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.