Monday, September 5, 2011

Separation Anxiety

So, I actually looked it up.

According to the National Institutes of Health, separation anxiety is defined as "a developmental stage during which the child experiences anxiety when separated from the primary caregiver (usually the mother)."

Not sufficient.  Because I have a confession... It's not my 4-year old I'm worried about. 

It's me.

Bear with me, because there are a lot of firsts. 

For the first time in his short life, sweet boy attends school five days a week.  It's the first time he's been away from me every single morning since he was born (I am ever-grateful that my work schedule requires I show up only in the afternoons and evenings).   It's the first time he's been in a classroom with an assigned seat, an assigned folder with take-home notes, and assignments to bring from home.  It's the first time he has his own little friends.

And he likes loves every second of it.

I'm the one with the freak-outs.

Seriously, y'all. What is freakin' wrong with me?

First day of school.  Look at this sweet picture...

Jackson, me, and baby sister Keene

I'm the mess.  A wreck.  I look terrible.  He is the one who is calm, happy, and thrilled to be there.

When I went to kiss and hug him goodbye that first day, he kind of looked up at me with a strange face, as if to say, "okay, freak mom, you can go ahead and go now..."

Everytime I drop him off and everytime I pick him up, he has a smile on his face.  Not one time has he cried or complained.  Not once has he said he doesn't want to go.  Never has he screamed or said anything negative about his teacher or school.  In fact, it's just the opposite. 

He is always eager to show me his green "happy notes" that he gets when he's been good that day (he's gotten one every day since school started). ((and of course I couldn't resist bragging)).  He delights in showing me his artwork, the beautiful pictures he says he draws and paints "just for mommy."  He is always thrilled to see his darling teacher, Ms. Kristen.  And he always has a wonderful story to tell when the day is done

Jackson with Ms. Kristen

So, the separation anxiety isn't his.  It's mine.  Altogether mine.

I'm the one who' been sobbing.  I'm the one who's been lonely in the morning without my first-born.  I'm the one who absolutely, positively can't wait to see him at pick-up.  I'm the one who's adjusting as my little boy grows up.  I'm the one hanging on for dear life!

So, moms, HELP!  How do you cope with this? 

I want to keep him and love him and nurture him, as he says, "for all the days."  Protect him from the wrongs I know life will one day throw him.  Keep him from the meanies who make-fun.  Nurture him as only his mama can.

But I have learned this year, in a tough and unexpected way, that it's time to let go a little.  To release my hold, just a tiny bit.  To let others offer gifts to him that I cannot.  Let others love him and teach him.  I'm already seeing that he's blossoming.  And as a mom, that makes me so happy, so proud...

I love this quote by one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke:  “We need in love to practice only this~ letting each other go. For holding on comes easily–we do not need to learn it.”

So true.  And so much easier said than done.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


What other people think about you is none of your business.” ~Unknown

I love that quote.  Wish I knew who said it so I could thank them. Because I've come to believe that any time spent worrying or fretting over another's judgement or opinion of you is wasted time.

The other night, it was hot.  In fact, the entire summer has been hot, the hottest in 60 years.  I was hot.  And I was hungry.  The show was over, it was seven o'clock at night, and my babies' daddy was on-call all night.  I wanted food and drink and rest, and my babies wanted me.  (Thank God for that, by the way, because there will be a day they don't want me and their bedroom doors get slammed in my face).  Anyway, instead of saunter inside, all hungry and sad, I ran in with a smile and said, "Get your shoes on, we're going to El Porton!"  They screamed.  "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  It was Friday night, afterall.  Who cares if we don't get to bed on time?

By the time we got there, it was eight-thirty, and by the time we got our food, the bar was bumpin'.  That's when I got the mean-mug.  The couple at the next table over kept watching me, each shaking their heads and tsk'ing.  I heard one say under their breath, "Shouldn't they be in bed?"

We were having a blast, meanwhile.  Cheese dip.  Crayons and coloring paper.  Yummy food and drink.  My 4-year old picked up a friend at the bar named Shemika.  Well, not really a pick-up.  But a sweet young woman who loved children and was so, so kind to us that night.  

Mean Couple kept staring, kept frowning, and each kept shaking their heads.  Whatever.  I wanted to smack 'em at one point, because for a split second I felt like a "bad mom" for keeping the kids up and out so late.  Was I bothering other diners?  Was it because we were sitting near the bar? But then, I looked over at my two babies, smiling so big.  They were so happy. 

In fact, a minute or so later, my 4-year old boy looked at me and said, "Mommy..."


"I love you.  That's all."
I melted (it was hot, afterall)...

And that's when I realized that to pay attention to the people next to me was a waste of my time.  Any worry would steal away precious moments with my two cherished children.

But it's not just Mean Couple.  It happens all the time.  We moms all encounter those people at the grocery store who give a disapproving eye when our children are climbing out of the carts.  We face those mom-petitors who are constantly trying to one-up your child with their child's extra activity or skill or talent.  I've seen my married mom-friends worry about having a perfect little family to everyone on the outside for fear of judgement. I've watched my divorced mom-friends fret over people's judgement of them not having that perfect little family.  What is "perfect little family" anyway?  I know kids from divorced homes and kids from married homes who each grew up beautiful, loving people.

I wish for just one day, we would all stop worrying about everyone else and worry about ourselves.  What can we do each day to make ourselves better people, more grateful people, less judgemental, more compassionate?  Tough work, but better than running around talking about everyone else, don't you think?

A wise person once said to me "Until you walk a mile in another's shoes, you aren't allowed to judge or comment.  You have no idea what brought them to that moment, and you have no idea what pushed them to act as they do or be the way they are."

It was some of the best advice I've ever received. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


In my job, I have a strict personal policy:  NEVER get emotionally involved in the stories you cover.  It's easier said than done.  But, over the past 20 years and after covering hundreds of stories, I have indeed put up a bit of a wall.  It's thin, but it's there.  And as a journalist, it keeps me from bias, helps foster compassion and non-judgement, and allows me to tell a fair story.

Then, my TV station news manager asked me to take over our adoption series, "A Place to Call Home."  And suddenly, it's as if my personal policy just quietly flew out the window. 

I should've known after the first shoot with this sweetheart, Courtney.
I cried on my way back from the Little Rock Zoo, which is where we shot our story with her.  Which also breaks another personal policy of mine:  NEVER cry at work.  I just believe personal business should stay personal and not become professional.

In the few days following our shoot, I found myself slightly irritable at work and at home, a little down, and sobbing when my children did something sweet.

Then, after a few days, my bad mood was over.  I just chalked it up to 'that time of the month,' it was getting hot out, whatever.

But then, it happened again, when I met these precious babies.
No mom. No dad.  Desperate to find a family to love them and care for them.  That's all they want.  And yet, in the afternoon I spent with them, you could never see their heartache.  They were so delightful, so innocent, so full of life.

That night and the two days that followed, I noticed I had low energy.  Just sort of down.  But I STILL didn't make the connection.

Not until I met three more sets of children -- did I figure it out.

Not after meeting the three siblings who hugged me...
... played and laughed with me at The Wonder Place.  We talked that day about what it would mean to have a family.

Not after introducing Marcus and Hailey to former NBA star Joe Kleine...

What a treat for them to eat their favorite barbeque and shoot hoops with a legendary professional athlete!

It happened after spending the day with darling Amy...
Apricot Girls Boutique hosted us, and 12-year old Amy was pampered!  She had her face painted, her hair spray-painted, and her nails done.  She sang karaoke, and she danced, two of her most treasured dreams.  But her biggest dream:  finding a mom and dad to love her for the long haul.  We laughed, and we cried together as she shared her heartbreaking struggle and her unwavering faith that a mom and a dad will come for her.

For me, more of the same mildly low feeling in the days to come.  But absolutely NOTHING compared to what these beautiful children have endured.
That's when I figured out that in those days that followed our shoots, our meeting these foster children, I was emotionally involved in their stories. It's impossible for me not to be, because, I, too, desperately want them to find families.  I want to take away their suffering, their pain.  As a mother, I want to take them in, make their struggles disappear, care for them, feed them, put a roof over their head, and most of all, love them, which is our most basic human need.

I love this Karl Menninger quote:  "Love is the basic need of human nature, for without it, life is disrupted emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically." 

I think for most of us, it is a natural human state to want to help and love others who cannot help themselves.  So, I suppose I will relax my rule of not getting emotionally involved in my stories, but just in this case. I will cry with and for these children, and I will laugh with them, too.  I will showcase their lives to the best of my ability, and tell their stories to anyone who will listen and watch. 

And I will pray --and then pray some more-- that loving families open their hearts and arms and bring these children home. 

This blog is dedicated to every foster child in the world, especially those in Arkansas state care.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good thing green is his favorite color...

...because going to the dentist sucked today.

4-year old Jackson informed me on the way that if the dentist even tried to touch his suspect (i.e., decayed) tooth, he would bite him.

"No, you most certainly will NOT bite your dentist," I barked.

"But mommy... (long pause)... Yes. I will."

So, the bribes began early.  Because I can't have a child even thinking it's okay to bite his dentist.  Or anyone else for that matter.

McDonald's for breakfast, the promise of a special "treat" when all was said and done at the dentist's office, and the added pressure of setting a good example for little sister.

I was so stressed about this appointment.  Boy already had one cavity at age 3.  And getting that filled was a nightmare.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this adventure.

Still, in my mind, I'm trying to be positive:  We've only seen one spot that looks like a cavity, and he's just getting a cleaning today anyway.

Walked in with our sausage biscuits and hash browns (nice).  So far, so good.  It's a pediatric dentist's office, so there are toys and cartoons.  Even better.  They call his name for his X-ray, and he gets the GREEN frog chair.  Score!

Bless his heart. 

But honestly?  It's going so much better than I expected!  No meltdowns, no tantrums from either child.  Then, after his X-ray, sweet boy gets a GREEN toothbrush to take home, which excites him beyond measure...

AND he gets the little dental stall with the GREEN chair.  Thank God.

But just as I was whistling about how great things are going, the dentist has his look-see, and the news is not good.

Poor thing brushes twice a day, only drinks water and milk, and doesn't eat a whole lot of sweets.  But the dentist says he has "localized enamel hypo-dysplasia," which is a fancy phrase for rotten teeth.  It basically means the enamel on his teeth didn't "lay right" when his teeth were coming in, so he has rough spots where plaque builds up and causes decay.  The doctor showed me the spots and promptly informed me that he needs two silver crowns in the back and two, possibly three, areas filled.

Deep breath.  That's enough to make a grown man cry.   Meantime, little sis was taking it all in herself, eating her sausage biscuit.  Wonder what she's thinking?  Is she next?  Did her enamel "lay right?"

Regardless, I was so proud of my boy!  He did so well, he was so proud of himself, and I was proud of him.  No tears, no biting.  He walked out smiling, with his little bag filled with stickers, his GREEN toothbrush, and the treasure he got to pick.  I took him to Target like I told him I would for a "treat."  All the while, I was dreading the day he doesn't know is coming.  The one in 4 weeks, when he is sedated for crowns and fillings.

You can bet, that day, I'll be reminding him that GREEN is the best color ever, his favorite.  And the dentist's office has GREEN everywhere. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why children are the wisest of all...

Hate that I've neglected my blog.

But my beloved aunt is in the hospital with leukemia.  Here she is on her 53rd birthday, still smiling with her surprise birthday hat and glasses and tie, despite a 7-day, 24-hour chemo drip. 

She came to Arkansas from California on vacation at the beginning of June.  We thought she had the flu, so mom took her to the doctor, upon which she was promptly admitted to the hospital and within a day diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Because it's onset is so quick, there was no time to go home; chemotherapy had to begin immediately.

Chemo is a vicious and brutal treatment no human should have to suffer, let alone my precious aunt, who is like a 2nd-Mom /slash/ Big Sister /slash/ Best Friend /slash/ Special Aunt -- all rolled into one.  The cancer alone makes you feel so helpless.  And then what you think is helping, i.e., chemotherapy, at times hurts her.  I hate seeing her in pain, feeling so horrible.  I've told her a hundred times I'd take it from her if I could.  Take her pain. Take her suffering, her cancer... She's already lost a child in this life.  AND had breast cancer.  What more does God want her to endure?

This, we can't know.  I trust His plan for her and know there is a reason for it.  But I admit that I question it. Is that so wrong?  I admit that I struggle with the whys and the hows as I ride the daily roller coaster with her.  No real answers ever come, except that I'm not in charge, God is. And that at the end of the day, all we can really do is love and laugh and truly adore and empathize with the people in our lives who are so dear to us.  Be companions on this crazy journey, right?

One answer did make sense the other day, though.  My kids and I were coloring pictures for her room, when a friend walked in the house. 

"Who are those for?" she asked.

"Aunt DeeDee!"  they screamed with smiles so big.  My oldest son added, "She's in the hospital because she's sick."

"She's sick, huh?"  friend commented.

"Yeah," said my almost-3 year old so matter-of-fact. "She's really, really sick because she throwed up really bad."

And it was back to coloring.

It was the best, easiest way to explain it.  The most my children could absorb and understand.

So simple. So true.  So wise.  No more questions asked.

If you read this post, please send a prayer up for DeeDee.

We decorated her door for her birthday!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Asking for trouble

So there we were.  All piled in the car outside Panera Bread negotiating the "terms" of eating out.

Me and two toddlers.

Is there any negotiating with toddlers?  I was asking for trouble.  This, I knew.  Deep in my gut.  But we were going anyway.

"So what do we do when we get out of the car?" I asked.

In unison, in such sweet voices, with so much excitement, they responded, "HOLD HANDS!"

"And when we get inside, what do we NOT do?" I inquire, asking myself totally different questions in my head. "Why am I doing this to myself? Am I nuts?"

"WE DON'T RUN AWAY FROM MOMMY!" they screamed.

"Okay!  Let's go," I muttered as I gathered up the courage --along with a 2-year old and 4-year old-- to walk inside the cafe.

Held hands in parking lot.  Check.

Skipped and let out happy noises on our way.  Check.

Stood in line with kids right by my side.  Ummmmm...

.....they tried.  But they were just too excited!  There were so many people and so many other kids and pastries, and the M&M cookies, oh my!

I started to feel my patience waver, and then I saw my beautiful friend Shannon, who was there with only one of her two toddlers.  We smiled and said hello, then she looked at me, glanced at my two suspects and she said, "I just will not do restaurants by myself with two," shaking her head.

That should've been Clue #1 that it was time to turn around and leave.  But the line was moving quickly.  The kids really, really wanted to come to Panera.  I was off work that day.  And they'd done so well lately at Hacienda and Dixie Cafe, our two "go-to" kid restaurants.

All within about ninety seconds, we moved ahead in line, I bribed my son by promising him a Sprite if he'd "stay by my side gosh-darn-it" (Clue #2 it was time to bail), and we ordered.   The kids picked our seats, and big-boy got to hold the buzzing pager and tell me when it vibrated so we'd know our food was ready.


Sat down and began freaking out about the fact that, at Panera, you have to go pick up your food rather than have it served.  How am I going to maneuver through the crowds to get our food when it's ready?  Should I take two rambunctious toddlers with me?  I cannot leave them at the table.  How will I carry the food?  Oh Lord.  You mean, I'm going to have to make two trips with two toddlers back and forth through a crowded Panera?

All that mind chatter?  Clue #3-- get it to go!  Have 'em pack it up, eat it at home.

Right then, the buzzer went off, and the children nearly jumped out of their seats so thrilled and stunned!

"Let's go get our food!" I said, so excitedly.  (Faker, I'm thinking.  This.  Is.  Going.  To.  Be.  A.  Nightmare.)

Thank God for the nice man who was helping gather the buzzers and arrange the orders.  He walked two of our plates to the table.  I had the other two, barking (a little louder this time) at two precious ones navigating a restaurant, which, in their eyes, was really nothing more than a new playground!  This food-pick-up trip, was really just a chance for them to scope-out the lay of the land.

Tiny panic as we all sat down.  Deep breath.  Interrupted by 2-year old whining that "I wanted the peanut butter and jelly.  Not macaroni and cheese!"

"Well, sweetie, maybe we can share," I suggest (still fairly calm).

"NO!" snaps big brother.  "I don't want to share my peanut butter and jelly!"


Then, another reason to give thanks:  baby girl spots my bread.  "I want THAAAAAT!"

A little more panic.  A few minutes and several bites pass.  Heart races.  Deep breath.  Interrupted by 4-year old, "Mommy, I need to go potty."

(SH**!).  Literally.

Okay.  Deep breath.  I politely asked the ladies next to me to make sure the Panera peeps don't clear our table, please.  "You've got your hands full, you poor thing," one of them commented.


Off to the restroom we went.  "Mommy, I need to poooooooop."  Okay.  Then the younger one, who is newly potty trained played copycat.  "I need to pooooop too, Mommy." Okay.  Deep breath.  Cover toilet #1.  Deep breath.  Cover toilet #2.  Deep breath.  Both stalls full.  With my children.  Line starts to form.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  "Let's hurry up, guys," I bug.  Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

At this point, 15 minutes has passed.  I'm certain they busboys have cleared our table.  I know for a fact that at least one lady was about to pee her pants.  Then one after another, "I'm done, mommy, will you wipe me?"

Hands washed, no worse for the wear, back to the table we go.  Our food is still there.  But the kids were distracted and barely eating.  And they were antsy.  (Clue #4.  Get the hell out!).

A sweet Panera lady walked by just then, and I begged her to bring me to-go boxes.  She was happy to help.  I stood up to collect our food, and apparently, my 4-year old took that as his cue to begin running, yes running, through Panera Bread. Circle after circle, as if Panera were a track, he ran the playground he'd earlier scoped.    

Baby sister then joined in, but I was able to corral her.  Not him.  I looked around, and everyone was staring.  One lady had a bite of food ready to eat, but her jaw had dropped staring at us.  I heard another person say, "Isn't that the lady on Channel 11?  Poor thing."  Great.  After publicly yelling for him to stop (he was too fast for me, and I looked like a fool trying to chase him, with toddler-diva in one arm, food in the other), a sweet old lady reached out her arm and grabbed him like it was no big deal.  She nodded to me with a satisfying, but smug, smile, as if to say, "come and get your unruly brat."

I grabbed him by the arm so hard, it scared even me.  At the entrance of Panera, he was sternly told how disappointing his behavior was, how all toys and privileges were, that day, removed, and how we would never, ever come back to Panera again.  It was actually the thought of never coming back that made him cry.

He was nearly dragged to the car.  Cried all the way home.  I did too.  My adrenaline high had crashed me.  I was sad that I had subjected anyone publicly to two toddlers.  Upset that I had to publicly scold my children.  I was beating myself up that I brought them there in the first place and up-ended their schedule.  Disheartened that I would never get to eat out again unless I hired a babysitter.  Deep breath.

Later, everyone calmed down, and we politely talked about the lunchtime mayhem.  Wild-child explained what he'd done wrong, and he apologized.  He also begged to go back to Panera.

In my mind, never.

But turns out, we went back the next week.  That time, we brought Daddy along.  And, of course, everyone behaved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An Unexpected Legacy

Ok, I'll admit.  I was mildly irritated today.  I know, I know.  It's Mother's Day, and all moms are supposed to be pampered and loved-on and grateful to be moms.  I was all those things, but I was also just a wee-bit annoyed.

My plan didn't work.  It never does.  I have long-known that a late bed-time does not equal sleeping-in.  In fact, it's the opposite.  The later my angels fall asleep, the earlier they awaken.  But 6:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning?  I thought we'd at least make it to 7 a.m.  Wrong I was...

But there was no way I could be mad.  With two little darlings climbing all over me, screaming "Happy Mother's Day," smiling and jumping on the bed and just generally being the sweetest kids ever, there wasn't a mad bone in my body.

Especially when I saw their entourage.  That was when the emotions came.

I never know which lovies or blankies or stuffed ones will accompany my babes.  On this Mother's Day morning, my children came with piles and piles of beanie babies.

All I could think was how appropriate it was.  Years and years before, another mother I know and love started her collection of these ridiculous stuffed animals!  My Grandma Joyce.  Sweet "Grand," as I called her.   Bless her heart, I think she really thought they would be worth something one day because she had literally hundreds of them. I vaguely recall her saying something about how she was just sure they would quadruple in value.  How could she ever know, they've turned to gold for me!

The piles of them are kept now in my mother's closet.  And everytime my children go to their grandma's house, they get to take one beanie home each visit.  At this rate, we'll be doing it well into college the amount left.  It is a lovely sight.  All of the beanies poured out on the bed, with them taking their precious time to choose the perfect "friend" to bring home.  This treat is one of the things that most excites them, especially because they think it comes from their beloved "T." (Grandma T is what they call my mom).  Really, it came from mine.

So, oddly, my grandma's beanie babies have become one of her sweetest and unexpected legacies.  To think that this is one of the ways she lives on!  She would be horrified.  The thought of it probably has her upside down in the ocean where her cremains were placed, as I type   I'm certain she would much rather be remembered for her beauty and her kind heart and her hip old lady clothes and shoes and purses and jewelry.  Not toys!

But she doesn't get to choose that.  No one does.  When we leave this earth, we never know what we will leave behind for our loved ones to carry on.

So, this day, I honor not just the love and joy and laughter that my sweet grandma left to my mother that my mother passed to me that I (hopefully) am giving to my children.  I honor the beanies, too.  For they really are a simple, unexpected gift that keeps on giving!

 Sweet Grandma Joyce (my "Grand")

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal-Schmoyal Wedded Myth? Or Happily-Ever-After?

I get asked a lot of questions every day.  Mostly, need-based questions, like, "Can I have some milk, mommy?"  Or "Will you read me Cinderella one more time before bed?"  Or my favorite from a little potty-training-princess, "Momma, will you wipe me?" 

But I've never been asked a question more times than this one:  "Are you getting up to watch the royal wedding?"

Don't get me wrong.  No one loves a royal wedding more than I love a royal wedding.  Afterall, the dresses, the ring, crowns and tiaras, the horse and buggy, the ever-so-majestic Westminster Abbey, a young prince and his soon-to-be princess, a queen and her peeps... It's the stuff of fairy tales.  The stuff every little girl dreams of.  It's where the expression "and they lived happily ever after" comes from.

Which is why I will be watching tomorrow morning.  Of course, I want to see her dress!  But I also want to know what kind of majestic fairy tale my precious little girl will grow up trying to create for herself.

I hear moms often struggling over whether to let their daughters play with princess dolls:  Cinderella, Snow White, Aerial, and Belle.  I hear some saying they have sworn off fairy-tale books because they fear their daughters will grow up with this idea that a prince will come along and rescue them from whatever travails their life brings.  Other mothers I know are full-throttle with the Disney princesses, the happy endings, and the perfect love stories.

To be honest, I don't know that I believe in happily ever after.  I've seen too much hurt, too many broken hearts over the years.  I'm not sure I've ever thought someone could rescue me, nor have I ever personally met a prince.  Every man I know and love has flaws, perfect with all their imperfections.  I don't personally know any princesses either, although a couple girlfriends I have are certainly worthy of a tiara. 

Tomorrow we will see a real live princess marry a real live prince.  And the world will be watching on real live TV.  Maybe that's what all the hoo-ha is, over this glorious affair.  There are still princesses and crowns and happily-ever-afters in the world.

But I'm a skeptic.  I'd really like to believe.  I'd like my daughter to grow up thinking there are happy endings and rainbows and that she is a princess worthy of a crown.  But I know that life will break her heart one day, and I pray I am there to help her pick up the pieces and move on.. and keep believing.

Maybe that is the happy ending.  To keep believing no matter what life gives.

So tomorrow, while I'll be watching and goo-gah'ing over the dresses, I'll also be asking, is this wedding just feeding a vicious myth in our little-girl hearts and minds?  Or is it the real thing, a happily-ever-after that keeps us believing?  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In mourning...

Tonight, I'm going to a wake.   Defined, a wake is a watch kept over a person or persons who died, usually occurring the night preceding a funeral or burial.

I'll be there in support of a dear friend.  His sister-in-law and nephew were crushed by a fallen tree in the middle of a dark and terrible night,  when storms again brought horror to our state.

What happened is heartbreaking.  This little boy was afraid of the thunder, and his sweet mom went to lay in bed with him and calm his fears.  It's what any mom would do.  She was holding him in her arms, loving him, telling him everything was going to be okay.

In the end, it wasn't okay.  At least not for those of us left here on earth to pick up the pieces, to make sense of tragedies like this.  Especially not okay for her little 2-year old left behind.  Yes, while she and her son were killed, her 2-year old baby girl slept in the next room, alive and physically untouched by the tornado that destroyed her family.

I can't think of a whole lot worse than this.  I have been in tears most of my days since these kind people died.

Saturday, my friend asked if I would watch his children so he and his wife could get to the funeral home to plan services.  These are boys, ages 7 and 1, who had just lost their favorite auntie and cousin.  The first thing the 7-year old did was come sit really, really close to me.  I held him so tight, and he looked up at me with crocodile tears and said, "I miss my Auntie and my cousin."  And we sat there, and we cried.

As children do, he bounced back quickly and played, then out of nowhere, he cried again.  And again.  And again.   And again.  When my friend came to pick up his kids, I asked what else I could do for him. He looked at me tearfully and said, "hug Jackson and Keene more than you normally might."

And so, after he and his children left, I did as he asked.  I spent the rest of the day outside with my children, holding them more, laughing a little louder, playing a little harder, turning my head every few minutes to let the tears fall away, knowing that this day, me and mine were spared.  I have no idea why.  None of us do, but as mother nature often does, she reminded me that day that any one of us could go, at any minute, any time.

My son asked that night, "Mommy, why didn't the tree hit our house?"  And for once, I could not answer his question.

"I don't know, Jackson," I replied.

That wasn't sufficient.  He was bothered and worried.  "But mommy, why?"

I simply said, "That's just not what the storm decided to do, sweetie."

Then, I quietly gave him a soft kiss, turned off the lights, and laid there holding him, calming his fears, just like another mother had done a few nights before.

I dedicate this blog post to her, her son, and her surviving 2-year old girl.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Tears

I cried twice today.

Before I type on, it must be noted that, with two toddlers, there are a lot of teardrops in my house (including my own).  Today, the watery eyes belonged to me.

Not because of the poop in my bed at 7:15 a.m.  Yes, smeared poo.  Yes, my bed.  And not because of the ridiculous amount of cash I spent at the mall, although I will admit that both events (the poo and the money dropped) did make me want to scream.  Or punch someone.  Or both.

But I didn't.  Instead, I cried.  Twice. And for once, the tears were happy.

You should first know that 7:15 a.m. is sleeping in at my house.  I don't set an alarm, because two small angels-disguised-as-children typically wake me up.  I should've taken the late wake-up call as sign Number One that something was terribly wrong.

Instead, when the sideways pillow view of my 2-year old's sweet face was the first thing I saw this morning, I melted.

"Momma.  Hi..." she said.  It was so lovely.  "I wanna cuddle," she said.

"Well, climb in," I said in a near-whisper, barely awake.

I pulled her up.  She had all her stuff.  Her pink-and-green silky blanket, commonly known as "pink."  Her soft kitty.  Her "baby." And a few small items in each palm.

Suddenly, it was just mommy, her giant pile of goods, and baby girl, all curled in.  I knew at this moment, we'd be late for preschool.  4-year old darling boy wasn't even awake yet.  And I was in no hurry, cuddling with a precious toddler, who smelled so sweet.  Her hair so soft.  Her voice so adorable.  Her little "mmmm's" touching my soul every time I squeezed her so tight.

It was a perfect moment.  And moms know that these perfect moments come.  And they go.  Just like the wind.  Or just like the precise moment baby girl turned and said, "momma, there's poop on my 'pink' and on my finger."

Still half-asleep, I didn't believe it to be poop.  Afterall, I couldn't smell poop in her pull-up.  But then, we were underneath piles of covers and in-between piles of "stuff."

"Honey, it's probably just dirt," I reassured.

"No, momma.  It's po-IH-op (poop in 3 syllable toddler-speak, with a high-pitched spike in the 2nd syllable)," she said so quietly.

I smelled.  Sure enough........

I ripped the covers back.  Discovered a smear of it on my (white) sheets.  A mess of brown all over her bottom.  No pull-up.  No pajama bottoms.  What?

I know you're thinking this is when I cried.  But it's not.

I'm assuming at this point she went in her pull-up and ripped it off in her downstairs room.  Then, she came upstairs and crawled in bed, just one big poopy mess.

We cleaned it all up, woke big brother, and told him the story because he LOVES stories.  He laughed.  I laughed.  Sweet girl even laughed.  Then he got up to go potty, and when he did, he suddenly screamed, "Mmmooommmmm, you're a LLLLIIIIAAAARRRR!"


We ran to the bathroom, and he pointed to the toddler potty.  The three of us stood over it, and we stared quietly with full concentration, full attention, eyes so wide... at the turd and toilet paper left in the bowl by baby girl.

"You lied because you said she went in her pull-up, and she did NOT poop in her pull-up," he so firmly stated.  "She went in the potty!!!!!!!!!  All by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!"

He was right.  I was wrong.  And right then, we celebrated!  We danced.  We jumped up and down.  We screamed, "yayyyyyy!!"  We ate Oreos for breakfast.

And I cried.  Happy tears.  Because after all these months, all this torture, all this beating into her head that she has to "put it in the potty," she did just that.  All alone.  On a Wednesday morning in April.  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but it was one of the most satisfying moments I've had yet as a mother.

A short time later, I wanted to cry at how late we were for preschool.  But I was too excited.

It wasn't until later that morning, at the mall of all places, the tears came pouring out for a second time this day.  I'm certain the ladies at the Gap must've thought I was mental.  Truly, they kept staring.  Even from the corner, I caught them eyeing me, and when I spotted them watching, they would quickly look away.  I could tell by their faces, they thought I was the nut-case customer.  And frankly, I was beginning to feel like the crazy lady in the crazy corner.  But I honestly couldn't stop the blubbering.

Here's why.  4-year old weighed-in at his recent doctor's check-up at nearly fifty pounds, his height in the 90-something-th percentile.  Nothing fits him anymore, and that's why I was at the mall.  So I strolled into BabyGap, just like I always have.  But after browsing the darling choices, I realized that none of them would fit my son anymore.  None.  No more toddler clothes.  No more "BabyGappers," as he called the shorts and jammies from his favorite store.  Suddenly, he was a big kid.  As in, GapKids.  As in, a size extra-small or 5 from the big-kid store.  The store next to BabyGap.  Size 5T just doesn't fit anymore.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  That he was getting bigger, and it was happening right before my eyes, yet I didn't even realize it and had barely stopped to notice.

And I couldn't stop crying.

I finally got my nutty act together, and I told the lady that, gosh, it was just so upsetting to me that my first-born, precious baby doesn't fit into BabyGap clothes anymore!  She smiled, but she did so cautiously, as I'm confident she was ready to call the proper authorities at any moment to come carry me off.

She never had to do that.  Instead, she took my credit card and rang up the pile of big-boy clothes I'd chosen, as I wiped away my tears.

Happy tears.  That we'd reached another turning point, another milestone.  Kinda like baby girl's poop in the potty.  But this moment, it was a stream of tears, along with a slight grin, that my baby boy, my first child, was doing exactly what he was supposed to do:  he was growing up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Lost Crown, a Vicious Bite, & Hollywood

The title of this blog pretty much desribes my day.

It all started around 6:15 a.m., when I woke up to get ready to pass off my crown.  Yes, my crown.  My one-year reign as winner of the 103.7 FM 2010 "Babe Bracket" was coming to an end.  And I had the good fortune of handing-over the title to another local TV news anchor, whom I have come to adore.

My friends at the radio station told me to be there early.  I wasn't exactly giving her my crown.  That's mine to keep.  She was supposed to get a crown of her own, and it was my job to place it atop her pretty head and bless her with a little fairy dust or something like that.

So I pull up, almost late as I always am, and I get the text:  "The crowns aren't here yet.  UPS is delivering them at 8am, so we don't need you yet."  I waited a bit, then went on their radio show with the new winner, no crown in sight.  We waited.  And burned up air-time.  And waited.  Then talked about how we are both so proud that we are "older" women and beat out the young beauties.  Then we waited some more.  Still, no crown.  The crown was a no-show.  So we talked some more.  About how I was retiring from the contest because I'm staring 40 in the face this year, and how frankly, I just don't wanna win every contest every single year (sarcasm).  Then, the phone rang.  The crowns were....................   still not here.  So I talked about the new winner and told her how I've always admired her beauty and sweet presence.  And she talked about how she loved my smile.  Then another call.  The crowns!  Not gonna make it... UPS apparently delivered them to Missouri? 

Oh well.  I congratulated the new "babe."  Gave my hugs.  Snapped a few pics.  Then, raced home to relieve the adorable sitter who agreed to come so early to allow me my last moments as a "babe." 

I walked in, and the first thing I smelled was the bombed pull-up awaiting me.  Kids ran to hug me.  Such angels!  Dealt with pull-up issue.  Then the two sweet ones promptly went back to fighting.  "Stop," I screamed.  "Take turns!" "If you keep fighting, you're gonna lose your toys!"  To no avail.  Calm did finally come for a couple of minutes, and I took the chance to run to the bathroom.  I was about to burst.  I'd had to pee for nearly an hour.  It was precisely then,  my sweet-angelic-precious-darling-creampuff of a 2-year old apparently turned into a dog with a vicious bite fiercer than I've ever seen.  4-year old screams.  And, pee in mid-stream, I go running.   "She bit me on my buuuuuutttttttttttttttt.   Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!  Owwwwwwwwwwww!!!!" 

Indeed she had bitten him.  It was ugly.  He quickly slapped her as I was running to the rescue and straight into the chaos.  At which point, she started screaming. 

Where was my freaking crown now, I'm thinking??????? 

OK.  Deep breath.  Separate the philistines.  Get everybody calm.  Take each one in my arms.  Get baby girl to apologize.  Check bite wound.  Several minutes pass.  Kids finally hug.


Fast-forward to the afternoon.  At the TV station, everyone is abuzz.  I walk into the studio and the lights are on, and all the newsies have their cameras ready. 

What is going on?

"Judge Reinhold is on his way to the studios!  You know, Detective Billy Rosewood from Beverly Hills Cop!"

OHMYGOSH!!!!  Hollywood mania!  The newsroom was starstruck.

Turns out, Judge was so pleasant and down-to-earth, and his wife, Amy, was just a peach.  We didn't realize it, but Amy and I went to high school together.  We all had our picture made, and we visited for a bit.  Wonderful people.

After they left, I logged on to a popular social media website and saw that the new 2011 "babe" never got her crown, so her TV station general manager went out and bought one for her.  As she wrote, "what's the title without the crown?"

Later, I peeked at the picture of me and Judge.  All the while thinking, my "babe" friend thought I had a pretty smile?  Look at those yellow teeth!  And there are wrinkles around my chin!  Eeek!   

That was about the time I got a text from home saying sweet-boy's bite mark still looked pretty bad.

And I realized at that moment, it wasn't the lost crown that mattered or handing over the title of "babe" or the wrinkles I see as I approach 40 or the Hollywood star I had the pleasure of meeting.  It was the two savage toddlers who --in the middle of my day-- brought me back to reality.  Just as they always do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mommy's Having A Tantrum...

Let me preface this blog post by saying, I didn't grow up "normal."  Whatever that means.

For me, it means this:  I have no brothers & sisters.  I grew up mostly alone, just me & my mom.  The girls.  "You and me, always, baby" is what we used to say with a big, huge smile.  My father was never around, for reasons that would require my writing a book.

But before you go crying me a river, I want to make it clear:  I LOVED the way I was raised.  Loved how I was the center of my mother's universe.  Loved how my grandparents spoiled me rotten, much to the chagrin of their own children, because they worried that I wasn't growing up in a "normal" household.  Loved how I spent summers with uncles and cousins at the California beaches, because my mom wanted me to experience the joys of some sort of "normal family."  Loved that I was treated like an adult, even at a young age.  I remember I always had a reserved seat at the adult's table instead of the kid's table (this always made me feel special).  And I recall talking with my grandmother about life's meaning as early as age 7.

There was a time in my life when this all seemed a tragedy to me.  During my sometimes-awkward high school years and my soul-searching days in college, I often lamented that I was "different" and somehow missed out on something everyone else had.

But I know better now that I have children of my own.  Another beautiful lesson these angels are teaching me.

Case in point:  2-year old girl who is... well, she's 2.  As in terribly 2.  As in "I wanted the blue fork, NOT the pink fork," (as I duck quickly while fork goes flying over my head & across the kitchen counter, thinking to myself, "she is NOT my daughter!").  As in "I don't want you to put me in my car seat!" (stiffens up, arches back, and kicks when I try to buckle her in).  There's no rhyme or reason.  The wind could blow a different direction, and it could spark a fit.  Last night, I put my pajamas on, and she laid on the floor kicking and screaming and pulling on my jammie-pants, yelling "take 'em offffffff!!!  I don't want you to have your jammies on!!!"  This morning, she wanted the entire bag of gummy bears, instead of the 2 offered her for going tee-tee in the potty.  She didn't get it.  Guess what followed? 

I could go on and on.  Like when we were at the dollar store, and on our way out she demanded that we go back and get her a plastic bag of her own to carry her $1 toy.  Didn't happen.  So she laid on the dirty floor in front of the entrance, screaming and kicking, while other customers smiled and said, "hey, you're the news lady from channel 11!"  Then went on to point and tell their friends, "y'all, that's the news lady and her kids!"

Are you kidding me?  This has got to be a joke, I'm thinking.

I felt like saying, "Yes, I am! Now, excuse me while I run to the restroom and have a tantrum of my own.  Topped off with vodka martinis and stuffed green olives."

It's usually about that time, I go there.  That place and space of self-doubt.  The place where all moms go sometimes.  The trip I lay on myself about why this is happening to me, why my daughter is acting this way, what did I do wrong to create this?  This can't be normal, can't be right.  Afterall, I've never seen anything like this.   

Then, as always happens, I snap out of it as quickly as a tantrum ends, or when darling 2-year old preschool teacher calmly tells me,  "oh the way she's acting is completely normal for her age, and in fact, she's one of the easy ones."

Which makes me feel all happy, tingly, and good inside, but only for a couple minutes, because, you see, there's that word again. "Normal."  I didn't grow up that way, remember?  I didn't have brothers and sisters to fight.  I didn't watch anyone in my house throw tantrums.  I don't really know what normal is.  And you know what, I'm not sure I really care.

Baby has fits because she's 2.  Her big brother has fits because he's 4.  Their daddy has fits because he's daddy.  I have fits because I'm mommy.

In fact, I'll probably be the next one throwing my fit upstairs, and when the kids ask what happened to me, daddy can just say, "mommy's having a tantrum..."

And they'll ignore me
And love me (hopefully).
Just as I will them, knowing that before I can blink, they'll be the ones in college thinking back on their "normal" or "not-so-normal" growing up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Bribe or Not to Bribe: This is the question...

Me first-ting this morning to 2-year old:  "Time to get our pull-up off and go tinkle in the potty."

2-year old beauty:  "Nnnnooo!"

Me, thinking fast:  "But you'll get a mini-Oreo."

That's how the bribe went down.

And that's how we got the Disney princess pull-up off and baby girl's booty on the potty.

I could've sat there for 20 minutes in a power struggle and eventually ordered her on the potty.  Because, after all, as a good friend once told me,  "you're mom.  they have to do what you tell them."  Really?  Is that how that works?

But a power struggle and a yucky potty experience didn't sound good before my first cup of coffee.  So, baby girl got her cookie and got to eat it too!  And I got her pull-up off and got her to the potty so we could have an accident-free couple of hours.

Some very well-respected moms I know never bribe their children.  They use their power, and it works for them.  They are also probably a bit stricter than I am, have more time, and withstand meltdowns much more calmly than I. 

For a time, I wished I were more that way.  Stricter, calmer, with oodles of time.  But that's not my reality.  I have two smartie-pants toddlers who have their own strong ideas about things, I work, and at times, I'm just not a calmy-balmy type.  So I negotiate with them.  I barter.  I wheel and deal.  And they don't seem all that unhappy about it.  I'm not.  It's working for now.

But I'm a curious bug, and I wanna know:  what strategies do you use when you want or need your child to do something?  Is bribery out of the question?  Are there negative consequences?  I hope I hear from you!

Monday, March 7, 2011

TV Time

Moms & Dads, I am going to confess.

Even though I'm a TV mom, I always said I would limit how much I let my kids watch.  I always thought like 30 minutes a day or something was plenty.  If that...

Then came the Little Einsteins.  Then Diego.  Then Team Umizoomi.  Now it's Bubble Guppies

and Super Why (which is part of PBS Kids, which is somewhat educational, which can't be that bad, right?)...   Whatever I have to tell myself..

Because I'm about to confess that I've been relying on TV waaaayyyyyyy  too much.  Two-year old sassafrass couldn't care less about television.  But four-year old terror-turned-sweetheart loves his shows.  And dealing with the terrible twos right now, the DirecTV remote control (or "mote troll" as my baby girl says) is my slave.

I found this & started panting...

      According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF):
  • two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day
  • kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs
  • kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games
      The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

What is quality programming anyway?  And what happens if the little people watch more than 2 hours?

So I wanted to ask how much you all let your children watch.  Share and let's start a discussion about whether these guidelines make sense..

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oh happy blog!

A certain weatherman I work with asked me today, rather seriously, "are you okay?" 

I nodded.

"No, really," he prodded, "are you OKAY?"

Yes, I really am!  Especially after today  (more on that in a minute).

Apparently, he'd read my last couple blog posts and thought I was like a depressed, suicidal mess or something. 

I'm not.  Not today.  But moms, as you know, it's a day-to-day process, which fluctuates.  I wish I were more steady, no matter the occasion (don't we all?).  But the reality is, a lot of time mood is based upon the terrible-two-meltdowns and splattered milk or the amazing, happy moments at the park and times like today with the kids, chasing the geese.

Or reading Dr. Seuss to the hundreds of children at the Clinton Library this morning. 

My kids were in the audience, previewing my book before I started reading.   

Or the ladybug that landed on sweet girl's hand.

Or precious boy climbing at the playground.

Today was a brilliant, happy day.  And I'll take it!  Happily.  Lovingly.  Openly.  Knowing the next meltdown (mine and theirs) is right around the corner...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Moms: Can you really have it all?

I just don't think it's possible.

Once upon a time... I believed.  I really did believe that as a mom, I could have it all.  But you know what happened to that dream?  It died.  Got flushed down the toilet with the flushable potty-training-wipees they say won't clog your drains! (I don't think they're any less thick, by the way.  Do you?)...

Anyway.. I'm talking about the kids, the husband and marriage, the house, the job, the social life...  You know what I'm mean, right?   The life we always dreamed of?   Ahhhhh... that perfect life.

Well, dont' mean to trash-talk.  But that perfect life?  Doesn't exist.

In fact, I just interviewed my friend, the editor of an award-winning parenting publication, who also sighed deeply just before our shoot.  I said cheerfully, "now that doesn't sound like the happy sigh I was hoping to hear from the woman who has it all!"

To which I was given the Tsk-Tsk.  Yeah right, she said.    Then, she rattled off her laundry list (gosh, don't we all have one?).  How little girl starts soccer today but doesn't have cleats, pads, etc.  How mama hops a flight to D.C. in the morning for a business meeting and hasn't yet packed. On and on and on....

But this friend of mine..   She's so beautiful.  Has a lovely family.  Wonderful husband.  Edits a fabulous magazine.  She doesn't have it all?

And me...  don't I have it all?  Constantly, people are saying I've got it made-in-the-shade.  Two beautiful little ones.  A TV job that rocks.  A handsome-doctor-husband.  A fun social life.   (all their words, not mine).  I guess on paper, it looks like I have it all.  So, then, why is it I feel I DON'T?

Maybe because of this and this alone:  this balancing act leaves you feeling like you do everything-all-at-once and nothing very well.  I don't feel like I love my kids well enough because, afterall, I'm never there to pick them up from preschool.  Rarely there for lunch and naptime.  Definitely not there for family dinner.  I miss their afternoons, their prime play-time. I don't get to see their sweet faces gleaming with joy, screaming "moooooommmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyy" when I drive up to their school to get them.

My TV station is great.  I work fewer hours to accomodate this madness of raising children and maintaining a home.  So of course, I feel like I do less then my colleagues, can't say "yes" to all the charities I'd like to help, and am constantly late and missing meetings. 

My husband is next on the list.  And I know he feels neglected.  No question about that!

My household?  We have two dogs and a cat (two of whom are elderly), and they are begging for love...

I'm exhausted constantly.  Always struggling to keep my head above water.  Repeatedly questioning my sanity...  Is this the "all" I was dreaming of?

The question begs:  Can you really have it all?

I don't think so.  I do think what I have is enough, though.  But it's hard.  And it's sure not the "all," "the dream" I once thought existed.   But maybe it's just enough.  Enough to be thankful for each day.

(If you do have it all, please email me at  I want to air your story!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Loss That Trumps All Others

Ok.  I don't know this woman.  But she's wearing the-single-most-meaningful piece of clothing I've ever seen. 
The reason why, is that my cousin, Tyson, sketched the man's head and arms that you see on the front.  My aunt sent me my top, and in perfect "Tyson" fashion, I opened it on Valentine's Day.  My attention was immediately drawn to the tag attached to it. 
The dates probably gave you the first clue.  I'm certain the verb "was" gave the second.  That's all I had to read before the tears began pouring down my face.

What a darling.  And oh, how you are missed, sweet Ty.  Forever 19-years old.  Forever a child in my eyes.  The blonde, cuddly cousin who bunked with me at family reunions. 
The boy who made everyone smile with his sweet disposition, amazing personality, creativity, and giant heart.  A young man who had such a good, solid head on his shoulders.  A wonderful brother and friend and son and cousin and grandson and nephew.  A teenager who joined the Air Force and made his mama so very proud.  The one in the family who had everyone laughing and loving...
It's not fair.
It's not right that you're gone.  At times, I want to kick and scream that you left this earth too soon.  That your precious mother had to endure the loss of a child.  That she never got to see you live out your life, succeed in your career, fall in love, have a baby...  That she doesn't have the privilege of picking up the phone to call you and hear your voice.  That she falls asleep at night, without the security of knowing you are safe in your own home, tucked in for the evening.  That she doesn't let a second pass when she doesn't think of you and remember you and mourn you and believe with her whole heart that your short life had purpose.  That instead of making new memories with you, she remembers dates, like July 18, the day you were born.  Or dreads dates like August 28, the day you died in that horrible car crash.   

It's not fair, and it's awful.  But that's one of the reasons why I write this blog.  It's not always cherries and fresh flower blooms.  That's not life.  That's not reality.  What is reality, is that one thing your death did, Tyson, was gifted your mother to me and gift me to her.  We have an unspeakable bond, and we talk of you and we remember you and we cry for you all the time.  We believe you are an angel watching over us.  And, my God, we miss you!

For Christmas last year, your mom found the character you drew for me.  She framed it and carried it on the plane from California to Arkansas and handed it to me all wrapped up!

I was stunned when I opened it.  When did you draw this?  And why were you thinking of me?  What does it represent?  Oh, I can't wait to one day ask you these questions!

I know my aunt is not alone.  That there are other moms out there who've lost children, who've suffered what, to me, is the worst tragedy.  But the rainbow in this dark cloud, is that we still have and love each other.  We still remember you every day of our lives.  We still honor each other, and we respect the lessons you learned and lived while you were with us.  

And when I look at my own two children, the babies you have never met on this earth, I know in my heart that every second I get with them is a gift from God.  Just as you were, sweet Tyson John Saccone.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Sweetness That Made It All Better

This is what made everything OK....

Made me forget the entire cup of coffee that went flying inside my car...  the 4-year old caught with toddler scissors about to cut a chunk of his hair... the 2-year old melting down because, well, because she's 2.  It made me forget about the children who were refusing to follow directions, refusing to get dressed, refusing to brush teeth.  Made me forget about the dog-poop in the house, the sweet child who mildly wet his bed and the sheets that had to be washed and changed all before 9 a.m.  Made me forget about the sore throat/sinus mess/upper respiratory infection that keeps beating me down.  Made me forget that we were nearly 30 minutes late to tumble class because of this morning from hell.  Made me forget about the not-proud mommy moment where I laid on the floor, threw my hands up, and cried actual tears.  At which point my daughter came and said, "don't cry, mommy. it'll be ok," and then patted me on the head.

I think it was the 'holding hands' that got me when I looked at them.  The sweetness that made me drop the "poor-me" story-line I was reading myself all morning long.  That made me know and feel in my heart that all of it --ALL OF IT-- was worth this one sweet moment.  I am grateful today for this.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Potty Tricks

OK.  You know you're deep in the throws of mommy-hood when you stare glowingly into the toilet and scream "yay!!!!!  you did it!!!!"

2-year old is out of diapers.  She still wears a pull-up at nap and bedtime.  And --not to get gross here-- but that's usually when she goes #2.  What gives?  She has been going tee-tee on the potty, but she doesn't go #2.  She waits until after nap or when she wakes up, and she leaves the prize in her Dora or Cinderella pull-ups.

Actually, she did it this past Saturday, and this was her reward:

The whole bag!  But then every day since, we're back to going in our pull-up.

What tricks do you use to break this habit?  Help!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Things My Mama Taught Me

My darling mama turned 60 this past weekend.  Bless her.  Happy Birthday, MOM!  This post is dedicated to you!

We gifted her with all her favorite goodies.  Milk Duds and Whoppers at the top of the list.  Closely followed by scratch-off lottery tickets, which my kids now love to do (thanks mom!)!  We had much, much fun, noshing on lobster my fantastic step-dad broiled, and we sang "Happy Birthday to T" over candled-up cupcakes.  It was wonderful.

"T" is her name because her real name is Cyndy and before she ever had grandchildren, her neices and nephews could only say "Tinny."  Well, when I had my kids, she prayed and prayed for the day they would utter "Tinny."  Day never came.  All they ever said was "T" -- so now she is our precious "T"!! 

Anyway, after all the gifts were opened and cupcakes eaten, after we got home, and the children were asleep, all I could think of were the amazing gifts she's given me.

First, unconditional love.  Despite being a single, working mom who barely made ends meet, she poured love on me.  No matter her stresses or shortcomings, regardless of any mistakes she may have made (and ALL moms make mistakes), she loved me like no other, and I never doubted that.  I knew that no matter who I became or what I did, she would love me.  And she still does today.

Second, she taught me loyalty.  Growing up, I watched her tirelessly forge close relationships with her friends and family.  If any one of them ever faced trouble, she had their back.  And they had hers-- if she ever got into a bind.  She taught me to fight fiercely for relationships that mattered, and she also taught me that there are appropriate times to let go.

Third, she showed me how important it is to have fun and enjoy your life.  The children and I spend many weekends at her house, building fires, watching movies, playing games.  She loves to get the kids from preschool and take them fun places.  They are energized and super-happy after their time with her!

Fourth, she taught me you can do anything you want to do in this life.  She worked hard and opened her own successful business (despite never having finished college!).  No matter what life dealt her, she came up with a solution.

Mostly, what I take from her is a sense of gratitude.  So much in our lives are out of our control, and no matter what happens to you, she taught me to always, always give thanks for --and choose to see-- the good that surrounds you (I think she learned this from her late father).  But it's been passed to me (thank God), and I pray I pass it to my children as well.  She also encouraged me not only to be thankful, but to look for the gift, the jewel, in every situation-- good or bad.

Mom-- you are my gift!  I love you dearly!  I hope to share many more decades with you on this earth...

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Mommy Diet

Once you have kids, your life goes by the way-side.  A good example of this is when I go see my mom, and she walks straight past me to hug the kids (I love you, Momma!).  But seriously.  I don't exist like my children exist.  And that's just the way it is.

Your diet also goes by the way-side.  A good example of this is when I slave over a huge breakfast for my sweeties, they take 2 or 3 bites, then say "I'm not hungry anymore, mommy."  Really?  So, I end up eating whatever is left on their plates.  Cold eggs.  Cinammon rolls with no icing because they licked the icing off but didn't eat the roll.  Toast that's wet from where they chewed on it.  A picked-over waffle.  Half-eaten turkey bacon. 

Lunch ends up being a cut-up hot dog, handful of goldfish crackers, and a few sips from a juice box.

Not the best diet.

Especially when you already have a penchant for cheese dip and chips. 
Juanita's Cheese Dip.  Yum!

And a weakness for chocolate (I like milk chocolate best). 

And the body of a woman who has birthed two children.  Ugh.  

I've GOT to do better....

I do wanna know ---  moms, what are your guilty pleasures?   And what do you eat?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Weird Gremlin Hour

Life is strange.  At least mine is.  For example, tonight, from 6:50 p.m. to 7:50 p.m.

So -- at 6:45 p.m., we're still in the middle of our 6:30 p.m. broadcast.  I'm watching our taped interview with Miss Arkansas as she gives us an example of her amazing ventriloquism and yodeling talent.  Love her!  She should've won....

At the same time, I'm writing and producing a big interview I have tomorrow (more details to come...)...

6:56 p.m. We get cues to say goodnight.  All the anchors gather to say bye.

Drive home.  Walk in the door & 4-year old is being disciplined for not following directions.

7:10 p.m. 2-year old wants her "makeup bag" (an old mesh bag with containers of empty lip gloss and what-not that girl is OBSESSED with).

7:11 p.m. Question whether she's really my daughter since, despite being on TV, I HATE wearing makeup.

She insists upon having more lip gloss and a confiscated lip-stick she snagged from my bag when I wasn't looking  (I had taken both away).  Not gettin' 'em back.


Another meltdown when 4-year old gets more items removed for not following instructions.

So now I have a house full of crying (and 2 loads of unfolded laundry, lunches to make for tomorrow, kids to get to sleep)...

...all this, 20 minutes after saying goodnight live on TV!

OK, get peeps calm is priority number one.  Teeth brushed.  Potty.  Pull-up.  Bed for 2-year old.

"Mommy, can I sleep with my makeup bag?" she asks.

"Uhhhhhh..... (thinking quickly that I can't handle another meltdown --which will happen if I say no-- but don't want any empty-containers-that-still-have-makeup-residue all over her bed)  yes, but you absolutely one-hundred-percent can't open it or the night-night gremlins will come take it in the middle of the night," I responded.  (Really!? Night-night gremlins?!)

Her eyes got really, really big and her jaw dropped.

"Night-night gremlins, mommy?"  She almost seemed scared.  Geez, I didn't mean to scare the poor girl.

"Yes," I responded.  "Night-night gremlins.  They're not bad.  They just check to make sure big girls don't open their makeup bags in the night."

"OK!" she said.

7:45 p.m.    Laying in the dark with star-shaped night lights all over the ceiling.  Quiet. Until...

"Mommy, I wanna open my makeup bag," she practically yelled.

"But you don't want the gremlins to come, do you?"  I asked.

"No.  So I will open it in the morning, and they will not come?" she affirmed.

"Yes, come get me, and we will open it together, and the gremlins will stay away,"  I lied.

"Hummmmm," she purred happily.

7:50 p.m.  Asleep.  Closed makeup bag cuddled by her side.  Weird gremlin hour over!

PreK: To School or Not to School?

Oh my gosh.  If there is anything that makes you wanna rip your hair out, it's making the right choice about school.  How early to start?  Which school?  Public or private?  Half-day?  Whole-day?  All week or just a few days a week? 

Of all the choices we make involving our children, I feel like this one is perhaps the most anxiety-producing of all.  Yesterday kicked-off open enrollment in the Little Rock School District, and January is typically the time to make decisions about the next school year.

My 4-year old is ready for PreK, and I'm making the decision to put him in.  He's had some other preschool education, and he seems to do really well with structure and learning (things I am certain I wouldn't be as good at providing at home).  That said, I judge no one for keeping their child home.  It is an incredibly personal choice, and each child is different.
Me and Jackson on his 4th birthday

Friday, January 21, 2011

MOMS: what boils your blood?

I think it's safe to say most moms try to spread the goodwill and good cheer.  Send happy vibes to other moms, teachers (even the ones who don't smile at our children), and try to be kind to some of the peeps out there who just plain aren't nice.

But then, the moment comes.  When all the goodwill and good cheer just gets sucked out.  Defiant 4-year-old insists on dressing himself (which is a wonderful thing, right?), putting us behind 20 minutes.  As in, 20 minutes late to school.  Like this morning.  Here we are, buckled in (finally!).  Hurried.  Late.  Blood boiling.   Nah.  Just a little irritated.

Or this.  Me:  "Hey kids, let's go brush our teeth and read some books!"  Sassy 2-year-old girl or irreverent 4-year-old boy:  "No."

Or how about this.  Me:  "Time to turn off the TV."  Heady 4-year-old walks over and slaps my leg, saying, "Mean mommy."

Really?  Blood getting a little warmer than usual.

How about when you labor over a lovely meal for the sweet ones?  And no one eats...

Blood boiling!  No.  But pretty upset.

Or when they spit on each other, pull each other's hair, steal each other's toys, whine constantly, and don't pick up their rooms.

Blood boiling.    Not really.  But now,  I'm officially mad.

How about when you hire a babysitter and they don't treat your children the way you believe they should be treated?   Ok.  Blood officially boiling.

I got to thinking about all this after a conversation this morning with an old friend.  He told me about the time he came home when a new lady was watching his two toddlers.  She obviously didn't know he was home, because he heard her say to his two-and-a-half-year-old, "I'm gonna whip your butt!"  Needless to say, she was escorted out of that sweet family's home just a few minutes later.

I'm afraid there would've been violence had I heard that.  Because I think it's safe to say that the number one way to cause anger in my heart:  be mean to my kids.  It's kind of an un-written rule.  You can mess with me.  Talk trash.  Make up rumors.  Be rude to my face, stab me in the back.  I don't care.  I ceased caring about all that when I delivered #1.    December 21st, just after 10 p.m., the only thing that truly mattered anymore was this: 

Mis-treat him.  Talk rudely to him or about him.  And you can deal with me. 

The same for October 20th at 3a.m., when I gave birth to her:   

She is now on my watch 24/7. And if you wrong her, you wrong me.  And believe me, you will pay. (Roooaaaaarrrrrrr!!!)  

There.  My rant for the day.  Like that saying, "Don't mess with Texas..."  don't mess with my kids.  You do, and my goodwill and good cheer go out the window.

Moms, what upsets you most?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sleep. Precious Sleep.

Why is it that the later you put your kids to bed, the earlier they get up?

Or, on school days, they sleep in and on days there is no school, they are up at the break of day?

It happened this morning.  Last night, I remember excitedly thinking, "well, we're about 45 minutes behind on bed-time, so maybe that means they'll sleep 45 minutes later in the morning!"

Not so much.

6:45 a.m.  I heard sweet voice. 

"Mommy.  Come down here..." (the kids sleep downstairs, master bed is up.  i clearly didn't design this old 1930s remodeled house).

I waited a couple minutes, thinking she might slowly crawl up the steps, scamper across the wood floor, and climb in bed with me to cuddle for a few minutes.  Afterall, it was still half-way dark, rainy and foggy outside.  A perfect day to sleep in. 

Yeah, right.

"MommmmyyyYYY."  (louder this time, with whine attached).  "I'm ready eat breffast.." (some prepositions still missing from 2-year-old vocabulary, as are certain connected consonants-- like "k" next to "f," which, for her, turns into "ff")...

Arrrggggghhh... Ok.  You're the adult here, Dawn.  GET UP!

Then, about the time I sat up, rubbed eyes, and collected myself, she quietly creeped in..

And when she saw me, she ran straight into my arms, yelling, "mommy!"  Big hug!  Big kiss!  And then, in a near-whisper, she said,  "I want cuddle.." (note missing preposition)...

That's when I melted, and I realized I wouldn't have cared if she woke me up at 3 a.m.! 

But I did care when she woke me up at 3 a.m. when she was a newborn.  Fussy, hungry, sick, sad, wanting to be held-- whatever her instant need or want, I was right there.  Happily, yet oh-so-disappointed that it was another night without sleep.  It, of course, didn't last forever.  But geez, did sleep ever become a most precious commodity!

I got selfish with sleep when my first-born was 6 months and my baby was 5 months.  I never slept well at the end of my pregnancies.  And the first months were hellish.  My oldest was just a terrible sleeper to begin with, needing constant holding and shushing.  Baby girl was better, but I got selfish, because I think I was starting to lose it.   4-6 hours of sleep?  Not enough for this mama.  I let 'em cry it out, much to the chagrin of the moms out there who think that's cruel and unusual punishment.

Really?  Wasn't it more cruel and punishing to my children to be an irritable, sleep-deprived borderline-depressed mama who desperately needed rest?  Losing your temper for no good reason is... well, it's unacceptable.  I've been there.  Not proud.  But if I've learned anything at all, it's this:  a happy, well-rested mama-with-no-drama equals happy, well-adjusted cuties who wanna please, love, and play.

Back to this morning.  Precious girl and I were cuddling, on the verge of falling back asleep, when we were snowballed by sweet boy and rescue dog who licked our faces awake.   Two angels and a dog rolling all over me.  Did I really have anything to complain about? 

No, I didn't.

In fact, I'll take tired any day, when such treasured blessings greet my soul each morning of this life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why I'd Rather Be "Little" Like Them

Sweet boy woke up on his 4th birthday and promptly stated, "Mommy, since I'm this many (holding up four fingers) today, we need to take the rails off my big-boy-bed."

Okay.  Pause.  Deep breath.  Dis-assemble aluminum and mesh bed rails.

And, without any pomp and circumstance (like when he first got his big-boy-bed and we made the biggest deal EVER out of sleeping on a twin bed), we removed the rails before breakfast.

The day went on, and by night-time, after his birthday party, after all his toys were opened and played-with, the inevitable question came.   We'd just finished before-night-night-time reading and shut the lights off and were laying there oh-so-quietly in his big-boy-bed-without-rails, when Jackson asked, in the most matter-of-fact way, "Mommy, when am I gonna be big like you?"

"Not for a long time," is what I blurted out, without even a second thought.  I wasn't ready for this question.  This question wasn't supposed to come until elementary school, right!?  I don't want him to be big.  He's NOT big.  He's my baby!  And, Lord, who wants to be big-like-me anyway?  And what is the "proper" answer?  Forget proper, what's the right answer?

"But I want to," he responded.

"Want to what?"

"Be big.  Like you," the sweetie said, with such a needy, yet innocent, little-boy voice. "I'm four now, mommy, doesn't that mean I'm big?"

I used to want to be big.  I remember all my friends wanted to be big. I think most kids are just dying to be big.  But it got me thinking....  what's all that great about being big?

"Oh, sweetie.  You are big.  You're a big brother to your baby sister.  You're in big-boy school (PreK).  You sleep in a big-boy-bed-without-rails."  (What else could I say?)   He kind of moaned a little happy moan that sounded like a self-soothing "ohhhh," but with an "m," like "mohhh.."  He was happy.  My answer was sufficient.  For him.

But my mind wasn't satisfied.  All night, I kept thinking, "why is it so great to be big?"  Big people have to work, pay bills, take care of children, manage meltdowns, cook breakfast-lunch-dinner, live up to expectations, deal with marriages, divorces, relationships, all-the-while aging, covering up wrinkles, losing hair, and taking care of our own sick parents.  We manage and juggle all our various roles in this life.  And then race home to play with our children, hoping to feel that magic of being a child all over again.

So really, I guess we grow up to be big, then once we're big, we wish we were small again. Care-free, with innocent eyes that don't worry about the hate in this world, the wars, the fights, the sicknesses and death.  All the baggage that comes with being "big."

I think if my son asks again, I'm gonna say that being "big" just isn't all that.  Stay little as long as you can.  And by that, I mean, watch for miracles, look for magic, search for the sunshine in every situation.  Blow bubbles, paint with your fingers, make messes, embrace the chaos, beg to stay awake, and smile as much as you can.  Even if you're "big."  Because at this point, as 2011 begins and I stare 40 in the face, I know I'd really just rather be little, like them.