Category Archives: Parent

Every Moment


often in this life we need to slow down and remind ourselves that the moment we are currently in needs to be consciously attended to, savored, absorbed. easier said than done certainly, but if you make up your mind, you can find yourself in the middle of a moment that will bring you lasting joy every time you replay it in your mind.

i was able to have a second one of those moments a couple of weeks ago with one of our daughters. okay, granted it was kind of an easy moment for the taking – being with her as she chose her wedding dress – still, i think we’ve all seen and heard this experience turning disastrous.

when our oldest daughter shopped for her wedding dress, she asked her future mother-in-law and me to accompany her. she preferred to choose a dress herself and without the pressure of an attendant or an entourage and ended up buying the first dress she tried on. not to say she grabbed something and ran, but to say that she knew herself well enough to know what her choice would be. i worried about her buying the first dress she tried on and encouraged her to try on other dresses, but when she put the first one back on, it was clear that was the dress. it’s so odd to say, but if you keep your mind open as an observer, you really can know exactly when your daughter has chosen the perfect image of herself.

i was afraid at the time that my lasting memory of her choosing a dress would be overshadowed by the worry that was hanging over every bit of my thinking, which was that she was planning a wedding mere months after her diagnosis of cm leukemia. it was so tough to push away the thought that were her future outcome to be not good, this dress might become a symbol of stabbing sadness instead of overwhelming joy. it took every bit of my years of acting training to hide what i was thinking at the time.

fast forward to now. our second daughter is planning her wedding and scheduled a wedding dress shopping day. like her sister, she had a vision of a dress she wanted and a vision of how she wanted her day to go. she asked for a champagne breakfast with a couple of friends, her sister and me (daddy was nice enough to come along as designated driver in exchange for breakfast since he was verboten from seeing the dress).

at the salon, she tried on the very dress she came to that salon to see. it looked spectacular on her! i thought how funny it was that again, one of our daughters picked the first dress she tried on. but since there were still 45 minutes left on the appointment time, the attendant brought her other dresses to try. every one of them looked beautiful on her, but none rivaled the first one. then the attendant suggested something completely out of the box, which was a skirt and bodice combo that is modern but still somewhat traditional, interesting and edgy. her sister was the first to notice how e’s demeanor changed and saw right away that this would be the choice. i was unconvinced about the dress but tried to project neutrality since i firmly believe that my role was as an observer, not an influencer. the attendant encouraged e to go out into the bigger room and look at herself in the huge mirror. i was the last one into the large room and saw her just as she turned around and saw herself in the floor to ceiling mirror and was struck by the sight. trust me, out of nowhere and without a thought of becoming emotional at all, i teared up.

in that moment i didn’t see a dress, or a bride even – what i saw was our grown daughter looking like her happiest self as a young woman dressed to greet the partner she has chosen to share her life with.

i also realized that this was the last time i would ever have that moment in my life and made a mental note to just savor it.
making it all even better was the fact that i was standing next to our oldest daughter who is still happily married, cancer free and about to celebrate the five year anniversary of her bone marrow transplant.
moments that are worth savoring.

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Filed under advice, family, image, Love, marriage, Parent, tradition, wedding, women

Where There is Love


the news has been filled with a lot of tough stories, what with all the strife abroad, the protests here at home and the natural disasters around the globe. but in the middle of all of that, we got a huge dose of “awwwwww…”

our daughter e and her boyfriend became engaged to be married. we knew that her boyfriend was going to propose to her because we spoke to him, like with did with our other daughter’s boyfriend, and told them they needed to come and speak to us before proposing. considering that both couples were already living together before they got engaged, asking for the boyfriend to come and speak to us was clearly an antiquated ritual. still, we clung to it because it gives us a chance to have a special moment with their boyfriend and officially welcome him into our family. we also get the fun of being in on a big secret and who doesn’t enjoy that?

e’s group of friends have this established ritual of throwing a surprise engagement party right after the engagement, so they were all poised for the big night last saturday. unfortunately, the party got a little too big to hold where it was originally scheduled, so it was moved to our house. it was a little hectic, but e’s friends brought food and drink and smiles.

what a happy, exciting night!

so now e and h begin the first tough test of their relationship: planning a wedding. so far they’re a good team, but we wouldn’t have expected anything less. it’s already interesting to see their ideas come together and in the end to see how they present themselves as a couple.

love is a beautiful thing. and when people you love express their love, well, life is more wonderful than usual.

sometimes a dose of love is all you need to put life in perspective.

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Filed under family, Love, manners, marriage, Parent

School Daze

for the first time since 1989 c and i have no children going back to school. well, not as students at least, we do have one teacher and one high school color guard instructor.

it’s an odd feeling to be so disassociated with a large part of the population and i have to admit to feeling a bit melancholy. of course i’m nostalgic remembering the days of first day of school outfits and the smell of new backpacks and crayons, crisp notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils and brown bag lunches lined up on the kitchen counter. i’m conveniently forgetting about dragging kids out of bed, hounding them to do their homework or praying that for once they would practice their instrument without having to be nagged.

in spite of having them around 24/7 in the summer, it was a much less stressful time than during the school year. not caring what they wore, not caring as much about what they ate, not caring what time they got up, not completely monitoring their tv watching and only caring about what time they went to bed because it meant time for c and i to spend together. there were fewer free hours in the day, but summer didn’t have all the details and deadlines.

i was sometimes a full-time working mom and sometimes a stay-at-home mom during all those years and i can tell you that either way, starting up with school again is a stressful endeavor. just getting past the excruciatingly detailed supply lists and attempting to get three kids with very distinct personalities to do something as simple as choosing a backpack (let alone a pair of shoes) was a job in and of itself. to no one’s surprise a new study just came out which showed that women felt less stress at work than at home.

the years we had one child in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school were hectic beyond description. each school had a different start and end time and only the elementary school had transportation. c drove the first one when he left for work, i drove the second one and the third one got dragged along for the ride because he was too little to be left home alone. after that, the third one got walked to the bus stop or to school. i had a giant whiteboard calendar that showed all the various school requirements and activities for three kids in three schools and every inch of it was filled with notes.

just taking a stab at attending all three back-to-school nights was a challenge. one year a school board member spoke at the middle school back-to-school night and kind of lectured parents about being involved with their kid’s education and getting to know the kid’s teachers and assignments, etc. sounds like a reasonable thing to say and i daresay that c and i were appropriately involved in our kid’s schooling (meaning: we were not helicopter parents).

either that school board member only had one child or never had the experience of three kids in three separate district schools, but either way, i wanted to let him know how daunting the task could be. i wrote him an email and politely let him know that i agreed with him in principle, but asked how we were supposed to get to know about all of kid’s classes and teachers when there were about 20 classes 28 teachers. yep, three kids had a total of 28 different teachers. add in coaches and instrumental teachers and your head might just explode.

so why am i nostalgic about all that? because in spite of it all, raising kids was still one of the best parts of my life and there are times when i miss it.

happy back-to-school kids and parents! hope you have a wonderful year.

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Filed under family, Parent, school

Lost Children, Forgotten Fathers


if you haven’t seen the movie philomena, do yourself a favor and schedule a time to see it. i won’t say too much about the story than is revealed in the official description from the production company:

“based on the 2009 investigative book by bbc correspondent martin sixsmith, the lost child of philomena lee, philomena focuses on the efforts of philomena lee (judy dench), mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock – something her irish-catholic community didn’t have the highest opinion of – and given away for adoption in the united states. in following church doctrine, she was forced to sign a contract that wouldn’t allow for any sort of inquiry into the son’s whereabouts. after starting a family years later in england and, for the most part, moving on with her life, lee meets sixsmith (coogan), a bbc reporter with whom she decides to discover her long-lost son.” source: rottentomatoes.com

there is so much more to the story than that simple description, but i’m very glad i didn’t know more. as the story is revealed through the movie, there are layers and layers of deception and irony, anger, disappointment and some forgiveness. what struck me about philomena lee was her lifelong attachment to her lost child. maybe that would seem like a duh! idea, but it’s so often how we think about boys who father children.

but what occurred to me after i watched the movie was how i would like to see a movie about a teenage pregnancy from the boy’s perspective. i’m going to choose to reject the notion that all boys just saunter along, conveniently forgetting about the girl and a child that is also part of them. i’m also going to reject the snickering hollywood portrayal of sperm donors.

certainly boys are never made to feel the same sense of shame at fathering a child out of wedlock, but they must feel something. or, is it that an unborn baby is just so theoretical to men that they are unable to make any kind of association or connection? i think there are boys who feel badly about the inequality of punishing attitudes toward girls who are sexually active vs. young boys who are. maybe they don’t have the capacity to feel it when they are young, but i’m betting they do as they get older.

there seems to be research being done recently that hopes to examine the thoughts of these fathers and maybe giving them a voice.

and maybe, if we read and hear and watch their stories, or more importantly, when other boys are exposed to these stories we could witness a change in attitude. imagine the benefit to young teenage mothers and most importantly to the children.

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Filed under catholic, family, Love, movies, Parent

Let’s make stuff!

ahhhhh summer. time to relax, lounge, read a good book, watch a movie, catch up on correspondence and, if you’re a parent, try desperately to keep the kids from driving you crazy.

i always went to summer school as a kid. when i say that, most people look at me cross-eyed since summer school now is widely recognized to be school for kids who didn’t do well during the school year. my summer school was a time to take enrichment classes that weren’t taught in catholic school – sewing, art and science. i especially liked science because this was hands on cool stuff kind of science that nuns would never have any part of. i remember one summer school teacher hitting a tuning fork on the side of a desk and putting the end in a tray of water so we could “see” sound. another helped us build water rockets that we shot out in the field behind the classroom.

that was all it took for me to most summers setting things on fire with a magnifying glass, building model rockets and finding ways to blow stuff up.

i was lucky enough to stay home with the kids when they were little and i always made it a point to structure part of the day with music, crafts, reading and science stuff.

so in the spirit of summer fun for you and the kids, here are a couple of websites to inspire you to build stuff, make stuff and hopefully, blow stuff up.

instructables – kind of a compilation website that gathers instructions and videos from people who’ve tried things already.

hackaday.com – you’d better be very much up on your game to try some of the stuff on this site. You can find directions to build your own 3d printer!

P.S. the original title of this post was “Let’s Blow Stuff Up!” then i wondered what the NSA would make of that title and i changed it.

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Filed under family, hacking, Parent, science, tips, vacation

You Know You’re of an Age When

on saturday i realized that c and i have become todd and margo.* trust me, we never intended it to happen, it just did.

we love our backyard and we use our backyard more than probably anyone on the block. especially on a nice saturday evening. and we used to have a lot more privacy in our backyard when we had a large tree that would block out the neighbors behind us, but the tree had to come down and what we planted in place is going to take a few years to grow.

meanwhile, the neighbors behind us continue to have children, mostly boys, who never seem to grow old enough to play in the street. or, the parents are so protective that they won’t let the kids play in the street. or, we’re just intolerant of normal kids because we don’t have kids at home anymore. or, we just want some peace to enjoy our cocktails on a lovely saturday evening.

so last saturday, we were enjoying cocktails on the terrace (ha ha, wonky patio) and the kids behind us were out playing baseball in their yard. this meant the dog couldn’t come out since she spends the entire time yelling at them to let her in on the game. (they won’t let her because she cheats) so, as we sat there with our new fountain going, our fire burning and some lovely music, and tried to be patient with the fact that the neighbor kids were out. their parents were out also enjoying a cocktail but not paying attention to the kids and having a shouting conversation with their neighbor next door.

then one ball flew over into our yard. minutes later, another ball flew over. soon an third, then a fourth, a fifth and finally a sixth. thankfully, the baseball stopped because the kids were out of balls. then came the expectation that we would return the balls to the children tout de suite. both the parents’ and kids’ eyes were on us. neither one of us moved. (so you don’t think we’re total jerks, we constantly toss balls of all persuasion over the fence)

and that’s when, with our cocktails in hand, bubbling fountain and lovely music we had the quintessential todd and margo exchange about annoying neighbors and annoying kids. ugh.

the kids politely asked for us to return their balls and c said sure, but could they turn the way they were playing baseball so that they would hit the balls into the yard next to them instead of ours. (in fairness, they could easily retrieve the balls from the yard to the side without climbing a fence.)

everybody remembers that one old man or old lady on the block who was just grumbly about kids in their yard, or kids in the street, or kids anywhere. we had just become those people.

i scrambled around the yard to retrieve balls, instructed by one of the boys to the location of even more balls that had taken up residence in our yard, until our yard was swept clean. the balls were returned and the kids said a polite thank you and then went back to playing baseball, this time hitting toward the yard next to them. we went back to our lovely evening, laughing about being todd and margo.

but i really don’t want to be todd and marge and i really don’t want to be the neighbor the kids remember as being the jerk.

so the next time they’re out and i’d rather have quiet, i’ll try to remember that they’ll be gone soon, hopefully a lot sooner than i will. then they’ll be plenty of quiet for everyone.

*todd and margo are the snotty, childless next door neighbors in the christmas vacation movie who are just too cool for christmas.

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Boobies, boobies everwhere and a not a one who thinks

Every generation thinks that they are the first generation to ever have kids and that they (in their infinite wisdom) are going to re-invent the world of childbirth and child raising.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Me too.   

Guess what?  Anything more than common sense in nonsense.  (I realize that pre-supposes that people have common sense…)  

First there was Ricki Lake who felt the need to push her kids out in a kiddie pool in the middle of the living room in front of about 150,000,000 witnesses, including her other kids.  And plague us with a documentary on the subject.  Talk about trauma.  Seriously, does that image of your mother enhance your life?  Some things are just private.   

The whole natural childbirth argument as a competitive thing annoys me.  Because, quite frankly, it’s none of your business and it doesn’t really matter.  Have your kid whatever way seems right for you and yours and quit thinking that it’s any more of an accomplishment to have them one way or the other.  Staying healthy and functioning through a pregnancy and bringing another generation into this world is the accomplishment.  No one cares how they got there.  And yes, I had natural childbirth for one of ours (it was accidental, but still, I did it) I also had two babies others with pain medication.  I vote for medication.  You might be into pain. No one cares.  

Now there’s this nutball on the cover of Time Magazine who insists on breastfeeding her kid even after the kid’s waaaaaaaaaay too old to be breastfeeding.  There is no debate about this, as far as I’m concerned.  (I worry that this kid is going to be bullied)  Sure looks like this is waaaaaaaaay more about the mom than the kid.   

I breast fed all three of our children, because I could and it came quite easily to me.  So what.  The only one I set a schedule for discontinuing the nursing was our oldest and that was because I had to go back to work and was not interested in even trying to do the whole pump, freeze, drag stuff to work and sit alone in the ladies’ room stuff.  Kudos to anyone who did, but it wasn’t for me.  I was still nursing the second one when I got pregnant with our third, so I pretty much nursed for more than three years straight.  No one put me on the cover of Time.  (okay, so yeah, I don’t look the chick they did put on the cover…) 

What I remember about the second two and nursing was that they indicated quite clearly to me when it was time for that to be over.  They wanted their independence and I wanted them to have it.   

Seems to me that what’s always left out of theories about raising kids is that every child is different.  Every child progresses at their own pace, has their own needs, wants to interact and control their world in their own way.  Here’s some parental advice: pay attention to who your kids already are when they’re in your care and give them enough room to develop and enough barriers to guide them.   

The rest of it you’re doing for yourself and not for them.  And, in the end your job is to launch them, not be the self-appointed queen or king of their lives.   

Just because you’ve had a kid and can read crap on the internet doesn’t make you an expert on raising kids.  That’s my job. 

 

 

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Filed under family, medical, Parent