the upstanding members of society, helping clean up the streets by putting away those individuals whose parents didn't say "no."

The holidays are upon us full force.  The lights are up, the music is on and the race to find the perfect presents has begun.  I miss Grandma Wolf and her stockings hung down the staircase, the trips to the woods to find just the right Christmas trees and the kids table at Christmas dinner.  I miss Grandma Norton and dinner at her house followed by presents followed by DQ ice cream cake for Carol's birthday.  Every once in awhile, I catch a whiff of her perfume.  I think she's just checking in to see that everything is o.k. 

There is no rhyme or reason to this post.  Just ramblings and reflections as the Thanksgiving holiday winds down and the Christmas race winds up.  Somewhere in the midst of it all I will find the time to finish what needs to be done, to make the things that need to be made, to grade the papers, to do the work, to celebrate.  But I'll stop from time to time and take it all in.  I'll sit with the girls and cuddle, marveling in their spirit and energy.  For now, I think I'll go read a bit before bed.  It's been a long day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dear 16 Year Old Me

On Good Morning America this morning, they were profiling a new book which was made up of letters that various people wrote to their 16 year old selves.  Some were celebrities, athletes, authors, people from all walks of life.  It got me thinking.  What would I tell my 16 year old self.  Just before my 16th birthday,  I started my Junior year in High School.  I was deeply ensconced in the shadow of an older sister who was a senior, a basketball hero and bigger than me, and I was trying to find my own way.  I was doing so many things, trying desperately to find the thing that felt right, that made me feel "all right" and "good enough."  I had friends, but struggled with the idea that there were people with whom I did not fit in.  I had a boyfriend and constantly wondered if I was good enough and was always waiting for a reason to break up, so that I wouldn't have to wait for him to break my heart and leave me.  I was tall and gangly, projecting a secure and upbeat persona to the world and hugging my teddy bear at night.  I dreamt of a car for my birthday, and instead got a desk for my bedroom and a teddy bear that I picked out at CostCo.  Here is what I would say.

Dear 16 Year old Me,

Having been through a few more years and seen a few more things, I wanted to give you some notes to help  you through the next few years.

Family - Go sit down and talk to Grandma Wolf and Grandpa and Grandma Norton.  Find out all that you can about them and take notes.  Video tape them if you can.  Ask them to tell you stories about when they were children, where they came from, their siblings and what life was like.  You won't have the opportunity to really know your Dad, so ask Grandma Wolf about him.  Get as much information as possible from her about who he was as a little boy and what his life was like.  Ask Grandma Norton about Mom.  Find out what she was like as a little girl.  Learn the secrets that even at 37, you still haven't learned directly from her.  There will come a day when your grandparents will be gone and you will wish that you could give (and get) one more hug and spend one more day talking.  So go do it now. 

Sports - Using something I heard this morning, "Play your own game."  Right now, you are still "Trixie's Little Sister" or "Wolf 3."  It may not seem like it, but there will come a time when you will succeed (or fail) on your own merits, when the people that you play with will not know your sister and will have no idea what she did before you.  On the volleyball court, I know you are struggling right now with riding the pine, hoping for that day when you will "shine."  It will come.  You will excel, you will succeed and you will be a star in your own right.

Men - ugh.  To quote (probably incorrectly) something I have seen and heard many times before:  "The boys who make you cry aren't worth it. And the boys who are worth it won't make you cry."  Or something like that.  It holds true.  You are not defined by the guys that you date or don't date.  Even when it seems like everyone else is in love or in a relationship, be secure in just being you.  Don't give in to the pressure to have a boyfriend or a date just because everyone else is doing it.  And in February of you junior year, when he really puts the pressure on you to "take the next step" in your relationship, just say "no!"  There is plenty of time to experience sex and trust me, you are not ready for it.  Something else - get to know yourself and who you like to be when no one else is around.  Only when you are comfortable being by yourself, will you be comfortable being with anyone else.  One more thing - this year's guy is not "the one."  And next year's model is not "the one" either.  They will show you things about yourself that will make you stronger, but they are not the solution to your problems or the keepers of your dreams.  Don't let them be.  You are the solution and the key.

Life in General - Don't compromise!  People will continue to laugh at you and tell you that you cannot accomplish all that you want to.  Ignore them.  You'll get there.  But just a warning, you will have to eat ramen noodles for a few years while you are in grad school.  It gets better though and there is Prime Rib in your future!  You will have days that will break your heart.  You will make friends and lose friends.  You will laugh and cry, smile with utter joy and scream in pure anger.  You will make it through all of that and you will come out on the other side.  You haven't written your novel or screenplay yet, but we're still working on it.  You will continue to take pictures and you will drive everyone nuts with it.  When you are older and have kids, you will have scrapbooks full of pictures from you senior year in high school, so make sure to save up now for the film.  Your older daughter loves looking at pictures of you in high school.

School - No matter what Mr. Havens says, you probably will not use that math in real life.  Tell Mr. P. that he will run for office someday.  We suggest a certain "Oval" office would fit him nicely.  Remember to thank Mrs. Pelton for introducing you to mystery novels.  But tell her that you still read romance novels too.  There will come a time when you will not be called a "nerd" or a "geek" for liking school, so keep at it.  Believe me, there are places where people compete to have the best grades (and some are pretty cut-throat about it too!)

There is a big, big world outside of Jefferson, Ohio.  You know it even now at 16, and you often dream of seeing it.  You will.  Trust me, you will.

Love, You at 37.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Well, Go To Your Office and MAKE Some!"

This was the response I got from my 5 and a half year old, when I told her that we didn't have the money for her to take more swimming lessons.

After the shock of her comment wore off, I got to thinking... do I have a spoiled brat for a child?  Or is this the pandemic of today's youth, growing up with a sense of entitlement without any concept of the hard work required to get the things we want in life?  It's hard to say because she is only 5.

I will be the first person to admit that B has it easy.  She really has no concept of how good she has it and for now, at least, I am at a loss for how to explain it to her.  When she is older, I can drive her down the streets of Skid Row or introduce her to children that don't have all that she has in the hopes that she will better understand just how good her life is, but at this age, it is hard for her to grasp.  Last December, after the usual glut of birthday and Hanukkah presents, we sorted out 5 or 6 of the new things and donated them to Toys for Tots.  She decided what to donate, helped me load the car and went with me to drop them off.  But it was just a drop off at a local fire department station - no faces to put to the children who would receive them, no concept of what her donation was doing.

I joke that I was a deprived child and that I had a low income childhood.  By today's standards, I probably did, whether it was because of a lack of technology or just a lack of money.  Kids today have a hard time grasping the reality in which my generation grew up - a reality which did not include iPods or iPhones (or really even cellular phones, for that matter,) a reality in which video games were not the norm and most kids went outside and played the day away.  There was no Facebook or MySpace and "chatting" meant standing somewhere face to face in real time, talking to another human being that you could actually see.  There was no such thing as "texting" (and certainly not "sexting!") 

My own reality was even more bleak (as some kids might tell me) than that.  We had a color television but no cable, leaving us with the 3 major networks and if we were lucky, the Fox station on the UHF channel.  We had a radio which had a record player and an 8 track tape player built in.  We did not have a "boom box" or cassette tapes until I was in junior high (at least.)  I didn't get my first "Walkman" until 6th grade and even then, mine was just a radio.  The grocery store was where we got cereal and bread and canned goods.  Milk came from the cows in the barn and the vegetables came from the garden that we spent the summer in, picking weeds and watering.

I was not given the opportunity to play sports in the summer through local community centers or "Parks-n-Rec," I played kickball or Red Rover with my cousins in my Grandma's yard.  I didn't get to take piano lessons or swim lessons or dance or gymnastics or any of those things.  I took trumpet lessons after I joined the band in 5th grade.  I was 23 before I met Mickey Mouse face to face.  This was my "deprived" childhood, but it was a happy one.

My 5 year old lives a charmed existence and she doesn't know it.  Of course, I can't explain this to her and I certainly can't argue with her, because all she sees is the immediate loss of swim lessons.  She can't grasp the fact that Mommy and Daddy's salaries pay the mortgage on the house that shelters her, or buys the food that she refuses to eat because there is mayonnaise in it, or the toys that she steps on and breaks, or the books that she treasures and loves to read to her baby sister, or the very bed where she sleeps and does alot of her reading.  She has never wanted for anything (not that it is a bad thing) and is blessed to be surrounded by friends and family that shower her with love (and presents.)

So I continue to struggle with her.  I struggle with explaining to her how money works and how sometimes we have to make decisions - do you really want to spend $60 of your hard-earned money on 1 dress-up dress, or would you rather spend the $60 and get 3 other toys?  Or would you rather save it for something else another time?  She can count, she knows her quarters from her dimes and that a quarter is 25 pennies.  But she's still too young to grasp the fact that money doesn't grow on a bush in the backyard. (If it did, the rats from the air conditioner would surely have eaten it all by now.)

The only saving grace in this is that she can be distracted.  I can turn the conversation away from swim lessons by asking what she did in school or showing her a new coloring book, or asking her to draw me a picture.  I can engage her with her sister or throw a movie in the DVD player and for a moment, the swim lessons and lack of money to pay for them are forgotten.  That is, until Papa asks how they are going and she explains to him that she's not taking them anymore because we don't have the money.  Then we have to start this all over again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Growing Up Too Quick

Last night B came home talking about Harry Potter.  She told me that she was in the "Slytherin" group (gasp!) in child care - apparently the counselor grouped them for homework time.  I was o.k. with that Harry Potter reference.  What worried me was when she started talking about "Death Eaters."

Let me start by saying that I am definitely NOT in the "book burning" camp.  I am also, for the most part, not in the "book banning" group.  I believe that it is the parents' responsibility and not that of the school, school district, librarian, teachers, principals, etc. to monitor what a child is reading and to decide what is and is not appropriate.   That being said, I don't believe that my buddy Harry is appropriate for a first grader.  That is not to say that Brooklyn would not be able to read it.  She's already reading at a second or third grade level.  Certain words might give her some trouble, but I think she'd get the gist of it.  In fact, when she was a baby and would sleep curled up with me on the couch, I read her one of the books out loud.  (Kensi and I are about 2/3 of the way through the first book.)  Where possible and appropriate, I provided my own edits to the material for Brooklyn and am doing the same for Kensi. 

But I digress.  The real issue that I see developing, is my little 5 and a half year old first grader trying so hard to be "grown up," to run with the big kids and to get old before her time.  Frankly, it scares me. 

We've been told over and over how bright B is.  We've been told how she is much more articulate than other children her age, how she has a "wiser than her years" ability to converse, using topics and words or phrases of those around her - and using them properly.  She knows how smart she is, partly because people have been telling her that for many years.   Regardless of how proud we are, we're scared too.  This road is destined to lead to a massive backfire at some point.

An example:  Brooklyn will hear someone in the grocery store saying something as we walk by.  I will hear it too.  Not ten seconds later, I will hear their words worked into our conversation, regardless of whether or not it applies.  Another example: We tell Brooklyn that "she better hope..." (insert admonition here.)  It will later come back to haunt us in the form of something like "Mom, you better hope that they still have tickets."  Or, "you better hope that they will let us in."  Sure, she doesn't know that when we said it, there was some kind of perceived threat behind it (such as, "you better hope that comes out of the carpet!') with the idea that if it doesn't, some consequence will result.  But she doesn't see it that way.  She hears words coming from Mommy and Daddy and other adults and views them as "grown-up speak."  She thinks that if she uses that "grown up speak," that she will appear more grown up and will be seen as smarter. (At least, this is how I interpret it.  Otherwise, I'd have to consider that she's just a little smart-ass, and then we'd all be in trouble!)

Part of the problem, I have determined, is that she is at Child Care in the afternoons with the big kids.  She is taller and bigger than most of the kids in her class and has been for a long time.  She finds it easier to fit in with girls who are older, because they are her size and because they can converse on her level.  Sadly, they talk about things that she has no concept of, or shouldn't be talking about (i.e. "Death Eaters.")  It scares me when my little girl comes home singing Rhianna songs ("all the single ladies" - or was that Beyonce? - but for that I blame the Chipmunks 2 movie) or Katy Perry (even though she was on Sesame Street) or the Dyna-Mite one.  What happened to "if you can dream" with the princesses singing!?!

These days, I can have very intelligent conversations with my 5 year old, and usually am reminded shortly thereafter that she is only 5 and despite her amazing vocabulary and ability to understand so much, I have to be better at self-editing.  Another example, if you will allow me:  This past weekend we had to take Kensi in to have a test done.  While driving to see her, Brooklyn asked if she had a similar test done.  I explained that she did not, that when she was a baby we did not notice her doing some of the things that we saw Kensi do, and that she crawled and walked early, so we weren't paying as close attention to her muscle movements.  Boy did that ever come back to bite me.  When the tech came to disconnect Kensi from the test, she asked B how old she was.  B answered that she was 5, and then for some reason, launched into a story, telling the tech the very same thing that I had told her in the car.  yikes!  I definitely need to tone down what I tell B.

Children these days are growing up too fast.  I've said it before with respect to make-up and jewelry and cell phones.  B asked me a month or two ago when she could have a computer.  I told her that when she could take care of her other things and stop walking on toys and breaking things, that she could have a computer (but not, at least, until she was in junior high, I'm sure!)  For an entire 2 days, she took good care of her things, and cleaned up her room and pointed these things out to me.  Then she forgot all about it and went back to her usual "programming." 

I look at things another way - this year, I will be 37 (ouch!)  I will officially have spent more years out of my mother's house (19) than I did in (18.)  (Although technically, I left home when I was 17.)  I laugh -or cringe- when I think about all of the things I did not know when I left home.   I also marvel at the fact that at the time, 18 seemed like a lifetime spent under Mom's thumb, growing up, getting through school and going to college.  From this perspective, it was a blink of an eye, a flash of time.  When I consider a mere 5 (or even 6) years through this spectrum, it is an incredibly short time to expect the things we expect from our children.  When I look at B and think about all that she still has coming and all of the things that we will do over the next 11 years (before college,) I want to go back to those days of running around the back yard dressed up like a princess (or a cheerleader-ballerina-musketeer) and slow down time for just a little bit.

Of course there is no way to stop time, it marches on - all of those tired cliches.  That doesn't stop me from wanting to keep her young just a little longer, to revel in her childhood before it is gone, replaced by those teen years that I don't even want to think about!  So I will keep saying "NO!" when she asks about make-up or a phone or a computer; I will keep telling her that she doesn't need to talk like Mommy or Daddy or other adults; and I will keep smiling a secret little smile when she curls up and goes to sleep listening to Princess music, curled up with her teddy bear - my little baby once more, if only for just a few hours.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mommy Milestone #70 - Ruination - aka "Bull in a Chin(ese) Nail Shop"

The weekend before our trip to Ohio and Washington DC stretched out before us.  Brooklyn's last t-ball game of the summer on Saturday morning and a friend's birthday party on Saturday night, followed by a Sunday blissfully empty of plans or places to go.  For me, it could be a day spent in my scrapbook room, lovingly surrounded by my paper trimmer and adhesive, papers and embellishments, happily working the hours away between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, between dinner and bedtime. 

But before I can safely escape to my hideaway, reality creeps in. Rob cannot stand to be cooped up in the house all day with nothing to do, especially with a rowdy 5 year old who also cannot stand to be cooped up in the house all day with nothing to do.  So, knowing that the next two nights would be filled with laundry and packing and knowing that Kensi would be good for a nap, I decided to be the "cool" mom for just a few hours.  I decided to take Brooklyn to get her nails done.

I have done this once before, allowing Brooklyn to get her fingernails painted while I got a mani/pedi (with Kensi napping in the carrier next to me.)  For Brooklyn, this is the ultimate in "girly-girl" activities, the pinnacle of all things princess and pretty.  For me, it's a nightmare of watching her try to sit still and wait for the paint to dry.  This experience would be no different and yet, somehow, worse.

As I said, Brooklyn has gotten her fingernails done, but not yet a full mani/pedi.  I decided that since Kensi would be home napping, I could take B and we could have some "us" time.  The shop where I usually go could not fit us in, so we found another local shop to invade.  They sat us together, in side-by-side chairs.  Poor B's legs are long, but weren't quite long enough for her feet to be in the water while she sat all of the way back on the chair.  So the experience started with a bit of a struggle for her to find a comfy way to sit.  Once she had found something that worked, they got started.  On my side, the girls were getting started and asking the usual questions about color and design, "you want flower?"  Trying to help me decide, they showed me a little plastic photo album with various pictures of designs.  After looking through them, I had the sitting on my lap, waiting for a chance to return them.  B asked to see one of them.

Knowing B like I do, I handed the album to her with an admonishment of "don't let it fall in the water," or something to that effect.  Can you tell where this is going?  Not ten seconds later, the book was floating in the water where her feet should have been.  The poor technician helping B jumped up and pulled the book out and another girl went to work on trying to dry it.  Throughout the rest of our visit there, several of the girls would trade off drying the pictures and trying to make sure they weren't damaged.  I was torn between laughing at the absurdity of the situation, feeling sorry for B who looked so sad in that moment, and crawling under the chair to avoid the dirty looks from the ladies.

But alas, that would not be the end of our destructive path.  At the conclusion of B's abbreviated pedicure, they painted her toes.  I explained to her that she would have to keep her feet still (yeah, right) so that the paint could dry.  She was in hog heaven with red, white and blue toes.  Remember what I said about her feet not quite reaching the end of the chair?  Well, that would come back to haunt her.  Shortly after the girl was done with her feet and had moved on to another customer, B was swinger her feet and brought them up under the step, scraping all of the paint off of her toes. Repaint #1.

A different technician offered to help repaint the toes.  Once finished, she helped B put on her flip flops and B went over to sit in a regular chair where she started swinging her feet back and forth and putting one foot over the other.... which scraped paint off of most of the toes.  Repaint #2.  A different technician (from the first two) helped out and again painted her toes.  This time, she also needed a repaint on some of her fingers.  I'm not sure how those got messed up.

Finally done and repainted, I paid and we left the shop.  I'm sure that all of the ladies were cursing me and my child as we walked out, leaving a trail of wet pictures and frustrated technicians behind us.  Of course, the story was not done there.... we got to the car, I put B in and told her to be careful and 2 seconds later, some of her toes were smeared again.  Deciding that I had done enough, I left her there and we went to get lunch for Daddy.

Lesson learned?  Don't hand your 5 year old something that can't get wet when she is sitting (or standing) over a tub of water.  Second lesson learned?  Wait until your child can sit still before attempting to get her toes painted (or at least do it yourself instead of paying someone to do it.)  Ah well, live and learn.   Despite all the craziness, I hope that B at least had a good time hanging out with Mommy.

And coming soon - another Mommy milestone... the life of crime.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Gen X" - We're Not the Young Punks That We Used to Be.

I was at a networking meeting this morning and I got offended.  The more I think about it, the more offended I become.  It wasn't a personal attack on me or my business or even a client.  It was an attack on my generation.  I belong to "Gen X."  I was born in the early 70s and grew up in the 80s.  You've seen the "Child of the 80s" email that went around via email for years and I'm sure you've heard the characterizations and generalizations of our generation.  We followed the Baby Boomers and the Hippies and they weren't quite sure what to do with us and our technology, our computers and the "dot com" era.  We became "X" simply because no one knew quite how to describe us or handle us.  We didn't go to college yearning to get that 9 to 5 job and wear a suit and tie to work everyday, although many of us are there now.  We wanted more and we weren't afraid to ask for and search for something else, something different, something better.  We went to class in flannel shirts and torn jeans and many of us still have those flannel shirts hanging in our closets.

To the older generations, it seemed like we just didn't care.  The boys let their hair grow long and the girls let their skirts and shorts go shorter.   We wore "Daisy Dukes" before they were Daisy Dukes.  We didn't protest the war in Vietnam but we did watch the Challenger Shuttle explode on its flight.  We remember "Tear Down that Wall!"  We weren't around when Kennedy was shot, but we do remember when Reagan was and we remember our parents reactions to Elvis and Lennin's deaths.

But that is all our childhood.  These days, many of us are married and have kids.  Many of us have been in the work force for close to twenty years.  We have responsibilities, employees, underlings and many of us own our own businesses.  We employ the younger generation, Gen "Y" and the ones that follow.  So what was it that someone said that could have offended me?  Well, I will tell you.

An older woman, who admits that she has a daughter who is 30 was commenting on her practice.  (I will assume, for the purposes of this blog, that she is at least 50, assuming that she had a child when she was 20.)  Her practice area is employment law and she was commenting on the part of her practice that includes counseling employers on how to handle employees and also on counseling employees on how to fit into the work place and to really evaluate themselves (to see why they got fired from 4 straight jobs, for example.)  In making her point, she said something about "generation X-ers" and lumped us into the group of "kids" who don't know how to conduct themselves in various employment settings.  Now, I'm sure she didn't mean to offend me.  In fact, she probably didn't even think about what she had said, at the time it was said.  But I think it raises an interesting point.  We, as Gen-X are now in a tough spot.  We are still young-ish, but we are also now successful in our businesses, raising families and becoming *gasp* adults.  I think it is time that society stop using the term "Gen X" to mean the kids, those just coming out of high school or college or graduate school, those without a clue (some of them) of how to live, work and survive in polite society.

I think it's easy for Baby Boomers to say "Gen X" and lump those who are younger together - but stop and think for a moment what that would mean.  I graduated from college 15 years ago - that means I'm 15 years removed from what the new work force is thinking.  I would certainly not put myself into a generation with them. (Generally speaking, a generation is considered to be 10 years, I think.)  If we use the Baby Boomers thinking (or at least, this woman's thinking) then we could possibly lump the Hippies or Flower Children in with the Boomers and I don't think anyone would like that.  Boomers were born in the mid to late 40s, a by-product of World War II.  So add 15 years to that, you are in ... 1960.  So let's lump them all together too.  And by that same thinking, us "X"-ers could then be lumped in with the Flower Children of the late 50s.  yikes!

But of course we won't.  But I use that example to illustrate the interesting mindset of Boomers, even today.  20 years ago, it was easy to pick on us.  We were finishing high school and going off to college, acting as if we had no cares and as if we didn't care about anyone or anything.  It was easy to blame us for malaise and for taking advantage of our parents good graces.  But those days are gone.  Our parents are older and some need to be taken care of.  We've grown up.  We are no longer the "slacker generation."  We have passed that mantle, but not our moniker.

So to the Boomers, I say get with it.  Take notice of the fact that some of your most trusted employees might be Gen X and we've gotten older.  You can't lump us in with the "kids" anymore.  And to those "kids," I say don't try to be a part of our generation.  We were Pepsi's "Next" Generation and Pepsi was the Choice of a New Generation - but those days have passed.  You're not Gen X and you've probably missed out on Gen Y at this point to.  (Geez! It just occurred to me that someone born in 1990 is now 21 - holy shit!)  So I challenge you to come up with a new title, something that will define your generation for years to come.  But "X" is taken.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fifteen Years - Where have they gone?!?!

It occurred to me last week (during one of my usual random trains of thought) that it's been 15 years since I graduated from college.  15 years?  15 years ?!?! (Think: Jeremy Piven in "Gross Pointe Blank" asking "10 Years, man, 10 years!" and hitting John Cusak.)  What have I been up to?  Well, I haven't been in the army cultivating a life as a trained assassin, that's for sure.  Maybe my next career.

It struck me as odd that so much time has passed and yet, it feels like I blinked and the years just slipped away.  Remember where you were 15 years ago and then think about how loooooong 15 years seemed.  Me, I was slaving away in a hot gym in Rochester 15 years ago.  I was spending my off hours working at Victoria's Secret at the mall or playing volleyball at Charlotte Beach and spending a little time at Hot Shots in between.  I could be found wandering around town with Kristina, more often than not, at a bar somewhere for ladies night.  I was living in the dorms on campus, having given up my apartment to save money (camp coaches could crash on campus for free - say that fast 10 times.)  I was coaxing my little Toyota Celica through the summer, hoping that it would survive just a few more months.  I spent days on the phone with Pepperdine and another law school in San Diego, trying to weigh my options and figure out how to pay for school and living expenses.  I spent countless hours going around and around with financial aid offices and loan companies, trying to find someone to co-sign for my school loans, since my credit had been obliterated by Rochester Telephone Company and a tiny little thing called credit cards.  (Who knew that at 18 when they start giving credit cards to you that it could come back to bite you in the ass by the time you were 21 - but more on that in another edition.)  I was living the life of a college graduate, comforted that I didn't need to be out looking for a job and scared shitless that I would move all the way to California and not be able to hack it.

I only vaguely remember the graduation ceremony itself.  I remember that it was raining when the day started.  I remember that I didn't have any money to buy a nice dress to wear under my gown and figured that no one would see it anyway, so why bother.  I remember wearing cut-off denim shorts and a Pearl Jam t-shirt, my usual uniform around town.  I remember my Mom getting pissed off at me because I wasn't more dressed up and my indignation that if she had wanted me to dress more "appropriately," she could have contributed to the effort.  I remember that my grandma Norton came, but that I felt afterward that I barely got to see her or talk to her. (Something I would come to regret even more the following December when she passed away.)  I remember having dinner a night or two before graduation at that restaurant near Clover Park that has the big water wheel - what's the name of it?  with Sarah Cooley (Doozer!) and her mom.  I remember that someone was drinking Old Fashioneds, something I had learned how to make in my bartending class, but had never actually seen anyone order. 

I remember kind of floating through the day, thinking that it should have felt different.  I should have been spending time with my friends, hugging, getting photographs to seal the day in my memory (or scrapbooks.)  I did get a few of those pictures, but someone, I felt detached.  Whether in truth or by creation of my own twisted mind, I have always felt on the fringes of certain friendships.  I have always held myself back, never wanting to offend anyone, or insinuate myself where I was not wanted.  To that end, people sometimes mischaracterized me as aloof or stuck-up.  In the end, it was that fear of overstepping that likely caused me to hang back - too far, as it were, and miss out on some of those hugs and photos and tears.

I remember finishing that summer of camp and cashing all of my paychecks and cleaning out my bank accounts.  I remember selling that little Celica, not realizing that I needed to tell the DMV that I sold it (something I learned later when the person who bought it got a ticket that followed me to California.)  I remember looking for a new car to get me to California, and going to look at one with Annette - she told me to make sure the horn worked.  It was a blue Honda civic hatchback and it ran, so that was a good thing.  I remember packing it to the gills and then sitting in my little room in the dorms (I think it was Michelhouse that summer) and crying because I couldn't fit it all in one trip.  I remember driving home to Jefferson and unloading the car and fighting with Mom because I would have to go back that night to get the rest of my stuff.  I remember Mom reluctantly coming with me and helping me to load those last few boxes and then driving back to Jefferson with me late at night.  I remember re-packing the car the next day to begin my journey to California, and I remember my mom leaving for work that day and feeling like she didn't really care that I was leaving because she barely said a word.  I remember the drive to California- stopping in Columbus to see Jen and having just a few hours of normalcy, hanging out in a bar, having a beer, before getting back in that car and being scared to death of what was ahead of me, but starting the car anyway.  I had no other choice.  I couldn't go home and I couldn't go back to Rochester - there was nothing left there for me - or so I thought.

I look back at the last 15 years and still see strings of some of those friendships.  I have reconnected with many of the people I knew in college, some closer friends that others, some falling away as life has taken over.  I see other friends maintaining their closeness, whether through geography or regular visits - something that I could not afford while in school and now made more difficult by the usual things - work, children, the kids' school, finances.  Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had I stayed in Rochester, or nearby.  One of my professors was campaigning for me to go to law school at the University of Buffalo.  Aside from thinking she was nuts to think I would want another 3 years of Rochester winters, I was ready to see the world - from the sunny side!  Now I wonder what life would have been like had I done that.  Would my mom have still moved to California?  Would I have kept some of those friends from school closer than they are now?  Would I have still made it to the West Coast later?  (It goes without saying that I would not have met Rob, and that my personal life would have taken a different path.)

In the 15 years since I graduated, I have been back to Rochester 3 times.  My first visit back was after just 4 months of school, I took advantage of a winter break and spent a week there, I think.  I remember not having a clue about travel - in the sense that I never thought about how to get to the airport or get back from there when I returned. (I ended up begging rides from people I knew at Pepperdine.)  I remember that my flight to JFK got delayed because of weather and I ended up having to take a cab to LaGuardia to catch a different flight to Rochester - the airline gave me a taxi voucher than the cab driver wouldn't take.  The guy who was supposed to pick me up couldn't wait for me and had to go to work, so Kristina arrived on her white horse to pick me up.  I think the travel time was about 23 hours - ugh.  Another trip was after I met Rob - also during the holiday break, I think.  That time I flew to Ohio and then drove to Rochester for a few days.  Kristina and I (and maybe Sarah) went to Tahoes downtown and her car got broken into.  Our purses were all stolen (my glasses were in it) and we thought we lost everything.  Someone called her dad's house later that night and said he found all of our papers in the trash and offered to return them (for a price and a guaranty that we wouldn't call the cops.)  We got most of our stuff back (minus the bags, the glasses and the stamps.)  Lucky for me, I had been carrying traveler's checks (don't leave home without them) and didn't lose too much money.  I remember talking about Rob, a lot.  I think the girls got sick of me.

The last of my three trips came in 2007 - I was struggling with my relationship and with where I fit in my own life and needed to get back to where I really started, where I became "me."  I told Rob I was going, and he asked to come along.  I showed him (and Brooklyn, who didn't seem too interested) where I grew up - where I drank a lot and what was "home" for me for those 4 years.  I showed him the beach where I played volleyball all those summers and took him to Tahoes (this time, the one out in the 'burbs - he was not impressed.)  I reconnected, just a little bit, with me.

Sometimes I go through the daily struggle and don't think about where I came from and where I've been.  Sometimes I think of Rochester and it seems so far away.  Sometimes my four years there seem like a single grain in the sands of time.  Someday, it will be.  Still, I feel connected to the people there, connected to who I was and what I learned there - not just in the classroom, but of "real life."  Sometimes I can still hear the seagulls at the beach and sometimes I can still smell the chalk in the classroom.

I'm reading a book right now in which the character was living in Paris and went back to Hungary.  At the time he went back to Hungary, he expected to return to Paris in just a week or two.  But it was the beginning of World War II and the injustices against Jews were beginning to grow.  He got stuck in Hungary.  He says something as he is looking back on his journey, something that struck me- "How could he have known it would be his last night as a resident of Paris?  What might he have done, how might he have spent those hours, if he'd known."  Sometimes I wonder, if I would have changed anything, knowing what I know now.  Would I still have spent that summer the way I did? Would I have gone through the last few months of school as I did.  Would I have spent more time with friends and family?  It's interesting to have hindsight - they say it's always 20/20.

For now, I content myself with looking back at photos - I seem to be smiling in most of them and the people who are with me are smiling as well.  I take that to mean that I was not offending them and that they were comfortable with my presence.  Some of them, I can ask and will trust that they tell me to go away when I am bothering them, even now, even thousands of miles away.  I comfort myself with knowing that they accepted my friend request on Facebook, or even sought me out on their own.  And I save these stories to tell Brooklyn when she is older, so that she will pause to collect her own memories, and photos and to savor them when 15 years has passed her by.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mommy Milestone #25 - one more time

I know that I haven't truly been counting my "mommy milestones" in order, but let's face it - so many of them pass on any given day that if I was really keeping track, I'd probably be with the hundreds of thousands by now.  This one has a low number because I'm pretty sure I surpassed it with Brooklyn and I think it probably happened early on.  I just don't remember it.  That's another joy of motherhood, the ability to block things out and forget them completely, so that we will agree to have more children.  That's the true miracle of childbirth, right there.

Before I tell you about my little milestone, now being surpassed with Kensi, I am reminded of a story that a very good friend once told me.  Her little boy is a few years older than Brooklyn, so she travelled these waters before I did and charted a pretty good course for me to follow.  I remember her telling me that she felt that she had "officially" earned her stripes as a mom.  How did she do it?  Well, the poor little guy was having trouble pooping.  There seemed to be something stuck.  I'll try to put this delicately, so as not to offend any one's sensibilities - but hey, the parents out there will understand.... well, she helped him out.  Manually.  Get it?

So why would that little story come to mind in the midst of this Mommy milestone?  Yup.  Because this milestone has to do with poop.  Lots of poop.  Now let me say that I've been crapped on in my life.  I've had guys that never called after the first date and guys that said they loved me and then took out the girl from down the hall instead.  I've had bosses and co-workers hang me out to dry and I've even been fired for something someone else did (Champs store, Rochester mall, 1995 - and no, I don't hold grudges... for long.)  But I can honestly say, even with my lack of recall on Brooklyn's baby stages, that I have never been crapped on quite like this.   You can stop reading now if you don't want the gory details.  You can keep reading if you want/need another reason to laugh at or with me.

Kensi was sitting on the floor yesterday playing and got a bit red in the face.  It looked like she might be pooping, but because she was happily playing, I let her go.  Then I picked her up to feed her and sat her on my lap, bottle in hand.  She ate most of the bottle and then stopped, looking a little stunned or confused.  As the bottle had progressed, so had the smell, so as she decided that she was done eating, I put the bottle down and picked her up to confirm her status.  As I lifted her off of my leg, I noticed that she slid just a bit.  Generally speaking, when you are clothes-to-clothes, there isn't much sliding.  I looked down and WHOA!  my pant leg had poop on it!  And I'm not talking about just a spot.  I'm talking about full-on, sticky and very messy, greenish-brown poop.  yuck.

I looked at Kensi's back and realized that she had pooped while sitting and that instead of it staying in the diaper, it had gone up her back (and on to me.)  I had to put her onto the floor on her tummy to keep it from getting everywhere.  I quickly cleaned myself off as best as I could and turned to assess the damage of her.  While I was cleaning myself off, she had managed to kick her feet up onto her back (don't ask me how, I don't know) and her feet were now covered in poop and she was rubbing them back and forth.  Fun stuff.

Oh wait... did I mention that this was all happening AT THE OFFICE?  That's right folks, there was no easy fix of dumping her in the tub and tossing the clothes into the washing machine.  No, I had to clean her up as best as I could with the wipes I had on hand (good thing I had brought in a new pack last week.) 

Needless to say, when I finally cleaned her up as much as I could, she went into the carrier with just a diaper on.  We got home and got clean clothes and then had to head right back out to get Brooklyn and take her to gymnastics.  No bath yet.  Then it was home for Brooklyn's swim lesson.  And that's right, still no bath for Kensi.  So what did I do?  I did what any other stressed-out, over-worked, incredibly tired and very resourceful mother would do: I put Kensi in her bathing suit and put her in the pool, poopy toes and all.  Yes, I did.  Now, in my own defense, I had done a pretty good job of cleaning her off.  And I'm sure that the chemicals in the pool took care of any tiny little microbe germs that might have been left on her feet, under her toenails.  And by the way, the water was COLD and Kensi was not happy with me.  So she didn't get in much over her knees (in her crab floaty) and then we curled up on a chair to watch Brooklyn jump in and out of the pool.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.  I'm sure all of you out there who have gone through the first year with babies are laughing along with me right now, having experienced something similar with one or more of your children.  Maybe there are a few of you out there who are expecting and are hoping that this doesn't happen to you. (It will, trust me, it will.  It may not be poop - it might be food spit up all over you in public, or it could be a wet diaper that leaks onto you, it could even be vomit that ends up in your hair.  Rest assured, it will happen to you.)   The good thing is that for the few times you get pooped on or spit up on or puked on, you get thousands more hugs and kisses and smiles that light up the room.  Those are the real milestones and those are the moments that keep us going and really give us the strength that we need to keep changing dirty diapers.

Until the next milestone (or kid disaster...)  ;)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The End of a *Kindergarten* Era...

Brooklyn is finishing up school this week, marking time until tomorrow at 11:20 when she officially ceases to be a Kindergartner and moves on to the world of First grade.  I watch her with tempered excitement and wonder - how could my little baby already be so big?  And how will she handle having to sit at a desk for an entire school day, and will she be able to pay attention?  But those questions are better saved for August, after the fun of the summer has passed, after we have run out of sunscreen and her blond hair has turned green from all of those hours in the pool; after we have worn out our Disneyland passes and the princesses know her by name; after we have watching countless fireworks shows and are tanned and well-rested.

In the meantime, I had to laugh at how the little ones are celebrating their "promotion."  Today was Brooklyn's class party, a solid hour and a half of playing summer bingo (and winning prizes,) of face painting, of making flower leis, and of course, making and eating ice cream sundaes.  (Oh, the sugar rush!)  In the midst of all of this chaos, Brooklyn, carrying around her yearbook, asking her friends to "sign" it.  I found it amusing, considering things when I was in school.  Several of the moms and I were talking about how classes at the school were marking the end of the school year, with "field day" parties, or playing in the sand with water balloons and commenting how no work was done this week.  Tomorrow, on the very last day of school, Brooklyn's class is having a pajama party.  Jammies and blankets and stuffed "friends," hanging with her friends on the carpet, watching movies and relaxing.

Do any of you remember your last day of Kindergarten?  I don't remember mine specifically, but I do remember that there was no "promotion" or "graduation."  There was no celebration (other than the students celebrating being done with school.)  The 6th graders are preparing for their promotion ceremony, put on by the PTA.  When I finished 6th grade, there was no promotion ceremony, no parties (other than Dawn Gray's birthday party - her birthday fell during the first week of June, I think), just a paperback Webster's Dictionary, a pat on the back and a "good luck in Junior High."  We made the most of it, of course, having our friends sign our dictionaries and making plans to see each other over the summer.  I still have that dictionary somewhere on a bookshelf and laugh at some of the things my friends said at the time.

It's interesting to me how we, as parents, now want our kids to have (and savor) all of those things that we didn't have as kids.  Our parents would have scoffed at the idea of a kindergarten "graduation" (or even "preschool") or a "promotion" from 6th grade to 7th grade (or to Middle School.)  Yearbooks were for high school and for some, only just for senior year.  There were no parties during the school year, other than at Christmas and maybe on the last day of school, for the last hour or two.  Every other moment of the day during the school year was spent learning, even right up to the last minute.  (O.k., I'll give you that by senior year of high school, there was no work being done that last week, especially for those of us who had already gotten into college and didn't really need those last quarter grades.)  But things have changed.

Yes, I got Brooklyn a yearbook and yes, her picture is in it several times.  Her smiling little face is captured there for all to see for eternity (or at least as long as the book lasts) along with all of her friends' "signatures."  I will continue to buy her yearbooks, as long as they are offered.  I can only hope that she will save them and when she is older and has kids, she will share her memories with them.  (She asked me the other day if I had yearbooks and when I said "yes" she said she wondered if she would be able to recognize me in them.  I did have to explain that I only had them from high school and college, but she still wants to see them.)

So much has changed since I was in school, both with the school system itself (more on that later) and for me personally.  I want so much for Brooklyn to experience it all and to have the yearbooks and the pictures to keep, things I didn't always get to have.  Maybe it's a little too optimistic of me to think that she'll even care, but a Mom can hope, can't she?  In the meantime, I'll be the one to remind her and when my memory fails, she'll be able to look at her yearbook and the pictures.  And when it's Kensi's turn, I'm sure I'll do it all over again, because of course it wouldn't be fair to do it for one and not the other.  ;)

I hope whatever stage you (your kids) are in, moving from Kindergarten to 1st or 6th to 7th or from high school to college (or even just a grade in between) that you enjoy each moment and take it all in, even if just for a second.  And have a fun (and safe!) summer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The "D" Word

I hate diets.  If you succumb to the pressure to "diet," it means that you are admitting that there is something wrong with your body or your eating habits or your exercise regime.  I prefer "lifestyle changes."  That is what Biggest Loser preaches to us, right?  That is what Weight Watchers is all about.  It's not dieting or starving yourself or depriving yourself, it's about changing your habits and "lifestyle" to a healthier version of "you."   Riiiiigggght.

I'm incredibly lucky that I used to be skinny.  I say "used to" because that ship has sailed.  When I was little, my dad would get angry with my aunts thinking that they were filling our heads with "crap" and convincing us that we had to diet and be skinny.  What he didn't realize was that we had a really high metabolism and good genes to begin with and when you spend the entire day running in circles around your house, you will most likely be skinny.  In high school, I was a three-sport athlete.  That meant that I started conditioning for volleyball in late July or at the beginning of August (2-a-day practices in the summer heat and humidity,) went right from volleyball postseason into basketball pre-season and then from basketball post-season into track preseason.  It was a never ending cycle of conditioning and practices and games and track meets and ... oh wait - was I supposed to eat in there somewhere?  As I mentioned, that whole "high metabolism" thing, when paired with highly active lifestyle meant that I could eat anything I wanted.  We would go to McDonalds after a game and I would get a Big Mac Value meal (before life went "super-size") and still eat another cheeseburger after that.  (How my mother could afford to take both Trixie and I out to eat at once is a mystery I may never solve.)

In college, I continued my active ways, playing basketball and volleyball almost year 'round and eating on occasion.  By then, I had graduated to being able to eat most of a medium pizza all by myself.  Yes, I said "medium pizza, all by myself."  (And then there were those empty calories associated with alcohol that had to be burned off, but we won't talk about that today.)

The point is, I didn't have to work at it.  I could eat just about anything I wanted, spend the afternoon in the gym and not have anything to worry about.  Needless to say, those days are GONE.

As you might expect, the whole "real life" thing puts a damper on one's ability to spend part of the day in the gym and the other part at the beach.  When I finished school and had to get a full time job and study for the bar exam, working out went out the window.  I tried joining a gym - 24 Hour fitness in Woodland Hills, but finding time to get there was difficult and required motivation to get off the couch.  I was still able to keep the pesky pounds away somehow and so it wasn't too big of a concern.  A few years into the work force and I got engaged.  Suddenly, the weight was a big issue again.  I don't remember how much I lost before the wedding, but I did lose weight and tried to eat healthier.  I was playing in a volleyball league at the time, so at least I was getting some sort of a work out.  I remember one of the guys I worked for making an offhand comment at lunch one day, about how he liked that I would go out to lunch and just eat "real food."  I wasn't sure how to take the "compliment" until he explained that most of the women he knew were always watching their weight and when they went out to eat would limit themselves to a salad or fruits or veggies.  I would go out and order a cheeseburger with onion rings and a chocolate shake for lunch.  YUM.  So I guess that was a compliment.

Then there's child birth.  Ah, the joys of carrying a child and the wonder of birth.  Yup, I "wonder" when I'm going to get my body back.  I "wonder" how long its going to take to stop the sag.  I "wonder" where that ass came from?  I "wonder" whose body that is in the mirror because it ain't mine!

My chiropractor back when Brooklyn was a baby told me that it takes anywhere from 6 months to a year (sometimes more) for a woman to feel physically back to "normal" after having a child.  I remember telling Rob this and I remember him asking me when Brooklyn was 6 months old "it's been 6 months, are you done yet?"  Brooklyn was just over a year old when I decided that I had had enough.  My clothes didn't fit right, I felt sluggish and frumpy.  I went to Weight Watchers and over the course of 6 months, I lost almost 20 pounds.  I had a few wisdom teeth pulled during that time and got sick once or twice, which helped get me through some plateaus, but I lost the weight.  I was back down to a size 8 and I could button my pants without laying on the bed and sucking in my gut.  Yes, even "skinny" people do that.  I was happy with myself again and I can honestly say that one of the reasons it took me so long to get to a place where I was ready to have another child, was because I knew what it had taken to get back to feeling like "me" again after one child and I wasn't sure I was ready to do it for another.

Fast forward and here we are, Kensi is now 7 months old.  I was o.k. with things until recently.  A lot of the pregnancy weight came off quickly (that "ICU" diet, I'm telling you) and it seemed like I was getting back to "me."  Then about a month ago, things stopped.  That little pouch on my tummy isn't going anywhere.  The jeans aren't getting any looser and the "muffin top" is creeping out.  As someone who can't stand seeing teeny boppers in tight jeans that they definitely shouldn't be wearing, as the fat rolls out over the top, it was very hard for me to stand in front of the mirror and see even the smallest roll start to develop.  ugh.  Now what?

Well, I had options.  I could go to the gym on a regular basis.  (eh... not thrilled with that idea.)  I could get up early and go running. (I don't think so.)  I could get up with Brooklyn and walk her to school every day.  (yeah, not really liking that either.)  Or, I could "diet."   Hmmm... that has appeal.  What would it take?

I didn't really give much thought to dieting, since I thought that my eating habits weren't that bad (aside from watching Biggest Loser with a bag of cookies next to me.)  I tried to eat fruits and veggies on a regular basis and I don't eat a lot of pasta and white rice.  Despite that, my weight was stuck.  Then I had a can of Yoplait yogurt.  (If you're thinking this is going to turn into an infomercial, it's not.  Just bear with me.)  On the can, it said "lose 5 pounds in 2 weeks with our Tune up diet!"  5 pounds in 2 weeks?  That's interesting.  So I checked it out.  The "diet" basically consists of eating 1 container of yogurt each day for breakfast and lunch, along with a grain serving (either 1 cup of multi-grain cheerios or 1 granola bar) and a serving of fruit.  Dinner consists of 6 ounces of lean protein, 2 servings of veggies and a serving of "fat."  Also including in the day was 3 servings of dairy (including the milk for your cereal.)

So I decided to give it a try.  How hard could it be, right?  Well, fair readers, I can honestly tell you that I lasted 3 full days.  (Not counting that I tried it Monday for breakfast but had Taco Bell for lunch and completely caved at dinner. - Those Chocolate chip cookie bowls and S'more cups that I made didn't help.) 

I don't know how people do it.  I don't know how they go on these "fad" diets or "crash" diets where they eat only one thing for weeks (or even days) on end.  I just don't know how they do it.  By lunch on the third day, I was done with yogurt.  I was eating some of my favorite flavors and it was all that I could do to choke it down.  The multi-grain cheerios were tasteless and I am NOT a big fan of skim milk.  Having grown up, literally "on the farm," skim milk is too much like water.  I need a little thickness there.  I did o.k. with the fruits and veggies and I was actually surprised at the amount of food for both breakfast and lunch.  I didn't feel starved or hungry and wasn't looking for snacks at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, so I guess overall, the "diet" did it's job.  But I couldn't get past the fact that breakfast was tasteless.  I guess that's why I prefer Weight Watchers to deprivation diets.  With WW, I can eat what I want, as long as it is within my points range. (No, this is not an infomercial either.) 

My original plan had been to work my way through the 2 weeks and try to lose those 5 pounds.  (I actually managed to lose 2 in the first couple of days. I think the hour long cardio kickboxing class might have helped a little with that.)  Then I would go back to WW and get back into the swing of things, that much closer to my goal weight. (I'm a lifetime member, having hit it and maintained it already.)  That plan went out the window with breakfast this morning.  Although I will say that having done a few days on the "diet," I was not inclined to eat as much as I normally might have, and was able to push the plate away.  That's not to say I didn't make bad choices to begin with - somehow I don't think the sausage link would be considered "lean" protein. 

So here I sit, surrounded by the remains of my turkey sandwich on wheat, with Baked Lays and iced tea (unsweetened, of course.)  A container of yogurt is nowhere in sight.  I can't say whether or not I will go back to the cheerios - there is certainly something to be said for the marshmallows or raisins (or chocolate chips) that you can find in cereal - it gives the stuff taste!  I will probably finish the skim milk, if only just to avoid wasting it, and I will certainly finish out the cottage cheese and fruits and veggies in the fridge.  But I think the next time I think about trying a fad "diet," I'll go run around the block three or four times first.  Maybe then I'll be too tired to think about food and just go to sleep instead.  Happy eating!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Irony and the 5 year old

Brooklyn gets sarcasm.  We use it enough in our house that she should.  For the most part, she doesn't try to use it on us (knowing she will get in trouble,)  but there have a been a few "duh" moments and eye rolls.  Sarcasm she gets... irony-  now that's a little illusive.

On Tuesday, Brooklyn came in the door from school and immediately went upstairs to change.  I had barely gotten Kensi out of her carrier before Brooklyn came barreling back downstairs in her Cinderella dress and crown, ready to play "school" with her stuffed "friends."  After about ten minutes, when things seemed to be fairly quiet in her playroom, Brooklyn came to me holding a ziplock bag full of dirt, trying to tell me that some of the dirt had "accidentally" spilled on the carpet and that some water had "accidentally" gotten spilled on top, making mud.  I jumped up (with babe in arms) and went into the playroom to see what latest mess had been created.  Sure enough, there on the floor was a pile of wet dirt.  Next to it, a water bottle with the lid off.

After questioning Brooklyn for just a few minutes (her mind moves at the speed of light and no sooner had I gotten the first question out had she already tried to figure out what story to tell that would get her in the least amount of trouble) I determined that the "accident" was really that she hadn't thought her experiment all the way through.  The "accident" was not that dirt got spilled on the carpet - she put it there.  The "accident" was not that water got spilled on top of the dirt - again, all Brooklyn's doing.  No, the "accident" came when Brooklyn realized that she wouldn't be able to clean up the wet dirt and that the wet dirt was making the carpet dirty.  I do give her kudos for at least coming to me and telling me, rather than trying to hide it.

I explained to Brooklyn (once again) that it is never a good idea to bring bags full of dirt into the house.  I reminded her that she has tried to bring dirt home from school before and each time she has had to throw it away.  Then I told her that she had to clean it up and to go and get the vacuum, which she did.

And here, gentle readers, is where the irony gets lost on the 5 year old:

All together now: "Cinder-elly, Cinder-elly, Night and day it's 'Cinder-elly!' Do the washing, and the moppin, they always keep her hoppin."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Winding Down the School Year

Brooklyn is excited.  We are finalizing plans for our trip to Ohio for Cousin's Week (where Daddy and I will deposit her at Aunt Peggy's house and "get out of Dodge" with Kensi as fast as possible) and our journey through Gettysburg to Washington DC.  All she can talk about is that she wants to pack her swimsuit because she "hopes" that she'll be able to swim each day.  When I picked her up from child care after school yesterday, she showed me an American flag that she had drawn on paper and then ripped out (around the flag.)  She excitedly told me that she was going to make a whole bunch of her paper flags and take them with her to Aunt Peggy's so that all of the kids could have one.  (We'll be there on the Fourth of July, and she is equally excited about celebrating the USA and all things American.)  She is excited about seeing her cousin Stella.  She told us, "I haven't seen her in FOREVER!"  (It was this past January, at RJs wedding.)  She was less excited about seeing her cousin Bobby, but I think that's because she doesn't remember him as well as Stella.  She is excited about the travel plans I am making and things I am talking about with Daddy, even though she won't be there.  She is excited about the possibility of swim lessons (because she will be swimming at Aunt Peggy's house.)  Can you tell there is a theme here?  In this 5 year old's world, at this particular time, everything is revolving around a trip to Aunt Peggy's house.

But first, some work must be done.  Those last few weeks of school have to be slogged through, cubbies cleaned and lunch boxes retired.  She has to finish school.  Only a few more weeks and they seem to be flying by.  It occurred to me just yesterday that there is no school this Friday and that's one less day of school left.  We are finishing the last month of homework and trying to make sure all of her "i"s are dotted and all of her "t"s are crossed.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and boy, do we appreciate our teachers.  Brooklyn was excited about giving her Teacher and the counselors at Child Care their little tokens of appreciation today.  She wanted to help me carry in the bags.  (She even had to make sure as we were walking up the sidewalk to the school, "Mommy, is it Teacher Appreciation Week?")

Somewhere along the way in the last ten months, my little girl has grown up a bit.  I wonder what happened, when I blinked and missed her growing up just a little more.  She's only 5 and in the grand scheme of things, that's young.  There's so much of her life left to go, and yet, at the same time, she's so grown up.  She helps to set the table and clean up after dinner, she helps to take care of her sister (but won't change diapers) and she reads.  Alot.  Don't get me wrong, we still struggle.  Last night, she brought a bag of dirt home from school and then thought it might be a good idea to open that bag on the living room floor and then pour water on it. (Of course, it was all explained to me as an "accident.")  Believe me, we still have the tantrums and the fights, the stomping feet and the crying.  But at the same time, when I tuck her in at night or when I sneak a peek at her sleeping before I go to bed, she looks so big, so tall in her "big girl bed" surrounded by Mr. Bear and Gymbo and all of those friends. 

Sometimes I don't think I'm old enough to have a kindergartener.  Sometimes I don't think I'm responsible enough to have 2 kids and sometimes I still see myself as a kid.  Now I must face the realization that I have a first grader.  Yikes!  As kindergarten fades into the distance, so too will "nap time" and "circle time" and "centers."  In their place will be math and geography and sitting at her own desk all day.  Thank goodness she'll still have recess!

I guess it is one of the blessings (and a curse) of being a parent.  Before kids, my life might have cycled on my birthday or on an anniversary, measuring time by how close I was to that day or how much time had passed since a date.  With school-age kids, time is now measured in school years.  I have a kindergartener for another few weeks.  Then it is summer break and after that, 1st grade.  Summer won't be measured by trips to the pool or plants growing in the backyard - it will be measured by how many weeks of camp are left or how many weeks until school starts.  I no longer age in 12 month cycles, I age in school year cycles, marked by what grade my child is in.  If I was worried about losing my identity when I first had kids, there is no question it is gone once Brooklyn started school.  I am now firmly entrenched in life as "Brooklyn's Mommy"

Then again, she is only 5.  She knows the school year is coming to an end, but for now she's not thinking of how much she has learned this year or who she will have for a teacher in the fall or even what she's doing for summer camp.  For her, it's all about Aunt Peggy's house.