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My Wonder Girl

This morning, my daughter marched proudly out of the house wearing a Wonder Woman shirt, Minnie Mouse Leggings, and….a cape. A Wonder Woman cape, to be exact.  Off to second grade she went, proud as punch of her outfit choice.  As a kid who wears a school uniform each day, the chance to wear a cape for “Fun Friday” dress down was just PERFECT.  I cringed a bit, wondering if the school might give her a hard time, but I reminded myself to live and let live. When it comes to my daughter, I do a lot of that.

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My son was and still is, as easy of a child as one could ask for.  He was an easy pregnancy, an easy baby, easy toddler, and at 12, he’s still a laid back, easy child to raise. Things come easy to him, for the most part.  He’s smart as a whip, mature far beyond his years, calm natured, and extremely even keel.  A gentle soul, with a soft heart, I do worry a bit about him getting hurt by girls as he gets older, but otherwise, I rarely if ever need to fret about him. I know he has things handled.   He was such an easy child that having our daughter appeared like it would be easy peasy.  After all, he was such an easy child to raise, she would be too, right?

Not so much.

From the get-go, things weren’t easy.  I spotted throughout much of the pregnancy, and we didn’t settle comfortably that she’d make it until I was quite far along.  She came into this world at 6lbs, 7 oz.  She was a bit of a cranky baby, cried far more than my son did.    She also had an eye issue called alternating amblyopia, and strabismus, meaning she suffered from lazy eye, however it would switch from eye to eye. That appeared before she was 9 months old, and a week before her birthday, she had surgery to try to correct this issue.  Watching a baby go through this broke my heart, but it didn’t seem to phase her.  She was a tough cookie.  As a toddler, she was a force to be reckoned with.  People worry their sons will get rough with the little ones, I had to worry she would roughhouse her brother too much.  To my horror she once punched him when she was two, and when I asked why she responded “he too close”.

While I was trying to reign her in, we still battled over certain things.  I can’t explain to you how defeating it is to find yourself in a full blown battle over a piece of clothing, but trust, it’s no fun.  One day we were meeting with family out of town.  I had picked out clothing for my daughter, and it included a big pink tutu skirt.  Now, she loved this skirt. But not that day.  That day, she hated that skirt.  (Welcome to toddlerdom!) and she refused to wear it.  The problem wasn’t the fact she didn’t WANT to wear it, it was the tantrum that occurred because of it.  It was a full blow, kicking, screaming, meltdown of a tantrum that was so over the top I stood in awe. Like I said, I didn’t care about the tutu, except now, I had to stand ground about it.  If I let her bail on the tutu, I would be giving an approval on the tantrum.  I was now forced to stand ground on something I didn’t care about at all, in order to teach a valuable lesson that I did care about….Bad behavior will NOT get you out of doing something.   Neither one of us backed down for about an hour. She wore the tattoo in the end, however family members still joked we walked in like a true war had taken place, with me looking like I had some PTSD.  I still remember that day as a day I won a battle, but it was a hell of a fight.

The day she turned 5 was a turning point.  My fiery little beastie suddenly calmed. It was as if she had nothing more to have to prove.  She had pushed all the buttons, and knew which buttons did what. She grew into herself.  I now had a super helpful, motherly, sweet girl.  She had always been a cuddler, and I was thrilled that despite the sudden grown up attitude, she kept that love of curling up in my lap to cuddle and get hugs. Nothing makes her happier than helping me cook, having a similar outfit to me, or looking after her little cousins.  We now entered the stage of a girl who knows who she is, with a side of chaos.

5-7 has been an interesting stage.  My son and I often comment that she’s a tough cookie. The child who needed tonsils out? Her.  The child who is accident prone? Her.  The child who gets nosebleeds?  Her.  The child who struggles a bit more in school?  Her. Most things just don’t come easy to her in life.  She has to work at things, be more careful. I tell her she’s my warrior girl, and that I know she’ll be ok because she knows how to handle tough times.

With this resilience comes chaos as well.  My daughter?  She’s a SLOB.  She leaves things everywhere, and I spend my days reminding her to clean up after herself, and walking behind her picking up things.  It’s exhausting.  She’s just always on the the next big thing.  I remind myself that one day she will grow up and move out, and I will be left with a quiet, clean house, and the thought makes me sad.  Her chaos drives me nuts, but at the same time, it is her, who I love, so I am trying to find a balance. I have to send her into the world as a functioning adult who is in a bit less chaos.   Even her clothing choices are choas.  Her aunt and I named her Vegas Judy. She loves all things leopard, colorful, glittery, rhinestoned, and “extra”.  If she chooses her outfits without input, she looks like a walking carnival.  My husband lets her wear whatever she wants.  I try to tame it a bit, but sometimes, like today, I let her just go with her own clothing flow.  When I had a beautiful fancy dress for her to wear on Easter but she came to me with Puss in Boots eyes asking if she would wear a leopard dress?  “Do you love it? Will you be comfortable? Will you be happy in it and wear it all day?”  The answer was yes.  I caved.  She thanked me for allowing it, and I spent the day being looked at as a hero by her. What made me happy was seeing her happy and confident in her choice.  I try very hard to remember that it doesn’t matter what people think, what matters is that she is figuring out who SHE is.

There are times I see her outfit choices and get a bit cringey.  There are times, like when she was adamant she wanted to cut her long hair short, that I waffled and wanted to tell her no.  I then reminded myself that hair grows back, clothing can be changed in a heartbeat.  I have a daughter who knows who she is, and firmly knows what she likes.  I want to celebrate that, because in life she will be surrounded by a world that will try to make her question her choices. She doesn’t need to me to always do it too. Her short hair that she was confident she would love? I loved it too. Her outfits? ok, well, I don’t always love them, but I love her confidence in them.

My chaotic, not always easy child is just as perfect for me as my laid back, easy child. Two sides of the same coin.  Similar in so many ways, yet so totally different.  Each teach me different lessons.  My relationship with each is so different, yet so amazing. Watching them work together, and balancing each other fills me with wonder.  I spend a lot of time thinking about how, in the same house, with the same parents, and same experiences, two people could have such vastly different nuances to their personalities.  My daily challenge is to figure out how to successfully balance parenting two completely different people.

When I started this blog, I referred to my kids as the Tiny Diva and the Laid Back Kid. The definition of Diva:  a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please (typically used of a woman).  I no longer consider her my Tiny Diva.  She’s my Wonder Girl.

I wonder where she gets her strong sense of self from, yet I am SO happy she has it.  I wonder how to help her succeed when she falters, yet how to let her find her way on her own as much as possible.  I wonder how she believes some of her outfit choices might even begin to match.  I wonder why she doesn’t put her stuff away without me having to follow up and ask her. I wonder how she does the amazing bendy stuff in gymnastics.  I wonder why her feet smell like dirty fritos and vinegar sometimes when she wears certain shoes.  I wonder how she isn’t aware her feet smell like that.    I wonder how I can make sure she keeps her sense of self throughout her life.  Mostly, I wonder how I can be the best mom to her and her brother, getting them through their strengths and weaknesses when they are so very different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Girl Power

Ok, I am a little bit proud of myself.  You might think I’m completely bonkers, but hey, life is way too short not to enjoy small successes, right?

So, we’ve had some stuff breaking around the house.  And of course, it can’t be one thing, it has to be everything, right? Why? Because that’s how life goes. The dishwasher, the vacuum, the bathroom light blew.  The dishwasher is above my paygrade, and I certainly can’t pull it out and flip it to fix it.  The bathroom and vacuum, however, I could manage.  The bathroom was tricky because someone had painted over the screw I needed to access to get the cover off.  (WHY do people paint over stuff they shouldn’t?)  No worries though, it was a simple fix.

My daughter came in as I was dismantling my vacuum cleaner and sat down to watch me.  She watched me take it apart, and commented how cool it was that I was able to do it.  She watched me replace a belt, clean filters, and clean/adjust the brush.  I explained the parts, what they do, and how I was going to fix it.  She sat carefully paying attention.  She helped me clean the parts.  We laughed together, and both yelled with glee when the test run of the repaired vacuum confirmed it ran better than it had in YEARS.  She beamed at me, so proud of what we had done.  We then moved into the bathroom.  I got on the ladder, and she held parts and passed me what I needed.  Once done, she cheered and high fived me.  She then commented “look mom, the girls fixed it!  We didn’t have to wait for boys to do it!”.

I am very lucky to be the mom of a boy and a girl.  This means that I have to raise two well rounded children who will grow into self sufficient, independent adults with great self esteem.  Easy peasy, right? Not so much.  I’m not a man basher.  I’m not a bra-less ranting feminist.  I’m just a gal who believes in equal rights for all but admittedly is flattered when my husband opens a door for me.  I believe women should make the same as men for doing the same job.  I feel men get skewered way too often.  Has anyone noticed how television makes men seem like dolts? It’s unfortunate. My son already sees this bias on Tv and has commented on it.  My daughter is already seeing the pressure of being “picture perfect” on TV, and also seeing certain gender stereotypes.  I had a reminder today that I need to show her that women can do things that often stereotypically fall under “men’s” jobs.  I try to do the same for my son.  For this blog, I’ll focus on my daughter.

My husband does do a lot of the fixing of things.  That’s mostly because he has the patience to do it.  I often don’t.  Sometimes things need strength, and that’s his forte, rather than mine.  I am seeing more and more though that I need to take the time and gather the patience to do more of these little jobs because I want my daughter to see I can do it.  If I can do it, she’ll know she can too.

I’ve been a working mom for pretty much her whole life.  I balance a full time job, two kids, and I do it working an opposite schedule to my husband.  I am proud of the fact she sees her mom having a career.  I’m proud that she sees her mom contributing to the household, managing the family, and making sure everyone is taken care of.  Ok, so she doesn’t see a perfectly clean house, or a mom who is perfect.  And you know what? Maybe that’s a good thing.  She sees me flawed, she sees I can’t do it all, but that I do my best.  She sees that it’s ok not to have everything together all the time.  That’s an important lesson in and of itself.  I am happy, even if things aren’t always perfect.

Another lesson I have been working on teaching her is to not stand for nonsense.  I keep my circle pretty small.  It’s gotten smaller over the past year, and she has even commented about the fact that I don’t keep people around who don’t treat me well or who aren’t nice to me.  Kids are super perceptive.  I explain that I have plenty of people to love, who love me as well, and those are the people I keep in my life.  People who aren’t nice or who treat me badly are quickly shown the door.  I have no time for nonsense or wasting time on people who don’t like me. I want her to see that she doesn’t have to keep mean or nasty people around.  It’s ok to say no, it’s ok to stand up for herself, and that she doesn’t have to hang out with people who are bad to her. I know we have a big push in this country to teach kids to be kind.  I teach my kids that too.  (For anyone interested, look up the children’s book about filling buckets, it’s fabulous). They came with me on my treck to look after cats, to provide Christmas for a family, etc.  We talk regularly about ways to be kind, and how to act if people aren’t.  That being said, I think women are often all too accepting of bad behavior.  We think it must be us, or we can fix the person, or we feel like we deserve less than.  I don’t want that for her.  I want her to feel confident in her choices of the people around her.  I want her to keep people who make her smile, and to move away from those who make her feel even an ounce of bad.

As a woman, we are taught to apologize a lot.  Ever notice that?  Someone will bump into you and women will often reply “I’m sorry”, as if our very presence was something to apologize for.  We sometimes even apologize without even meaning to.  Why? We are taught to be pleasant at all costs.  We are taught, unfortunately, to often make excuses for bad behavior.  I’m trying to teach her the opposite of that.  I am working hard on saying “sorry” when it’s truly warranted, and not just on impulse when nothing is to be sorry for.  I am teaching her that someone treating her unkindly is NOT ok, and she shouldn’t just tolerate it.  We talk about decisions and choices, and how to handle situations.  It’s a learning curve, but I think it’s working well.

I have always believed that almost all bad decisions are caused in some way by low self esteem and insecurity.  It’s hard raising a girl in a world that markets to her by telling her she is too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, not pretty enough, not ok enough.  That’s how companies often market to women.  They play on our insecurities to make us but things to “fix ourselves”.  Look at the beauty industry.  It’s mostly based on fixing our “flaws”.  How do I, as a mom, compete with that?  How do I tell her she is beautiful inside and out, exactly as she is, when the rest of the world is all too prepared to pick her apart?  Growing up, I dated boys who were bad for me.  I was an easy target because I was often insecure.  It took many years, and a big change in attitude before I met the right man for me and settled down.  I had to learn to be ok with myself.  Love myself.  As Rupaul says “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”  And it is TRUE.   How do I teach a little girl to love herself more than the world can make her believe differently?  It’s a daily struggle.

I often write her notes on her board.  One recently mentioned that she was kind, smart, and strong.  I noticed a few days later that a school project had her creating a character and describing them.  Her character had the same characteristics I had listed in my note about her.  It hit me that she is listening.  She is looking to me and her father to help her realized what’s good about herself.  I will be working every day to make her see how great she is. Trust me, I’ll still tell her when she’s being a slob, but I want her to feel confident.  Some days, she’ll choose her outfit and leave the house looking like a walking carnival, but if she feels confident and happy, I’m ok with it.

Raising kids is hard.  I joke that my job is to make sure I don’t raise little assholes.  The fact is, it’s pretty true. I have to raise kind, respectful, independent, loving people so that they can hopefully find happiness as they grow up.  That’s a lot of pressure!  I have to raise a daughter to know she is smart enough, strong enough, and wise enough to handle what life will throw at her.  Even if it’s a broken vacuum or a difficult light fixture.  If you can handle the little things, it’s sets the tone for the bigger things.

Looks like I better start learning how to fix stuff, eh?

 

Catch up time

Hi Y’all.

It’s been a while.  I’ve actually logged in and started writing, but never finished a post, or just never clicked the publish button.  I miss writing though, and it felt like the time to catch up.

So from my past posts you saw I was trying out the whole “living the yes life”.  I tried saying yes rather than no to new opportunities and events.  It was fun, I learned a lot, I enjoyed myself, and I even lost some weight.  Things were trucking along.  Then my favorite excercise class got cancelled.  Summer showed up with birthdays most weekends.  Work geared up with new challenges.  Life got busy with too much yes.  So now I am learning how to gracefully say no to some things.  It’s a learning process, because no so often comes with that thing called guilt, and I am no so good at handling the guilt aspect of it.

One of my biggest “yes” moment this year was allowing my son to sign up for football. I love football, and buy tickets for us to go to NFL games as our “romantic trip” each year. That being said, I learned that it’s a different feeling altogether sending my son out on the field.  The time commitment is huge…5 nights a week, plus games on weekends.  He asked me to do it.  He wanted to do something new this year, and had been showing a lot of interest in football.  Each of the kids choose one sport/activity per season.  I’ve offered them to do more than one, but they generally prefer to stick to one thing.  This one is the work of 7 activities.

When I learned of the schedule, my brain wanted to bleed out onto the floor.  As it is I work full time, have another child who does gymnastics that I have to coordinate for, 2 pets, a husband and a house that is the messiest it has ever been.  I am in chaos. A LOT of chaos.  Now there are many of you out there who handle all of these with no problem.  You are skilled, and oraganized, neat freakish and super moms.

I am not any of those things.

I am a domestic fail, tired (hot DAMN I am so tired), I am figuring out this mom thing as I go, and I do it mostly by myself since my husband works opposite hours.  It’s not pretty, it’s not graceful, but I get a lot of it done.  Not ALL mind you, hence the messy house.  I am that mom screeching into the parking lot at the last minute with kids still putting cleats on, or me jumping out to quickly braid hair before gymnastics. That movie Bad Moms?  Yep.  That would be me.

Now I have spent 11 years protecting my son.  Keeping him safe. When a kid shoved him a playground I close talked that kid and told him not to lay one single finger on my kid again (I love a good close talk when you need to get a message across). Now, by his choice, I am sending him out on a field to be shoved and pushed and knocked down. Coaches are gruff.  He’s going to get banged up and bruised.  I have to stand or sit there and hold it together and not want to run out and snap legs when someone hurts him.  I have to remain tough and straight faced.  It is just so HARD.  The only reason I do it is because he seems to kind of love it.  Even on the hard days.  Yesterday was hard.  He went down and didn’t get right back up.  He was hurt.  He was frustrated. He questioned his ability to do it all.  He came home, and I fussed over him a little.  He let me.  In the car this morning I reminded him that not everything will come easily to him.  He’s always been that kid that’s learned things quickly. I reminded him of his frustration when he tried a Rubik’s cube.  He had gotten so angry at his inability to solve it.  I had explained to him at the time that most people couldn’t solve them, but that I knew someone who could, and there were certain tricks to solve them.  He sat down and damn if he didn’t teach himself how.  Before long, he was testing himself on speed of solving it.  He reached in his bag this morning and low and behold, was his Rubik’s cube.  Before long he was quickly working on solving it.  mI asked him “do you still want to continue with football? do you still kind of love it?”  He said yes. So today we go again. I will proudly watch him succeed, and I will proudly watch him fail sometimes too, because the kid is giving it his all.

The little one, who I have always referred to as Tiny Diva in this blog, has lost a lot of her Diva-ness.  She had been a tough cookie from 2-4, but she has now settled in to herself. I’ll call her LM, for Little Mama.  Gymnastics has been a huge saving grace.  My sister in law noticed how flexible LM was and mentioned she might be good at gymnastics.  I signed her up, and the benefits have been enormous.  My daughter, who was struggling in school with some self confidence issues, started picking up steam and having more faith in herself.  She has better self esteem, more confidence, and has a good body image.  We talk a lot about being strong and healthy, and that happy girls are pretty girls.  My favorite shirt of hers has the words “princess” and “diva” crossed out, and it says “SMART, TALENTED GIRL”.  The girl who used to pretend like she didn’t know things is coming out of her shell.  She is learning the fine line between being a leader, and being bossy.  Sometimes, it’s a difficult conversation to have.  Women are often told that if they are leaders, they are bitches, bossy, a nag, etc.  Growing up, I remember being told not to voice my opinions so much, to be quite, to fade into the background more.  I’m working on finding a good way to explain how to be a leader, without being bossy and making other kids feel like she’s ordering them around.

Our beloved cat passed away a few months ago.  I had to make the decision to put her down.  She had cancer.  It was heartbreaking.  We all felt the loss, even the dog.  He seemed down and I often wondered if he knew she had died.  He didn’t quite seem himself.  Our family seemed incomplete to me after a while, and I started looking at Petfinder to see if any cats “called” to me. I scrolled through endless pictures over a few weeks until I found a cat that caught my eye.  He was an orange tabby, about 6 months to a year old.  He looked stoned.  He reminded me of the comedian Jim Breuer.  Someone had put him in a box, duct taped it, and left him outside of a store on March 11th.  I was in a wedding that day, and I remember it being bone chillingly cold when the wind blew. I felt awful for this poor cat.  I emailed about him.  I told my husband who seemed less than inclined to get another cat.  “I want you to come with me to see him” I said.  He didn’t sound thrilled.  I said “he kind of looks like Jim Breuer”.  “What time are we going?” he replied.  When I commented I was surprised in his change of heart, he responded “You just told me the cat looks like Jim Breuer, how could I not go meet him?”.  We drove all the way up to the rescue, only to find out the cat had gone to the vet for not eating.  After a few days, the rescue called and asked if I wanted to foster him.  They thought the cat might be depressed in the shelter environment and wanted to see if he would improve in a home environment.  Well, let me tell you, the cat eats more than the dog.  He’s now a member of the family.  He’s a nutjob, full of energy, and wants love the most when anyone is in the bathroom.  He will knock on the bathroom door to come in, and even try to turn the handle to get in.  Every night he and the dog go to each kid’s room to say goodnight.  He fits right in.

So there you have it.  Life right now is about preparing for school starting, football, work, gymnastics, football, pet hair creating tumbleweeds in my house, football and trying to get things done.  It’s a happy time, if not chaotic.  Just like my son is learning something new, I am learning a new schedule, new ways to make it work.  Anything that brings more chaos is just not something I have time for.  I’m keeping things as bare bones as possible, and I’ll work up from there. In just 3 weeks my whole schedule changes again.  So that mom cheering wildly on the sidelines, or from the balcony at gymnastics? The one holding a vat of coffee?  That will be me. I may be in chaos for a while, but it’s a happy chaos.

 

 

 

 

Living the “Yes” life.

Posted on

I know it’s been a while since I posted.  I’ve been pretty busy.  Yes, yes, I know that is what everyone says, but in this case, it’s true!  Aside from the usual working mother of 2, wife, and the normal day to day chaos, I have been trying very hard to live the “yes” life.  I thought perhaps it’s time to do an update on how it’s going.

I started this after lamenting about the extra weight that has cropped up on my the past 10 years or so.  After mulling it over and feeling a bit sorry for myself, a memory of a conversation I had with my mother popped in my head.  She once told me how proud she was of me for my determination and independence.  I remember her telling me how I seemed to just set my mind to things and DO them.  It seemed logical that I could apply this mentality to losing some weight.  I talked myself into it.  I COULD do it.  I just needed to set my mind to it, and to make a plan.  I realized I am not a big fan of the gym, but I like being active.  The first thing I did was start going to an Aqua Zumba class on Mondays.  You know what?  I LOVE it.  LOOOVVVVEEEE it.  It makes me feel great and I have a good time.  I actually look forward to Mondays…how is that even possible?  The AZ class led me to take a deep water fit class.  I started losing a bit of weight.  I realized, now that I was a bit more active, that much of my problem thus far was that I wasn’t doing much at all before I started the classes.  I had gotten up, dropped the kids off, and gone to work all day.  Then I would come home, get the kids fed and ready for bed, and then watched TV.  I wasn’t doing much for me.

I needed to make some changes, and it started with the mindset that I would say “yes” more.  Because I was saying yes more, I felt less guilty when I had to say no.  When my son’s soccer coach couldn’t coach this season, and nobody else volunteered.  I said yes.  I have help, and I had some learning to do, but I am doing it!  I will tell you…it’s the best damned thing ever.  I love it.  It’s not always easy, and 10 year old boys will give you a run for your money, but on the whole, it’s been fantastic.  I feel ike I have done something positive, I get some excercise, and it’s been so much fun.  My son said he was proud of me.  That was worth the price of admission right there!

I am saying yes to plans, and finding ways to do things for me, as well as the kids.  I took a trip to NYC 3 days ago to go see one of my favorite authors do a reading.  Before, I likely would have made excuses, but this time I was determined to go.  One night to myself to do something I enjoyed was a complete recharge.  I notice that since I have been saying yes more, I am finding time to not only do more things with the kids, but for myself as well.

The end result?  I am happier.  I guess what they say is true, a happy wife is a happy life, because our household seems happier.  It also seems healthier.  The kids are supportive of me going to excercise classes 2x a week (the Y has a childcare room they go to for an hour where they draw, play or hang out).  My husband is supportive as well.  We’re all eating better.  We exercise more.  My son, who never learned how to ride a bike, learned (in the rain) because he asked me to teach him, and I said yes.  I had always thought it would have to be something my husband taught him, but nope!  I set my mind to teach him and it worked!  I am trying to silence the negative inner voice in my head and replace it with a positive, happy one.  It’s a work in progress, but it’s getting better all the time.

Have I lost weight?  Yup, so far it’s 16 lbs.  I gained 3 back, then lost them again.  It’s a process.  Hopefully it will keep disappearing with a bit of work, and staying active.

Ok, so I haven’t quite gotten the hang of saying yes more to the housework.

Can’t win em all.

Live the Yes life.  You won’t be sorry.